Wednesday, December 23, 2015

COMBATING VIOLENT EXTREMISM (3)





Sheikh Youssef Mechria, Secretary of the Algerian League of Imams continued his speech:


‘The scholars are the heirs of the prophets, as pointed out by the Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace of Allah be upon him, where he said, ‘The ulamaa are the heirs of the prophets who have bequeathed neither dirham nor dinar, but what they bequeathed was knowledge.’ 

‘The first to engage the Khawaarij was Ibn Abbas…. So, today, this is your role and responsibility as ulamaa and imams, to preserve sound understanding of the religion.

Ibn Abbas went to dialogue with the Khawaarij. He said to them, in a modern context, ‘What is the grudge you have against the government?’ 

‘They mentioned three things that made them to rebel against the state.  That :1) Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, made men to adjudicate their dispute with him when Allah said, ‘The judgement for none but Allah.’ ( al-An’aam, 6:57 and Yusuf, 12:40, 67) ‘Whoso judgeth not by that which Allah hath revealed: such are disbelievers…such are wrong-doers….such are evil-livers.’ (al-Maa’idah, 5:44,45,47). 2) When they fought against the army that included Aisha, Mother of the Believers, Ali, peace be upon him, did not take captives or spoils. If the opponents were disbelievers, then their captives are permissible, but if on the other hand they were believers, then why fight them in the first place? 3) He removed the title of Ameerul Mu’mineen (Commander of the Faithful) from the name; therefore, if he seizes to be Ameerul Mu’mineen, then he is Ameerul Kaafireen (Commander of the Infidels).

‘Ibn Abbas asked them if they had other issues, but they said what they presented to him was sufficient for them. He then said, ‘Would you rescind  your stance if I relate to you evidence from the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Prophet what refutes your position?’ 

‘When they answered in the affirmative, he said, ‘concerning your statement that Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, made men to be arbiters in a matter which, to your understanding, only Allah will judge, I wish to present to you instances in the Qur’an where Allah orders men to judge in issues that are not as important as those in which Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, called for men’s adjudication. Like the case of hunting by a person in a state of ihraam which the Qur’an prohibits; but in the event where such a person kills the game intentionally, ‘then the penalty is an offering equivalent to the one he killed, as judged by two men among you.’ (al-Maa’idah, 5:95) Allah could have been the judge in this matter of hunting, but He gave it the authority to men, which leads me to ask you this: is a judgement by men in matters of reconciliation in order to avoid bloodshed among Muslims more important or that regarding the hunting of animals?

‘They said men’s judgement in matters of reconciliation are more important.

‘Ibn Abbas cited another example from the Qur’an.  In marital discord, two arbitrators are to be appointed, one from the man’s side, and one from the woman’s side. (an-Nisaa, 4:35) He then asked, ‘Is a judgement by men in matter of reconciling hearts and avoiding bloodshed more important or that of pertaining marital discord of a spouse?
‘The said the former was more important than the latter.

‘On the issue of fighting with taking spoils and captives, Ibn Abbas asked if they could take their mother, Aisha as a captive, and if they could have amatory dealings with her as they would with women captives. He made them see the kufr, (faithlessness) involved if they were to answer in the affirmative to the question of treating Aisha like any other female captive, and in denying that she is the mother of believers. (al-Ahzaab, 33:6) They also accepted his verdict on this.



‘Ibn Abbas went further to debunk the idea that since Ali, peace be upon him, removed from his name the title of Ameerul Mu’minee, he was then Ameerul Kaafireen. He brought as another example the Hudaibiyyah agreement ratified between the Makkan Mushriks and the Prophet, blessings and peace of Allah be upon him. The Prophet was dictating to Ali, peace be upon him, the contents of the document: ‘This is what Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah undertakes with the ….’ But the Mushriks interjected, ‘If we had accepted you as the Messenger of Allah we would not have taken up arms against you.’ 

‘With is object the Prophet (SAW) said, ‘Oh Allah, Thou indeed know that I am Your Messenger….’ He then ordered Ali, peace be upon him, to erase Messenger of Allah, and replace with Muhammad Ibn Abdullah….’

‘Ibn Abbas now said the Khawaarij, ‘By Allah, Ali, peace be upon him, is not better than the Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace be upon him, who himself erased ‘Messenger of Allah’ from his name. That did not erase his ‘messengerhood’ or repudiate the message he brought.


‘The Khawarij accepted all that Ibn Abbas presented in this dialogue which made more 2000 of them to lay down their armour of rebellion and rejoin the fold of Muslims.' 

To be continued......

Friday, December 11, 2015

COMBATING VIOLENT EXTREMISM (2)

Sheikh Youssef Machria, Mr Belkacem Smaili, Ambassador of Algeria, Alhaji Ibrahim Abubakar Jega, ES, National Mosque 



I started last week with a meeting in which I participated and which was organised in partnership with the Office of the National Security Adviser. We hosted some Algerian scholars of Islam at the National Mosque who had come to share their experience in combating terrorism with us; something relatively new to us but which they had been tackling since the 90’s. This week, I continue with the translation of the speech given by the head of the Algerian delegation. Please enjoy.


‘In the early 1990s we were the ones (as a country) under this scourge of terror. Now it covers many other nations, Muslim and non-Muslim, but in the 1990s ours was the only country consigned to the wrath of terrorism and violent extremism. 

‘In our intercourse with these terrorist, extremist, takfeeri organisations, I recall, in 1997, the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), Groupe Islamique Arme, (in French) and the pogrom it carried out in the name of Islaam against infants, children, women and the aged. Even animals were not spared; all in Islaam’s name. These youth were vying with one another in who would be the first in killing women and children. We said, in our dialogue with them, ‘Why don’t you confine your bloodshed to, say, the armed forces as they are contenders with you for political authority, why kill innocent civilians - women and children?’

‘ I remember the image of the sadistic massacre of Tadjena, a city around the villages of Bouhamed and Ayachiche, where an infant not more than nine months old was among the slain, and it was afterwards burnt. Amidst these, throats were slashed, arms and legs cut off, and bodies were thrown in a boiling pot. 

‘Imagine this organised massacre (perpetrated by murderers) in the name of Islaam, depicting it as the Deen of Muhammad, blessings and peace of Allah be upon. Wallaahul Musta’aan! (Only Allah can aid us!)

‘So, I said to them, what is your religious justification for this? One of them answered and said to me, ‘Oh Sheikh! Have you not read the words of Allah in Surat an-Nuuh (71:27) “..and they will beget but wicked kuffaar”?

‘Laa ilaaha illallaah! I was expecting something else from him, not this. I thought he might justify what they did as a retaliation for some wrong done them, but he justified this savagery that is abominated by all laws and religions  with this Qur’anic verse. This emanated from flawed understanding of the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of the Prophet, blessings and peace of Allah be upon him.

‘You (the imams) and scholars know this reality: misinterpretation and deformed understanding of the corpus of the Shariah leads only to disaster and catastrophe. I call to mind, in this connection, Allah’s word, ‘Say: "Shall we tell you of those who lose most in respect of their deeds? -  "Those whose efforts have been wasted in this life, while they thought that they were acquiring good by their works?” (al-Kahf 18:103-104)

‘Look at it from that angle, dear scholars. They worked evil, killing, mutilating bodies, and thinking that to be jihad in the cause of Allah; but on the Day of Resurrection ‘And We shall turn to whatever deeds they did [in this life], and We shall make such deeds as floating dust scattered about.’ (al-Furqaan 25:23)

‘All these organisations, The Armed Islamic Group, The Islamic Armed Movement (MIA), The Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb, etc, personified flawed understanding of Islaam, and each is saying we want to return to the Islamic Caliphate. But this is not the way to effect change in a system. If you desire the establishment of the Caliphate,  tread the path followed by the Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace be upon him. ‘Say thou: "This is my way: I do invite unto Allah, - on evidence clear as the seeing with one's eyes, - I and whoever follows me. Glory to Allah! and never will I join gods with Allah!” (Yusuf 12:108)

‘The corollary of deviating from that path was the massacre of countless innocents, which led to the emergence of hundreds of thousands of widows, and orphans. In their madness they did not spare the police, the military, members of the press, politicians or even civil servants; even fire service personnel were not immune. They threatened doctors and teachers to stay away from hospitals and schools or face death. Moreover, Muslim scholars were assassinated on their mimbars (pulpits) and dwellings for speaking against extremism. We, at the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Endowment, lost no fewer than 300 imams, scholars and Qur’anic instructors.

‘I recall an incident in a local Qur’anic school which we call zaawiyah (the equivalent of Tsangaya in Nigeria), in the middle of Algiers. These extremists cordoned the entire zaawiyah and slaughtered each and every member of the school - teachers and students. Their sin? They were engaged in a bid’ah of some sorts, memorising the Glorious Qur’an in a system under the sponsorship of the government!

‘This is extremism in its extremity! This is misinterpretation and the application of flawed understanding of the text. How did this start? It started with  altercations on trifling matters. With this, I would like to admonish my brother-scholars in Nigeria, and in every Muslim country. Difference of opinion starts from the branch and graduates to the trunk. Pay attention to this very well. As Ibn Hazm mentioned in his book Al-Muhalla that the beginning of the exit of the Khawaarij during the Umayyad Dynasty was their refusal to pray behind the imam of the mosque.  That was how it all started; their refusal to pray behind those they called the sultanate imams, or government imams. And we have the same thing today. The extremists have separate mosques other than the ones with imams under the Ministry of Religious Affairs. History, they say, repeats itself. 

‘We noticed the first incident of such division after the return of the Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace be upon him, from the Expedition of Hunain, when he distributed the spoils to some of his companions. A certain Dhul Khuwaysirah said, ‘Oh Muhammad! Do justice, for in this matter of distribution of spoils, you have not acted justly.’ 

‘He was so impudent that he called the Messenger of Allah, ‘Oh Muhammad!’ while Allah, Almighty has called the Messenger by his name three times in the Qur’an for definitive purposes only. But always we read Allah’s words in the Glorious Qur’an, ‘Oh Messenger… Oh Prophet…’ as an honour to him, peace be upon him, by the Highest Authority. But this man said   ‘Oh Muhammad! Do justice, for in this matter of distribution of spoils, you have not acted justly. The Countenance of Allah was not sought in the division of the spoils!’

‘The Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace be upon him, said, ‘Woe unto you! If I fail to deal justly, who is there to do that? How will Allah trust me with the Heavenly Chronicles, and you demurred to trust me with the division of fleeting glitter of the world?’ 

‘When the man went away the Messenger of Allah said, “From the progeny of this man,” or he said, “From the offspring of this man, there will come a people who will recite the Qur’an but it will not go beyond their throats. They will go through the religion like an arrow going through its quarry. They will murder the people of Islam while ignoring the people of idol-worship…’ (end of quotation)

You see, of course, how this describes the new inheritors of Dhul Khuwaysirah among us in the global community. Bloodthirsty, ignorant and cowardly people who use the Book that condemns them to justify an action the Book condemns. Scholars of Islaam over the centuries have always taught their people and warned their students about deviant sects with deviant ideologies. The gullible and ignorant are their foot soldiers.


Have you noticed how the Army in the North East keeps reporting cases of so-called Boko Haraam commanders who cannot read the Quran properly, let alone understand it? One of such captured men could not even recite the first Surah of the Qur’an with which every Muslim says his daily prayer. This is what you find with all the sickening Muslim terrorist groups. You have ISIS soldiers captured with tattoos of women on their arms; things, which are abhorrent to their professed faith and to any decent person. The recent killers in Paris had just left a bar where they drank alcohol before shouting ‘Allahu akbar’ and murdering people in the name of Allah, Who forbids both murder and alcohol! 
  
Notice that I write, “Muslim terrorist groups” and not the disingenuous “Islamists” or “Islamic terrorists” you see every day written by either ignorant or bigoted, biased reporters. The words “Islamic terrorist” and “Islamists” are repulsive to Muslims. Terrorism is not Islamic! In fact, Islam is the only religion, which has a legal punishment for acts of terrorism. (Al-Maa’idah Q5:33)

Insha Allah, I will continue, next week, with the speaker’s advice to Nigerian Muslim scholars on dialogue with extremists.


Saturday, December 5, 2015

COMBATING VIOLENT EXTREMISM (1)



The Executive Secretary (ES)of the Abuja National Mosque, Alhaji Ibrahim A. Jega, Ambassador of Algeria, Mr Belkacem Smaili, and Sheikh Youssef Mechria, Secretary of the Algerian League of Imams’


The Executive Secretary (ES)of the Abuja National Mosque, Alhaji Ibrahim A. Jega (Matawallen Jega) hosted ‘a four-man team under the leadership of Sheikh Youssef Mechria, Secretary of the Algerian League of Imams’ at the National Mosque on Thursday 26th November, 2015. Other members were the Ambassador of Algeria, Mr Belkacem Smaili, and Mr Ahmed Benabbes, Foreign Affairs Counsellor, Embassy of Algeria. The team was ‘on a four-day workshop for the purpose of cross-fertilisation of ideas on the effects of extremism and terrorism and measures to be taken in countering the negative activities of terrorist elements.’ The team came chaperoned by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).

The ES chaired the occasion while yours truly acted as the Master of Ceremonies (MC) and translator. As MC, I commented on the fact that almost all the attendees spoke Arabic or at least understood it. I was vindicated when the ES got up to give his chairman’s remarks. He spoke in lucid Arabic.

He welcomed all the guests to the National Mosque and explained the importance of the lecture to be delivered. He declared that Nigerian Muslims had a lot to learn from Algerian Muslims who have had the misfortune of encountering violent extremism and terrorist attacks before us. He urged everyone to listen with rapt attention and informed the guests that the floor shall be opened for questions, comments and answers. 

One might wonder about the need for a translator, since almost everyone spoke Arabic. However, the need becomes justified when you remember the press attended the lecture as well as some non-Arabic speaking members of the ONSA staff. Sheikh Youssef Mechria did justice to the lecture and I think the content of this lecture should interest our security agencies and every Nigerian. Of course, he spoke in Arabic; what you shall read below is my translation of that beautiful lecture. Enjoy:

‘Your Excellency, the Ambassador, Mr Chairman, I wish to register the comfort and tranquility I enjoy sitting in the midst of my brothers, scholars and Imams from various mosques, in this hallowed precincts of the Abuja National Mosque, the centre of knowledge and peace.

‘I come to you from Algeria. When I came to Abuja, I did not deem myself a stranger. I felt that I was with my loved ones and brethren, which is part of Allah’s bounty on us. ……’

‘The world has now become a very tiny hamlet. Whatever happens here, affects the entire globe. It is sad to note that Nigeria is suffering from the scourge of insurgency and terrorism adorned in the garb of Islaam, a religion  established as a mercy to humanity, free from religious terrorism and violent extremism (Al-Ambiyaa 21:107)’

‘As you all know, the history of the spread of Islaam to our continent of Africa was not by sword, but rather, through the sublime attitude exhibited by faithful Muslim merchants, in whom people saw honesty, trustworthiness, mercy, love, and compassion;  inviting, as it were, to the path of their Lord with wisdom and right conduct (An-Nahl16:125), thus people embraced the religion of Allah in troops. The same goes for all conversions into Islaam, from its early debut to recent history, people were drawn to it largely through good relation they perceive from its adherents.’ (end of quote)

These words remind me of another fact which eludes the notice of bigots in Islam and the staunch enemies of the faith. Bangladesh has large population of Muslims, yet not a single Muslim soldier set foot on it. The same goes for Indonesia. The more you look at the claim of a violent religion spread on the blood of ‘infidels’, the more the evidence compels you to see the contrary as true.

Sheikh Youssef Mechria continued, ‘Your Excellency, the Ambassador, Mr Chairman, scholars and Imams, I would like to dwell to what the chairman mentioned concerning Algeria’s experience in dealing with terrorism and violent extremism. I hope the floor will be opened after this presentation for exchange of ideas among us, dialogue, question and answer session as well as analysis and comments. I shall confine my intervention on the cure - yes, I prefer to use the word cure - in curbing terrorism and violent religious extremism. 

‘We lived this reality of terrorism from the end of 1970s through the beginning  of 1990s mixed in what was called Islamic awareness or religious revival, occasioned, may be, by certain acts of omission from the official religious establishments in the Algerian community. The gap created by that official omission made possible the incursion of the terrorist narrative into Algeria. 

‘There is a religious cable that connects and unites Muslims in the African continent as a whole; that cable is The Qur’an and The Sunnah of the Prophet, (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him), and as expounded by  the mazhab of Imam Malik, (may Allah be pleased with him). The extremist narrative started penetrating the Algerian community after the 1979 Iranian Islamic Revolution and Jihad in Afghanistan, especially in Muslim gatherings in universities, mosques with high concentration of youth. This gave rise to religious organisations, societies and establishments, each calling to Islam and its revival.

‘Afterwards came the period of democracy when there was surge in the evolvement of political parties and associations. The Muslim revivalist movements used the space created by democracy to attain to political power on religious wheel. Of course other Muslim organisations stuck and confined their activities to da’wah (propagation of Islaam). Those that combined da’wah and politics were further bifurcated into the groups seeking Islamic revival through the ballot, and those seeking for it through the bullet, thus the armed resistance movements which is the most dangerous of all. No law will proscribe peaceful exchange of ideas between groups of people with divergent positions on issue religious or otherwise. But the danger is for ideas to be enforced through violent means.

‘Unfortunately for us in Algeria some extremists were able to ascend the mimbar in not a few mosques. They were thus able to disseminate their extremist ideologies easily. The first to receive the hit was the Algerian Government as an entity, where it was declared non-Islamic, and therefore operating under a kufuristic system. Then during the 1990s they issued a fatwah in which both government and people of Algeria were declared kuffaars, non-believers, renegades from the fold of Islam. This was done even when the Algerian constitution has provisions in it stating that Islaam is the official religion of the state, and has empowered the state on religious expenditure covering mosques, Qu’ranic schools, zakah, Hajj and countless other activities superintended by the Algerian Ministry of Religious Affairs and Endowment. Not only that, we have in Algeria what is called Supreme Islamic Council, an official body overseeing Islamic activities and offering counsel to the authorities on such matters. But with all these, the government and people of Algeria were declared infidels by the extremists!

‘The extremists have a dictum: attakfeer qablattafjeer, loosely translated as ‘expulsion before explosion’; meaning you have to expel people from Islam before you kill them with explosives.’

I will continue from here next week.