“Have you not seen how your Lord planted a seed of parable? A beautiful word is like a magnificent tree with formidable roots and delightfully gorgeous foliages sprouting pleasantly into the firmaments of the orbit by Allah’s grace. It (the tree) produces nourishing fruits (for the consumption of man) from season to season….” Q. 14: 24-27
For Nigerian Muslims of the 20th/21st century, the month of March is a gladdening month of a marvelous revolution. It is the month in which an unprecedented revolution began at the twilight of the 20th century in preparation for an historic dawn of wonders in the 21st century. Without irritating noise or mere media hype, that revolution is the turn of Nigeria’s religious screw for accentuation of Islamic reality in contemporary time. If anything can be called a reconfirmation of how actions are truly based on intentions, it is that NASFAT’s
providential revolution. The evidence is glaring.
Many contemporary religious observers around the world have been wondering about the fortuitous emergence of NASFAT as an Islamic Organization. Many others have continually been marveled by the astronomical rise and phenomenal spread of NASFAT across nations and races around the world. It is one queer spiritual development that beats anybody’s imagination and transcends any tendentious guess by any pessimistic individuals or groups about Islam.
Two things are positively strange about this Organization. One is the timeliness of its millennial emergence. The other is the manner of that emergence. At a time when some contemptuous non-Muslim Nigerians were trying to heighten their negative perception of Islam by tagging that divine religion an anachronistic faith meant for primordial people, an infinitesimal, unassuming group of Muslim elite with diverse professional backgrounds fortuitously emerged with an unprecedented stunner that came to render the world nonplused. Without any iota of doubt, that tacit revolution was a timely answer to an untimely question.
Never in the history of Islam in Nigeria has a Muslim Organization with so fragile background and so mean provision risen so astronomically within so short a time. It is unprecedented.
From a one room congregation of a few men and women of Islamic faith in Ibadan and later in Lagos, a gargantuan Islamic Organization emerged like a cyclopean tree with incredible foliage forming a formidably protective umbrella of faith for millions of Muslim faithful across the globe. Today, NASFAT is not just a global household name but also universal case study for people in the academia as well as other research fellowship spheres with religious inclination. The evidence is undeniable.
What is NASFAT?
The word NASFAT is an acronym for an abridged verse of the Qur’an which goes thus: “…Nasrun minal-Lahi wa Fathun Qarib…” (Q. 61:13) meaning: “…With (strong) help from Allah, victory is surely attainable”. From that Qur’anic verse, the name of the Organization was formed as ‘NASRUL-LAHI-AL-FATIH’ Society and shortened to NASFAT for easy pronunciation. Thus, it is with that name that Allah’s coded parable of tree quoted at the beginning of the article can be meaningfully decoded at this dawn of the 21st century.
The Spread of Tentacle
Initially, the idea of forming NASFAT as an Islamic Organization was conceived to be limited to Nigeria. But, unimaginably, in less than two decades of its existence, this Organization rapidly outgrew even an African image and went global. Thus, whether you are in Africa, Europe, America, Asia or Australia today, you will find NASFAT to be a familiar name with a familiar status. And, then, you will discover that familiarization with NASFAT socially and spiritually is trualy a concept of equanimity.
NASFAT was founded as another Islamic Organization for Nigeria’s Muslim elite in March, 1995 by a group of young Muslim professionals, mostly bankers. There had been a myriad of elite Islamic Organizations before it especially in Lagos and other parts of the South West Nigeria. Some of such elite Organizations include Ahmadiyyah Jamat; Jama’atu Islamiyyah; Ahmadiyyah Movement in Islam; Anwarul Islam Movement; Ansar-Ud-Deen Society of Nigeria; Nawairu-Ud-Deen Society; Zumratu Islamiyyah; Muslim Association of Nigeria; Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN), National council of Muslim Youth (NACOMYO); Federation of Muslim Women Associations of Nigeria, (FOMWAN); The Companion; The Criterion and a host of others.
At the advent of its establishment, the objective NASFAT, as an Islamic Organization was clearly reflected in its mission statement which went thus: “to develop an enlightened Muslim society nurtured by a true understanding of Islam for the spiritual uplift and welfare of mankind.” That objective has since sticked to NASFAT as skin to the body.
Like any other Islamic Organization, NASFAT fathomed a Mission Statement that was to serve as its guide in words and in action. However, its own Mission Statement was like a dream not given a chance of realization. But it later turned out to be the most wonderfully realized dream of the century. If anything can be described as the 20th century crown of success for Nigeria’s Muslim Ummah, it is NASFAT, the initially rejected stone that later turned out to be the Corner Stone of the House.
The small group that had such a dramatic dream over two decades ago has now grown in limbs and in wings into such a miraculous magnet attracting members in their thousands to form a non-such formidable Organization that cannot be taken for granted anywhere by any power. NASFAT’s membership comprises of young professionals, Educationists, Muslim Scholars, Civil Servants, Journalists, Company Directors, Business Executives, Computer Experts, Members of Security Forces, Members of the Judiciary, Politicians, State Commissioners, Legislators, Traders, Artisans, Farmers, Students, name it.
Today, NASFAT is, arguably, one of the fasted growing religious Organizations in the world with about three million members. As a matter of fact, the similitude of NASFAT is like that of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, which was established in a Mosque by a small Muslim group of in Cairo, Egypt, in 970 CE. The name Al-Azhar was coined from an appellation of Fatimah the daughter of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) who was popularly called Zahrau (meaning adorable flower). With time, Al-Azhar University, which emerged from the Mosque, became one of the earliest established Universities in the world.
Now, about 1046 years old, Al-Azhar University is one of the three oldest Universities in the world. The other two are Qarawiyyin University in Fez, Morocco and Zaytuniyyah University in Tunis, Tunisia. Being contemporaries in age and reputation, these three Universities otherwise known as educational tripod came to confirm to the modern world that what we call University today in all parts of the world is an indelible Islamic heritage that keeps the track of knowledge actively alive.
Cacophony of Gossip
The problem with some hypocrites who masquerade in the cloak of mischief but claim to be Muslims in Nigeria is that of cacophony of gossip, witch-hunting, blackmail and sticking tenaciously to retardation on the bedrock of incurable ignorance. I have for long been familiar with their parochial antics and cannot be disturbed by their diversionary gimmicks.
When NASFAT was fast becoming unmanageably large, due to an unexpected upsurge in its membership roll, the leadership of the Organization decided to create branches nationally and internationally for the convenience of all and sundry. That was as far back as 2002 when the Organization was just about seven years old. Today, NASFAT has about 400 branches in Nigeria and abroad cutting across the geo political zones of the world.
Whatever impression anybody may have about NASFAT’s mode of operation is immaterial at this stage as long as that Organization is not acting against the fundamental norms of Islam. After all, it is crystal clear that the real champions of Islamic propagation (Da‘wah) in contemporary Nigeria are the Muslim elite who know little about Islamic theology, and not the so-called Imams and Alfas whose impact of theology is hardly felt in the society. All the above listed Organizations in Nigeria were established by progressive, non-clerical Muslim elite including those of NASFAT. But if any grouop feels otherwise, it should show us its own achievements.
Perhaps, without NASFAT, there would not have been any Islamic University in Nigeria or at least in Southern Nigeria, today. If any other Islamic University now exists, NASFAT should be credited for showing the pioneering way and for unilaterally facing the challenge that woke others up from their slumber.
There is a sharp difference between a Muslim University, and an Islamic University. The earlier is registered in the name of an individual Muslim. The latter is registered in the name of an Islamic Organization. In that case, ownership is the main determinant of status. Only two of several private Universities attributed to Islam in Nigeria today are truly Islamic. These are Fountain University based in Osogbo, Osun State and owned by NASFAT, and Summit University based in Offa, Kwara State and owned by Ansar-Ud-Deen Society of Nigeria. Incidentally, both originated from Lagos. However, there is an exception. That exception is Al-Qalam University based in Katsina, Katsina State which is an Islamic University owned by Katsina State. Others generally perceived as Islamic Universities are only privately owned by individual Muslims and not Islamic Organizations.
Fountain University is like Al-Azhar University that was founded by the Fatimids in Cairo over 1046 years ago and keeps waxing stronger today with functional faculties that harbour virtually all fields of human endeavours a standard educational curriculum.
In the same token, Fountain University is one of the major achievements of NASFAT. This University was founded by NASFAT in 2007 after being licensed by the Federal Government of Nigeria through the National University Commission (NUC).
Sited on about 250 hectares of land where academic activities have since been in full and uninterrupted swing, Fountain University is operating a fully accredited curriculum of any standard University in the world. Most of the graduates of Fountain University, so far, whether Muslims or Christians, are now proud of thorough education and not just the certificate for advanced literacy now generally obtained from most Nigerian Universities.
By all standards, Fountain is a University indeed and a clear attestation to this assertion is evident in the conducts of the graduates of this University to whom the future glory is eagerly beckoning. Unlike in some non-Muslim Universities, the freedom of religion entrenched in the administrative policy of Fountain University alone is a clear evidence of religious sincerity on the part of the proprietors and management of that University.
Home of Peace
Among other NASFAT’s achievements is a Village, being planned to serve as ‘Daarus-Salaam’, (Home of Peace). That village is a model estate for Muslim families in a serene environment. The project is located on 40 hectares of land on Lagos- Ibadan Expressway, in Ogun State of Nigeria. It is meant for any NASFAT member or interested Muslim who wants to live peacefully with fellow Muslims. It is another revolutionary innovation that serves as a ‘Lighthouse’ for conscious Nigerian Muslims.
Hajj and Umrah Company
As one of its achievements also, NASFAT is engaged in Hajj and Umrah Halal business aimed at making pilgrimage relatively comfortable for Nigerian Muslims without fear of exploitation. The company licensed for that business is called TAFSAN Tours and Travels. Not only that, NASFAT also feels so concerned about the spate of poverty among Nigerian Muslims that it established an agency which handles Zakah and Sadaqah with collection and distribution for the purpose of alleviating poverty among the Muslims and advancing the course of needed Muslim projects in the society.
Like some other prayer groups, NASFAT is known for recitation of prayers congregationally in a book which contains selected Dua’u from the Glorious Qur’an and prayers of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) every Sunday; It is also known for Providing economic empowerment for jobless Muslim youths; fixing up the qualified ones among those youths in employment vacancies and granting soft loans to those who require such loans for small scale businesses as well as assisting Muslim traders in financing genuine local purchase orders (LPOs) through the NASFAT’’s Cooperative arm. There is also the Usrah (family) in which basic knowledge of Islam is imparted to couples, parents and children alike on a weekly basis. This helps, not only in cementing the marital relationship of those couples but also in facilitating close relationship between parents and their children on the basis of knowledge and piety.
Believing in education as the solid foundation of human existence, NASFAT organizes general lectures pertaining to Islam, peace and morals for all its members who are interested in such lectures. This program is mostly handled by the Society’s Mission Board members including the Imams. And, for diversification of tastes and exposure, guest lecturers are sometimes invited from within and outside the country to deliver some of such lectures.
Another NASFAT’s notable program is ‘Tutorial Class’ which is specifically designed for professional-male and female members of NASFAT and other interested Muslims to learn the the recitation and understanding of the Qur’an as well as the Hadith for the purpose of solidifying their understanding of Islam. This program has produced more than 3000 youth and adult graduates nationally and internationally.
Another interesting program that further confirms the uniqueness of NSAFAT is Children Classes. In this program, various classes are organized to teach Muslim children the Qur’an and Hadith and thereby inculcate in them Islamic culture and values. And quite encouragingly, Muslim children, through the prompting of their parents, have been responding appropriately to this program as expected.
Another vital program of NASFAT is award of scholarships to indigent Muslim pupils in the Primary, Post-Primary schools as well as Tertiary Institutions. Such scholarships are usually funded from the Zakat collected during the corresponding year.
Meanwhile, one major addition to NASFAT’s education program is educational recreation that includes children’s holiday camping, women’s week, youth week and National Qur’anic quiz competition. That program also includes social services such as welfare visitations to prison yards, orphanages, old people’s homes and the likes.
Besides all the programs mentioned above, NASFAT has also confirmed its seriousness in acquisition of education by establishing over a dozen standard Islamic Nursery and Primary schools and a number of secondary schools to cater for the future of Islam in Nigeria. More of such schools are still in the making.
All the above mentioned efforts and activities including job creation and empowerment for the purpose of promoting Islam to further the course humanitarian gestures have come to form a footprint on the sands of time which not evil antics can ever efface. Alhamdu liLlah!
If within 25 years of existence, NASFAT could achieve so much despite the hash economic environment and hostile religious tendencies it faces from time to time, who says this unique Organization is not a front line model to serve as a positive reference point in Nigeria? ‘The Message’ Column hereby joins millions of well- wishers around the world in saluting the courage of NASFAT to engage in various legitimate activities towards the promotion of Islam globally just as it prays specially that such courage and the wherewithal to summon it should never, never wane. Amin! CONGRATULATIONS on the glorious Silver Jubilee Occasion. Ilal Amam in Sha’Allah! ·