The vested interests you will find trying to influence the choice of Imams at the National Mosque are mainly people who have ulterior interests in a particular Imam. His Eminence, the Sultan, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar has resisted all overtures by these conflicting interest groups and persons, hours after the internment of the late Chief Imam, Sheikh Musa Muhammad, to unduly influence the selection process. One of such vested interests is Sheikh Dahiru Usman Bauchi. He has consistently attacked the leadership of the Sultan and his forebears. He did not spare any effort to denigrate the personality of Sheikh Usman Bn Fodiyo and all his efforts. He has also been calling for the appointment of Sheikh Ibrahim Makari as the Chief Imam. That part looks harmless until you realise that unknown to many, the former is not exactly in good terms with the latter. If you read Robert Green’s The 48 Laws of Power, you probably will understand the intrigue playing out.
For instance, anyone who knows His Eminence, the Sultan will know the easiest way to lose favour with him is to try and lobby anything with him. Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi knows this. Makari chose to be another’s kin in place of him and this has not augured well for my friend and brother. A combination of insults on His Eminence, the Sultan and call for the same Sultan to appoint Dr Makari as the ‘Chief Imam’ can only be in bad taste. It is an indirect way of trying to eliminate the chances of Dr Makari attaining any such position. If he had come out in a direct manner, the whole world would have seen through the game.
If anyone with good breeding listens to the audio recordings of Dahiru Bauchi describing His Eminence, the Sultan in the most unflattering words, condemning his decisions and fanning the embers of sectarian strife, he will be forgiven for concluding that the speaker must be one hothead in his early twenties or at most early thirties. Upon sighting the speaker of those bile-laden words, you would do a double take, as you would be unable to match the immaturity of the words with the advanced maturity of the body.
In the nonagenarian’s mind, for example, the appointment of the trio of Dr Makari, Dr Adam and Dr Onilewura signifies the appointment of two ‘izala’ and one ‘darika’ Imams. He could not see the appointments beyond that. Sheikh Sharif Saleh younger than Sheikh Dahiru, but I cannot imagine him making such childish and narrow-minded accusations. Incidentally, Makari is son-in-law to and a disciple of Sheikh Saleh. Saleh has conducted himself in a manner that puts him in a position of respect from all. He avoids controversy and divisions, facing the true calling of the Sufi, deep spiritual devotion. He talks less and teaches more. He has authored books as every scholar who knows his onions does, unlike the older, louder Sheikh.
An example of the gaping difference between the two leaders of the Sufi schools is on the Jihad of Sheikh Bn Fodiyo. While Dahiru Bauchi made fun of the effort and insulted Bn Fodiyo and his grandchildren, the younger Sheikh Saleh refuted the revision of history by the older man. Sheikh Saleh chairs the Fatwa Committee of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and the NSCIA is headed by Dahiru Bauchi’s so-called ‘izala’ Sultan. What an irony! Sheikh Saleh was also part of the interview and selection of the three Imams. In the interest of fairness and with all due regards, he should have recused himself from that role since my brother and friend, Dr Makari, a candidate that would appear before him, is his son-in-law. That notwithstanding, no one could accuse him of partisanship.
The three Imams may have different understandings of the finer issues of creed and even jurisprudence; however, none of them conducts the affairs of the mosque in a way that shows his leanings. They have done creditably well in this area, Alhamdulillah. The outsider who is looking for an opportunity to cause mischief is the one who has seen them through blurred, sectarian lenses. He should be ignored.
The structure of leadership in Islam puts the Imam at the top. The Imaam 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. The Imam will be appointed by His Eminence, the Sultan or His Royal Highness, the Emir, depending on where we are talking about.
I suggest that the three Deputy Imams should remain co-equal and others should be added to them as deputies. The deputies could be as many as possible and out of these, His Eminence, the Sultan can choose one to be the administrative head who will otherwise be equal with the rest. 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’.
When my mentor, Sheikh Musa Muhammad was around, he had the uncommon gift of managing all the factions of the various sects who were stakeholders in the National Mosque. Such is rare. I have heard darika devotees refer to him as izala and I have witnessed izala brothers refer to him as a darika man. He attended every Mawlid of the darika to which he was invited. A close brother narrated how he was once roughened up in the mosque by overzealous darika brothers. May Allah forgive his soul and grant him Al Jannatul Firdaus. With the emphasis on sectarian differences getting louder, His Eminence, the Sultan should seriously consider an arrangement which sees many people being in charge as co-equal with only one of them having the extra duty of administration. These people should not be made redundant. They should be given accommodation and commensurate emoluments to ensure they are not hungry and vulnerable to pressures and manipulations. The funding should be such that no one except His Eminence, the Sultan can wield control over them to do what is unbecoming of their offices.
My brothers should troubleshoot fires, not start new ones. The social media is a particularly veritable means to know just how well-mannered people are. I read some comments from my Facebook page and the shallow depth of the thought behind the words of some commentators on the first part of this article was mind-boggling. Ranging from poor English to poor manners; from beautifully worded dissent to near-dogmatic follower-ship, you will read the person from his words. Someone once told me never to wrestle with a pig in the mud; you will get dirty but the pig will enjoy it. Taking a cue from that saying, I will not join issues with anyone who insults me on this or any other matter, inshaa Allah.
Abubakr Siddeeq Muhammad,
Friday, Rajab 23, 1438 AH,
April 21, 2017