By Ibrahiym A. El-Caleel
Northern Nigeria, Arewa launched her Shari’a project on the eve of the third millennium, precisely in 1999. The project was cheered by Muslims, who are the larger share of the Arewa population. But, on the other hand, the project became a thorn in the flesh of liberal Muslims as well as Islamophobes. Therefore, this generated heated discussions within the Arewa intelligentsia, from the mosques’ pulpits to traditional media pages.
Immediately Shari’a was launched, additives were added to strengthen its influence over the years. The Shari’a courts appeared visibly effective and powerful in their jurisdictions. On the other hand, they were feared due to their initial charisma. Shari’a hudud (penalties) were unapologetically executed in states that subscribed to the project. In 2003, Kano State impressively established the Kano State Hisbah Corps to deepen Shari’a application further. All these were efforts that every conscious Muslim found impressive. Nigerian Muslims were able to leverage democracy to re-establish their lost treasure of Islamic Law. It was a sort of blessing in the eyes of conscious Muslims. Today, however, things are beginning to fall apart.
In recent years, we see rather poor management of the Shari’a project. Convicts in Shari’a courts now find a way to evade justice, leveraging the weak points in the project. More problematic is the visible selective application of Shari’a among Arewa Muslims. Concerning the Shari’a application, Arewa currently operates a caste system. Masses are prosecuted under Shari’a for the slightest offences, but the elites commit big offences and get away with impunity. The Shari’a practised by the earliest Muslim generations was egalitarianism, where everyone was equal before the Islamic Law. But in Arewa today, Shari’a is an elitism that only applies to the nobodies in the society, while the elites break the code and fingers are not raised at them.
Kano Hisbah is famous for coming into the spotlight with all sorts of amazing arrests and “Shari’a law enforcements”. There are pictures of them randomly stopping youths and cutting their hair because they have kept bushy and unkempt hair. To me, this should be a minor thing that should bother Kano Hisbah, when every week, men and scantily dressed women converge at costly-rented event centres, dancing and freely mixing in the name of celebrating weddings. Kano Hisbah never shows up in such Shari’a noncompliant events because they might be meeting the last son of a commissioner, the wife of a minister or even the nation’s First Lady herself. Apologists of this caste system might say perhaps Kano Hisbah never comes across these numerous events that happen frequently and simultaneously. But the answer is, after concluding the events, these “untouchables” audaciously flaunt the immoral pictures and videos on social media to the public glare. And nothing still happens.
Shari’a in Arewa will continue to be feeble because Arewa leaders are not genuinely committed to executing it. Only Allah knows the hearts of men, but the body language we are seeing is that these leaders use Shari’a in the spirit of populism; to woo political fandom. If we have Shari’a, then everyone must come equal before it. In a sane society, everyone comes equal before the law. This is called “the rule of law”.
It was narrated that during the reign of Caliph Umar bnul Khattab, Amr bnul Aas was the governor of Egypt. This governor had a son who entered a horserace with an Egyptian man, and the Egyptian man won the race. This defeat angered the governor’s son, so he decided to flog the Egyptian man. The man left Egypt and travelled to Madinah to complain to Caliph Umar. Umar summoned Governor Amr bnul Aas and the son to appear before him. When they showed up, Umar asked the Egyptian man to flog the Governor’s son as he had flogged him. Then he said to the governor, “when did you start to enslave people when they were born free?”. This incident indicates that Caliph Umar, as one of the most influential leaders in history, never allowed impunity and elitism to prosper in the land.
Secondly, when a lady from Bani Makhzum committed theft, the people of Quraysh requested Usama bn Zayd to intercede for her with Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him). When Usama spoke about it to the Prophet (Peace be Upon Him), the Prophet said, “Do you try to intercede for somebody in a case connected with Allah’s Prescribed Punishments?” Then he got up and delivered a sermon saying, “What destroyed the nations preceding you, was that if a noble amongst them stole, they would forgive him, and if a poor person amongst them stole, they would inflict Allah’s Legal punishment on him. By Allah, if Fatimah, the daughter of Muhammad stole, I would cut off her hand.”
Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) is the grand patron of all leaders executing the Shari’a. This is him (Peace be Upon Him) saying if his own most beloved daughter were found guilty, he would apply the laws on her with no regard to her exalted status. May Allah’s salutations be upon him. He indeed is our ultimate role model worthy of emulation.
Until Arewa leaders take the Prophet (Peace be Upon Him) as a role model in the Shari’a project, we will continue to be a laughingstock. It is quite shameful that daughters of Arewa governors and emirs dress immodestly at their weddings. We have seen the daughter of former Kano Emir Mallam Muhammadu Sanusi II taking a handshake from the Vice President, an ajnabi (strange man), in front of her father. The daughter of Kano State Governor Khadimul Islam, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje, dressed immodestly on her wedding day. She wore a sleeveless wide-necked gown that almost revealed her chest. As if that was not enough of breaking the Shari’a code, she danced in this outfit to the visuality of strange men. The daughter of former EFCC Czar Mallam Nuhu Ribadu also made a similar appearance some months back.
This week, the trending topic on Arewa Facebook centres around another Kano princess, Zahra Nasir Ado Bayero, who is getting married to the President’s son, Yusuf Muhammadu Buhari. In her bridal shower event in Abuja, the princess appeared in a tight wedding gown, exposing the upper part of her torso. Of course, her hair was styled and opened to the public like her fellow sisters in the Shari’a code-breaking. People are wondering how Kano Hisbah is not seeing all this and issuing a press release.
The amoralism is getting institutionalised by the children of Arewa leaders. It speaks volumes to why Shari’a is still a baby in Arewa despite spending more than 20 years in the system. People who could give us a formidable Sharia are issuing licenses to their children to abuse the code and go scot-free. This is why even convicted blasphemers these days do not end up suffering the penalties. Anyone with some copper coins in their pockets and a little political network can find a way out. Only the poor and the unconnected can be convicted and be eventually punished. This is the caste system we have awaken to in Arewa today. Unfortunately, leaders are not ready to walk the talk. We need a leveller to be able to have an effective Shari’a system. What is good for the goose has to be good for the gander. Else, we are all joking around.
Ibrahiym A. El-Caleel is a Civil Engineer by training with an interest in public and social commentary. He writes from Zaria and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.