For the umpteenth time, some Islamic groups have called on the Federal and State Governments in Nigeria to declare Muharram 1, the first day of the Islamic Hijrah calendar, a public holiday.
The groups, in separate Hijrah 1440 A.H messages, said such a declaration would be in line with the rule of law, fairness and justice to Muslims in Nigeria.
The demand came from the Muslim Media Practitioners of Nigeria (MMPN), the Obafemi Awolowo University Muslim Graduates Association (UNIFEMGA) and the Muslim Community of Oyo State (MUSCOYS).
The other groups include the Muslim Consultative Forum (MCF), the Federation of Muslim Women in Nigeria (FOMWAN) and the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN).
MMPN, in a statement signed by its President, AbdurRahman Balogun, urged the Federal Government to give recognition to the Muslim New Year in the interest of fairness.
Balogun said that declaring Muharram 1 a public holiday would give Nigerian Muslims a sense of belonging.
Muharram 1, in the Islamic calendar, is the Hijrah equivalent of January 1, which is observed as a public holiday in Nigeria. Muslims worldwide will usher in the new Islamic year, Hijrah 1440 A.H on Tuesday, September 11.
“Muharram 1 is our own January 1. We want the Federal and State Governments alike to declare it a public holiday in the interest of religious harmony in Nigeria”, Balogun said.
In the same vein, UNIFEMGA, in a message signed by AbdulWaheed Odeyimka, its National President, called on the government at various levels to recognise the Hijrah calendar, and use it side by side with the Gregorian calendar.
It congratulated Muslims and non-Muslims alike for witnessing another new Islamic year, and urged them to reflect on their deeds and activities during the past year.
In his message, the Chairman, Muslim Community of Oyo State, Alhaji Ishaq Kunle Sanni said the declaration and recognition of Hijrah was long overdue and called for its immediate implementation.
He called on the leadership of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) to enter into dialogue with the Nigerian Government on the Hijrah public holiday issue.
Alhaji Sanni commended the bold steps of the Governors of Oyo and Osun States in recognizing the first day of the Islamic year by declaring it a work-free day, and urged other State Governors to emulate them, especially in Southwest.
FOMWAN, through her National Amirah, Hajia Halimah Mustapha called for stringent legislation against rapists in Nigeria, while adding that the rape scourge was getting too rampant because the culprits always get away with such.
The Muslim women also decried the denial by some schools, especially government-owned, of Muslim girls from wearing the head scarf (Hijab), in line with the dictates of their faith, and as guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution.
The National body and the Lagos State State Area Unit of the Muslim Students’ Socieity of Nigeria (MSSN), in their separate Hijrah messages, hailed those Governors who had declared Muharram 1 a public holiday, and urged other State Governors as well as the Federal Government to emulate them.
Dr Ashafa Ashafa noted that it is beyond reason that the Federal Government has continued on the path of injustice by ignoring the Islamic New Year, adding that: “We are not asking for the cancellation or denial of those holidays declared for Christians, we are only saying that in the spirit of social justice and equality, give us Muslims our own Hijrah public holiday too, as declared for the Gregorians,”
Apart from members of the Salafiyyah sect who are still day-dreaming, terming the Hijrah holiday bid’iah (innovation), some Muslims also believe that the call for the Hijrah public holiday is unnecessary.
Veteran Muslim journalist, Alhaji Kayode Awobadejo said Hijrah connotes transcendence from bad to good, noting that: “Like Maolud Nabiyy, it is a more spiritual than a physical manifestation, which is now becoming the norm.”
He is of the opinion that declaring the 1st of Muharram a public holiday would actually not achieve anything except add to the holidays we have in the country.
“Islam has only two celebrations; Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha. The fact that other religions have one holiday or the other should not be a ground for Muslims to agitate for such, if it is unnecessary.
“If we can have the Hijab worn in all public schools in Nigeria, we would have succeeded greatly.”
‘We Stand By Our Demand For Hijrah Holiday’ – Prof Lakin Akintola
Prof Lakin Akintola said his organisation, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) is not backing out of its quest to secure the Hijrah holiday for Nigerian Muslims.
In a chat with Muslim News, the Professor of Islamic Eschatology said: “We stand by our demand for the declaration of 1st Muharram as Hijrah Day. We remind the Federal Government of our press statement issued on January 3, 2018, in which we called attention to its declaration of 1st January every year as a holiday for Nigerian Christians.
“We demanded the recognition of 1st Muharram of every year for Muslims. It must be emphasized that Islamic organizations (not MURIC alone) have been making this demand through petitions and appeals dating back to the 60s, but successive administrations have turned the deaf ear to their pleas.
“We demand parity. If it is true that Nigeria is not for any particular religion; if it is also true that the FG has been declaring 1st January of every year, which is the 1st day of the Christian year, as a holiday for decades; then the FG as the father of all must recognize 1st Muharram as the first day of the Islamic year. A good and responsible father must treat his children equally.
“As it stands today, the holidays are tilted in favour of Christians. Muslims are marginalized. MURIC rejects this lopsided arrangement. It cannot forge unity. Neither can it guarantee peace. It is only equal rights and justice that can ensure lasting peace.
“1st January is a Westo-Christian day and its recognition by the FG is one of the reasons we allege that Nigeria is heavily Christianised. We want 1st Muharram of every year to be declared for Muslims too. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. The FG must not be partial. Muslims have been making this demand for years, but the FG keeps ignoring them.
“What does this portend? Is the FG telling us that Muslims do not matter in the scheme of things? Regime after regime turns deaf ears to our cries. Is it only violence and demonstrations that the FG understands? We remind the FG that conscious and deliberate peace-making is cheaper than running up and down in search of weapons to defeat insurgents.
“1st January is from the Gregorian calendar, and it is a product of gymnastic make-belief and historic hocus-pocus that the British Christian colonialists imposed on Nigerian Muslims. This was after forcefully supplanting the Islamic calendar, which had been in use in this country for 800 years before the advent of the British. This status quo provides ample evidence of religious segregation and spiritual apartheid.”
Prof Lakin reminded the FG that Nigerian Christians enjoy five different holidays, while their Muslim counterparts have only three.
He added that, “In the spirit of fairness, equity and justice, the FG needs to allow the dividends of democracy to reach Nigerian Muslims too, by giving them 1st Muharram as a public holiday. This will only bring Muslim holidays to four, while Christians continue to enjoy five. Next Tuesday, 11th September, 2018 (and every first day of the Islamic year) should therefore be declared a public holiday.”
‘The discrimination against Muslims goes deeper than Hijrah Holiday’ – Imam AbdurRahman Ahmad
Imam AbdurRahman Ahmad, National Missioner of the Ansar-Ud-Deen Society of Nigeria said the discrimination and injustice against Muslims in Nigeria is beyond declaring 1st of Muharram a work-free day, noting that: “It goes deeper, looking at it critically. It looks like Muslims are barely tolerated. It is almost like we are strangers.”
The veteran broadcaster argued that 7 days a week and 2 work-free days have religious connotations and connections.
“Even on Fridays, Muslims hardly have time to observe their prayers. If they are not discriminated against, they are being outrightly prevented from observing their religious obligations, such as by assaults on the Hijab or lack of Muslim teachers to teach Islamic studies in schools, among other challenges facing us as Muslims in Nigeria”, he said.
According to him, in Nigeria, “Muslims are easily faced with shouts of blue murder and alleged Islamisation agenda from the Christians under the banner of CAN. But, who is Islamising, really? And who is Christianizing? These are critical questions.
“The kind of noise that greeted the Federal Government’s introduction of the Sukuk bond and the Islamic banking system are signs and symptoms of hatred for Islam, even though the beneficiaries of these schemes are not chosen on the basis of their faiths, yet Nigerian Christians keep screaming “Islamisation agenda”.
However, these Islamic financial products are very popular across the world, even in advanced countries, as viable alternatives in project financing.
“The claim that Islamic banking and the Sukuk bond amount to a phantom Islamisation agenda is like Muslims saying that, because there is a cross on the logo of health care facilities, they will not go to hospitals to receive treatment because such is tantamount to Christianization. That is why I said the discrimination and injustice against Muslims in this country is beyond declaring 1st of Muharram a work-free day. It goes deeper.”
Sheikh Ahmad called on people of goodwill and conscience to come together and address what he called “this madness and derangement.”
He said: “It is high time we sat and addressed the issue, because this pathological hatred for anything Islam and Muslims will not help us as a people and as a country. We will not move forward if this intolerance continues. The Nigerian Muslim Community must also face these challenges and address them.”
‘Hijrah should be remembered, not celebrated’ – Sheikh Shafi’i
Muslims around the globe have been admonished to see the first day of the Islamic New year as a day to call themselves to accountability, engage in individual assessment, work towards increasing their fear of Allah, and also reflect over what they are preparing for their meeting with their Lord.
These were the words of the Grand Mufti of the Conference of Islamic Organisations (CIO), Sheikh Dhikrullah Shafi’i in an exclusive chat with Muslim News.
Sheikh Shafi’i warned that the day should not be celebrated, because there are only two Eid celebrations in Islam. Rather, it should be remembered for the purpose of creating awareness and reminding the Muslim Ummah of their historical development and events that shaped it.
Responding to the demand for the Hijrah holiday by Nigerian Muslims, the respected Muslim Scholar said: “On this, we can support those who call for the declaration of this day as a holiday since the Christians are given numerous other holidays, although some scholars kicked against such”.
According to him, “If the Muslims demand for this (Hijrah holiday) also, there is nothing wrong in it. Not that it is a compulsory part of the religion, but because of the circumstance we found ourselves, where everyone is demanding for their rights and even the less important ones enjoy the privilege, if this is given as well, there is no harm in it, but it shouldn’t be taken too seriously.”
The Grand Mufti further advised the Imams, while delivering sermons at their various Mosques, to remind their congregations on the significance of the Hijrah and abstention from various unIslamic acts ascribed to the day.
Some of the unIslamic acts, according to Sheikh Shafi’I, are “observing Special New Year Tahajud, special Nawafil and special Dua, dancing, and even the popular ‘KayoKayo’ celebration done on the 10th of Muharram, amongst others. There are no sound evidences for these.
“The Hijrah calendar symbolises Islam. The Government, having recognised the Gregorian calendar by the declaration of a public holiday in its respect, must be fair enough to replicate same as regards the Hijrah calendar. This is the only way the Nigerian government can convince us of its upholding fairness and equality for all sides, as a canon of the democracy it operates. The declaration of a public holiday is therefore sacrosanct, to give Muslims a sense of belonging.” -AbdulGaniy Abdullahi, Unilorin, Kwara State.
- Story and all interviews by Rasheed Abubakar
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