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Gumi is right, no compulsion in religion

The Saudi-based scholar penultimate week while preaching at the famous Sultan Bello Mosque in Kaduna condemned the killings claimed or attributed to the group and other violent groups citing verses from the Holy Quran that have outlawed the killing of innocent souls.

“This is why we are of the view that those behind these killings are not doing it because of Islam. Islam does not allow its followers to engage in the killing of innocent people. Even during wars, we are not allowed to torch places of worship of Christians and Jews. We are not allowed to kill women and children except if they are among those fighting Islam. Therefore, these people killing indiscriminately are just wicked people who have an agenda to destroy our religion and our people. It is important for those in authority to stop corruption and stop imposing themselves on people. Nigerians should be allowed to choose their leaders.” Sheikh Gumi said.

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Sheikh Gumi’s comments are not new. Many scholars have condemned the activities of Boko Haram before now. What is new in my view however is that the Sheikh was able to summon the courage to say in public what many leaders and scholars only say in private. Other scholars often condemn such killings in such a manner that suggests that they are being cautious of the fact that they could become instant targets of those misguided elements.

But Gumi’s approach was different. He hit the nail on the head, saying it out loud that the teachings of the Quran have made it clear that ‘there is no compulsion in religion’ and Boko Haram was wrong to have issued an ultimatum to President Goodluck Jonathan to convert to Islam.

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Indeed Quran chapter 109 is very clear on the position of Allah on people who believe in Islam and those who don’t. The verses read as follows: “(1.) Say (O Muhammad) to those disbelievers in Allah, (in His Oneness, in His Angels, in His Books, in His Messengers, in the Day of Resurrection, and in Al-Qadar, etc.) (2) I worship not that which you worship (3) Nor will you worship that which I worship. (4) And I shall not worship that which you are worshipping. (5) Nor will you worship that which I worship. (6) To you be your religion, and to me my religion (Islamic Monotheism).

With these verses from the Holy Quran in mind, it remains a mystery how group of people will issue an ultimatum to a Christian to convert to Islam or face their wrath. It is however very unfortunate that a few youngsters would be coerced into joining the group to carry out instructions from evil minded leaders of the deadly sect. The sect’s leaders continue to live in comfort and convenience while bullying mostly young adolescent males to go out and commit violent crimes against harmless citizens.

The sect’s problem is both a reflection and a reminder on the moral decadence that has occurred in the Nigerian society. Many parents across the north have become negligent, careless, irresponsible and nonchalant that that they bear children and hatch no plans to provide the basic shelter, nutritional, educational, health and other needs of those offspring. At very tender ages, children are sent out on the streets under the cover of seeking knowledge, thereby exposing them to various kinds of conditions ranging from starvation, poor healthcare, immoral acts and bullying.

The end result is what we have on our hands today. Millions of uncultured almajiris now roam the streets of the north looking for activities to occupy their minds. The wanton poverty and joblessness in the land now makes it easy for such children raised with no morals to become vulnerable for recruitment by the evil sect and other criminal groups.

This has resulted in a situation where in the past two decades or so, a few thugs will at the slightest provocation begin to set houses ablaze, killing people and looting assets. As is traditional in this country, very little efforts have been made over the decades to tackle these issues. Ethno-religious violence has become the order of the day, with thugs and homeless children killing and looting all the way.

It is in the light of all these that I find Sheikh Gumi’s comments welcome at this critical time. If the terrorists would not listen to Emirs, Governors and other political leaders, at least they will do themselves some service by listening to the learned Sheikh. Then, what is their justification for such violence? It’s time to stop this madness and anyone who is anyone in the north must play a part in this task. It is the most important national assignment of our time. This is not just the work of security agents. Our leaders in the north – all of them;  northern elders, governors, former governors, former heads of state, emirs, traditional title holders, captains of industry, legislators and everyone that matters – it’s time to get to work. No more lip service.

Sa’id writes from Lugbe, Abuja

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