No Chief Imam For The National Mosque

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I will break off from my article on the Independence Day Celebrations for a rather important piece. I shall continue with it next Friday week, insha Allah, please bear with me.

The Abuja National Mosque does not have a new Chief Imam as widely rumoured in the social media. That position ceased with the demise of Sheikh Musa Muhammad, (may Allah relent towards him), the first and only Chief Imam of the Abuja National Mosque. Perhaps he was used to reciting the same supplication as the Prophet, Sulaiman (Solomon) who supplicated thus, “…My Lord, forgive me and bestow on me a dominion, which shall behove none other after me, for You are The Bestower” (Saad Q38:35)

The Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) held its 6th meeting of the Extended General Purpose Committee on October 9th, 2017 at the National Mosque under the chairmanship of the President-General and Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alh. Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, CFR, mni, to, among others, ratify the appointment of a Murshid (Grand Instructor, Spiritual Guide or General Administrator) for the National Mosque. The late Sheikh Musa Muhammad held the dual positions of Chief Imam and National Murshid.

On Friday, Rajab 23, 1438 AH, (April 21, 2017) this is what I said on these pages under the heading Abuja National Mosque Has Appointed Imams (2), in response to Ustaz Muhammad Ajah’s Time to appoint Chief Imam for National Mosque (published in Daily Trust , among other publications, on April 1, 2017).

“The structure of leadership in Islam puts the Imam at the top. The Imam is both the political and spiritual leader of the people. This was exemplified by the Messenger of Allah himself (Peace and Blessings of Allah be Upon Him). His companions after him kept the faith. The current world order which places Imams in a vulnerable, dependent position and which renders part of their job redundant is an anomaly. Wherever there is an opportunity to correct it, it should not be missed.

Ideally, the Imam should see to the daily running of the mosque and he should not be subject to any administrative encumbrances which can bring that office to ridicule. For example, if the mosque must have a separate Executive Secretary, he should report to the Imam and not the other way round….”

 

Before now we had co-equal trio of Deputy Imams that served alternately the spiritual tasks assigned to them by NSCIA. Now, all the Deputy Imams -Sheikh Ahmad Onilewura, Sheikh (Dr) Muhammad Kabir Adam and Sheikh (Prof) Ibrahim Ahmad Makari – have been promoted to the position of Imams of the Abuja National Mosque, together with the Murshid, Professor Shehu Ahmad Said Galadanci, with effect from October 9th, 2017, as outcome of the EGPC meeting of NSCIA mentioned earlier.

 

So, from a trio of deputies, to a quartette of imams! This quartette is certain to transmute into a quintette of imams since His Eminence has given assent for the appointment of any competent scholar from South-East Nigeria as an additional imam to complete the national outlook of the Mosque. I remember writing on this page that, “What will it take to add a few more deputy Imams who speak the main languages of this country? What about an Igbo Imam? There are many qualified for the position. If you look at the model of the mosque in Makkah and Madeenah, they have many Imams and none of them can claim to be the ‘Chief Imam’”. I believe this development has vindicated my earlier position, alhamdulillah!

 

Professor Shehu Ahmad Sa’id Galadanci was the first Nigerian Principal of the famous School of Arabic Studies (SAS), Kano. Before his assumption of office, all past principals had been Arabs from Sudan, Egypt, etc. He was also the pioneer Vice Chancellor of University of Sokoto as it was then known. Also, ‘he had a distinguished diplomatic career as the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for several years.’ But for this ambassadorial appointment, Professor Galadanci was to be appointed the Chief Imam of the Abuja National Mosque after its completion during former President Ibrahim Babangida’s regime. Allah’s providence has brought him back after all these years as its Murshid! Verily He Who ordained the Qur’an for thee, will bring thee back to the Place of Return (al-Qasas:86)

 

There is a unanimous acceptance among Muslims of this appointment. Those who wondered who would be appointed to this position and who would be acceptable to all, were relieved to learn that the eminent scholar got the post. Save for the faint murmur of dissent from the nonagenarian from Bauchi, who sent word to the meeting that Sheikh Sharif Saleh, a man between whom and the old man there is no love lost, already occupies that position and that His Eminence should call him to clear up the matter, no one rejected the appointment of Prof Galadanci.

The lone dissenter was obviously mistaking the position of Mufti for Murshid; or was it a mistake? If you read the second part of my piece to which I have already referred above, you would think twice about the motive of the old man too.

Professor Daud Noibi was happy with the choice. He remarked that it was Divine guidance that led His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto to choose one so qualified for the post. Indeed, he is above sectarian considerations. Baarakallahu feeka, yaa Sheikh!

I don’t envy the new Murshid at all. His role is complex and his duties many. As first among equals, he is to coordinate the other Imams on behalf of the Sultan. His position is like that of a class captain or if you wish, the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Islam does not permit that two people should be together on an assignment without one of them being chosen to coordinate or lead the other. It is for this reason that four million Muslims would pray the five daily prayers on the cue of only one Imam at the Haram in Makkah, in such orderly fashion as to amaze the most skilled callisthenics instructor.

The Murshid’s role, as I understand it, would be to oversee the activities of the Mosque, play the role of ‘class captain’ among his co-equals and coordinate all the Da’wah activities jointly designed by him and his co-Imams. He is to ensure there is no leadership vacuum to which some have been trying to allude unsuccessfully. His role as general administrator should include, I imagine, ensuring that the content of the weekly khutab (plural of khutbah, which means sermon) are contemporaneous with current happenings in the country. For instance, a situation where violence was unleashed on the innocent in one part of the country one day and the sermon was talking about the virtues of fasting on Mondays and Thursdays the next day defeats the purpose of the sermons.

We now have a pioneer vice chancellor coordinating his fellow Imams and we should benefit from that rich experience. I advise him to seriously consider the establishment of structured learning programmes that can graduate into Diploma awarding programmes at first and then degree programmes. He should introduce courses which all the Imams can jointly run on behalf of the mosque and courses which the Imams can enrol in to upgrade their knowledge. Unless there is a very serious reason, Imams are never removed; it is a lifetime position and it means each one of them should seek to improve his knowledge and update himself frequently. As the one who will represent his peers before the Sultan, he should also think about their welfare and the welfare of all those who work at the mosque.

Many mosques have well-established Arabic classes for adults and children and some have even graduated to owning full fledged schools in Abuja. What is hindering the National Mosque from establishing something better? Why do our wives and daughters still rely on professionals to wash their dead when the Mosque can organise classes to teach them for next to nothing? Why does a corpse need to get to the mosque before it is washed if people can be taught what to do in their homes?

What about bringing high profile lecturers to give inspiring lectures at the Mosque on a regular basis? What about periodic learning circles which are facilitated by the Imams and other scholars the way it is done in Madeenah? Why not turn that Mosque into a power house of knowledge dissemination? I pray Allah guide the Imams to make the best decisions on behalf of this Ummah. May Allah reward His Eminence, the Sultan for his service to this Ummah.

 

Ustaz Abubakr Siddeeq Muhammad

+234 807 676 00 11 (sms only)

  • Abu Musa

    Ilike this part, “His Eminence has given assent for the appointment of any competent scholar from South-East Nigeria as an additional imam to complete the national outlook of the Mosque.” This is a very good development, may Allah SWA continue to guide and unite the ummah on the path of truthfulness!