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Kano Poli-Tricks: Shariah Law or Constitutionalism?




Jaafar S. Jaafar





February 8, 2006




People tend to hold overly favourable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains… This overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realise it. – Justin Kruger and David Dunning, Department of Psychology Cornell University, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology December 1999 Vol. 77, No.6, 1121-1134.


It is quite believed that any country, state or society can legitimately be judged by the way in which it treats its minority groups, the masses or underprivileged. Because they are potentially vulnerable in any way – physically, economically, or religiously. Their status reflects the degree of good governance or otherwise of the leader. If the aforesaid wisdom is anything to go by, Kano State Governor, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau has woefully failed to abysmal degree. Why is the failure? Very aware of much confusion between Islamic (divine) and constitutional laws, he tries to go the whole hog, thus “full implementation of Shariah” in Kano. I am sure deep inside him he was only paying a lip service. The governor(s)’ continuous chanting of prayer in public functions might have belied his/their intrinsic demeanour.


As fundamentalist theologians gained entry into today politics through Shariah during the administration of Dr Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, people were very happy that people of moral integrity would change the state affairs for good. Kwankwaso, perhaps considering the implication of sandwiching bread with kerozined butter, he employed a traditional political subterfuge of accepting the zealots’ ideas in principle while doing nothing in practice. After his timely but humiliating fall that spelt affront to his ego, and having a rather pious man on the throne, the governors’(Shekarau) supposed moral integrity and piety spurred the rather parochial zealots (with due respect to constellation of Kano Ulamah who are otherwise) to demand for “full implementation of Shariah in Kano.” I am sure if they read the constitution they would only demand for a ‘moral rebirth’ or something to that effect.


As a good Muslim, I believed in all laws enshrined in the Glorious Qur’an and Sunnah. I believed in total application of Islamic law in a workable environment. I uphold the teachings of Qur’an and Sunnah as a supreme guide of life. Being an ordinary man, who is not exposed to the stimulus of religious debate, because the paucity of knowledge I have in this regard is not more than a spoon can hold. Nevertheless, I am being self-critical to the charade they call “full implementation of Shariah in Kano” because Allah (SWT) detests those who are not willing to re-examine their fundamental ideas; they are the worst people of all. Given this, and not wanting to be among “the worst people of all,” I feel so disposed to contribute in my own little way to the issue of “full implementation of Shariah in Kano.”


Lest my remark be misconstrued, I am not first to opine this (hear from the mouth of learned faqih not bloody commentator like me): Mallam Isah Waziri, a leading theologian, a preacher, and one-time Chief Imam of Kano, has once said that “Karfa Ku Tsokani Allah.” The old man’s remark means that “Do not provoke or mock the sanctity of Allah,” he admonished the apostles of “full implementation of Shariah” under the constitution. Waziri was conscious of the fact that the real Shariah in an Islamic state is all-encompassing – socially, economically and of cause politically. Because Islam stipulates that haphazard application of its rites is quite sinful. I make bold to say that failure to fully implement Shariah, could be tantamount to praying five times daily but rejecting other articles of faith.


What is most disgusting is that these leaders are deluding themselves and confusing the people. Imagine when the paradoxical irony took its especial distinction as Safiya Musa was acquitted. It is obvious, and I stand solidly by the fact that had there no collision with the constitution, Safiya Musa would have been stoned to death! The Bauchi woman (that court says pregnancy is not a sufficient ground to convict her!) and the sane Jigawa paedophile rapist would have faced the wrath of the law. There are serious confusions. We must not blink the fact that we belong to the government called Federal Republic of Nigeria that has a statute called constitution that this so-called Islamic leaders solemnly took oath to protect, with Holy Quran slung on their shoulders. Hear them: “I will protect and work within the frame and dictates of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (not Qur’an!). Oh! Help me God.” If you delude your selves and deceive us, you cannot deceive God. Remember, Allah is all-knowing and wise.


Maulana Abdul A’la Maududi, regarded within and outside Islam as one of the greatest thinkers of Islam, wrote in his magisterial work, “of course what distinguishes Islamic democracy from Western democracy is that the former is based on the concept of popular Khalifa [leadership]. In Western democracy (like Nigerian model), the people are sovereign, in Islam sovereignty is vested in God and the people are his caliphs or representatives. In the latter the people make their laws; in the former they have to follow and obey the laws given by the God through his prophet (ironically, we have law makers, in Kano, Zamfara el al). Can the Ulamah impeach Shekarau for gross violation of Islamic law? No! Can the State Assembly impeach him for gross violation of constitution? Yes! Dear reader, the more I delve into the issue the more I couldn’t see forest for the tree.


Similarly, Ayatollah Khomeini wrote in his book Islamic Government (a collection of lectures given in Iraq in 1970). “Government in Islamic state is not absolutist. It is constitutional – not, however, in the commonly understood sense of constitutionalism as represented in… (Federalism) or a system of popular assemblies. It is constitutional in the sense that those in power are bound by a group of conditions and principles made clear in the Qur’an and by the example of the prophet Muhammad [SAW]…. Thus, Islamic government is a government of divine law.” He further underscored the difference between the two diametrically opposed governments. He says that in the constitutional government “the representatives of the government or those of the king make laws.” So what need has Kano of any laws and statutes when we have the Holy Qur’an and Tradition? Can Mallam Shekarau dissolve the House of Assembly since it its unislamic? But they still harp on “no disagreement with the constitution.”


In a bid to get some light and make some sense out of this constitution palaver, all I could get from a lawyer friend was a terse reply: “you are not a lawyer; there is not a single confusion,” I am told with an air of taunts. Nevertheless, I managed to bowl him out with some questions: was it to fuel confusion that Shariah issue was discussed in the previous constitutional conferences? To support this, I quoted Dan Agbese of NEWSWATCH. Wrote Agbese of Shariah in the Anthony Aniagolu-led 1988 Constituent Assembly: “several questions are before the august body (CA). Some of them such as Shariah have been elevated to what is known in the politico-Religious lingo as sensitive.” Was it for fun that the memoranda bore the issue? Was the recently concluded conference oblivious of section 38 of the 1999 constitution that guarantees Nigerian citizens the right to religion of their choice? I am also aware of the section 42 of the same constitution that explains as an addendum to section 38. This section proffers equality to ethnic groups in Nigeria and declares that any law or action of any government of the state or Federation illegal that tends to discriminate on ground of religion or ethnic affiliations. It further stipulates that no discrimination can be made against Nigerians either by law or by executive action against Nigerian citizens living any where within the Nigerian territory. Explicitly, the constitution states that no discrimination shall any citizen be subjected to on the ground of gender or being a settler. Paradoxically, where Shariah is fully implemented, there are gender inequality and settler-indigene dichotomy (what nearly cost Dariye his plum job). So what are these governors who are fully implementing Shariah protecting? A constitution or Islamic law? What will you tell God if you can amputate a thief but you can not execute an apostate because “constitution” gives all citizens right to religion of their own choice?


Louay M. Safi, in his treatise Islam and the secular state, has made a good analysis on the matter. He wrote: “the confusion is, of cause, not limited to outside observers and commentators who tend to extrapolate in their analysis from the historical experience of western society, but also affect those who advocate the formation of political state on the basis of Islamic values. The difference arises from the efforts to combine the popular government with that of a state bound by the rules of Islamic law. This confusion, in my opinion, the result of equating the political structure of the Ummah with the political structure of the state and consequently mixing up the Shariah functions with that of the state.” Maududi put it most aptly when he wrote in another work The Objectives Of The Islamic State, “Obviously, it is impossible for such a state (Islamic) to limit its framework, because it is totalitarian state encompassing whole human life, and painting every aspect of human life with its moral colour.”


Many Islamic thinkers have blamed the Islamic leaders for introducing ‘the punitive parts of the law without doing anything to improve the social and economic order of the common man. They ignore the fact that both laws have the same root. What I understand about Shariah is far from the application of penalties. It is a law that safeguards the means of subsistence of the people as enshrined in the Qur’an. What these leaders means by Shariah today, however, is an amalgam of duplicity, dictatorship, corruption, cronyism and pursuit of political gains. It is also living in sequestered GRAs amid extreme affluence, while we live in disease prone slums. It is sending their children to good schools while they wilfully failed to improve the public schools (this leads to high rate of school dropouts and the resultant youthfully motivated crimes). Yes, it is flying their wives and children abroad to treat the common cold, while they can not supply medicine to any appreciable degree to the public hospitals. Sadistically, however, it is allowing us to die of common food-borne diseases like cholera (IDH in Kano, sanitary wise, is just like an open air abattoir), while they eat balanced diets. Why don’t you turn the millions meant for our ‘reorientation’ to better our lives, to empower masses, so that we can eat something to bail us out of starvation? Wither the masses, this is not Shariah!


Once upon a time, Amirul al Muminin, Umar bn Katab’s tattered clothes were changed with new ones by his maid. Bewildered Umar Katab asked her how she got the money. Then she replied that she saved half Dirham out of the 2 Dirhams meant for his house keep. He then remarked, “as from today, one and half Dirham would be earmarked since it can sustain the housekeep.” That was the leader in Umar bn Katab (RTA). These were the role models Islam enjoins leaders to emulate. Admittedly, contemporary Shariah states stand in direct contradiction not only to Islamic values and beliefs but are also contrary to political practices developed in historical Muslim societies. Their role models today are corrupt non Shariah governors.


Admittedly, Hisbah (a kind of police) is one of the vital organs that ensure the proper implementation of Islamic law in a just Islamic society, not in quasi-Shariah states that the leaders are more conscious about the constitution than the Holy Qur’an. Obviously, it is binding on all Muslims to enjoin what is good and forbid the wrongdoing to the extent of their knowledge and abilities. The reason is to safeguard the society from deviance, protect the faith and to ensure the welfare of the people in both wordily and religious manners in accordance with the teachings of Holy Qur’an and Sunnah. Allah says in the Qur’an: “Let there arise from you a group calling to all that is good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong. It is these who are successful (3:104).” Similar verses and Hadith may have begotten the institution of Hisbah. While I condemn immorality in its entirety as my faith and many other faiths enjoin. Yet, I condemn the oppressive doctrinaire policies (if not madness) of Hisbah corps. The work of this corps borders principally on safeguarding the religious practices from violation, protecting the honour of the people and ensuring public safety. Additionally, monitoring of market places, craftsmanship and manufacturing to ensure that the laws of Islam are upheld. Few months after Shekarau’s proclamation of Kano as Shariah state, he embarked on massive conscription of unskilled illiterate Hisbah brigade without rigorous recruitment scrutiny as requested by law given their pivotal role in the society.


Al-Imam Hamid Al-Ghazali, in his book IhyaUlum Eddin (vol.II) outlined four major elements, thus qualification of Muhtasib, condition of the process of Hisbah, who is accountable to Muhtasib and the degrees of Hisbah measures. Al Ghazali wrote that Al Muhtasib is literally a judge who must enjoy high qualification of being a wise, mature, pious, well-poised, sane, emphatic and a learned scholar (faqih). Alas, over 90% of the Hisbah corps members we have in Kano range from secondary school dropouts to born-again criminals who rarely observe the daily prayer on time talkless of possessing the aforementioned qualities. All needed for a criminal to have a smooth sail is a bearded face (like mine) and be damned the other requirements. None among the cabinet members or the 406-driven Directors of Hisbah has his well trained son as Muhtasib (Dan Hisbah). Most of them were flown to UK, America, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, Malaysia etc on scholarship. But they leave us to die with a dream of admission into Nora Obaji-“Heaven” – Nigerian universities, Achaba, if not joining Hisbah as a last resort.


As a demonstration of crass poetic justice, they leave us to suffer in the hands of these unskilled people, brandishing batons, stun guns, machetes; chasing Achaba (Okada) operators, pushing them into canal and wounding innocent people at a slightest or no provocation. This is sheer portrayal of violence and intolerance, stereotypical of Islam, while many verses in the Qur’an condemn violence and intolerance.


What I want Mallam Shekarau to understand is that even men detest boarding Achaba, talkless of women. It is not a joy ride but a necessary evil. Any person, who had the “privilege” of frequenting Achaba like this writer, must have Achaba-induced scars if not mangled limbs. Lots have lost their dear lives in our midst, yet we still “enter” with some apprehension and leave rest to God. One fine point you threw to the dogs, however, it is the economic hardship of the country that predisposes the operators into the ‘business.’ Ditto the jittery passengers to ‘enter’ which you failed to put into account. My unsolicited advice to you is to supply enough tricycles to replace the Achaba before you start the exercise.


The sore point of all this, the law (Male/Female contact Act) has no provisos! It doesn’t matter whether you are carrying your wife, grown up daughter or mother. It doesn’t matter whether you are carrying a sick person. All the kangaroo tribunal “extort” from these poor breadwinners is a swingeing fine ranging from N2, 000.00 to N5, 000.00 with an option of remanding the hired motorcycle for 6 months! I feel for them. I repeat this is not Islam. Most unfortunately, the “Islamic leader” doesn’t put into cognisance, the demotic and pitiable means of life of these people. He is also not aware of our polygamous nature of our marriage, religiously-motivated apathy to Planned Parenthood hence the resultant fecundity. Don’t you know that you are starving their dependant children?


More appalling, however, is the rumblings going round the town that the governor is about to send a bill to his brief-cased Assembly for passage to ban women from driving! Even if Islam prohibits (which is not) women from driving, Christianity doesn’t and constitution allows. I am sure this might get a smooth passage because a catalogue of this Assembly’s derisive blunders would fill a book. Last year when I heard they were to ban extra lessons in all private schools (public schools don’t observe), I couldn’t help but laugh my self silly. The ‘logic’ of this parish-pump Assembly was to equate the standard!


People have come of age. You had better face reality because time is going and Kano is lagging behind. The governor and his bosom alter egos (cloaked in a religious garb) should stop tormenting our progress in the guise of moral renaissance of the society that has since built its reputation as a fortress of Islamic fundamentalism and scholarship. Renowned areas of Islamic scholarship like Arzai, Madabo and Salga attest to this fact. I don’t know who Dr Bala-led Adai Dai Ta Sahu (reorientation body) is spending millions monthly to reorientate religiously. It was Sheik Usmanu Dan Fodio that reaffirmed the religion not this body. We have thousands of religious teachers, preachers and uncountable scholars that are shaping our sense of morality. Kano was said to have the highest number of preachers worldwide (yes, worldwide). Even in Saudi Arabia Khutbah (sermon) is censored and the preachers are licensed. What this unnecessary body is portraying is that Kano is synonymous with debauchery or we are still practicing pagan rituals of Tsumburbura/Barbushe era! This is not true.


As my lawyer friend conceded by saying ‘ubi jus, ibi remedium’ (where there is wrong, there is remedy). The remedy is not court matter; it is for government’s legal contortionists to note that the delusion is over. To also note that no matter the application of Machiavellian principles, their level of dexirity, “full implantation of Shariah” could only be workable when the governors crush the limbo called politico-religious straight jacket and most importantly, the constitutional loopholes are plugged.


To literally depict Kano today, I can succinctly say Kano is wetted with petrol for a disastrous political, economic and social conflagration. Yet, I am still optimistic that all is not lost as I fervently hope my marathon but bitter essay will freak their conscience and inspire some sense – to which I want you to say a solemn Ameen.



Jaafar is a staff of Shield Projects LTD, Kano. He can be reached at jafsmohd@yahoo.com



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