Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
Identity, Values and The Thesis Of Muslim Marginalisation In Nigeria:
Engagement With Sanusi Lamido
continued from: http://www.dawodu.com/waziri4.htm
Ibraheem A. Waziri
The lord works from the Inside-Out. The world works from the Outside-In. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. - Ezra Benson Taft
June 9, 2005
The first part of this essay was just a digression that dealt with Sanusi’s methodology of pursuing intellectual discourses. This part intends - at the risk of sounding immodest - trying to strip the real issue off its embellishment in academysticism, since intellectualism is said to be the ability to simplify thoughts. Before you rush to grab your dictionary, let me admit to the fact that the word, academysticism is my invention or rather contribution to the English vocabulary just as my Professor did by creating the word tri-lemma when confronted with three options to make a choice from, as opposed to two options which the word dilemma could easily represent. But in my case the word is a hybrid of the two words, academic, which means something scholarly or cerebral and mysticism, which means, vague, groundless speculation. Having the two hybridised we will then have a term which describes something that is reasonably scholarly but yet vague and speculative at the same time, the character of the many philosophical discourses on values and identity such as that of Sanusi Lamido. Sometimes one agrees with Mallam only when intimidated by his careful chiselling and meticulous arrangement of words, not because the strands of his argument are well knit at the level of ideas. I will discuss the thesis of Muslim marginalisation in Nigeria and the reason why the Northern Muslim-cultural establishment doesn’t see Mallam as its true representative.
If we examine carefully what Mallam Sanusi writes as Fulani values we will see that those values are not only exclusive to Fulani, they are universal and are being claimed by Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews and other faiths. If then we say they form identity or it is “Who” part, as Mallam will want to assert, then truly we can conclude that there is nothing like identity in socio-political terms but values only. This explanation is however farfetched when we consider the other side of the argument which differentiate individuals and politico-social groups at the level of paradigm and worldview. Different groups or people have different ways of reading the world; hence different ways of pursuing their identity in those shared “Who” universal values. For example, Muslims have Qur’an as their way of reading, interpreting and understanding events and circumstances in the material world, and they believe it to be the only way that will lead them to rhyming with those “Who” aspects of identity as defined by Sanusi. Other theistic religions have their “divinely” revealed scripts. And there is also the other way of the secularists, like Thomas Paine in his Age of Reason, who completely disregard any revelation. He claimed the reading of the world should be taken from purely rationalistic point of view.
Going by this understanding we can easily conclude that the question of identity is purely a question of worldview. So when we hear Yoruba asserting Yoruba identity or their supremacy as a “race”, we know then their thinking is only Yoruba genetically possess the best logical spectacle for reading the world.. This is the logic that makes me see the issue of identity in political ethics to be exclusive to worldview and that of course is a matter of choice not by natural selection as members of some tribes may seek to impose.
Coming into the question of values in Muslim philosophical debates as Mallam discussed in, Identity, Political Ethics and Parochialism: Engagement With Ja’afar Adam (2). Mallam here raises the fundamental question of whether those universal values, the Fulani values indeed, are unique to Islam or not. Though I can see we all agree that they are not unique to Islam as they are seen in the present world but I feel the question calls for deeper reflection in regard to their origin since they are not without beginning. If Dr. Mahmud Tukur believes his Islam to have originated from the 7th century, thus submitting that it created those fine ethical postulates, then I will say I do not agree with him either. But if by making reference to Islam he meant the true religion of mankind, which have started, with the creation of the first humankind on earth, I will agree with him. Because elementarily, every student of Islamic Studies is taught to see that God is the source of all knowledge, correct principles and human conscience as is recorded in the first five verses revealed to Muhammad (SAW) at Hira mount. What is accepted in Muslim thought is the truth that humankind kept deviating from the true message of Islam till the coming of Prophet Muhammad. And on the process of societal evolution of humankind, many Prophets were sent at various intervals of human existence as we read in the Qur’an, “Wa in min ummatin ila khala fiyha naziru…” “There was not a nation without a warner having lived with them…” This is why others that are non-Muslims can be seen with some of those values that are supposed to be exclusive to the Muslims. Even Greek philosophers, particularly Plato, is believed to have spent 25 years of study in the ancient Egypt, the seat of civilisation, where many Muslim prophets like Yosuf(Joseph) AS lived. It is also believed that there existed a cult that sought to defile the original message of God with a dose of idolatry as recorded in many passages from the Qur’an. When Alexander the great conquered Egypt he took so many books and gave to Aristotle, his teacher then. Therefore, those people cannot claim they have discovered all they wrote and advocated about political ethics on their own without “stealing” from Muslim sources either in its original or contaminated form.
The second question regarding the “discovery” of good and evil without revelation is a question only to the elementary student of faith in Islam. To every Muslim, belief in Qur’an is cardinal to his faith and this Qur’an calls itself a guide, it forms the spectacle through which he sees and differentiates what is good or evil, right or wrong. After all, why will God waste His precious time to send prophets if He knew good and evil could be discovered without His intervention?
In our records of history, we can trace the truth that this thinking process is only the thinking process patterned by the Secularists who have never believed in the existence of a God that communicates with humankind as we have made reference to Tom Paine above. Many may think Secularism was the creation of the 18th century Europe, which resulted into the series of revolutions that separated states from religion, abolished religious laws and the use of religious paradigm to read events and circumstances around the world as is still obtained in Europe till this day. But the truth of the matter as written by many scholars, particularly Douglas Reeds, the celebrated British journalist of the World War II, in his The Controversy of Zion, 1986, and the Turkish Scholar, Harun Yahya in virtually all of his writings, Secularism reflects the belief of the deviants of religion since the Egyptian civilisation. The sect we know today to be Mu’tazilites, from which Sanusi got his inspiration concerning the nature of good and evil began as an offshoot of the Shiite Ismaili sect that is generally believed to have had a strong attachment with the irreligious doctrines of the ancient Egyptian cults. In his book, Almunqidh Min al-Dalal(deliverence from error), Al ghazali, the, distinguished Islamic philosopher of the 11th century C.E, logically discussed and refuted the many claims of a certain Ikhwan as Safa( brothers of purity) under the leadership of Addullahi Ibn Maymun, who believed in rationalism as opposed to revelation, they expresses ideas such as the evolution theory of Charles Darwin and strict adherence to the traditional belief of the ancient Egyptian cults. Though Mutazilites differ in so many respects from the belief of Ikhwani as Safa but it remains plain that the nature and manner in which they interpret the theological question of good and evil clearly contradicts the provision of Qur’an tilting towards the way of the Secularists.
Lets understand these divisions very well. The Secularists or Rationalists are those who use reason only to interpret events and circumstances around them. The Muslims and all other believers in theistic religions are those who use revelation to evaluate the outcome of rational analysis of events and circumstances around them. Then Mutazilites and the Ismailites who are easily labelled as Muslim secularists are those who use rational evaluation to validate the claims of revelation. While the Muslims begin with reason to revelation as climax, Inside-Out methodology as we quoted Ezra Benson Taft above, the Mutazilites begin with revelation to reason as climax, Outside-In methodology. Some of them like the celebrated scholar, Abu Bakr Muhammad B. Zakariya, Al-Razi (865-925 C.E.) believed that reason is superior to revelation, and salvation is only possible through philosophy. Also the philosophical poet, Abul Ala Al-ma’ari, 973-1058 C.E, the celebrated Persian poet, Umar Khayyam, authour of the famous poem, Rubayyat, 1048-1131 C.E, are quoted, as saying religious claims to being the only pathway through which good can be attained is false and unfounded. Others like Al hassan ibn Haniy, the gay, palace poet of Khalifa Harun Rashid was known for his open admittance of relying on his own mind to define his actions. Also Mamun, the ordained Abbasid Khalifah after Rashid, was known for his intolerance and persecution to death of many scholars who did not submit to Mu’tazilites creed, among whom Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, one of the founders of Sunni four schools of thought in Islamic jurisprudence, the Hanbali school, narrowly escaped death. Many modern scholars are of the understanding that had it been not for the efforts of people like Al-Ghazali, Secularism which is responsible to the woes of the present West, in terms of social structures, would have started long ago in the Islamic world instead, through the vehicle provided by the Mu’tazilites Khulafa’a of the Abbasids.
Though all said above can be regarded as just one perspective exclusive to the people holding them, which is true, but it rarely can depart from the correct and logical interpretation of the position of elites in the Muslim North. I can remember myself reminding Mallam Sanusi during one of our interactions that analysis of northern Muslims and their situations will only prove effective only when we begin it from bottom to top not from top to bottom. In other words, from how things are, to how things should be, not from how things should be to how they are, since philosophy as a science of reason doesn’t seek to impose alien attributes on human conscience but rather it tries to understand the attributes of human conscience in their finest form. Dr. Mahmud Tukur may have written about political ethics of our society from Ash’ari point of view, which is essential to the paradigm of Northern Nigerian Muslims. But the truth of the matter is, our Ash’ari grandparents, the builders of both the spiritual and temporal aspect of the empires and values we inherited were not ignorant of the debate between Ash’arites and Mutazilites. The fact according the records of history, that they themselves have enjoyed considerable socio-ecomic relationship with the people in the Middle East through pilgrimage and trans Saharan trade at the time when the subject of debate was at its height, testifies to this. Thereby reducing the position to take by our grandparents to choice and so they chose the Ash’ari School, which till today, when the debate is not yet settled, many of us adhere to. And since it’s a matter of choice it certainly underscores the relevance of the fuss Sanusi makes about the subject matter.
Though Sanusi may say: “. The task of the intellectual is not one of blending into the opaque consciousness of the tumultuous mob around him, his voice drowned in a cacophony of misdirected protests. His task is to remind them of who they are and what they ought to be. Our values are not to be taken from conduct of our adversaries but from the great heritage of our people.” This he can achieve without getting radically different from the rest of us even at the level of paradigm, origin of good and evil. Even if for the sake of argument we think times have changed and the structure of our state, which was Muslim in character and essence, is different from the state now, which is multi-religious. Still we can maintain our Ash’ari worldview in socio-political theory or any Inside-Out approach, challenge the practice of committing injustice in whatever form and negotiate a good neighbourliness with our non-Muslims brothers. This is also the crux of my argument in my other debate with him on Apostasy. Here Mallam Sanusi must understand that it is his failure to do these things within the confines of our paradigm, which is very possible and most effective, that leads him into constant disagreement with many of us among the elites. It is also the reason why many will find it easy to label him a hypocrite, an apostate, a Secularist or a lackey of the West recruited to cow our intelligentsia into submitting to its prejudices.
There is a myth that calls for a need in our society to change our worldview to something some people consider most befitting in the 21st century. Perhaps, this is why Mallam will find it easy to identify a “problem” in the way Islamic studies is taught in Saudi Arabia or here home. But soon we will be confronted with another question, what worldview or system of thinking will lead to progress in this world? Thomas Carlyle a 19th century philosopher writing in Heroes And Hero Worship And The Heroic In History, was quick to observe that: “Belief is great, soul elevating. The history of a nation becomes fruitful so soon as it behaves.” This means that having a particular worldview and passionately believing in it is the only thing that can lead a nation to progress not the type of worldview the nation holds. Corroborating this position also Sigmund Freud in his famous essay, Civilisation And Its Discontents, asserted that every nation whether guided by reason, empiricism, rationalism as methods of reading the world around it or revelation, what it needs to achieve greatness is nothing more than belief and passion about what the nation chooses to follow. So why must we think that people must be thought religion in some “new” way or we must have some “new” pattern of thinking before we can understand certain situations and circumstances? No. Those advocating for something “new” must understand the reality that not everything “new” is desired or useful to different groups of people. They must learn to let others be for sameness is not in the design of nature; it is not part of the essence.
This brings me back to the issue of Deconstruction that is being used by the intolerant Western scholars, the intellectual wing of the military war on The Clash Of Civilisations, in order to create a monolithic society, against the design of nature, by coming up with a hermeneutic in social and legal theories of the world to “redeem” the Muslims from the clutches of conservatism. The deconstruction tool as we have discussed in the first part of this essay suggests that to understand a writer - and by extension any ideologue - it was necessary to know as much as possible about the exterior man, the details of his life. As such they try to apply it on every Muslim theorist in order to jettison his interpretations of Islam and circumstances to his time, which will give them room to come up with a different interpretation that suits their claims as the correct interpretation of Islam of the 21st century. This method is not realistic. When Mr. Islam does not exist as admitted by Malik, Abu Hanifah, Ibn Taimiyya and others, he does not exist only within our paradigm the Inside-Out method, reason to revelation way of reading the world we use. One cannot come with an Outside-In method, revelation to reason way of reading the world and tell us that Mr. Islam does not exist. We will not agree with them. Munki wayon. When the outcome of every research carried out is being analysed we expect the methodology in which the research was carried to be considered.
Having understood group identity as a matter of worldview, it is pertinent here to observe that it is an innate attribute in humankind to seek to identify with something. To me it is when group identity is sought through race and tribe as was used in creating political units in Europe and America from the 18th century onward, that we will say it is parochial but it is okay and fair to seek it through paradigm, which is the reason why the northern Nigerian Muslim-politico-cultural establishment find consolation in one another regardless of tribe or ethnic affiliation. The understanding is, not every person believing in a worldview that is good to the standard provision of that worldview but that person will not clearly, between hope and desperation, in the terrain of politics, represent a threat to that worldview as much as a person who is “good” but does not believe in the worldview. To put it plain, in Nigeria of today not every Muslim is “good” to the standard provision of Islam but definitely Muslims will feel most secured in him than in a person who is “good” to the standard of Islam but is not Muslim. Because even if the Muslim doesn’t do what Islam requires he certainly would not upset those Islamic socio-legal structures, the visible items of our worldview, that encourage doing good in our own way. Example, a Muhammad Mamman Shata who sings, Asha ruwa ba laifi bane (Nothing wrong in taking alcohol), but later sing, Na tsaya ga Annabi Muhammadu(I stand by what Muhammad(SAW) preached), can be accommodated easily than a non Muslim who strictly preaches obedience to God but not in a way our paradigm will dictate. Another example also is seen where our elite that are “termed” as not “good” in the definition of the self-righteous among us, will spend extravagantly on their children to learn to read and live life in the finest attribute of our Islam, thereby establishing the tentacles of our paradigm which no “good” non-Muslim will do.
This is the reality in Nigeria’s as well as present world’s political equation. This is why when Obasanjo seeks to push his anti-Muslim agenda in this political reform conference he carefully chose “good” non-Muslims as the leaders of the conference neglecting the “bad’ Muslims for the fear that the “bad” Muslims may not exceed the irreducible minimum in the total sell of their religion. Yes, Obasanjo was anti-Muslim, for he knows quite well that by filling his government with “bad” Muslims he is empowering the wards and children of “bad” Muslims who are most likely to be “good” Muslims in future.
It is by understanding this reality also that we will find at the international level ideological scholars of the West like Samuel P. Hutington and Bernerd Lewis always reiterating that the problem of the West is not fundamentalists Muslims but Muslims of all categories, since “good” Muslims and “bad” all pay allegiance to a worldview they believe to be in constant discrepancy with their own worldview and the “good” Muslim will always continue to produce the “bad” ones and vice versa. So they settled to fight the worldview.
This is about the thesis of marginalisation and its veracious claims. If OBJ is not fighting Islam, the basic trappings of its worldview as defined by Northerners; we should see him accommodating even the “bad” ones among us first. It is on this kind of development we can later trigger another chain of debates towards building a consensus that will demand for good Muslims and good non-Muslims only, to rise to the alter of our leadership. Philosophy as I said earlier does not seek to impose alien attribute on human conscience but rather it tries to understand the attributes of human conscience in their finest form.
It is important here to note that many of us agreed with the Muslim politicians and traditional leaders in the cry against Muslim marginalisation in Nigeria not because we believe they all are good or they are doing it for Islam. Most assuredly, one cannot divorce the motives of some of them from quest for political relevance and enormous desire for self-gratification in some dubious and selfish way. But the truth of the matter is the basic foundation of our worldview, our politico-cultural identity is being threatened and we need everybody, including willing devils, the self-indulgent, the complacent, to fight for it. What we take exception is the call for Jihad for its obvious implication on our peaceful neighbourliness.
The question of what is good and evil or what constitutes the best value system is something well spelt and very ordinary to the elementary students of Islam. In this modern world and according to the secular humanists on the paradigmatic construct of the ancient Egyptian cults, nothing good more than material progress and no good human value but that which leads to self-gratification and sensual satisfaction. This is why the index of human happiness and national development- since that paradigm is the one ruling the world now - is believed to be in anything but economy of a nation. However times and again, this Marxian conception of the essence is proven to be unreal and unnatural to human existence which is dual in attribute, the material and the spiritual, intellect and emotion, reason and faith. This is why the best answer to the question posed by Whit Whitman, American Poet and Philosopher:
“Oh me oh life of the questions of these recurring
Of the endless trend of the hopeless
Of Cities filled with the foolish
What is amid thee oh me oh life?”
Can only find meaning in the words of John Keating, the principal character of the movie, Dead Poet Society, who replies:
“The answer is we are here
And life exists and IDENTITY
And the powerful play is going on
And that you may contribute a verse”. (Emphasis mine)
Surely the identity of a people, the carrier of their best values, is the only thing that can mean everything to them. It is the reason why in the history of the world no people ever fought their oppressors on the basis of economic subjugation but they ever could do that when they feel their identity, which defines the way they participate in the powerful-play of life is being threatened.
In the Muslim North our great grandparents have left us a clear definition of whom we are, where we come from and where we want to go in the model of Islam from the reading of the world via Qur’an in an Inside-Out manner. We are a people with obligation and duties, as the natural calling of human dwelling requires. Through this we designed a socio-political structure, trained our societies, evolved a convention of churning out legal rulings concerning murder, adultery, fornication, armed robbery and theft. Till today, we are the only group of people in Nigeria from which young men are found graduating with their chastity in relation to physical immorality intact. Young women at the age of 18 are found with their foreskin untouched. This really is a virtue in a world where suspicion, infidelity and killer diseases ravage family units, in a world where such acts signal the breakdown of civilisations.
At the level of theft, armed robbery our people are ranked higher in being able to exert a degree of self-control wherever they go. Our leaders are known to be the ones with greater conscience responding to the demands of their people even when the national watchdog in the form of rule of law is not effective. In the year 2003, Northern state governments received 210 billion Naira from federal government coffers as opposed to Southern states who received 400 billion, yet the tangible development project seen in the North are not near comparable to those of the South. These attributes are given unto us by the socio-legal structures that existed in our area for over 150 years. It is the reason why among other things, we see Sharia as the best thing that ever happened to us and demanded for its reintroduction at the turn of the 21st century. Critics are here demanded to understand that Shari’a is not about a governor in Northern Nigeria; it is not about elites or masses; but about a paradigm, worldview, culture or civilisation; their visible items in a form socio-legal structures that give us the required direction and definition of the world we live in as of dual essence. And in every setting as we have highlighted, it is only natural to have people who are good to the standard provision of the setting and those who are not, from among both the leaders and the led. Therefore when critiquing situations and criticizing people, it is expected that critics will do their job within the requirements laid down by the setting. It is when they fail to do it this way neglecting the examples of Leo Tolstoy in War and Peace, I will find reason to suspect them of trying to exploit the emotions of the masses that always cherish those that seek for being different for the sake of it; those who express readiness to unnecessarily attack the rich and powerful from their society for cheap popularity. Others will find reason to call them names in persecution, since they are guilty of committing treason in its most expressive form.
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