By Abdulmumin Giwa
Recent developments have made it such that the name Islamic Movement in Nigeria has become a household name in the country. The generality of the public have come to be hearing a lot about the Movement from the media since the clampdown on it by the Buhari-led government in 2015.
Nigerians might not be abreast with the Movement or might be having negative ideas about it that are based on hearsay ad rumors propagated by its opponents. This piece briefly gives a picture of the general outlook of the Movement or what is stands for.
The Islamic Movement in Nigeria under the leadership of the revered Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky (H) is not an organization or a sect but a concept. It is a movement for the establishment of fairness and justice to all irrespective of tribe, race, region or religion. It seeks to achieve this through the practical implementation of the teachings of Islam, from the Shi’a school of thought, while seeking the pleasure of Almighty Allah.
The nature of the structure of the Movement is based on responsibilities shouldered on some individuals to ensure and manage such responsibilities but not official offices and positions. Everyone is under the revered leader.
Hence, being a Movement and a concept, it does not require any registration but has several registered activities that include foundations supporting orphans, schools, productions and publications as well as first aid groups.
Some activities of the Movement:
-Ashura. The Islamic Movement commemorates the killing of Imam Hussain bn Ali (AS) the grandson of the Prophet of Islam. He was murdered in Karbala, a place now in the present day Iraq, where he is buried. He was killed by the Umayyad dynasty as a result of suppression and attempts to extinct the Household of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). It is commemorated as a mourning event in secluded places from the 1st to 10th of Muharram annually and on the 10th an awareness peaceful procession is hosted. History of the event is read and eulogies of the Imam (AS) are recited during the mourning sessions mostly in the evenings of the said days.
-Symbolic Trekking: This is in commemoration of the fortieth day remembrance of Imam Hussain (AS) it is a symbolic trekking from various zones in the country to the city of Zaria where the event takes place. It is symbolic to the trekking performed by the followers of Imam Hussain (AS) from Karbala in Iraq through the rough terrain of the desert on foot under tense conditions to Damascus after Imam Hussain had been killed and his head detached from his body by Yazid bn Mu’awiyya.
-Ghadeer: This is in remembrance of the pronouncement of Imam Ali AS as the leader of the Muslims made by Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). The Shi’a belief is that the leader of the Muslims after Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) is Imam Ali bn Abi Talib the cousin and in-law of the Prophet (SAWA). It is this concept that basically separates the Sunni concept of Islam from the Shi’a concept. The history of the incident is usually read at the event as well as the travails faced by the Household of the Prophet (SAWA)
-Maulud: This is the commemoration of the birth of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). Unlike it is in the Sunni narrations where the birthday is said to be on the 12th of Rabi’u Awwal, it is commemorated on the 17th of Rabi’u Awwal in the Shi’a school. There are series of events that take place in that month. There is the welcoming of the month, there is the Unity week, there is bidding the month good bye. It is also commemorated by reading the history of the Prophet (SAWA), feasts and festivities, recitation of eulogies of the Prophet (SAWA) and an awareness peaceful procession at the peak of the event.
-Unity Week: This is commemorated during the Maulud from the 12th of Rabi’ul Awwal the birthday of the Prophet (SAWA) according to the Sunni school to the 17th of Rabi’ul Awwal the birthday of the Prophet (SAWA) according to the Shi’a school with the sole intention of promoting unity and understanding among Muslims irrespective of their schools of thought. Muslim scholars from all denominations are invited to deliver talks on Muslim unity during the five days between 12th to 17th of -Rabi’ul Awwal. This event has witnessed the attendance of many scholars from different Sunni sects and has changed the perceptions of many as regards the sectarian sentiments that is dividing the Muslims. More so, Christian scholars also attend the event.
-Nisf Sha’ban: Just like the birthdays of other Imams AS of the Shi’a school, the birthday of Imam Mahdi AS is commemorated annually and coincidentally it is also the same as the birthday of the revered leader Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky (H). it is an event recalling the reappearance of Imam Mahdi towards the end of time to instill peace in the world after it has been taken over by oppression. It gives hope to the believers who are reminded that the Imam Mahdi (AS) is still alive and will appear when the time comes.
-International Quds Day: This is an event that takes place all over the world on the last Friday of every month of Ramadan to show solidarity with the oppressed people of Palestine whose lands have been occupied by the Zionist Israel. People come out on street protests condemning the atrocities of the Israeli government on Palestinians. This is a humanitarian event strongly supported by the movement considering the third holiest mosque in Islam, Masjis al Aqsa, is under the Israeli occupation as well.
These among others are the major activities of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria.
Education: The Islamic Movement has a registered Foundation called the Fudiyya Foundation under which there are over 360 primary and secondary schools. This largely reduces the burden on the government of its inability to provide basic education to the populace.
Scholarships are given to about 2500 orphans from primary, secondary to tertiary levels of learning by the Shuhada Foundation.
Health: The Islamic Movement has a registered Islamic Movement Medical Association that ISMA that gives free medical assistance to the needy. It consists of medical doctors, nurses, first aiders and other health and environmental workers. Apart from delivery of services, the ISMA also owns Health Schools where junior health workers, environmental workers and local maternity workers are trained in order to reach out and provide community health workers.
The ISMA had on several occasions assisted in looking after patients in major government hospitals whenever the doctors go on strike especially at the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital in Zaria. Through this humanitarian gesture the movement has saved many lives that would have otherwise been lost as a result of government’s recklessness.
The movement has received several commendations by the National Blood Transfusion Commission for being the largest blood donor in the country. Thousands of the followers of the Movement cue up in lines waiting to donate blood to the NBTC and this is done during every Ashura event.
The Movement had enriched host communities economically whenever it had large gatherings where no waver is placed on sales of essential needs to the public who make hundreds of millions in just a day of event. These include hotels, food and other essential commodity sellers and transporters who work throughout making money out of the gathering of millions.
The Movement had provided drinking water to several communities by supplying them with boreholes and wells as the case may be.
The Movement also visits Churches during Christmas and Easter in particular to celebrate with the Christian brethren and promote inter religious unity and understanding between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria. The revered leader of the Movement had in 2011 protected the Christians from being killed by some politico-religious hoodlums and supporters of Buhari when he lost elections. He catered for their daily needs throughout their stay in his house and provided them with transportation to their various destinations when the crisis was over.
The Movement had supported and changed the lives of several poverty stricken members of the society by providing them not only with food in times of need but also capital to set up micro and medium scale businesses for themselves.
The Movement had in several towns been managing the cemeteries and keeping it clean as well as repairing link roads and constructing culverts and drainages for communities.
The Movement had rehabilitated youths and political thugs engaged in drug addiction and changed their lives and gave them new hope as they reintegrated into their communities.
This is to mention but a few out of the several social responsibility activities embarked upon by the Movement.
The followership in the movement extends beyond tribal and sectional boundaries as well as religious. It is a movement in which there are virtually all types of tribes in it. It is based on promoting humanity than any other sentiment.
The revered leader of the Movement, a Hausa/Fulani man from Zaria is married to Malama Zeenatuddeen Ibrahim a Yoruba lady from Ibadan to break the jinx of tribal sentiments and so have a lot of followers done as well.
During events and processions, all parts of the country especially the three major tribes are represented in the events.
The Movement is a non-violent and unarmed movement and it is on record that none of its followers has ever been convicted of any crime by a court of law in its 40 years of history. This is even as successive regimes have had the course to clamp down on the movement which we believe is as a result of wrong advises they get from their supporters who are driven by sectarian sentiments and avarice. Also, this is also even as over 2000 members of the Movement have been killed by the successive regimes in its 40 years of existence with the current regime killing over 1000. The movement had never taken any course to revenge but had in several cases sorted redress through legal means.
All activities of the Movement have always been peaceful at all times and the public are aware of it such that no matter how massive they see followers of the movement flow on the streets they don’t fear and they go about their daily businesses enjoying the colorful sights of the processions. Raw and disorder only come when the security agents, in violation of their rules of engagement and to satisfy the whims of some of their leaders, come to attack the processions.
This is evident in the incident of the killing of Chief Julius Anyawu in Zaria by the Nigerian Army who launched a killing spree on the Movement during the commemoration of International Quds day in 2014. Chief Anyawu was shot dead by the Army when he shielded the followers of the Movement, calling on the soldier to stop killing them but they killed him. The soldiers killed 34 followers of the movement on that day including three biological sons of the leader of the movement Sheikh Zakzaky (H).
More so, in all the cases the Movement had been to court with the authorities it has always emerged victorious even as the authorities refuse to implement what the courts decide. Followers of the movement have wrongly been detained by the authorities for several years and were released by the court but the governments affected refuse to pay compensations slated by such courts to the victims.
There is never any record of the Movement killing anybody or destroying public property or kidnapping or even engaging communities with arms anywhere across the country. The highest move made by the Movement is the constitutionally accepted rally and protest which is peacefully embarked upon unless turned violent by security agents who attack it and unleash terror.
It is this movement that the Nigerian government under President Muhammadu Buhari has proscribed and declared a terrorist movement, a movement with no records whatsoever that has to do with violence and disruption of peace.
The Movement has reasons to believe that it is facing antagonism from those in authorities for some of the following reasons:
-The Nigerian government is guilty of genocidal attack on the movement where it perpetrated the killing of unarmed men, women and children in December 2015. This case is before the International Criminal Court (ICC), to which Nigeria is a signatory, and has since passed the level of preliminary investigation. Fearful of the consequences that are inevitable, the government is desperate to cleanse its hands from the mess it had committed out of the influence of sectarian sentiments. Hence, declaring the victims as terrorist was sorted for as the only way out.
-The movement has won a case imposing the fundamental human rights of the revered leader Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky (H) by freeing him from an illegal detention tagged as ‘Protective Custody’ by the government. The government acted in contempt of court by refusing to respect the judgment of the Federal High Court. Followers of the movement took to the streets in peaceful protests calling on the government to release the leader, a situation that has raised public sympathy for the Movement especially as the security had in the last four years killed almost 100 peaceful protesters in violation of the fundamental rights of the citizens. Fearful of the repercussion, the Nigerian Buhari-led government finds proscription of the Movement as the only solution that can wipe away the mess it had perpetrated through extra judicial killings and disregard to the judiciary.
The proscription of the movement is a deliberate attempt at diverting attention from crucial issues including justice for the massacre of 347 (official figures) illegally buried in mass grave in December 2015 following the attack on the movement by the Nigerian Army. This is clear from the government’s refusal to investigate the killings and deal with the perpetrators and is also the opinion of some right groups.
This is the Movement whose followers are being jailed, this is the movement whose followers are killed and this is the Movement that the Nigerian government is proscribing.