Tuesday, 29 September 2015


Published in The Guardian Newspaper (September 25, 2015 12:26 am)

IN 1610, Galileo Galilee published his Starry Messenger (Sidereus Nuncius) where he described the surprising observations that he had made with the new telescope on heliocentric theory.Heliocentrism is the astronomical model in which the earth and planets revolve around the sun at the centre of the solar system as against geocentrism which places the earth at the orbital centre of all celestial bodies. The concept was earlier observed by the medieval polymath Nasri al-Din al-Tusi using a Tusi-couple to replace Ptolemy’s geocentric model which later influenced Ibn al-Shatir and Nicolaus Copernicus.

Galileo’s initial discoveries were met with opposition within the Catholic Church who declared heliocentrism to be formally heretical and he was subsequently investigated by the Roman Inquisition for championing heliocentrism. The Inquisition tried Galileo in 1633 for implicitly defending heliocentrism and found him “vehemently suspect of heresy”, thus sentencing him to indefinite imprisonment. Galileo later died under house arrest where he was kept in 1642.

It was this struggle between Christian theology and free thoughts that led to the concept of secularism in Western Society. George Jacob Holyoake in 1851 coined the term to describe his views of promoting a social order separate from religion without actively dismissing or criticizing religious belief. As an agnostic, he conceptualized secular knowledge as manifestly that kind of knowledge which is founded in this life, which relates to the conduct of this life, conduces to the welfare of this life, and is capable of being tested by the experience of this life.

According to Osita Ogbu in his published article in The Transnational Human Rights in 2014 on Secularism, Law, Human Rights and Religion, he traced the origin of the modern state to the Renaissance and Reformation, the split between Catholics and Protestants and the 30 years of wars of religion in Europe. The deadlocked war led the church to seek protection of the king and the king seized the opportunity to establish royal absolutism. This anomaly provided ample opportunity for the establishment of independent sovereign nation-states in Europe where the king became the head of state and the object of loyalty of all men irrespective of religious denominations. Thus, the sovereign state emerged to vindicate the supremacy of the secular order against religious claims and forced the clerics into a position of subordinate authority.

In political terms, secularism describes the movement towards the separation of religion and government which is usually termed as the separation of church and state during the Age of Enlightenment in Europe. The principle plays a major role in evolution of modern society in the West which largely influences decision pertaining to legalization of abortion, contraception and of lately same-sex marriage. Homosexuality, lesbianism, gay marriage and other LGBTs are direct products of secular principles in the modern world which have been given legal recognition in European countries and USA among others.

The general policy of the West was to adopt its policy as a model for developing countries which necessitate the diplomatic overtures currently being championed by USA to Africa over legal recognition of homosexuality. Consistently with this policy, there was a conscious or subconscious omission to take cognizance of “outside features”. Everything that was not Western was “outside” and uncivilized. Thus the range of enormous pre-colonial human experiences as well as the native institutional facts that distinguished Africa and Africans as the “the cradle of civilization”, were given scant recognition, if at all.

Rather the colonialists were committed to making the Blackman believe that he has never been responsible for anything, at all, of worth, not even for what is to be found right in his own house and home. In this way, it is easy to bring about the abandonment and renunciation of all national aspirations on the part of those who are wavering, and the reflexes of subordination are reinforced in those who have already been alienated. This explains the promotion of secularism in Nigeria which is antithetical to our multi-religious understanding of over 250 ethnic identities.

Shari’ah, as one of the fundamental culture of over 80 million Nigerian Muslims, is an Islamic legal system that covers both the temporal and divine rulings of every facet of human endeavour. The spread of Islam which is accompanied with the adoption of Shari’ah in Nigeria dated back to the eleventh century when it first appeared in Borno in the northeast of the country. The first Muslim king Hume Jilmi in the Kanem Bornu Empire (1085 – 1097 CE) acquired Quranic knowledge and the contents of other Islamic literatures. Hume’s son, Dunama I (1097-1150 C.E) was also interested in learning Islam.

It is also on record that Imam Abdullah Dilii bn Bukuru taught Mabradu Ibn Salma, the son of the then ruler of Kanem Bornu, Mai Salma (1194-1221C.E) from about a hundred and fifty books. Thus, Shari’ah became a legal system of jurisdiction with the adoption of Islam in Kanem Bornu Empire. Again, Mai Idris Alooma (1570-1602) of the Kanem Bornu Empire also introduced Shari’ah in his empire and made Islam the state’s religion.This development showed that Islam cannot be divorced from Shari’ah and vice-verse.

It is very significant to note here that, centuries prior to the advent of British colonialism in Nigeria in 1842, the area presently known as Northern Nigeria had her own formalized administrative institutions under the Islamic legal system. Islam is a total way of life. It stipulates the rights due to God from Muslims, the rights of their fellow beings, and that of adherents of other faiths.

To appreciate the positive impact of Islamic Law in the pre-colonial days, F.H. Ruxton, a consultant to the colonial government stated as follows:”The advantages to be gained by knowing something of the lawof the people we govern are self-evident, especially when, as in the case of the Muhammedan countries, it is the law that hasmoulded the people, and not the people the law. Again, where, as in the Northern Provinces of Nigeria it has been the policy of government to rule indirectly through the native administration,knowledge of the Muhammedan law is more than ever necessary,giving us, as it does, a clue, to many acts, and supplying the mainspring for many motives, which otherwise we should fail to understand. The more we can grasp the inward significance of motives and acts, the more sympathetically, and therefore the more efficiently we shall be enabled to administer Muhammedan peoples’’

So, it was not therefore surprising that the colonial administrationfound the Islamic legal system not only fully developed but equally a convenient tool for the indirect administration of the northern region, though the application was limited to the repugnancy clause principles.
Despite the in-depth appraisalof the impact of Islamic Law on the people of Northern Nigeria, the colonialists did not avoid the temptation of tampering with it, and attempting to displace it with the Common law of England by the introduction of the repugnancy test.

This in the face of the fact that Islam has not only been the way of life of the Muslims of theNorth but that Islamic law has always governed their transactions and livelihood. Customary law has also not been spared the repugnancy test, in order to qualify as a good law. The use and effect of Islamic andCustomary laws became dependent on the permissive extent of the general law. The operation of Customary and Islamic laws became dependent on the satisfaction of the rules of Common law, equity and good conscience.
.Engr. Dauda Ayanda (MNSE), wrote from Ibadan.




By Josiah Idowu-Fearon on September 24, 2015 3:57 am

Continued from yesterday

THE symbolism of this episode in the life of Abraham and his son Ismael therefore is in the attitude – a willingness to make sacrifices in our lives in order to stay on the Straight Path (“l-sirata l-mus’taqima” Faatiha: 6). Each of us makes small sacrifices, giving up things that are fun or important to us. A true Muslim, one who submits himself or herself completely to the Lord, is willing to follow Allah’s commands completely and obediently. It is this strength of heart, purity in faith, and willing obedience that God desires from us.

This same narrative is found in the Jewish scripture which constitutes the first part of the Christian Bible referred to as the Old Testament (Genesis 22:1-19). However, unlike the Jews, the Christians interpret this Abrahamic story as a pre-cursor to the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. The reason for this has to do with the Christian understanding of human nature, the concept of original sin. (This is the reason for Good Friday and Easter celebrations by Christians). From the Christian perspective, sin and salvation are central categories in theology and spirituality. Christianity teaches that the effects of original sin have corrupted the world and the human beings who exist in it. In Islam, however, there is no such a thing as original sin as pointed out above.

An Appeal to Muslims and Christians
Our President, Muhammadu Buhari, has continued to demonstrate his commitment to living out his religious duties by waging an all-out battle against corruption, stealing of public funds, and lack of transparency and accountability by those who have been entrusted with governance. This writer is particularly thrilled by Mr. President’s commitment to putting into practice his religious convictions.

The President has publicly told Nigerians what he has in terms of possessions as he comes into office as the President of a rich nation with a lot of natural resources. His Vice-President, a Christian, has also done the same and we must believe the sincerity of purpose that has been demonstrated.

In the spirit of this Festival of Sacrifice, this writer is calling on Muslims and Christians whose scriptures contain this story of Abraham/ Ibrahim to stand up and also put their religious convictions into practice as demonstrated by our President.

President Buhari, with the fear of God, has embarked on this crusade against all those in government who stole public funds and property; he has given his support to both the EFCC and ICPC to trace and recover most of these stolen funds.

For him to succeed and thereby leave a lasting legacy for our future political leaders, this writer, in the spirit of Eid al-Adha, is calling on Mr. President to include the following in his plans for Nigerians:
i) The President should not allow anything to distract him from his focus. While he allows investigations to proceed, he should promote a culture of naming and shaming by informing Nigerians what has been recovered and from whom. Transparency should continue to be his watchword.
ii) He was accused of planning to Islamise Nigeria and make life difficult for Christians. Boko Haram was the main reason for this wicked and divisive allegation. Mr. President should continue to publicly support national security by enabling the Armed Forces to clean up what is left of this insurgent group and restore sanity to the N’East of Nigeria in particular and the entire nation in general.
iii) The energy sector is already being changed for the better. He should expose the rot in this sector by again naming and shaming those behind it. This will be a deterrent to future thieves within the energy sector.
iv) Knowing the negative roles religious leaders used religion to play, especially in the last administration, and in order to redeem the image of the One God we all worship, albeit differently, Mr. President is advised against courting the favour of religious leaders who are again poised to continue to divide our nation along religious lines for their monetary gains. He should avoid any acts or statements that will justify the allegation that he is in power to make life difficult for the Christians in Nigeria. It was said, “Buhari is not an option.” The President needs to justify the confidence Nigerians put in him by making a difference.
v) Mr. President should not encourage any rapprochement from religious leaders who would want to control him for their selfish reasons.

Virtually every facet of our public life today is infested by this cancer called corruption. If politicians and civil servants are being purged, the lesson of sacrifice, which this festival draws our attention to as religious people should be used for reflection and action on our side.

As such, the followings are suggested as necessary actions so as to make our nation more respectable:
Religious leaders who collected money from politicians wanting support during the last presidential campaigns should be bold enough to return what they collected on behalf of their religious communities. The allegation made that a huge some of money was given needs to be addressed. As long as this is not investigated and addressed, the moral courage to call on politicians to be people of integrity remains a mockery. In addition to this allegation, vehicles in possession of individual religious leader bought with government funds are to be returned. Religious leaders have a special position in every nation; they are called to encourage the good health of their society. N

Unfortunately, some religious leaders in Nigeria have lost this prophetic charge. The call of President Buhari offers religious leaders a fresh opportunity to retrieve this lost mandate. The sacrificial life of Abraham/ Ibrahim we celebrate with our Muslim neighbours offers these leaders an opportunity to repent, return stolen property and reclaim their mandate to be prophetic.

We are calling on all to emulate Abraham/ Ibrahim who sacrificed his most precious possession. Mr. President has given us an example, now let Nigerians- religious leaders taking the lead, traditional rulers, civil servants and everyone – decide, as we celebrate this common event with our Muslim neighbours, to make some sacrifices so that our country may get out of the mess we have been plunged into. As the Muslims pray when religious duties are performed: taqab al Allah ta’atakum. Barka da Sallah to all Nigerians.

• Concluded
• Most Reverend Idowu-Fearon, Director, Kaduna Centre for the Study of Christian-Muslim Relations, Kaduna; is Secretary General of the Anglican Communion St Andrew’s House, Tavistock Crescent, London.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015


By Josiah Idowu-Fearon on September 23, 2015 2:36 am


THE Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha offers an opportunity for both the Muslim and Christian communities all over the world in general and Nigeria in particular to learn a bit more about the religious duties (Ibadah) they share in common.

This article is specifically written in order to encourage these communities to give their support to our President, Muhammadu Buhari who has been given to us as a nation to rebuild our country morally, economically, socially and politically. Hopefully, those who will take interest and read through this piece will, in their own modest way, follow the example of Abraham (Ibrahim), and also follow the godly example of President Muhammadu Buhari and his Vice, Osinbanjo.

It is also expected that reading through this article with an open mind might lead to a better understanding of what our two major communities have in common and join hands in the promotion of the culture of respect for differences and religious harmony. This government must succeed and it will take every Nigerian: Muslim and Christian and even those who do not profess either of these two main religions but have good intentions to succeed.

What is Eid al-Adha?
So, what is this festival, what does it signify and what can both communities share from its significance?
According to Islamic sources, at the end of the Hajj (annual pilgrimage to Mecca), Muslims throughout the world celebrate Eid al-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice). What exactly is this festival as explained by our Muslim neighbours?

During the Hajj, Muslims commemorate the trials and triumphs of the Prophet Abraham. One of Abraham’s main trials was to face the command of God to kill his only son. When Ishmael was about 13 (Abraham being 99), God decided to test their faith in public. Abraham had a recurring dream, in which God was commanding him to offer his son as a sacrifice. This was the son God had granted him after many years of deep prayer. Abraham knew that the dreams of the prophets were divinely inspired and were one of the ways in which God communicated with his prophets. When the intent of the dreams became clear to him, Abraham decided to fulfil God’s command and offer Ishmael for sacrifice.

Although Abraham was ready to sacrifice his dearest for God’s sake, he could not just go and drag his son to the place of sacrifice without his consent. Ishmael had to be consulted as to whether he was willing to give up his life to fulfil God’s command. This consultation would be a major test of Ishmael’s maturity in faith, love and commitment for God, and his willingness to obey his father and sacrifice his own life for the sake of God.

Abraham presented the matter to his son and asked for Ismael’s opinion about the dreams commanding his sacrifice. Ishmael did not show any hesitation or reservation even for a moment. He said: “Father, do what you have been commanded. You will find me, Insha’Allah (God willing), to be very patient.” His mature response, deep insight into the nature of his father’s dreams, his commitment to God and, ultimately, his willingness to sacrifice his own life for the sake of God were all unprecedented.

When both father and son had shown their perfect obedience to God and had demonstrated their willingness to sacrifice their most precious possessions for His sake — Abraham by laying down his son for sacrifice and Ishmael by lying patiently under the knife – God called out to them stating that Abraham’s sincere intentions had been accepted, and that he needs not carry out the killing of Ishmael. Instead, Abraham was told to replace his son with a ram to be sacrificed. Allah also told them that they had passed the test imposed upon them by Abraham’s willingness to carry out God’s command. This is mentioned in the Qur’an as follows:

O my Lord! Grant me a righteous (son)!” So we gave him the good news of a boy, possessing forbearance. And when (his son) was old enough to walk and work with him, (Abraham) said: “O my dear son, I see in vision that I offer you in sacrifice: Now see what is your view!” (The son) said: “O my father! Do what you are commanded; if Allah wills, you will find me one practising patience and steadfastness!” So when they both submitted and he threw him down upon his forehead, we called out to him saying: O Ibraheem! You have indeed fulfilled the vision; surely thus do we reward those who do good.

Most surely this was a manifest trial. And we ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice. And we perpetuated (praise) to him among the later generations. “Peace and salutation to Abraham!” Thus indeed do we reward those who do right. Surely he was one of our believing servants. (As-Saffat:100-111).

As a reward for this sacrifice, Allah then granted Abraham the good news of the birth of his second son, Is-haaq (Isaac):
And we gave him the good news of Is-haaq, a prophet from among the righteous”(As-Saffat:112-113). Abraham had shown that his love for God superseded all others: that he would lay down his own life or the lives of those dearest to him in submission to God’s command. Muslims commemorate this ultimate act of sacrifice every year during Eid al-Adha. (The Sunnah of Eid al-Adha). This generally is how Muslims explain this festival from both the Qur’an and Hadith.

Why do Muslims sacrifice an animal on this day?
During the celebration of Eid al-Adha, Muslims remember Abraham’s trials by themselves slaughtering an animal such as a ram, camel, or goat. Most of the meat from the sacrifice of Eid al-Adha is given away to others. One third is eaten by immediate family and relatives, one third is given away to friends, and one third is donated to the poor.

The act symbolises their willingness to give up things that are of benefit to them or close to their hearts, in order to follow God’s commands. It also represents their willingness to give up some of their own bounties, in order to strengthen ties of friendship and help those who are in need.

For the non-Muslim, therefore, it is very important to understand that the sacrifice itself, as practised by Muslims, has nothing to do with atoning for sins or using the blood to wash away sins. This is clear from the Qur’an where it is said: “It is not their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah; it is your piety that reaches Him.” (Qur’an 22:37)
• To be continued tomorrow.

• Most Reverend Idowu-Fearon (Ph.D), Director, Kaduna Centre for the Study of Christian-Muslim Relations, Kaduna, is Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, St Andrew’s House, Tavistock Crescent, London.