A lecturer of Islamic Studies at the Al-Hikmah University, Ilorin, Kwara State, Sanusi Lafiagi, talks about the discovery of torture centres and mass weddings in some parts of the North, as well as the contentious issue of VAT on alcoholic beverages in this interview with PUNCH.
What is your take on the discovery of more rehabilitation (torture) centres?
The genesis of the proliferation of those rehabilitation turned torture centres cannot be unconnected to three things: Moral decadence among the youth, parental failure and lack of community policing.
It is clear from the various interviews conducted with the victims by the media, that they (or most of them) have one moral deficiency or the other. Some are drug addicts, some petty thieves and some have suspected mental problems. Thus, the parents felt that placing them under the care of those witchdoctors operating those centres would help to rehabilitate and reintegrate them back into society.
Sadly, the results are there for all to see. It should be noted that most of the parents of those victims are peasants and illiterates with no education and access to modern health care facilities. Besides, the prevalent belief among locals is that traditional medicine is more efficient than modern medicine, hence their recourse to those traditional witchdoctors.
It is also sad that some of the victims had endured this horrendous treatment for years under our noses without anyone alerting the authorities. This is where effective community policing comes to play. It is not possible to operate such centres clandestinely without the knowledge of the elders, leaders and members of their host community. Unfortunately, everyone has become complacent and complicit in the crime, from the top to bottom.”
What does Islam say about such centres?
No doubt, Islam condemns evil in all its forms. The laws of Islam do not differentiate between humans and animals, in terms of kind treatment. The command to treat people with Ihsan (kindness) is absolute. The Messenger of Allah (upon him be peace) said: “Verily, Allah has prescribed kind treatment of all things. If you have to kill (an animal) then kill in the best manner. If you slaughter (an animal), then slaughter in the best manner. Let one of you sharpen his knife so his animal feels no pain.”
On one occasion, he saw a camel weeping and making sounds until tears flowed from its eyes. He patted it on its head and it became quiet. Then he asked who the owner was. A young man came and said, “It is mine, O Apostle of Allah.”
He said to the young man, “Do you not fear Allah, regarding this animal that Allah has put in your possession? Verily, she has complained to me that you keep her hungry and tired.”
It is clear from the above texts that treating animals badly is condemned in Islam. If this is the case with animals, how then will Islam permit treatment of humans in such dehumanising and wicked ways as we have witnessed in the case of victims of the so-called rehabilitation centres?
What we have seen has nothing to do with Islam. It is pure wickedness and nothing more. None of the victims claimed that he was taught the rudiments and tenets of Islam. In fact, some of them were allegedly sodomised. So attaching such criminal cells to Islam is wrong and insulting to the sensibilities of Muslims. Let us call a spade a spade.”
An Islamic scholar once said it is the duty of government to marry out men and women? Is it right to do this, especially when a couple lacks the wherewithal to sustain the marriage?
No, it is not the right of government to marry out men and women. Marriage is an individual decision and responsibility and only capable individuals who possess the wherewithal to marry are commanded to do so. Allah says, “And let the ones who do not find (the means) to wed keep abstaining until Allah enriches them of His Grace.”
This is the injunction concerning those who cannot bear the expenses of marriage. Let them keep themselves chaste, while working hard to earn more income that will enable them to maintain a family. The duty of government is not to finance weddings, but to provide the citizens with opportunities and the enabling environment to thrive economically so as to meet their immediate needs.
If government finances mass weddings among citizens, will the same government be responsible for their daily feeding, shelter, and subsequent expenses that come with childbearing and childcare? I find it funny what some state governments in certain parts of the country do.
Instead of financing people’s weddings, why not create vocational training centres and other empowerment programmes to help the average citizens keep body and soul together?
At the end of the mass wedding, couples are either given tokens (not more than N100, 000 at most) with grinding machines, etc. How is this enough to sustain the family? This is exactly the root of the human waste we see in some parts of this country. It is sickening and sad.
What does Islam say about the consumption of beer?
Islam prohibits all forms of intoxicants, beer or not. This is because taking intoxicants violates all of the five cardinal rules of Islam, which are: The protection of life, religion, the intellect, wealth and honour.
In Qur’ān 5:90, Allāh says, “O ye who believe! Intoxicants, games of chance, idolatrous sacrifices at altars and divining arrows are all abominations, the handiwork of Satan. So turn wholly away from it that you may attain to true success.”
In a Hadith, the Messenger of Allāh says, “Every drink that causes intoxication is prohibited.” In another, he says, “Allah has cursed khamr (wine) and he who drinks it, he who provides it to others and he who buys or sells it, he who squeezes (the grapes) into wine and he who causes others to squeeze grapes (in order to make wine), he who carries it and he to whom it is carried.”
It is clear from the above injunctions that wine in all its forms, whether for sale or for consumption, is prohibited.
Is it right then for Hisbah to destroy beer bottles?
My understanding is that the Hisbah board is established by state law and as such has legitimate functions. Thus, if part of its functions is to destroy beer bottles, then so be it. It should be noted that states where Hisbah operates are predominantly Muslim states where the Sharia is presumably in operation. As a result, the sale and consumption of beer cannot be allowed in such areas. Hisbah cannot carry out illegal operations not assigned to it by law.
Is it right for Sharia-compliant states to receive a share of the VAT (Value Added Tax) on beer?
No, it is not right for them to share from the proceeds of haram things. That would amount to double standards. Islam forbids the sale of beer and partaking in the proceeds from such haram product is haram.
Sharia-compliant states must have nothing to do with the proceeds of alcohol, if they are sincere in their practice of the Sharia. This is the truth.
Imam Ahmad narrated that the Messenger of Allah (upon him be peace) said: “If Allah prohibits the consumption of a thing, He prohibits its proceeds, too.”
Is almajirinci Islamic?
The word, almajiri, to the best of my knowledge, means an emigrant. It is taken from the Arabic word, al-muhajir. That is someone that migrated from one place to another. Thus, almajiris are known for leaving their hometowns or states for another with the aim of seeking Islamic knowledge under the tutelage of local Malams who accommodate them in their homes and take charge of their well-being.
This is an ancient learning method that dates back to the early centuries. This is what we used to know. Sadly, the situation is not the same now. The system has become a social menace and scourge with devastating effects on the security of the society. Today in some cases, not one of these children is taught the rudiments of Islam nor cared for. They are often left to fend for themselves.
Most times, one finds almajiris roaming the streets, begging for food and money, wearing rags and looking unkempt. Some of them hardly bathe for days or weeks. Really, many of the so-called madarasahs today are no different from torture centres. It is safe to conclude that almajirinci, in the way it is operated today, is an anathema to the teachings of Islam. There is a need to overhaul and reform the system.
Seeing almajiris in such inhumane conditions breaks the heart. It is nothing short of an eyesore. Those innocent children are neither in school receiving formal education nor in vocational training centres receiving entrepreneurship skills. And with the nation grappling with insurgencies from all sides, I hope that we are not breeding (through our collective irresponsibility and negligence) the next set of insurgents.
What is its effect on Islam and Nigeria?
Its effect is grievous and unimaginable. The Boko Haram insurgency, rampant cases of kidnapping, pervasive illiteracy and poverty are some of the devastating effects that almajirinci has on our religion and country. They become soft targets for indoctrination by criminal elements and extremists among us, who twist the injunctions of Islam on its head and mislead gullible and unsuspecting folks.
Thus, they are made to believe that they are fighting for Islam whereas they are nothing but criminals and terrorists who kill people at will. Throughout the world today, these rampaging purveyors and merchants of evil are causing bloodshed of innocent people, leaving in their wake tears and destruction in the name of Islam. So we owe ourselves and posterity a collective responsibility to overhaul and reform those systems.