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In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful
All praise is for Allah. We praise Him, we seek His aid and we ask for His forgiveness. We seek Allah’s refuge from the evils of ourselves and from our evil actions. Whosoever Allah guides, there is no one who can misguide him; and whosoever Allah misguides, there is no one who can guide him.
I testify that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah, alone, who has no partner; and I testify that Muhammad (Peace be upon him) is His servant and Messenger.
Great servants of Allah! Tribalism is a pernicious belief that has afflicted human societies in every time period, originating in the worship of idols and reconstructing itself into many ideological forms throughout the ages. In modern times, we know it as the scourges of racism, xenophobia, supremacism, and militarism. In practice, it rears its ugly head to us in the shape of prejudice, bigotry, discrimination, and violence.
Allah has commanded us to uphold justice with all other human beings regardless of their tribe, race, region, religion, lineage, status, or identity. Allah Almighty said:
“O you who believe, be persistently standing firm in justice as witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. Follow not your desires, lest you not be just.” [Qur’an, 4:135]
Dear brothers and sisters! The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:
“The likeness of a group of people divided on the lower and upper deck of a boat, the passengers on the lower deck decided not to bother coming upper deck fetching water, instead easily bore a hole in the lower deck. Now, if those on the upper deck stop them not, indeed they all perish; if they did, surely they are all protected (from an awful disaster).” [Hadith]
Respected servants of Allah! Universally, regionally and eternally, the parable of the noble Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) applies. Today and the boat we are all on board (Nigeria), the complex problem arises not only from the few on the lower deck who dare bore a hole in it, pluck out a timber thereof, give pirates chance to rob it, turn blind eye to dumping radioactive waste in the waters around it; but from the majority on the upper deck who let alone stop, dissuade, discourage and disown them, rather cheer, cajole and hail them as heroes. The crisis which crippled Nigeria has its roots in two major issues, namely abusive tribalism and the lack of outward, extrovert vision and concept. The former seems to be influencing the latter and vice versa.
The Arabs in Madinah were divided into to two major clans, Aws and Khazraj, feudalism based on abusive tribalism was rampant, thus bloodshed was frequently common. When Islam came, the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) created brotherhood (in Islam) between the migrants from Makkah (Muhajirun) and the helpers (Ansar) in Madinah, thus a new generation was born. The Madinite community still apparently retained their tribal identity but its structure, purpose, function and significance has been subdued, diluted and harmoniously fine tuned into the Universal Islamic Fraternity.
On occasions when the natural instinct of abusive tribalism resurfaced leading to rumination and revival of pre-Islamic squabbles and schisms, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) would suddenly intervene by warning them to get rid of it as it rots, get rid of it as it rots. In cases of vying one another in tribal dignity and grandeur, reinstating original identity triggered social division, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) would revitalise the real social bond based on the sole brotherhood in Islam by once saying Salman Al-Farisi (A non Arab companion, Persian by origin) is one of us, from our very own household (Ahlal Bait). By merely underestimating his own uncle Abu Lahab’s belonging to the noble lineage (Quraish), denying him intimacy and brotherhood due to blood relationship, rejecting him the dignity and role of companionship, while consigning it to a non Arab stranger, indeed there is a moral lesson and the message of unity was conveyed.
Surely abusive tribalism rots the moral values and reduces Man into a bloodsucker or a wild beast. The person is blinded from every truth. There are similarly obnoxious, cumbersome and intricate issues, for which everlasting solution has been provided without altering its apparent features. Hajj and Umrah rituals like As-Safah and Marwah had been practiced by idolaters in Makkah before Islam. Islam approved the ritual practice with condition that it is solely meant for Allah and not the idols. Slavery was reduced to non existent level by remoulding the social structure into a framework of justice and equality. Slaves could be viewed as a burden, rather than a mere domestic servant, when due rights for the slave and strict conditions in their treatment necessitated personal responsibilities and duties on the master. Islam declared equal rights such that equal penal code on the master who caused the slave’s injuries was introduced; freeing them was made an expiation for shortcomings in acts of worship, committing sins, or seeking the pleasure of Allah. Even the title of slave was substituted with that of Mawlah (supporter or attendant), Mawali (plural of Mawlah) later became great personalities in Islam, scholars blessed with honour, dignity and knowledge.
Expectably, abusive tribalism in Nigeria is similar to social life in pre-Islamic Arabia. It is deeply embedded in the social structure and vehemently imbued in the public concept as a dogmatic ritual. The individual can not survive, otherwise leads a precarious livelihood of loss of identity and wandering lonely in the wilderness among other tribes, except within the circles of one’s tribe. It is the likeness of fear all, trust few scenario of which the few are the closest of the tribe, clan or sub-clan. In this case, It is most befitting to apply the same ideal solution which reformed and transmuted the wildest and harshest of humans into the most civilised of Mankind. It is impossible to uproot and obliterate abusive tribalism at once and for good. Hence let us employ the same previous engagement policy as mentioned above, in order to transmute abusive tribalism to positive tribalism. Let us say keep your tribal structure, as your statutory rights within the society, as your identity but the following rules apply:
1. You shall not discriminate people on the basis of either belonging to your tribe, clan, sub-clan or not. All shall be equal to you as brothers and sisters.
The cooperation, peaceful co-existence, assistance and support between you and your immediate next of kin, members of tribe, clan or sub-clan, shall not lead to rejection of the former to other tribe or clan members, hostility to others, denial of others rights, rivalry or complexity towards members of other tribes or clans.
2. You shall be subject to doing justice to everyone, whenever, wherever, whomsoever, including yourself, it involves. The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) says, on the execution of anyone who commits an act of theft:
“Even if Fatimah Bint Muhammad (his own daughter) stole, I would chop off her hand.”
On the real advice and support to one’s brother, he (Peace be upon him) said:
“Assist your brother either he be an oppressor (by stopping him from committing crime), or being oppressed (by defending him).”
3. You shall endeavour to bring the criminal to justice even if the latter be yourself, your family, your parents, brothers or sisters.
4. You shall give due rights to everyone, in terms of fulfilling your social duty for the public or otherwise, by adhering to the Prophet (Peace be upon him)’s statement:
“There is no advantage for an Arab over a non Arab.”
5. You shall not have the least sympathy, pity, devotion, emotional feelings, intimacy or respect towards the criminal, even if the latter is your tribe, your family, your parents, your brothers or sisters. The set criteria of your love and intimacy to others shall be solely based on one’s piety, devotion, virtue, justice, honesty, innocence, righteousness, regardless of to whichever tribe, clan, sub-clan, or even nationality the person may belong.
Once above mentioned conditions are fulfilled accordingly, the social tribal classification remains no more than an ideal paradigm, a symbol of identity and knowing each other. The purpose of being divided into nations and tribes conforms to the Qur’anic statement of knowing each other and yields a positive result. Islam deals with the core and essence of matters rather than its superficial practice and reflections, by redirecting intentions and inner conscience to its sound nature. The fruition of this initiative depends on the wider concept of exploiting the positive side of this two edged weapon (Flawless and positive tribalism versus Negative and Abusive tribalism). There is no any harm in favouring the charity to those who are in dire need among the closest of kin, tribe, sub-clan or clan members as long as there is none more worthy or best deserving among any other members of the public. It would be much better to found the motives on locality identities rather than tribal proportion and division. If the former can not be attained, let us operate as a team, like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, for a complete image and better goal.
While unfortunately the negative tribalism utopia knows no moral boundaries, the tribe member’s crimes are seen as correct, his aggression and oppression as struggle for the former benefit, his terrorism to other tribe members as freedom fighter. There are many who stubbornly advocate for the falsehood, destruction, corruption and the misdemeanor, because there is the type of man:
“Whose speech about this world’s life may dazzle you, and he calls Allah to witness about what is in his heart; yet he is the most contentious of enemies. When he turns his back, his aim everywhere is to spread mischief through the earth and destroy crops and cattle. But Allah love not mischief. When it is said to him, “Fear Allah., He is led by arrogance to (more) crime. Enough for him is Hell;-An evil bed indeed (To lie on)!” [Qur’an, 2:204-206]
Yet unfortunately, the extremely few who enjoy the following attributes are subdued and subjugated to a weaker and helpless status:
“And there is the type of man who gives his life to earn the pleasure of Allah. And Allah is full of kindness to (His) devotees.” [Qur’an, 2:207]
Dear brothers and sisters, Jubair Ibn Mut’im reported that, the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) said:
“He is not one of us who calls to tribalism. He is not one of us who fights for the sake of tribalism. He is not one of us who dies following the way of tribalism.” [Sunan Abi Dawud]
Also Abu Hurairah reported that, the Messenger of Allah, (Peace be upon him) said:
“Whoever rejects lawful obedience to the leader and divides the community and dies in this state will have died upon ignorance (Jahiliyyah). Whoever fights under the banner of one who is blind, raging for the sake of tribalism, or calling to tribalism, or supporting tribalism, and is killed in this state will have died upon ignorance (Jahiliyyah). Whoever rebels against my nation, striking the righteous and wicked alike and sparing not even the believers and does not fulfill the pledge of security, then he has nothing to do with me and I have nothing to do with him.” [Muslim]
Jundub Ibn Abdullah reported that, the Messenger of Allah, (Peace be upon him) said:
“Whoever is killed under the banner of blind following, who calls to tribalism or supports tribalism, then he has died upon ignorance (Jahiliyyah).” [Muslim]
Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud reported that, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:
“Whoever supports his people in oppression is like a dead camel that falls into a well and is pulled out by its tail.” [Musnad of Imam Ahmad]
Imam Al-Khattabi said:
“It means he has fallen into sin and ruin, like a camel who tumbles into a well and must be pulled out by his tail. He has no power to save himself.” [Awnul-Ma’bud]
Wathilah Ibn Al-Asqa’ reported that, I asked the Prophet, (Peace be upon him) saying:
“O Messenger of Allah, is it part of tribalism that a man loves his people?” The Prophet said, “No, rather it is tribalism that he supports his people in wrongdoing and injustice.” [Sunan Ibn Majah]
Respected servants of Allah! Know that Islam rejects all forms of tribalism, racism, bigotry, and collective punishment. We must not construct a false caricature of other people in order to justify oppression against them. As Muslims, we must take the lead among humankind in upholding principled, universal justice and the natural rights of not only Muslims, but of all human beings.
Lastly, I ask Allah for peace and good health, and to protect us and all the brothers and sisters, ameen.
May Allah send His Salah and Salam upon our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him).
And all praises and thanks are due to Allah alone, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true and sincere followers.
Murtadha Muhammad Gusau is the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and the late Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: firstname.lastname@example.org or +2348038289761.
This Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday sermon) was prepared for delivery today, Friday, Rajab 07, 1442 AH (February 19, 2021).