Hajj Mustafa Ali
is the continent of Islam and this has been so from the time of
Yusuf, (alayhi salem) and the prophets before him until the
time of the Prophet Muhammad (sallalahu alayhi wa salem).
The Companions of the Prophet made two hijras to
Abyssinia. Here, they
were given protection from Meccan persecution by An Najashi (the
Negus), ruler of Abyssinia. It
was to Africa also that the mainly Hassani Ahlul Bayt fled to
escape the persecution unleashed, after the death of the Prophet and
Imam `Ali (peace be upon them), by the Umayyads and continued by the
Abbasids. The Ahlul
Bayt moved across the Sahara desert and further south, welcomed
by the peoples of the continent, bringing with them a strong and
vibrant expectation of the coming Imam al Mahdi that has caused this
part of the world, especially in the area of the present day
Sudanic-Maghribi zone, to have had the greatest number of revivalist
movements anywhere in the world.
Many centuries before the time of the Prophet (sallalahu
alayhi wa salem) there had been migrations from the Arabian
Peninsula to mainland Africa. The
Yoruba nation, the most culturally homogenous and largest tribe of
present day Nigeria, are descendants of Yarub in pre-Islamic
times to Africa and the linguistic structure of the Yoruba language
still bears out to the connection with ancient Arabia.
Islam is thus the indigenous way of life of the peoples of
fitra (natural disposition) when born is to be Muslim, it is
our parents who bring out that Islam in us or turn us away from it.
With a coming of age and the development of discrimination
there can be a voluntary return to Islam.
My return to Islam was as Allah willed.
He does as He pleases with His slaves, both Muslim and kafir
and it is not for us to say that it was some particular insight or
privilege that brought us to Islam.
All of this is only a pretext since He is the only Actor.
Being African, I was born into an environment in which the
overwhelming majority of the population were Muslim, but in which
the non-Muslim dominant minority of Christians knew little about
Islam and were even less interested in wanting to learn.
a child growing up and going to primary and secondary schools, there
was very little I knew about Muslims except for those occasional
moments, during what I knew to be the fasting periods, when I would
notice the alufas (alims) giving tafsirs at
night, sitting down at small tables with their lamps and with groups
of people from the neighborhood listening.
The Christian socialization process meant that we grew up
with the notion that Muslims were basically backward, but that there
were a few enlightened ones that we could associate with.
One strong impression that stayed with me from sixth form
history classes was that the Muslims were responsible for all the
ills in the East African coastal regions and that it was the
European church fathers who remedied this state of affairs.
Needless to say, by extension, I felt that this was the case
for the rest of the continent.
life abroad in England was a period of confused misery.
As a social anthropology student I could not understand why
all our attention was focused on the simple or so-called
pre-industrial societies and why it was that all analyses of such
societies had to be from a specifically Western frame of reference.
I also sensed a rather obnoxious paternalism behind all the
facts, figures and theories that I wanted to reject without knowing
what I could replace it with. However,
it would be wrong to say that this confusion on my part resulted
from any high intellectual reasoning or perception or that I was in
search of some rewarding spiritual fulfillment that would bridge
this gap and make me feel whole again. At a point I believe I rejected Christianity on the emotional
grounds of abhorring the assisting role the missionaries gave the
European agents in the colonization of Africa.
Furthermore, a declared rejection of an alien religion was
expected of anyone with some measure of black consciousness. I had heard it expressed that Islam was the solution to the
problems of mankind and the oppressed but my own prejudices did not
allow me to seriously review the truth of this statement.
came back to Nigeria after having completed my studies abroad,
returning to work as a Curator in that countrys National Museum.
I soon became bored with my job because apart from the fact
that museums are culturally alien to most of us here, I found that
African image we were trying so hard to project meant little more
than paying lip service to dance, drama and a study of art objects
and archaeological artifacts. I
later came to learn that most African cultures are the end result of
the decadence that set in with the fall of Firaunic Egypt and the
gradual loss of its sciences and knowledge and that it was the
decadence of ancient Egyptian civilization itself and its idol
worship that caused Allah ta`ala to send Musa and his brother
Haroon (peace be upon them) to the court of Ramses 2 to challenge
the power and knowledge.
mutual friend introduced me to my husband and he was responsible for
bringing me to Islam. I
became Muslim before getting married.
By the natural sympathy that exists between husband and wife,
knowledge of Islam and Muslims was opened up to me, not so much by
my own effort but more because the man I was married to was, at the
time of our marriage in a process of tremendous upheaval and a
moving away from the state of being nominally Muslim to a
reawakening to Islam that shook all those, both friends and family,
that had known him before this time.
In his own search and yearning for knowledge of Allah I was
drawn into finding out more about Africa, its true history, the
prophets and messengers and the Qur'an.
I also began to understand more about the society I had been
born into and the increasing polarization and growing tensions
between the Muslims and the minority Christian elite and the reasons
for this state of affairs.
is the only continent with a majority Muslim population and Nigeria
with its enormous human and mineral resources and with the fifth
largest Muslim population in the world could lead Africa in the
direction of an Islamic revival if this potential were not curtailed
in its embryonic stages. Thus
from the nineteen seventies and even before, international Christian
bodies have heavily influenced events in the country with the
establishment of lobbies whose sole aim is to monitor all Muslim
activities, establish an anti-Muslim press and make all kinds of
irrational demands as a means to irritate and confuse the Muslims.
The declared leaders of the Muslims have so far done little
to stall this tirade but the politics of official Islam is divorced
from the love of the Prophet (sallalahu alayhi wa salem) and
the iman to be found among the ordinary people.
I became Muslim or why would not say very much about Islam itself
and I feel it is very necessary to include this aspect of my
experience in order not to confuse this with the born-again
Christian phenomenon of being saved but with no real
years after being married and being Muslim I began to have an
uncomfortable feeling that in spite of constantly having been taught
what constituted Islam, iman and ihsan, having traveled
world-wide, meeting Muslims from around the world, I had missed the
point of being Muslim. There
was a realization that Islam was not politics or Islamic political
rhetoric or gatherings of genteel Muslim company or being religious.
Contrary to what I knew to be the experiences of other
people, I had not had some overpowering internal crisis that had led
me to absolute peace with Islam.
From the teachings of my husband Shaykh Najib, who is an
instructor in this path of knowledge, I was made to realize the
missing ingredient in my `ibada and actions was knowing that
the whole and total objective of our being alive is to arrive at
knowledge of the process of life and death, which governs all
made me look around at the situation I had created for myself and
said that I would have to turn my heart to face the fact that my
Islam was no favor to Allah or the Muslims, or that it was my effort
that brought me to Islam or that I was one of the chosen few for
whom the Garden was a certainty.
Shaykh Najib told me that our business here is beyond these
trivialities and the problem with Muslims is that they have reduced
Allah to One Whose sole purpose of having created us is to record
our actions and punish or reward us accordingly.
I was told that I would have to stop seeking the reward of
the Garden or fearing the Fire and seek Allah ta`ala alone.
The only way to reach this would be by the application, with
complete understanding of the five principles or performance
criteria for discrimination which are the declaration of the kalimat,
La ilaha ilAllah Muhammad Rasulullah (the declaration of
the unity of Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah), salat
(prostration worship), zakat (the increase in wealth tax), sawm
(fasting in the month of Ramadan) and hajj (the visit to the
House of Allah, for those with the means to do so).
wondered what all this meant. I
knew that I was Muslim and I regularly made salat that the kalimat
was what I declared when I became Muslim and I understood and had
performed the other aspects of these five principles.
The problem was that my knowledge was disjointed.
I had not understood the five principles as a process.
With the realization of ones distraction and recognition
of all the various carnal and animalistic forms that the destructive
self takes on, one makes the attestation, the kalimat, that
banishes all doubt and uncertainty and takes on the performance of salat,
the turning away, five times a day from all those affairs with the
potential to increase one in this distraction.
With prostration (submission and death) comes growth (zakat),
which is an increase in light and purity, followed by sawm
(fasting), which are the greater jihad and the striving to dry out
all the carnality in one. The
end result of the greater jihad being hajj (victory), which
is the arrival at the House of the Lord.
The five principles are based on the form or pattern of
Muhammad (peace be upon him) and they are a life-transaction or
process, which we call Islam. The Quran is the basic formula that provides the criteria
for discrimination for every period of social or material
development or stagnation that man has passed through.
However, the interpretation and application of this formula
is by the ones who have made Allah their total world view, who have
forsaken religiosity and for whom Quran is the mathematics for
decoding life forms and patterns.
The result is flexibility and spontaneity in application and
not rigidity because the decoding process is by ijtihad
(extraction of current patterns by deduction from principles of
must be scrupulousness in the observance of these five principles
a point-by-point exactitude in performance.
The failure of most of us is in this lack of scrupulousness,
which cuts one off from cognizance of being constantly in the
presence of Allah. Nothing
is to be taken for granted, even if it seems as trivial as the
borrowing of a small item and not returning it to its owner.
In this mode of operations, outward appearances count for
nothing. Allah looks to
our intentions. It is
not our outward actions that lead us to Allah or the time or effort
that we believe we expend in the performance of what we see to be
acts of `ibada (worship).
We cannot see or congratulate ourselves on the good that we
see in ourselves. The
best we can do is to concentrate on what is not correct that we see
emanating from ourselves and ask Allah in whose hand are the will
and the power, to purify our intentions for us.
When intentions are balanced and correct, the actions that
flow from them must also be correct.
wali (friend) of Allah is not necessarily the one who looks
the quietest, holiest or the purest.
Allah ta`ala can veil his friends with a covering of
low-ness, crudeness; abrupt mannerisms, a love of talking or even an
apparent worldly appearance and love of comfort that would make the
religious people turn aside in contempt.
The recognition of such people is by what Allah causes of the
truth to flow from them into the hearts of others.
This has always been the case with the prophets and
messengers and the Imams of the Family of the Prophet (sallalahu
alayhi wa salem). Such
men were always regarded as gangsters by the authorities of the day.
Allah causes whom He wills to accept, there are no proofs
that can ever cause the men of Allah to be recognized, because
proofs only exist for the people of doubt.
all of this I felt that I was facing a formidable problem.
Suddenly, how or why I became Muslim did not seem to matter. All of Allahs creatures, both Muslim and non-Muslim are
nothing but acts in Allahs unfolding process of creation and both
groups are described in the Quran.
It is not for the Muslim to feel arrogant before the
non-Muslim, even though his kufr is not to be tolerated. There
are balanced limits of justice for both groups.
The forming or molding of each of us, with our intentions and
actions, for the Fire or the Garden is expressly as Allah wills,
free of emotions. The Muslim is expressive of Allahs attributes so the
return will be to the Garden. The
kafir is expressive of His essence so the return here will be
to the Fire. Allah can
change us as He wills from Islam to kufr or kufr to
Islam and whichever state we are at the time of death was our
natural disposition from the moment we were born. Our only business then is to seek the face of Allah (have
knowledge of Him) with the simplicity and lack of arrogance of the
slave who cleans the shoes of his master, or the petty road-side
trader who does not even stop to think that there is some profound
service he is rendering to his fellow men because of the
ordinariness of his daily livelihood.
of this condition by way of an inward state was what I was made to
understand that I would have to strive for.
My Western education and my own inhibitions had caused me to
believe that outward reasoning or the intellect alone would serve to
put me on the road to iman.
In this I was wrong. I
then began to feel afraid of this wearying task of monitoring my
every thought and action. I was nervous about doing what was correct, in the face of
opposition from family, friends and others, but I had to realize
that being Muslim is to be opinionated and scrupulous in the way of
truth and that true compassion and flexibility is the in built
construct of this acceptance. Other
than this is nifaq (hypocrisy).
do not as yet know if I have embarked on this tough, but sweet task
of really being Muslim, or even fully understood the depth of what
being Muslim is. Allah
knows best, but I ask not to be cut off from it.
Halima P. Brimah