Open Letter to Nigerian Muslims: The Difference Is Different!

nigeria-eid-al-fitr

Alhajis and Alhajas, Amirs and Amiras, Aboos and Ummus, scholars and students, Imams and followers, brothers and sisters, brethren, it’s time again to put on our thinking turbans and hijabs. Whoever has none, should please borrow one, and whoever has more, should please lend some.

While this may sound poetic like the puns of my amiable and witty friends, “Andre Skywalker” and “Reserved Single”, you may do well to ignore the rhymes and do just as instructed, for what is behind six, like Yorubas would say, is beyond seven.

Failure to put on, borrow from, or lend one another our thinking headdresses (like it has been the case from times long anyway) would further sink the already submerged boat of the Muslim ummah in the country.

We are again at a time when the strength of unity fostered by Islam upon the Muslim Ummah is being jettisoned, shattered, ridiculed and threatened by Muslims themselves.

A serendipitous stumble on the statistical strength of Muslims in Nigeria, would hastily fill one with a sense of boastfulness, satisfaction, and fulfillment.

However, a clever analysis of our “place value” relative to other religious groups in the country would return one in a state of lachrymose. Politically, we are zero, academically, we are relatively far behind, economically, we are trailing, socially, we are second class, professionally, we no dey at all.

Check through any government owned university in Nigeria and work out the ratio of the Muslim professors to the non Muslim professors. Go to the government hospitals, and compare the number of qualified Muslim doctors to their non Muslim counterparts.

The Media is a no go area, don’t even talk about it, how many Islamic channels or prints do we have? In business, count the number of private business establishments and work out the ratio of those owned by Muslims to those owned by non Muslims.

Go to any government organisation, count the number of directors that are Muslim and compare with those that are not.

Return to the University, count the number of Muslim students and compare with those of others. You remember the ratio in your set? At your workplace, how many of your Ogas are Muslim? Most companies now prefer recruitment via recommendation rather than the traditional random application, who is gonna recommend you? Do you have a brother there? Please note, that the word “Muslim” as appeared several times above does not refer to Muslims by mere nomenclature, it refers to Muslims indeed and in truth.

Do you have a brother there? Please note, that the word “Muslim” as appeared several times above does not refer to Muslims by mere nomenclature, it refers to Muslims indeed and in truth.

Now you see why your “bear-bear” remains a threat to the community despite your peaceful and gentlemanly composure.

Now You See why no one is ready to employ you because of your hijab, despite your qualifications. Now You See why “legislooters” would formulate laws with total anathema to Islam and we have to accept them ‘bee bee naa ni’, abi, we no geh mouth for there naa.

Little wonder why some misfits, miscreants and reprobates in the society would invade a mosque during Ramadan! beat up the Imams and followers mercilessly, destroy properties all in the name of celebrating one nonsense festival, and nothing go happen.

Little wonder why an occultist group would intrude the house a highly placed Islamic scholar in the town, butcher him and the whole of his family and nobody would wink. Even the media is reluctant to report such, Shebi na Muslim dem kill, nothing dey happen.

Little wonder why every action of the government is greeted by the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN with a foul cry of attempts to Islamise the country or marginalise the Christians, despite the opposite being the actual case. Little wonder why the introduction of Islamic bank in Nigeria would forever be met with chagrin opposition.

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Thank God for Jaiz Bank. We now have one total zero interest bank out of a hundred traditional others, despite the emphatic stress on the issue of interest in Islam.

Little wonder why Islam is being “bashed” in and out by the media with no one seeming to come to its rescue.

Little wonder the use of hijab in secondary schools in the South West was so much detested that it took up to four years of ferocious legal battle before such FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT could be granted. And even when the judgement finally favoured the Muslims, some embittered and contemptuous sets of people still stand for the road like Goliath, say “laye laye, una no go wear am!”… The list is just inexhaustible. We just plenty like 1000 soldier ants wey no fit carry one cube of shuga.

Recently, I witnessed the 4th convocation ceremony of Landmark University, Omu Aran, Kwara State. Landmark University is the second university owned by Bishop David Oyedepo, the founder of the Living Faith Worldwide (AKA Winners Chapel), Covenant University in Ota, Ogun State being the. first. In fact, there are rumours that a third University is being established in Abuja, and would open very soon.

Towards the end of the ceremony, it was time for the goodwill messages by the Vice Chancellors of other universities across the country. There were up to twenty private universities present with either their Vice Chancellor or a representative to deliver the goodwill messages. When I heard the names of the founder or Chancellor of each of these universities, I was shocked.

They are names of major top pastors or General Overseers of different Christian denominations. In fact, I got to know that virtually all Christian denominations in Nigeria now have their own universities. Sorry if you have known this before now, me I be JJC o, and the thing really shocked me when I started hearing “pastor Lagbaja, our father in the Lord, Chancellor of so so so university”.

But then, there was another thing that shocked me. The governor of Kwara State, Gov. Abdulfatah Ahmad was to give a keynote address. He was absent but sent a representative, the COMMISSIONER FOR TERTIARY EDUCATION, one Mrs kinikan Ahmad.

I was highly impressed with her opening, she was dressed modestly in her hijab, though not the long type but evident enough to know that she is a Muslim. When she stepped to the podium, she first greeted the Christian audience with “praaaaaaiiiiiiiise da Laaaaawwwwwd!”
and they chorused as usual “Haaaaaaleellluuuuuuuuyyyaaaaaah!” then she said

“Taakbiiiiiiiiir!”

Wow! I was impressed. This is boldness, in the presence of Papa Oyedepo and his home fan? I think I heard two or three people reluctantly replied “Allahu Akbar”. Those three include me and my brother beside me. You know the feeling when you mistakingly come across two or three grains of white beans out a bag of red ones.

That’s not all. The usual opening of every speaker cum pastor is “can somebody shout Haleluyeeeeeeeeh”

But this amazing woman made a break from the norm. She began with

“Audhubillah minna sh shaitani rojeem, Bismillah Rahmani Raheem”.

Wow! I couldn’t help but to nod and clap her.
But then, one thing spoilt the show. Her accent and pronunciation of words. Oh, my Goodness! It was more like a comedy show for the students.

She mispronounced many words with her Kwaran accent (apology to Yusuf Aweda) so badly that you would have to apply decoding techniques to decipher that they are actually English words.

Each time she does a damage to an English word, I gently look to the direction of the students, often with my eyes meeting with two or three others, I see them parodically echoing and murmuring the word to each other, thus making a caricature of her.

I trust UNILAG students would have done worse. While my point here is not to mock her myself, it is important to emphasise how she has unwittingly presented Islam as a religion of mediocrity, of the uneducated, the riffraff, and substandard people. Most of us are guilty of this anyway, her dressing and opening pitched her as an ambassador of Islam, but her little grab of professionalism, ethics, and standards unwittingly signaled something negative of Islam. Well, she met their expectations anyway, they never expected that a Muslim would speak correct English in the first place.

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Even In terms of civic or social responsibility, we are not there. I remember during last Ramadan, I volunteered with a friend on a project for a new charity group. We were to visit an orphanage and a prison. We had to search the whole of the island for an Islamic orphanage, we couldn’t get any.

The only one we knew of was the “Bab Al Salam in Ikeja, far from our target location, and thus we had to settle for the non Muslim one we got at Ajah. On the day of our visit there, while having a discussion with the proprietress, she told us the orphanage was founded by a church.

We met with the children, and from my interaction with them, I could see they have been trained perfectly along the Christian line, I could see pastors in the making, even from the ones that bear Muslim names. Well, we dropped all the items we brought for them and left for the Prison at Ikoyi. From the gate, after introducing ourselves, despite the fact that we have written a letter prior to that day, the first question the security men asked was “From which Parish are you from?” shuuuuu! Parish ke! Parish ko, Paris Club ni! But would you blame them? After all, na only parish people dey come visit the inmates.

I am sure you wouldn’t find it difficult to recall the many times you’ve found yourself as the only “standing Muslim” in one social committee or the other, at home, at work, at school, etc, and you’re unable to make favourable decisions based on democratic reasons, thereby complying to whatever anti Islamic decision is being made. You feel intimated, you feel compromised, and lonely. You wish you could have more of you “Muslims” in the decision room. Unfortunately, there are none.

But then you may ask “Where are we?” And here is where we are:

Our youths are on the social media fighting each other over trivialities. We dominate the social media with stray bullets of brutal arguments and counterarguments over: whether it is allowed or not to say “Ramadan Kareem or Jumat Mubarak”, whether it is allowed or not to pay Zakatul Fitr in money, whether it is allowed to recite adkhar in congregation or not, whether we can vote in election or not, whether second Jamaa is allowed or not, whether we should raise the hand before saying Allahu Akbar on Salat or vice versa, whether we can protest against a bad leader or not, and a thousand, in fact a million others.

The polemics become so much that youths with no drop of knowledge in reality go to the social media to claim a fountain, and become an authority, often distributing Hell Fire, and labelling people of knowledge as Kufaar, OK, contunu.

Meanwhile, our Christian counterparts are busy at places of empowerment, gaining knowledge and skills, and taking up responsibilities in the society. The screen (of our smartphones and gadgets) seem to have screened away our sense of unity and render us powerless.

Our Babas are in the mosques, fighting one another over control and leadership of the mosques. You would hardly find any mosque around today where the management committee and the imams aren’t at war with one another. The mosque where I pray is a typical example.

My dad being a member of the management committee, is never please with the imam, “they are always fighting”. Anytime I am away from home and I called, the first thing I ask him is “Daddy, shey e o ba Imam ja lote yii? ” (Daddy, hope you didn’t fight with the Imam this time around?) he would jokingly reply “Yi o ba Iya e” (Waka/your Mama!). Virtually, in every mosques, the imams and the committee are always at difference.

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Even in the University community where one would expect high sense of understanding, the elders of the community are always fighting the Muslim students over control and leadership. The case of MSSN UNILAG is germane here. Meanwhile, the churches are building schools and universities, setting up bookshops and other laudable projects while we continue to fight, at times we even go to the Kufaars to help settle our case.

Our mothers are at home, fighting one another over polygamy. Maliciously battling whether to accept a second wife or not. Few days ago in the news, I heard of a woman in Osun State who sent hired assassins to her husband just because he dared to go for a second wife. Meanwhile the Christian women are setting up clinics, and orphanages.

You know what is most annoying, actually ironical about all these? We are the ones that boast about the unity of our religion the most, and that’s where the topic of this write up comes from.

There are differences among us, just as there are differences among people of other religions. But the difference is different. While the Christians openly declare their differences but internally, they are one, forming a strong support to one another, we Muslims openly declare our unity, but internally, we are divided. The Christians would tell you that a CAC member cannot worship in Redeem, a Living Faith member cannot worship in mountain of fire, etc but at the back stage, they move in same direction, they speak in one voice and they act uniformly. And that’s why today they are leaders and playmakers of every aspect of the society. We Muslims publicly brag about our unity with our mouths, but right within, we hate, envy, fight, make contempt of each other and revel in enmity, isn’t that hypocrisy?

“…They were nearer to disbelief that day than to faith, saying with their mouths what was not in their hearts. And Allah is most knowing of what they conceal.” Q3:167

Even the few ones among us doing well, rather than support them, we pull them down because of hatred, envy and enmity. And that’s why we remain relegated members of the society.

“The unbelievers are protectors of one of another. If you fail to do likewise, there will be disorder in the land and great corruption.” Q8:73

Is it not high time we stopped bragging about our unity when we are actually not united? Should we not rather begin to mend our differences, and support one another like true brothers?

Most ironically, is that the refusal to resolve our differences and support one another on the good, is a unanimous agreement to support each other on the evil. Argument breeds contempt, contempt breeds distrust, distrust breeds hatred, hatred breeds malice, and malice breeds other chains of evil.

_…Cooperate with one another in righteousness and piety, and do not cooperate in sin and transgression. Have fear of Allah. Allah is stern in punishment._ Q5:2

The difference among the Christians pits them as a single giant force in front of all developmental phases of the society, while the difference among us, breaks our bond of unity and puts us in the rear. Indeed, the difference is different.

May Allah save us.

© Yussuf Ayo is a member of TRNG Writers Club

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