Sheikh Haliru Maraya, former Special Adviser on Islamic Matters to Governors Patrick Yakowa and Mukhtar Ramalan Yero and a leading light in the Tijanniya Islamic Movement, speaks extensively about the sect, including the recent Maulud celebrations in Abuja and Kaduna town, which almost grounded the Federal Capital Territory and former capital of northern Nigeria, Kaduna. In addition, Maraya sheds light on rumoured leadership tussle in the movement, in this interview by ABDULRAHEEM AODU
This year’s Maulud of Sheikh Ibrahim Nyass was celebrated in both Abuja and Kaduna on the same day. Why the double celebration?
The Maulud, which is conducted annually on rotational basis, took place simultaneously in Kaduna and Abuja, because that was the wish of Allah. A lot of benefits are derived where ever the Maulud takes place as people of diverse cultural and spiritual, and ethnic leaning cone together to celebrate the birth of Sheikh Ibrahim Nyass. Where ever it takes place, the economy of the city get boosted, people come to know one another and friendship is forged. It is beneficial to the followers of Sheikh Ibrahim Nyass and Muslims and economic activities was boosted both in Kaduna and Abuja. The multitude that converged in Abuja, if they had joined those in Kaduna, we would not have known what would have happened. It was the wish of Allah.
Is it true that the rivalry between Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi and Alhaji Isiaka Rabiu is responsible for the double celebration?
No, it is not true. There wasn’t any collision between the two of them that could have made us celebrate the Maulud in two places. Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi is one of the leaders of Tijjaniya Movement in Africa and globally, same as Sheikh Isiaka Rabiu. They have some differences which has no bearing on the Tijjaniya Movement in Nigeria. They relate very well, they greet one another and exchange pleasantries when they are together. There were people from Kano who celebrated the Maulud in Kaduna and there were people from Kano who celebrated the Maulud in Abuja. Also, there were people from Bauchi who celebrated the Maulud in Kaduna and there are people from Bauchi who celebrated it in Abuja. There is no collision of interest or spiritual collision between the followers of the two leaders, not to say it is a rift. Neither Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi nor Sheikh Isiaka Rabiu is in charge of organising the Maulud. There is the Association of Lovers of Sheikh Ibrahim Nyass in Nigeria which organizes the Maulud annually, Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi and Sheikh Isiaka Rabiu were both invited.
Who is the leader of Tijjaniya movement in Nigeria between the two of them?
One cannot say Tijjaniya has a single leader here in Nigeria. Contemporarily, Sheikh Isiaka Rabiu supports the project of Tijjaniya financially, while Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi supports in the aspect of spiritual. We also have Sheikh Sharehu Ibrahim Saleh from Borno, who is also a leader, no one can say this is a leader of Tijjaniya in Nigeria.
Is it true that Kaduna state government initially denied your sect the use of Murtala Square for the celebration?
This is the first time I’m hearing of this. Right from the time the idea was conceptualised, we reached out to the constituted authorities and they indicated interest to host the event. What we wanted ab initio was for them to give us the authority to conduct the celebration in Kaduna, to give us a venue and adequate security considering the number of people coming. When the idea of taking the Maulud out of Kaduna arose, the Kaduna state government was not happy with that. The state government supported the idea and we did not record any hitch, as far as Kaduna state government was concerned, we received absolute cooperation. For some people to allege that Kaduna state government denied us permit, this is first time I’m hearing of that. The Director General Interfaith, Engr Namadi Musa who is saddled with the supervision of religious affairs regardless of sect or spirituality disparity, participated several times in our meetings before the day, representing Kaduna state government. People should always try to keep politics away from things related to religion. Despite the fact that the Kaduna state governor was not in Kaduna that day, Kaduna state government was well represented at the event by the Speaker of the House of Assembly.
Why was the event held at Eagles Square and National Mosque simultaneously in Abuja?
As far as I’m concerned, the celebration in Abuja took place only at Eagles Square but there is what we call the week of Sheikh, where lectures are delivered in Abuja National Mosque auditorium days before the Maulud. The celebration held only at the Eagles Square and President Muhammadu Buhari was represented by the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu.
What is the connection of Sheikh Ibrahim Nyass with Nigeria, seeing the way he is highly regarded in the country?
The connection between Sheikh Ibrahim Nyass and Nigeria started in 1936, when the 12th Emir of Kano, Alhaji Abdullahi Bayero, the father of former Emirs Ado Bayero and Lamido Sanusi, joined the Tijjaniya Suufi Order in 1923 at the age of 22. After that, he began to pray to achieve three things; to be the Emir of Kano, to perform the pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia and to come into the principal state of that time.
In 1926, after he had attained the age of 45, he took over as the 12th Emir of Kano which showed that Allah has answered one of his three prayers. He spent 27 years, from 1926 to 1953 on the throne. In 1937, his second prayer was answered as he was able to embark on pilgrimage in 1937, it was while he was in Saudi Arabia, with a view to conducting the 1937 pilgrimage that Allah answered his third prayer by making it possible for Emir Abdullahi Bayero to meet with Sheikh Ibrahim Nyass during the circumambulation of the Holy Kaaba (Tawaf). Subsequently, he invited Sheikh Ibrahim Nyass to visit Nigeria and in that year, Sheikh Ibrahim Nyass obliged Emir Abdullahi Bayero by visiting the ancient city of Kano. So, Sheikh Ibrahim Nyass’ connection with Nigeria began in 1937 through the then Emir Abdullahi Bayero of Kano because it was that year that Sheikh Ibrahim Nyass met the first Nigerian in his life and first visited Nigeria. Thereafter, Nigerians started going to his country, Senegal, particularly his home town Kaolak.
The visit of Nigerians to the city of Kaolak began in 1946 and it was achieved by the trio of Sheikhs Tijjani Usman, Sani Kafanga and Umar Falike. These three people were the first Nigerians to visit the city of Kaolak, they stayed in that city learning spirituality and other Islamic disciplines from the revered Sheikh Ibrahim Nyass for three years, coming back to Nigeria in 1949. So, Sheikh Ibrahim Nyass’ connection to Nigeria is today 81 years old.
What’s the significance of Maulud?
The Maulud has tremendous importance; one it gives opportunity for the followers of Sheikh Ibrahim Nyass to be acquainted with his teachings, particularly the young people who were not alive during his time. Two, it gives opportunity for his followers to meet in a city to uphold his honour; three, economic activity is being boosted as many people get employed temporarily; satchet water sellers, transporters, taxis, keke NAPEP operators and tailors among others. There is brotherhood, as people, regardless of their ethnic, tribal or spiritual leanings come together to celebrate for humanity. Allah always makes it possible to the teeming followers of the Sheikh to listen to various lectures from diverse Islamic scholars to enhance their Islamic knowledge.
But some Islamic sects are opposed to it because the prophet never celebrated his birthday when he was alive.
People needs to understand that Islam does not prohibit anyone from conducting what is not conducted by Prophet Muhammad (SAW). During Ramadan, Tafsir is conducted in Islamic countries, the Holy Quran was translated to many languages but the Prophet (SAW) never said down to translate the Quran but such act is done globally. Islam does not prohibit such acts once it is not reprehensible. Look at the Quranic recitation competition which started in 1961 in Singapore. All the literary system of Islamic of hadith, Tafsir were not in existence during the time of Prophet neither Imam Bukhari nor his books was alive during the time of the Prophet.
Is the celebration of Maulud not an innovation in Islam?
Though there are five types of innovations that were listed by Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio, but as far as Shariah is concerned, innovation is divided into two majorly; innovation that is good and innovation that is bad.
Innovation prohibited by Islam is called reprehensible innovation, but the book of Sayyid Bukhari and other books which we currently study said anything that was not conducted by the Prophet (SAW) or his companions, if it is beneficial to Islam then it’s not bad.. Innovation cannot be said to be bad if it is not prohibited by Allah and if it is beneficial to mankind and to Islam.
Maulud benefits the entire human ummah, it allows the ummah to know the way the Prophet lived his life, so that they can emulate him. If something benefits Islam and humanity, once it is not prohibited by Allah then it cannot be said to be bad innovation.
Why is it not celebrated in Saudi Arabia?
It is not celebrated in Saudi Arabia as it is done here in Nigeria but during the month of Rabiu Awwal many places in Saudi Arabia become agog; there are fireworks signifying the month that the Prophet was born. The way we celebrate here differs from the way they celebrate it there. The religion of Islam does not say we should do only what is done in Saudi Arabia once it is permitted by Allah and the Prophet.
What efforts is the Ulama making to forge unity amongst the different sects in the country?
In the past there was serious acrimony amongst the Muslim Ummah in Nigeria but today it has subsided, people who were not praying behind a certain sect before are now doing so. The ulama are trying their best, there are lots of work going on to unite the Muslim Ummah and humanity as a whole because we share the parental leanings as children of Adam and Eve. The Suufi Islamic scholar visits each other and others that do not belong to the Suufi group, this shows that at the end of the tunnel, there is light.
Since you left office, you have been engaged in the activities of Global Peace Foundation and you have attended conferences around the world in this regard. However, crises that have religious colourations have been erupting in some parts of Kaduna state. What’s really the problem?
Sectarian violence began in Kaduna state in 1981 in Kasuwan Maganin in Kajuru local government area. The second one erupted in 1987 which was the biggest sectarian crisis in the state. The Global Peace Foundation in Nigeria has been working tirelessly to return the peace which we enjoyed in the past.
We have succeeded in mitigation of reprisal attacks, when Muslims are killed in a certain part , other Muslims would retaliate, the same applies to Christians. Remember there was recent crisis in Kasuwan Maganin but it did not spiral to other parts due to our activities and the support of God. We teach people that they don’t have the right to attack innocent people when some people have been killed. The relative peace we enjoy will be sustained and at the end there would be totality of mitigation of reprisal attacks. What we are witnessing now are attacks by unknown people, which takes place across the country, so, it’s not limited to Kaduna state. Very soon, by the grace of God, even the attacks by unknown people will become history.