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Al Majiri and standardization of Islamic seminaries: recipes for counter-insurgency

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Al Majiri and standardization of Islamic seminaries: recipes for counter insurgency

By Dr. Lukman A. Olorogun

Islam is popularly known as a total way of life that transcends rites and rituals and is one of the major leading religions in Nigeria. Historically, Islam has enjoyed a large number of adherents across states, local governments and more, albeit at a different percentage in those places.

Being one of the monotheist religions that encourage missionary activities and entail the whole-life, Nigerian Muslims often inculcate their offspring with Islamic ethos from birth.

Thus, Nigerian parents/families are classified into two i.e. “Ascetic and non-Ascetic” families. On the one hand, those with traditional Islamic background “ascetic” are locally known as Sheikh, whereby the parents are well established Islamic scholars.

On the other hand, there are those Islamic adherents by faith but who have less knowledge in Islamic ethos. The latter often send their children to the ascetics for the purpose of learning and developing Islamic ethos.

There began creations of Islamic seminaries across Nigeria known as “Ile Kewu” in Western Nigeria and “Makarantan Zaure/Allo” in the Northern part. They serve as the missionary front for the propagation of Islam across the nation.

The development of these traditional seminaries was left in the hands of individuals (Sheikh). These individuals were believed to possess adequate Islamic knowledge without any formal authentication from the government or authorities in general.

READ ALSO: ALMAJIRI SYSTEM: Northerners differ on way out

This loose system embodies different characters of proprietors of those seminaries in both the philosophy and the applications of Islamic fundamentals. Additionally, there is the cultural belief of Nigerians that knowledge is a hardship-laden with the natural triplets of Patient, Perseverance and Persistent which I term “P3

”. Furthermore, economic motives play a great role in the extension and sustenance of those seminaries. In both ways, seminaries serve as sources of income to the proprietor, as well as the easiest and cheapest way of delivering knowledge to the students.

Proprietors serve as putative fathers, teachers, and spiritual guardians of students and, at times, parents as well. Proprietors often pass many months or years without receiving any “Kobo” or reimbursement from the students and their parents. Meanwhile, most of the proprietors have no other means or sources of income.

Thus, the genesis of the term “Al Majiri” which literally translates to “Student”, or more technically as “Disciple”. These students were sent out to neighborhoods to receive charity such as money, clothes, and donated foods.

The above system was widely spread across Nigeria in the early time of Islamic civilization. Precisely, the system was obvious in North-North, North-East, North-Central, South-West, and a small part of MiddleBelt.

It was even evident in Lagos State and other core South-Western states until the late 20th century such as Zumratul Muminina method. Due to prevalent Western education in South-Western states, eradication of the Al Majirisystem was quickly obvious.

Add to this, the emancipation of modern and well-organized Islamic seminaries established by individuals such as “Markaz” in the Agege suburb of Lagos State, founded by the erudite Islamic scholar “Sheikh Adam Al Ilori”, Sheikh Kamal Al Adabi’s seminary in Ilorin, Kwara State on one hand.

On the other hand, well-organized Islamic missionaries, such as Nawarud Din, Anwarul Islam, Ansarul Din and more in the propagation of Islamic civilization. Few well-grounded missionaries such as Jama’atu Nasrul Islam, Jama’atu Izalatul bidi’a wa Iqamatu Sunnah (JIBWIS) are notable in the Northern states. By the end of the 20th century, Westerners had discarded the Al Majiri system in major cities and suburbs.

READ ALSO: Vexed question of the Almajiri

There are only a handful of these crude seminaries remaining in the interior part of the South-West states. However, Northern states have witnessed the opposite. Northern Nigeria became a fertile ground for the grooming of the Al Majiri system for many reasons: It serves as Sheikh Uthman Dan Fodio base i.e. “Islamic Caliphate” and Sheikh Dan Fodio as the Sultan engraved in Islamic civilization.

In fact, the conquest of Northern Nigeria was without serious war with the British colonial rulers. It is, thus, very difficult to separate the local and the Islamic culture in the Caliphate.

In fact, the British colonial masters officially adopted Islamic Shari’ah as the source of Law for the Northern region. Meanwhile, Northerners have two major sources of income: farming and animal rearing.

The majority of families are either farmers who are “Hausa and other minority ethnics” and “Shepherd i.e. animal rearing”, this being major trade of the Fulanis. Moreover, they hold the belief that Allah “God” is the ultimate Provider and Sustainer.

Those professions need manpower in order to sustain production and survival. The mismatching of need for manpower and the Islamic ethos encourages the marrying of the maximum number of wives as permitted and prescribed in the Qur’an, as well as having numbers of children, as many as is endowed by Allah “God”.

At liberty, the majority of men marry more than one wife and have a great number of children without factoring in the provisional part of the marriage requirements.

Education of those children was mostly left to the mercy of the seminaries’ proprietors who, in turn, have few resources. The only solution was sending those disciples on the road begging in the neighborhood for foods, clothes and other donations. The Western states managed to reverse their view on seminaries.

Northern states are yet to come closer to the reality. Meanwhile, the status quo in terms of lifestyle has changed in Northern states as individuals are exposed to modern amenities. Unfortunately, the majority are yet to engage in mind migration from a crude 1960s lifestyle to the modern world.

Arrest and prosecutions would never bring an end to the predicament of Al Majiri and the illegal detention centers saga. The way forward involves all segments of government, particularly, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism who should champion the course. However, this will not be possible unless the Islamic organizations, at the grassroots level, take charge.

In this light, the “Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affair” (NSCIA) must lead the course of action. The only single solution is to standardize the local Islamic seminaries. Standardization starts with compelling proprietors to register the seminaries with the NSCIA.

NSCIA would forward the registered seminaries to the Ministry of Religious Affairs such as in Katsina State. That registered list of seminaries should be forwarded to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

The registration of seminaries would provide adequate overseeing by the authorities and monitoring of development at local, state and federal government levels. One suggestion is the monitoring by using C5 formula for measuring credibility risk exposure:

First C: Character: Morals and ethics are well-defined terms in Islamic ethos, both in Qur’an and Prophetic traditions. Thus, Islamic ethical and moral standards of the proprietor must be ascertained before giving the approval to establish or operate a private seminary. This would impact students directly which in turn reflects on society.

A morally-cultured proprietor with high integrity would definitely be preferred to an unethical proprietor who would negatively affect the society at large. As it were, students’ protection is a priority. This would minimize or eradicate the indoctrination of terrorists’ ideology.

Second C: Capital: Most importantly, economic capacity i.e. sources and adequacy of income of the proprietor. This is to avoid and abate financial crises which bring about the current problems of Al Majiris.

Ensuring that the proprietor has enough economic power to sustain his/her family without waiting for the students’ fees would bring the end of the issue of sending students on the road to beg for donations.

Third C: Capacity: This addresses whether or not the proprietor has the capacity to maintain the seminary.

READ ALSO: Senate wants integration of ‘Almajiris’ into educational system

Capacity in knowledge about Islam, mental capacity, strength to deliver the required knowledge to the students and so on. Lastly, the capacity of the seminary in terms of the number of students that should be admitted at a time.

Fourth C: Condition: The sensitivity of the area of operation i.e. the location and condition of the

seminary: its environment, surroundings, and hygiene, for instance. This is vital as to whether the place is suitable for learning or not. This would go a long way in the eradication of the kind of detention centers that have recently created suspicion about the integrity of Islamic seminaries across Nigeria.

Fifth C: Collateral: Here, the collateral would be an intangible asset owned by the proprietors. In this case, I mean the spiritual level of the proprietor. Spirituality is a central or core part of Islamic religion and civilization.

It would serve as a check and balance for both proprietors and students alike. Guardians are drawn from Qur’an and Prophetic Sunna. It would manifest after careful study of the proprietor’s private and public dealings. This would have to be assessed by both parents and the government alike.

Damage to one spiritual level would mean a “collateral damage” which would reflect on all other four (C1-4) elements stated above. Thereby, we would achieve the eradication of terrorist insurgency.

Dr. Lukman A. Olorogun is an Assitant Professor of Business, FWC, Higher Colleges of Technology, Fujairah, UAE.

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