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Sunday, December 5, 2010

REMOVING THE CHIEF IMAM


“You shall lust for positions of authority and it shall be a source of regret on the Day of Judgement. How nice is the suckling (enjoyment of the trappings of power) and how fatal the weaning (accounting for the tenure before Allah)”-Reported by Bukhari.

How will you feel if after serving a Muslim organisation for twenty years, (working day and night, preparing speeches and delivering lectures), without remuneration, housing or any form of stipend whatsoever, you wake up on the first day of Ramadan, 2010 receiving calls from distraught friends and well-wishers who read on the dailies that you have been removed? That was exactly what happened to the Chief Imam of Abuja, Sheikh Musa Muhammad, on the first of Ramadan 1431 AH. Ordinarily, on a day like that, we receive congratulatory messages from our brethren all over the Muslim world on the commencement of Ramadan; but the handlers of the National Mosque (if what we read on Daily Trust of Wednesday, August 11, 2010 was anything to go by) chose that great day to pass a distressful message to the Muslim Ummah.
The National Mosque, Abuja was opened twenty years ago during the tenure of, and under the chairmanship (at the occasion) of President Ibrahim Babangida who actually made Sheikh Musa Muhammad leave the Area 1 Central Mosque where he was serving as the Imam to come to lead the new mosque as acting Imam. On the heels of his appointment came the constitution of a National Mosque Management Board.
 Sheikh Musa Muhammad has been in that acting capacity for twenty years. I do not know of any establishment in the world where somebody is kept for that long in acting capacity. The Chief Imam continued to undertake his task of leading the National Mosque with diligence, delivering the weekly Friday Sermon and prayers, leading the Eid prayers, conducting two sessions of Tafseer in Ramadan (the one in the morning from 9am to 12:30pm for females; and from 4pm to 6pm for males), and training advanced students on deeper fields of Islamic jurisprudence and hadeeth in his residence twice a week. He also represents the Muslim Community in Islamic gatherings throughout the country. Whenever he goes on pilgrimage either through the FCT contingent or as a member of the Federal Government Delegation, the Chief Imam will lead the prayers and give fatwah to pilgrims on hajj during the stay in Minaa and Arafah.
Sheikh Musa Muhammad has been able to avert sectarian squabbles from the precincts of the National Mosque. Preaching is restricted to normal Maghrib to Isha daily sessions of known and acceptable books of Islam. On Fridays, he forestalls the incursion into the mosque of firebrand Muslim evangelists who do not care to call to Islam through beautiful exhortation. Thus, preaching is confined to the topic of the khutbah sermon of the day. He will not allow anybody to threaten the peace by word or deed. This has made people, even among his flock, to call him names: Government Protectors, Lovers of Status Quo and many such appellations that are laden with variant meanings. In fact, men of a particular sect who were in the mosque for that purpose physically assaulted him on one occasion.  However, the question is, will the government now intervene to give protection to Government Protectors?
Even before the paid announcement of vacancies at the National Mosque by its management board in some national dailies including Daily Trust of Tuesday, August 10, 2010, it had been rumoured that there was a plan to depose the Imam. People were quoting sources within the National Mosque Management Board on reasons for ‘regime change’ in the mosque due to the ‘Imam’s absenteeism and lack of commitment to duty’, and ‘for allowing incompetent people’ to deliver Friday Sermon and lead prayers in his absence. This last allegation is hard to repudiate as worshipers are always grieved whenever the Chief Imam is absent because those imams who deputise for him at such periods are either too infirm to read the sermon loud enough or they appear to have some difficulty in reading the Arabic text correctly. This visible defect is incongruous to the qualification of a competent imam. However, why should the Chief Imam, in the first place, suffer the academically challenged to stay in his place whenever he happens to be away? Was it to announce his absence through magnifying the weakness of the others who pray in his stead so that the subliminal message of ‘the difference is clear’ could be passed on to the worshippers? Is the Chief Imam not comfortable with equally competent imams leading prayers in his absence because they may blight his light, and one day take over from him? No! I think the issue is beyond that.
The National Mosque Management Board has left many stones unturned not the least the day-to-day administration of the mosque and the Office of The Chief Imam to such an extent that he was left with no other option than to handpick at will whomsoever he deems fit to lead prayers in his absence. If the board had kept to its responsibility, the rope would not have been so loose as to warrant the ascension to the mimbar of the whole National Mosque of people who cannot construct a single flawless sentence in the Arabic language, the language of the Glorious Qur’an! One begins to wonder whether more posts should not have been made vacant. One cannot help but think incompetence breeds incompetence. I believe a competent management board would have produced a ‘competent’ Imam’s office with all it accoutrements.
Why is the National Mosque Management Board now active on the verge of 2011 general elections after being in comatose for 20 years? Is the board acting on its instincts with the good intention of revitalising the mosque, or this is part of a grand clandestine political agenda of the powers that be to sow the seed of discord in the Muslim Ummah through the Chief Imam’s deposition for easy tenure elongation to 2011? I do not believe in this but some people think so. If you combine this with the recent directive of the NSA through the National Broadcasting Commission to the effect that no Islamic programme should be broadcast live and that all programmes must be previewed and ‘okayed’ for broadcast in the same month of Ramadan when the Muslim viewership is at its peak, you can’t help but agree with those rumours. To my mind, the National Mosque Management Board is composed of people who are above board and who seek Allah’s countenance in whatever they do; but as humans, they are liable to missing the mark in their attempt to do good.
Declaring the office of the Chief Imam vacant by calling for qualified candidates to apply was both a wrong and unprecedented innovation in more than 14 hundred years of Islam’s existence on the face of the earth. The imam of a village mosque deserves courtesy in such matters let alone that of the National Mosque, Abuja. There is no other office in the Muslim pecking order in Nigeria higher than that of the Chief Imam except that of His Eminence, The Sultan of Sokoto and President General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs! This is not due to the personality of Sheikh Musa Muhammad, far from that; the honour is for the office and what it signifies to Nigerian Muslims. Debasing the office of the Chief Imam of the National Mosque in any way is disgracing the entire Muslim Community of Nigeria.
Removing the Chief Imam of Abuja through the pages of newspapers is a mockery on, and great disservice to Islam. Who has the right to remove an imam, and was any imam ever removed without cogent reasons?
At the time of writing this piece, the Chief Imam, I learnt, contrary to the report of Daily Trust, was not served with any letter informing him formally of the issue of termination of his service from the mosque. He returned recently from Umrah in Saudi Arabia. When he was away the Board met and these decisions were taken, but there was no formal communication to the Chief Imam on the new state of affairs. Allah knows the secrets of hearts, but when Satan refused to bow down to Adam, Allah did not condemn him; He confronted him about such disobedience and asked him why he refused to bow down to Adam as instructed. Satan had fair hearing even with Allah who knew beforehand what, where and why Satan behaved the way he did. As for the Imam, he was never asked why, or ever been queried for his absenteeism or handpicking incompetent people to lead prayers in his absence.
 When we broke the sad news to the Chief Imam after his return a fortnight ago, we were pleasantly stunned at his response: ‘Pray Allah to forgive me’ he said ‘in case I’ve done some evil deed to deserve this. If they declare my office vacant, I will not apply and I will not complain to anybody but Allah.’
Yes, even Allah’s Messengers were tried with tribulations and adversities; they constantly persevered until Allah brought His Command to pass.
When I read the advertisement for vacancies on the newspapers and firing of the Chief Imam I called on a member of the Board who happened to be in Kaduna and whom I hold in high esteem as a father and a role model for me and my family. The Qur’an says if you hear any information, you should verify its veracity. I listened to what he said and refrained from interrupting him. I respect his position but do not share it. He said the National Mosque should have a ‘befitting imam who can represent us at local and international forums’, whatever that means. I cannot argue with that respected board member over the telephone, but I beg to disagree through this medium. Wallahi, this is the first time I heard somebody question the qualification of the Chief Imam, not in Islamic knowledge, to be fair to the board member. Nobody can question his competence in religious scholarship. By befitting representation, I understood he was referring to the English Language. This honoured member of the board knows better than I do that the Chief Imam was a civil servant for many years; he retired as the Chief Registrar of the Shariah Court, Abuja. From my interaction with the Chief Imam and my scant understanding of the English Language, I can assert that his command of English is adequate and even better than that of many among his peers and contemporaries.
Moreover, when did fluency in English become a condition for appointing an Imam? Yes, understanding English will give any imam advantage to convey his message to a wider audience including non-Muslims etc, but it should not be a reason to remove one who has been heading a place like the National Mosque for 20 years. The heads of countries with little more than a passing knowledge of the English language go around the world with interpreters and no one has thought of them as incompetent on that account. It smacks of colonial mentality to think fluency in English is necessary for one who is fluent in the language most used by his office (Arabic) and which, by the way, is an international language too. The Board in its advertisement placed so much emphasis on the English Language that it neglected mentioning memorising any portion of the Qur’an as a prime condition for choosing an imam.
Calling for interested and qualified candidates to apply for the post of imam was another mistake. We all know that in Islam when you ask for any position you are automatically disqualified for the post. When Al-Abbas, the uncle of The Messenger of Allah, Allah’s blessing and peace be upon, went to him, asking him to appoint him in charge of one of those jobs, which were in the Prophet’s custody, the Messenger of Allah, Allah’s blessing and peace be upon him, replied to him: “We, by Allah, never give it to anyone who asks for it, or is eager to have it.”
Therefore, anyone who responds to that advertisement wanting to become the imam of the National Mosque is ignorant of the basic principles of leadership in Islam and thus disqualified ab initio!
In addition, this brings us to the issue of qualification. The revitalization that the National Mosque Management Board desires should not be confined to the administration of the mosque alone; it has to encompass the Board itself. What qualifications are requisite for the Board membership? For the Board of an institution like the National Mosque to call for applications from people in order to select an imam, then a lot of things need sorting out to ascertain the eligibility or otherwise of some or all of the members! Moreover and more pertinently, when did it become right for an imam to report to a management board? Where things are done properly, the Imam reports only to the Ameerul Mu’mineen (in this case, His Eminence, the Sultan) and he would appoint members of a mosque management board who would answer to him.
The Ameerul Mu’mineen, His Eminence the Sultan and President General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, no doubt has no hand in this ‘hanky-panky’. He knows better than that. I suggest he calls these people to order and educate them about how to do things. An Imam is never removed from office except in the case of clear disbelief for which there is evidence.


RE: REMOVING THE CHIEF IMAM


Thank you so much for the piece on Removing the Chief Imam. It shows us clearly that people in high positions can be very ignorant of basic rules. I was shocked by that report myself and worried that it could be a sponsored news story. Allah knows best anyway. We should like Ustaz Musa because the mosque has been very tranquil as you mentioned. This kind of folly and envy should never repeat itself again in the history of Islam in Nigeria. Haba! Abdulmumin Balogun, 0806 972 77 98

"A believer obeys Allah, and is yet fearful of Him; and a hypocrite disobeys Allah, and is yet fearless of Him". Sheikh, Imam Musa never lobbied or asked for the post of the chief Imam of Abuja National Mosque. Since the time the National Mosque was built, some Muslims politicised the affairs of running the mosque, and the issue of its Imamship. There was even a plan to bring an Imam either from Sokoto, Kano, or Kaduna to come and lead prayers in Abuja. This was what we heard in Abuja 20 years ago. The National Mosque was opened by the efforts of some civil servants that love Islam. Through those Muslims, the Abuja National Mosque was opened and God gave the leadership to Sheikh Imam Musa. Removing him needs a strong and proved misdeed in Islam. If not, we are going down the ignorance lane. May the Ruler of the universe, Who brings forth the light of the day out of the darkness of the light; Who hears everything and sees everything and is not unaware of everything, guide us to a right choice. Ps/Sheikh Imam Musa leads us in Jumu’a prayers today 13th of August. Ya Samadu! Abdusalam Yahya. abdusalamyahya@yahoo.com
Salaam alykum dan uwa Malam Abubakar...Ya iyali ya azumi? Jazakallahu ahsan jaza'a da rubutun da kayi kan batun tube liman..sai mun hadu..0803 304 00 58
TRANSLATION: Peace be on you my brother Malam Abubakr; how is fasting and the family? May Allah reward you with the best of recompense for your piece on the Removal of the Chief Imam.
Salam
Your article on the removal of the chief imam is thought provoking. May Allah show us the best way out of this mess. Ramalan, M. 0802 055 65 30

Ustaz A S Muhammad. Please keep it up! May ALLAH reward you...-- Mashegu from Minna. 0803 733 33 32
Assalamu alaikum, Ustaz S. Muhammad; I have been admiring you from distance but I have never been impressed with you as today after reading your article in Leadership Newspaper. May Allah SWA reward you abundantly. May Allah, the Almighty, continue to guide and protect all Muslim ummah, AMIN. Sahanun Shitu. 0806 571 23 31
Assalamu Alaykum. I do share your views on today's issue. May Allah save us from unafikun (hypocrites) who are planted within us to destabilise us. Jazakalhayr, M.B Usman. Kaduna. 0807 720 15 71

1 comment :

  1. You have said it all, by Allah their deeds is tainted with fraught and dishonesty. May Allah protect his deen from the claws of the wolves.

    ReplyDelete