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On the Controversy in Kano and the Planned Public Debate

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Muhammad Shakir Balogun

Hausa-speaking Muslims are looking forward to a debate coming up in Kano later this month. This ‘debate’ appears to be the latest iteration of the historical encounter that has pitched those who have raised objections to the validity of Sunni Prophetic traditions and the narrative integrity of the Companions of the Prophet against those who have upheld same.

The former includes orientalists, Shi’ites, Mu’tazilites and reformist/modernist Sunni Muslims while the latter are Orthodox Sunni scholars from both Salafi/Athari/Izala and Ash’ari/Sufi persuasions.

The trustworthiness of the ultimate transmitters of hadiths and the validity of the recorded traditions of the Prophet constitute the bone of contention. In Sunni Islam, since al-Shafi’i, authentic hadiths have been regarded as revealed truth just like the Qur’an, and with similar legislative powers. They are unimpeachable.

“There is absolutely nothing new about what Shaikh AbdulJabaar Nasir Kabara, the outspoken scion of the famous Kabara scholarly and Sufi dynasty of Kano, has been saying. He has articulated them in his books to which rebuttals have been penned by local scholars.”

The same arguments have been more eloquently articulated by orientalists like David Samuel Margoliouth, Ignaz Goldziher, Joseph Schacht, and GHA Joynboll; the Egyptians like Muhammad Taufiq Sidqi (of the ‘Qur’an only’ school), Mahmud Abu Rayyah, Ahmed Subhy Mansour, and Muhammad Abu Zayd; the Indians like Chiragh Ali, Aslam Jairajpuri, Abdullah Chakralawi who were mostly of the ‘Qur’an only’ school, and numerous scholars from the Shi’ite camp.

Muhammad Tawfiq Sidqi was engaged by Taha al-Bishri and Salih al-Yafi’i in a series of exchanges on the pages of al-Manar which culminated with his recanting. Prominent among those who have passionately written to defend the Sunnah, as enshrined in recorded hadiths, in modern times are the Syrian Mustafa Siba’i (he specifically incorporated a rebuttal to Abu Rayyah in his book) and Muhammad Ali Sabuni, and the Indian Muhammad Mustafa Azmi. These books are there for those who want to independently follow the arguments.

But can arguments, rebuttals and counter-rebuttals extensively articulated in numerous books be satisfactorily covered in public debates? How many hours or days have been earmarked for the debate? What is the possible outcome of an exchange in which the interlocutors differ fundamentally in methodology and hate each other’s guts?

Can a debate already poisoned by hot polemics and ad hominem attacks really lead anywhere?

Shaikh AbdulJabbaar has impugned the characters of people considered by Sunnis to be beyond reproach like the Companions of the Prophet such as Umar (the second caliph), Anas (the personal attendant of the Prophet), Abu Hurairah (the most prolific transmitter of Prophetic traditions). He has also attacked hadith luminaries like az-Zuhri, al-Bukhari, and Muslim.

He has pummeled Mu’awiyah, the first Omayyad caliph, whose historical legacy is mixed even by Orthodox Sunni accounts, but who is nonetheless counted among the Companions and given a pass.

These are people held in high regard by Sunni Muslims. He has described them as deceivers, hypocrites, and liars. He has also castigated the illustrious exponents of the Salafi methodology such as ibn Taimiyyah, ibnul Qayyim, adh-Dhahabi, ibn Kathir. This is a frontal attack. Ibn Hajar, the great exegete of al-Bukhari’s collection has also not been spared.

AbdulJabbaar has thrown spears at the very heart of Orthodox Islam. He has been boastful and confrontational, and frequently accuses his contemporary adversaries of insincerity, mendacity and ignorance.

“I have personally observed that his translations from Arabic texts are sometimes tendentious, less than faithful to the original. He even interpolates words in translation in order to make his point. This is probably part of what has infuriated the other scholars and made them to impugn his motives.”

Meanwhile, the other scholars have also gratuitously labelled AbdulJabbaar with negative terms like zindiqi (unbelieving heretic), mulhidi (atheist), kafiri (unbeliever), jahili (ignorant), mahaukaci (lunatic), wawa (stupid, foolish), dan iska (worthless), la’ananne/tsinanne (accursed). He has been discursively kicked out of the fold of Islam.

He has also been accused of plagiarizing the work of Mahmud Abu Rayyah in writing his own book while deceptively letting on that he has been conducting independent research. I have Abu Rayyah’s book, but alas I don’t have AbdulJabbaar’s text to compare.

He has been charged with insulting the Prophet, which to me seems a stretch, a long stretch, a part of the polemics borne out of mutual suspicion of evil motives. And he has stated several times that his object is to defend the sanctity of the Prophet that has, in his understanding, been subverted by some narrations. There seems to be an impasse here. They have indirectly instigated Muslims to attack him – many preachers and scholars have said that they would not stop the people from taking action against him.

Pious sentiments got whipped up. Some people even say that Kano was on the verge of exploding. They finally got the State Government to ban him from further public preaching and close his centre.

Because of his actual attack on some revered Companions and the perceived attack on the inviolate personality of the Prophet himself, his condemnation has been near universal. Even the former Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II has lent his voice to the condemnation. I recall that he also chastised the Shi’ites in the aftermath of the 2015 Zaria Massacre.

Notably, it has been mainly, but by no means solely, Shi’ite preachers and scholars who have been bold enough to speak in his support. Many sympathisers have self-censured and kept mum.

AbdulJabbaar and his supporters feel that he has been unjustly treated and has not been given a fair hearing. I also think that he shouldn’t have been gagged. I think this public debate being organized by the government is an attempt to address this perception of unfairness.

So far, this exchange between AbdulJabbaar and his interlocutors, as seen in countless videos on Facebook and YouTube, has been acrimonious, polemical, and full of invectives in which the substantial arguments are often difficult to extricate.

Will this public debate change anything? Will he even cooperate to have a real debate? Who will be the judge? How will the ‘winner’ be decided? Will it matter to the followers of the two sides?

“AbdulJabbaar’s frequently expressed desire for a debate comes across as half-hearted. If his ‘debate’ with Alkassim Hotoro is anything to go by, I doubt if anything will come out of this one.”

In that much publicized debate, he surprisingly kept hedging and putting up caveats. He shirked from defending a book written with his own hand. He was less than brave. However, after the ban, he has reiterated his readiness for his views to be challenged and even disproved.

So, let’s wait and see.

This piece was first published on Mr Balogun Facebook timeline

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How KaLMA boost learning outcomes in Kano state

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Students in classroom

Nasiru Yusuf Ibrahim

The Kano Maths and Literacy Accelerator (KaLMA) has boosted learning outcomes in 181 schools across Wudil and Dawakin Tofa local government areas.

KANO FOCUS reports that between January and August 2021, when in-person teaching resumed, the number of primary school children with foundational skills in Hausa and maths grew by 18 per cent, and in English by 11 per cent.

The programme’s impact on lower-level skills was even more significant, rising by 37 per cent in Hausa, 36 per cent in maths, and 39 per cent in English.

Students in classroom

The programme has already reached over 37,000 children and 1,200 teachers. Plans are now in place to extend its impact to 450 schools and 3,000 more teachers in five other government areas of Kano.

Some of the parents said they are impressed with the way they see children from KaLMA implementation schools doing KaLMA activities at home and in the communities.’

They revealed that “Children were not reading in our schools, but they are doing so now in schools with the coming of KaLMA.”

Teacher in classroom

KaLMA is supporting children in Kano state, to build the foundational and language skills they need to succeed.

Funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, KaLMA is a partnership between the British Council, Kano State Universal Basic Education Board, the Ministry of Education, Sa’adatu Rimi College of Education, and Teaching at the Right Level Africa.

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Education: Stakeholders begin review of SBMC policy in Kano

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SBMC leaders

Nasiru Yusuf Ibrahim

 

Stakeholders in the education sector have commenced the review of Kano State School Based Management Policy (KNSBMP).

KANO FOCUS reports that the review was jointly facilitated by Professors Aisha Abdul Ismail and Suwaiba Ahmad.

The event which was conducted between 16th – 17th May, at Tahir Guest Palace was supported by Partnership for Learning for All in Nigeria (PLANE).

The stakeholders were selected from State ministry of education and its parastatals; state and local government leadership of SBMCs and representatives of Kano State Accountability Forum on Education (K-SAFE).

The two day event was also attended by a one time Permanent Secretary in the state ministry of education Alhaji Danlami Garba.

The workshop reviewed the existing policy to ensure that it is still relevant, effective and aligned with the educational goals and values of Kano state.

The stakeholders have proposed three layer leadership structure for SBMC in Kano consist of school, local government and state executives.

They also proposed the expansion of executives committee to include marginalised groups and security personnel to reflect emerging issues such as safeguarding and gender in schools.

The stakeholders would reconvene to adopt the reviewed SBMC policy after harmonisation of proposed amendments.

The School-Based Management Committee (SBMC) concept emerged in the late 1980s and was subsequently championed by the 1990s-global reform in education which, in turn prompted the institutionalization of the SBMC in Nigeria.

In 2005, the National Council on Education (NCE) at its 52nd session approved that all schools in the country should establish School Based Management Committees (SBMCs) to ensure that communities participate in the school decision-making process.

Kano State in 2010, developed its SBMC policy with the support of the UK-aid/DFID funded-Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria (ESSPIN) using a participatory approach that involved various stakeholders across the state.

KANO FOCUS reports that PLANE has supported Kano state government in reviewing several education laws and policies including teacher policy, gender policy among others.

 

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How gender stereotyping hampers girl child education in Jemagu town

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Nasiru Yusuf Ibrahim

 

The trauma of not being able to get husbands after higher education has continued to discourage many parents in Jemagu from sending their girls to school, most especially as their boys hardly go beyond secondary school.

KANO FOCUS reports that in Jemagu town Warawa Local Government Area of Kano State, girls hardly go beyond secondary school because they would find it very difficult to marry as their men don’t usually go for those who go beyond that level.

Men in Jemagu believe that girls who go beyond secondary school would have experienced some social life that would make them very difficult to control. Residents said their children’s education, especially the girls, began and ended in Jemagu primary and secondary schools.

Babangida Adamu is among the men in Jemagu who believe that it is not proper to marry a girl who has gone beyond secondary school. He added that girls who acquire higher education would not like to marry men who have no formal education.

Babangida Adamu

“The truth is that any woman who acquired higher education would not like to marry a man with lower education. I will also not marry a girl who has university degree because I do not have a degree. This is why most men will not like to marry girls with higher education,” Adamu said.

A 25-year-old Khadija Muhammad Jemagu, who recently obtained a diploma in Marketing from the Kano State Polytechnic but does not have government job or husband, said she had resorted to helping a non-governmental organisation to promote girl-child education in her community. She believes there is the need to intensify awareness among parents on the importance of girl-child education.

According to Khadija, many people have told her that since she has chosen western education, it would be difficult for any man in her village to come close to her because the men believe that she is wiser than any man that may be willing to marry her since most of them do not have more than secondary education.

“Even before I finished my diploma, many people would go about saying that since my father had chosen to send us to school, they would see who would come and marry us. And for several years I have been living like this because in this our village, no man has ever come to me with marriage proposal, simply because I have a diploma,” she said.

Jemagu primary school

But despite this belief in Jemagu, some girls like Hussaina Muhammad are still trying to obtain a certificate on education, but there is no man within the community willing to marry her at the moment. She, however, insists that her educational ambition is a priority.

But Hussaina believes she can still get a husband within or outside her community provided she becomes well educated. She vowed that insult and discrimination from men within her village would not discourage her ambition.

“After secondary school, I started my National Certificate in Education (NCE) programme here in Warawa, but you know the belief our people. They see us as prostitutes; therefore, no one will come to offer his hand in marriage to us. But I will not be discouraged because I believe that whenever it is time for me to marry, God will definitely bring a husband for me,” she said.

Zainab Makera was able to get married after secondary school. She wants to proceed but is faced with a difficult choice – to further her education or stay with her husband. She said she had been trying to convince her husband to allow her continue but she was told that if she really wanted to continue with her education, she had to get divorced.

Zainab Makera

Meanwhile, few women who were able to convince their husbands to allow them proceed beyond secondary school “are constantly being rejected by community members,” said Hussaina.

According to education authorities in Warawa Local Government, this belief is not the only problem affecting girl-child education in Jemagu.

Lack of commitment by parents, especially mothers, may have worsened the situation over the years.

“There are several reasons why girls don’t go to school frequently; few of them have to do with the attitude of their parents, especially women who often sent their female children for hawking and other domestic works that stop them from attending classes,” said Munnir Muhammad, an education secretary in Warawa.

On the issue of girls not being able to get husbands after attending higher institution at Jemagu, Munnir believes that the problem is not only in Jemagu or Warawa Local Government.

“It is a general societal problem in northern Nigeria, where men, especially those with formal education usually reject women with higher education. Additionally, the government is working with parents-teachers associations, mothers associations and other relevant stakeholders to improve girl-child education in Warawa Local Government.”

Jemagu town, Warawa local government area

Meanwhile, residents said apart from poverty among the local community, lack of awareness by government authorities and poor education infrastructure, the problem of water supply in Jemagu village is forcing many children, especially girls, to skip school because they have to travel long distance to fetch water for the house. But government authorities assured that the problem of water supply in this village would soon be a thing of the past.

While recognising the threat of rejecting girls beyond secondary school as a major problem affecting girl-child education in the area, the caretaker chairman of Warawa Local Government, Lamido Sanusi, acknowledged that the problem of water is another major issue at Jemagu village. He said their ambition was to ensure that every girl-child is educated from primary school to university level without any form of discrimination across all villages and towns of Warawa Local Government.

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