Almajiri: Moving Forward
Prof Abdussamad Umar Jibia
On the 22nd of April this year I received two Whatsapp messages from a classmate who is in politics. The first is a press release by one Abdullahi Yaradua who identified himself as the Director of press to the secretary to Katsina state Government. It said the SSG Alhaji Mustapha Inuwa had reiterated the readiness of Katsina State Government to work closely with her neighbours to fight covid-19. The release further said the SSG made this remarks while receiving 419 almajirai who are indigenes of Katsina state ‘returned home’ from Kano.
The statement went further to say, “Katsina State Government had already closed down both Islamiyya and Local Quranic Schools and returned all Almajiris to their parents including those from Niger republic”.
The aspect of the press statement that finally put me off is when the SSG “admonished for continuous synergy between the Government of the States with which, he said all issues hindering the progress of the Zone are surmountable”. I noted that there is nothing hindering the progress of the Northwest zone and indeed Katsina state more than insecurity which the SSG has been put in charge for the past five years and the situation has only deteriorated from where he met it. In a saner clime he will resign.
As events unfolded in the coming days, I realized that there was a decision of Northern Governors to stop what they called almajirci in their states and they are using the Covid19 pandemic to do it. But come, where are the Islamic scholars? It is based on their fatwa that Friday prayers were banned by politicians. They derived their reasons from authentic sayings and traditions of The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) who asked believers not to go to an area where there is an epidemic or leave it after an epidemic started. This is to prevent the spread of contagious diseases. But is movement of almajirai from one state to another not against the teaching of this Hadith? Why are the scholars silent? Where is the NSCIA which quoted 1001 reasons from Quran and Sunnah to convince us to comply with social distancing and lockdown? Have we been compromised or are we afraid of some failed politicians?
Again, I watched the way these almajirai are being moved. There is no social distancing. In some cases they are packed together in one vehicle and transported like goats. In others like the case of those moved from Nasarawa state to Taraba they were rejected by Taraba state government because, according to them, “they were not accompanied by Health officials as agreed by Northern Governors” and that “Taraba state is not a dumping ground for almajiris” as if the children are not indigenes of Taraba state. What did the Northern Governors agree? Is it backed by law? These people are taking us for granted.
Now look at this. Even before Covid-19 there has been other more deadly communicable diseases like the HIV/AIDS. Prostitutes are known to be the worst agents of transmitting HIV/AIDS for which no cure is known yet. If the Governors were truly serious about protecting their people from contacting deadly diseases, they would have banned prostitution and moved prostitutes to their home states.
Of all the Northern Governors, the one who seems to take this fight to the extreme is my brother, Mallam Nasiru El-Rufai. It was his idea to ban ‘almajirci’, at least according to his Commissioner for Human Services and Social Development who disclosed much earlier that he was to present a memo to Northern Governors on how to ban the “time bomb”.
As far as Mallam is concerned the only definition of a school is the western education type which he said it is better for a child to attend even if there will be 200 of them in a class than to go to the traditional Qur’anic school. I don’t blame him because he is not a teacher and none of his children has attended a school where there are 200 children in a classroom. The other time he told gullible Nigerians that he was taking his child to a public school but he took him to Capital School instead of LEA primary school Badiko which is the nearest to Government house.
Mallam Nasiru was even saying that they are ready to “confront anybody”. And I say, you will face your maker. Power is transient. In three years time you will join the list of former Governors of Kaduna state. Sooner or later, just like any of us, you will be in some grave beneath the mother earth. So take it easy.
Now, the second message from my politician friend. He advised me to, if I intend to make any comment on this to fear Allah and tell the truth so that I will not regret in future. I was encouraged by this. But perhaps what he considers the truth is what he wants to hear. I know I wrote several times in the past on almajirci and I have never lied. My position on almajirci has always been very clear. Almajirci is Qur’anic. Without almajirci there will be no knowledge. Most of those who think a person can be an Islamic scholar by remaining in their village have at one point or another left their localities in search of western education and have never argued that there should be a university in every street so that students should not leave their parents to become Engineers and doctors or even sociologists or political scientists.
Begging, whether done by adults or children is unIslamic except in exceptional circumstances. Prohibition of begging in Islam is fundamental. What Nigerian Muslim leaders have failed to do is developing a model that will work in our time. At it is, the Nigerian Muslim Ummah with all her Emirs and Islamic scholars have no plan of producing and certifying Islamic scholars. The best I know is when a person is to be recruited to teach in some Islamiyya school they are interviewed mainly to know if their views are in consonance with those of the owners of the school.
It is high time our Islamic organizations woke up and faced the challenges. Waiting for “shariah” politicians to solve problems bedeviling Muslim Ummah has been our bane. Political office holders in the Muslim North are not elected based on their knowledge of Islam or even the love for it. The prevailing method of leadership recruitment in the North does not allow for devout Muslims to be at the helm of affairs. Unfortunately some of our Islamic scholars are too naďve to understand this and are often carried away by deceptive Islamic postures of political office holders. When these postures are accompanied by occasional gifts, the non-enterprising Islamic scholar is often lost in the struggle to maintain the patronage of the politician.
But it is not over. The decision of the Governors is irreversible only to the extent that Islamic scholars insist on child begging and/or fail to provide an alternative practical model of Qur’anic Education.