Powered by Bravenet Bravenet Blog

Subscribe to Journal

Wednesday, December 2nd 2015


Isis and its Expansion, part 3


We are working towards a clarification of ISIS and its satellites, using Nigeria as an example. 

Please forgive me for beginning this entry with a statement that I have made numerous times here and elsewhere. It is of utmost importance in understanding the nature of Islam and, consequently, a difference between Christianity and Islam.

Christians: Resident Aliens in the World

Christians are exhorted to live in submission (which is not synonymous with blind obedience) to whoever constitutes their government, while Islam is never fully realized until Muslims live in an Islamic state.  The apostle Peter reminds his readers (1 Peter 2:11, 12a HCSB) that they are no longer truly at home in this world.

Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and temporary residents to abstain from fleshly desires that war against you.  Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles ….

Maybe it's a paradox at first glance, but it is precisely because Christians are aliens in the world that Peter urges them to be exemplary citizens wherever they may find themselves. Christians should recognize the authority of a government even if it is ungodly. Who would fit that description better than the Roman emperors of the first century AD? Still, Peter states in 1 Peter 3:13-15 (HCSB).

Submit to every human authority because of the Lord, whether to the Emperor as the supreme authority or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good. For it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good.

As mentioned above, the word “submit” does not entail unquestioning compliance with a state if it demands participation in an action that is clearly contrary to scripture. However, in that case we may have to accept suffering, as Peter clarifies throughout chapter 4 of his epistle. In a democracy we should voice our criticisms of the government when it does wrong and take whatever actions are available to promote the right. However, the idea of a Christian theocracy is not found in the New Testament, let alone promoted in its pages. To be sure, we are looking forward to a true theocracy when Christ will rule on earth during the millennium, but that event will occur in God’s own timing by his initiative and his actions.  We are not exhorted to establish the kingdom of Christ on earth before his return. – I am fully aware that many American Christians either do not understand this fact or do not want to accept it, promoting a veritable "Christian" political hegemony. They have apparently not yet come to terms with our basic identity as temporary resident aliens in a fallen world.

Islam: The Ummah as Political Entity

On the other side of this coin, genuine Islam demands an Islamic government, a condition that cannot be fulfilled by a “Western style” open democracy. Toying Falola provides several quotations from people with different outlooks on Nigerian religious policy in the front matter of his book, Violence in Nigeria. The first such paragraph comes from a Muslim publication, which—ignoring the strident tone of this quotation—does represent a basic Islamic dogma. I suppose that I could soften this statement a little by using another noun other than “dogma,” such as “perspective,” “opinion,” “preference,” etc., but doing so, even if it were to sound “nicer,” would be tantamount to concealing a crucial part of Islam. The statement comes from the Muslim Student Society publication, Radiance.

How long should we continue this trial and error and groping for a workable system? Given the present trend, what chances do we stand to survive as a nation? Can we even survive the present mess? Perhaps more important, has there been any nation in history which flourished under thoughts, ideas, institutions and political culture which are not only alien but hold in contempt the history, culture and conviction of a great majority of its people … For Muslims nothing is acceptable besides Islam (Muslim Student Society, Radiance: A Muslim Magazine for the Contemporary Mind, October 1982, 1.)

An easy response to this assertion is that the Muslim conquests and the imposition of Islam on non-Islamic areas constitutes a perfect example of such a cultural/political upheaval and the survival of its people (particularly if we ignore the hundreds of thousands of slaves captured and sold during those times). In Nigeria the expansion of Islam in its most successful times included the eradication of previous religions, cultures, and principles of law and government. Islam has been in Nigeria longer than Christianity and Western secular thought, but it can no more claim to be truly indigenous than any other religion except for those associated with the local tribal cultures, such as that of the Yoruba. In any event, it is Islamic dogma that Islam is not fully established in any location until an Islamic government is in charge. The reality of this dogma is supported both by the historical example of Muhammad and the early caliphs (the Salafi), for whom the spread of Islam as a religion and as a political entity were synonymous. It is also borne out by various verses in the Qur’an (Yusuf Ali translation).

Basis in the Qur'an

In 8:11a, Allah instructs Muhammad to accept those of his enemies who change their minds and repent:

But (even so), if they repent,
Establish regular prayers,
And practice regular charity,—
They are your brethren in Faith.

Further on, in 8:29 we see how the new social order under Islam will come about:

Fight those who believe not
In God nor the Last Day,
Nor hold that forbidden
Which hath been forbidden
By God and His Apostle,
Nor acknowledge the Religion
Of Truth, (even if they are)
Of the People of the Book,
Until they pay the Jizya
With willing submission,
And feel themselves subdued.

There is much that one could say by way of commentary on these verses. Al-jizya refers to the "unbeliever's tax" that Christians and Jews are required to pay for the privilege of living in an Islamic state (while being exempt from the zakat.) For "pagans" and lapsed Muslims, there is no such provision, and we have seen many examples recently that some militant Islamic groups ignore the Qur'an's exhortation to make this allowance. Suffice it for us at the moment to recognize that the establishment of a society regulated by five mandatory times of prayer (al-salat) and the regular collection of alms for the poor (al-zakat), alongside the oppression of the People of the Book and their submission, would not be possible if Islam would not have governmental powers. 

A potentially better case for Nigeria to become a Muslim state is also illustrated in the above quotation with the phrase "a great majority of its people." If the citizens of Nigeria were overwhelmingly Muslim, then, perhaps the establishment of an Islamic system of governance would become a legitimate demand. However, given the available plausible data there is no Muslim majority in Nigeria as a whole.

Falola Numbers describing the Nigerian population are notoriously unreliable. (See the appendix of Falola, Violence in Nigeria.) Different segments of tribal, geographical, or religious affiliations are likely to report the highest possible believable numbers—and sometimes overshooting the plausible. One motivation for reporting higher figures may be that they may result in greater allocations from the federal purse. After looking at various sources for numbers and their plausibility, I can say this much with a certain amount of assurance: The two largest religions in Nigeria are Islam and Christianity. It is likely that Islam has an edge over Christianity with a population of over 40 percent of the people, but not a mathematical majority. With a similar degree of probability Christianity can claim a number that is also over 40 percent, but a few digits behind Islam. Such conservative estimates are not beyond dispute. However, we can be fairly sure that the larger the claims are, the less plausible they are as well. 

Furthermore, even if there were a decisive majority of Muslims in Nigeria, it would be made up of factions that are seriously antagonistic to each other. The largest split places strict Sunni Muslims on one side and all other Muslim groups, such as Sufi brotherhoods, Shi’ites, Madhiyyas, and syncretists, on the other. These groups differ in various ways too numerous to enumerate here, but, most importantly, they would not agree on what an Islamic state would look like other than a vague generalization that it would be governed by shari’a, the Islamic approach to jurisprudence, rather than by British common law. Even stipulating a demographic skewed heavily towards Muslims in Nigeria, it would still be doubtful that a majority of them would favor a Sunni caliphate over other forms of governance. 

Perceptions of the ratio of Muslims to Christians are likely to be affected by the immediate surroundings in which a person lives. Depending on one’s state of residence, one could fall into the trap of thinking that what applies to the present locality is true for the rest of the nation. As mentioned above, different regions of the country and different segments of the population are frequently dominated by either Islam or Christianity/Western-style secularism. Two of the most thoroughly Islamic regions in Nigeria are the states of Sokoto and Borno. Both of them have a lengthy history as Islamic countries prior to colonization. Sokoto was known in the nineteenth century as the “Caliphate of Sokoto,” and Borno was usually referred to as the “Sultanate of Borno,” but also took on the title of “Caliphate of Borno” a few times. Historically, the two countries were frequently at war with each other, but under British supervision became provinces of the larger entity of Nigeria and are currently separate states within the federation.

I am heading towards a closer look at the Nigerian group Boko Haram, once again following my pattern of spending a huge amount of time on background (not to mention digressions and stacks without which you wouldn't recognize my blog). Suffice it to say for the moment that Boko Haram originated in Maidiguri, the capital of Borno, and that its inspiration probably derives from the history of Sokoto.

More very soon. I really think I will get to the intended subject with the next entry.

0 Comment(s).

There are no comments to this entry.

Post New Comment

No Smilies More Smilies »