Sheikh Muhammad Sani Yakoob, the Chairman of Izalatul Bid’ia wa Ikamatus sunna, Zaria Branch, is also the older brother of Sheikh Ibraheem El Zakzaky, the detained Shi’ite leader. In this interview with select journalists the Islamic cleric justifies the ban on the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), saying that, the Zakzaky led Shiite is as dangerous as the Boko Haram sect.
Last week, a Hausa language newspaper reported that you advocated for the continuous detention of your younger brother, Sheikh Ibraheem el-Zakzaky, who has been held for close to a year now by the government, following the clash between soldiers and Shiite sect members. Why did you make that statement?
No. I neither called for his continuous detention nor his release. What I said was that he is being detained by the authorities over inciting his members to block the Chief of Army Staff’s convoy last December. One thing led to another and people died in the process. I said, since it is the authorities that are holding him, it is them that can arraign him before a court which will prosecute or release him. It is not me or any other person that can do so. I didn’t say that he should be released because I am not the one that he offended but the government. So, I have no locus standi to call for his release or otherwise. This is what I told the newspaper. If what you said was what they quoted me as saying, then they have misunderstood what I said.
As his brother, have you attempted to meet him since he was detained because his lawyers have tried in vain?
No. I didn’t attempt to do so, even before he was detained, we never visited each other, even when he is sick or otherwise, because of difference in ideology. I am Ahlus sunna and he is a Shiite.
Recently, Kaduna State government decided to ban the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), thereby proscribing the activities of the Shiites. The ban was criticised in some quarters because it infringes on the sect’s freedom of worship. As a Muslim leader, do you think that the ban was justified?
What government did is not only obligatory but it is a Jihad of some sorts. The ban will bring about peace in the state. Before the ban, during their Ashura celebrations, most residents of Zaria dared not come out of their homes for at least three days. They used to take over the entire main roads of the town throughout the period. This time around, nothing of that sort happened. Their stock in trade was to infringe on people’s rights when they are practising their brand of religion. Islam frowns at people inconveniencing others in the practise of their own religion. What they were doing is not Islam. In my opinion, government did the right thing by banning their organisation because it endangered peace. The organization was always causing trouble. If government had not taken this step and the Shiittes starts receiving arms from Iran, they would have become another Boko Haram. They have not reached that stage before government acted. If they have not been proscribed, they would have formed their own government. Because they had their own soldiers, state governors, local government chairmen and even police. They had no regard for any constituted authority. So, if they had started getting arms from Iran, they would have risen against the state because they disregard every organ of the state.
If what you are saying is true, why didn’t past governments take measures to curb their activities until now?
This administration is more security conscious than past governments. Don’t you see how they have defeated Boko Haram? The government promised two main things; security of lives and property and the economy. Their war against insecurity includes containing Shiite members; banning them is one of the things that will bring peace in the country. They have spent close to 30 years harassing people and blocking highways during their activities. There was virtually no one that they have not denied the right of way. They have blocked a governor before and an army commander, even before COAS Yusuf Tukur Buratai. They have spent 30 years doing this, just because they have now been banned; people are saying that their rights have been violated. The way I see it, the ban has helped the people of Kaduna State and the course of peace.
In spite of the ban, the Shiites still came out during the Ashura celebration to commemorate the murder of Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) but they were attacked by the people. Do you think the attack was justified?
It’s not good for people to take laws into their hands. Doing so was a mistake. The people should have just reported to the authorities, assuming that they were not aware. The authorities should have arrested and prosecuted them but not citizens of the state burning their houses and killing Shiite members. This was a mistake and it is wrong Islamically.
The attack on Shiites during the Ashura celebration did not happen in Zaria. They were limited to Kaduna, Funtua and Kano
What happened? Did the ulama preach to the youths against it?
Alhamdulilahi, we have control over our youths in Zaria unlike other areas. They don’t just wake up and take laws into their hands. If something comes up, they usually seek our advice. That was why no one was attacked in Zaria.
Critics point to the fact that the punishment that is being meted on the Shiites is not commensurate with the alleged offence of blocking roads. Don’t you think that attacking them was an over kill?
The allegation of killing them does not even arise. They blocked roads that belong to government and government officials took steps to give people free passage, after all entreaties have failed. Government has the right to take all steps necessary and when it does, there is no basis to say that they are being persecuted. But if the citizens take it upon themselves to force them out of the road, that is where the problem lies.
But do the Shiites have a history of attacking or killing people?
How many times!? They have been attacking neigbouring villages and killing people. Even last year and the year before the last, they hacked down people in Yakassai village. They did not only kill people in Sabirni, but scattered the whole town because people fled from there. They virtually took over the town.
When all these killings were happening, didn’t you alert the authorities as community leaders?
We told constituted authorities about their actions and the consequences that they pose to peace and security but their response has always been, “go and protect yourselves. We have been disallowed to confront them.” This was what they used to tell us. The people took the Shiites on, on several occasions, especially in the villages. When Abacha came to power, he intervened and took over the fight and decimated them. After Abacha’s death, they returned to their old ways of harassing people on the road, injuring and killing them, puncturing their tyres and smashing their cars’ windscreens. Days before the incident with Gen. Buratai, they had beaten up someone from Giwa and smashed his car. He reported to the police but they refused to honour the invitation of the police. The police have all their records, if you go, they will give them to you. At Gyellesu where their leader lives, they have killed countless number of people and nothing was done. Most residents of Gyellesu have fled. Are all these not human rights violations?
But the Shiites have been saying that the coming of Zakzaky to Gyellesu has brought peace to the area, so much that Christians and other non-indigenes used to run to the place whenever there is ethno-religious crisis…
This is just a made up story. Go and ask the people of Gyellesu whether Shiites brought peace or crisis to the area. They are in a better position to answer this question.
What is the lasting solution to all these intra-religious crises?
I am calling on Muslims to strive to understand their religion. The limited knowledge of religion is the cause of all these crises. The government should also help in the propagation of genuine Islamic knowledge based on Sunnah so that people will not fall victims of a very dangerous ideology like Shiism. Secondly, people should not take the law into their hands even when provoked. They should report all acts of violations and provocations to security agents.
But some people say that the crux of the matter is that Sunni Muslims don’t regard Shiites as Muslims. And that so long as this difference persists, there is bound to be problems. Do you agree?
The Shiites regard the prophet’s (SAW) companions as unbelievers. The say that Abubakar is an unbeliever, and that Aisha; the prophet’s wife, was adulterous. According to them, when they seized Saudi Arabia, they will exhume her corpse and meet the appropriate punishment on it. The Qur’an has already laid the issue to rest and whoever alleged that Aisha is adulterous is an unbeliever because he does not believe in the Qur’an. In fact, the Shiites do not believe in this Qur’an, they are waiting for their own Qur’an that their Mahdi will bring for them. They are just reading this Qur’an because there is no alternative. This line of thought is unbelief! Now that they regard the prophet’s companions as unbelievers, since it is not true, it means the term is true on them. Apart from prophets or messengers of Allah, there is no group of people that are as pious as the companions of the Prophet (SAW).