My aim is not to apologize for my religion; I will not write as one who is ashamed of my way of life, and before you shout 'Southern Muslim!' like I'm certain you're probably already thinking, let me inform you that Muslims all over the world are one and the same.
Once, Prophet Mohammed was asked, 'who is a Muslim?', his reply made it clear that anyone who believes in the Oneness of God and offers as-salat (prayers) regularly is a Muslim; I call this the 'minimum requirement(s) into the school of Islam', a School of which I'm a proud student. I have faith in the Oneness of God, I observe as-salat, I give Zakat (charity), I fast during Ramadan, and I hope to go on pilgrimage soon. Muslim, I am, and I will die as one (insha Allah).
Many times, I've had cause to dispel rumours about my religion (I do not conform to any form of stereotype, so I've had the privilege of hearing a lot of lies and conjecture). Once, on a bus from Enugu to Lagos, a preacher decided to get the attention of his 'mobile congregation' by misquoting and murdering verses from the Holy Qur'an. I respectfully waited for him to end his hateful sermon, then produced my Quran and read the actual verses to everyone in the bus. I even took time to explain what Jihad means, what it entails, and what led to it. Yes, I'm a woman; No, I'm not a scholar. But do you have to be male or a Reverend to understand the Bible?
As you most probably already know, Jihad means Holy War. There are two forms of Jihad- the one you fight within yourself (this entails choosing between what's right and what's wrong), and actual warfare.
Now, what led to it?
When the Prophet (PBUH) began to spread the message of Islam, the unbelievers (pagans, idol worshippers) of that time decided that Muslims didn't deserve to live; they attacked Muslims, took over their properties, and killed them. Muslims were oppressed. Initially, they were asked to ignore the pagans and maintain peace, but when the situation became unbearable, God asked them to fight back.
The first verse revealed with respect to Jihad (V 2:190) says 'And fight in the way of Allah those who fight you, but transgress not the limits. Truly, Allah likes not the transgressors'. This verse is the 'foundation' of Jihad; it prescribes the standard for warfare in the name of God.
Fight against those who fight against you; God did not say 'fight against those who piss you off', He didn't say 'fight against those who you don't like'.
'Fight against those who fight against you' means self-defence is the ONLY form of violence that's permitted.
'But do not transgress limits'; self-defence was the previously established limit. 'Transgression' would then mean fighting people who didn't attack you first. This is termed 'irjaf'. Irjaf and Jihad are two extremely different things.
Before you judge the over one billion Muslims in the world by the actions of some hell-bound transgressors, kindly permit me to draw your attention to the Muslim capital of the world; Saudi Arabia. Do Christians live there or not? How many times has a suicide bombing occurred there? How many times have some obviously deluded, highly misguided maniacs demanded that they all revert to Islam?
This brings me to another issue- suicide. My Qur'an tells me that suicide is a one-way ticket to Hell. Couple that with aggression, and tell me what the outcome would be.
This brings me, inevitably, to Boko Haram. Personally, I believe what happened in this case was a deliberate move by government to hijack a problem that should have been solved at inception, and turn it to a political tool for division.
Nigerians have always had a penchant for tribalism; add different religions to the mix and the potion becomes even more volatile and potentially lethal. Just how lethal that potion is, is what we're all experiencing now.
Frankly, what this is about is speaking for myself and others like me, and most importantly, sparing Islam the pain of being seen as something it's not.
Claiming Islam encourages violence is akin to saying that Christianity or
Buddhism or Zoroastrianism, or even Scientology, gives room for a vice that some of its followers have.
Right now, I'm just so glad that Hitler and Truman weren't Muslims.
My point? PEOPLE are evil, PEOPLE kill, and taking up arms and killing little children is no justification. Boko Haram does not have the mandate of Nigerian Muslims to exterminate Christians. When Boko Haram killed Imams almost on a daily basis, there were no reprisals. Nobody said 'Muslims have asked Boko Haram to kill the clerics'. When busy areas of Kano were bombed, no one said 'Muslims are killing Christians again'.
This selective anger, this selective pity, is what I do not like. My eldest sister is an evangelist, my niece bears the name 'Chukwuamaka', her father is an Igbo man. Why would I, a Muslim, then decide to send Boko Haram on a mission to kill Christians? Or why would I harbour murderous thoughts towards Christians at all?
My Quran tells me that '.......he who takes a life will be judged like he killed all of mankind....he who saves a life will be judged like he saved all of mankind' (5:32). If Boko Haram is following any sort of manual, it is not this Qur'an (or any other for that matter because there are no different versions. The Qur'an is the same anywhere in the world). Perhaps if we did the right thing and displaced those thieves and murderers from their seats of power, we would find copies of the manual beneath those seats.
There's a rule I abide by; 'if you don't know it, don't say it'. Seventy-two virgins as reward for suicide? I've read the Qur'an from cover to cover countless times and not once have I come across it. The Holy Qur'an does not portray Paradise as a reward for suicide and/or murder.
I pray that God gives all those who've lost their loved ones- Muslims,
Christians, Traditionalists, free thinkers- the fortitude to bear the loss.