As Saudi-Arabia sponsored Sunni Takfiri extremism spreads to Nigeria with the recent clamp down and massacre of hundreds of members of the 9.6 million strong Islamic movement, a minority “Shia” theology sector among Nigeria’s 80 million Muslims, focus has gone to the historical and political contexts of the schism between so-called Sunni and so-called Shia Muslims.
Sanusi “Above” Being Either Sunni Or Shia
As knowledgable Islamic scholars have condemned identifying under both sect names as unIslamic with both sect names not found in Quran or Authentic Hadith, a check within Nigerian society finds that the second foremost Muslim leader of Nigeria, Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi has identified with the so-called “Shia” Muslims as much as he has identified with “Sunni” Islam. As Mikailu Ibrahim Barau stated in his article “Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi : Shiite or Sunni?” on Jun 10, 2014, “The Emir of Kano Is Too Learned to Be Shiite Or Sunni in The Modern Political And Economic Garment of The Sects; An Excerpt From His Article In April 2007 Testifies This…” [The excerpt referenced is below]
Sanusi’s many authored tirades have indicated his position of virtue, justice and equality over mere identity. Popular quotes from his writings put it thus:
“Each person is an individual with personal virtues and vices, and we must be fair in our judgment of fellow human beings.”
“What Muslims need is not a new dictatorship or autocracy or theocracy by any name, but a political system founded on principles of justice and equity”
The experts from Sanusi’s article Mikailu Ibrahim Barau referenced, written in widely read and fairly criticized pieces during his battle with Sunni “extremist” Borno-Kano Sheikh Ja’far, who has been accused of being one of the early teachers of Boko Haram founder, Muhammed Yusuf; Ja’far, a notable Sunni Sheikh who was also reportedly killed by the same Boko Haram, Emir Sanusi quoted both Sunni and Shia scholars as sources for his thought:
“…In theology, the ethical rationalism of the Mu’tazilites and Shiites accounts for their emphasis on the principle of ‘Adl, or justice. Politically, this was reflected in their attitude toward unjust rulers, and specifically the Umayyads, including key figures like Yazid b. Mu’awiya and Hajjaj b. Yusuf. This was markedly different from the Sunni consensus against rebellion, (a position that Ibn Taimiya, remarkably and to his credit, did not fully subscribe to). The question is also linked to the question of free will (qadar) and the extent to which humans are responsible for their actions. Indeed, many of those accused in the early days of Islam of the Qadarite (or “free-will”) heresy were subversive political activists who insisted that unjust rulers, and not God, were responsible for the injustice and corruption in the Caliphate.
In contemporary Muslim political thought, the most exemplary writers in defence of justice and the ethical foundations of the state have been, on the Shiite side, the Iranian intellectual Ali Shari’ati (particularly in his collection ‘An al-Tashayyu’ wal Thawra) and on the Sunnite side the Egyptian martyr Sayyid Qutb, not in Milestones, but in an earlier, more profound work, Social Justice in Islam (al- ‘Adalah al-Ijtima’iyyah fil Islam). Any one familiar with the above works of Qutb and Shari’ati will understand that for them, Islam is about delivering justice, and not a simple politics of identity. The major problem is that when Muslims read Qutb, they read his late work, Milestones, which he wrote while traumatized on death row, a book that has become the handbook of destructive fanatics on the lunatic fringe, such asal-Jihad and Takfir wa Hijrah. His main work on social justice has also suffered because of his condemnation of the Umayyads as a group of power seeking, cruel rulers who established corruption and nepotism in the Muslim world. This does not sit well with many Sunnites. Among the Shiites, the long running debates between Shari’ati and establishment clerics, has beclouded the profundity of his revolutionary thought. The later condemnation of Shari’ati by clerics close to Khomeini, such as Murtadha Mutahhari, has served to divert attention from his essential message, that what Muslims need is not a new dictatorship or autocracy or theocracy by any name, but a political system founded on principles of justice and equity. Many Shiites who accept the condemnation by clerics of Shari’ati on theological grounds fail to see that his political views were not only subversive to the monarchy, but a warning against the dangerous tendency and potential of an “Islamic revolution” to be hi-jacked by bazaar-owning scholars and turned into some sort of clerical despotism or “Islamic” capitalism.
In one of my earlier papers, “Shariacracy in Nigeria: The Intellectual Roots of Islamist Discourses”, I had stated my partisanship for the ethically grounded conception of Islam and Shari’ah propounded by Qutb and Shari’ati. Over the last few years, Ja’far has on various occasions made me the personal subject of his Friday sermons and radio preaching sessions in a desperate attempt to incite the population of Kano against me, labeling me a hypocrite, lover of Christians and enemy of Shari’ah. My first crime was to let Muslims know that the conviction of Safiya Hussaini and her sentencing to death by stoning was not Islamic-nor even Maliki Law-but a complete travesty thereof. Scholars like Ja’far who kept defending the judgment as consistent with the Law were not happy that I published references from authoritative sources-the Mukhtasar of Khaleel, the Mughni of Ibn Qudamah, the Muhalla of Ibn Hazm-showing them up as being either ignorant or diabolical. The problem, of course, is that ignorance and cruelty are not Shari’ah, and a man who fights them by whatever name is not against Shari’ah.
If a governor starts a legal and political project and calls it “shari’ah”, and is able to recruit some scholars who support him, that does not make what he is doing to be Shari’ah. To conclude, let me restate here my position on these issues, which has been and will remain consistent come what may. I do not accept what is happening in some northern states today, where poor thieves are amputated and poor women are harassed for adultery by incompetent and thieving politicians to be Shari’ah, I will never defend it, and I will not stop criticizing it until the governors change. I do not believe that every Muslim minister is good and every non-Muslim minister is bad, or that we will have a good government if we fill it with Muslims. In any case I doubt that many Christians consider Obasanjo or many of the Christians around him as good examples of Christianity. I believe Obasanjo’s government has failed the nation in many respects, and that it deserves serious sanction; but I do not believe it failed because it has a majority of Christian ministers. Each person is an individual with personal virtues and vices, and we must be fair in our judgment of fellow human beings.
Sunni scholars are never found referring to or quoting from “Shia” theologists. In fact while the companions of the prophet and early leaders of Islam often sharply disagreed, Sunni scholars typically condemn and label any disparaging opinion as apostates, frequently condemning them to death and celebrating their death, as is happening in Nigeria now with the extra-judicial murder of hundreds of Sheikh Zakzaky faithfuls.
Sanusi Labeled Shia Muslim
Some have actually gone as far as labelling the Emir of Kano as a Shia.
“Alhaji Mustapha Adamu, one of the CBN governor’s former colleagues at the defunct ICON Merchant Bank, recalled in a yet to be published opinion article he sent to Daily Trust stated thus:
“What I could vividly remember was that he was in the company of about 30 people wearing the Shiites turban, which was their trade mark. I was shocked to see him (Sanusi) in this company. I took him aside and asked who these people were. He replied that they were his brothers… I counseled him that he should be careful or else they will put him into trouble.”
The Shiites, according to Adamu, had indeed put the CBN governor into trouble with the Kano Emirate Council because of their reformist and moral standpoints. “He was concerned at what was happening at the Emirate Council and tried to question their entrenched ways and asked them to reform for the sake of posterity.
“The Emirate took his crusade personal and felt no-one can question their authority and methods. What happened later was a chapter in his life he can never forget. But life is about trials and tribulations.” See source.
The Saturday Sun has also made he same claim:
“Saturday Sun gathered that in between his days in Zaria, his working career in Kano and elsewhere, he got himself close to the fiery preacher, Sheikh El Za Zakky, who lives in Zaria, Kaduna State. He was close to his school of Islam.”
Sanusi’s Brief Historical Presentation On The Origin Of The Zakzaky Islamic Movement
With the Iranian Revolution came a radicalisation of Muslim politics in northern Nigeria. The fi rst group that could be labeled ‘fundamentalist’ was the ‘Muslim Brothers’, led by Ibrahim ElZakzaky, an economics student at Ahmadu Bello University and a former secretary-general of the Muslim Students’ Society of that university. Fired by the success of the Iranian people, many undergraduates joined Zakzaky in his struggle for an Islamic State in Nigeria, to be constructed on the ashes of the existing state, which was built on ‘ignorance’ or jahiliyya (a term used in reference to pre-Islamic Arab society).
The rhetoric of the Nigerian Muslim Brothers had the distinct quality of revolutionary idealism found in the works of the Egyptian Sayyid Qutb. Indeed his major political work, Al-Ma’alim fi ‘l-Tariq (by then widely available in English translation as Milestones) was almost compulsory reading for members. Sayyid Qutb’s principal thesis, of irreconcilable dichotomy and struggle between Islam and jahiliyya, played a critical role in shaping the mind set of this group, as it did in the case of many Islamist groups in the Middle East that go under the generic name of Al-Takfi r wa‘l-Hijra (including the Egyptian group Al-Jihad, which produced the team, led by Istambouli, that carried out the spectacular assassination of President Anwar Sadat).
As the Brotherhood’s members improved their knowledge of Arabic, the writings of the Syrian Islamist, Sayyid Hawa, became central to indoctrination in their cells. Particular attention was paid to his series on Jundullah (the army of Allah), which included sub-titles like Thaqafatan wa Akhlaqan (cultural awareness and character) and Takhtitan (tactics).
Although the Muslim Brothers started as a Sunni group, the close association with Iran and the fact that several of their members were given ‘scholarships’ by the Iranian government to study at the city of Qom led inevitably to their infi ltration by Shiite doctrines.
The leader, El-Zakzaky, was himself soon to be seen as a Shiite, a fact that led to rebellion and fragmentation in the movement. A splinter group was formed, led by some of Zakzaky’s most loyal supporters, including Abubakar Mujahid (in Zaria), Aminu Aliyu Gusau (in Zamfara) and Ahmad Shuaibu (in Kano).
This group maintained that its disagreement with Zakzaky was purely doctrinal in that they rejected Shiite theology. They remained however committed to the revolutionary process of Islamisation while sticking to Sunni orthodoxy. Fundamentalist groups And The Nigerian Legal System
Indeed it is important people look beyond what a person claims to be and looks at what a person does.
Quran states in Surah Maidah, Chapter 5:8:
“..let not hatred of any people seduce you that ye deal not justly. Deal justly, that is nearer to your duty. Observe your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is Informed of what ye do.”
Knowledge For Sunni Extremists: Important Information About The Second Largest “Shia” Group, the Zaydi (Popular in Yemen)
“Zaydis were the oldest branch of the Shia and the largest group amongst the Shia before the Safavid Dynasty in the sixteenth century and currently the second largest group, are the closest to the Sunnis and do not believe in the infallibility of Imāms after Husayn. Zaydis believe that on the last hour of Zayd ibn Ali, he was betrayed by the people in Kufa who said to him: “May God have mercy on you! What do you have to say on the matter of Abu Bakr and Umar ibn al-Khattab?” Zayd ibn Ali said, “I have not heard anyone in my family renouncing them both nor saying anything but good about them…when they were entrusted with government they behaved justly with the people and acted according to the Qur’an and the Sunnah.” Zaydis as of 2014 constitute roughly 0.5% of the world’s Muslim population.”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zaidiyyah
So one should be weary when they generalize and wish death on so-called “Shia.”