How Shi’ism came to Nige­ria

Sunday Trust - - BIG STORY - From Isa Sa’idu, Zaria

The group known as Is­lamic Move­ment of Nige­ria (IMN) did not start as Shi’ite sect. When its prop­a­ga­tion be­came known to the Nige­rian pub­lic, it was then re­ferred to as Mus­lim Broth­ers. The ini­tial ide­ol­ogy was tai­lored to­wards de-em­pha­sis­ing sec­tar­i­an­ism and pro­mo­tion of one Is­lam un­der the guid­ance of the Holy Qur’an and Sunna (tra­di­tion) of the Prophet of Is­lam, Muham­mad (pbuh).

The ac­tiv­i­ties of the Mus­lim Broth­ers re­ceived an in­spi­ra­tional boost from the 1979 rev­o­lu­tion in Iran which over­threw the US-backed Mo­ham­mad Reza Shah Pahlavi and brought Ay­a­tol­lahi Khome­ini to power. At the time, young Sheikh Za­kzaky’s pre-Juma’at prayer preach­ing at the Cen­tral Mosque of the Ah­madu Bello Uni­ver­sity (ABU), Zaria used to be the high­point of all ac­tiv­i­ties on cam­pus in the late 1970s. This gave cre­dence to Za­kzaky’s be­lief about the pos­si­bil­ity of de­thron­ing any gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing that of Nige­ria, and re­plac­ing it with an Is­lamic-ori­ented one.

Although Za­kzaky did not have any for­mal con­tact with the new gov­ern­ment in Iran un­til 1980, his mode of preach­ing had long en­deared him to the coun­try’s au­thor­i­ties. As Deputy Pres­i­dent (Ameer) In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs of the Mus­lim Stu­dents So­ci­ety of Nige­rian (MSSN), Za­kzaky was in­vited to Iran for an Is­lamic func­tion in 1980 and this marked his for­mal in­ter­ac­tion with the Ira­nian gov­ern­ment and as well marked the in­fil­tra­tion of Shi’ite ide­ol­ogy into the Mus­lim Broth­ers Move­ment, peo­ple close to the group said.

One of Za­kzaky’s close aides at the be­gin­ning of the Mus­lim Broth­ers move­ment re­called Za­kzaky’s early con­tacts with Iran.

“Za­kzaky’s move­ment had its root from the MSSN. He was an ac­tive mem­ber of the body and be­came its Vice Pres­i­dent In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs in the late 1970s. In 1980 when Iran or­gan­ised one-year an­niver­sary of the Khome­ini rev­o­lu­tion, Mus­lim youths from dif­fer­ent parts of the world were in­vited and Za­kzaky be­ing a Vice Pres­i­dent in MSSN, rep­re­sented the body. That was his first con­tact with Iran,” the for­mer as­so­ciate who wants to re­main anony­mous, said.

Not long af­ter his re­turn from Iran, the MSSN or­gan­ised its rou­tine Is­lamic Vo­ca­tional Course (IVC) at Fun­tua, Katsina State.

“It was at that fo­rum that Za­kzaky with­drew his al­le­giance from the Nige­rian state. That ex­cited the teem­ing mem­bers of the Mus­lim Broth­ers who were mostly youths. He, there­fore, be­gan the strug­gle for Is­lamic rev­o­lu­tion and for the evolve­ment of an Is­lamic state (in Nige­ria). This was why the Fun­tua event later be­came promi­nently known as Fun­tua Dec­la­ra­tion.

“This was how the move­ment con­tin­ued and youths con­tin­ued to join in num­bers, largely be­cause of the be­lief that Is­lamic state would bring jus­tice to all Nige­ri­ans and end atroc­i­ties of lead­ers. Our ac­tiv­i­ties were largely or­gan­ised at the ABU, due to the fact that most of the mem­bers were stu­dents. There­fore, Is­lamic Move­ment of Nige­ria was formed at the ABU.

“We con­tin­ued to be in­flu­enced by books writ­ten by schol­ars from the Ikhwanul-Mus­limun (Mus­lim Broth­ers), Egypt. But af­ter Za­kzaky’s con­tact with Iran, he was made to take an oath of al­le­giance to Khome­ini through his deputy, Mun­taz­eri. At the time we couldn’t un­der­stand whether the al­le­giance was in sup­port of the rev­o­lu­tion or a vow to over­throw the Nige­rian gov­ern­ment and to make our move­ment a Shi’ite move­ment. How­ever, most of us be­lieved that the al­le­giance was just in sup­port of the rev­o­lu­tion and kept mov­ing with Za­kzaky as the leader,” he said.

The Ira­nian au­thor­i­ties con­tin­ued their re­la­tion­ship with Za­kzaky, send­ing Is­lamic mag­a­zines to mem­bers of the move­ment. The prom­i­nent mag­a­zine from Iran at the time was the one called Ma­ha­jubah, he said.

In a fa­mous col­umn in the Ma­ha­jubah Mag­a­zine by Taba’i Taba’I, ide­olo­gies of Shi’ite were dis­cussed and that be­gan to raise con­cern among mem­bers of the IMN.

“How­ever, we con­tin­ued with our anti-estab­lish­ment move­ment. By 1994, the move­ment was di­vided into fac­tions of the Sunni and that of the Shi’ite and even­tu­ally, Za­kzaky de­cided to go with the Shi’ite and (on the other hand) we formed the Jama’atu Ta­j­didil Is­lamy. We split from the IMN be­cause of the in­tro­duc­tion of Shi’ism into the move­ment,” the source said.

As Za­kzaky’s ties with Iran grew stronger, some mem­bers of his move­ment were taken to that coun­try to re­ceive mil­i­tary train­ing, es­pe­cially from the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards of Iran, our source said. This gave birth to Za­kzaky’s Hur­ras (Guards) who were the mil­i­tary arm of the IMN.

The Hur­ras, ac­cord­ing to our source, were re­spon­si­ble for the pro­tec­tion of Za­kzaky, his fam­ily and other lead­ers of the move­ment. They also pro­vide se­cu­rity at Shi’ite gath­er­ings and cer­e­monies, even if it will be at the cost of their lives, Za­kzaky’s for­mer as­so­ciate said.

Hav­ing es­tab­lished it­self as a for­mi­da­ble or­gan­i­sa­tion with al­le­giance only to the Shi’ite state in Iran, ac­cord­ing to our source, the Shi’ite be­gan to en­gage in clashes with both the Nige­rian state and the gen­eral pub­lic.

Other sources close to the group fur­ther dis­close that many of the mem­bers were en­cour­aged to take cour­ses and fur­ther their ed­u­ca­tion in Iran, on the coun­try’s schol­ar­ships, a de­vel­op­ment that in­creased the num­ber of in­tel­lec­tu­als in the move­ment.

Un­like the days of Mus­lim Broth­ers when Za­kzaky dis­cour­aged his fol­low­ers from tak­ing Western ed­u­ca­tion and work­ing for state, now Shi’ite mem­bers are work­ing in pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions, hold­ing se­nior po­si­tions in gov­ern­ment, se­cu­rity and academia, the sources added.

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