By Tola Adeniyi
I was named Muhammadu Saheed on the 8th day of my birth. I was boarded in a Quran school at age 4 and graduated at age 10 with a talk-of-the-town Wolimat ceremony in Ago-Iwoye. I have also had the privilege of performing the Hadj in Mecca and Medina a number of times. My great grandfather, my grandfather and my father were ardent Muslims. It is therefore safe to conclude that I am not a stranger to Islam, the Holy Quran and the Hadith. King Henry 8th of Britain was not impressed with the choking command and controls in the affairs of its adherents especially its intrusion in the affairs of the Monarchy. Pronto, the King severed relations with Rome and the Anglican Church was born. John Wesley felt the same way and parted ways with Rome to found the Methodist Church. Martin Luther followed suit. Britain even went further to create her own version of the Holy Bible!
In Nigeria, some Church elders in Abeokuta felt the same way and went ahead to found the African Church. And following that tradition Babalola, Oschoffa, Ositelu, Fadayomi, Abiara and others established their own brands of Christianity freeing themselves from the overbearing posture of the traditional Churches. The US created her own bread-and-butter brand of Christianity which has spread like wild fire in brain-washed African countries. Unfortunately, and that is the core issue in this article, some clever guys had successfully devised ploys to make Islam appear as their property and have equally succeeded in converting the very beautiful religion to a political tool. Those clever guys have also succeeded in marrying religion with Monarchy as it was done in the olden days and thereby made the Monarch both a titular ruler and spiritual father in all matters even outside the tenets of Islam.
For the records, it needs be repeated that Islam came to Nigeria in the 11th Century hundreds of years before Uthman Dan Fodiyo and his father and grandfather were born. In Yoruba land according to the research of Emeritus Professor Wande Abimbola, Islam was brought to Nigeria through inter-relations with the old Mali Empire. This is why the religion of Islam was code named Esin Mali (the religion of Mali) which was later corrupted to Esin Imale. We had Muslims in the Orile Iwoye my ancestral homestead long before 16th Century. The Ancestors of Onihale family in Ago-Iwoye were known to have journeyed to Mecca in 17th Century long before producing world renowned Islamic legends like Arikewuyo, Aroworamimo, Parakoyi and others.
Muslims in Yoruba land and indeed in Borno region of Nigeria do not and should not owe allegiance to any self-styled Islamic authority anywhere in Nigeria. I have given serious thought to the so-called Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs which to all purposes and intents is a purely political outfit. And a very peculiar outfit for that matter where the headship is never contested and office holders hold office in perpetuity. It has always been a for-life appointment. Islam was not founded in Sokoto or by the Caliphate in Nigeria. And in any case the Chief Imam of every town should be the leading authority on Islam in that town, city or village. The traditional ruler of such a town even if he is a Muslim has no right to claim that he is the superior authority on Islamic matters. When it comes to the issue of Sharia, its interpretations and application, it is the Grand Khadi who holds the authority.
Islam has been used as a weapon of internal imperialism in Nigeria. It was Islam, backed with Military force that was used to conquer and subjugate the Hausa and other ethnic nationalities in the North and it was the same technique that was deployed to subdue the Yoruba in Ilorin and brought the ancient Yoruba town under the Emirate. NASFAT and NACOMYO should lead their organizations and give them the same authority on Islamic affairs independent of any interference from any outside quarters whatsoever.
If the Yoruba wish to combine their Islam with the Monarchy they should therefore go ahead to make the Awujale, the Alaafin or the Soun the Supreme Head of their religion/faith in their respective kingdoms. Muslims in Yoruba land or in any other part of Nigeria for that matter do not, should not and must not owe allegiance to any other Muslim in the country. Islam is a religion noted for its doctrine of equality before Allah. The very worthy religion does not preach subservience to anybody. In Islam there are no special pews or benches or chairs reserved for dignitaries. Worshippers fall in line as they enter the Mosque or any prayer ground and no big man or big woman is accorded any special preference.
It is the internal imperialism of Islam in political and secular matters that always imposed the position of number 1 Monarch to the Sultan anytime there is a meeting of the National Council of Traditional Rulers. In the Council of Traditional Rulers every Monarch is number 1 in his Kingdom. No more no less. If for historical considerations some cultures grade their Monarchs, that peculiarity should be theirs to sort out. Islam should not be used to subjugate the Kafanchan or Sango Kataf people who are predominantly Christians. It is my hope and prayer that all non-Islamic people who are currently put under the control and rulership of heavily turbaned Emirs shall be free someday to live in accordance with their cherished cultures and traditions.
England won her freedom from Rome so did the US and other societies that were subjected to the dictates of Catholicism. It was the same way that some Yoruba elders freed themselves from the British Churches and founded their own brands of Christianity and modes of worship that suited their cultural peculiarities. While Islam remains largely guided by one Creed, there is no justification for it to hide under one finger and make itself an imperialist and colonising entity. The Yoruba Muslims must henceforth listen to the Alaafin, Awujale, the Soun and any other Muslim Kings in their domain. The Yoruba Muslims are not inferior to any other Muslims in the world and should not accept to take the back seat in all matters concerning their faith. The Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs is a political outfit living in the moon!
• Chief Adeniyi is a veteran journalist