Going down memory lane, Sheikh Muhammad Awwal Adam Albani says the Boko Haram degenerated because government regarded youthful Islamic scholars as enemies and must be crushed by undue use of force. Sheikh Albani is one of the leading scholars of Sunna in Nigeria but he is mostly seen as the leader of the Salafiyya Movement in Nigeria, though he always said Salafiyya is not a movement but a way of life..
Many are still in the dark as to what is Boko Haram, its ideology and relations with Islam?
There is no known sect that is known as Boko Haram in Islam. It is a circumstance that brought about this name. Even those referred to as Boko Haram, don’t call themselves Boko Haram. Before I go further, I want to clarify this issue, which is very important to the understanding of the issue of Boko Haram. When the Western Education was introduced by missionaries to the Northern part of Nigeria, Hausa people, especially the local tutors, refused to embrace it, saying that the education is Boko. Boko is literally translated from Hausa to English as ‘stupid,’ therefore the local tutors then referred to Western Education as Karatun Boko, meaning stupid education. This was the reality.
In reality, this idea is thought of Kawarij. Kawarij are the people who rebelled against Islam and the leaders of Islam. Anyone or group who took to their path can be regarded as so. Based on this, anyone who took arm killing scholars or innocent people because they differ with him in understanding is certainly on a wrong path as far as Islam is concerned; and this idea is certainly the thinking of the Kawarij.
Do you see the incessant bombings, which the Boko Haram claims responsibility as part of the ideology of Kawariji?
Because they have made a bad name, anyone who detonated bombs would be associated with Boko Haram. But anyone who knows the Boko Haram movement would know that the present Boko Haram has taken a new dimension which is contrary to its original stance. Politicians have entered into the scene. Some people who were aggrieved about one thing or the other have also entered into the scene. The international community, especially the big powers, is also there. I heard one of the security agencies saying that it is now unfolding that some of the bomb blasts in the country were not actually done by Muslims. Two, what happened in Bayelsa, where somebody, who is not a Muslim, was caught in Muslims’ attire going into a Church to detonate bomb has brought the need for a proper investigation into the whole issue. Even the original members of the Boko Haram, those who have full knowledge about their activities, like Sheikh Ja’afar Mahmud Adam of blessed memories, said that some non-Muslims were part of those supporting the movement. This brings the need for a rethink on who are the actual people behind the bomb blasts. For example, Plateau State Governor Jonah Jang once said he was always surprised when some personalities arrested for their link with what is happening in the state get released on reaching Abuja. The meaning of this is that, most of the people that the security agents were lucky to have arrested in relation to bomb blasts are drug addicts. Some prominent personalities sponsored them. Most of the sponsors of the bomb blasts are not Muslims.
In your thinking and investigation, who are those behind the present bomb blasts in Nigeria?
I am not convinced that what is happening now is being perpetrated by Boko Haram. There are many possibilities. For example, investigation has revealed that over 90 percent of bomb blasts in Churches and Mosques in Pakistan are sponsored by agents of other countries. Is it not impossible for such type of thing to happen here in Nigeria because some of such countries are predicting the collapse of Nigeria by 2015? Do you think those countries would not do everything possible to justify their prediction? If we are living peacefully, are we going to disintegrate? But if bombs continue to detonate in mosques and churches, are we not heading for disintegration? Therefore, in real sense, you can’t rule out the Western conspiracy and their representatives in Nigeria on all that is happening in Nigeria today.
You are one of the scholars who offer explanation about the Boko Haram movement. Do you have any personal contact with their slain leader?
Yes, of course. When he disclosed that he has left Shi’a and returned to Sunna, I was one of those who constantly talked to him about the ideology of Boko Haram. On some occasions, I sat with him with his students and in other occasions, only two of us sat. The essence was to convince him that Islam doesn’t accept the ideology of Boko Haram. I tried to convince him that since he claimed to be the follower of Sunna, therefore Sunna has its teachings and principles, and the idea of Boko Haram is contrary to those teachings. All our efforts, because I know other scholars like late Sheikh Ja’afar also engaged him on such issues, fell on deaf ears. He proffered some defenses, which are not authentic in the jurisprudence of Islam.
What were the reasons he gave for saying Western Education is haram?
You may not understand fully the reasons he offered as to why Boko is Haram because they are technical issues. Among them, however, is the evolution of man that is found in textbooks of Western Education. What is obtained in those textbooks contradict the explanation offered by the Holy Qur’an on the evolution of man, based on their understanding. The other issue is how the Western Education corrupts our young men and women because they engage in committing sins like adultery. These, among many other issues, were some of the reasons they used in saying that Boko is Haram and when you look at those issues from the surface, you may be lured to believe in them. I have delivered many lectures on all the controversies and I know Sheikh Ja’afar has done many. I think to understand the whole issue, one needs to go back to those lectures and also get the arguments offered by the slain leader of the Boko Haram.
It should, however, be noted that many prominent scholars of Islam have provided clear explanations on the issue of Western Education hundreds of years ago and those scholars have resolved all the ambiguous issues regarding Western Education. This was why I said the idea of Boko Haram is against the jurisprudence of Islam.
On the other hand, when the authorities decided to be aggressive on the movement of Boko Haram, we tried to advise them to be cautious in using force against the movement. The idea of the government that any youthful scholar, who wants to forment trouble should be allowed to do so as government has security agents to crush him, is a wrong thinking that is contrary to the modern civilisation. Now, where are the government’s security agents? Where are the weapons? Are all the forces able to tackle the present problems? Have all the checkpoints solved the problems? How many people were caught with explosives at those checkpoints? The innocent people being intimidated at those checkpoints would now begin to hate the government and its security agents. What about the huge resources which are supposed to be used in developing the country but wasted on security? These were all the things that we wanted government at that time to realize, but unfortunately, they did not listen. Everywhere now is scattered simply because the government, at that time, had refused to embrace dialogue.
When we were trying to caution the slain leader of Boko Haram, the government, traditional rulers and other stakeholders saw the issue as that of late Sheikh Ja’afar, Albani and their friends or students. Nobody supported us and we are where we are today because the right things were not done.
If the government realises that it has made a mistake, would you join it in finding a solution to the present security problem in the country?
The only thing that I think can prevent future violence is for our government to be fair to all, especially in the utilisation of the country’s resources. Nigerians are not the Nigerians of yesterday. Now, even teenagers know their rights as they follow the developments in the world, largely on the internet. Gone are the days when government officials would go to FRCN or NTA to spread propaganda and expect Nigerians to accept it. Nigerians now have ways of knowing all the activities of their leaders and their country. Two, government should pay attention to the issue of religion. The government takes religion as the strict affairs of the clerics and their students. This is very wrong. A situation where government consults the clerics only when they need prayers should be stopped. Government should be sincere in its dealings with clergies. Clerics are the ones who are with the people at the grassroots. These people talk to the clergies freely about their problems. Buying cars or houses for clergies is not what I am talking about. Building mosques, schools or bringing books with government stamp or feeding people during Ramadan is not what I’m talking about. Government should be consulting the clerics to know the needs and the problems of the people at the grassroots. Islam was revealed in order to solve the people’s problems and provide the needs of the people. But buying big jeeps for scholars and big houses is not the solution to what is happening now because when you do that, the people would even become enemies of the clerics. We have all seen what happened in April, where houses and cars of some scholars were burnt or destroyed. Some scholars were even killed because they were seen as agents of this government. Government should be involved in the running of religion in this country.
Lastly, government needs to come closer to the clerics now being regarded as extremists. When I say close, I don’t mean to use SSS to be harassing them. They need to come to them to understand them and know what informed their perceived extremism. The government that is in constant war with its people or part of its people can never bring development.
Courtesy: Daily Trust