The name Leah Sharibu first came to the public domain on Wednesday, March 21st, 2018 when the Boko Haram insurgents released 104 out of the 110 school girls abducted on February 19th, 2018 from the Government Girls Science / Technical School, Dapchi, Yobe State.
Sadly, not all the abducted girls were reunited with their parents and loved ones. Five of them (all Muslims) were reported to have died in captivity while Leah Sharibu, a Christian girl, was reportedly held back by the Abu Mus’ab Barnawi faction of Boko Haram for allegedly refusing to embrace Islam, as reported by the media.
The story of Leah Sharibu sparked mixed reactions from Nigerians and the international community, with many, including some Christians and their Pastors describing her reported refusal to deny Jesus Christ as brave and heroic.
To others, particularly the Muslims, Leah’s alleged refusal to wear the Hijab two years ago could be likened to the embattled Firdaus Amasa’s refusal to remove her Hijab during the December 2017 Call to Bar Ceremony in Abuja. “If Leah’s action is heroic, so is Firdaus’, who many today regard as the heroine of the Hijab,” they contend.
While the doubting Thomases’ arguments over whether the abduction really took place in the first place or was staged, going by the events that surrounded the girls’ release continues, President Muhammadu Buhari has restated his commitment to free Leah Sharibu, all the children and other hostages still held in the Boko Haram captivity.
It is however worrisome that the purveyors of hate speech have since taken advantage of the news of Leah Sharibu’s forceful conversion, that is if it is even true, to launch vitriolic attacks on Islam, in a bid to give it a bad name, deliberately ignoring several scriptural (Qur’an and Hadith) injunction which strongly forbids such actions and guarantees freedom of religion.
Evidence that negate forceful reversion
When Allah (SWT) commissioned Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as the Seal of the Prophets and Messengers, he preached Islam to the people based on what was revealed to him by his Lord. The Noble Qur’an was his guide and according to Surah Al-Baqarah (2:256), Allah says:
“Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth stands out clear from error”.
This verse stipulates that non-Muslims such as Leah should be allowed to practice their faith in accordance with the injunctions of their religion. The Prophet (peace be upon him) never forced anyone to embrace Islam, not even during several battles fought against the unbelievers, who persecuted him and his followers for believing in the oneness of Allah.
A practical example was the Battle of Badr, the very first battle and one of the important battles fought by the Muslims against the Quraysh of Mecca in the early days of Islam. It was a successful battle for the Muslims and a turning point for Islam. There was no account stating that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) forced the prisoners of Badr to embrace Islam.
As a lover of knowledge (education), he (SAW) made the literate captives teach Muslims how to read and write (as ransom) for regaining their freedom.
There are copious verses of the Qur’an where Allah guaranteed the freedom of every person to practise any faith of his or her choice. The last two verses of Surah Al-Kaafirun (Qur’an 109:5-6) states;
“Nor will you worship that which I worship, to you be your religion (disbelief), and to me my religion (Islam).”
These verses are eloquent testimonies to the fact that the forceful conversion that is attributed to the Boko Haram insurgents is unIslamic.
This was further reaffirmed in the Noble Qur’an 10:99, where Allah says;
“And had your Lord willed, those on earth would have believed – all of them entirely”.
But Allah in His infinite mercy made mankind into believers (Qur’an 2: 153); People of the Books – Jews and Christians (Qur’an 3: 64); idol worshippers; against whom Allah warns the believers not to insult their gods / idols (Qur’an 6:108); and those who have taken as god their vain desires, which could be translated to mean atheism.
“Allah has sent him astray due to knowledge and has set a seal upon his hearing and his heart and put over his vision a veil. So who will guide him after Allah? Then will you not be reminded?.” (Qur’an 45: 23)
Evidently, each of these categories of people exists in one of two families, especially from Southwest Nigeria where I hail from.
A very good friend of mine was guided by Allah to the light of Islam and he is today a practising Muslim, while his entire family remains Christian, including his late dad, who died a Christian.
He tried inviting them to Islam with wisdom and beautiful preaching in accordance with the exhortations of Qur’an 16:125. He used to interact with them – especially his aunt – in the best way, as ordered by Allah, yet they did not see reason why they should revert from Christianity to Islam. In fact, he described his late dad and siblings as core Christians.
According to him, “dey carry Jesus for head”(sic), the same way he “carry Islam for head”,(sic) an attribute for describing conscious and practising Muslims or Christians.
He said: “I feel sad each time I remember that they are still Christians. Sometimes, when I am doing my Tadabbur-ul-Qur’an (pondering over the meanings of the verses of the Qur’an and contemplating them) and I get to verses where Allah mentioned the blessings, favours and beauties of the goodies He has promised only the believers in the Hereafter, I rejoice, then my heart immediately trembles and my mood becomes downcast, because I remember that none of my immediate family members is currently on the path to enjoying these bounties.
“Also, when I study verses that mention the punishments awaiting unbelievers, I also tremble, because I fear for them too.”
As much as my friend would have loved to see his beloved family embrace Islam, he cannot force them to abandon their faith based on the aforementioned evidence. He cannot guide everyone he loves to the truth (Islam). Allah says:
“It is He who guides whoever He wills. He knows those who will follow guidance.” Qur’an 28:56
Interestingly, Allah does not stop the believers from relating with their friends and family members who are not Muslims. Believers must have good moral and social dispositions towards such people, especially their parents, siblings, extended family members, friends and acquaintances. This kind of relationship is known as Madarat, which means civility with adherents of other religions, as established in Qur’an 60:8, except if you indeed fear a danger from them (Qur’an 3: 28).
In his book, Islam and Human Rights in Broader Perspective, Abdul Fatah Ibn Raji stated that, even the Islamic government does not interfere with their (non-Muslims’) worship, neither does it force them to denounce their faith.
The author cited as evidence, a letter from Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) addressed to the people of Najran (which lies in present-day South-western Saudi Arabia, near the border with Yemen).
It read thus: “Najran and its vicinity are under the protection of Allah and the responsibility of Muhammad. The Prophet and the Messenger of Allah is to protect their property, their churches, their denominations and all that belongs to them.”
It is therefore wrong for any sane individual (including the media) to see the Boko Haram insurgents’ refusal to free Leah as a religious battle between Islam and Christianity. It has been exhaustively proven in this discourse that this action of the insurgents is antithetical to the practice and principles of Islam. The power to guide someone to the light of Islam lies with Allah alone, not humans, and whoever HE (Allah) has guided, no one can misguide him, while whoever HE (Allah) has misguided, no one can guide.
By: Rasheed Abubakar,
Publisher, Muslim News Nigeria
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