Good morning, Abusuapanin. It's with a heavy heart I lift my pen to write to you this week. Like all true Muslims, my heart is saddened anytime I hear non-Muslims ignorantly refer to Islam as a violent religion due to the actions of a few miscreants. I therefore feel duty-bound to discuss the Boko Haram issue today.
As the Holy Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) puts it, 'Whoever sees a wrong doing, should correct it with his hand (those invested with power or authority). If he is not capable of that, he should correct it with his tongue (talking or writing about it). If he is still not capable by this means, he should correct it with his heart (be worried and feel sad about it) and this (the last one), is the weakest of faith'- Muslim.
Belonging to the second group as categorised by the Holy Prophet (PBUH), I just cannot shirk my responsibility of correcting some misconceptions about my faith, as a result of the actions of a recalcitrant few. After all, keeping mute over the issue would be tantamount to betraying my faith.
The group under discussion today calls itself 'Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati Wal-jihad' (The Congregation of the People of Tradition for Propagation and Jihad), known by its Hausa name Boko Haram, figuratively meaning “Western education is sinful”. It is a terrorist organisation based in northeastern Nigeria, north Cameroun and Niger. Founded by Mohammed Yusuf in 2002, the organisation seeks to establish a 'pure' Islamic state in Nigeria, with the sole intention of stopping westernisation. Ironically, the man who started the crusade against western education in Nigeria is himself very educated and is said to hold a masters degree from a western university.
The group is known for attacking churches, schools and police stations. The group also kidnaps western terrorists and has even assassinated fellow Muslims who have dared to criticise their actions. The Boko Haram insurgency has resulted in an estimated 10,000 deaths between 2002 and 2013. Their most recent attack was the kidnapping of over 200 girls, which has attracted a lot of uproar across the globe.
The word 'jihad' takes its root from the Islamic word 'jahada' meaning 'to strive'. So, any positive effort one makes is jihad. Taking care of one's family, helping the poor and the needy in society, and preaching against evil and encouraging virtue are all forms of jihad.
With this background information, any objective person can tell the word 'jihad' is being misused by groups such as Boko Haram.
Unfortunately, the abuse of the word by these groups has given, and continues to give, Islam, a religion of peace, a very bad image.
Contrary to the Boko Haram philosophy, Islam does not abhor the acquisition of any kind of knowledge. It rather encourages its members to seek knowledge because knowledge is power. “The acquisition of knowledge is incumbent upon every Muslim, male and female,” Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). He is also on record to have said that Muslims should seek knowledge even as far as China.
Obviously, a religion that frowns on the acquisition of knowledge would not encourage its membership to go to the Far East, if possible, to seek knowledge. Bokom Haram's principle of demonising western education is therefore not only fallacious, but also contradictory to the tenets of the very faith they profess to practice and love.
Following the abduction of the girls, it is not uncommon to hear people say Muslims are coercing people to convert to Islam. But what they do not know, or refuse to acknowledge, is the fact that the actions of Boko Haram are anti-Islamic. For the Quran says in 2:256, “Let there be no compulsion in religion.” In other words, everyone must be allowed to practise his religion of choice.
Moreover, that argument falls flat on the face when one looks at the statistics around the world. Islam is said to be the fastest growing religion in the world. CNN and the Guinness Book of World Records have statistics to back this fact. I therefore ask; who is forcing people in America and Europe to convert to Islam?
For sure, Islam is a very peaceful religion and does not encourage violence. It also encourages the acquisition of knowledge, contrary to what Boko Haram preaches. But like any religion, it is tainted by the actions of a miscreant few, like Boko Haram.
It is therefore incumbent upon all Muslims living everywhere to make sure the true voice of Islam is heard. Those of us in the majority should not allow the minority's voice to hold sway on such an important matter. Let's speak now lest we risk allowing the radicals to continue dragging the name of such a peaceful faith into the mud. Let the true voice of Islam be heard, my fellow Muslims! Wassalaam!
See you next week for another konkonsa, Deo volente!