Mallam Ibrahim Sulaiman’s MEMORANDUM TO THE UMMAH (excerpts of which are published here although he penned the piece since last year) is an apt response to the multiple chaos confronting Islam and Muslims in our geographical entity at this time. The MEMO was delivered at the recent 2012/1433 National Islamic Centre’s Ummah Convention in Jalingo. The Convention itself was discussed at length elsewhere last week by Sa’ad Abubakar Zongre in his ’On the 2012 Islamic Convention in Jalingo.’ Please welcome this Father of African Islamic Intellectualism, Mallam Ibrahim Sulaiman.
This memorandum presumes that we have essentially a Muslim society which basically requires to better understand Islam in the contemporary context, to be more sharply focused, to be sufficiently empowered and competent to cope with the challenges confronting it today and well into the future. This presumption presupposes that there is in existence a body of ulama which is the backbone of the Ummah and whose primary role is to educate the society, guide it to proper conduct, serve as its conscience, and solidify its ranks. It also presupposes that there is in existence a large and growing body of intelligentsia which determines the course and direction of the society. It finally presupposes there is in existence a Muslim Ummah which must be properly and consciously served by the ulama and the intelligentsia, the elite.
We are not the ulama, and it is not possible to perform their role satisfactorily, at least not in the foreseeable future. What we can and must do is to interact with them, learn from them with due respect, and convey to them as faithfully as possible the ways of the modern systems we have learnt, and their meaning and implications to the Muslim Ummah.
Our role is principally this: to strive to give our society consciousness, focus, competitiveness and capacity. In this respect, the task ahead involves, among other engagements, permeating the society and the country, and perhaps beyond, with a relentless but sound intellectual force, aimed at driving the political, social and economic dimensions of Islam into the Muslim consciousness, and raising Islam to the fore as the locus of national consciousness. The task also develops over time and in collaboration with ulama, scholars, professionals, organizations, a vision for the Muslim Ummah, setting out precise goals and priorities, giving the needed sharp and acute focus, and a workable program of action.
We have a natural constituency, which comprises all those who are products of the modern system. It is to this constituency that our most important responsibility lies and it is within it that we can be most efficient and effective, without dissipating our energy or missing our goals. The strategic significance of this body of people lies in the fact that they run the country. They alone run the machinery of state, the security system, the political system; they dominate banking and industry; they alone are the bureaucrats, media practitioners, judges and lawyers; they alone are the professionals, engineers, doctors, architects, accountants; only from their ranks can there emerge chairmen of local governments, governors of states, legislators and, most importantly, president of the Republic. In short, they are the very engine of society.
It becomes necessary that we should define our role and our status within the context of our environment, keeping in mind our constituency, capacity and limitations, as well as the necessity for a fair division of labor among the various actors and interests and avoidance of duplication of effort. If what we can do best is just to awaken the elite to their duty to Islam, provide the organizational and institutional framework to serve Islam better, nurture the society to full capacity in areas where the social and economic well being of the people is most effectively secured, place our expertise at the service of society to enable it attain a higher quality of life, then it behoves us to deploy all of our energy towards that end. A very important point to note: our constituency is an ever expanding entity, it will one day encompass virtually the whole of society.
It is our duty, because we are uniquely positioned to know the best and the worst of the system, to be vigilant and conversant with the situation in the school, the hospital, the bureaucracy, the bank, the army, the police, the court, the industry, to see whether they function well for the benefit of all. So we must be precise in the role, goals, priorities and tasks we set for ourselves and remain modest, focused, steadfast.
The meaning of all this is that we must recognize the fact that this body as currently conceived, constituted and driven has reached the end of an era. The logic, circumstances and environment which gave rise to it and in which it operated have fundamentally changed. So things must change. The best course open to us is to prepare for a complete transformation and a renewal.
We have to prepare for the new era. Every resource at our disposal must be marshaled for this singular purpose. We are most privileged to witness by ourselves the great and unprecedented political and social transformations unfolding in different parts of the Muslim world. We are therefore enriched by the availability of many models and references.
A point to note is that this enterprise by its very nature may not yield quick or immediate results, may not mature in a generation or in a life time: it is a process that transcends generations and life times; ideally, it should remain a continuum, a going concern, a self refreshing work of generations one after the other. Another point is that this enterprise calls for goodwill towards all Muslims – pure, unreserved goodwill which does not entertain a grain of malice or unworthy thought. A third point is that it is an enterprise which demands all of one’s heart, all of one’s mind, all of one’s energy, in short, all of one’s life.
Finally, we pray to Allah to accept this week’s contribution as sadaqa (fidda’) for our departed brother, late Dr. Haruna Salihi who, as discussed in a tribute last week in a sister newspaper by Brother Murtala Muhammad (and also on this page last week) was the backbone of the Jalingo Islamic Convention shortly before his demise. May Allah forgive Dr. Salihi and us and all departed brothers and sisters, amin.