The Nigerian Muslims, who had gone this far along with the success of peace, unity and harmony with which this ongoing Ramadan fast was started, what they must not do as the Ramadan fasting ends is go back to the old attitude of some of them not following the Islamic rule guiding Ramadan fast. The Islamic rule is that the moon must first be sighted before commencing and ending the fast and that it must be announced by the Muslim leader. If it is sighted by any Muslim, the information must be communicated to the leader who will then announce, Islamic practice being a coordinate one.
Few days ago, a message was going round on the social media that government of a particular South West state had released a statement impressing that this Ramadan fast will end on Sunday as 30th Ramadan and that Monday 26th June will be 1st Shawwal that is Sallah day. As a result of this, many Muslims in the South West are already singing around that Monday is Sallah. It is wrong.
What if the new moon of Shawwal is sighted on Saturday night and Sultan announces that Sunday is Sallah and 1st Shawwal being that the Ramadan month of this year terminates at 29th day? Does it mean that Muslims of South West, who had done well by being true Muslims at the start, will now say “no, that is Northern Sallah day?” This, there should be no Muslim doing again. It is a fitnah (faith-based tribulation) that has been pushed to history. It must not be allowed to repeat itself ever again.
The fast started well because the authorized Muslim Leader in Nigeria that Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, represents did a good job as usual. And he achieved it better this Ramadan because he started announcing Lunar Month at the beginning and end of every month from last Ramadan of 1437AH (2016). Muslims must watch it and do things rightly now and always because each time the divisive attitude comes alive, it has done nobody any good in the Nigerian Muslim Community as sometimes many Muslims are pushed to tears and sorrow that people know how hard in punishing Allah is and yet are daring Him. God forbid!
It would be that the faith community is not appreciative of Allah’s favour for, despite its countless shortcomings, the Lord still found a place in his mercy to bequeath them with a good, energetic and selfless leader, who has been so up and doing in ensuring that no Muslim is misled in the practice of his religion since the religion is all about Amirun, Jamah and Sama’a wa taha (leadership, followership, hearing and obeying).
Since November 2, 2006 when the Leader, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, ascended the throne as Sultan of Sokoto and took office as President-General, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, there has been tremendous positive change in the affairs of the Islamic faith community in country. In spite of few challenges posed by people who were insisting that they must see Islam, not necessary from the angle of the Qur’an and Sunnah but, on the angle of what some of the cleric they follow and obey say whether it tallies with the correct basis of Islamic dictates or not, the Muslims of Nigeria now heave a sigh of relief, which has been made possible by the fact of now an Amirul Mumineen, who has placed himself truly as Leader of the Muslims of Nigeria, Sa’ad Abubakar III.
Someone said the change that the faith community has witnessed so far since Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar son of late Sultan Siddiq Abubakar III came on board was as a result of his military background. Sa’ad had been in the diplomatic community as military attaché in the United States of America until fate made him ascend the throne following the death by ADC plane crash of his elder brother, late Sultan Muhammadu Maccido (Abubakar), when he naturally retired from the Army as Brigadier General. Yes, Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III’s military background as a very discipline community of soldiers had a great way it contributed to the great jobs he is doing today bringing peace, unity and harmony to the entire communities of Nigeria regardless of religion or ethnicity. What worked more for him is his enviable background coming from the most peaceful region, most peaceful state and most peaceful upbringing of noble family.
Sa’adu, as he was fondly called by some of his military colleagues, some of who were his co-footballers particularly at Jaji, Alhaji Dr. Sariki General Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III is a major factor among his siblings of the late Sir Siddiq Abubakar III, who ruled the Seat of Caliphate for 50 years beginning from 1938 through 1988. Sir Siddiq Abubakar III was also traditionally the Leader of Nigerian Muslim that lived for 85 years having been born on the 15th of March, 1903 and died in 1988.
Before his death, father of Sa’ad, fourth heir to the two century-old throne of Sultanate founded by his ancestor, Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio (1754-1817) leader of Maliki school of Islam and the Qadiriya branch of Sufism, had held several administrative posts before succeeding his uncle, Hassan Ibn Muazu, at the age of 35 in 1938. Late Sultan Siddiq Abubakar was was appointed a local authority councillor of the Sokoto Native Administration (Head of Talata Mafara) through which, among other positions, he distinguished himself by his administrative competence and the able way he dealt with appeals from traditional courts and supervised district and village heads. He was a Sardauna of Sokoto until 17 June 1938, when he became Sultan.
As the 17th Sultan of Sokoto and Sarkin Musulumi of Nigeria, Sultan Siddiq Abubakar III, father of Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar III, became the most important Islamic personality south of the Sahara, and highly respected. He was the leader of 50 million adherents of the Islamic faith in West Africa during his time. Although he did not occupy a visible political position in Nigeria, his de facto political influence was considerable and throughout his life he worked towards the promotion of Nigeria’s unity, he used his decisive influence over public affairs for the political and social advancement of Nigeria as one nation. He contributed a great deal to the maintenance of order and calm among the population of the then Northern Region after the 1966 coup that was the first of its kind to be experienced in by independent Nigeria and in which Northern most revered leader and Premier, Sir Ahmadu Bello was killed by some military coupists believed to be pursuing Igbo agenda. During the Nigerian Civil War, Siddiq helped to mobilise men for the Federal forces.
Abubakar saw the development of his country in a different light from many of his more conservative co-religionists. He encouraged further education for females, voting for women in purdah and urged the liberation of women in these respects. As a result of the effort of the Sa’ad’s late father, the Women Teacher’s Training College in Sokoto was founded. His faith in and identification with the quest for knowledge led to his appointment as Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, which awarded him an honorary LLD degree.
This is the rich background of the home and family that produced the man, who became Sultan only in November 2006 and, who, by the time he would celebrate his 10th anniversary on the throne in November 2016, had been so popular to attain the status of world class influence first as Nigeria’s most influential king, Africa’s fourth most influential (some call it most powerful) monarch and world’s number 17 most influential Muslim leader, Alhaji Dr. General Sariki Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, CFR, LL.D, mni.
It is therefore without doubt that one would say yes, military made a huge contribution to the ability of Sa’ad Abubakar III to be able to achieve the great feats that he has achieved and is still achieving today in the lives of, not only the North but more extensively the West, Mid-West and East regions of Nigeria but, one would, from the foregoing, be convinced that the man that Nigerian Muslim Community has been bequeathed by Almighty Allah is a product largely a good upbringing not necessary of royalty because, today, one of the major ups and downs that Nigeria’s peace and unity have suffered is by a son of royalty. It is not just about royalty that made Sa’ad the man everybody wants to identify with today but good upbringing. Only in recent past, Bishops and traditional rulers in South Eastern Nigeria could not hold back their emotions in favour of Sultan of Sokoto and Leader of Nigerian Muslims when they sang his glory for visiting Enugu and other parts of the East and South South and, without altercations, simply resolved not only problems between Hausa/Fulani living in the East but also even helped solve lingering issues between Igbo and Igbo in the region.
Another area the Sultan has done great job is his ability to have successfully solved a problem of North/South divide that the Nigerian Muslims had solved from and which had dragged them years back. The major point of note to know when the Nigerian Muslims are united or disunited is time of Ramadan moonsightings: beginning and ending. Many of great Yoruba clerics were not inclined to following the moonsighting announcement by Sultans of the past and they had their reasons. Asked, late President-General, League of Imams and Alfas, Yoruba Land, Edo/Delta and Chief Imam of Akure Land, Sheikh Qasim Yayi Akorede told The DEFENDER (print) Newspaper in 2004 that, “We don’t follow Sultan’s moonsighting announcement because we believe that an Oba cannot be leader of Islamic faith.” But when he was confronted with facts and evidence that to be an Oba (Emir) in the North, “you must be vast in Islamic knowledge and active in the practice of the faith”, Baba Yayi Akorede softpedalled. Till his death in 2005, he never went against the Sultanate as leader of Nigerian Muslims.
But many other Muslim clerics in the South still did not follow the Sultan but without cogent reason. There was no way somebody who does not make effort on knowing something can claim to have superior knowledge over the one who makes effort. That used to be the problem when Southern clerics who made no effort at sighting the moon would prove the North could not dictate. The situation remains as ugly as that until Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III emerged. The moment he emerged, just like Muhammadu Buhari’s approach of travels as means of tackling the mountain of security, economic and corruption challenges that his government inherited from the past administration, Sa’ad Abubakar – a retired Army General, fantastic footballer, charismatic monarch and egalitarian personality – used cross country travels as tools for contributing to achieving peace, unity and security among the people various religious and ethnic backgrounds in the country. Today, Sariki Sa’ad Abubakar III can conveniently and boldly, too, say “we have reached out to the peoples of Nigeria and now we are good with ourselves.” And that can explain the number of visitors that throng the Gidan Sarikin Sokoto for no other reason but to tell him “we appreciate the good and great jobs you have done in our lives and diverse peoples of Nigeria” and at the same time chart further course for development.
It is the more reason Nigerian Muslim Community should congratulate themselves, for being the producer of the man that has shown Nigerians today the way to go. So brilliant, so simple, yet so great!
* This piece was written by Bashir Adefaka, a Lagos-based Journalist.