Sunday, 11 September 2016

Chilling interview of Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, leader of the shiites in 1999

ibraheem el-zakzaky leader of the shiites

Recently I stumbled upon a 1999 Tell Magazine where I found this chilling interview with Ibraheem El-Zakzaky leader of Islamic movement popularly called Shiites following the raging controvery triggered off by zamfara state at that time. and decided to share. Excerpts below:

Q.  In spite of your advice that there should be caution about the sharia being implemented in zamfara state, the government there went ahead to launch it. How do you feel about this (now)?

I will say it is a welcome development. My caution has been that one should understand the sharia to be in the last series of forces in the establishment of Islam. sharia is a code of life which makes law on all aspects of human endeavor. It should not be narrowed to a sort of punishment. That sort of law envisages that an environment has already been created which is conducive for the application of the sharia. It means that the environment is already clean and the laws are there to protect the ills from coming back.

Q. Do we have that kind of environment in Nigeria now?

That is why we always say that it looks like what is supposed to come last is being brought to be the first step. However, I know, for sure, that when they go ahead they would come to terms with reality.

Q. what sort of reality do you mean?

Well, in the process, they might find that, one, people need to be educated and that, two, an Islamic environment has to be created and that a balanced and egalitarian society has to be there. It is like zamfara is starting a building not from the foundation.  When the building collapses, you will now have to understand that you have to start from the beginning. However, this is a beginning of the process. At least, it has created awareness; the yearning of the people has been for the first time been addressed. But we have a long way to go before the people will be satisfied.

Q. Some of the comments you have made in the (recent) past show that you are worried about something. What exactly are you worried about?

Here, the Nigerian society can be likened to the Meccan society of those days, where we ought to address the issue of faith first and follow the same process until a pure environment is created. Then laws will come to safeguard that pure atmosphere. But now, it seems people think the wisdom behind the Islamic law is to come and clean an impure society by imposing punishment on offenders. That is wrong. The Islamic laws are there to safeguard the purity of the society which has already been purified, so that it is not spoiled again. And the verse of Quran says “do not spoil the earth after it has been repaired’….So, the wisdom behind the sharia law is to safeguard the society which has already been purified. You cannot expect the Islamic law to work under a system which is contrary to it. All right? Here, we already have a law….

Q. The constitution you mean?

Yeah, which surpasses all laws and that law is not Islamic. In any case, even if you don’t understand, at least there is one question which each and everyone can answer. Simple. Is the government Islamic? Zamfara or any other? The answer is no. All right. How do you expect a government which is not Islamic to operate an Islamic law and Islamic legal system? Islamic legal system should be operated by an Islamic government in an Islamic environment after an Islamic atmosphere has been created.

Q. Critics of the introduction of sharia have been saying that this may just be an instrument being used to destabilize the nation.

No, not at all. Majority of people misconstrue what sharia is or what Islam is. A lot of people just don’t understand what Islam is. I feel that there should be some steps towards enlightening and educating the general public about what Islam is all about.

Q. Is sharia really feasible in Nigeria, with its multi-ethnic and multi-religious nature at the moment?

Now, what is sharia as it is known by Islamic scholars and what is sharia as it is being talked about and being applied in zamfara? The two seem to be different. In any case, if you like, you can give a word any meaning you so wish, if that is what they consider to be sharia, (it is) certainly possible to be applied given the present circumstances, but it is not meant to, because the law is supposed to be part of a complete whole. You should not take one per cent and proclaim that you have done the remaining 99 per cent.

Q. But is the sharia feasible with the Nigerian reality-given the constitution? Are we not going to be creating crisis?

There will be some conflicts. That is why I said it might be the beginning of the conflict which may culminate in the establishment of the true Islamic state. At least, the people have been yearning for it, ever since they were defeated by the British colonialists. We had Islam governing our lives before the colonialists came. They defeated us with their weapons of mass destruction and then imposed their own system of life upon us. And it has been our yearning to realize what we lost, for the last one century which is about to end now. So, this might be a sort of beginning of awareness. I am not saying that we have already got what we want. But it is sort of beginning.

Q. I have heard people saying  that, if care is not taken, this may also lead to dismemberment of the country based on religion……

well, as of now, one can say that the country consists of many nations.

Q. You mean we can say that?

Yeah, it is a political entity; it is a state with a federal government and a constitution. But if you look at the country as a whole, you will find out that there are many nations. Inside these nations, there are of course Muslim nations, which have always  been misconstrued to be called North, or Hausa, or sometimes, Hausa-Fulani. Words which do not have meanings to us. We are actually Muslims and that is how we see ourselves. Hausa is simply a language. And the Fulanis are among the different people. There are the Kanuris and the Nupes. They are all part of one single, cohesive nation, the Muslim nation. So far, to those of us who form this part of the Muslim nation, it has always been our yearning and aspiration to have Islam govern our lives. So, at the end of the day, we just have to have it with Nigeria or without Nigeria.

Q. Some people are saying we need state police, now that others are saying we need sharia, do you see this as part of the democratic environment for states to have their own code of laws governing them separate from federal constitutions?

Left for me, I would wish that those yearning for anything should take it at the wider level, so we may not end up having pockets of several countries at the end of the day…… if the struggle is taken at the wider level (national level), then we might be able to strike at some sort of compromise, with some concessions given to different areas to act according to their own ways but in harmony with the centre. Yeah, that would be a good idea. But this sort of confusion which has been created now centers around the understanding of the meaning of sharia, which zamfara state wants to apply.

Q. In fact it is not only Zamfara, it is spreading to other states in the North…..

Starting from Zamfara, it may spread and later on create that sort of demand at the national level to strike some sort of compromise.

Q. It may even be the beginning of a true federation that will satisfy the yearnings of the people?

Could be possible, I really wish that those who started it have started it at that national level rather than some sort of state level, in consultation with other Muslims. If they make one front to demand one thing, they will definitely get it. Even if they didn’t get the whole of it, they might get part of it.

Q. As an Islamic cleric, how do you react to people not known to be cleric’s championing the cause of sharia. The suggestion is that they are probably using religion to cover some of their own bad records. Can these people lead the struggle?

I don’t think they consider themselves as leading any struggle. For example, the governor of Zamfara state has declared times without number that he is obedient to the Nigerian constitution and he derives his authority from the Nigerian constitution. That he even derives the authority to apply sharia from the Nigerian constitution and he remains, so to speak, a secular politician because he was after all voted on the platform of the APP, and APP has nothing like Islam in its manifesto. This does not affect the struggling Muslims who have been known to be struggling and yearning for the establishment of a true Islamic (system) which I am fortunate to be part of. We are still doing our struggle. We only think that what the governments are now doing only adds some sort of upliftment to our struggle because now, for the first time, we are hearing secular politicians who hitherto used to tell us that politics and religion don’t mix (laughs), now, entering into our arena, by themselves saying that Islam should govern their people and that Islam and politics, in a way, they are not separable.

Q. If eventually we have a system whereby the sharia becomes predominant in the North, what will become the fate of the Christians?

I think you have to be very clear about one point. Don’t mix me up with what these governments are doing. My understanding of sharia is that it encompasses all. It governs the society. Even the governor, head of state has to be under sharia. Sharia is the law of God and it has to be above the law of man. The whole laws of the country, including the constitution, have to be under sharia.  So, even the Christians have to be under sharia. But if it is the sharia of Zamfara state, (he) can answer you better.

Q. You have argued that the way sharia is being implemented now, it could be abused by those in authority.

Yes, a sharia envisages a totally Islamic society which is pure and its leaders are knowledgeable and pious. If, in the present circumstances, sharia is limited to the courts of law where punishments will be prescribed for offenders, I am afraid that it might end up being the instrument in the hands of those in authority where they will put themselves above the sharia to oppress the talakawa (the masses).

Q. In Iran, after the revolution, it took some years before they started implementing sharia. So what are the stages under which sharia would come?

First of all, you must have an Islamic environment. Before you have an Islamic environment, you must have an Islamic government. Before you have that Islamic government, you have to remove unislamic government. The present government running the country, federal or state, is anything but Islamic, therefore, it has to be removed first….even when you have an Islamic government in power, it does not mean that overnight it will implement everything in the sharia. It will go about it bit by bit. Because that is how it came, even at the time of the prophet. When he established the Islamic state in medina, it was not immediately that all laws were applied. It took some time, some even in stages. One example which is often given is eradication of alcoholic drinks, which came in stages. If you have some social ills, you don’t remove them by law. For example, if people are unemployed, you don’t make law and say therefore anybody who is caught and is not employed would be punished. You have to provide jobs first for people. When there is no reason for someone to become idle, then being idle becomes a crime. Similarly, if you have prostitutes, you don’t say that overnight, there should be no prostitutes. You provide a situation whereby there would be no prostitution, and then prostitution will be criminal. Under the present circumstances, people are forced to steal because the society chastises them and forces them to look for what to eat and that might even lead them to committing some crime. If you say now you will punish them for what you have forced them to do, it is nothing but oppression.

Culled from Tell Magazine (By Danlami Nmodu) November 15, 1999

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