Respected Islamic Cleric, Sheikh Ahmed Abubakar Mahmud Gumi has stated that the world’s most wanted terrorist Abubakar Shekau is in need of psychiatric evaluation for fancying himself the leader of the Muslim community.
He made the remarks in an interview obtained from SUN.
From the Islamic point of view, does Shekau reflect how a Muslim leader should act and behave?
First of all, Islam does not recognise sects. In Islam, there is nothing like sects. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said those who divide their religion and break into sects, he will have nothing to do with them. So Islam has no sectarian division and it has no sectarian leadership. So, that he even belongs to a sect, has already gone against Islam. But nevertheless, if people formed sect out of Islam, they will definitely have leaders. The next thing to look at is whether what they are doing, they believe in them, and whether those things conform to the mainstream Islam. If it does, then it can be tolerated as an Islamic group. But if it doesn’t conform to the general Islamic mainstream beliefs and actions, then it should be castigated and be termed erratic by the Muslims.
From your analysis, can we now say what Shekau is doing is in line with the tenets of Islam?
What they are doing is not in line with the tenets of Islam, for the simple reason that Muslims have been living in this country for more than 900 years. Islam was here before the nation Nigeria was created. Islam was here before Christianity came in. Christianity is just about 170 years old and Islam has 900 years in this country. What these people are doing is completely strange in our environment here, it is not known to us. In fact, this is really the question: Are they doing what Islam says? Because they are doing what nobody has ever done.
So, Islam is like the cloud, the Arab adage says the barking of the dog does not affect the cloud in the sky. You can come and say I am a Muslim, or I am this, I am that and do whatever you want. You cannot still dent the image of Islam, because Islam has already defined what Islam is in terms of even space and time.
The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) has said the best people of Islam are the first three generations. After the first 300 years, the Prophet said Muslims will start changing the religion and start committing atrocities. The pure and clean Islam is the first 300 years of Islam and this is where we take our example, we don’t take examples from people now. Also, if you look at people and you say you want to take Christianity from the people of the today, well you would be lost. I’m just reading a story where a pastor in Kenya was sleeping with somebody’s wife. Is that Christianity? No, it is not, but they do it. If you take example of bad leadership or governance all over the nation, you will say ‘okay, the democracy is not working.’ But that is not true. It is the practitioners that are not doing it well. If you go to the hospitals, you will see quacks and you will say modern medicine is rubbish, but no, it is not rubbish, it is the doctors or the nurses that are quacks. So, nobody can dent the image of Islam by his practice. If you want to know Islam, go back to the first three generations of Islam, this is what defines Islam and all these kinds of atrocities have never come. Allah has said Islam is a religion of mercy. And Allah’s word will always come to pass.
Okay, what does Islam say about constituted authority, vis-à-vis Shekau’s pronouncements that he is the leader of the world, Jonathan is this, Obama is that and so forth?
Islam recognises constituted authority, and it said you should never take the law into your hands. Even if you see somebody who killed your own father, you should not kill him. You should follow the due process. In Islam, nobody is allowed to take law into his hands. Nobody is allowed to declare Jihad. Nobody is allowed to cut the hands of thieves. It has to be the State that will do that. Islam believes so much in the State that it does not allow sectarian differences and revolt and insurgency against the State, the Islamic State.
We know Nigeria is not an Islamic State, but what does Islam say about sanctity of women and children in times of war?
Not only women and children, it is sanctity of all souls, men, women, children and even households. Islam fights only the fighters, the man with the sword or the gun, and even at that, you don’t kill a man who already surrendered his weapons. In fact, they said the nucleus of the modern army was created by the Muslims. It is there in the Encyclopaedia, because the early Muslims created the rules of engagement: You don’t kill animals, you don’t destroy trees, you don’t kill women, and it is there in the Islamic literature.
In that case, can one in all honesty say that what Shekau is doing does not reflect the true teachings of Islam?
No, it does not reflect Islam because I have told you that Islam is only confined to the first three generations. Anything can come after that. Abducting innocent children, forcing them to convert to Islam does not reflect Islam. Nobody is forced to adopt Islam and, in Islam, if an under-aged person will accept Islam voluntarily without force or coercion, scholars said, the permission of his parents should be sought, because as an under-aged person, his mental capacity is not strong enough, to be able to comprehend religion and to decide for himself/herself. So, his/her decision is like no decision. Therefore, the question of forcing her/him to become a Muslim is out of question completely. Not even adults are forced into religion. What confirms this is that Islam came when the warriors were fighting. So, it brought the world into order. Islam left the Jews as Jews and the Christians as Christians. The fact is even in the literatures, the Jews were saying, ‘what they found when they were under the Islamic rule in Spain, they had a better treatment than when the Christians took over.’ It is there in the literature. Islam never forced Jews to become Muslims or Christians to become Muslims. Everybody was left with his own religion.
To you, your own religion. To me, my own religion. There is no force in Islam. In fact, the Qur’an is categorical and the Sunnah is categorical about it and the practices of the Muslims through the generations are all there for everyone to see. If you go to Egypt now, you will find a church that is older than Islam and Arab conquest of Egypt standing up till now. A church that was there even before the Muslims came. So, if Muslims forced people to convert, there won’t be any church left in Egypt. So, there is no compulsion in Islam, because the religion of Islam allows people to contemplate, to reason, so that they adopt voluntarily.
In fact, the desert Arabs came to the Prophet, they expected him to show gratitude for their entry into Islam, they came to show that they have faith in Islam, and the Prophet said, ‘No, don’t say we have faith in religion, just say, we have submitted to Islam and when you submit to Islam, it is different from having faith in it, so submission subjects you to be part of the Muslim community, but does not mean that, you are truly faithful, because only the faithful will make Paradise on the Day of Judgement.’
So, what is your take on the claim by Shekau of being the leader of Islamic world?
I have seen a man walking on the street, saying he is Jesus Christ, what would you say of that man? You will take him to a psychiatric hospital, because there is a sickness that affects people and they start claiming impossible positions. They become megalomaniac, they like to be big, they like to appear clean. It is prophesied that the Muslims will divide more than the Christians and the Christians will divide more than the Jews. There are more Christian sects than Jew sects and there would be more Muslim sects than the Christian sects. It is the prophecy of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), that people will multiply like amoeba and there will be a time when there will be no leader of Islam. The Muslim world has no leader now, just like the Christian world has no leader. The Pope is just for the Catholics. If you go to England, it is Anglican Church, Baptist. So, who is the leader of the Christian world? Nobody. Maybe Pope has more followers, but if you combine all non-Catholic Christians, they are more than the Catholics. Likewise the Muslim world has no leader.
Allah himself put an end to religious leadership. It was Allah himself who destroyed them, because when we have authority in the name of God, they misuse it and suppress others. So, Allah decided to destroy all the religious kingdoms, the Christendom, the Caliphates are all destroyed by God because of the inequities of man, whom when given power, he suppresses others. But Allah will not allow for His name to be used for suppression of human beings. So, nobody can come and claim that he is the leader of the Muslims. There is no such leader. We had it in the first three generations, but now, there is no more. He can say, ‘I am the leader of my own sect,’ but not leader of Islam or Muslims. No, nobody can claim that.
Before now, do you know Shekau himself?
I never knew him at all. He is a man from Borno State, but I never knew him at all. I just see him in the video, like everybody. But, usually, those who preach Islam attain good scholarship, they study in reputable institutions and under recognised scholars and so on. People who preach Islam usually rise through the ranks. Suddenly, someone who is not known to be involved in the Da’wah (Islamic preaching), who is not known to have studied under any reputable Islamic school. Maybe he just memorised the Qur’an and some Hadiths (sayings of the prophet) and suddenly appears and said, ‘I am the leader of all.’ This raises a big question mark.
You will find out that students who studied deeply will not do this. No student who studied Islam deeply will do this, because the first thing is that, once he starts bringing out eccentric ideas, the first question to ask is, who taught him that? Who is his teacher? But when you don’t have a teacher, I think you are liable to create confusion. So, in Islam, the first question we ask is, who taught him that? Who said that or did that before him? So, you don’t just come out and say, ‘I am learned’ and you are recognised as a learned person. That is wrong.
But, have you ever heard about him before now?
I never heard anything about him. I only heard about him when they said Mohammed Yusuf was killed and his second-in-command is so, and so person. That was the first time we heard about him. We never knew him before. He is not even known in the circle of students of fields of knowledge, not in the circle of preachers, not in the circle of scholars. You know, there are lots of Islamic missionary activities going on. Preaching: He is not among the scholars. There are lots of schools: He is not among the recognised students. We don’t know him at all.
What about Mohammed Yusuf?
No! Mohammed Yusuf is known as a student of Sheikh Ja’afar, but this one, we don’t know him.
In that case, what should Muslims who don’t believe in activities of Shekau do in the face of the hostility against Islam and Muslims, due to his activities?
Muslims are expected not to take the law into their hands. Let the constituted authority deal with him. This is the right thing for Muslims to do. Don’t take laws into your hands. Let the constituted authority deal with him. It is the responsibility of the constituted authority to deal with the situation. This is what the Americans did in Afghanistan when the Russians installed a Communist government, Mujeebullah in Kabul, the Americans gathered Mujahideens, not a government; crooks under different headings, using Islamic banner to fight Mujeebullah, which they did for 13 years of serious loss and war. Now, these same groups have started fighting each other, which culminated in the appearance of the Taliban. And till date, they are still spilling blood in Afghanistan from this action. So, when you encourage people to take weapons, scattered, not under an authority. This is the result you have. So, Muslims should look up to the constituted authority, the government to tackle the issue.
Many believed that Muslim Leaders in the country have not done much to stop Shekau and his group, what is your take on this?
But the question is, why was the government not tackling the issue and now throwing it to the Muslims? How can somebody take weapon against the State, killing innocent people, attacking villages, then, some people expect Muslim scholars to be speaking, speaking for what? If they speak, then they become target for elimination, like the case of Al-Bani (in Zaria, who was allegedly killed by Boko Haram members), because they spoke. It is the government that should tackle this issue head on. But, when you realise that your government is only deceiving you, it is not doing anything, you become helpless too.
In fact, they want to turn the table round and start accusing Islamic scholars of all these (atrocities) now. If you don’t do your job and start accusing other people, it is most unfortunate. Islam says; ‘leave the authority to do it.’
The Prophet (Peace be upon him) is the father of Islam, he predicted that such kind of people will come out, but he said, the authorities are the ones to deal with them mercilessly, because whoever could take the souls of innocent people does not deserve to live.
On a final note sir, what is your message to the Muslims and non-Muslims in Nigeria?
Yes! When you say Nigeria, we are already bounded by covenant to stay together in peace, with everybody respecting each other and to help each other for the progress of the nation, so that everybody can live in peace and tranquility without necessarily denouncing religion or denouncing God.
So, I give my advice to Muslims and Christians to stay in peace, live together in harmony and let us respect each other’s rights and differences, right to propagate our respective religions, right to do business and right to be represented in all the government structures, civil and military, equal representation. No group should try to suppress the other group, everybody should be given equal proportion, so that there will be stability. If it has been like this, this Borno issue would not have happened. Just imagine, a village in Borno was able to repel the attack of Boko Haram, have you heard of that?
When this problem started, if the Army had considered Borno people or Borno Commander to tackle the issue, because it is a special case, special operation, where you need somebody who can speak Kanuri and Hausa so that they link, the issue would have been dead by now.
But when you take a Victor from Cross River to lead troops to Maiduguri to fight Boko Haram, they will say, ‘oh! True, true this is Muslims versus Christians,’ you see what happened. You have to be sensitive on how to deal with such issues. So, we should all stay in peace and we pray to Allah that this problem will come to an end. We are also calling on Muslims and Christians to elect good leaders, leaders that will represent them, leaders that speak for them, leaders that have interest of the nation at heart, not those that are just concerned about their immediate families alone.