Friday, June 9, 2017

Chaos in the season of Tafseer

….also published in Daily Trust


As the Month of the Qur’an, Ramadan usually sees proliferation of public Qur’anic Tafseer sessions conducted by Muslim scholars particularly in northern Nigeria. Though during the month, Islamic religious public preaching sessions generally increase in Muslim communities the world over, the trend is particularly phenomenal in Nigeria.
At the beginning of each Ramadan, the atmosphere gets increasingly overwhelmed with live and recorded broadcasts of Tafseer sessions conducted by not only well-versed and reputable Islamic scholars, but also many attention-seeking quacks that explain the sheer amount of conflicting and indeed utterly irreconcilable interpretations of many Qur’anic verses, which consequently create confusion and fuel sectarian divide among Muslims in the country. Needless to say, the confusion spoils the unique Ramadanic atmosphere of spiritual composure, peace of mind and communal tranquility.

By the way, the month of Ramadan is a season when many electronic media organizations rake in a lot of money from the sale of airtime for such Tafseer sessions and other sponsored religious programs. Also, though sponsoring the broadcast of religious programs attracts appropriate reward from Allah the Almighty, a sponsor can only access the reward when he does it with absolute sincerity of intention (i.e. Al-Ikhlass) and with a mindset completely free from any element of Riya i.e. showing off or any underlying personal or sectarian agenda.

However, it’s obvious that the sheer amount of resources spent in sponsoring the broadcast of Tafseer and other religious programs during the month of Ramadan suggests many sponsors’ apparent disregard for the order of priority, to say the least. For instance, one wonders the wisdom (if any) behind sponsoring the broadcast of Kiran Sallah within Kano metropolis where due to the sheer number of mosques and the close proximity between them, no one can rightly claim to miss the prayer time.  Yet, many sponsors of such broadcasts ignore many desperately needy families and miserably ailing individuals too poor to afford basic medical care, and instead of quietly assisting them, they prefer to sponsor the broadcast of programs some of which are absolutely needless if not actually counterproductive.

Anyway, this chaos is a culmination of accumulated failures by the successive governments in the affected states in particular to appropriately regulate public preaching in their respective states. This in addition to the roles played by many electronic media organizations that hardly see beyond the amount of money they make from the sale of airtime, which enable every quack barely literate in the Arabic language to pretend to be an Islamic scholar and continue to churn out his ignorance, attract gullible followers and indeed derive recognition with its attendant worldly reward not only from the society, but from the authorities as well, depending on his popularity.

Also, as he gets away with it, many others like him follow suit. In fact, it’s very unfortunate that many otherwise reputable and promising Islamic knowledge-seekers with unmistakable potential to grow into well-versed Islamic scholars down the line equally get tempted and prematurely consider themselves knowledgeable enough to present themselves as substantive Islamic scholars. This explains the subtle yet quite perceptible jostling among many of them in their struggle for popularity and influence. Meanwhile, during the month of Ramadan in particular, the average Nigerian Muslim is left helplessly confused at the mercy of contradictory interpretations of Qur’anic verses that sometimes sound too conflicting as though the scholars are reading from different sources not from the same Qur’an.

Now, inasmuch as there is no real government’s commitment to address this phenomenon in the affected states, and probably there won’t be any either, at least in the foreseeable future, efforts should be focused on enlightening the average Nigerian Muslim who is always on the receiving end of the politics and intrigues woven around religious preaching in the society. The reputable and adequately qualified Muslim scholars out there should focus on the need for every Muslim individual to, first of all, ensure that he always maintains absolute Ikhlass, and also maintains the mindset of a sincere truth-seeker completely free from any element of prejudice while listening to any preacher.

They should equally keep reiterating the fact that, the validity of any interpretation of any Qur’anic verse depends on the extent of its compliance with all relevant Qur’anic verses and all relevant authentic Prophetic Hadiths in the topic in question, and also strictly as per the perception and interpretation of the Early Muslim Generation i.e. the Companions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who learnt the pristine version of the religion from him and under his supervision, and practiced it accordingly.

Of course, obviously for the average Nigerian Muslim to able to apply this criterion, he necessarily needs to engage in seeking and learning Islamic knowledge from reputable Muslim scholars. Certainly, with that mindset and under the guidance of this criterion, he will be able to separate the wheat from the chaff and remain on his utmost guard lest he be confused and misled.