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Ramadan: Muslim clerics speak on tolerance as bedrock for peaceful coexistence

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‘Whoever Overcomes Provocation Is A True Muslim And That Is Exactly What Islam Teaches Us And Not The Other Way Round’
As the hostility and terror unleashed by some Muslim extremists on their fellowmen continue unabated across the globe, any avenue for preaching and fostering good neighbourliness among the people would no doubt be welcome. So, as Nigerian Muslims join their counterparts all over the globe to observe the month of Ramadan, a period when the faithful are expected to fast and pray, not only for themselves, but also for the good of their fellowmen and the world, it becomes pertinent to ask Muslim clerics how they intend using the period to enlighten members more on the need for peaceful co-existence and tolerance, especially with non-Muslims. Is there any portion of the Qur’an that advocates jungle justice? What more can Muslim leaders do to preach the real Islam so that the radicals can see the light and sheath their swords and agitations? CHRIS IREKAMBA and ANN GODWIN report.

‘There Is No ‘Jungle Justice’ In Islam’
(Ustaz Taofeek Yusuf Eniafe, Chief Imam of Anu Oluwapo, Orile, Oshodi, Lagos)
Ramadan teaches us how to tolerate one another irrespective of religion, tribe or social status. According to the holy Prophet Mohammed (may peace be upon him) a Muslim is a brother to a Muslim brother no matter your tribe, status in life or your religion. What I mean by religion is that a Christian is a human being, just as pagans are also human beings. The way and manner we practise the teachings of Holy Qur’an is capable of making others accept or reject Islam.

So, if we practise it well, it can make others who are not Muslims embrace Islam. We need to tolerate one another and coexist with others peacefully. Again, the holy Prophet says that when a Muslim is fasting and somebody slaps him, he needn’t retaliate. All he needs to say is anasahim. This means that it is not only during Ramadan that Muslims are expected to tolerate others, but that even after the period, the teachings are still relevant and should continue. We are expected to regularly practise the teachings, as well as tolerate one another because you cannot solve every matter by fighting or quarreling.

Prophet Mohammed also teaches us that we shouldn’t regard someone, who fought four people simultaneously as powerful. He’s not. A powerful person is he, who in the face of provocation endures everything. So, whoever overcomes provocation is a true Muslim and that is exactly what Islam teaches us and not the other way round. Islam is a peaceful religion. We don’t have ‘jungle justice’ in Islam, which preaches peace. But if somebody says there is jungle justice in Islam, it means there is something in his blood; such is not the true teaching of Islam. If you follow what I have said from the beginning, you will see that Islam teaches peace, if the faithful obey the teachings of Qur’an and Prophet Mohammed. There is a place of endurance and tolerance.

That woman’s heart (referring to Mrs. Bridget Agbaheme that was killed in Kano) might have been won just by showing love and understanding. Everything is not by fighting. If only they had taken time to enlighten her on what ablution means. All that we need is enlightenment. We human beings are bound to be ignorant of one thing or the other. An individual cannot know everything, but if she had been enlightened, she might have given it a second thought. What I don’t know, I won’t fight for it.

We Muslims should always ask ourselves one question: ‘This thing I’m about to do, is it in the Holy Qur’an?’ If it is not there in the Suna, it means you are on your own. The holy Prophet said: ‘I left two things for you and whoever sticks to it, will never go astray.’ One is the Holy Qur’an and the other is the holy Prophet’s teaching.

During the holy Prophet’s life, he never forced his religion on anybody. And if anyone says the holy Prophet fought a war, he should tell us how he fought that war. The war was not fought because he wanted to force his religion on people. He did not start the war, rather, the pagans started the war and their aim was to kill the religion. But he explained to them the truth about his religion.

Actually, there is no difference between Muslims in the South and those in the North. There is no difference in the way we worship and embrace our God. But before Islam came to us here, the Northern brethren had received it before us. And there is difference in the two cultures. For instance, here in the south, we prostrate ourselves, when greeting our elders. But over there, they can just greet elderly ones by saying ran ka’ade or salam alaikun just with the wave of the hand and they go their way. That is their culture and they are born that way.

Education is another factor. When somebody is learned, his orientation and way of life, as well as understanding of issues are bound to be different compared to the unlearned. And I should blame the government for not doing enough in this regard. For instance, you cannot compare somebody, who has gone through the four walls of a university with a school certificate holder. The university graduate has mixed with people from different backgrounds and other cultures; so his way of reasoning has changed significantly. His perspective to things has changed. These are some of the things that help one to tolerate other people.

There is a portion in the Qur’an that says ‘don’t kill that animal that you cannot create.’ The scripture is not referring to a physical animal per se, but to a human being with flesh and blood. So, it is inhuman for somebody to kill another person. Killing is not part of the Qur’an or teaching of the holy Prophet Mohammed (may peace be on him)

Now all Islamic teachings are geared towards changing people from their old habit and once you are renewed, you are expected to continue in that newness of life. So, what Prophet Mohammed is telling us is that, during the Ramadan period, we should become more righteous and get closer to Almighty Allah. During this one month, all we are trying to teach our members is to take correction, change and get closer to their Maker, but if after one month, we are still the same old person, then something is wrong.

There is a portion in the Qur’an that says ‘don’t kill that animal that you cannot create.’ The scripture is not referring to a physical animal per se, but to a human being with flesh and blood. So, it is inhuman for somebody to kill another person. Killing is not part of the Qur’an or teaching of the holy Prophet Mohammed (may peace be upon him). During this period, there will be a lot of preaching on TV, radio and even house-to-house lectures and such others. I am also going out with my members, as there will be so much to learn during this period of Ramadan that can change one.

The holy Prophet had an uncle that was responsible for training him, but the man wasn’t a Muslim. His name is Abutaliba. He was the one that brought up the holy Prophet. He was a pagan even up to his death. The Holy Prophet loved him so much and he preached to him several times, yet the man did not budge, and the holy Prophet did not kill him. If the holy Prophet had wanted to force Islam on him, he could have done it.

Finally, the Holy Prophet in one of his words said: “whoever kills with the sword will also be killed with the sword.” He said that unmistakably, God would make him to be killed by the sword. He is trying to tell us that fighting with the sword is not good.

‘The Prophet Never Trampled On Anybody’s Right’
(Imam Morufu Onike Abdul-Azeez, Deputy Chief Imam/Missionary, Nasrul-lahi-li Fathi Society of Nigeria (NASFAT), Headquarters)
WE have a role model to follow in the person of the holy Prophet Mohammed (may peace be upon him). He never embarked on jungle justice and the Qur’an never talked of jungle justice and even there is a particular principles in the Sharia law that is not available in the Common Law, which says, “it is better to allow the accused to go scot free than to punish an innocent one.

If the case is not clear, rather than punish an innocent person allow him to go. If he is an accused, there is no problem; if he is innocent there is no problem. If you want to punish him based on suspicion, you may end up punishing an innocent fellow.”

This period offers us more opportunity than any other in the sense that we are going to present a daily Quranic explanation of the Qur’an, and throughout the 30 days of Ramadan, Muslims will be listening to lectures. People are expected to understand their religion more and get closer to Allah. They will show forgiveness and love by blessing others with whatever they have. They will also exhibit brotherliness because of the amount of lectures they will be listening to during this time. Even non-Muslims will know that something is going on. Qur’an chapter 60 verse 8 says, “Though I have not commanded you to be unfair to those that have never offended you at all. Be fair to people.” It summarises our interrelationships with people of other religions, even with people of other tribes and our human relationship generally.

And the Prophet lived with non-Muslims in Medina. Non-Muslims visited him in his mosque and he interacted with them. He was not only a religious leader; he was in charge of Religious/Political Affairs in the Arabian Peninsula. If he were to be a tribalist, if he did not encourage human relationship, he wouldn’t have occupied that position. An American astrophysicist, Michael Hart, when he was listing the greatest people on earth mentioned the name of the holy Prophet. Hart was not a Muslim.

That somebody who was a religious leader and at the same time a political leader was able to combine the two without trampling on anybody’s right was, indeed, a feat. That tells you the type of person he was. Anybody can misunderstand anything. A lot of people talk to the sect instead of the sect talking to them. This happens in all religions. If I read The Guardian with prejudice, whatever you write there will be dictated by that mindset. When you pick a particular material and you’ve got a particular mindset, your behavior and thinking will be dictated by the understanding of that text. Those of us promoting the religion are saying this is what the religion says, but those who want to call a dog a bad name keep on saying that it is the issue of religion.

I have said it several times that if anybody does something wrong, you don’t attach the issue of religion to it. Rather, call that individual by his name and not the religion he belongs. For instance, if an armed robber robs a particular place, he remains an armed robber; you don’t call him a Christian robber. A killer is a killer regardless of where he is coming from or his religion.

Qur’an enjoins good interfaith relationship, Q60: 8-9 “Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly.

Government should facilitate the teaching of religion, possibly comparative religion in our schools and let our children realise that there are area of similarities among the key religions in this country. Our judicial system also needs to be looked into. Our Creator, Who knows us very well, has recommended a particular legal system, but we choose to disobey. If any perpetrator of bad act knows the consequence of his actions, it will deter him and nobody will have the audacity to take the law into his hands.

A particular religion should not be made the weeping boy, as there is no group of people without its own bad eggs, so whatever any individual does, we should not always hurriedly conclude it is the teaching of his religion. It will be unfair for any one to ascribe the act of Adolf Hitler, (a Roman Catholic), Charles Taylor (a Protestant), bin Laden (a Muslim) bombing and killing between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Island, etc., as the teachings of the characters’ religion.

‘Ramadan Reminds Muslims That They Can Live Peacefully With Others’
(Professor Dawud O. S. Noibi, Executive Secretary/CEO Muslim Ummah of South West Nigeria (MUSWEN)
QUR’AN chapter 2 verse 183, where Allah prescribed fasting as an obligation for Muslims, tells us the reason at the end of that verse, when it says that the purpose is for us to restrain from evil, learn God’s consciousness and learn to be God- fearing. The whole idea of fasting is to teach us self-control and self-restraint, as well as the consciousness that we are under God’s surveillance. Our actions, even our thoughts are being monitored; we are always in the full presence of God. That is the main purpose of fasting, which also reminds us of the fact that the whole of the Qur’an itself is to guide human beings so that we might live according to His will. Just like Jesus taught His followers to say the Lord’s Prayer that thy will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven. This is same message that we have in the Qur’an, which is the whole idea of God’s consciousness. As we embark upon fasting, we are conscious of the fact that even when men’s eyes don’t see us, His eyes see us. This prevents us from hiding somewhere to break the fast. That God-consciousness is supposed to continue even after the Ramadan. So, between one Ramadan and another, that consciousness will guide us in every sphere of life whether spiritual, economic, political or social. Therefore, religious leaders have a duty to remind their followers of the fact that fasting is not just a physical exercise, but also a spiritual and moral one.

With regards to living peacefully with others, Prophet Mohammed (peace be on Him) advised fasting Muslims to say to anyone trying to provoke them: ‘I am fasting.’ In other words, they should not respond angrily, rather, they should exercise a great deal of patience because fasting period is to train the human soul. Therefore, the fasting period is one that reminds Muslims of that responsibility of being in peaceful relationship with all God’s creatures so that we can live, as the Qur’an admonishes us to do. And so, it should not end with the fasting period. So when you fast during this Ramadan period, be conscious of the purpose for which Allah wants you to fast. God will forgive your sins, that is why the Prophet said, “From between one Ramadan and another, whatever sin one may have committed, if one fasted correctly and as he should, then, there’s hope of renewal and forgiveness of the past sins, if one did not deliberately do evil. For this reason, it is expected that those who understand the purpose of fasting will live a better life privately, as well as their relationship with other people, including Muslims and non-Muslims.

You are right by saying that many people do not follow these teachings, but how many adherents of all religions, who claim that they are adherents of these religions, really understand and practise the teachings of the religion they profess. In the first place, there is no provision to ensure that schoolchildren understand the teachings of their religions as much as those that provided school curriculum want them to understand English, Mathematics and the Sciences. The kind of efforts that government, teachers and other stakeholders make to actually get this message of the secular education through children’s minds are not being made towards making the children understand the spirituality and morality that religions teach. And so, we end up training children that become clever devils, as religion is relegated to the background.‘To Trespass Into Another’s Property To Perform Ablution Without Permission Is Wrong’

JUNGLE justice! That is probably the worst specie of injustice. And the Holy Qur’an repeatedly condemns it in the strongest terms, whether it is against human beings or even animals.

Where two parties dispute or fight, the Qur’an makes it obligatory for an arbiter to hear from both sides before delivering judgment or verdict. Simply put, verdict or judgment must be preceded by hearing and trial, which process totally precludes jungle justice.

Even at that, the Qur’an insists that the judgment must be based on the guidance and laws (shariah), as set out by Allah. Any judgment outside that is not only null and void, the judge or arbiter is declared an unbeliever, a polytheist and wrong-doer.

“And whosoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed, such are the zalimun (polytheists, wrongdoers)” Q5: 45.It follows also that Islam unequivocally condemns the killing of the innocent, be he Muslim or non-Muslim. In fact, the Qur’an puts the gravity of such killing this way: the killing of an innocent being is as heavy a crime as the killing of the entire human race; likewise, saving a soul is equivalent to saving the entire mankind.

Besides, in his soul-inspiring sermon at Mount Arafat during his last hajj, Prophet Muhammad warned against wanton killing of any human being. He said that the life and property of the Muslim and non-Muslim is sacred.

The property must not be usurped in anyway. You cannot touch, tamper or access it without the willing permission of its owner.Therefore, to trespass into another’s property whether to perform ablution or even to pray without the permission of the property owner is wrong and bad enough. To also kill the owner for refusing to allow the trespass was a heinous crime. It violently violates all the laws and regulations of the shariah.

The rampant killings, especially in the Northern parts of the country, can be put down to abject ignorance or misinterpretation of the pristine message of the Qur’an. Lack of education, proper home education that is, is another major factor. When parents abandon their children at tender ages, they expose the kids to the negative street wisdom of false religious teachers.

The solution lies in what I may describe as integrated education approach. Majority of parents need adult education, both Islamic education which they value, and the so-called Western education, which they largely despise.

Government should then complement the efforts by ensuring that all children are in school, which should include craft or skill acquisition institutions. The final segment of the integrated approach is that government should create necessary environment for industries to thrive. These will provide job opportunities for all levels of beneficiaries of this education policy or programme.

This way, preachers of distorted Islamic teachings will have been denied the rich pool of unguided and misguided street kids. Muslims must embrace peace, preach peace and go to lengths to promote and where practicable, enforce peace. To do otherwise is to negate all that the Ramadan stands for.


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