ALHAJI Sheikh Abdrahman Olanrewaju Ahmad is the Chief Missioner of Ansar-Ur-Deen Society of Nigeria.
The respected Islamic cleric, in this exclusive interview with Tade Asifat, speaks on the qualities of a good Muslim, his greatest achievement so far and many others.
How has the experience been as the Chief Missioner, Ansar-Ud-Deen Society of Nigeria since you assumed office?
Well, it has been very, very challenging. Very challenging indeed because it is very, very difficult to call people to the way of their Lord in times like these- when morals are very decadent when times are very, very hard. In a situation where people are suffering in the midst of plenty, a situation where the majority of the people are hopeless, where hopes are dashed faster than they are raised, it has been very challenging indeed.
What would you point to as the achievements of the organization since you became the Chief Mission?
Well, it is not easy to quantify achievement when you deal with a large number. The Ansar-Ud-Deen Society of Nigeria, for example, has up to 8 million members spread across the nooks and crannies of this country. So, in terms of very concrete achievements, you could also notice that the response, though, has not been encouraging.
And of course, you know that the organization has applied for a license to establish a private university and just after I assumed office, we were given the approval to establish a College of Education. These are some of the things we could point to as progress that has been made by the organization.
For the benefit of those who are non-Muslims, could you please elaborate on the meaning of Ansar-Ud-Deen?
Well, Ansar-Ud-Deen means the helpers of the religion. Ansar is from Nasr and Nasr is help. Ansar are helpers
and deen is religion. So Ansar-Ud-Deen means helpers of the religion and that name was taken after those who received Prophet Mohammed in Medina when he migrated from Mecca to Medina. They received him, supported him, they gave him everything he needed and they were called the helpers, ‘Al-Ansar’. We are called Ansar-Ud-Deen, the helpers of the religion.
Islam is known to be the religion of peace, how peaceful would you say Muslims are in Nigeria of today?
Well, I believe that Muslims are extremely peaceful, Muslims are very, very peaceful and of course, you may wonder why I’m saying this. We have never had a purely religious conflict in this country. All the conflagrations, all the problems that we had, had been ethno-political.
Among people who are predominantly either Muslims or Christians. Our argument had always been, there are so many things in this country that are the causes of agitations, these things are certainly not religion. They are economic, political or ethnic. Now, incidentally, the situation in the Niger-Delta region today, if it were in Sokoto or Kano, will easily be written off as a religious crisis. These are underlined issues, which should be looked at. When there is a crisis in Kaduna, when there is a crisis in Borno, because the majority of people from these states are Muslims, therefore it is a religious crisis or religious problem. They are not. Forget about the fact that some people could hide under religion to perpetrate atrocities, to feather their own nests, to further their political ambitions, to settle scores, but the real issues are not religious at all. We have been living together for centuries without problems. If today Christians and Muslims are in conflict, we must look at the issues very, very critically. The issues should not be looked at simply because these are Muslims, these are Christians. We must ask ourselves a fundamental question: people in Jos who had lived together for hundreds of years suddenly become enemies of one another, is it because some people are Hausas or Muslims or is it because some people are barons or non-Muslims that are the reasons? We must also look beyond religion. Why is it that suddenly the Ijaws and Itsekiris that had been known to live together for so many years, intermarried and have a similarity of cultures, why and under what circumstances do they become enemies? We must dig deeper, we must not be superficial in our anal; sis. The fact is that there is a crisis in the land. Times are very, very hard. Because people are frustrated, they are angry. And what we see is simply a misplacement of aggression.
So, what then could be described as a religious crisis?
Now, religious crisis would really happen when issues that are purely religious, like if there is a declaration that all the churches in Kano should be burnt because Christians are not human beings or they are not worthy, or it is said that all the Muslims and mosques in Akwa-Ibom, the Muslims must be killed, mosques must be burnt because they are intruders; they don’t have the right to come and practice their religion in Akwa-Ibom, in Imo, Enugu, Abia and so on. These are issues that could be taken as religious. Or there is a declaration that everybody living in a particular place must be converted to a particular religion bf force or they will or be exterminated. But you see, these are not the issues at all.
You know behind every crisis in this country, you will find political manipulation, you will find economic,
marginalization, and of course you will find ethnic chauvinism. These are the real issues. It is either the Ibo man thinks it has been a Hausa man that has been responsible for his woos or that the Hausa man feels the Ibo man is dominating him economically. And of course, these are the reasons there are outbursts, not religious at all. Are you now telling me there are no Hausa Christians? Are you telling me there are no Ibo Muslims, Ijaw Muslims, no! The Islam that I practice, is a very just religion. One of the cardinal principles of Islam is justice.
Peaceful co-existence. The Christians have the right to exist, they have the right to worship freely and of course I know from history, I know from the scriptures, that no Muslim under whatever guise has a right to desecrate a church, to burn a church for whatever reason. You will discover that the people who in the name of religion, who in the name of some trivial issues burn churches and kill Christians will have other motives that have nothing to do with religion.
Could you please shed more light on what should be the qualities of a Muslim?
A Muslim must be knowledgeable because Islam attaches so much, places so much premium on knowledge. Islam believes that the latent human potentialities can only be actualized with acquisition and utilization of knowledge, so the average Muslim, a good Muslim, the ideal Muslim should not be ignorant. The ideal Muslim believes absolutely in Allah, the ideal
Muslim is generous, is kind, is considerate, he is neighbourly. The ideal Muslim shares, the ideal Muslim is fair, just and whose tongue and hands other are safe. A Muslim stands for justice, whether the case is against him or is against his brother or any other person. No matter who is involved, whether that person is a Muslim or a non-Muslim, a Muslim must stand for that which is’ just, that which is right, which is humane. A Muslim, of course, is one that is trustworthy. When he is entrusted with responsibility, he discharges it without fear or favour, a Muslim is not the one who favours a person simply because
he is a Muslim or victimizes a person because he is a non-Muslim. A Muslim believes in the universal brotherhood of humanity, that we are all creatures of Allah, Tabaraka Wa Tahala. We are the children of Adam and Awaw and as much as possible. a Muslim is one who commands respect for his religion and respects the religion and the conviction of others. These among many others are the qualities of a Muslim.
Tell us when you were born and where you are from:
I was born on August 7, 1957, I am from Ilorin, Kwara State.
How about your marital life?
I’m happily married with children (laughs).
What about your educational background?
Well, I attended schools: primary schools, secondary school. I did my ‘A’ Level and I had my first degree in Mass
Communication from the University of Maiduguri.
Apart from being the Chief Missioner, what other things do you do?
Well, you will agree with me that the mission is a lot of work. You can see now I am in the office, I come to the office at least every day of the week and there’s a lot to be done. Of course, I told you the other time because of responsibilities: I have a family to feed, and because of these and other responsibilities, other than being a Missioner, I do consultancy and of course, that is where a substantial part of my income comes from.