Sunday, January 29, 2012

Boko Haram and Islam

Boko Haram and Islam
Disu Kamor

Since the criminal attacks of the dreaded cultist group (Boko Haram) on the nation started, certain salesmen of hate have been hawking their credo: Islam is violent; religion in general produces extremists; religion is dangerous, and so on, to the public. One of such persons is Leo Igwe, an ardent Islamophobe whose schizophrenic ranting was published in the Guardian newspaper of 29 January, 2012 under the title "Boko Haram and the Threat of Political Islam". Leo Igwe stated in his letter to the editor that "Nigerians must begin to acknowledge the jihadist agenda of Boko Haram and try to find out how the teachings of Islam particularly as contained in the Koran or the Hadith were propagated or twisted to breed this terrible monster." He further states that "Boko Haram is the Nigerian version of al Qaeda. The militants are not bombing police stations, UN building and churches for the sake of it. They are not agitating for sharia law for the fun of it. The Boko Haram militants are fighting a holy war. They are prosecuting a jihad for which they expect to be rewarded abundantly in the hereafter with some virgins. That is why the group has not run out of suicide bombers. That is why they have their operational base in the muslim majority states."
This is obviously a clever ploy to inject the poisonous myth of a blood-thirsty Islam that inspires its adherent to commit indiscriminate acts of violence into the hearts and minds of the reading public. Yet the author failed miserably to provide a single reference from the Quran or the Hadiths to support his absurd position. For clarity sake, God forbids the killing of ANY innocent person in the Qur'an, and to violently damage any building is wrong. That respected places of worship, faith and spirituality were attacked by Boko Haram during a time of religious festivity makes the crime even more heinous. Also Islam commands Muslims to revere Jesus Christ and his mother (AS). We believe in his miraculous birth, his miracles and the stories of and about Jesus Christ (AS) in the Islamic tradition are probably much larger than the entire New Testament. Also, an entire Quranic chapter is named after Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ (AS), as God proclaims her to be the best woman amongst all humanity, whom He chose above all other women due to her piety and devotion (Qur'an 3:42-43), and an example to follow (Qur'an 66:12).  For the Muslims therefore, Judaism, Christianity and Islam are but three forms of one religion, which, in its original purity, was the religion of Abraham (AS).
It is simply easy to see that the author wrote in a bad taste not to expose our common threat, but to mischaracterize Islam in a way that de-humanizes Muslims. I readily accept that there are bad eggs within the Islamic community. In fact, it is possible to find them in almost all walks of life. Sadly, people who commit evil in the name of Islam, or as Muslims, engage in unethical and immoral actions, may be our neighbours or co-workers; but so are evil, unethical and immoral people present in every religion, nationality, race or ideology. Such people are on every street and all professions. It is therefore a human, rather than a religious thing. Anyone who disputes this has simply failed to take important lessons from history. Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot, who collectively killed well over fifty million people, and the movements they led were all atheists like Leo Igwe himself. Similarly, the intellectual foundations of fascist thought have very little to do with traditional religion, while owing much to secular or outright atheist philosophers. Mr Igwe's Panglossian summary of the Boko Haram saga and what he calls political Islam is therefore antithetical to the self-evident facts: that vast majority of Muslims live peacefully with their neighbours; they respect the law and make important contributions to our daily life and national security.
The sickening claim of the lure of an abundant reward of some virgins in the hereafter as the motivating factor, or one of the factors, of terrorist attacks runs in direct opposition to what the author himself states in the opening statement of his second paragraph where he writes "The Spokesperson of Boko Haram, Abdul Qaqa, told journalists that they carried out the attacks on the city because the authorities had refused to release their members arrested and detained by the police." If the group's spokesperson made such an unequivocal declaration of their motive, and unless the author knows more about the group than he admits, he should simply allow the group to speak for itself. When we look at the highest authority in Islam, the Quran, we find nothing in it endorsing rewards for indiscriminate killing or killing of innocent people. Instead we find the strongest condemnation with severe punishments for those who engage in such actions. When we look at Hadith, which after the Quran is second in authority in Islam, we find nothing endorsing terrorism either. Instead we find strong condemnation for it.  
About the "72 virgins", searching what Muslims refer to as Gharib Hadith (weak or strange Hadiths) we do find something about 72 wives but not virgins. Sunan al-Tirmidhi Hadith 2562 says: The Prophet Muhammad was heard saying: "The smallest reward for the people of Paradise is an abode where there are 80,000 servants and 72 wives, over which stands a dome decorated with pearls, aquamarine, and ruby, as wide as the distance from Al-Jabiyyah [a Damascus suburb] to Sana'a [Yemen]"
According to the opinion of Muslim experts on the science of Hadith, this is a weak Hadith that has no line or sequence of narration. Although listed in an authoritative collection, this particular Hadith has technical weaknesses in its chain of transmitters and is therefore not considered impeccable. There are many Hadiths so declared and by the collective opinion of our jurists, such Hadiths must not be used to formulate binding legal judgments. As a result, Muslims are not required to believe in it. Even if the Hadith was true, there is nothing about it that says if someone commits acts of violence or terrorism "they expect to be rewarded abundantly in the hereafter with some virgins" when clearly the Qur'an and hadiths condemn such sinful actions.
Muslims know that the description of paradise or heaven in Hadiths and Quran is allegorical. If not, then Allah would have allowed us to take our bodies with us when we die. But the vehicle by which we could enjoy the physical things (especially 72 virgins ) mentioned as being in heaven, is left behind here in this world to rot and decay away. So we know for a fact that for heavenly rewards, physical things of this world are used to describe things totally non-physical. The Quran and authentic Hadiths let us know that anyone that makes it to paradise will be given palaces to live in, and clothing fit for royalty, with luxurious couches, thrones for everyone amongst other grandiose things. There will be rivers of the purest water, milk, wine, and honey, all of which are better than any you will find on earth. However, those who get to the highest part of Paradise, Jannah al-Firdaus, will also be able to see Allah with their own eyes. This greatest reward, rather than the promise of a sensual pleasure in the hereafter- to be in the presence of our Lord and to see His Face is the prayer of all Muslims.
Islam is more than 1400 years old and historians, Muslims and others have recorded the great achievements of Muslims over the centuries and the hope that Islam eternally represents for humanity due to the sublime virtues the religion calls to. The murder of an innocent human being anywhere is condemnable and inexcusable, regardless of that individual's race, religion, national origin, gender or social class. This is not a lesson that must be reiterated only by the Imams but also by the Church, the secularists, the atheists, everyone. The start point for this is to accept that the evil activities of the Boko Haram group affect all Nigerians equally and particularly as Muslims, we feel ashamed of their actions. Muslims are horrified at the image of a group from amongst them, organized as the wolf-pack, inflamed by the spirit of anarchy and destruction, killing, maiming the innocent and forcing ordinary Nigerians to live in fear of dear life. This is because Islam being a highly ethical religion rejects such anarchy and mischief. Islam commands Muslims to have a deep respect for all human life and to ensure peaceful-co-existence. This is why Islam was able to co-exist peacefully with Christianity in the Middle East since the time of prophet Muhammad (AS), a fact that becomes evident when one considers the fact that the Middle Eastern Christian community is a historical community, rather than a community of converts. The presence of this community since the time of Jesus Christ (AS) and its thriving under many Islamic rulers bear eloquent testimony to how important Islam considers freedom of worship and peaceful co-existence.
In Nigeria, Muslim and Christians have lived for decades in relative peace and will continue to do so after the current tragedy is ended. Of course there had been tensed times and mutual violence directed against both communities, but the judgmental flaw of the author and people like him who cherry-picks events to promote Islamophobic agenda will only make them a laughing stock before those who have studied divine scriptures and history. This is because adhering to the elementary requirement of objective evaluation of historical facts is what separates honest critics from ordinary rag-heads. Mr Igwe's letter and other caricatures like it only shows that serious discourse on critical national issues must not be left in the hands of mere shenanigans.
Finally it is most important to acknowledge that many Christian and Muslim leaders have spoken and acted courageously during this moment of intense pressure and crisis. Their words and actions are renewed sources of inspiration and encouragement to those of us who believe in harmony, peaceful co-existence and shared destiny. It is worth reiterating that the entire Nigerian Muslim community stands full square with the Nigerian Christians in revulsion and horror at attacks directed against them and their places of worship. We sincerely feel your pains and share the sorrow of the victims of those attacks. We will continue to stand with you to repel the evil of sectarianism and extremism which are blights on divine religions. This is a difficult time for all Nigerians and only divine religions are capable of sustaining our collective strength as we confront and defeat the ills we face together.
The evil actions of the Boko Haram group affect all Nigerians and their false claim to piety and self-righteousness are ordinary veneer for their evil ambitions and actions. Anyone aspiring to establish a "Shariah state" must start by establishing a "Shariah state of mind". Muslims have been victims of their terrorist attacks as anyone else; as terrorist attacks are indiscriminate. In the same edition of the Guardian newspaper, the spokesman of Boko Haram is reported to have threatened His Eminence, Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar III, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, and the Governor of Sokoto State. All those mentioned in this latest threat are Muslims, and so are majority of those killed in the Kano attacks. Muslims suffer directly from the terrorist group when they attack as well as reprisal attacks due to their evil actions. Yet, in all of these we have risen up in one single voice of total condemnation because our God, as taught to us in the Qur'an and through the examples of prophet Muhammad (AS) commands us to respect the sanctity of ALL human lives (Qur'an 4:29, 6:151, 17:33) and that He, God Almighty, is the "King of mankind, God of mankind" (Qur'an 114: 2-3). The Boko Haram group does not speak or act for Islam or the Muslims. We reject their rhetoric, we oppose their violent methodology, we pray that the wind of time blows them away as quickly as other extremist groups before them, and we remain very proud of the religion which God has blessed us with.

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