On Saturday, January 15, 2022, the Muslim News team visited the popular 1004 Central Mosque in Lagos Island. Built between 1988 and 1989 under the military rule of General Ibrahim Babangida, it is located in the highbrow, elitist area of Victoria Island. The mosque plays host to no less than 600 worshippers for the routine daily prayers, and no less than 2000 worshippers for special prayers at the expansive premises; operating a 24-hour open door policy. It was reportedly handed over to Sheikh Abubakar Gumi on completion.
Muslim News had an interactive session with the Chief Imam, Sheikh Suleiman Ibrahim who bared his thoughts on various issues, including the crisis that once brewed at the mosque between him and the mosque committee and how it was resolved. He also spoke on the activities of one of Nigeria’s leading Islamic organisation, Jama’atu Izalatil Bid’ah Wa Iqamatus Sunnah (JIBWIS) in Lagos State, where he acts as the Chairman.
Imam Sulaiman Ibraheem is an Hausa man from Jigawa State. His stay in Lagos was by providence as he had only come to visit some acquaintances in 1993 when the need for his services as an Arabic/Islamic teacher tied him down to the state.
“I’ve been teaching here since 1993. I became a teacher in an Islamiyyah because that’s where my perfection lies. I also taught at various houses as an after-school teacher. Everybody knew me here as a teacher back then before I was promoted to become the headmaster. I was later appointed as the deputy Imam. In 2007, the Imam returned to Allah and I succeeded him. So, from then till today, I have been the Imam of 1004 Central Mosque. I am also the Chairman of Jama’atu Izalatil Bid’ah Wa Iqamatu Sunnah (JIBWIS), Lagos State.”
Imam Sulaiman told Muslim News that he has found his role quite easy and interesting, adding his relationship with the members of the Muslim community has been cordial and robust.
He said, “Islam is a very sensitive religion. Even the elites have regard for scholars because they want to hear from them. So, I find it easy being an Imam here. Before becoming the Imam, the late Imam had succeeded in organising the mosque perfectly. This is a mosque of Ahl Sunnah (those who ascribe to the teachings and methodology of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Everybody from neighbouring houses, even from the Island comes to observe solat here. There’s no difficulty, alhamdulillah, I don’t have a problem with anybody.”
The 1004 Mosque is also unarguably one of the finest mosques with the best architectural edifice in the entire Lagos Island. It’s a center of learning as well with various educational, social, economic (welfare) and spiritual activities being carried out by the different committees, such as the Da’wah Committee, Welfare Committee, Prison Committee, among others.
“We have Da’wah Committee that takes care of spiritual activities within and outside the mosque. Before, we sponsor a series of programmes on radio and television. Some daily preachers come from various places to present lectures here. People come to listen to them. We invite scholars from different places and have Islamiyyah (Arabic School) here, too. We do daily tafsir after maghrib and isha. Some of the clips can be seen on our Facebook page. There are classes for women and children as well.
“We also have a Prison Committee. There was a time we became number one in Lagos State when it comes to prison visitation programmes. They regard us highly at Ikoyi Prison, Kirikiri Prison. We have collaborations with them. We have scholars teaching the prisoners and the mosque is paying them. There has been a good relationship between my office as the Imam and the Committee until recently…,” Sheikh Sulaiman stated.
1004 Mosque Crisis
Muslim News findings revealed that sometime in December 2021, there was a plan by the Committee of the Mosque to remove the Imam who had led the congregation for more than 10 years and replace him with another learned scholar. A member of the congregation who witnessed what he described as an aborted coup, narrated what happened on that faithful day.
He said; “The committee had planned to announce the replacement of the Imam after the end of Solat Jum’ah of that day. In fact, they brought the new Imam they wanted to introduce to the congregation. However, our Imam had sensed something of such was about to happen. Rather than delivering his normal weekly Khutbah, he narrated to us the issue he has been having with the committee and how they planned to remove him.
“The congregation kicked against the plot to remove him. We all love him, he is a good man and we don’t want the committee to remove him unjustly. It is against the teaching of Islam. So, immediately after Solat, we all stood up to prevent any imposition. Of course, we were much, about a thousand in number. They couldn’t achieve their aim on that day as we all stood by our Imam. The Imam they brought was whisked in a tinted car,” a congregant who Lives on the Mainland and works on the Island related.
Speaking on the crisis that brewed between him and the mosque committee, the Imam who was initially hesitant to recall the event, said though it has been resolved, it will remain an unforgettable experience.
According to him, “Alhamdulilah, the crisis has been resolved. So, you know Islamically, when you make a settlement with one another, you don’t need to go back to it. But truly there was a crisis. What I think you’ll ask me is why did I deliver that khutbah then. The reason is there were things I didn’t understand. There is no problem with removing Imam when you are not satisfied with him for some reasons, especially on the issue of aqeedah (sound Islamic understanding). But at least, we have to be very sensitive that Imams are religious and spiritual leaders.
”What happened then, I don’t want to go into it. The mosque committee just said they were terminating my appointment as the Imam. I don’t know what I did. They were saying things that would tarnish my image. If I had committed a crime, I should be removed.
“Whenever you want to remove or install an Imam, you have to consult big and learned scholars for them to determine if somebody is fit to be an Imam or is liable for removal. These are the things I think the mosque committee failed to do which affected me psychologically. I can’t just look away while my image is being tarnished.
“I’ve been here since 1993 and I’ve made my contributions. Nobody has pointed out the offense I committed. Although nobody is perfect, they couldn’t find any wrong thing to pin on me. They were just fabricating lies.
“So, I used the opportunity of the Khutbah to express myself. I have so many followers. All the mosques in the neighborhood are under the care of 1004 Central Mosque. They come here for fatwa and guidance. So, it is not good for my image to be tarnished in the community.
“I explained myself in the khutbah and people now realized that what they were told is different from the reality on ground. Alhamdulilah, at the end of the day, interventions came with the help of Allah and the matter was settled,” he stated.
Dangote Free Bread
Imam Sulaiman says he shares a cordial relationship with Africa’s richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote who seeks his inputs on what interventions to carry out for the downtrodden. One of such calls by the business mogul in the heat of COVID-19 led to what is today known as the Dangote Bread.
“I have a very cordial relationship with Alhaji Dangote. From the day of COVID-19 lockdown, Dangote called to ask what he could do for the poor people. The suggestion to him was to dole out loaves of bread. So, we started with 30,000 loaves per day in Lagos. We gave out 3000 daily in Idi-Araba, Alaba, Mushin, Ajah, Lekki, Mile 12, Apapa. We used First Aid Group under JIBWIS to receive the bread and distribute it. So, the bread is not only shared at 1004 Mosque. In fact, we only received 300 loaves here out of the 30,000. The bread was baked here in Lagos. The supplier, I think has been working with Dangote to supply loaves of bread to his workers. So, when COVID-19 came, they gave her the contract to do it. She hired so many bakeries to do it. The baking and distribution are going on, alhamdulillah.
“Though after six months, we reduced the number to 15,000. So, from then till now, it’s 15,000 on daily basis. May 6, 2022, will make it two years since the bread started being distributed. The bread is of very high quality. If it were to be sold, back then, it will be 400 per loaf but now, it should be about N500, N600.
“The bread is well distributed. Alhamdulilah, we trust the distributors. Nobody has complained of somebody hoarding bread. We don’t have such complaints. But you know things like this cannot reach everyone. Some people wrote letters requesting their places to be considered, so we attached them with existing locations. The distribution is still ongoing. Not only in Lagos, but also in Kano and some other states.
Speaking about the media coverage of this intervention, the scholar said, “It’s in the media, but you know we can’t go to radio to say Dangote is giving bread. If we do that, we’ll be contending with a large number of people who want to benefit. Again, Dangote himself is doing this for the sake of Allah and not necessarily for the media. Those who know about the bread know.”
IZALA community in Lagos
Contrary to the impression that the Jama’atu Izalatil Bid’ah Wa Iqamatis Sunnah (JIBWIS) have a stronghold in the Northern Nigeria alone, Imam Sulaiman who is the chairman of the group in Lagos says Izala is actually the most active in the Centre of Excellence.
According to him, “JIBWIS is very active here in Lagos, even more, active than in some other states. We have almost 28 branches here. Even in the North, at the state level, Lagos is more active because the hierarchy of Izala is more concerned about Lagos State than any other state.
“Izala is mainly for religion. When you go to the North, it is not everything that Izala gets involved in. But sometimes if there’s an event attached to Islam, the organisers seek the support of our First Aid Group. The group will maintain the law and order and sanity of the environment. In Lagos, there are many places you see our First Aid Group. Secondly is that we don’t want to say that Izala is an organisation that belongs to only the Hausa. You know North is Hausa and the organisation was founded in the North. So, Hausas dominate it. Even though in Lagos, Hausas dominate the group and some Yorubas also participate. For example, my vice-chairman is a Yoruba man. In the First Aid Group, we have so many Yorubas. The secretary of the First Aid Group is a Yoruba man. When we are in Alausa, Alhaji Tajudeen Oluse is our patron; we do go to him.
“I became the chairman about six years ago. By Islamic standard, you don’t give leaders a limit. But you can resign at any time. Though we are trying to introduce a tenure system because of the Southwest so that everybody will give his contributions. But the constitution of Izala does not permit that. They appoint you as a chairman, you serve as a chairman. But if your territory doesn’t want you for some reasons, they can now write to the hierarchy and they appoint another person.”
Who controls the mosque, the Imam or Committee?
Many mosques in Southwest Nigeria have committees that see to the runnings of the mosque and also extend their functions to the monitoring of the Imam. The Chief Imam of the 1004 Central Mosque, however believes that a mosque should be controlled by the Imam and all committees formed put under his control.
“Islamically, a mosque is controlled by the Imam. There was a time Dr. Zakir Naik delivered one sermon and I benefitted from that sermon. You know the Aal Kitab (people of the books) tried their best to control our religion. If you look at the churches, no matter the committee, they are all under the pastor. The pastor oversees their activities. Whatever they decide, the pastor can take it or kick against it.
“But when it comes to the mosque, they put the Imam under the committee. Most of these committees don’t know anything. It’s Allah that knows best. But they will make bankers, lawyers, and retirees members of the mosque committee. This calibre of people controls the Imam. If there is anything the West wants to do, they go through the mosque committee. That’s why our religion is not much united. That’s why we don’t have Islamic programmes that can unite all. Anytime they find out that the Imam is vibrant, they use the mosque committee against him.
“Islamically, the Imam is the leader. The Imam controls the mosque. He should be the one to set up committees. But where we find ourselves today, the committee even controls the preaching of the Imam. Generally, the mosque committee is the problem of the mosque. That’s the truth. However, I am not saying it’s not good to have a mosque committee, but the Imam should oversee the activities of the mosque committees and control them. That’s what will make a mosque stand as a religious environment perfectly,” he added.
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