imageBy Afang Jalamang Jabbi

The Gambia Islamic Council (GIC) has stated what it called the “Muslim Ummah’s position on the Ahamadiya Jammat.” The statement, first aired on state GRTS television on January 23rd, 2015 can also be found printed on The Point edition of Monday 26th January.

Even though few take this definition seriously, the GIC calls itself “the sole body responsible for the general activities of all Islamic affairs in the country.”  Quoting from an unspecified part of  the “… hadith of the Prophet Muhammd (peace be upon him) (“Addeenu-an-Naseeha”) “ it said “that religion is an advice, and it is the council’s obligation to clarify any misconception concerning the Islamic religion in The Gambia, based on evidence from authentic references.”

Muslim Ummah in The Gambia on the position of the Muslim Ummah towards Qaduyanisim known as Ahmadiyaa Jamm’at.

Now wait a minute, this is the first time any fatwa is being issued by the GIC on any issue, from the little I know. The council itself is a First Republican creation set up as conduits for the recruitment and the management Arabic or Koranic teachers for state schools and for incoming material aid from International Islamic aid agencies.  About three months ago then imam of the State House mosque, Imam Fatty, launched a similar attack against the Ahmadiya. If I remember well, Imam Fatty made the denunciation in an interview with the Standard Newspaper. Few days after this denunciation, Fatty was pushed out of the State House imam–ship by the country’s autocratic leader Yahya Jammeh. Many thought the imam’s removal was due to his inflammatory attacks on the Ahmadis but some had warned that the removal had to do with his failure to comply with Jammeh’s instruction that a number of his young supporters organized in the Green Boys & Girls who died in a road accident while on the way to join him on a tour of the CRR be buried in a single mass grave than to be buried individually

 While Jammeh wanted to minimize the damage and have the fatality figure low and unnoticeable for the mundane purpose of statecraft,  the Imam had more compelling theological considerations in mind when presiding over the burial rites at a wasteland behind the Mile Two prison yard. I didn’t  know which of the two rumor-based theories to adopt until this GIC fatwa was issued on Friday 23rd January 2015. This is simple, if Imam Fatty had been dethroned for lashing out at the Jaamat, no member of the Gambian Supreme Islamic Council would have dared come out with such a statement. The council issues no statement without the prior approval of the Office of the President.

 It is the hypocrisy of it all that nauseates me and wants me to come out in defense of the sect. Everyone who knows his way around this frightful brand of African autocracy knows that the statement must have had the presidential blessing if not stamp of approval for it to be aired over GRTS television. The mere authorship of the draft of that fatwa, without presidential clearance could have led to the disbandment of the council itself, the arrest of its members and other various types of distress at the hands of the mad tyrant

 The Gambia Supreme Islamic Council is more like GONGO, a government owned NGO, with members serving as poodles in the hands of the Gambian dictator, than an independent institution. During the 2006 presidential campaign, Imam Babanding Drammeh, then the head of the council was sent visiting villages, asking the village alkalolu and imams to preach to voters to vote for Jammeh. When the GSIC delegation reached a certain village in the pro-opposition Kiang West and walked into the house of  the imam, he escorted them to the alkalo, saying this were you will be best welcomed. A little after that election, President Jammeh came to regard Imam Babanding with suspicion or as not being effective enough and called for the dissolution of the council’s executive committee and for elections to the vacant positions. All candidates to those positions had to be pre-qualified by the Sheikh-President. “Unruly elements” like Imam Ba Kawsu Fofanna had their candidature rejected.

 How such an openly politically-partisan institution can carry the name “Supreme” and “Islamic” tells how emasculated we have become as a nation and faith-based community. The council never tried to intervene when prominent imams like Imam Ismaila Manjang of Gunjor, Ba Kawsu Fofana of Sanchaba mosque or Imam Baba Leigh of the Kanifing, or recently the Caliph General Hydara, was illegally arrested and detained and even tortured. They did not speak out when Jammeh decided on banning the annual Ziyares for Elhaj Umar Taal, the changed times of the five daily prayers and dates for the two Eids. They never loudly enough speak out against the many atrocities against Muslims and other Gambians, instead they have been flattering the president, bestowing with various Muslim titles despite his well known penchant for idol worshipping, so I really wonder what moral or religious right have they to speak out so against the Ahmadiyaa Jaamat, asking, by implication for their banning under the Illegal Societies Act   1971?

 As to their “reason” the Gambia Supreme Islamic Council asserted thus:

 “It is agreed by the entire pre-modern and modern Islamic scholars worldwide, including Pakistan the country of their origin, that Ahmadiyaa Jamm’at are not Muslims based on the following “dalils” (facts).

 1. Indeed, in spite of all what the Ahmadiyas use to quote from the Quran and Hadith, they built their beliefs on the following wrong pillars: They believe that Ghulam Ahmad is the Promised Messiah. They believe that Allah the Almighty does fast, pray, sleep, wake, write sign, make mistakes and have sex.

 2. The Qadianis believe that prophet hood was not sealed by Prophet Muhammad (peace upon him), but is continuing and God sends messengers as necessary, and that Ghulam Ahmad is the best of all the prophets.

 3. They say there is no Quran except the one brought by the Promised Messiah and no hadith except in the light of his teachings and no prophet except under the masterhood of Ghulam Ahmad.

 4. They believe that every Muslim is Kaafir until he becomes a Qadiyani and, whoever gives a non-Qadiyani a wife or who marries a non Qadiyani woman is a kaafir.

 5. They believe that it is not allowed to pray behind a non-Ahmadis (Ahmadi); that is why they created lots of disunity in some remote villages in The Gambia.

 Let us look into point (1), last sentence, “They believe that Allah the Almighty does fast, pray, sleep, wake, write sign, make mistakes and have sex.” This sounds to me like a blatant untruth, and I advise that  it is regarded as such until when the council GSIC is able to back it with references.

 This is also wrong, the Ahmadis believe in Allah and his Prophet(SAW) just like other Muslims. What makes them defer from other Muslims is their believe that the promised Messiah , the Mahdi, has already come in the person of their leader and founder Gulam Ahmad  of Pakistani  descent. Because the Ahmadi trend is somewhat proprietary,  just like mouridism,  the Nyassens or Layens of Senegal, and particularly because it is of non-Arab origin, it has always been treated with suspicion.  What the GSIC has started could be a sort of an inquisition riding on that old embittered suspicion based, perhaps innocently, on racial bigotry. Before going any further, please let me declare that  I am neither a believer, member or follower of the Ahmadiyatt Jaamaat ,I am just one who have for long been impressed by the rigor of their argumentation, their understanding of the need to modernize Islam and their ears opened for the mundane concern of communities.

 The claim that the Ahmaddis believe that God does have sex, etc, is so ridiculous that its fallacy is open for all to see. In which book or document can this be found? 

 This sounds more like a Sunni mother, say in Saudi Arabia, would say to scare her child with the tales about the Shiite and their beliefs. Sounds more like petty bigotry than any respectful claim.

 In 1926 three Ahamaddis were ordered stoned to death by the by the then king of Afghanistan , Amir Habib Ullah Khan accused of heresy, being followers of the Ahmaiya  Ja amaat . The successor of Gulam Ahamad, his son Bashir-Ud-Din Mahmud Ahmad came out with a letter to blessings of God) the king in the form of a book titled : “Invitation To Ahmadiyyat.” The book explainst the main Ahmadiyyat doctrine and justification of their belief, and I take from it citations to meet some of the attacks by to the  GSIC fatwa.

 Writing about the belief in prophets, the book explains: “This belief too has been decayed. Lacking rational and spiritual insight, Muslims had corrupted their belief in prophets in many strange ways. Not only had the belief changed, it has become repulsive to Muslims as well as to others. The vile attacks which have been made on the personal character of the Holy Prophet (On whom be peace and the blessing of God) are due to the fantastic views which in our time Muslims in our time has come to hold about prophets in general and about the Holy Prophet in particular. Christians and other critics of Islam draw more on the false traditions include in Muslims’ books than on the evidences which they themselves fabricate. These false traditions have become part of the everyday beliefs of Muslims. They narrate them in daily conversations and in weekly sermons, to the sorrow of all self-respecting Muslims. Enemies of Islam are seen attacking the person and the character of the Holy Prophet by weapons forge foolishly by Muslims themselves. These attacks reveal the hypocrisy of those who fabricated traditions and spread them among Muslims. But they also give non-Muslims a chance to attack the purity of life and character possessed by our Holy Prophet.”

In the second point of their fatwa the GSIC claimed that Ahamadis do not believe that prophet hood was not sealed by Prophet Muhammad (peace upon him). This is a common mistake of equating Gulam Ahmad’s statute as the envisaged Mahdi and that of the prophethood.

 Ahmad, citing Abu Huraira according to whom the Holy Prophet once declared that:

“Verily God will continue forever to raise for this Ummat in the beginning of every century one who will restore for it its faith.”

So in the belief of the Ahmadis, Gulam Ahmad is considered a man of his century. Remember it was in the 1920s that Serigne Bamba returned to Senegal after long incarceration in Gabon. His welcome was the biggest gathering that Senegal had ever before seen. Most of those who experience that tumult associated it with the divine, and out of it sprouted out branches of the order that took the venerable Bamba, like the Bai Faals for instance, no less than Prophet Muhamad (SAW) himself.

 No orthodoxy can undergo massive adherence and swollen numbers of followers without risks of  fractionalization, divisions of views and even factionalism, particularly if that doctrine spans over centuries, and of wide and diverse geographic and cultural regions.                             

 On their third point the GSIC claims that Ahmadis are of the belief that “there is no Quran except the one brought by the Promised Messiah and no hadith except in the light of his teachings and no prophet except under the masterhood of Ghulam Ahmad.”

 This is another great fallacy by the GSIC ,they can point at no written evidence anywhere that Ahmadis believe in the existence of any Muslim holy book than the holy Quran.

 In his argument in praise of the Quran, Mahmud Ahma explains:  “In short the teachings of the Quran may be summarized as follows:

 1. Both the physical and the spiritual needs of man have been promised fulfillment ; spiritual needs in particular have been promised fulfillment because their scope is more extensive and their importance much greater. But for such a promise, the whole drama of creation would be without meaning.

 2.There is  a definitive promise of divine guidance whenever such guidance is needed

 3. If such guidance does not come, man will have the right to find fault with God.

 4 .If guidance does not come in time of need, those who suffer for want of guidance cannot be punished; to punish them would be an act of cruelty and God cannot be cruel.

 5. There is an unambiguous promise for the raising of reformers to interpret afresh the meaning of the Holy Quran.

 6. Such reformers will appear every hundred years

 The forth point of the fatwa is that : “They believe that every Muslim is Kaafir until he becomes a Qadiyani and, whoever gives a non-Qadiyani a wife or who marries a non Qadiyani woman is a kaafir.

 Another piece of unsubstantiated expression of bigotry by the GSIC fatwa

 GSIC cites what it called the “The position of the Muslims towards the Ahmadiya Jammat, listing the following: In 1953, the people of Pakistan demonstrated and demanded the resignation of Zafarulah Khan, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, and considered the Qadiyani group a non-Muslim minority; The National Council of Pakistan (the Central Parliament) debated with the leader of the group, Mirza Nasir Ahmad. The parliament issued a decision and considered the Qadianis Ahmadist a non-Muslim minority; The Islamic Research Academy in Al-Azhar Shariff renewed its fatwa, legal opinion, that the followers of Ahmadiya are non-Muslims and confirmed that this doctrine has no relation with Islam; a general conference was held (in Makkah) at the headquarters of the Muslim World League in the month of Rabi 1 1494 AH corresponding to April 1974, and was attended by member states and representatives from the International Islamic Organizations from all over the world; The conference declared the Kufr disbelief of this group and that they are outside of the pale of Islam, and called on governments and Muslims to resist the danger they pose and not to deal with Ahmadiyas.

 Now let us hear the views of the Ahmaids on other Muslims:

 “This is the  stark truth about Muslim today. The question no longer is: How many Islamic things have they abandoned. The question rather is: How many have they not abandoned. True it is today: “You may meet Muslims in a graveyard and Islam in books.” Islam today can be found in the pages of the Holy Quran, the books of Hadith, and the books of the Imams, but not in the lives of Muslims. In the first place, Muslims are hardly aware of the teachings of Islam. If they seek such awareness, they soon find that access to the meaning and spirit of Islam has become nearly impossible. Everything relating to Islam has become distorted…..” p71, Invitation to Ahmaddiyyat   

 On the same page can also be found : “…..Everyone who has no cause to hide the truth, everyone who can discriminate between good and evil, will admit that intellectually as well as spiritually, in belief as  well as in action, Muslims have strayed from Islam. A verse of the Holy Quran says: “O my Lord, my people indeed treated this Quran as a thing abandoned.” Al Furqan, 31”

The fatwa then went on with what it called the “ The Position of the Muslim scholars in The Gambia: ” They have made huge efforts to stand against this group and clarified that they are outside the pale of Islam, and that was since their appearance in the country in the 1950s.

 Amongst the scholars were the former Imam Ratib Imam Muhammad Lamin Bah of Banjul, Sheikh Khatab Bojang of Gunjur, Sheikh Karalang Kanteh of Seyfo, Sheikh Muhammad Lamin Federa of Kiang, Sheikh Umar Bun Jeng of Gunjur and Sheikh Jibril Mahdi Kujabi of Tallinding (may Allah have mercy on them) to name a few.”

There was no mention of what these late venerable elders of Islam in The Gambia had each said where and when. So this fatwa, if indeed worthy of its name, to me, lacks merit with such shaky foundation. The foundation that had detail was largely found to be full of distortions and untruth, the other without any verifiable detail.

 But despite this, they said ” Therefore, the Gambia Supreme Islamic Council is declaring that the Ahmadiya Jamaat is a non-Muslim group, which is in line with the legal opinion of the world scientific gatherings, which pronounced the group to be outside the pale of Islam and strongly recommended Muslims not to deal with them religiously.”

 “Your usual cooperation and understand is highly solicited.” They added ironically. But who said this “Supreme Council” are vested with any religious or moral right to issue any such fatwa and all the serious implications it may carry?

 Are these times appropriate for sending out such signals that more can aflame than leave things stable.? Anyway I hereby disassociate myself thoroughly from this GSIC so-called fatwa.

Gambians should however be very mindful of the fact that there are many Muslims who are sowing the seeds of religious intolerance.  Lest us revert to Verse (ayah) 256 of Al-Baqara  the Islamic holy scripture, the Qur’an. It famously notes that “there is no compulsion in religion.” The Prophet was a holly man who fraternized with Jews and Christian and was even given protection by the Christian King of Abyssinia when he was fleeing persecution.

Gambian Muslims are today bickering about who is right and who is wrong and how the Country is a Muslim state and should be govern by the dictates of Islamic law etc, etc. Gambians are increasing falling prey to these forces of religious bigotry whose only agenda is to bring division among Gambians. The 1997 Constitution of The Gambia states that the Gambia is a secular state and it goes further to guarantee everyone in The Gambia the freedom to follow, join and or practice the religion of their choice including not to have any religion.

It should be made absolutely clear that all Gambians be it Muslims, Christians, Bahias, Animist etc have equal rights as guaranteed under the 1977 Constitution of the Gambia. No one should be given special privileges base on religion, tribe and or ethnicity. Religious harmony has existed in The Gambia for a very long time and we should nurture it. It is however surprising that supposedly educated, exposed and intelligent Gambians have joined this bandwagon of religious bigotry. We are Gambians first and foremost who happen to be Muslims, Christians, Bahais, Animist or whatever. Let us therefore try and be good and better human beings.

 The End

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