Adebayo, Muritala Ayinde
Islam as a religion in Nigeria is categorised, like Christianity, under the foreign religions which found their ways into the nation. History has it that Islam arrived in Nigeria in the 11th/12th centuries through trade, migration, and through the travels of the scholar-mystic-wayfarer along trade routes, through the regions of Kanem and Bornu. However, unlike Christianity which depends on the English language of the colonial masters, Islam came with the Arabic language with which it can only be practiced, being a religion modified by and sent with the Arab noblest man, Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).
For that reason, it becomes incumbent on every Muslim to learn the basic supplications and chapters from the Qur’an in Arabic in order to serve Allah accordingly and properly. It is also required that some, among the Muslims, should go deeper in learning the Arabic language by specialising in its study. These set of Muslims are Islamic scholars and are known as “Alfas” in Nigeria.
Consequently, most of the Muslims in Nigeria rely solely on the Alfas vehemently in knowing the history, teachings, creeds and general knowledge about Islam. However, today, as a Nigerian, I can categorically mention it that all what the Alfas give out to the people about Islam can be placed under some three premises: i. Facts ii. Fabrications iii. Falsifications.
In Nigeria, the Alfas give out facts about the religion in many cases, from among the facts is the mysterious and strange way of the revelation of the Qur’an from Allah to Prophet Muhammad through Archangel Jibril (Gabriel). This fact has always been portrayed rightly as it happened as mentioned in the Qur’an and as some traditions of the Prophet have it explained that the Prophet (peace be upon him) saw the Archangel Jibril in the first time of revelation which made him tremble and fidget. The interpretation of Q74:1-5 has it that the Prophet, upon seeing Angel Jibril in the first place ran to his wife (Khadijah) to demand to be clothed in order to unsee the frightening appearance of the angel.
Of the fabrications the Alfas give out to the people about Islam is the concept of loving one’s country so much that a saying is accredited to the Prophet that he said: “loving one’s country is part of faith”. While being patriotic and having national consciousness are right, the saying accredited to the Prophet is fabricated and is not found in any authentic traditions of the prophet. Another example is the story of prophet Dāwūd that he greedily wanted the wife of another man and mischievously sent the man to war just to have him dead and so he could take the wife after he already had 99 wives. This has been an allegation laid against the prophet which most Alfas would call the reason he sought forgiveness from Allah in Q38:23-24. This is a fabricated story and scholars like Ibn Katheer, Tantāwiy, Tabariy have debunked it outright in their books of Tafseer (Exegesis of the Qur’an). Plus, there is no authentic record that he (Dāwūd) had 99 wives.
One of the falsifications some of the Alfas have made is, twisting a verse of the Qur’an where Allah said: “The sun and the moon follow a reckoning.” (Q55:5) to mean that the sun in this verse means the Sufi order of Tijaniyyah and the moon is the Sufi order of the Qādiriyyah. This is contrary to the literal meaning and even the actual and intended meaning, relating it with the previous verses and the verses after it. Although, they claim that is the esoteric meaning which is different from the exoteric meaning. Their claim is wrong in the sense that, neither the prophet upon whom the Qur’an was revealed nor the companions who happened to be the immediate recipients of the Qur’an from him understood the verse that way. Are we then saying the Alfas of today know Islam better than prophet Muhammad and his companions? Definitely impossible. Therefore, that is an example of one falsifications among others.
Having said all these, it is clear that Islam cannot be perfectly understood just by solely depending on what the Alfas say. While the words of the scholars are beneficial, the proper knowledge about Islam can be attained by seeking it from the right sources _ the Qur’an and the authentic traditions (Ahādīth) of the Prophet (peace be upon him). It was reported by Malik that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “I have left you with two matters which will never lead you astray, as long as you hold to them: the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of his Prophet.” (Al-Muwaṭṭa’ 1661). If this is the case, getting a translated copy of the Qur’an and some books of Hadith will do more good for a Muslim to a large extent in understanding the religion with facts rather than hearsays from some people.
Adebayo, Muritala Ayinde writes from the Department of Religions and Peace Studies, Lagos State University