Experiences from Nigeria on the protection of holy sites; Role of religious leaders and communities – Islamic perspective
This is another presentation by Imam Fuad A Adeyemi during a workshop on the protection of holy sites organized by Interfaith Dialogue for Peace IDFP on February 15, 2022 at Ajuji Greenwich Hotels Gudu District- Abuja:
This article intends to tackle this topic from the meaning of key words on the street, highlighting the reason why religious sites are being destroyed in Nigeria. It will also briefly examine the idea of holy sites and its treatment from the Islamic religious point of view and finally offer solutions on how to protect holy sites by inferring from the Islamic point of view.
Protection is a means of preserving a person or a thing.
Holy places will now mean a place of worship for any group of people. Religious leaders would now mean those who lead these religious groups, while the community will be the generality of people and the place where these holy places are.
Importance of holy places
Nigeria is one of the countries around the world where religion plays an important role in the lives of most people. According to PEW research, the two main religions of Islam and Christianity and African Traditional Religion (ATR) influence the lives of at least 95% of Nigerian citizens. This means that all religious groups would naturally have places of worship. I haven’t done any research on this but I think Nigeria has the highest number of holy sites in the world considering the number of religious houses including unregistered ones in homes and even shopping malls anywhere in towns and villages in the countryside.
Holy places are mostly the symbol of religion. When a particular religion is mentioned, the image of its place of worship is visualized in his mind.
Most followers of a particular religion attach a lot of emotions to the place of worship, they believe that when they are inside or around the house/site they are close to the God/deity that they love. Their holy places are mostly the symbol of their God, every time someone does on that site affects them emotionally. When the follower of a particular religion speaks of spiritual emotions, it is sometimes about his place of worship. When an adherent walks in, they feel different, they feel they are around the deity/God they worship. They feel that their prayers will be answered when they get to their holy places faster and better in their holy places or place of worship.
The concept of worship for most religious people is primarily attached to their holy places or religious houses.
Most of the time, holy places are not only a religious gathering place, it is also a social center, most religious people find their place of worship to be a convenient place to socialize.
Why the destruction of holy places in Nigeria?
- The division between Muslims and Christians in the country is now used by politicians, ethnic and tribal fanatics to achieve their goals.
- The simple economic principle of resource scarcity is now religionized.
- Poor and insensitive governance is another major cause of the crises that led to the destruction of holy sites – the formation of Boko haram in Borno.
- Lack of adequate information or education – The burning of the Nsukka Mosque links Islam to a tribe.
- Selfish, ignorant, relevance-seeking religious leaders.
- Unnecessary competition between the two religions – the building of the mosque of the late General Adisa in the government house in Ibadan.
- Terrorism – for the sole purpose of causing disaffection between religions – bombardment of the northeast and the Christmas season of Madalla.
- Press/media – Lagos announces the destruction of a church.
- Government/Development – Construction of Oyo Road in Ibadan.
The Islamic approach to holy places
Islam not only recorded successes in protecting holy places early in its life; it also constitutionalizes the protection of holy places in times of peace as well as in times of war.
Islam seriously frowns upon and criminalizes the destruction of holy places and symbols.
Islam has made the protection of mosques, churches, synagogues, temples and all other holy places an obligation at all times.
No wonder almost everyone who was present when the Holy Prophet Muhammed (SAW) took over Makkah accepted Islam, besides the prerogative of mercy he employed to forgive all who fought against him as well as to the Muslims, how and how he treated their holy site, now Kaabah.
He respected the holy places, he cleaned them and made them more spiritual, these convinced the inhabitants of Mecca at that time and attracted Islam to them.
When the Islamic State was established in Medina, the Prophet did not just say it, he documented it. The Prophet (SAW) is said to have said, “Indeed, Najran and his allies are under the protection of God and the guarantee of the messenger of God. They must be protected in their wealth, their lives, their lands and their religion. This includes their priests, their monks, those who are absent and others among them and their delegation, etc. They will not be forced to change this (faith) they are on and none of their rights shall be lost. No monk, priest or servant among them should lose what is in his possession, whether abundant or scarce, and no fear or anger will threaten them” (quoted by Imam Abu Yusuf Hanafi in Al-Kharaj 78)
During the reign of the second Khalipha of Islam 632AD – 634AD, Sayidina Abubakr As-Siddeeq, whenever an army went on a military expedition, he always gave special instructions to the army commanders: – Do not spread the corruption on earth and do not disobey orders; Do not drown or burn date palms; Do not kill any animal, Do not cut down any fruit tree; Don’t tear down a church; Do not kill children, old people or women, soon you will come across people who isolated themselves in groups, let them engage in what they isolated themselves for them (Reported by Imam Bayhaqi in sunan-al-kubra, Imam Malik in-muwatta)
The divine command to consciously protect the holy places is given in the glorious Quran chapter 22 verse 40 where Allah says
[They are] those who have been expelled from their homes without right – only because they say: “Our Lord is Allah.” And if Allah had not controlled people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques in which the name of Allah is mentioned a lot. And Allah will surely support those who support Him. Surely Allah is Mighty and Mighty. »
Roles of Religious Leaders and Communities in Protecting Holy Places: The Islamic Perspective
- Ongoing outreach by and religious leaders
- Educate the religious faithful from the pulpit and elsewhere
- Physical respect for holy sites by religious and community leaders
- Interfaith visit
- Government or institutional support
- Joining forces to build and rehabilitate holy places
- Media support
Imam Fuad A. Adeyemi
National Chief Imam
Al-Habibiyyah Islamic Society