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Nigeria: From Ghana, a message of Faith and Tolerance

By Daily Independent
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I have always been fascinated by the steady progress being made by Ghana, Nigeria's historically linked neighbor to the West Coast and increasingly a choice investment destination for expanding Nigerian businesses as well as tourists.

Of course Ghana is a small pond compared to Nigeria's mighty ocean of riches and opportunities but to the credit of their well-cultured people and fairly responsible governments, they have kept it simple. Ghana does not boast of Nigeria's international hotel brands but you will find comfort and security in their alternatives. Theirs is a more disciplined and ordered daily life and what they lack in infrastructural expanse, they compensate with an admirable maintenance culture and self-contentment many Nigerians find both self-effecting and laid back. But Ghana marches on with a slow and steady pace. Ghanaians are not embarrassed to seek answers to questions that challenge their development dreams. They fancy their beautiful, modest cities as idyll conference centres where people from all over the world are welcome to exchange ideas on any topic under the Sun.

It was under this ambience of knowledge-seeking that His Excellency, the People's Governor of Kano State, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, was invited to a two-day International Conference on Islamic Law and Muslim Minorities, held at the Aviation Centre, Accra, under the auspices of Al-furqan Foundation on October 25, 2008 (Shawwal 25, 1429AH).

As in Nigeria, Malam is always the centre of attraction at such international conferences, be they in Europe, the Americas or Africa. He delivered a keynote address "Toward Understanding Shari'ah", which in the main was a sharing of experience with the conferees on the challenges of institutionalizing and nurturing the structures of Shari'a based society even in a country where Shari'a Law is viewed with suspicion by elites inebriated with the excess indulgences of secular jurisprudence.

Malam's 30-page, address was divided into segments - Introduction, Definition of Shari'a from scriptural and methodological perspectives, the Experience and numerous Challenges of Shari'a implementation, his famous Institutional paradigm (the people-first approach, which has made the Kano model of Shari'a implementation the most admired and most sought-after) and lastly his thoughts on the emergence of a New Methodology of Study and Implementation of Shari'a.

Malam explained that "because of the intrinsically Divine basis of the Islamic family legal system, its preservation and effective implementation is integral to, and is at the heart of the preservation of the Muslim community itself, its distinct identity, character and ethos" and classified and family legal system of secularization of the state and its institutions in many countries".

In defining "Islamic Law [knowledging that this definition is not only limited in scope but does gross injustice to "one of the most profound, all-embracing and complex notions of Islam]. Shari'a he explained "is sacred and divine ...based on the Holy Qur'an and the Sunnah of the beloved Prophet (SAW) as well as the lesser category being "the product of our efforts to understand the Will of Allah and transform it into the path that leads to the fulfillment of this Will". Classical Islamic Scholarship, he told his audience, identified four basic sources of the Shari'a: the Holy Qur'an, the Sunnah of the beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW), Ijma, or the consensus of the Scholars and Qiyas or Judgment by deductive analogy.

Passionately, exhorting Muslims to develop a proper understanding of Shari'a, Malam posited that from the Islamic perspective, this is important "not merely for theological advantages but also "to restore and reclaim the dynamism that enabled Muslims under the leadership and guidance of the Prophet to lay the foundation of a great community, leading to a vibrant society and civilization, worshiping God and serving the Humanity in His path".

Rendering his report card as Chief Executive of Kano, Malam espoused the welfare and distributive content of Shari'a which has won him accolades from far and wide. The Kano model is based on meeting the real needs of the citizenry, Malam said "rather than wait to catch a thief and amputate his hand, we made efforts to create situations and circumstances comfortable enough to make stealing unnecessary; and rather than focus on stoning the adulterer, we introduced programmes in many forums to educate the people on the sanctity of marriage and the health hazards and moral dangers inherent in adultery and fornication".

He explained the rationale and working of Shari'a supporting institutions in Kano - the Shari'a Commission, Zakkat and Khubsi Commission, the Hisbah Board and other vital Shari'a implementation agencies. Highlighting these achievements to the appreciative audience, Malam spoke glowingly on the focus of the Hisbah Board "reconciling about 5,500 disputes within families, between families and between neighbours in just the last eight months; disputes that would have otherwise resulted to carnage or would have been referred to the Courts for settlement".

Within the same period, the Board converted 1,091 persons to Islam, controlled 10,476 movements of intoxicants, offered assistance of well over N4million to the needy and carried out over 3,000 Islamic propagation activities.