It was on Friday, November 22nd 2019 that Prof. Ibrahim Ahmad Makari, Imam of the National Mosque, Abuja delivered a Khutbah in which he emphasised the premium Islam places on peaceful coexistence among peoples.
The Prophet’s Example
The Prophet, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam struck the finest examples of how Muslims should live with followers of religions other than Islam. The Madeenah Charter, a famous document with about 60 clauses that the various tribes and nations of Madeenah ratified was a sublime example of how to ensure peaceful coexistence in multi-religious societies. The Madeenah Charter viewed all the people of Madeenah regardless of their diverse cultures and creeds as “part of one nation – Ummah”. “Social, legal and economic equality is promised to all loyal citizens of State”. No one was wronged because of what they were or the religion they professed. The Madeenah Charter also stipulated that any act of aggression against any “Party to this Pact” was aggression to all an thus must be repelled by all.
Christians in Nigeria
Professor Makari drew the attention of the worshippers to good Christians in Nigeria whose attitude towards the Muslims remind us of Waraqah bin Naufal, a Christian priest and a cousin to Khadeejah, the first wife of the Muhammad, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam. After his first encounter with Archangel Jibreel (Gabriel) and the commencement of revelation of the Glorious Qur’an with Surah Al-Alaq, 96:1-5, the Prophet, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam ran to Khadeejah and urged her to cover him as he, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam was frightened and shivering. Khadeejah did as he requested, but when his fear abated she took him to Waraqah who was a scholar of the Injeel, the scripture revealed to Jesus Christ. When Muhammad, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam finished his narration concerning what happened to him in his encounter with Jibreel, Waraqah reassured him that it was not new as that was the same angel that came to the prophets of Allah aforetime – Moses and Jesus; that he, Muhammad, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam was “Allah’s Apostle to this nation”. “I wish I would be alive when your people shall expel you from this city.” Intoned Waraqah.
“Are they really going to drive me out?” Enquired the Prophet, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam almost unbelievingly.
“Aye, they will” interjected Waraqah, “for no man will bring the similitude of what you will be sent with but that people will vehemently repel it.”
The Negus Before He Became a Muslim
Imam Makari set another example of how good Christians in Nigeria remind Muslims of the Abyssinian King who accepted and protected the immigrants that fled persecution at the hands of the Makkan Mushriks (idolators), during the initial years of Muhammad’s prophecy. When torture of the believers became more than flesh and blood could stand, Muhammad, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam instructed some of his followers prone to ill-treatment to “go to Abyssinia, the land of a Christian King where no man was wronged.” The Prophet was certain that in Abyssinia, “a Christian country known today to be in Ethiopia”, his followers would be able “to worship and practice their faith in peace” devoid of torture and abuse.
The Makkan Mushriks were enraged by the realisation that Muslims had secretly fled to Abyssinia. They sent emissaries with ample gifts as douceur to The Negus to expel the “fugitives” out of his kingdom, “claiming that the Muslims had invented a religion that opposed theirs and that of The Negus”.
As one reputed for justice The Negus gave a fair hearing to the Muslims. He ordered the Muslims to be brought to his presence. Ja’far ibn Abi Talib was the spokesperson and he addressed The Negus: “O King, we were people steeped in ignorance, worshipping idols, eating unsacrificed carrion, committing abominations, and the strong would devour the weak. Thus we were until Allah (The One True God) sent us a Messenger from out of our midst, one whose lineage we knew, and his veracity and his worthiness of trust and his integrity.”
“What has your Prophet taught you about Jesus Christ?” The Negus asked.
“Let me relate the words, with your permission.” Answered Ja’far. And he read from Surah (19) Maryam (Mary) from verse 16 through 36 on the story of Jesus: “And make mention of Mary in the Book, when she withdrew from her people unto a place towards the east, and secluded herself from them; and We sent unto her Our Spirit, and it appeared unto her in the likeness of a perfect man.”
At the end of Ja’far’s recital, the eyes of The Negus were overflowing with tears and he vowed that “not for a mountain of gold would” he return the Muslims to Makkah.
Recent Threats to Peaceful Coexistence
Professor Makari said that even with the above two enlivening examples there is a band of Christians that strive to obliterate the features of Islam and provoke the Muslims. Like the “criminal syndicate” arrested recently by the Nigeria Police that specialises in abducting Muslim children, taking them to Anambra State, converting them to Christianity and changing their Muslim names to Christian names. And yet little is heard from the media; no cries of the inhumanity and cruelty in taking children from their parents; and nobody is speaking of a grand plan to Christianise Nigeria.
The phenomenon of intense missionary campaigns among Muslims is another, while Muslim missionaries are debarred by Christians from conducting Da’wah activities in Muslim dominated states.
Christian evangelism is taking advantage of the refugee crisis emanating from the epicentre of Boko Haram interagency by creating shelters in the southern part of this country and displaced persons’ abode which on the surface depicts mercy, philanthropy and care, but in reality horrible and terrible things are ensconced in them – torture, rape and forced conversion to Christianity.
Muslim and Christian evangelisms may via with each other for converts but not through compulsive conversion, taking advantage of people’s destitution and material needs.