Originally written by someone brave, who due to security reasons prefer to remain anonymous.
On Monday the 22nd of May 2017, Salman Ramadan Abedi, a 22-year-old Briton of Libyan ancestry, detonated an improvised explosive device as concertgoers were leaving an indoor arena in Hunts Bank, Manchester, England. Twenty-three people, including Abedi, were killed and approximately 120 were injured. If you are in Nigeria, especially northern part of the country, you may have witnessed several attacks like this in the last years. Although they have subsided in recent times, every now and then one terror attack or another is reported in Northeastern Nigeria. Once again, open condemnations from muslims and non-Muslims have followed the Manchester suicide bombing. Once again, embarrassed muslims (and liberal non-muslims) have come out to show how terrorism has no place in Islam. However, many people disagree and some are polite (or fearful) about this disagreement, including powerful leaders.
Perhaps the insistence that Islam has nothing to do with terrorism is the single most important stumbling block to ending the violence committed daily in the name of the religion. This is how:
To start with, any religion that claims to be the last and final message, and a complete way of life for all may not be said to lead to peace. This is because by its very nature, this message is intrinsically totalitarian. And historically, all totalitarian ideologies have always led to genocide. As with all religions, if there was evidence for such a claim, there wouldn’t have been the need to proselytize let alone wage jihad (holy war) on its behalf, in the first place. Cleary, many Muslims find it hard to accept that there is something in their religion that has always created the likes of Shekau, Bin Laden, Zarqawi, Al-baghdadi and the rest. This has been going on for more than a thousand years.
Well, here are a few points that may be regarded as representing the stages of Iman (faith) to help a typical northern Nigerian muslim understand what level of violence (physical or psychological), he may be willing to or predisposed to inflict, on fellow humans for being non-Muslims (or for being the wrong kind of Muslims). Credit to Christopher Hitchens on whose ideas these points are enumerated. While the points specifically apply to Islam, certain aspects may be applied to other forms of Abrahamic beliefs. As a Muslim, once you accept the first point, you are invariably lured into accepting the rest, depending on where you are in history, your level of education (read critical thinking) and your form of taqiyya (halal deception). You will find that you participate actively or passively in the global move towards the domination of the world by Islam with apocalyptic damnation. While the jihadists do it by the sword, you do it by your silence or taqiyya. After all, it is written in the Qur’an that “Allah will establish Islam in the world where it will prevail against all other religions, whether unbelievers or polytheists like it or not”. Go ahead and search for these verses. As a muslim, you openly or secretly dream of the moment when Allah’s promise shall be fulfilled and Sharia (Islamic law) will be re-established on a scale even greater and more totalitarian than the Ottoman caliphate. Under the sharia system, you are happy to pay allegiance to the future Caliph (leader), assisted by his Amirs (rulers) and ulemas (scholars) under any kind of dictatorship or even pseudo-democratic arrangement. These powerful theocratic leaders will decide who is a thief, a hypocrite, a polytheist, a fornicator or an apostate, and punish them based on sharia. It will be a state in which the infidels among you must choose between paying a special tax (jizya), being expelled from their land or getting killed. After all, every non-Muslim is a najasa (dirt), dead or alive, and that’s in fact why you say Allah ya kara nauyin kasa in Hausa (may Allah torment him in his grave), every time you hear of the death of a non-muslim. Your dream Islamic state will be a state where everyone will live peacefully with arne (derogatory Hausa word for unbeliever, generally Christian) since many of them are kafiran amana (trusted infidels) and therefore second-class citizens. Well, that is exactly what ISIS and Boko Haram aim to establish.
If you do not nurture the idea of an Islamic empire based on these thoughts, you may stop reading. The points are not for you as you are already on your way to 21st century. Read through them and see if they are part of your familiar thoughts and aspirations as a Muslim living in a multi-religious Nigeria.
1. You accept that there is an invisible being who created all living and nonliving things. He watches over them while they are awake or asleep. He knows everything, including your thoughts and can hold you responsible on their account. While there are over 5,000 of such beings, you are sure Allah is the one true God and most other people are either worshiping the wrong God or are worshiping Allah the wrong way.
2. You accept that there was once a primate mammal like you, by the name Muhammad (S), who was chosen by Allah to tell everyone God's mind. Although he was a 7th century Arabian merchant, who did business with the Jews of his time, and must have therefore at least known how to keep records and account, you are told he was unlettered (ummiyun) and therefore couldn’t have invented the majestic literature of the Qur’an, which you have never read beyond a few chapters. Although you don’t understand Arabic (the language in which the Quran was “revealed” and said to be truly comprehensible in it), you regard the claim that an unlettered human reciting that in 7th century Arabia from his heart, as a miracle of a sort. You have probably never read the story of how, almost 100 years after the prophet, Hajjaj Bin Yousaf (661-714), an Iraqi governor, applied diacritical points and vocalization marks to the Qur'an as we read it today. You also rely on other primate mammals (prophets, sheikhs, messengers, mullahs) to issue fatwa, interpretation of ayas (verses), commentaries of hadiths and rulings governing every aspect of your life and that of unbelievers. Of course your conscience doesn’t prick you every time you “blaspheme” against Christianity by declaring the idea of trinity as false (as Qur’an repeatedly states), yet if some obscure magazine draws the cartoon of prophet Mohammad, you are offended (or even worse).
3. Having found Islam, you believe that you are one of the chosen few and you express gratitude for this often by saying “Alhamdulillah ala ni’imatil Islam”-thank you Allah for the gift of Islam. You hope to be reassembled with your loved ones in a paradise where rivers flow and inhabitants wear silk clothes and eat chicken. You say your salat (prayer) in congregation, you pay zakat (annual levy, but not always), you fast during Ramadan, you donate the skin of every ram you slaughter to your local Izala mosque, you allow your wife to give the leftover of your food to some of the millions of neglected children roaming the street in the name of Qur’anic school and share viral pro-Islam and conspiracies (many anti-Semitic) audios, videos and texts in your WhatsApp group. You are generally kind, especially to fellow muslims and you hope that your investment in all of these good deeds are rewarded with Jannatul firdausy (a special paradise) from where you shall look at Al-a’araf (a partition between paradise and hell) and watch and gloat over the torture of unbelievers as a form of recreation, as you are served wine by young boys after unlimited sex with virgins.
4. However, you are unhappy because some people do not accept your delusion or they only practice a part of your rituals. Some even question the validity of your claim. Your response generally is to tell them to shut up because they don’t know anything about Islam (never mind the fact that you yourself have never read Ibn Ishaq’s work, or studied the Quran in its entirety, let alone compare it to other Abrahamic scriptures). You may not be the one to pull the trigger that would kill those who mock and regard your religion as another primitive Bronze Age Middle Eastern superstition, but you are happy when they are killed by the more faithful and radical Muslims (most of the times referred to as terrorists). You will however continue to do your amri bil maaruf (enjoin doing good, especially to muslims) so you give your thoughts, money and time for others to try and persuade unbelievers (and Muslim non members of your sect) to accept your true religion. You go about being a good muslim by attending hadith lessons in Kano, you listen to Pantami, Ja’afar or Zakzaky (in which case you may be hated by the majority Sunni for being a Shia but you can always practice taqiyya), you make sure your infant daughter is dressed in hijab, you have never voted for a non-muslim candidate during elections and you blame Jews for anything from poor drinking water to new polio outbreak and Boko Haram attacks.
5. You laugh at the indigenous names of people from Plateau and Southern Kaduna, while taking pride in your adopted Arab identity. Thanks to Islam, your Hausa name, culture, literature and identity have completely been eroded and you are now in the full embrace of Islam (for what culture is better than that of the prophet?). Even BBC Hausa greets you with assalamu alaikum (the best form of greeting). In Islamiyya schools and during Ramadan tafsir, all the jihads carried out by the prophet and his followers are glorified and praised as your children marvel at the valor of Ali (the lion of Allah) and Khalid Bin Walid (the sword of Allah). You are either unaware or ignore the historical fact that After Muhammad died, people closest to him fell into war with each other. That Fatima, the prophet’s daughter, was severely beaten by Umar (the second caliph) leading to her miscarrying Muhammad's grandchild; her husband Ali, and Aisha, the prophet’s favorite wife fought battles that led to the death of thousands of muslims. The first and second Caliphs were both murdered. Allies of the son of the first, who was murdered by the fifth caliph, killed the third caliph. Ali himself was stabbed to death after dispute with the fifth. The fifth caliph poisoned Hassan; one of Muhammad's grandsons and the sixth caliph later beheaded Hussain, the other grandson. In Shia schools during Ashura, detailed accounts of the murder of Hussain are given in a frenzy of violent self-flagellation narration as you and your children wished you were there to fight along with them. You romanticize the story of Moses traveling to Jerusalem (you don’t know that Israeli archeologists have proved that it never happened), the life of the prophet in Yathrib (where he massacred the indigenous Jewish Banu Qurayza) you glorify Dan Fodio’s jihad against indigenous people and some of the pre-existing muslims of Hausa land for mixing Islam with local tradition (the very same thing Izala is now fighting).
6. While you wait for the emergence of the next Islamic figure like Dan Fodio and late Ja’afar to call you to holy war (as Ja’afar himself predicted and was on record to have praised global terrorists), you will wage the bigger jihad (on yourself). After all, it has been prophesized that at the turn of every century, a new Islamic leader will emerge to strengthen the religion of Allah. Except that there are several Ja’afar-types like Mohammed Yusuf and Shekau (Yusuf was in fact a student of Ja’afar). And since students often excel better than their teachers, Yusuf and Shekau took the religion more serious and unleashed their terror. So depending on the level of your conviction and understanding, you respond to Boko Haram crisis by engaging in some of the following; i) blame the Jews (Christian leaders and USA); ii) feel embarrassed every time Shekau releases a new video justifying his every single act based on Quran and hadiths that are all verifiable with a click; iii) stubbornly insist Shekau is a mad man; iv) be a spectator who is secretly happy every time the infidels are terrorized; v) be the terrorist yourself and vi) remain quite. You do all of these except blame Islam or its teachings for the terror. You have completely forgotten how you hailed the demand for total implementation of Sharia by Yariman Bakura and how that emboldened the Wahhabi imperialism and created the ground for Boko Haram.
7. You still believe Islam will dominate the world (Wa lau karihal kafirun) and then your religion will prevail and the world will be a happy place. Except that it is not, as Christians will also organize their crusades and scheme to outsmart you in the struggle for control. Having ignored the violent verses in their Bible and reformed their religion, they now intensify in their evangelism using Ponzi scheme and collecting money from the credulous. They build mega churches that are the envy of every Izala and Shia leader, and grab powerful positions in governments as you scramble for the same.
These points are not exhaustive but perhaps they may give you some hint as you struggle to find your place in an ever changing and traumatized world. A world this is increasingly becoming aware that coexisting with totalitarian ideologies that claim to be the last and final message of God is as dangerous as coexisting with fascism.
Fortunately, a group of young secular Muslims from northern Nigeria who defy the conservative and totalitarian Ibn-Taimiyya-inspired teachings of Islam is emerging. These young people are happy to live in a secular society. No less a figure than the Emir of Kano called for the need for you to stop pretending to be living (or striving towards) a 13th century Islamic caliphate. The threats and criticism that greeted his stand are instructive but the future of Northern Nigeria depends on this.
The key to peace (yours and that of others) relies upon your honest admission that there are verses in the Quran and texts and narratives in many Islamic books that inspire killing of people you disagree with. When you accept that, then you can start the conversation on ending violence and reforming your religion. If you live in this denial and abnegation, terrorists will always embarrass you and your child may be one of them. Just consider all the arguments you can adduce against other religions and apply them on yours. Just for a moment. It is very painful to do so, but once you try you’ll be surprised. Break the cycle of hate and violence inspired by stupid Arab tribal quarrels.