Friday, February 28, 2014

GRACE GARDEN



The sudden death of Sheikh Albaniy made me to break the chain of my responses on Sheikh Turi’s articles. I would have resumed my rebuttals today but for the fact that the above topic is important, short, and I deem it better to dispense with it now when the schools are still in session.


When I returned from the USA, I wrote a piece, around March 2011, on this page that I entitled THE AMERICA I SAW. Among so many things that I mentioned in that write-up was this:


“The Mormons have a university, the Brigham Young University (BYU), Salt Lake City, Utah, a quasi-Christian state in which the doctrines of the Bible are strictly enforced: no illicit relations between male and female students; a dress code is observed on campus (everybody is decently attired – no nakedness in any form); no drugs….; smoking is strictly prohibited in the open, and in private; and even tea and coffee are not allowed. This university is not a seminary; Christian subjects are not taught here. BYU is a world class institution by all standards, equipped with state of the art education facilities, offering almost all courses except medicine about which, Sandra Rogers, International Vice President (of the university), told me that they ‘are working on it’. There is religious freedom as the Muslims are served special meals in Ramadan, and a prayer room (musallah) designated for them to offer salaah. Nigerian religion-based universities have a lot to learn from this. Honestly, if my children must study outside Nigeria, rather than take them to Dubai, Malaysia etc. where they are certain to imbibe the evil habits of drug addiction, debauchery and other vices, I would take them to this Christian university!”


I appreciated the concern expressed by some brethren about taking my children to a Christian school, but I meant whatever I said in that piece. I attended Methodist Primary School, Kaduna which was later renamed L.E.A Constitution Road after government takeover of mission schools. I grew up receiving and showing love from, and to the people around me, Muslims and Christians alike. I think it has to do with the type of environment in which we interacted and received education with all kinds of people, from the primary through university levels. Some people would only take their kids to Christian or Muslim schools, and they have their reasons. I prefer that my children go a school where Nigeria, with all its diversity in creed and language, is replicated.


Therefore, I registered my two daughters at Grace Garden International School, Maitama. I was deaf to the advice given to me by many that, given my calling, I should be seen to be encouraging Muslims to take their children to Islamic Nursery-Primary schools that abound. These brethren saw Grace Garden as a Christian school, thus my children should not be there! I did not see in that light. My survey showed Grace Garden as a school with high standard of learning. I thought my children could get Boko in the school, and I will take care of the Islamic aspect.


I did not care, even when later I discovered that in Grace Garden Islamic and Christian religious knowledge were taught to students in two groups of all Muslims (in the school, regardless of their levels) in one class and all Christians (in like manner) in another. Why should that worry me since I took my children to learn Boko and not Islam? Nevertheless, that sent some signals as to the mind-set of people running the school.


I sought for appointment with the Proprietress of Grace Garden, Mrs Ruth Aimuan, which she graciously granted. I started by congratulating her on the progress the school has made over the years. ‘I have not regretted bringing my daughters to your school’, I said. ‘and now that they are approaching puberty, I would like to seek for your permission on the issue of head cover for them. It is not mandatory on them to cover at this age but Islam teaches that they start and become used to it before they attain majority. I did not bother to come for this all these years because they were little kids, but now Sumayyah, the elder one, is about 11 years old. This is the time for her to start using her head cover.’


Imam’, said the Proprietress, ‘I thank you for coming. This issue would have to be referred to the Chairman, Board Trustees, Barrister Collins A. Aimuan.’ Who is her husband, and according to sources among parents, a pastor.
Our school’, she continued, ‘is a secular institution. I am not pre-empting what the Chairman will say.’


Mrs Aimuan’, I said, ‘secular does not mean Godless or irreligious. It means multi-religious, just as Nigeria is.’


The Proprietress asked about the length of the head cover and its colour. I showed it to her, and explained that I understood her concern. The head cover will be very short, just within the neck, not down to their shoulders, and will rhyme with the school uniform. She said, ‘This is fine by me, subject to what the Chairman of the Board will say when I consult with him. But let the children wear it to school tomorrow so we can see how it will look.’


The outcome of this consultation with her husband, the Chairman, Board of Trustees, took about a month to be communicated to me. The answer was NO! The best the school can do in this circumstance is to allow ‘your daughters to wear their head cover from the house and remove it at the school gate.’


Another family met the proprietress on the same issue. Their daughter, Fatimah, is a friend of Sumayyah’s. They, (and many like them), brought her to Grace Garden because my children were there. Fatimah’s parents did not get the same courtesy the proprietress accorded my request. ‘Look, Hajiya,’ she said, ‘I’ve got better things to do with my time than to hear your preaching on hijab. I attended to you in the first place because you are a parent with children in the school. We can draw the curtain on this meeting if you don’t have any other thing to say.’


Madam,’ said Fatimah’s mother, ‘write this down, more Muslim parents will confront you on the same issue of hijab when their daughters approach puberty.  It is a religious duty on Muslims who are serious about their faith! Muslims, everywhere in the world, including Europe and America, are allowed to have their daughters use hijab. Fatimah will be moved to another school where she will be free to cover herself according to the dictates of her religion


The Math teacher of Fatimah saw her with the head cover, ‘Come here!’ he commanded, ‘If you people want to use this why don’t you go to Islamic schools where you can even cover your faces and be ojuju?’ This happened a day after the proprietress permitted us tolet the children wear it to school tomorrow so we can see how it will look.


What the Math teacher said to Fatimah was repeated to Sumayyah by another member of staff in charge of uniforms at Grace Garden. Her mother insisted on longer skirts for religious reasons. The woman distributing the uniforms said, ‘Longer skirts are not allowed here. If you want to cover yourself from head to toe go to Islamic schools not here!


All these happened when I was in Saudi Arabia for Hajj 2013. I called Mrs Ruth Aimuan, the proprietress, and informed her about what I heard. I said it is not healthy that children are exposed to this kind of tirade on a simple issue that is better handled between their parents and the school authority. She asked me of the names of those involved among her staff, which I gave her. She did nothing.


Can I blame anybody now, when I failed to heed to people’s advice? How will those brethren now look at me after I flouted their proposition? Was there anything I did not understand then, that now it dawned on me? What have I done to deserve this outcome? Is it wrong to aspire for better mutual harmony between Christians and Muslims starting with our children? Do I have any right to change the policy of a school that chooses to be Godless because I want my daughters to don the hijab? Why did I take them to the school in the first place?


I looked for another school with Muslim and Christian students, and where hijab is allowed for those who want to use it. My daughters are now at Nigerian Turkish International College (NTIC). Both the school fees and the standard of education are higher here than what obtains at Grace Garden. NTIC is worth paying more for one will get what they want. My only concern is having your kids mingle with some of the children that are nourished unlawfully by parents who betrayed our trust and plundered our commonwealth.


The irony is that due to the history of Turkey during the time of Atatürk, NTIC has more reason to outlaw hijab and to be ‘secular’ in the sense understood by Mrs Ruth Aimuan, than Grace Garden, a school in a country rightly described by my good friend, Cardinal John Onaikan as the ‘largest Islamo-Christian nation in the world.




Thursday, February 6, 2014

YAA ALBANIY!

Late Sheikh Albaniy

Starting this correspondence with Yaa Albaniy is a proclamation soaked between the agony of losing you and the celebration of what you have attained. Yaa Albaniy, therefore, is not the incantation of ahlul khuraafaat on their dead saints for the forgiveness of their sins or for bestowment of grace on them. It is not fitting for me to either ask you for the forgiveness of my sins or implore you to bestow grace on me because that was not what you taught. None forgives sins or bestows grace but Allah. That was what you taught.

Against shirk and bida’ you fought gallantly. Muslims must worship Allah with sincerity (Al-Bayyinah 98:5), and whoever wishes to meet his Lord, let him do righteous deeds, and associate none in the worship of his Lord (Al-Kahf 18:110). You have repeatedly quoted your namesake in his Ahkaamul Janaa’iz that ‘Verily, Allah only accepts the deeds that are done purely for Him, and are done for the sake of His Face.’ (an-Nasaa’ee). Thus, you worked hard in removing the shackles of ignorance by liberating people from serving fellow human beings to the freedom of offering service to Allah only, the True Lord of the people! That was what you taught.

Yaa Albaniy, the scene at your funeral was impressive; people kept coming from every direction to join the flood of mourners who personified what you taught on the etiquette of grieving the dead. The heavy grief darkened their faces, and their eyes reddened due to ceaseless flow of tears. Everybody was weeping silently - no wailing, no screaming, no hitting of the body and no tearing of clothes – respecting your desire as contained in your will, and calling to mind what you once read to them concerning the prohibition of these acts at the time of mourning. You said, reading the hadeeth of al-Bukhari, ‘He is not of us who hits the face, tears the clothes, and makes the calls of Jaahiliyyah.’ (Bukhari). Moreover, in another hadeeth from the same volume you once told them that ‘the eyes shed tears, the heart feels sad, but we only say things pleasing to our Lord.’ (Bukhari, Muslim and others). That was what you taught.

Thus, people did not allow the magnitude of the loss occasioned by your death to mar the significance of what you taught of patience at the peak of affliction. What you hear everywhere, and read on social media is innaa lillaahi, wa innaa ilayhi raaji’uun, To Allah we belong, and to Him will we return. (Al-Baqarah 2:155-157). ‘Indeed, patience should be displayed at the beginning of the affliction.’ That was what you taught.

Woe to the scoundrels and their minions who contrived your assassination! What have we done wrong to merit this level of aggression and violence? Your brother, and, Allah-willing, your predecessor to Al-Jannah, Sheikh Ja’far was killed leading the Muslims in Fajr Prayer. You were killed after delivering your daily lessons on the hadeeth of the Messenger of Allah (SAW). So, what exactly is the problem of these villains? Do they want us to stop saying the daily prayers, or to cease from conveying Allah’s messages to His servants? By killing you, they have paved the way for a shahaadah unprecedented in the history of Islam in Nigeria. Out of the 21 signs of a good end at the time of death that you taught, and even said that dying with any of them constitutes a very glad tidings for a deceased, Allah has granted you not one but seven out of these 21 signs of a good end.

1-    The first bullet that hit your hand was in your attempt to protect your family. Those who said you were dragged out of the car did not know what exactly happened. They did not know that you actually came out of the car to defend your family. As if to say, ‘If you are after me, I’m here; leave my family out of it.’ You have read this hadeeth in the past to your students: ‘…he who is killed while defending his family is a Shaheed (martyr)…’ (Ahmad)
2-    When you came out of the car you tried, in self-defence, to subdue one of the assassins but they kept shooting at you until you fell down. For, as you have read, the Prophet (SAW) has said, ‘…he who is killed defending his blood (person) is a Shaheed…’ (Abu Dawud) He also said, just as you taught it to the world that, ‘He who is killed while resisting an oppression against him is a Shaheed.’ ( reported by Ahmad and authenticated by your namesake)
3-    You were killed for no other reason than your da’wah activities, propagating the deen and trying to make people follow the Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW) who said, ‘…he who is killed defending his deen is Shaheed…’ (an-Nasaa’ee)
4-    Another sign of a Shaheed as you taught your students was dying while doing a good deed. You were at the peak of enhancing your Islamic Centre, the Darul Hadeethis Salafiyyah, where you have been expounding the teachings of Muhammad (SAW) to this Ummah, and then suddenly the assassins’ bullets hit you. I called to mind some of the hadeeths you explained to your audience: ‘Every servant will be resurrected upon the same thing upon which he died.’ (Muslim and others). You also read, ‘When Allah wills good for a servant of His, He purifies him: He directs him to doing a good deed before death, so that those around him are pleased with him. He (Allah) then takes away his life while he is doing it.’ (Reported by Ahmad, authenticated by your namesake)
5-    On one of your recordings on funeral rites you mentioned this hadeeth, ‘Whenever four (Muslims) testify on behalf of a (dead) Muslim, Allah will let him into Jannah.’ (Bukhari). You also read, ‘Any Muslim who dies and four of his closest neighbours testify that they only know good about him, Allah says, “I accept your testimony, and forgive that which you do not know (about him).’ (Reported by ibn Hibbaan, and authenticated by your namesake). In your case, I am not speaking of four or a thousand people; I refer to the testimony of millions around the world who rehearsed your good deeds and prayed Allah to forgive and have mercy on!
6-    You asked for Shahaadah and Allah gave it to you in the frontline of propagating His deen, just as you once taught your students, ‘He who sincerely asks Allah for shahaadah, Allah will grant him the levels of martyrs, even if he dies in bed.’ (Reported by Muslim). Allah granted you shahaadah not in your bed but in the battlefield of Islamic propagation. Allah shall also grant you ample favours as contained in the hadeeth you passionately taught your students: ‘A Shaheed is awarded seven favours by Allah: he is forgiven with the first gush of blood, shown his position in Jannah, protected from the torment of the grave, saved from the Great Fear (on Judgement Day), adorned with the adornments of imaan, married to al-Hurul ‘een (fair women of Jannah), and allowed to intercede for seventy of his relatives.’ (Reported by at-Tirmidhi, and authenticated by your namesake).
7-    Your wife and son died instantly. Those who came to the scene of the carnage were hoping that you would survive so they tried to take you to the hospital. You kept saying the kalimah – laa’ilaaha lillaah, laa’ilaaha lillaah, laa’ilaaha lillaah – until you breathed your last….just as stated in one of your favourite hadeeths where the Messenger of Allah said, ‘He whose last words are ‘laa’ilaaha lillaah’ will enter Jannah.’ (al-Haakim and others)

Yaa Albaniy, everything about your funeral was done in line with what you taught and made explicit in your will, from washing of your body to internment. The process was simple, fast, no flowers decorated your bier or grave, no letter was give you to deliver to Allah as some people do, and no chanting of poetry or reading of the Qur’an in groups for you to get the reward – nothing of the kind. That was what you taught.

The procession to the graveyard was peaceful. People were only trying to have Allah’s reward by carrying the bier or helping its easy movement. Alhamdu lillaah, nobody tried to touch your corpse and rub his hands on his face and body afterwards in order to get any blessing from it. Everything was done strictly according to the Sunnah and practice of the Salafus Saalih. That was what you taught.

Yaa Albaniy, you created a separate identity for yourself outside the realm of some of our so-called Sunni scholars who only give lectures, quarrel with one another over leadership and distribution of government largesse. They defect from Kaduna faction to Jos faction and vice versa, as politicians do nowadays from one party to another. Do not even mention those of them implicated in poisoning a colleague. You were not like them. The media righty described you as The Leader of Salafiyyah Movement in Nigeria. You did not stop at giving lectures – everybody could do that – you taught fathomless books, from cover to cover, to your students; only real scholars could do that. Above all, you tried to put what you taught into practice without minding the blame of any blamer. That was what you taught.

We are indeed saddened by your departure Yaa Albaniy! May Allah forgive and shower His mercy on you, your wife and son.