By Abubakar Suleiman
No thanks to his polemics, fiery tongue and boastfulness, AbdulJabbar Nasiru Kabara, the scion of the famous and revered Islamic scholar Shaykh Nasiru Kabara, has dominated the tongue and pens (though in the negatives) of most Hausa-speaking Muslims after the long-awaited debate has been laid to rest. He stirred the hornet nest and got stung from all directions.
Over the years, he has gained currency due to his unrestrained and unhinged attempts during preachments to create a hole in the validity of the Sunni Canons, especially Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih al-Muslim. Plus, he has also never relent efforts in casting doubts into the minds of his gullible and unsuspecting followers on the narrative integrity of the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). He is actually not the first to cast doubts on authentic Prophetic traditions, but he is the most reckless one I have come across.
Tellingly, in all his attempts, AbdulJabbar bucked context, methodological principles in the science of Hadith, Arabic nuances and even cultural conceptualisations or idiosyncrasies, especially in translations. And these translations ended up impugning the sacredness of the Prophet. Moreover, save for Allah’s intervention through the Kano state government, his dogmatism and preachings might have led to bloodshed and loss of lives and property.
This saga should once again bring to the front burner the issue of regulating preachers and preaching in Nigeria. One’s ability to translate Arabic text or to graduate from an Islamic university or a Christian theological seminary in Nigeria or abroad should not automatically confer on anyone the authority or absolute freedom to preach or use media houses to propagate ANY kind of religious ideology devoid of a vetting process.
There is no gainsaying that some religious clerics have exploited or abused the freedom of religion or expression for both personal and even political gains through dangerous indoctrination, misinterpretation of religious diktats and the preaching of skewed versions of religion. AbdulJabbar is a good specimen of how to throw decency to the dogs with the help of jarring sounds from a cheering and unsuspecting crowd in preference for personal gains.
Unfortunately, as a society, we most times abhor regulations on seemingly everything. Unfortunately, this nonchalant attitude has often come with a huge and devastating price, as we have witnessed in the case of Maitatsine and, now witnessing in the aftermath of Muhammad Yusuf’s death and the subsequent upsurge of the Boko Haram insurgency and, also AbdulJabbar’s preachments.
Regulation in religious matters is a sensitive issue. Still, it is a pertinent key in taming extreme tendencies, reducing margins of errors in religious fatwas and enhancing positive social policy and social integration. Yes, we can contemplate the government’s tendency to enact laws on preaching in erecting barriers that would insulate them from accountability or criticisms as humanly possible. However, we cannot underestimate the effects or the grave consequences of leaving preachers of any kind unchecked in our current realities.
The government at all levels should, as a matter of urgency, collaborate with relevant religious organisations in building or tweaking existing institutions which shall be backed by law. The institution should be shouldered with the responsibilities of, among others, screening and issuing a licence to preachers, judiciously and sincerely implementing the enacted rules and periodically revising and amending the laws in tandem with current realities or evolving peculiarities.
The solution, as mentioned earlier, is not a one-size-fits-all. Still, we desperately need a system or mechanism to check religious excesses and undue preachments before the next ‘AbdulJabbar’ or religious demagogue rears his ugly head and throws us into another quagmire that may be costly to our lives, religion, time and wealth.
Abubakar Suleiman writes from Kaduna and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.