At the heart of the deadly intolerance against Shia Muslims in Nigeria is a deep-seated hatred for Shia Muslims. We must lay the facts bare in the face of in-our-face death delivering persecution against Nigeria’s Shi’a minority.
Though they are more than 9 million, Shia are a minority religious group in Nigeria. In a 2012 pew poll, 12% of Nigerian Muslims identified as Shia; 38% identified as Sunni and 42% identified as “just Muslims.”
With approximately 78 million Muslims in Nigeria, right about half of the nation, this would put those who self-identify as Shia at 9.4 million and those who self-identify as Sunni at 29.6 million.
When the northern concentration of Shia Muslims is factored, and the Sunni concentration is spread with Yoruba southern presence, we have most of the 9.4 million Shia in the north with perhaps half of those who identify as Sunni likely being in Yoruba-land.
In essence, about 9.4 million identify as Shia in the north and around 14.8 million identify as Sunni in the same north. That’s almost a ratio of 1:1 or at most 1:2. This is the reality. If the Shia decided to embark on violence, openly or via terror, it would be very disastrous. Thankfully Shi’a are known for their peace and tolerance.
While many other religious groups are known for their blood-thirstiness and cutting others up, some Shia are despised for cutting themselves (self-flagellation). I ask, which is worse: those who cut others and often secretly bury them or those who cut themselves?
I ask, what have the Shi’a Muslims done in Nigeria and across the world to merit the kind of hate we witnessed in Nigeria last December that continued again this Muharram Holy month with teams of takfiri youth seen loaded in police vans with sticks and machetes on mission to kill and burn Shia Muslims and drag their dead bodies in garbage dumps?
There are several pictures of these online. Police ferrying takfiri killers on mission to cut-up Shia Muslims. Pictures of soldiers in the middle of these takfiri Boko Haram-like youth burning Shia Muslims’ bodies. Indeed the Zaria massacre according to all accounts had these same takfiris involved along with the army in the massacre of the Shi’a victims.
It is troubling to say the least. When the Nigerian army and police conveys terrorists in its vehicles to pursue and massacre religious minorities, one can only pray the peaceful nature and patience of the Shi a Muslims is not expended. Every metal has a young modulus elastic limit. Bend it enough and it will snap.
What was banned by el-Rufai and other northern governors, for whatever gratification, was not the Islamic movement of Nigeria, but Shia Islam. The Shia conduct processions about three times a year. These processions are conducted not just in Nigeria but across the world. Why was the ban announced right before a major such procession and why were those assembling freely and conducting their religious rights in Ashura processions affected and killed by police and police escorted mobs? Even if we do not mourn as they do, do we have a right to stop them and stop Christians from going to Church and Jews from going to their synagogue?
After seeing that 10 months later the Shi’a abided by the law and were patient and did not react in any illegal or adverse way to the December Zaria massacre, and fended off all sponsored ploys through the media and phony rights groups, consistently denying them what will grant them the excuse they desired to “ban” the faithfuls and hunt down its adherents, they could wait no longer and went ahead to proclaim the ban in fulfillment of the desires of their puppet foreign masters.
Why did the northern governors not discuss with the Shi’a Muslims of Nigeria and determine a safe way to allow them their religious rights? Is close to 10 million people not a big enough number for their interests to be considered even if they are distasteful to some? Can public holidays not even be considered? We have cultural activities across Nigeria that paralyze cities. Must the remedy for difference be persecution and death? Is this how we invite people to our fold if indeed we think we are on the right and we have what is better? Are we being good ambassadors of the religion of peace and the compassionate prophet and mercy to mankind?
A Muslim will never kill a Christian, Jew or ‘Shi’a’ Muslim simply because of their method of belief in God.
Those who kill these other believers have departed far from Islam. The Muslim Quran says that which means, “If a man (a believer) kills a (another) believer intentionally his recompense is Hell to abide therein (for ever): and the wrath and the curse of Allah are upon him and a dreadful penalty is prepared for him. Quran 4:93.”
The truth is, while the word “Shi’a” actually occurs in the Quran at least twice in reference to righteous people. “And most surely Abraham was among the Shi’a of him (i.e., Noah)”(Qur’an 37:83); and again in verse Quran 28:15, in reference to the followers of Prophet Moses(a), the same cannot be said of “Sunni.” It’s not in the Quran. These are facts I have learned since the December Zaria massacre. So while dividing the religion into sects with any name put before Muslim, be it Shia or Sunni is rejected and condemned in Islam (Quran 6:159), the use of Shi’a as a figure of speech and not a name divider, in its meaning, “follower” has been done by God Himself. It’s mere arabic. A shia of Prophet Mohammed(p) simply means a follower of Prophet Mohammed(p). Can others say the same. Real talk. They hate the Shi’a because they say some of them curse some Sahaba (companions). But they revere Muawiyah who instituted cursing Ali(R) at the pulpit (Muslim, Chapter of Virtues of Companions, Section of Virtues of ‘Ali, Arabic, v4, p1871, Tradition #32), and that’s Ali who was not just a companion but a family of the Prophet who the Prophet of Islam warned must be respected (Muslim, v1, p48). Perhaps when you point a finger, three point back at you. And what of those Shi’a who are “Zaydiyya?” Do they consider the similarities of these individuals?
But I am really not interested in dabbling in these matters. It is no one’s business what another person believes or how he portrays his belief. If yours is better then argue a better argument and show them your better way (Quran 16:125), but to kill them? And secretly bury them and instigate continuous violence against them? This is satanic.
While we may not be able to change the ways of the heavily foreign-sponsored government agents and scholars who promote and perpetrate this hate and persecution and murder in Nigeria, we can appeal to individuals. This is the only option: to tear away recruited potential takfiris among citizens and even the police and army. To them I leave this Muslim hadith that tells us that no matter who and how much we may revere and respect a person and their blessing with God, we must always follow God and NEVER follow man at the risk of defying our Creator and Sole master:
Narrated Abu Wail: When ‘Ali sent ‘Ammar and Al-Hasan to (the people of) Kufa to urge them to fight, ‘Ammar addressed them saying, “I know that she (i.e. ‘Aisha) is the wife of the Prophet in this world and in the Hereafter (world to come), but Allah has put you to test, whether you will follow Him (i.e. Allah) or her.” (Bukhari Volume 5, Book 57, Number 116)
When they urge you to kill Christians, Jews or ‘Shi’a’ Muslims, will you follow them or follow Allah?
Dr. Peregrino Brimah; @EveryNigerian