The virtues of the months of Rajab and Sha’aban
Imam Murtadha Gusau
In The Name of Allah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy
All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all creation—may He extol the Messenger in the highest company of Angels and send His peace and blessings upon him—likewise upon his family, Companions, and true followers.
Dear brothers and sisters! Rajab (Arabic: رَجَب) is the seventh month of the Islamic calendar. The lexical definition of the classical Arabic verb rajaba is “to respect” which could also mean “be awe or be in fear”, of which Rajab is a derivative.
This month is regarded as one of the four sacred months (including Muharram, Dhul-Qa’adah and Dhul-Hijjah) in Islam in which battles are prohibited. The pre-Islamic Arabs also considered warfare blasphemous during the four months.
The months of Rajab and Shaʿaban are a prelude to the Noble month of Ramadan.
The word “Rajab” came from “rajub (رجوب)”, the sense of veneration or glorification, and Rajab was also formerly called “Mudar” because the tribe of Mudar did not change it but rather expected in its time other than the rest of the Arabs, who changed and altered in the months according to the state of war.
The name of Rajab literally means respected, regarded, and admired. It seems that the word is originally a Semitic one.
There are other names for the month, such as Rajab Al-Morrajjab, Rajab Al-Asab and Rajab Sharif.
Respected servants of Allah! The Islamic months, calculated according to the moon’s movements, adhere to the lunar calendar. The lunar calendar ends, approximately 11 days prior to the solar year. Hence, every Muslim will experience the sacred months, performing Hajj, and the month of Ramadan, fasting, in different periods and seasons, during a 33-year life span. The seventh month to occur in the Islamic calendar is the month of Rajab, which falls between the months of Jumadah and Sha’aban. Rajab endorsed, and the first to appear, is one of the four Sacred and Blessed months in Islam:
“Verily, the number of months with Allah is twelve months [in a year], so was it ordained by Allah on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them, four are Sacred [i.e., the 1st, the 7th, the 11th and the 12th months of the Islamic calendar]. That is the right religion, so wrong, not yourselves therein.” [Qur’an, Surah Al-Tawbah, Verse 36]
The word of Allah Almighty, the Qur’an, mentions the four Sacred months through connotation, although not mentioned by name. However, the Sunnah does mention the names of these months. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) final sermon recollects with the utmost of importance, consequentially Abu Bakr (RA), voiced Prophet Muhammad’s (Peace be upon him) exhortation in the following Hadiths:
“Time has completed its cycle and is as it was on the Day when Allah created the heavens and the earth. The year is twelve months, of which four are sacred, three consecutive months – Dhul-Qa’adah, Dhul-Hijjah, and Muharram, and the Rajab of Mudar which comes between Jumadah and Sha’aban.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Expectations during the Sacred months from Muslims are acknowledged and fundamental. The Qur’anic verse in Surah Al-Baqarah, verse 217, prohibits initiating a war during these months implicitly commanding it is strictly forbidden. However, existing war’s can continue and in defence, if it is necessary to defend oneself, their tribe or Muslims. Allah the Most High says:
“They ask you about the sacred month – about fighting therein. Say, “Fighting therein is great [sin], but averting [people] from the way of Allah and disbelief in Him and [preventing access to] al-Masjid al-Haram and the expulsion of its people therefrom are greater [evil] in the sight of Allah. And fitnah is greater than killing.” And they will continue to fight you until they turn you back from your religion if they are able. And whoever of you reverts from his religion [to disbelief] and dies while he is a disbeliever – for those, their deeds have become worthless in this world and the Hereafter, and those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide therein eternally.” [Qur’an, Surah Al-Baqarah, Verse 217]
Sinning is prohibited in any month of the year, but the punishment for intentionally or otherwise sinning during the four Sacred months multiplies, as is the reward for good deeds. Committing sins is detrimental to our very being. When the Almighty Allah eulogises our deeds, they become inviolable. Thus, when glorified from two angles of more then, they become indestructible from multiple angles, except with the power of Du’a. The following verse is one indication of how rewards and punishments can multiply:
“The example of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is like a seed [of grain] which grows seven spikes; in each spike is a hundred grains. And Allah multiplies [His reward] for whom He wills. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.” [Qur’an, Surah Al-Baqarah, Verse 261]
• Preparation for Ramadan
Its recorded in Baihaqi, at the start of this month, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) would pray:
“O Allah, favour us with the blessings of Rajab and Sha’aban and take us to the Noble month of Ramadan.” [Baihaqi]
Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) spent the months of Rajab and Sha’aban preparing for the blessed month of Ramadan. Classical Muslim scholar Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali quoted another scholar, Abu Bakr Al-Warragin in his book Lata’if Al-Ma’arif:
“Rajab is a month of cultivation, Sha’aban is the month of irrigating the fields, and Ramadan is the month of reaping and harvesting.”
Dear brothers and sisters! As we prepare for Ramadan, first and foremost we must repent, asking Allah, Al-Ghafur, The Forgiver to forgive us, and guide us to mentally, physically and spiritually strengthen our commitment to Islam. Anas Ibn Malik reported that: The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:
“All of the children of Adam are sinners, and the best sinners are those who repent.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhi]
Dutifully and attentively, we must perform our compulsory prayers and increase our discretionary prayers during the Sacred month of Rajab. In Sha’aban, follow the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), leading us to enforce both Fard and Sunnah during Ramadan.
It has also been narrated by Abu Nu’aim in his famous and great book, ‘Hilyatul-Auliyah’ from Anas Ibn Malik (RA), that the Prophet of Allah (Peace be upon him) welcomed the month of Rajab by making the following Du’a:
“Oh Allah, bless us in Rajab and Sha’aban and let us reach Ramadan.”
• The Isra’ and Mi’raj
Respected brothers and sisters! It was during this month, Allah Almighty conferred on Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), the great honour of ascending to the heavens. Allah the Most High says:
“Exalted is He who took His Servant [Prophet Muhammad] by night from Al-Masjid Al-Haram to Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa, whose surrounding We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing.” [Qur’an, Surah Al-Isra, Verse 1]
This honour had never been ascribed to any other Prophet than the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). He (Peace be upon him) made a journey with his physical being from the sacred city of Makkah to Jerusalem and, from there he ascended through the seven heavens to a place so near to the Divine Court that not even an angel, far less a human being, could have access. After having reached the Sidratul-Muntaha even Angel Jibril (AS), the head of the angels expressed his inability to proceed beyond this point. The five daily prayers became obligatory on all Muslims following this night of ascent.
Beloved servants of Allah! Shaʽaban (Arabic: شَعْبَان) is the eighth month of the Islamic calendar. It is the month of “separation”, so called because the pagan Arabs used to disperse in search of water.
Sha’aban is the last lunar month before Ramadan, and so Muslims determine in it when the first day of Ramadan fasting will be.
The virtues of Sha’aban is mentioned in various Hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). Aisha, the wife of Prophet, narrated that:
“(She) did not see him fasting in any month more than in the month of Sha’aban, except Ramadan.”
In another narration the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said:
“Do those deeds which you can do easily, as Allah will not get tired (of giving rewards) till you get bored and tired (of performing religious deeds).”
The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, and months begin when the first crescent of a new moon is sighted.
Sha’aban, the eighth month of Islam’s Hijrah or lunar calendar, and the month that precedes the Noble month of Ramadan was the most beloved month to Prophet Mohammed (Peace be upon him).
Sha’aban is significant for many reasons. First, it is the time that Muslims start getting ready for the month of Ramadan.
It was in the middle of the month of Sha’aban when Muslims believe that Allah ordered Prophet Muhammad to change the Qiblah, the direction towards which Muslims face when they pray, from Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem to the Noble Ka’abah in Makkah.
Al-Aqsa Mosque had been the Qiblah for thirteen years in Makkah, and for nearly eighteen months after Prophet Muhammad migrated to Madinah.
Verses from the Qur’an were revealed to Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), instructing him and all Muslims to turn towards the Ka’abah in Makkah when they pray. Most interpretations date this incident to the middle of the month of Sha’aban.
The Hadiths of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) show that it is recommended to fast during Sha’aban.
Well-known companion of the Prophet, Anas Bin Malik reported that Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was asked:
“Which fast is the most meritorious after the fasting of Ramadan?”
Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) replied:
“Fasting of Sha’aban in honour of Ramadan.”
Fasting in Sha’aban is like mental and physical training for fasting in Ramadan. Many Muslims may experience difficulty when they start the fast in Ramadan, but if they started fasting a few days in Sha’aban, their bodies may get used to fasting and not feel so lethargic and weak when Ramadan comes.
Sha’aban is like an introduction to Ramadan and it has some things in common with Ramadan, such as fasting, reciting Qur’an and giving to charity.
Aisha, the wife of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) is narrated to have said:
“The Messenger of Allah used to fast until we thought he would never break his fast, and not fast until we thought he would never fast. I never saw the Messenger of Allah fasting for an entire month except in Ramadan, and I never saw him fast more than he did in Sha’aban.”
The Prophet’s adopted son Usamah Ibn Zaid narrated that:
“I said to the Prophet,’ O Messenger of Allah! I did not see you fasting in any month as you do in the month of Sha’aban.’ The Prophet said, ‘People neglect this month which is between Rajab and Ramadan; in this month the actions of the people are presented to Allah, so I like my deeds to be presented while I am fasting.’”
Though fasting is made obligatory in Ramadan, Muslims believe fasting in Sha’aban is beneficial in a number of ways as it offers a chance to start preparing for Ramadan.
In Sha’aban, many Muslim scholars and others used to consistently recite and read the Noble Qur’an along with fasting, which also helps in getting our routines of worship in place for the coming month of Ramadan.
Muslims believe that if they begin increasing acts of worship in Sha’aban, they will enjoy the fruits of their efforts in the Noble month of Ramadan.
I end my today’s sermon by saying: all praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all creation; may Allah extol the mention of our noble Prophet Muhammad in the highest company of Angels, bless him and give him peace and security―and his family, his Companions and all those who follow him correctly and sincerely until the establishment of the Hour.
I ask Allah, the Most High to grant us success and enable us to be correct in what we say and write, ameen.
Murtadha Muhammad Gusau is the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and the late Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: firstname.lastname@example.org or +2348038289761.
This Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday sermon) was prepared for delivery today, Friday, Rajab 23, 1443 A.H. (February 25, 2022).
Salat: The Distinction Between Muslim And Non-Muslim
By Imam Murtadha Gusau
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
All praise be to Allah and peace be upon the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him). I bear witness that there is no god but Allah alone who has no partner, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His Servant and Messenger.
Dear brothers and sisters, know that Islam dignified Salat (Prayer) and raised its status as the greatest pillar of Islam after the Kalimatush Shahadah (Testimony of Faith). Ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:
“Islam is based on (the following) five (principles): 1. To testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger. 2. To perform the (compulsory congregational) Salat dutifully and perfectly. 3. To pay Zakah (i.e. obligatory charity). 4. To perform Hajj. (i.e. Pilgrimage to Makkah) 5. To observe fast during the month of Ramadan.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
Dear servants of Allah, Salat (Prayer) is the major form of worship that a Muslim offers five times a day regularly. It is an obligation upon a Muslim and a Muslim is to offer no excuse when it comes to offering Salat. The offering of Salat in addition to representing the submission of Muslims to their Lord also has other benefits as well which are highly cherished by every Muslim.
The establishment of Salat is one of the major topics upon which Qur’an has emphasised more than anything else. In the Noble Qur’an Allah Almighty has stressed upon Muslims to learn to offer Salat regularly and with mentions of offering Salat Allah has also mentioned its benefits with it as well.
Although there is no constraint upon a Muslim on how to invoke Allah Almighty, however, Salat (prayer) is the preferred means of doing so as when a person worships Allah he or she develops a connection with Allah and any invocation within that or after that connection is bound to be accepted by Allah more compared to invocation done in any other circumstance. In the Noble Qur’an, Allah Almighty says:
“O you who have believed, seek help through patience and Salat (prayer). Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” [Qur’an, 2:153]
Therefore, a Muslim must use Salats (prayers) as a means of invocation and ask Allah Almighty for help and assistance in any difficulty or worry.
Piety (Taqwah) or righteousness is the prime objective which a Muslim has to achieve in this life. All the instructions, constraints, freedom, rights and education provided by Islam are with the objective that a Muslim becomes pious and moves on the righteous path. In this regard, Salat (prayer) has a great role to play as it promotes Taqwah or piety in the follower. In the Noble Qur’an, Allah Almighty says:
“This is the Book in which there is no doubt, a guidance for those who have Taqwah: who believe in the unseen, and who establish Salat, and spend out of what we have provided for them.” [Qur’an, 2:2-3]
Therefore, in addition to giving charity and believing in the unseen, a Muslim must also establish Salat in order to move towards Taqwah (piety).
Every deed, whether good or bad that a Muslim undertakes in this life, he or she will have to be answerable for it in the afterlife. Although all the deeds get rewarded in the afterlife, however, the actual reward of Salat will truly be realised in the afterlife when Allah Almighty will shower special blessings on that person. In the Noble Qur’an, Allah Almighty says:
“Indeed, those who believe and do righteous deeds and establish Salat (prayer) and give Zakah will have their reward with their Lord, and there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve.” [Qur’an, 2:277]
Therefore, Salat (prayer) is not something that ends in this world, rather the real reward of it will come to surface in the afterlife.
Muslims who realise that Allah Almighty is their Lord and the Giver of everything, they try to develop a relation with Him and wish to stay connected with Him as much as possible so that their relation grows strong. Salat (prayer) can effectively help in achieving so, as Allah says in Qur’an:
“And when you have completed the Salat (prayer), remember Allah standing, sitting, or [lying] on your sides. But when you become secure, re-establish [regular] prayer. Indeed, prayer has been decreed upon the believers a decree of specified times.” [Qur’an, 4:103]
Therefore, performing Salats (prayers) is a means of developing a connection with Allah Almighty and when a Muslim does so five times a day, then the consequent relationship is to naturally grow strong.
Respected Muslim brothers and sisters, shaitan (satan) is an open enemy of believers and all what he tries is to make people go stray from the path of righteousness and go down in the path of oblivion and darkness. Shaitan (Satan) tries to tempt a person in all the possible ways and when a person once listens to him, he gradually lures him or her down further into the pit of darkness. Therefore, seeking protection from shaitan (satan) is also imperative for a Muslim. In the Noble Qur’an Allah Almighty says:
“Shaitan (Satan) only wants to cause between you animosity and hatred through intoxicants and gambling and to avert you from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer. So will you not desist?” [Qur’an, 5:91]
Therefore, not offering prayer is actually falling into the prey of shaitan (satan), whereas those who try to offer and establish prayer are actually resisting his temptation and when these temptations are resisted for long the result is one not falling prey to shaitan (satan) ever again on any forefront.
In life, a Muslim gets exposed to all sorts of environments and people, all of which have a direct impact on the personality of the person. There is no denying the fact that the current plight of the people of the world is miserable where they are more prone towards ills and lewdness compared to goodness, thus if a Muslim starts being like other people, he or she goes down the road of darkness. Thus, in order to prevent one’s self from all the lewdness that is common in the world of today, a Muslim must find refuge in Salat (prayer) as it will help in combating lewdness, as Allah Almighty says in the Noble Qur’an:
“Recite, [O Muhammad], what has been revealed to you of the Book and establish Salat (prayer). Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing, and the remembrance of Allah is greater. And Allah knows that which you do.” [Qur’an, 29:45]
Therefore, a Muslim must consider Salat (prayer) as an effective weapon when it comes to fighting lewdness and evils of all sorts.
Respected brothers and sisters, Salat (prayer) is an act of worship. It is not a custom. It is not a ritual. It is very special. It has no equal. It has no alternative. There are no excuses, even when you are ill, on a journey or even in a war.
Salat (prayer) is the second and most important pillar of Islam. Salat is a practical sign of obedience to the commands of Allah Almighty. It is the practical proof of our faith (Iman) in Allah and Islam.
Salat is the only distinction between a Muslim and a non-Muslim. Salat reminds you of Allah Almighty, when you get up in the morning, it reminds you three more times when you are busy during the day, and once again before you go to bed.
Salat (prayer) is a direct contact or link between the worshipper and Allah Almighty with no earthly intermediaries. It is the Mi’raj of a believer.
Salat builds a strong defense against evils which exist around us. It is said in the Noble Qur’an that, surely, Salat keeps you away from indecency and evil. This is why the prayer is described as “remembrance” to Allah Almighty.
Salat (prayer) wipes out our sins. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) once asked his companions: “Tell me if there was a river at the door step of one of you in which you washed 5 times a day would any of your dirt remain?” When he received the reply that none of it would remain he then said “That is like the 5 times Salat, with which Allah Almighty wipes out sins.
Salat (prayer) was the last will of the Prophet (Peace be upon him). As his soul departed he said with his last breaths: As-Salah, As-Salah (Prayer, Prayer).
Salat is the first thing that a person is judged by on the Day of Judgement. If it was good, the rest of all his deeds will be good. But if it was poor, the rest of all his deeds will be poor.
This narration sets a clear declaration as to how we will be judged on the Day of Judgement. We are given a clear message: [get your Salat in good order, and it will take care of the rest… Lose your Salat, and you are in big trouble]; Very simple message, but very powerful, and very direct.
That is how important Salat (prayer) is. It was the first command in Islam, it was the last will of the Prophet (Peace be upon him), and it is the first act that we will be judged by on the Day of Judgement. Therefore, we need to know why it is so important, and how can we uplift our prayers and make our Salat in the manner that will give us the reward in this life and in the hereafter.
The knots “in the rope of Islam” will be undone one by one. Every time a knot is undone, people will adhere strongly to the next. (By undone, we understand that people no longer act by this aspect of Islam). The first knot to be undone is living by the law of Islam, and the last to be undone is Salat. What we take from this Hadith, is that when a Muslim community gives up Salat, it will be the last act in giving up their Islam. We have seen this happening across the world and across the generations. This is also why we see that when a Muslim community wants to hold on to Islam, and wants to be recognised as faithful, people make that extra effort to return to Salat.
In this society, we can look at Salat in Islam as our last line of defence. We hold on to it, we preserve ourselves as Muslims, and Allah willing, we preserve our children and their children and so on, as Muslims. If we lose Salat, Allah forbid, we lose everything, in this life and in the hereafter. That is truly a disaster.
This is what the Noble Qur’an says about those communities who gave up their Salat:
“[But after them there followed future generations who lost the Salats (prayers) and followed after lusts. Soon, then, will they face destruction].” [Qur’an, 19: 59]
The following are just a few more verses from the Noble Qur’an to cast away any further doubts about the rule of establishing Salat in Islam. Allah Almighty says:
“[And establish regular prayer and give Zakah and obey the Messenger, that you may receive mercy].” [Qur’an, 24: 56]
“[And be steadfast in prayer; give Zakah and bow down your heads with those who bow down ‘in worship].” [Qur’an, 2: 43]
“[They are those who, if We establish them in the land, establish regular prayer and give Zakah, enjoin the right and forbid the wrong. With Allah rests the end (and decision) of (all) affairs].” [Qur’an, 22: 41]
Dear brothers and sisters, there should be no doubt in our minds and hearts about the need to establish regular Salats (prayers). It is vital for our present community, and it is vital for our future generations.
We cannot instil in our children the need to establish regular prayers if we do not act as an example. We cannot understate this point. We have to act as an example to our children. We are asked to encourage our children by age seven, and we are asked to enforce prayers by age ten. There is no doubt as to what the instructions are. We are responsible for our children. We may feel happy that we have been able to establish regular prayers ourselves, and that we have preserved Islam in our community for this generation, but what about the next, and what about the one after. There is no room for leniency here, and we need to be very vigilant. Indeed, there is a Hadith that states that between the person and Kufr (wilfully renouncing Allah) is abandoning Salat (prayer) on purpose. This was narrated by Muslim and by Ahmad, and it is also agreed by the Sahabah (Prophet’s Companions).
Respected servants of Allah, Islam encourages the Congregational prayers (Jama’ah prayers). In an agreed Hadith, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) states that the Jama’ah prayers (Congregational prayers) is worth 27 times the prayers of a person by himself. There is always more reward when we pray together.
In another Hadith, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) states that the prayer of the man in Jama’ah is worth 25 times his prayers alone. When he performs good ablution, and leaves his house for the sole purpose of prayers, with every step he takes his status is uplifted, and a sin is forgiven. As he prays, the angels will continue praying for him, saying, Allah bless him and Allah forgive him, until he finishes his Salat. This is the reward for establishing Congregational prayers (Jama’ah prayers).
In another Hadith, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) mentions that if three Muslims are present in a community, they need to establish Jama’ah prayers, or shaitan (satan) will get to them, as we are weakened by being separate, and strengthened by the Jama’ah.
In fact, establishing Congregational prayers (Jama’ah prayers) is a definite Sunnah, to the extent that we are informed in another Hadith, that if we leave the Jama’ah prayers, we are actually abandoning an established Sunnah of the Prophet (Peace be upon him).
The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said who ever attends the Mosque and returns, Allah prepares for him paradise on every occasion he attends and leaves. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) also says when you witness a person that regularly attends to the Mosque for prayers it is a testimony of his faith (Iman). Allah Almighty says:
“[The Mosques of Allah shall be visited and maintained by those who believe in Allah and the Last day, and establish regular prayer].” [Qur’an, 9: 18]
The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said; Shall I guide you to what wipes away the sins and lifts up your status.
The Mosque is the home of every pious person. Allah will look after this person with mercy and guides him along the straight path to paradise.
Dear brothers and sisters, we all know that Salat (prayer) is compulsory, but even with this pillar there are important issues that we need to address.
The most important for us, for the community in anywhere, is that we should encourage ourselves to attend the Mosque for Jama’ah prayers more and more. Not just the Juma’ah prayers, but for most Jama’ah prayers if we can.
There is a great reward when Salat is offered in Jama’ah.
Salat gives us both Worldly and Spiritual benefits. In the congregation, rich and poor, high and low, all stand shoulder to shoulder. It is the best scene of mankind’s equality.
In this Salat all have one intention (Niyyah), one language and identical actions. All kneel together, all go to Sajdah together.
This teaches us the lesson that we, as Muslims, should be united at all times.
People meet with one another in the Congregational prayer (Jama’ah Salah). They know the hardships and worries of one another and try to help each other. New things are known there. Mutual love develops. Circle of friendship is widened. We get an opportunity to perfect our life in the light of others experiences.
While offering Salat in Jama’ah we stand in rows, follow the Imam of Jama’ah and practice obedience to Allah, this forces discipline in us, which is the essential feature of a community’s life.
Our Mosques remain thriving – due to Salat in Jama’ah. It enhances the prestige of Muslims, and the Unity of Muslims affects greatly the enemies.
Allah has put a big reward for Congregational prayer (Jama’ah Salah). Our beloved Prophet (Peace be upon him) has laid great emphasis on Jama’ah Salah.
Therefore we should offer Jama’ah Salah as often as possible. We should also know that if there are more than 10 people in Jama’ah, then nobody can estimate its limitless reward except Allah.
My last point is that we must all strive to maintain and protect our Mosque, for it is this establishment that will hopefully look after our children and their children. Please invest in the Mosque, both financially and with your efforts. This is where our community starts, and this is where we maintain our faith (Iman).
In a nutshell, those who learn and read Qur’an on regular basis are familiar with the importance of Salat (prayer) and how strongly has Allah Almighty emphasised on it and explained its importance to the people in the Noble Qur’an. A Muslim must realise that above anything, Salat is an obligation and every Muslim has to fulfill his or her obligation.
Lastly, I ask Allah, the Most High to grant us success and enable us to be correct in what we say and write.
All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all creation; may Allah extol the mention of our noble Prophet Muhammad in the highest company of Angels, bless him and give him peace and security―and his family, his Companions and all those who follow him correctly and sincerely until the establishment of the Hour.
Murtadha Muhammad Gusau is the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and the late Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: email@example.com or +2348038289761.
This Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday sermon) was prepared for delivery today, Friday, Shawwal 29, 1444 AH (May 19, 2023)
Abdulgafar Oladimeji: Celebrating NLO Media Officer
Jamilu Uba Adamu
To have one’s work, skills and abilities acknowledged with a deserving appointment is commendable.
There are certain people who genuinely enjoy their profession and have passion in practicing it, and whenever you see such persons appointed into higher responsibilities, it calls for for celebration.
Last week, the Board of the Nationwide League One, NLO, announced the appointment of Kano Sports Writers’ Association’s Secretary, Mr. Abdulgafar Oladimeji, as the Media Officer of third-tier league in Nigeria.
To those of us who know Abdulgafar, the news didn’t come to us as a surprise even as many view it as a welcome development, given his energy and total commitment to the cause of developing sports, especially at the grassroots level through his medium.
A product of London School of Journalism and vast experience through the coverage of multiple FIFA and CAF competitions, and participation in both local and international capacity building programmes on Sports Journalism, spending a vast majority of his professional times working for major print media, there is no better reward for the astute media practitioner than he has been bestowed now.
In fact, he is the brain and initiator behind Sports-Without Borders-Development -Association, a development association that aims to promote human capacity through sports.
The Association has undertaken many grassroots development sports programmes within Kano and beyond.
Truly, everything he has done and accomplished has led to this deserved appointment.
The accolades and congratulatory messages effused on the social media and other print media are a testaments to his hard work and dedicated consistency .
I have no doubt that you will excel in this role and make everyone proud.
I personally congratulate and rejoice with you on this milestone attainment, Sir!
May Allah grant you the necessary knowledge and understanding to carry out the new task for the general growth and development of football at the grassroots as well as the talents therein.
Rarara’s Invective Barbs: Innuendoes, Body Shaming, and Kano Politics
Abdallah Uba Adamu
For the past 43 years that I have been a researcher, there were two areas I stay clear of: politics and religion. If you see my hand in any of these two, then the entry point is popular or media cultures. For instance, I have recorded a lot of Kano Qadiriyya’s Anfasu zikr, not as a devotee, but as an ethnomusicologist – focusing on the body percussion and movements (after studying the wonderful works of Margaret Kartomi on body percussion while in Morocco). Similarly – and to balance things somewhat – I recorded Tijjaniyya zikr sessions at Chiranci in the city of Kano as part of a larger study on religious performances. All my recordings were uploaded to a dedicated YouTube public channel. I was therefore amused when people try to pigeon-hole me either as Qadri or Tijjani. I am neither.
Politically, I am apolitical, meaning I really don’t care who rules the country. I don’t even vote, having done once long time ago (at the insistence of a dear friend), and promised never to do it again. But performance arts brought my attention to protest songs and the prosecution of singers in Kano. The end product was a paper, “Poetic Barbs: Invective Political Poetry in Kano Popular Culture” which I am sure is floating somewhere in a modified form. And I thought that was it.
In 2014 I came across a song that I found amusing. I was playing it on my laptop when someone exhibited surprise that I was listening to the songs of Dauda Adamu Abdullahi Kahutu, with stage name of Rarara. That was the first time I even heard the name. The song was “Zuwan Maimalafa Kano.” It attracted my attention in two ways. First, its lyrical construction as well as delivery was just amazing. Rapid fire. He should have been a rapper, a genre of music I am totally besotted on (old school DMX, 2Pac, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Queen “The Equalizer” Latifah, y’all). It was clear Rarara was singing off cuff, not reading from a setlist or lyrical sheet. Second, it was the most detailed invective song I have heard in Hausa Afropop music genre. I started digging and latched on him and his songs. So, for the last seven years or so, I have been following every song he released using the invective matrix.
So, what is an invective song? Invective is the literary device in which one attacks or insults a person or thing through the use of abusive language and tone. If you like, “zambo/shaguɓe”. Invective is often accompanied by negative emotion. Invective can be divided into two types: high and low invective. High invective requires the use of formal and creative language, while Low invective, on the other hand, makes use of rude and offensive images. From 2010, Rarara became a master of popular Hausa invective oral poetry. He used his skills to abuse, insult and body shame anyone he was paid to insult. Including former masters and associates.
A pattern evolved. His switchbacks. Chronologically, his earliest non-invective song was “Saraki Sai Allah” (in honor of then Governor Ibrahim Shekarau’s turbaning as Sardaunan Kano in 2010 by the late Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero). In 2011 – barely a year later – when Shekarau failed to anoint Rarara’s ‘master’, Deputy Governor Abdullahi T. Gwarzo to succeed him, Rarara became ballistically invective – and established a career in body shaming, abuses and innuendoes against various previous masters. Shekarau bore the blunt of colorist abuses – often a case of the kettle calling the pot black. No one was spared his invective barbs. Deeply cut. Insulting. Spread over 39 songs, from 2014’s “Malam Ya Yi Rawa Da Alkyabba”, to 2023’s “Tangal-Tangal.”
I have seen social media calling Rarara out on his not being a Kano indigene, getting rich in Kano through his songs, and yet insulting Kano’s leaders. This is all true. However, ‘da ɗan gari a kan ci gari’ (enemy within). Only about three songs in my analytical corpus by Rarara were free-standing (i.e., unsponsored). All the others were commissioned and paid for – by politicians from Kano, to abuse other politicians from Kano. Rarara always acknowledges his sponsors in the opening doxology of his performances.
Rarara was a highly unprincipled and unethical businessman. Show him the money, and he will praise his closest friend and abuse the friend’s enemy. Show him more money, and he will insult the same friend he praised, and heap praises on the enemy he insulted. Does anyone remember that the glorified “Ɗan Ƙaramin Sauro” (irritating mote) was part of the demeaned “Banza Bakwai” (Bastard Seven)? The bromance did not end well, did it? Business unusual.
In any event, Rarara’s invective braggadocio came back to hit him hard on 5th April 2023 when his opponents used his mother’s picture in unflattering terms and splattered it all over social media and gave her a feminine variation of an insulting name he used against one of his targets. Apparently when the shoe is on the other foot, it pinches.
Thus, instead of focusing on political ideology and promises of creating a better life for the electorate, often politicians in Kano (and I think Kano, as usual, is the only state that uniquely does this) would pay more attention to denigrating, shaming, and condemning opposing candidates, creating an unfavorable imagery of the politician to prevent his being voted. Rarara was a perfect malleable puppet in this process. He has the same emotional value to Kano politicians as an alien from Saturn. Despite his lyrical brilliance and acerbic wit, he was expendable. How many singers from Kano can you recall doing the same invective insults as Rarara to Kano politicians? Two? Three? Their corpus is not as extensive as that of Rarara. Conversely, how many politicians from Katsina pay Rarara money to insult other Katsina politicians? I can only remember one.
Wary of possible legal action against direct defamatory speeches, politicians often find it easier to engage what I call ‘political drones’ to communicate their defamatory messages through the popular medium of singing. In this way, when push comes to shove, it is the singer who would face legal – or in some cases, physical – wrath in one way or other. Unethical singers like Rarara – who was arrested, but not charged in 2014 over “Zuwan Maimalafa Kano” – were willing to pay the price in exchange for the stupendous amount of money they will receive. At least they will have enough for medical care when their houses were wrecked, assaulted and incapacitated to continue singing.
And the politician who caused it all? He can’t even remember the song that made him popular, having moved on to greener political pastures. Until the next election cycle when he will latch on another expendable drone to help him heat up the polity through more invective songs using campaign words he does not have the guts to utter himself.
Rarara’s defense of not uttering specific names in his invective taunts and body shaming do not stand up to scrutiny under Nigeria’s defamation laws, and demonstrates that while he was a brilliant lyricist, he needs to understand the law. This is because his invective defamation in the form of his songs is publicly available (indeed, he made them so), created a narrative about individuals that are easily identifiable either by their physical appearance or public behavior, created a negative impression on the person being so targeted, and was not misquoted as Rarara’s utterances (from his songs) were publicly available and subject to an only interpretation as intended. A clever prosecutor would have enough to jail Rarara on listening to any of his invective songs, if someone complained hard enough.
Invective songs can often have their positive sides in the sense of making politicians – or their targets – aware of public perception of their misdemeanors, or at most, errant behaviors. Rarara’s invective narrative in the selected songs I analyzed, however, do not demonstrate their oversight functions in public accountability for politicians. Regardless of whether explicit names were uttered or not, their narrative was focused on kicking them when they are down, and subjecting them to public ridicule. This questions the artistry of Rarara as a purveyor of aesthetic values of the Hausa oral arts.
Academicians ignore Rarara and his art – and I think that’s a mistake. True, some would argue that his songs have no aesthetic, intellectual or ideological value. On the contrary, they do. In their own way. They are beautiful as lyrical discourses. His delivery is truly artistic, even if the content is inelegant. Unlike other songs in the repertoire of political communication, his are not protest songs, and thus lack ideological focus. They neither educate, illuminate or illustrate any aspect of political culture. They only entertain – at the expense of the dignity of the people he attacks. His songs synthesize Hausa rural lexicon overlayered with abusive, often self-constructed urban jargon to enhance general appeal – and act as rabble rousers for politicians who think like him. It is a unique, if unadmirable business model in the performing arts.
Subsequently, Rarara’s songs cannot be compared, by any stretch of imagination, with the classical Hausa protest poets such as Sa’adu Zungur, Mudi Sipikin, Aƙilu Aliyu, Abba Maiƙwaru and Aminu Kano, whose artforms were fueled by educative political ideology, certainly not profit. Mudi Sipikin, for instance. used his poetry to attack the system of colonial rule. Aƙilu Aliyu wrote poems directly attacking the NPC. Abba Maiƙwaru wrote a 10-line NEPU poem for which he and Aminu Kano were arrested in the mid-1950s.
Zungur used his poetry originally to warn the emirs of the north of the necessity for reform, as illustrated in his central work, Jumhuriya ko Mulukiya [Republic or Monarchy]. In this work, he called for political and social problems to be solved on the basis of the existing Islamic institutions, rejecting alien political concepts. He later used his poetry to appeal directly to the common people. In a similar vein, one of the earliest poems written for a northern political party was by Aminu Kano, and called ‘Waƙar Ƴancin NEPU-Sawaba’ [Freedom poem for NEPU-Sawaba], and published in 1953 and put in the final form by Isa Wali. It was one of the earliest statements of Nigerian nationalism.
Despite all these, I argue that as researchers we can’t afford to ignore a current of knowledge flowing right at our feet. But the cold shoulder given to Rarara by our community, opposed to Aminu Ladan Abubakar (ALAN Waƙa) who is a toast to the academic and intellectual community, merely emphasizes the expendable and ephemeral nature of Rarara’s art. Ten years after the release of any ALA song, it will still have relevance. The relevance of Rarara’s songs rarely last to the next song release. Instantly forgettable.
Nevertheless, just as we struggled for the recognition and documentation (if not acceptance) of the Kano Market Literature in the 1990s when everyone was denigrating it, we need to also document the stream of popular culture, including Rarara – warts and all – flowing around us at all times. As far as I could see, only Maikuɗi Zukogi has focused attention on two of Rarara’s songs. More needs to be done.
As soon as I tell myself that I will wrap up the research, he will release a song insulting a former master or associate. Subsequently, I delayed publishing the research until he insults two people, and true to expectations, he did. These were President Muhammadu Buhari (Matsalar Tsaro) and Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje (Lema ta sha ƙwaya). With the ‘Hankaka’ barb against Ganduje in the Lema song, my fieldwork became almost complete. His destruction of “ɗan ƙaramin sauro” leaves only the references to be completed. As I argued, based on his corpus, Rarara sells to the highest bidder, with neither conscience or ideology. The huge profit he makes serve as an insurance against future loss of earnings when Kano politicians become mature enough to stop patronizing him to insult each other (and themselves) and utilize his skills in more constructive ways.
My thanks to a team of eager research assistants, headed by my ever faithful and close companion, Hassan Auwalu Muhammad – a former songwriter and lyricist himself. He was the one who mainly, patiently, transcribed the songs which I wove into a narrative going to almost 40 pages! I plan to upload the lot during my Summer break when the children are all here on holiday! By then the threatened wobbling ‘Tangal-Tangal’ had stopped and probably settled for a four-year legal battle.
Adamu is a Professor of media and cultural studies, Bayero University, Kano. He first published this article on Facebook.
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