One minor issue yet mighty one that continually causes crisis in most parts of Nigeria and most especially in the north is the religious difference partly because as the region is home to majority Muslim and minority Christians in some states and vice versa.
Nigerians in their culture respect and revere religious leaders than any other person in their lives. Recently, some say Nigeria houses the highest number of religious worship centres both Christians and Muslims. Albeit that didn’t bring the needed peace Nigeria has been yearning for several years.
The issue of Maitatsine In Kano back in 1980s and the Kaduna religious crisis were clear signs of bad approach to preaching by what one can call unprofessional or extremist scholars. This, indeed, remains the challenge in most of the northern states until today!
Boko Haram, which started when Muhammad Yusuf became an extremist and in spite of which he was allowed to preach openly without any resistance or regulation from the government just because of the fear of not trampling upon his freedom of speech and freedom to practice religion, has now leave the country in limbo.
That naivety has, therefore, led us to our knees where the Boko Haram insurgency has perfectly made the land a fertile ground for other prototype strife being battled from all corners.
It is instructive that so many scholars knowingly or unknowingly are used to uttering statements that are capable of causing war between the followers of the two major religions in Nigeria. This can be traced back to the fact that they might not be that professional to preach since preaching in Nigeria is not regarded as a profession as many who have no deep knowledge about the teachings claim to be imams or pastors.
It is pertinent to note that as a graduate of Islamic Studies I got to realise that most if not majority of Islamic preachers have no qualities to even stand and say anything regarding the Qur’an or the Hadith, but the sad reality is they form the bulk of the ones preaching, delivering sermons in the nooks and crannies of the country.
And as a journalist and a graduate of Islamic Studies, for years, I have been looking forward to a law that can regulate preaching or to have agencies for both Islam and Christianity – akin to those of pilgrim commissions – that can be registering scholars/pastors. To take home the point, one can easily draw similarly with other professions I.e medicine, law, engineering, etc, where one can’t practice without following a particular process leading to issuance of a licence.
Although, Islamic Studies is a graduate course, yet it is professional on its own with different branches that one can specialize in, and can have an authoritative voice there. This is the reason that whenever marital issues came up the ruling or opinion of some scholars causes consternation in the society because very few people specialise on that and instead of saying they don’t know they almost always decide to give their opinion.
Nigerians normally forget that Islamic scholars or Christians Clergy men are more than Psychologists as they are dealing with moral, state of mind and spiritual minds of the people. This have a major role in their day-to-day life. Hence the need for preaching to leaders and followers on the importance of becoming Godly than religious, just as some tag Nigerians as religious but not Godly.
The must recent issue exposing the consequences of not having such regulatory agencies was that of Abduljabbar Nasiru Kabara, a son of Qadiriyya Sect’s founding leader Kano. His dangerous sermons had led the Kano state government to hurriedly banned him from preaching. His blasphemous statements recorded during his tafsir and other classes for his students convinced the state government to wade in.
It is indeed important to note that during the debate on Saturday, July 10, 2021 organised by the state government, which erudite Islamic scholars from Manhaj Salaf, Izala, Tijjaniyya and Qadiriyya all asked the so-called Islamic Cleric on his claims but couldn’t answer one question convincingly.
Not answering was not enough for him when asked to repent he refused insisting that he should be given more time, and there should there be another debate.
There is no better time to say there should be supervisors that will go round, as the measure taken by the Sardauna of Sokoto decades ago, and whoever refuses to abide by the rules and regulations, norms and ethics of Islamic preaching should be banned and punished according to the law.
Imams and the likes in all parts of the country must get clearance if they want to conduct any preaching. Only those who study Islamic studies should be allow to comment or teach regarding Islamic affairs.
Any person who wishes to engage in the interpretation of Qur’ān should undergo serious screening to ascertain that he has proper knowledge of Tafsȋ r; such as: the knowledge of Arabic grammar, rhetoric, morphology, science of Hadith, knowledge of history and Sirah (Biography of the Prophet (SAW), science of Qur’an such reasons behind revelation of verses, knowledge concerning variants readings, Fiqh (Jurisprudence), Usul-al-Fiqh, as well as other fields that can assist in conducting Tafsir successfully.
These will help in no small measure towards the country’s fight to curb extremisms, which countries like Morocco has fully implemented and has been working for them.
Bala, certified Islamic Studies scholar, and Abuja-based broadcast journalist, writes via [email protected]