Thursday, March 26, 2020

COURTESY CALL ON NAHCON CHAIRMAN (2)





6- Sheikh M.T Sulaiman, Imam Umar Bn Khattab Mosque, Kaduna advised the Chairman on invocation, work and worship: “For you to succeed”, he said, “don’t rely on your experience; surrender all to Allah and pray to Him.” He reminded Zikrullah of what Allah said in the Qur’an on supplication: “And your Lord has said: Pray unto me and I will hear your prayer.” (Ghaafir 40:60) “When you wake up”, Sheikh M. T Sulaiman said, “desert your bed at the middle of the night while others may be sleeping, invoke Allah for yourself and other members of your team.” 


When the time came for the Chairman to respond, he expressed his gratitude to the Supreme Council for Shari’ah in Nigeria for the visit. As a Muslim scholar in his right, he spoke with the certainty of the people of knowledge. "Allah has ways of summoning one to duty"; he said, "this one came to us via a phone call before which I had resolved not to perform Hajj for some time to be with the family. But the phone call came announcing this call to duty. We did not lobby for this. We did not speak to any politician or people in government. So, we are only answering Allah’s summon." 

As if in answer to my concern, the Chairman said that their aim is to strengthen the industry and not to alter legacies. “We even have a design”, he said, “to call former staff and officials, chairman and members of any board who left in whatever position, and are still alive; they had contributed in many ways; we can share in their wisdom. Yes, the plan is there to call all of them for exchange of ideas, to learn from what they did right, and improve upon their mistakes. We have no plan of ‘this is my government and my policy is this’. All advice will be worked with to the best of our ability.” 

On the point raised by Sheikh Muhammad Bn Usman, Alhaji Zikrullah said “The issue of leaving Makkah on the 8th of Zulhijjah we will start work on it, but you must realise that in Hajj operations we are left at the mercy of our host country; some times you are told on how you are to move from place to another and when, and you have no option. You either leave or you are in trouble; you may want to go at some other time but you are told this is when the vehicle will be available. If you don’t move now, don’t call me again. In Hajj operations, therefore, we know that there is the ideal and the reality, and nothing could be as frustrating as to have no vehicle on the day of Arafat. We shall try our best as members of our team are here, and have heard all you said; we will do what is possible.”


Alhaji Zikrullah is pained on our inability as a nation to fill our quota for Hajj allocation. “We want to reduce the cost of hajj”; said he, “we are aware that nothing good comes cheap, but we also know that our allocation is 95,000 the only reason why we could go with only 65,000 is cost. During my meetings with the Hajj Ministry officials and the Mu’assasah I told them: If you make Hajj 200,000 only, for instance, over one million Nigerians will come for Hajj.”


The NAHCON Chairman’s concern is for the poor Muslims who are eager, more willing to perform the Hajj but who hardly have the means to do so. “Experience has shown”, he said, “that it is the poor that like to go on Hajj. People of means don’t like to go on pilgrimage. The poor-man can go 30 times, but the rich, no, only Ahluttaqwa among the rich will go to Hajj twice. Many a rich man will avoid performing Hajj consecutively; he will opt for sponsoring imams to go to Hajj rather than be involved in the ritual year after year. Then if it is the poor that love Hajj, we must endeavour to make it more affordable to them.”

At this point in his emphasis on the poor and their love for Hajj, I noticed that the Chairman’s gaze was fixed on me. I knew something was coming, but since it lingered I thought I had dodged the bullet, then: “ I’m not saying only the poor go to Hajj “, continued the Chairman, “but the majority of people who go to Hajj are poor; we are serving the poor, but we know those who are serving the rich here. (Laughter) I don’t mention anybody’s name, but for those of us who serve the poor we must continuously make an effort to bring down the price.” 

On the increase in the cost of Hajj services, the Chairman said: “The trend even with our host in the holy territories is for the price to increase yearly. If you are proactive you may have yourself trying to contend with the increase every year, yet our people here are poor. In times past state governments sponsored pilgrims, but now that is becoming a thing of the past.

“Nigerians should be proud to go with 95,000 pilgrims and the only way to fill that number is to bring down the price. We have started the journey. The cost has increased this year by at least SAR400 part of which is the newly introduced 300 riyals visa fee. Before now it was free. That is an addition. The Mu’assasah as the gateway to Hajj is there. They have increased the cost of Hajj services. The former Chairman had made them cut down the rates to a certain level. When I went, I tried to have further reduction but to no avail. I said I’m just coming in as a new head, let me have the reduction as a gift (from the Mu'assasah). Eventually, we were able to reduce it to a significant level. If you already have an increase in the rate of hajj services, then you have to battle with some other things to avoid making announcement to the pilgrims on increase in Hajj fares.” 


In response to what I alluded to on the members of staff of the Commission in relation to their constant training, the Chairman said: “My team and I,” he commenced, “experienced as you described them, have been able to reduce the rate of accommodation to between 200 to 700 riyals - the same building, the same location. This will neutralise the current increase from visa charges and Mu’assasah services. We have started speaking with the airlines. This year’s price will be lesser than what pilgrims paid last year; I can’t say by how much but we are still working on it. We shall do the same with the catering companies. The quality of the food will not decrease but after our meeting with them, we were able to slightly reduce the rate. We are committed to reducing the rate without compromising the standard.”

On the numbers of days our pilgrims spend in the holy land, the Chairman assured us that: “We are also committed to reducing the number of days spent in the holy land”. He said. “I know it is not easy; we do not have an airport (especially for us and our pilgrims) in Saudi Arabia. We cannot dictate to our host to stop others from landing because we are coming, but certainly, the number of days that we will spend this year will be less than what was spent last year - by how many days I can’t say, but we’ll make that public at the appropriate time.”

NAHCON Chairman also spoke on the Hajj Saving Scheme. “Another strategy to reduce Hajj rate”, he said, “will be the Hajj Saving Scheme. Discussions are ongoing on that with some financial institutions; that will not only lessen the burden of Hajj to the poor, but it will also provide business opportunities to the Ummah.”

Another issue mentioned by the head of the Commission was the Hajj Training Institute. “There is also the hajj training institute”, he averred,  “aside pilgrims enlightenment programmes that you alluded to. If there is a degree in events management, dancing, etc. then anyone who wants to be involved in Hajj business should be certificated by a Hajj training institute. I will be one of the enrolled participants for such certificate. It will get to a point where we will block your entry into the Hajj business without certification. Some people just assume that Hajj business is all about making money, but the reality is that Hajj business is about profit and loss. There are times you return home crying due to loss incurred in a given operation. But some people who have extra money just think they can come into the Hajj business. We feel that all should have proper training and be certificated. I hope when the time comes a body like yours will be willing to support us. 

"Thank you once again for coming. Our doors are open 24/7. The keys are lost, so the doors cannot be locked a second time. We rely on Allah to support us. Wa maa tashaa’una illa an yashaa Allah, (we cannot do anything unless Allah wills it to be so…) (at-Takweer 81:29) 

"Coronavirus is not about Hajj. It is about the whole world. We need your prayers, for Allah to temper justice with mercy.” 

Sheikh Umar Dada Paiko offered special prayers on COVID 19 
He supplicated Allah by quoting a Hadeeth in which the Prophet, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam used to supplicate against ailments: “Allaahumma innee a’udhu bika minal-barasi, wal-jununi, wal-judhaami, wa sayyi’il-asqaami (O Allah! I seek refuge in You from leucoderma, insanity, leprosy and evil diseases).”

Ameen! 

Friday, March 20, 2020

COURTESY CALL ON NAHCON CHAIRMAN (1)








The Supreme Council for Shari’ah in Nigeria (SCSN) paid a courtesy call on the Chairman/CEO of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan, on Tuesday, March 17th, 2020 at the Hajj House, Abuja. 

The delegation which comprised of ulema and imams of various Jumu’ah Masaajid (mosques) from all over the country was led by Sheikh Abdur Rasheed Hadiyyatullah, the Deputy Chairman of the Council. In a speech he delivered at the meeting, Sheikh Hadiyyatullah informed the NAHCON Chairman and his team that the SCSN was established two decades ago under the leadership of Dr Ibrahim Datti Ahmad with the purpose of unifying the Ummah for the defence of its legitimate rights and interests. SCSN, he affirmed, “has remained the umbrella body of all Muslim organisations,” and is the “rallying point of all mainstream groups, Muslim leaders” “irrespective of ethnic group or sect.” According to the Deputy Chairman, SCSN is “engaging political leaders to ensure good governance, and justice for all” as well as “addressing persistent injustices to Muslims. The Council has been “playing significant roles in the emergence, at party levels, and at subsequent victories at the polls, of the present administration at the Federal level, and at some states.”  





On the purpose of our visit, Sheikh Hadiyyatullah said the courtesy call is “not to congratulate you but to remind you of the huge Amaanah (trust) with which Allah has saddled you.” We are here, he said, because of the importance of Hajj as the fifth pillar of Islam. “The regime you succeeded” he continued, “has recorded some level of successes in terms of Hajj administration…” We urge “you to continue with the good policies of your predecessor, and make amends to those you feel will improve and simplify the hajj exercise.”

Sheikh Hadiyyatullah also commended the effort of the NAHCON Chairman “in trying to reduce the Hajj fare, in order to make it more affordable but that should not compromise the quality of services rendered to the pilgrims.” He concluded his address by advising the Chairman to leave his “doors open for complaints concerning Hajj activities as this will help you and your lieutenants in achieving greater heights in no small measure.” He hoped that “this will not be the last meeting with” the Chairman as “the ulama and Islamic organisations are indispensable partners in any effort” towards enhancing Hajj activities in Nigeria. 

After the head of the delegation had spoken six scholars were given the opportunity to counsel the NAHCON Chairman.




1- Sheikh Muhammad Ben Usman was the first to speak. He advised Alhaji Zikrullah as Chairman of NAHCON to use his good offices in changing the time for departure to Minaa for Nigerian pilgrims. Leaving Makkah for Minaa on the 7th of Zulhijjah according to Ben Usman is not in line with the Prophet’s teachings who instructed people to follow his example in Hajj rites. "Our pilgrims should be allowed to leave for Minaa on the 8th of Zulhijjah." He ended his naseehah praying Allah to quicken the end of COVID 19 and to use Alh Zukrullah in making Nigerians have Hajj Mabrur (acceptable) which is according to the Sunnah.



2- Sheikh Ishaq Yunus Muhammad al-Madany, who is also a lecturer at the Kaduna State University admonished the NAHCON Chairman to put his trust in Allah as His bondsman, and beseech Him to assist him in this new billet. "One only deceives themselves if they think they will be able to do anything without His assistance", he said.



3- Sheikh Muhammad Nasir Adam, Imam Isiaka Rabiu Mosque, kano offered four pieces of advice to the NAHCON Chairman: (i) that the Chairman should know that he sits on a throne that is under Allah’s surveillance because Hajj is the Muslims’ united nations general assembly where pilgrims converge annually from around the world, "so beware"; (ii) that Nigerian civil servants are masters in policy formulation but executing such beautiful plans to fruition is their Achilles heel. Alh Zikrullah will only succeed if he monitors all plans to the point of execution; (iii) that pilgrims must be trained on Hajj rites; (iv) not all private tour operators have pilgrim guides on their team; NAHCON will do well to include such pilgrims in its Hajj enlightenment programmes. Sheikh Muhammad Nasir supplicated Allah for the success of Alh Zikrullah at NAHCON and that He takes away COVID 19 from His creatures. 


4- Sheikh Adam Idoko wanted the NAHCON under Alh Zikrullah to use the Establishment Act of the Commission in creating awareness among Muslims, not only Hajj on the rites of Hajj that should actually be extended beyond a few months before Hajj but on other aspects of knowledge - Tauheed, Imaan, Shari’ah, ibaadaat etc., since one cannot have Hajj Mabrur without imaan Mabrur. “I want NAHCON under your leadership,” he said to the Chairman, “to have offices in all geo-political zones so that Muslims, wherever they are, will feel its presence.”


 

5- Yours sincerely said that NAHCON is not like any other government office; it is one that is attached to the pillar of our religion. Whatever we do in it, I said, we do seeking Allah’s Countenance and recompense. I called on the Chairman to deemphasise the issue of what board does what; it is not about boards; it is the Commission. Whoever succeeds, it is the Commission that has succeeded, not an individual. It is for the benefit and advancement of a pillar of the Deen. I drew the attention of the Chairman that as he himself said, he is at NAHCON to represent the Muslims, not a sect or an ethnic group. I urged him to continue with whatever he meets of the work of his predecessor as continuity is key in the success of Hajj operations. To err is human; thus, if there is any need to alter a precedent let him reach out to those who initiated it on why they chose a cause of action. If the reason is cogent let him refrain from such alterations, as NAHCON is about Hajj and not any personage. I made du’aa for his success as Chairman of NAHCON and concluded by saying: 

“Mr chairman you will succeed. Allah will not disgrace one who has come with an open heart to learn and to effect corrections. Allah has given you members of staff who are well-trained, have been here for a long time, and who have been working behind the curtain and during Hajj operations. Whatever success was recorded here they worked for it even though hardly will the name of any of them be mentioned because it is not about individuals; it is about Islam and Hajj which a pillar of our religion.” 





Friday, March 13, 2020

TO THE BEE



SANUSI




Salaam Alaykum Your Highness,

I have come to realise that the best way to express my thoughts on issues pertaining to certain people is through addressing letters to them. Thus, I write this correspondence and perchance it will find a way of access to you wheresoever you may be. May Allah be with you, guard and protect you at this time of the vicissitudes which Allah causes to follow one another for mankind. (Aali-Imraan 3:140)

Your Highness, it is said that the Bee was buzzing which caused the Mosquito some consternation. The Mosquito desired to quieten the Bee by clinging on its back and biting repeatedly at the same time. After a while, the Mosquito said sarcastically to the Bee: “Now, you have learnt some lessons on how to make less noise. I hope I  have not been such a pestilent.” The Bee answered: “Oh really? I was completely oblivious of your  clinging on my back, and for your bite, I’m immune to malaria!”

I am certain Your Highness will remember the above narrative which I rehearsed as the Master of Ceremonies (MC) before introducing you as the Keynote Speaker in the Joint Conference between the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and The Future Assured Initiative of Her Excellency, The First Lady, Aisha Muhammadu Buhari at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja recently. And who besides you could have addressed the theme better which was on REPOSITIONING THE MUSLIM FAMILY FOR NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

The mosquito has more eyes than the brain as the eyes occupy most of the surface on the head. Very ugly eyes into which one might not wish to peer lovingly. The life cycle of the mosquito, Your Highness, consists of only four stages - egg, larva, pupa, and adult after which is extinction and insecticides. There will be no more sucking of blood after that period. We have virtually forgotten the life of the world is only just, and idle talk, and pageantry, and boasting among ourselves, and rivalry; as the likeness of vegetation after rain, whereof the growth is pleasing to the husbandman, but afterwards it dries up and it turns yellow then it becomes straw; the life of the world is but a matter of illusion. (Hadeed 57:20)



When Your Highness walked to the rostrum after I introduced you to the audience at the NSCIA-Future Assured Initiative programme mentioned earlier, you said, referring to me: “Imam Siddeeq, I hope, in our private discussion, you will let me know who the Bee is and who the Mosquito…”

Your Highness, I assume the Mosquito role since my eyes are bigger than my brain and I’m so insignificant that even when I clung to the body of the Bee my presence of was not felt and my sucking of blood was naught as the Bee was immune to malaria. How can I compare my despicable self to the Bee that has a stinger, 5 eyes, and an oval-shaped brain about the size of a sesame seed with wonderfully retentive memory? As a Mosquito, I only suck blood and cause ailments, whereas the Bee secretes pure, palatable drink, diverse in hues, wherein is healing, and a balm for mankind. (Nahl 16:69)

I was saddened by the images of your libraries - one filled to the brim with books at a time when you walked passed the shelves, and in another, it was empty, dry and devoid of the sources of knowledge. It was then amidst my deep melancholy that I saw the wisdom in the evacuation of that handsome collection of belles lettres as we in the animal world may not know the value of the burden we are carrying especially where the cargo involves books. (Jumu’ah 62:5)

Your Highness, let me call to mind our meeting at the VIP Lounge of the Local Wing, Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos sometime when you were the Managing Director of First Bank Nigeria. Your uncle Ambassador Ado Sanusi died (if I remember correctly or one of your close relations) and you were trying to arrange for a charter flight to convey the body to Kano. After offering my condolences and making du’aa for the deceased I informed you of my displeasure over your rebuttal of late Sheikh Ja’far Mahmoud Adam’s khutbah where he mentioned by name and made some uncomplimentary remarks concerning you. 

You may wonder why I am bringing this issue up now since it has happened many years ago. Many had only read your response to him but did not know what occurred afterwards. They are now making reference to it in connection with the dethronement as a portent that you have got your just deserts. 

Sheikh Ja’far, may Allah have mercy on him, erred by calling a person’s name on the Mimbar and mentioning their faults. That was not the way of doing Da’wah with wisdom and fair exhortation. (Nahl 16:125) Sheikh Ja’far realised his mistake and sought for reconciliation and was advised to seek that through who later became Mai Babban Daki (Queen Mother); that the best way to reach SLS would be through his mom due to his immense respect to, and overwhelming adoration for her. So, Sheikh Ja’far paid her a courtesy visit and when you heard of it you flew from Lagos to visit Sheikh Ja’far as a token of recognition of the reverence he accorded the later-to-be Queen Mother. That was how the resolution of the crisis between you and the late Sheikh was achieved and reconciliation realised, even though many people did not know. 

You have given an everlasting lesson in leadership from the contents of your last video - no rancour in the expression on your countenance, only deep resignation to what has been destined and counsel to your people to be calm and pledge fealty to your successor. Would that those among us who are in authority were this magnanimous even when they lose. 

The motorcade that left the palace on Monday, March 9th, 2020 escorted by stern-looking security personnel was not carrying a criminal but royal personage illegally dethroned, and who was supplicating Allah as did His emissaries before him: “My Lord, I am vanquished, so succour me.” (Qamar 54:10).  “Lo! Adversity afflicts me, and Thou art Most Merciful of all who show mercy.”  He prayed calmly with the certainty that Allah has heard his du’aa and shall remove from him that adversity and save him from the anguish and grant him bounty from His store. (al-Anbiyaa 21: 83-88)

It is indeed remarkable, Your Highness, that the dethroner of a royalty cannot enthrone his father or his offspring; he has no option but to appoint someone within the royal lineage. 

May Allah's peace be with you wheresoever you are.