TASKING THE BASIS OF BOKO HARAM'S ISLAMIC FAITH
The fear of Boko Haram by nearly everyone has led to an unprecedented lack of public debate amongst politicians, traditional and religious leaders, especially in Northern Nigeria and in the National Assembly, despite the great danger the phenomenon poses to Nigeria’s fragile unity.
This deepening silence by leaders in the ‘Muslim North’ and commentators has created a wrong assumption by many in the South and Christians all over the country that the inability of the ‘Muslim North’ to out-rightly denounce the activities of the sect is proof positive that the region wants to undermine the Jonathan Administration because he is a Southerner and an intolerable infidel.
Apparently there is the political Boko Haram that uses the name of the group to carry out the assassinations of some of their political opponents in the North- East. And again, there are some politicians and security contractors both in the North and South that have grown tall on the crest of the Boko Haram catastrophe to develop their personal estates.
This article is not about the North or South or about Christians or Muslims, it is merely an attempt, on account of my un-shaking belief in the obligations that a journalist owe society, to break the silence.
At the risk of sounding immodest, I can claim to have distinguished myself as the most credible source of news about the sect. However, this ‘feat’ has not come without the misconception by many within government that I am the Boko Haram with a pen as a weapon.
Suicide bombings and armed robberies in the name of religion in Nigeria was started by the Jama’atu Ahl-Sunnati Lil Da’awati wal Jihad otherwise known as Boko Haram in the early hours of June 16, 2011. Since then there have been several instances of suicide bombings in Nigeria this year, and several instances of targeted bombings of public places such as churches, beer parlours, banks and police stations, which have so far led to the death of hundreds of persons including women and children.
The impact and depth of their killings and destruction to the institutions of government and public psychology is unparallel.
The platform of all these violence by Boko Haram remains religion, specifically the Islamic faith, from which sect leaders and followers push for suicide bombing on assumption that it offers perpetrators’ martyr status as well as instant access to paradise.
I have discussed the suicide bombings and armed robberies (Fai’u in Arabic and Ganima in Hausa) in the name of Jihad with several Islamic scholars. The first question I put to these clerics is; what is the concept and criteria for waging Jihad. They’ve all said Jihad literally means putting in all effort in carrying out tasks. Technically, it carries different meanings based from the Quran and Hadith perspectives. Some scholars interpret this to mean waging war against the unbelievers; e.g. Allah says in the Holy Quran Chapter 25. V.52 ‘So do not follow the unbelievers, and strive against them a mighty striving with it’.
Others, however, think that ‘with it’ here means not waging war, but instead using the words of Allah to argue, debate and ultimately prove to them the truth. He further states in Surah Tahrim of the Holy Quran 66: 9 ‘O Prophet strive against the disbelievers and the hypocrites, and be stern with them’. Here too, Allah urged the Prophet to handle unbelievers and hypocrites sternly. In the case of the former, waging of war was acceptable but in the case of the latter i.e. hypocrites, the Prophet did not wage war on them.
A case of Abdallah Bin Ubay bin Sullul and his likes are replete in Islamic History. Also, in Surah Al Qassas of the HQ 28:6 Allah says ‘whosoever striveth, only for himself for Lo! Allah is altogether independent of His creatures’. Similar instances abound a lot in the Quran but do not strictly means waging of war (Jihad). And in many situations the Holy Prophet used the concept Jihad but did not explicitly refer to waging of war.
From Bukhari & Muslim, two popular sources for Hadith, performance of pilgrimage and the lesser pilgrimage were referred to as Jihad. The Prophet also referred to jihad as feeding of the needy, the less privilege and taking care of the orphans.
According to many accounts in the course of writing this article, the following criteria must be met before executing one form of jihad, which is waging of war. The attainment of a ruler (Amir) full-fledged, an Islamic State (independence) strong and capacity for self defence, well trained and highly educated followers, the existence of disbelievers and enemies as neighbours and their refusal to accept the Islamic faith.
According to these scholars, apparently, Boko Haram did not meet all these criteria. But, clearly, the sect’s lawful religious activity came under constant stalking and assault by security agencies in Maiduguri and at Bauchi, and according to these scholars, Boko Haram have a right to defend themselves in these circumstances.
However, the big question today is, does the suicide attacks on UN House or recently in Damaturu and several places that led to the deaths of over 150 persons including women and children amount to a self defence?
The Holy Quran teaches us in Chapter 5, Verse 33 that "Whosoever killed a person - unless it be for killing a person or for creating disorder in the land - it shall be as if he had killed all mankind." One scholar further explained here that, "a person who kills another person unfairly or who kills someone who had neither rebelled nor became a source of violating peace amongst the people nor created disorder in the land, it is as if he has killed the whole of mankind. In other words, to kill a person without any cause is, according to God Almighty, like the murder of the entire human race.”
In another Hadith narrated by all narrators except Bukhari, it is said that “the prophet used to advise the commanders separately and the whole group together to fear Allah and adhere to the rules of engagement specified by Allah and further enjoined on them to fight in the name of Allah for the purpose of proclaiming the words of the Creator; fight those who reject oneness of Allah; do not be unfaithful, do not deceive; do not renegade on any agreement reached; do not mutilate the corpses; do not kill children, women, elderly; and do not kill those engage in worship except if they fight you.”
The application of the concept of jihad is incumbent on all Muslims, but the one that has to do with waging of war is incumbent only on meeting the following criteria: When the unbelievers ambush Muslim settlement, it is incumbent on all to defend it. Apparently, Boko Haram were armed bushed and shot-at with life bullets during a funeral procession in 2009 by Security Agents in Maiduguri for their refusal to abide by traffic laws, and this according to them, is a ground for them to wage ‘Jihad’.
When the ruler assigns the task of waging war, once in the war front, it is forbidden to abandon it. Boko Haram believe that in response to the 2009 attacks against them, their ruler, late Mohammed Yusuf waged ‘Jihad’ and therefore they can never abandon it until every single one of them is death.
Whether or not the current Jihad being waged by Boko Haram meets the Islamic standard can best be imagined here and must to be a subject of public debate by the ‘Muslim North’ if only we can damn the bombs and AK47 of Boko Haram because everyone of us must die sooner or later.
What is the popular position of suicide bombing in Islam? There is no suicide bombing in Islam. Allah had said in Chapter 2: 195 “Spend your wealth for the cause of Allah and be not cast by your own hands to ruin and do good, Lo! Allah loves the doers of good.”
But indeed there is the concept of martyrdom in Islam which is always misconstrued as suicide bombing. A member of Boko Haram before embarking on a suicide bombing quoted a verse in the HQ "Allah hath purchased of the believers their persons and their goods; for theirs (in return) is the garden (of Paradise): they fight in His cause, and slay and are slain: a promise binding on Him in truth, through the Law, the Gospel, and the Qur'an: and who is more faithful to his covenant than Allah? Then rejoice in the bargain which ye have concluded: that is the achievement supreme."
And the dark-eyed virgins which Mohammed Mangga, the person that bombed the Police Force Headquarters in Abuja believed await him after blowing up himself at the Louis Edet House, are mentioned in several verses in the HQ verses 44:54 and 52:20. For those who swing the other way, there are "perpetual youth" verse 6:17, otherwise known as "boys" verses 52:24 and 76:19. However, virtually all the scholars I have spoken with say this is a misconception of the Qur’an.
The question here is did Boko Haram meet the criteria of Jihad and are they waging it under strict Islamic standards? If yes, then they can claim martyrdom. But suicide is forbidden in the Qur’an. "O ye who believe!... [do not] kill yourselves, for truly Allah has been to you Most Merciful. If any do that in rancour and injustice, soon shall We cast him into the Fire..." (Qur'an 4:29-30).
The taking of life is allowed only by way of justice (i.e. the death penalty for murder), but even then, forgiveness is better. "Nor take life - which Allah has made sacred - except for just cause..." (17:33). It is important to note that the predominant theme in the Qur'an is forgiveness and peace. Allah is Merciful and Forgiving, and seeks that of His followers.
In the fight against terrorism of all forms, it is important to understand who is a terrorist, what is the motivation for such terror acts. We can only fight against this horror if we understand its causes and motivations. What motivates Boko Haram to lash out in this violent, inhumane way?
Many belief it is the deep rooted corruption and injustices that have become strong pillars of bad governance in Nigeria. Many expert accounts conclude that religion neither causes nor explains suicide bombings. The true motivation of such attacks is something that all of us must understand and address squarely.
Another contentious issue is, is it lawful for Boko Haram to engage in arm robberies? They called their actions fai’u. Fai’u means to return or give-back. Technically, fai’u is a process whereby ownership of wealth of the (unbelievers) enemies comes to the Muslims without waging war. In Chapter 59:6; Allah says ‘and that which Allah gave as spoil fai’u unto His messenger from them, ye urge not any horse or riding camel for the sake thereof, but Allah giveth His messenger lordship over whom He will’.
In the history of Islam, there came a time when the people of Bani Nadhir abandoned their abode and everything within it for fear of Muslims conquest. What they left behind was known as fai’u and was used for weapon procurement. But it is important here not to mix up the term fai’u and robbery because there is a sharp contrast between what occurred in Bani Nadhir and what obtains today, said the scholars.
However, it may be confusing to non-students of Islamic history that the people of Mecca had severally forcefully collected the wealth of the Muslims before migration; and at a point the Muslims tried to collect back what belonged to them, an act that sparked off the main battle of Badr. In contrast, when peoples’ wealth, even those of the unbelievers who did not fight you, is forcefully collected is viewed as robbery and in this case the punishment of robbery is to chop off the limbs diagonally, or hang to death or imprisonment if the robbery involved murder.
What is the position of wasting human life like the killings of Islamic clerics by Boko Harm? Killing of human being, especially that of the believer is not only heinous but one of the gravest sins said all the scholars. The Holy Qur’an 4: 93 says ‘whosoever slayeth a believer of set purpose, his reward is hell forever. Allah’s wrath against him and He hath cursed him and preferred for him an awful doom.
In a Hadith narrated by Tirmidhi and Nasai reported by Ibn Umar ‘the prophet said Allah may forgive any kind of sins, except one who dies as Mushrik or intentionally killing a believer’. In the narration of Nasai he said, it is easier for Allah to see the earth disappeared than a believer killed’. If the whole humanity come together and killed a believer, Allah will not mind sending them all to hell fire.
According to Boko Haram the clerics and other Muslims they killed are either working or sympathetic to the government of the day and they promote or support democracy in some ways. Therefore, since democracy is Kufr they are unbelievers especially when most of them pinpointed or kept mum during arrests and executions of their members over the years.
Scholars said, once a man proclaims oneness of Allah, his wealth, life and dignity are secured. Or if he agrees to live with Muslims without troubling them, even in war times, he is also secured. Osama bin Zayd reported by Muslim and Abu Daud that ‘while we were at war, when we reached the enemies they fled away and a man appeared to us and proclaimed the Shahada, but I did not spare him and when we reached the Prophet, he angrily inquired of me thrice ‘after he said the Shahada! , what will you tell Allah?’ I responded saying he proclaimed it out of fear of me! The prophet responded again thrice saying ‘did you open his heart and see it whether he was sincere or not?’
Did Boko Haram open the hearts of several clerics and many Muslims to know whether they are true believers or not before they killed them? Miqdat bin Aswad said in a Hadith narrated by Muslim, Abu Daud and Tirmidhi ‘I inquired O, prophet of Allah, assuming we are in a war and an unbeliever chopped off one of my hands and as I intend to strike him he proclaimed the Shahada, do I kill him or let go?
The prophet answered, “Let him go.”
“But he chopped off my hand!”
“Let him go! For if you kill him, your positions would have switched,” the Prophet said.
The scholars concluded that the members of Boko Haram have switched places with those they have killed, adding that “We urge Boko Haram to please take the path of reconciliation and forgiveness.”
Ahmad Salkida is a freelance journalist based in Abuja and can be reached at [email protected]