Friday, November 29, 2019

IMAM MAKARI’S KHUTBAH ON PEACEFUL COEXISTENCE




                                           IMAM MAKARI





It was on Friday, November 22nd 2019 that Prof. Ibrahim Ahmad Makari, Imam of the National Mosque, Abuja delivered a Khutbah in which he emphasised the premium Islam places on peaceful coexistence among peoples. 


The Prophet’s Example

The Prophet, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam struck the finest examples of how Muslims should live with followers of religions other than Islam. The Madeenah Charter, a famous document with about 60 clauses that the various tribes and nations of Madeenah ratified was a sublime example of how to ensure peaceful coexistence in multi-religious societies. The Madeenah Charter viewed all the people of Madeenah regardless of their diverse cultures and creeds as “part of one nation - Ummah”. “Social, legal and economic equality is promised to all loyal citizens of State”.  No one was wronged because of what they were or the religion they professed. The Madeenah Charter also stipulated that any act of aggression against any “Party to this Pact” was aggression to all an thus must be repelled by all. 



Christians in Nigeria

Professor Makari drew the attention of the worshippers to good Christians in Nigeria whose attitude towards the Muslims remind us of Waraqah bin Naufal, a Christian priest and a cousin to Khadeejah, the first wife of the Muhammad, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam. After his first encounter with Archangel Jibreel (Gabriel) and the commencement of revelation of the Glorious Qur’an with Surah Al-Alaq, 96:1-5, the Prophet, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam ran to Khadeejah and urged her to cover him as he, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam was frightened and shivering. Khadeejah did as he requested, but when his fear abated she took him to Waraqah who was a scholar of the Injeel, the scripture revealed to Jesus Christ. When Muhammad, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam finished his narration concerning what happened to him in his encounter with Jibreel, Waraqah reassured him that it was not new as that was the same angel that came to the prophets of Allah aforetime - Moses and Jesus; that he, Muhammad, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam was “Allah’s Apostle to this nation”. “I wish I would be alive when your people shall expel you from this city.” Intoned Waraqah. 

“Are they really going to drive me out?” Enquired the Prophet, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam almost unbelievingly. 

“Aye, they will” interjected Waraqah, “for no man will bring the similitude of what you will be sent with but that people will vehemently repel it.”  

The Negus Before He Became a Muslim 

Imam Makari set another example of how good Christians in Nigeria remind Muslims of the Abyssinian King who accepted and protected the immigrants that fled persecution at the hands of the Makkan Mushriks (idolators), during the initial years of Muhammad’s prophecy. When torture of the believers became more than flesh and blood could stand, Muhammad, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam instructed some of his followers prone to ill-treatment to “go to Abyssinia, the land of a Christian King where no man was wronged.” The Prophet was certain that in Abyssinia, “a Christian country known today to be in Ethiopia”, his followers would be able “to worship and practice their faith in peace” devoid of torture and abuse. 

The Makkan Mushriks were enraged by the realisation that Muslims had secretly fled to Abyssinia. They sent emissaries with ample gifts as douceur to The Negus to expel the “fugitives” out of his kingdom, “claiming that the Muslims had invented a religion that opposed theirs and that of The Negus". 

As one reputed for justice The Negus gave a fair hearing to the Muslims. He ordered the Muslims to be brought to his presence. Ja’far ibn Abi Talib was the spokesperson and he addressed The Negus:  “O King, we were people steeped in ignorance, worshipping idols, eating unsacrificed carrion, committing abominations, and the strong would devour the weak. Thus we were until Allah (The One True God) sent us a Messenger from out of our midst, one whose lineage we knew, and his veracity and his worthiness of trust and his integrity.”

“What has your Prophet taught you about Jesus Christ?” The Negus asked.

“Let me relate the words, with your permission.” Answered Ja’far. And he read from Surah (19) Maryam (Mary) from verse 16 through 36 on the story of Jesus: “And make mention of Mary in the Book, when she withdrew from her people unto a place towards the east, and secluded herself from them; and We sent unto her Our Spirit, and it appeared unto her in the likeness of a perfect man.” 

At the end of Ja’far's recital, the eyes of The Negus were overflowing with tears and he vowed that “not for a mountain of gold would” he return the Muslims to Makkah.

Recent Threats to Peaceful Coexistence

Professor Makari said that even with the above two enlivening examples there is a band of Christians that strive to obliterate the features of Islam and provoke the Muslims. Like the “criminal syndicate” arrested recently by the Nigeria Police that specialises in abducting Muslim children, taking them to Anambra State, converting them to Christianity and changing their Muslim names to Christian names. And yet little is heard from the media; no cries of the inhumanity and cruelty in taking children from their parents; and nobody is speaking of a grand plan to Christianise Nigeria. 


The phenomenon of intense missionary campaigns among Muslims is another, while Muslim missionaries are debarred by Christians from conducting Da’wah activities in Muslim dominated states.

Christian evangelism is taking advantage of the refugee crisis emanating from the epicentre of Boko Haram interagency by creating shelters in the southern part of this country and displaced persons’ abode which on the surface depicts mercy, philanthropy and care, but in reality horrible and terrible things are ensconced in them - torture, rape and forced conversion to Christianity.


Muslim and Christian evangelisms may via with each other for converts but not through compulsive conversion, taking advantage of people’s destitution and material needs.


Friday, November 15, 2019

FOR FIRST LADIES ONLY (2)





              Aisha Ummi Garba El-Rufai






How do you become a good First Lady? Unfortunately, you cannot find any handbook to guide you on First Ladyship. “It’s not technically a job, nor is it an official government title.” Just bear in mind the number of people who occupied the seat before you and how each one of them conducted herself in the office, the kind of projects she dedicated herself to and how all that impacted on the lives of the people so you may tread the same path, pursue your own programmes and leave your mark for posterity. 

I was fascinated by what Michelle stated of a tradition where an outgoing president will engage the incoming president in a guided tour of the White House. We do not have this in Nigeria at least for First Ladies. With her bilious and rancorous attack on the North as a whole and the Buharis in particular, Patience Jonathan, for instance, could not have taken Aisha Buhari on such tour of the Villa. Former President Jonathan has been to the Villa to have a tête-à-tête conversation with his successor Muhammadu Buhari, but not once have we seen such spirit of fraternity from their wives. Whoever occupies the Presidential Villa should be viewed as one who represents Nigeria, not his political party, region or religion, and thus he merits the support of Nigerians in so far as he acts within the law, in order to succeed. 

Incoming President Obama and wife were received at the White House for the customary guided tour by outgoing President Bush and wife. “The First Lady clamped my hand warmly.” Said Michelle, “‘Please call me Laura,’ she said. Her husband was just as welcoming, possessing a magnanimous Texas spirit that seemed to override any political hard feelings.” 

Whatever anyone might have said during electioneering was all politics. They were now united in serving the United States of America. “Throughout the campaign,” Michelle continued, “Barack had criticized the president’s leadership frequently and in detail, promising voters he would fix the many things he viewed as mistakes. Bush, as a Republican, had naturally supported John McCain’s candidacy. But he’s also vowed to make this the smoothest presidential transition in history, instructing every department in the executive branch to prepare briefing binders for the incoming administration. Even on the First Lady’s side, staffers were putting together contact lists, calendars, and sample correspondence to help me find my footing when it came to the social obligations that came with the title. There was kindness running beneath all of it, a genuine love of country that I will always appreciate and admire.”

The tour covered areas like the Family Residence, Rose Garden, the Oval Office as well as reminiscences of former occupants of the White House - “the Clintons, the Carters, two sets of Bushes, Nancy Reagan, and Betty Ford.” “This was all heartening.” Michelle said, “I already looked forward to the day I could pass whatever I picked up to the next First Lady in line.”  




President Bush fulfilled his vow of making “the smoothest presidential transition in history,” but compare that with the wrangling and acrimonious debate that characterised the transitional teams of outgoing President Jonathan and that of incoming President Buhari. But to his eternal credit, Jonathan, despite the agony of defeat, was able to take the then president-elect, Muhammadu Buhari on a guided tour of the Villa. Vice President Namadi Sambo also took Yemi Osinbajo, the vice president-elect, on a tour of the vice-president wing of Aso Rock. It remains to be seen whether or not the current tenants of the Villa will be magnanimous enough to take their successors on such tour when their tenancy expires come 2023. 

As First Lady, you live “in a kind of bubble now, sealed off at least partially from the everyday world.” Everything is done for you, almost, surrounded by secret service personnel and a regular police escort. Do not allow the allurement ensconced in the bubble to deceive you into thinking that it will last forever. Make sure that when it busts, and certainly, it will, that you exit it unscathed. Necessary security measures may be taken to shield some of your friends and family members from you. Find a way of maintaining contact with them at whatever level your schedules permit. 

“I was allowed to use a personal BlackBerry”, Michelle said, “but had been advised to limit my contact to only ten of my most intimate friends - the people who loved and supported me without any sort of agenda. Most of my communications were mediated by…” “my deputy chief of staff…” “who knew the contours of my life better than anyone. She kept track of all my cousins, all my college friends. We gave out her phone number and email address instead of mine, directing all requests to her. Part of the issue was that old acquaintances and distant relatives were surfacing from nowhere and with a flood of inquiries.” 

What I like most about Becoming is the Obamas' concern about instilling discipline in their daughters, Sasha and Malia. On their first day of school in the White House, since he could not ride with them to the school, as his custom before he became president, Obama admonished Sasha and Malia: “(keep smiling, be kind, listen to your teachers), adding finally, as the two girls donned their purple backpacks, “‘And definitely don’t pick your noses!’” 

Michelle and her mom accompanied the girls to school that day “in what would become their new form of a school bus - a black SUV with smoked windows made of bulletproof glass.” 

Michelle did not forget where she came from, her humble beginnings. She saw herself lucky “to be living this way.” Her “master suite in the residence was bigger than the entirety of the upstairs apartment” her “family had shared when” she “was growing up on Euclid Avenue.” “I was a child of the South Side,” she said, “now raising daughters who slept in rooms designed by a high-end interior decorator and who could custom order their breakfast from a chef.” In spite of all these privileges, Michelle prevented her daughters from acting in an overbearing, dictatorial manner towards the people that were employed to ensure their comfort. “I made it clear to the housekeeping staff”, she said, “that our girls, as they had in Chicago, would make their beds every morning. I also instructed Malia and Sasha to act as they’d always acted - to be polite and gracious and to not ask for anything more than what they absolutely needed or couldn’t get for themselves.” 

Women, not necessarily First Ladies, have a lot to learn from the way Michelle cared for and trained the girls. Some women have no compunction about maltreating a housemaid or anyone in their employ. In their very sight and to their hearing, but without any form of reprimand, their children ill-treat and abuse domestic servants the age of their parents. Do whatever you may with the end in mind. 

The Government or State House is not the end of the world, and of course, the power that your husband wields is nowhere near that of the President of the United States. Your residence is an infinitesimally small house when compared to the White House “with 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, and 28 fireplaces spread out over six floors.” But even with this splendour, the Obamas were humbled when they travelled out of the States. “I’d been walking around”, Michelle said, “thinking that our new house was big and grand to the point of being over the top, but then I went to England and met Her Majesty the Queen.” 

Michelle narrated step-by-step details of their experiences during that visit to her Majesty. “It turns out”, she said, “that the Buckingham Place is big - so big that it almost defies description. It has 775 rooms and is fifteen-times the size of the White House. In the years to come, Barack and I would be lucky enough to return there a few times as invited guests. On our later trips, we’d sleep in a sumptuous bedroom suite on the ground floor of the palace, looked after by liveried footmen and ladies-in-waiting. We’d attend a formal banquet in the ballroom, eating with forks and knives coated in gold. At one point, as we were given a tour, we were told things like “This is our Blue Room” our guide gesturing into a vast hall that was five times the size of our Blue Room back home. The Queen’s head usher one day would take me, my mother, and the girls through the Palace Rose Garden, which contained thousands of flawlessly blooming flowers and occupied nearly an acre of land, making the few rosebushes we so proudly kept outside the Oval Office suddenly seem a tad less impressive. I found Buckingham Palace breathtaking and incomprehensible at the same time.”

Thursday, November 7, 2019

FOR FIRST LADIES ONLY (1)










"KNOW [O men] that the life of this world is but a play and a passing delight, and a beautiful show, and [the cause of] your boastful vying with one another, and [of your] greed for more and more riches and children.  Its parable is that of [life-giving] rain: the herbage which it causes to grow delights the tillers of the soil; but then it withers, and thou canst see it turn yellow; and in the end it crumbles into dust.  But [the abiding truth of man's condition will become fully apparent] in the life to come: [either) suffering severe, or God's forgiveness and His goodly acceptance: for the life of this world is nothing but an enjoyment of self-delusion". (al-Hadeed 57:20)

This would have been the third and final part of Between Aisha and Michelle but the caption has to change to encompass first ladies in the State House as well as all Government Houses across the states. What I will do in this first part is to quote copiously from Becoming those paragraphs that depicted the meaning of the verse in the above epigraph. Let every first lady ponder over her condition before her husband ascended the throne and know that four or eight years is just like tomorrow. The first family will leave the scene for another set of a first family; as part of the vicissitudes which Allah causes to follow one another for mankind. (Aali-Imraan, 3:140)

Don’t forget where you were before you became the First Lady for all this will be over as quickly as it started, at the expiration of your husband’s first term or certainly after his second and final term. Only the unthinking supposes a mirage in a desert to be water. It is when he reaches it and finds no water that he discovers himself once again. (An-Nur, 24:39)

In a minute, after the hand of your husband is placed on a Qur’an or a Bible and an oath repeated, your life is changed forever. Michelle experienced that change when she came to the airport for the first time to receive the newly elected President Obama: “…and I turned to look.” She said, “Exactly on cue, something massive came around the corner: a snaking, vehicular army that included a phalanx of police cars and motorcycles, a number of black SUVs, two armoured limousines with American flags mounted on their hoods, a hazmat mitigation truck, a counterassault team riding with machine guns visible, an ambulance, a signals truck equipped to detect incoming projectiles, several passenger vans, and another group of police escorts. The presidential motorcade. It was at least twenty vehicles long, moving in orchestrated formation, car after car after car, before finally, the whole fleet rolled to a halt, and the limo stopped directly in front of Barrack’s parked plane.” 

For those eight years of Obama’s presidency that was how he moved and travelled. “I had yet to grasp that Barack’s protection was still only half-visible.” Continued Michelle “I didn’t know that he’d also, at all times, have a nearby helicopter ready to evacuate him, that sharpshooters would position themselves on rooftops along the routes he traveled, that a personal physician would always be with him in case of a medical problem, or that the vehicle he rode in contained a store of blood of the appropriate type in case he ever needed a transfusion.” This car, the presidential limo, just ahead of Barack’s inauguration, was “upgraded to a newer model - aptly named the Beast - a seven-ton tank disguised as a luxury vehicle, tricked out with hidden tear-gas cannons, rupture-proof tires, and a sealed ventilation system meant to get him through a biological or chemical attack.” It was then that Michelle realised that she was “married to one of the most heavily guarded human beings on earth.”

On her sojourn as First Lady, Michelle said: “For eight years, I lived in the White House, a place with more stairs than I can count - plus elevators, a bowling alley, and an in-house florist. I slept in a bed that was made up with Italian linens. Our meals were cooked by a team of world-class chefs and delivered by professionals more highly trained than those at any five-star restaurant or hotel. Secret Service agents, with their earpieces and guns and deliberately flat expressions, stood outside our doors, doing their best to stay out of our family’s private life. We got used to it, eventually, sort of - the strange grandeur of our new home and the constant, quiet presence of others.”

Then, suddenly, as if from the blues, this grandeur and exquisite taste that the Obamas became accustomed to over the eight-year period in the White House - a fleeting comfort of the life of the world - “it was over. Even if you see it coming, even as your final weeks are filled with emotional good-byes, the day itself is still a blur.” As if they had not dwelt there. “One president’s furniture gets carried out while another’s comes in. Closets are emptied and refilled in the span of a few hours. Just like that, there are new heads on new pillows - new temperaments, new dreams. And when it ends, when you walk out the door that last time from the world’s most famous address, you’re left in many ways to find yourself again.” 

And so it was, that after eight years the Obamas moved out of this state of power and felicity, from the White House a “redbrick house” “on a quiet neighborhood street.” 

Now the First Lady was alone with the family dogs; no retinue, no hovering crowd and guards. “And I was hungry.” The former First Lady said, “I walked down the stairs from our bedroom with the dogs following on my heels. In the kitchen, I opened the fridge. I found a loaf of bread, took out two pieces, and laid them in the toaster oven. I opened a cabinet and got out a plate. I know it’s a weird thing to say, but to take a plate from a shelf in the kitchen without anyone first insisting that they get it for me, to stand by myself watching bread turn brown in the toaster, feels as close to a return to my old life as I’ve come. Or maybe it’s my new life beginning to announce itself.” 

Friday, November 1, 2019

BETWEEN AISHA AND MICHELLE (2)










In a Hadeeth narrated by Ibn ‘Abbas in the Book of Prophets, the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam mentioned the earliest settlement in Makkah which composed of Ismael and his mother, “the first lady to use a girdle”; how Prophet Ibraheem (Abraham) left them, at Allah’s behest, “in an uncultivable valley near” the “holy House” and prayed Allah to “incline some hearts of men that they may yearn toward them” (Ibraheem 14:37). And so it was that Zamzam water attracted new entrants to the settlement and with that the subsequent birth of a community. The settlers were the Arab tribe of Jurhum from where little Ismael learnt the Arabic language, and when he attained the age of majority, married one of their girls. 

It is a long narrative that touched on a number of happenings one of which was how Ismael’s father, Prophet Ibraheem came visiting his family decades after he left them but he only met his daughter-in-law who did not know him. He asked her the whereabouts of her husband and she said: “Ismael has gone in search of our sustenance”. He further asked her concerning their condition generally and she answered: “We live in straitened circumstances, in abject destitution.” She painted a very bleak picture of the household. It was then that Prophet Ibraheem said: “Convey my salutations to your husband when he returns and tell him to change the protective cover of his dwelling.” 

When his wife told Ismael the whole story after his return he interpreted his father’s allegory in these words: “Yes the unknown visitor is my father and he has ordered me to divorce you. Please return to your family.”

From the above, some jurists averred that such union be set asunder in which the wife will not conceal, but will, instead, noise abroad the weakness and internal blemish of her husband.


The Obama’s had their “frustrations” and tense moments, “as if at the centre of” their “relationship there were suddenly a knot” they “couldn’t loosen” but still “loved each other deeply”. Michelle “had seen other marriages come undone in a way that made” her “feel protective of” theirs. “I had close friends go through devastating breakups,” she said, "brought on by small problems left unattended or lapses in communication that led eventually to irreparable rifts.” But instead of speaking to the press they took to counselling though “Barrack was reluctant at first to try couples counselling.” Michelle said counselling “turned out to be the big revelation” to her: “No validating went on. No sides were taken. When it came to our disagreements, Dr. Woodchurch (not the real name of the psychologist) would never be the deciding vote. Instead, he was an empathic and patient listener, coaxing each of us through the maze of our feelings, separating out our weapons from the wounds. He cautioned us when we got too lawyerly and posited careful questions intended to get us to think hard about why we felt the way we felt. Slowly, over hours of talking, the knot began to loosen. Each time Barrack and I left his office, we felt a bit more connected.” 

Michelle and Aisha, each one of them has a husband around whom crazy rumours swirled during their first and second term campaigns for election to the presidency. Obama, it is said had “been schooled in a radical Muslim madrassa and sworn into the Senate on a Koran. That he refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. That he wouldn’t put his hand over his heart during the national anthem. That he had a close friend who was a domestic terrorist from the 1970s.” As for Buhari, aside all lies said about him, his bitterest foes said he died long ago, that he had been “cloned”, replaced with a body double called “Jubril” from Sudan.

Unlike Aisha who only got new sets of aides recently, Michelle had all the personnel she needed even before the first inauguration of her husband as president. Thus, she had control of her residence vast as it is. “It is a huge place,” she said, “the White House, with 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, and 28 fireplaces spread out over six floors….” This is where she stayed with her husband, two girls, Malia and Sasha, and her mother, Marian Lois Robinson who reluctantly agreed to come and stay with them at White House. No interference from anyone in the way that Michelle superintended the affairs of her residence. Yes, there were instances when she had to be mildly overruled by secret service personnel due to security reasons, but largely she was the “mom in chief” of the White House. 

Better late than never; let Aisha use her reinforced retinue to speak in her stead on national issues in order to forestall the gaffes in improvised press interviews like the one she granted at the airport upon her return from the United Kingdom. Certain questions are better left unanswered, or by simply denying to comment on them.  

Every woman wants that space, let alone the First Lady; needs to have control of her residence. If Aisha Buhari had that control in her residence that viral video would not have been recorded in the first. Only Allah knows the details of what actually happened, and of course the parties involved; Aisha, as a human being, may have her own issues in her interaction with the people in the Villa, but this conjecture itself proves the point that the First Lady is only exercising a blunt influence within her dwelling due to unexplained factors. I really cannot imagine any of the past first ladies of Nigeria to be subjected to anything near the apparent indignities that Aisha endures. I heard of a former first lady in whose presence some cabinet ministers crouched down and seated themselves beside, and not on, the sofa cushions. It was not possible for the president’s nephews, if there were any during that reins of power, to provokingly block the path of the first lady, in her husband’s residence, in order to record her angry reactions for the world to see. 

I am indigent Almajiri but my scant study of the Seerah of the Prophet, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam taught me how he consorted with his consorts, and how he respected and honoured them. My wife will not be undermined because of my relationship with any mortal, besides parents; (even parents understood the invisible sanctuary and respectfully avoided approaching it during their lifetime). That is a redlined mark that no-one will approach without incurring my wrath. Dishonour to my wife is a disgrace to me, as whoever honours her, honours me. It all begins with me; if I treat her with respect, people will accord her dignity in like manner. On the other hand, if my attitude is bereft of any honour towards her, even the family chauffeur will debase her!