On Society, Philosophy and that El-Rufa’i’s Re-tweet!

Ibraheem A. Waziri

Yes, these things need to be understood as they rhyme with natural laws. Days follow nights or the other way round and all round constantly. Social laws are scientific as the end truly ends in the prayers of a mystic (sufi) which is unity and harmony among all the sectors of our realities. Abrahamic faith has three major components. It is a faith, it is religion and it is a culture. When it is a faith it demands you believe in certain things behind your physical reality and there’s no question. When it is a religion, it asks you to perform certain rituals on constant and timely basis. When it is a culture it guides perceptions, tastes choices and interpretations of social realities, what pleases or hurts. In all these, we human subjects have our limits with God and among ourselves. In faith we are not allowed to judge one another. Judgements are exclusive to God, only articles of faith are a subject of human knowledge passed from one to another. Here theological arguments are advanced and counter advanced. In rituals there are also definite instructions on hows, that are shared among humans. Even then it is generally agreed in all orthodoxy that intentions (good or bad) is the major facilitator of their correctness or not, thereby closing the room for much debate. Then there’s the cultural aspect of Abrahamic faith which deals with social relationship at all levels. This has two layers. The first is universal and made explicit in all Abrahamic literature. It can be called the base. In it motives are not questioned by mere mortals. It is secular and has material utility in the sense that it calls for the practice of what leads to the end and establishes all essence in the following instruction not for a believer to a believer only but for believers to all human beings around them:

…to spend of your wealth ( anything of value you acquire), for your relatives, for orphans, for the needy, for the traveller, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves;…

Yet human diversity with different environmental influences usually prevent all from defining what constitutes the whole above from a single perception, hence the allowance to culture or many cultures that agree on the fundamentals but differ on fringe items regarding delivery of the outlined core values. This led to the concepts of relativity of the truth, right or wrong based on condition or environment. There is the popular quote by Rumi: “The truth was a mirror in the hands of God. It fell, and broke into pieces. Everybody took a piece of it, and they looked at it and thought they had the truth”. This also finds substantiation in nature, in modern science and with Albert Einstein’s breakthrough in theory of relativity. You all may be different but are all right.

In Islam in particular, the rule according to all classical jurists is, beyond what is explicitly said to be forbidden by God under all conditions, all can be legitimate or forbidden and according to exegeses of time or demand of environment informed by the wisdom of the wise ones established over time (culture). There are no absolutes. Imam Al-Shafi’i to whom is credited the formulation of the basic principles of Islamic jurisprudence was known to have been passing different judgements on same social issues (please this is not theology) depending on scenarios, environments and conditions. So the real blessing of Abrahamic faith is largely in the basic values it gave to humanity and allowed a space for tolerance and accommodation among different cultural groups who come under different environmental influences. Above those basics lies the second layer that agrees that what is right among the Arabs is not necessarily right among the Hausa in Africa or Europeans ( Sincerely, I always wonder what complex drives a Sheik in Nigeria to dress in an Arabian or Iranian robe before he believes himself to be truly projecting Muslim image).

Therefore when we condemn Nasiru El-Rufa’i’s re-tweet we are not pushing him out of Islam like some theologians would want to do. We are also not saying he had crossed a boundary of religion in its rituals. All we are saying is there is some cultural offense to those who share our culture and heritage and our neighbours whom we have lived long enough with for them to have understood how we used to react to references like these about our revered persons. Any public ‘joke’ that places a revered person on bed with another woman and in public is not expected from a cultured person of our kind. I once told somebody who sought for explanation on the Muslims anger about ThisDay early this century that over here a decent Muslim young person can’t look into their older brother’s eyes and suggest he marries a bikini-ed lady walking half naked on a stage and so much a highly revered prophet of Islam.

Yet, Nasiru is our brother and one of our best representatives (cultural) in this century among others like Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and Dr. Aliyu Tilde ( a topic for another day, though). In fairness to him and still by the genuine prescriptions of Abrahamic values and the sound instructions of our culture, we must see that re-tweet in the light of sincere mistake we all often make about all things around us, until he makes the same mistake again, then we say he deliberately provokes or insults as I pray that same understanding will be extended to all those here or elsewhere who may speak about prophet of Islam in an unkind tone by the standard of our culture.