Monday, December 20, 2010

Letter to Late Justice Muhammad Bashir Sambo


Assalaamu alaikum warahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh,


We deliberately omitted the destination of this correspondence because the knowledge thereof is with Allah. What is certain is that you have joined the dwellers of qabr of believers and Muslims. Certainly, we will follow you when Allah wills. You have preceded us, and we will follow. We ask Allah to grant well-being to us and you. (Saheeh Muslim and others).

Yaa Sheikh! We  commenced this address with salaam but salaam is already with Allah’s chosen servants (Qur’an 27:59) whose salutation will be salaam on a day that they meet Him (Qur’an 33:44); theirs will be the abode of salaam in the presence of  their Lord (Qur’an 6:127) ; Gardens of perpetual bliss: they shall enter there as well as the righteous among their fathers, their spouses, and their offspring: and the angels will enter unto them from every gate saying: ‘salaam  unto you for that ye persevered in patience! Now how excellent is the final Home!’ (Qur’an 13:23). May Allah join you with them before we come, for you are a shaheed, martyr even though you died in bed. As you know Khalid ibn al-Waleed, the hero of Islaam who routed the armies of Rome and Persia and annihilated their thrones, died in bed. He said as his tears flowed, “All the battles I fought in left my body scarred with wounds and stabs everywhere, yet here I am dying in bed as if I had never witnessed war before. I hope that the cowards will not have a day’s rest even after I am dead.” Yes! Justice, you must have uttered the same words in the Arab Contractors Hospital in Cairo. Allah willing, the cowards of this nation will not have a day’s rest even after you are gone! After all the battles of words (spoken/written) that you have so gallantly fought, you died a shaheed, just like Khalid. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon) said:

“He who is killed in the way of Allah is a shaheed; he who dies (naturally) in the way of Allah is a shaheed…” (Muslim and Ahmad) “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 Almighty) then takes away his life while he is doing it” (Ahmad, at-Tirmidhee and others. Verified to be authentic by al-Albaanee)

The Glorious Qur’an says:

Of the believers are men who are true to that which they covenanted with Allah. Some of them have paid their vow by death (in battle), and some of them still are waiting; and they have not altered in the least…” (Surah al-Ahzaab 33:23)

We have just, this moment in time, returned from the janaazah in Zaria. When your soul was restored to your body, you must have heard our murmurings in supplication and the thumping of our shoes as we walked away from your grave. Most of the sheikhs and leaders of various Muslim organizations that you had worked with in the field of da’wah were there to say farewell. The brothers in MSS who now face the challenge of raising the standard of Islaam from where you stopped were also there in hundreds; grieved and sad.

After the janaazah, and even before, from the very moment your sad demise was announced, people started calling to mind your mahaasin (good works). Your death is a huge deprivation to this ummah for all times to come. Who is there now to fit into the niche that you had hitherto courageously and fearlessly covered? As the Arab poet once said ‘I stare at a multitude of people yet I see nobody…’ Yes crowds of sheikhs, Imams but there are no scholars in the real meaning of the word. We are plagued with an avaricious lot of ulamaa that hover over government offices or the dwellings of those who are in authority. Sir, during one of our nocturnal meetings at your residence you spoke about the first speech that Hudhaifah Ibn al-Yamaan gave when he arrived Madaa’in as its governor appointed by Umar Ibn al-Khattaab. People thronged around him to welcome their leader. When he saw that they were gazing at him as if expecting a speech, he looked at them closely and said, “Beware of sedition!” they asked, “What is sedition, Abu ‘Abd Allah?” “The gates of rulers,” he said. “When one of you is admitted to the presence of the ruler or governor and falsely agrees with what he says and commends him for what he has not done...”

Unless this ummah is able to devise a means of producing gainfully employed ulamaa (like you), Muslim scholars will continue to fall into the bottomless pit of sedition as mentioned by Hudhaifah. We are certain that you will recall the meeting of all Muslim scholars at the State House, Abuja summoned at the behest of Vice President Atiku Abubakar on the Implementation of Shari’ah and the State of the Nation. The scholars were called upon to advise the Government on what to do with regards to the Shari’ah as it affects Muslims and whether the Penal Code could be accepted by the ummah. The ‘big sheikh’ who sat between the Vice President and the then National Security Adviser (NSA) said in his opening remarks that “government wants you, the ulamaa to proffer solution to this problem of Shari’ah introduction by some states in Nigeria”. As if he was not among the ulamaa or Shari’ah had been something he did not know. But his describing Shari’ah as a problem was most grievous and most bitter! How can this emanate from a sheikh at a time that Shari’ah, as a whole, was on the edge of an abyss?  Sedition.  Another Kaduna based sheikh was only able to say that ‘we need time to seek the advice of our students on the best cause of action to take’. What! Now, on the battle field, you have nothing to say on Shari’ah until you return to your students? When have ulamaa (warathatul ambiyaa), heirs of the prophets, become so confused, short of words over a very plain and straight forward issue as the Shari’ah that they had to revert to their students for guidance? Scholars who are supposed to give direction to the entire ummah had recourse to their students? This sheikh must have wanted to stay for more nights at his presidential suite, Nicon Hilton (as it was then called), courtesy of his hosts, maybe.  Sedition. Sir, as you know, sad instances of sedition by our ulamaa at that meeting were myriad; we will not bore you with reminiscence.

Justice, we shall liken your intervention (and that of two others) for Shari’ah on that day to what Ja’far Ibn Abi Taalib did in the palace of an-Najaashee (Negus) to save the group of the first immigrants from being extradited to Makkah where they fled the persecution and torture of the Mushriks. Like the Battle of Mu’tah headed by three Commanders, you and the other two Muslim scholars ‘who are true to that which they covenanted with Allah’ took it in turns to call a spade with its name on the Shari’ah issue in the Palace of His Excellency, the Vice President .we must say that your speech was more graceful as you discharged your part of the responsibility on the battle field in a rare moment of candour. You supported your position with relevant sections from the Nigerian Constitution. “What the Government of Zamfara State has done in actual fact”, you said, “is the expansion of the application of the Shari’ah by virtue of section 275(1) and 277(1) of the 1999 constitution. The 1999 constitution, as did 1979, section 240 (1) and 242 (1) has given the state which requires it to establish a Shari’ah Court of Appeal  and the powers to concur additional jurisdiction and powers to establish courts and give them jurisdiction. What the Government of Zamfara has done in its expansion of the application of Shari’ah is fully constitutional.” You concluded by calling on the government to respect the fact that Nigeria is a multi-religious state which has adopted a federal system of government in order to cater for and satisfy differences in matters of law and fundamental rights. Therefore, “Shari’ah must govern the lives of the Muslims and not the Penal Code!”

 So it was that the big sheikhs, who deserted Shari’ah in the hour of need, were vanquished at the State House, Abuja and Allah made them to look small. (Qur’an 7:119). Allah willing the cowards of this nation will not have a day’s rest even after you are gone!

It is disheartening to realize that Shari’ah will hardly get another fearless advocate to represent it in case of any eventuality. The events are still fresh in our minds when, as a civil servant, you threw caution to the wind and traveled to Gusau for the launching of Islamic Law in Zamfara State. “It is important” you said in a speech you delivered on that occasion, “to begin this short address on behalf of all the Nigerian Muslims during this historic occasion of the launching of Shari’ah in Zamfara State, under the able leadership of His Excellency the Executive Governor Alhaji Ahmad Sani, Yariman Bakura, to lead in giving the Muslims of Zamfara State in particular and the Federation of Nigeria in general the right to have their lives governed by Shari’ah. This is a fulfillment of their fundamental rights which the Muslims in this country especially those in the Southern States have been denied for a very long time.”

 Now that you are no more with us, who is there to stand for Islam, to say it as it is without fear of loosing government largess or his position? The pervasiveness of cash to influence decision is not a prerogative of the National Assembly because the ubiquitous ‘ghana must go’ is a potent force in making the ulemaa pronounce the right verdict on issues affection Islam and Muslims in this country. Shortly after you left a gift of brand new Peugeot Car (and some millions of Naira in cash) was sent to every zaure and an invitation to the heirs of the prophets to come to Abuja in order to pledge their oath of allegiance / congratulatory visit to the Khaleefah-elect. This is coming at a time when the Catholic Bishops have, in a widely reported press conference in Lagos, condemned the April 14 and 21 general elections as fraudulent and not being free and fare. On our part, the Muslim Consultative Forum (MCF), (having observed the elections in 21 States of the Federation and FCT); we addressed a press conference in Abuja, placed advertorial (Daily Trust, Tuesday, May 1, 2007; p.39) and called for the cancellation of the elections as, among other irregularities, the results did not reflect the wish of the electorate. The Jama’atu Nasril Islam (in which you once served as its Secretary General) and the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs are yet to make any pronouncement on this travesty.

Sir, you had spoken rightly to the President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo during a visit to the Presidential Villa. Your desired to speak with the President alone, without a third party and the request was granted. You later revealed to us what transpired in that meeting between the two of you. “Mr. President,” you said to him, “your advisers are either not doing their job or they are conveying to Your Excellency a distorted picture of real happenings outside the Villa. Secondly, the approval you gave to the Ministry of Education to make the teaching of moral education compulsory in schools at all levels was not implemented.” On both points, Mr. President concurred and promised to look into the issues. The duty of the prophet is only to convey the message plainly! Allah will reward you for this also.

Allah has honoured you, Honourable Justice, with the courage of speaking the truth, without fear or mincing words, to any potentate that tried to infringe on Muslims or any of the pristine teachings of their religion. We remember the issue of Religious Peace and Security on which you took up Lieutenant General T. Y. Danjuma during a public function (with the same theme) convened by President Ibrahim Babangida’s MAMSER. You said (permit me to relate the words as you uttered them) and we quote:

An example of such failure to understand……. is Mr. T.Y. Danjuma, a retired Lieutenant General, who is one of the Elders and religious leaders invited by MAMSER to hold discussions on promoting religious peace and security. The way he addressed the other members of the group left much to be desired. To say the least, it is very unbecoming of the retired Lieutenant General to castigate General/Alhaji Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, who is not only his senior in the military, but also the Head of State of Nigeria and its Number one citizen. The castigation of General Babangida may not be relevant and helpful in the aims and objectives of MAMSER’s intention of inviting him to be amongst Elders and religious leaders. Probably, he mistook the audience he addressed for unmindful small children or recruits who would gullibly succumb to whatever he might say. …….

“One wonders the genesis of castigating the president for upgrading the status of Nigeria to full membership of O.I.C. in 1986 whereas it was General Yakubu Gowon who in 1969 admitted Nigeria into the organization with an observer status. Perhaps Mr. Danjuma and Mr. Domkat Bali and another retired General who upholds similar view ought to have made efforts to find out the reason for the upgrading of Nigeria’s membership. They would have found out that it was economical rather than religious. A decree promulgated by the Federal Military Government on Economic Recovery authorized the President to take any step which would help the economy and so upgraded the status so that it could qualify to receive interest-free loans from the body for the benefit of all Nigerians (Muslims and non-Muslims).

“Unfortunately the uproar from the Church Leaders not only denied Nigeria the opportunity to benefit from the loan but also resulted in sowing the seed of discord between Christians and Muslims. That Government established a committee of Muslims and Christians to look into the issue in order to find out whether or not the membership status would be of any adverse effect to the Christian Community in this country and would change the multi-religious character of Nigeria. The findings of the committee were clear that the full membership has not changed the multi-religious character of Nigeria.”

Our dear Honourable Justice, in all your engagements with diverse classes of people: Muslims, Christians, lawyers, government officials and the academia you have been consistent on faulting the wrongly-held view that Nigeria is a secular state. You maintained time and again that ours is a multi-religious state with textual proof from the Constitution. We remember your response to Adamu Ciroma in this regard where you said: “It was not clear to me where in the 1989 constitution Alhaji Adamu Ciroma, Dallatun Fika, discovered that the new constitution would make Nigeria a secular state. There is no where in the new constitution where a provision exists to make Nigeria a secular state.  Section 11 of the new constitution is word by word similar to section 10 of the 1979 Constitution. Although laymen – mostly Christians - have been giving section 10 the meaning of secularity for Nigerian State. That meaning of secularity is not correct. All that section 10 in 1979 Constitution and section 11 in 1989 Constitution is saying is that no State or Federal Government can adopt a single religion for all the citizens, as Nigeria is a multi-religious state. The reason why this section cannot accept secularity interpretation is that there are other sections of the constitution which contradict secularity. The preamble to the constitution contradicts secularity. Sections 26 (1) (c), 27 (2) (f), 50, 92, 134, 137, 139, 146, 149, 180, 183, 185, 192, 274, 289 and 301 all on oaths contradict secularity. Section 18 (3) (b) on social objectives contradicts secularity. The whole chapter VII of Judicature covering section 228-282 contradicts secularity as the Common Law, the Islamic Law and Customary Law all of which have something to do with religions. It is clear therefore that the new 1989 constitution does not give Nigeria secular status. This explanation is given to correct the misconception which Alhaji Adamu Ciroma might have on the secular status for Nigeria in the new 1989 Constitution.”    

Sir, as we bid you adieu we wonder who will now come to our seminars, conferences at the right time and more importantly, speak the truth. The concern cuts across the religious divide. Just the other day, Arch Bishop John Onaiyekan, the Catholic Arch Bishop of Abuja enquired on why your name was missing on the programme of events for the Nigeria Moral Leaders conference organized by the Catholic Ecclesiastical Province of Abuja (CEPA) and the Muslim Consultative Forum (MCF). The Arch Bishop reasoned rightly that any inter-religious engagement devoid of your presence was incomplete! As we profusely apologized for that inadvertent mistake, Allah will reward you for the willingness to participate in spite of the above omission. But the question remains: is there another aalim in Nigeria that has attained the pinnacle of local and international renown as you had and who can be so humble as to attend a gathering in which his name was not on the activities of the day? May Allah grant us such a person.

We will remain eternally grateful to Allah for bringing MCF into being through the effort you exerted in summoning the Muslim members of the National Political Reform Conference to biweekly meetings at the National Mosque. Through this series of meetings under your leadership the Muslim members at the Confab became a cohesive group, were able to compare notes on various issues at plenary and perfect stratons. After the confab, MCF was born based on the proposition from members of having a body that will continue to enflame their concern for Islaam and Muslims in Nigeria. On account of this, we have ratified a covenant with Allah at ensuring that your effort in creating MCF shall never be in vain.

Honourable Justice Bashir Sambo, we shall now turn the address to Allah in prayers for you with sincerity and submission to intercede and seek forgiveness for you: O Allah! Pardon your servant, Bashir Sambo and have mercy on him, give him well-being and forgive him, honour his arrival, widen his entry, wash him with water and ice and hail, cleanse him from his sins as a white dress would be cleansed from dirt, replace for him a house better than the one he was unjustly driven out from, admit him into Jannah, and shelter him from the punishment of the grave and the punishment of the Fire.

O Allah! Forgive our living and dead, our present and absent, our young and old, and our males and females. O Allah! Whoever You keep alive, keep him alive upon Islam, and whoever You take away, take him in a state of imaan. O Allah! Do not deny us the reward of (being afflicted with) him, and do not misguide us after him.

O Allah! Muhammad Bashir, the son of Sambo is in Your custody, holding to the rope that would take him close to You. Shelter him from the trial of the grave and the punishment of the Fire. You are the One worthy of fulfilling the promises and establishing the truth, so forgive him and have mercy on him, You are the All-Forgiving, the All-Merciful.

O Allah! This is Your slave, son of Your male slave and Your female slave. He used to testify that there is no (true) god except You, and that Muhammad is Your ‘Abd (servant) and Messenger - and You know better about him. O Allah! If he did well when he was with us, multiply his good deeds, and if he was a sinner, overlook his sins. Amen!

Salaam alaikum

Abubakr Siddeeq Muhammad,
For: Muslim Consultative Forum,
National Mosque, Abuja.

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