On Saturday, October 4, 2014, Muslims all over the world celebrated Eid-el-Kabir (feast of sacrifice), in commemoration of an incident in the life of Prophet Ibrahim.
ENCOMIUM Weekly was at the praying ground of Ahmadiyya Jamat-ul-Islamiyah, Ojokoro, Lagos, where we had an interview with the famous Islamic scholar, university don and public commentator, Dr. Saheed Timehin. He spoke on the significance of the festival and other issues, including Boko Haram insurgency.
Muslims all over the world are celebrating Eid-el-Kabir today, Saturday, October 4, 2014, but not everybody knows the significance of the festival. Can you shed light on this?
The festival is a commemoration of an incident in the life of a patriarch, Prophet Ibrahim (ASW), who incidentally holds a unique position among Allah’s prophets as recognized by the three major religions of the world. He is recognized by the Jews, Christians and Muslims as father of faith. He was reported to have lived for almost 100 years without any offspring. And Allah in His Infinite Mercies decided to give him a child, Ismael (ASW) after so many years. When Ismael grew up to a certain age, Prophet Ibrahim had a dream against the misconception somewhere that it was Ibrahim that promised Allah that if He gives him a child, he will sacrifice the child. That’s not the Islamic position.
According to the Qu’ran, Ibrahim just had a dream. It was not as if Allah sent any angel to Ibrahim to give him that revelation or instruction. He had a dream and saw himself slaughtering his son. But as a prophet, he knew that this was obviously of divine injunction. So, he called his son, Ismael and told him about the dream and asked, “My son, what do you see to it?” And the child responded, “Oh my father, do what you have been commanded to do.” He spoke further, “You will, by Allah’s grace find me as a person that will submit to you.” So, when they both submitted, the boy lied down for him. Prophet Ibrahim had not even attempted to slaughter Ismael but the moment Allah discovered they had both submitted to Him, Allah now said, “Ibrahim, you have fulfilled the dream. What we want you to slaughter had been slaughtered because what Allah really wanted him to slaughter was his love for the child. He wanted Ibrahim to sacrifice his love for his son. He wanted him to slaughter his attachment to his son because before he was given the child, he was attached to Allah alone. And when the child came, Ibrahim made him the apple of his eyes just like every other person would do. But still at that, he submitted to Allah’s injunction by accepting to slaughter him. But as Allah saw that he had made a practical demonstration of his willingness to give up the child for Allah, Allah now said he had fulfilled the dream.
It wasn’t divine intention that he should slaughter Ismael because human sacrifice had never been a practice among the revealed religions since the time of Adam (SAW). We all read about what happened in the days of Kabil and Abil (Cane and Abel). What they sacrificed then were animals and farm produce, not human because human sacrifice had never been an aspect in the religion of God. Allah only wanted to test Ibrahim’s love for Him, his commitment and devotion to Him. And Ibrahim performed brilliantly by submitting to Allah wholeheartedly.
So, what’s the significance of this to the Muslims of today?
We’re to see Ibrahim as a cosmic mirror before whom we will all stand to see to what extent we have been able to live in accordance with the teachings of Ibrahim (ASW). Ibrahim saw in his dream that he was slaughtering his son, he was confident enough to call his son and tell him what he saw in his dream. You dare not do that with a child of today. But Ibrahim was confident enough to do that because he had trained Ismael. He had taught him how to appreciate God and develop God’s consciousness. So, he wasn’t afraid of narrating his dream to Ismael.
As a Muslim, we should all ask ourselves how our homes look like. If we have any challenge on the path of Allah, will our children support us? Ismael could have protested his father’s will, being the only child. But for the fact that he had been trained by his father, he submitted totally. As a Muslim, when I submit to Allah, let anybody that also comes to my home submit.
A Muslim is a person who submits himself totally to Allah. So, if I submit, my wife and children should also follow. We should all be ready to serve Allah. Ibrahim was able to succeed in the supreme trial because his wife and son co-operated with him. If they hadn’t, he probably would have failed. He didn’t limit God to himself alone, he was able to globalise God within the home. He carried his family along, and they assisted him to make his task easier. Second, Prophet Muhammed (SAW) also told us that Eid-el-Kabir teaches us submission. When you slaughter a ram, cow or camel, what should be in your heart is as this animal is submitting to you, you should be entering into a new bond with Allah that “I am also submitting to Allah as this animal is submitting to me.” And that’s why Ali-Bu-Talib (RP), the fourth successor of Prophet Muhammed (SAW) was reported to have said, “When you’re slaughtering, you’re slaughtering your stubbornness, desires and everything rebellious in your nature to Allah. It’s not about just eating the flesh but it has a profound spiritual significance. That’s why Allah says in the Qu’ran neither the blood nor the meat reaches Allah but the piety with which we have done it.
But why is it that all you have explained now have not reflected in the lives of some Muslims in the country?
Prophet Muhammed (SAW) said, “Extreme poverty is very close to disbelief.” Extreme poverty can turn one to a criminal, even as a believer. The Nigerian governments have impoverished Nigerians and turned a lot of people into criminals. It’s John Lock that said every man is a potential criminal. The criminal instinct in a man is docile when society takes care of him, but when society doesn’t take care of him, he becomes an enemy of the society. That’s why we had a problem with the Niger-Delta boys, now it’s Boko Haram. It becomes easy for the devil to recruit people when people are dissatisfied. When people are suffering and can’t actualize their dreams within the place they call their country, they become enemies of their own society. That’s why criminal activities are referred to as anti-social acts. You become an enemy of society because that society has no programme for you. The situation in Nigeria now is that religion has not been given its proper place. We only use it to exploit and extort people. And people commit a lot of atrocities in the name of religion. We have a lot of politicians in cleric garbs, a lot of clerics who do not care at all about the teachings of their faith but what goes into their pockets. But what do we have today, we have a society that has no direction. That’s exactly why we have a lot of problems in the country.
Boko Haram insurgency has become confusing and perhaps larger than the government itself…
(Cuts in) Honestly, there is nothing confusing about Boko Haram, what’s confusing is the attitude of government. The government has not told us the truth about Boko Haram. This organization you’re talking about call them Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’Awati Wal-jihad started in the early 70s. They didn’t start killing until 2007. But when politicians started using them as political thugs, all of a sudden, we have what’s now called Boko Haram. Since the 70s, they have been existing, preaching the same ideology, but now the question is, “Who armed them?” Politicians gave them all sorts of arms, and they started killing. We thought we were done with Boko Haram in 2009, when Muhammed Yusuf was caught. But he was killed extra-judicially because they didn’t want him to expose the politicians involved. In the North-East, the governors are those who armed them. So, you can discern the political agenda involved in the issue of Boko Haram. Though, Boko Haram may have been hijacked by more sophisticated groups with much more bigger agenda than that of Boko Haram’s, only God knows. But if they had nibbed Boko Haram in the bud at the initial stage, it shouldn’t have grown to this scale. For example, Nigerian government has not prosecuted the policeman who killed Muhammed Yusuf extra-judicially. If he had not been killed, he should have been taken to court. With that, I believe we would have had an opportunity of knowing the people behind Boko Haram. But here in Nigeria, anything can happen. When the Boko Haram insurgents started, they started attacking only police stations and headquarters, why? It’s because at that time, they felt the police killed their leader. But at a point, they went haywire because people with selfish agenda decided to use them. Then, they started killing Christians and Muslim. So many popular preachers in the North were killed.
A lot of places have been bombed and many lives and property destroyed. If they are Muslims as they claim, they won’t kill their fellow Muslims. Allah says in the Qu’ran that whoever deliberately kills a believer would surely end up in hell fire. If they are what they call themselves and they know what the Qu’ran says, and they are still doing what they are doing, that means they can’t be called Muslims. Even the Qu’ran doesn’t allow the killing of non-Muslims. They have gone ahead, killing Christians and Muslims. Even Prophet Muhammed (SAW) says even under an Islamic government, whoever causes harm to a protected person either a Christian or Jew under an Islamic government has caused harm to me. And whoever causes harm to me, I will dispute him on the day of judgement.
So, on both camps, they are wrong. But the fact is it’s a universal phenomenon, just as Joseph Kony is doing in Uganda and Kenya, killing Muslims because he started what’s called the Lord’s Resistant Army over 30 years ago. He said he wants the government of Uganda to come back to ruling with the 10 commandments, just like the Boko Haram insurgents are claiming to be fighting for Sharia. All these are political actors who just garbed themselves in religious attires. It’s because religion is a very sentimental thing that’s why you see people supporting them innocently.
What do you think can be done by the government to address the issue permanently?
The only thing the government can do is to say the truth. There was a time the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs wanted to meet the Boko Haram, because it’s like if you call yourself my son, let me meet you so that you can identify who among my wives is your mother. But the government didn’t allow them. Even last year, myself and Prof. Isiaq Oloyede wanted to meet these Boko Harm insurgents, but the government didn’t allow us to meet them. The police told us it’s an order from above. So, you discover that when people play politics, they just mix it with religion.
Categorically, Boko Haram people are non-Muslims because if they are, they won’t rape. Now, they have raped the innocent girls. And as they claim, they want to forcefully convert them to Islam whereas the Qu’ran says, there shall be no compulsion in religion. Everything they have done is in the violation of standing Islamic principles. For instance, if you want to marry a girl, it should be done with the consent of her parents and they are not ready to even know these girls parents. So, the fact that they speak Arabic language doesn’t make them Muslims because we have a lot of Arabic scholars that are non-Muslims.