8th January 2024
STOP INFLUENCE OF KINGS ON YORUBA IMAMS – MURIC
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), an Islamic human rights advocacy group, has advised Muslims in Yorubaland to put a stop to the influence of kings on Imams. The group argued that this old practice is one of the misplaced syncretic and socio-religious norms in the Yoruba society.
The advice was given in a statement issued on Monday, 8th January, 2024 by the Executive Director of the organization, Professor Ishaq Akintola.
The full statement reads:
“Contrary to the tenets of Islam, Yoruba kings have tremendous influence on the Imams in their domain. This has been so from the advent of Islam in Yorubaland which dates back to the 16th century.
“We have seen this in many Yoruba cities particularly whenever an Imam dies and a new one is about to be appointed. The kings often influence the choice of the new Imam particularly where the post is competitive. It is also the king who gives the Imam the staff of office.
“This is an erroneous, archaic and obnoxious practice because the king has no role whatsoever to play in the imamate under the Shari’ah, particularly where Islam is not used as the form of government (a non-Islamic State). This is different from what applies in an Islamic state where Islamic political thought is the state policy and the khalifah is equally the Imam.
“The greatest danger in this is that the Oba (king) may impose a Muslim favourite who has no appropriate prerequisites for the post of Imam on the Muslims. This has dire consequences. Already, some crisis brewing in some towns in Yorubaland can be traced to this ugly phenomenon.
“It is even worse where the king is not a Muslim. A Christian or traditionalist as king dictating to the Imam or influencing decisions and steps to be taken by Muslims is a complete anomaly in Islam. It is absurd, illogical, irrational and therefore unacceptable. Many mosques have been ordered closed by non-Muslim kings using the most trivial and ridiculous pretext.
“MURIC warns Muslims in Yorubaland to free themselves from the shackles of sycophancy and syncretism. The practice of putting Imams under the control of the king is a clog in the wheel of progress for Muslim communities.
“For the avoidance of doubts, we are not advocating confrontation between the Oba (king) and the Imam, what we are saying is that their places and status are entirely different. The Oba is the head of the traditional institution. The Imam is the head of the Muslim community.
“In actual fact the Oba plays a role greater than that of the Imam because he heads the whole city, including the Muslim and Christian subjects whereas the Imam only heads the Muslim segment of the population. Both the Muslims and Christian citizens recognize the Oba as their traditional ruler but what we are saying is that the Oba must not interfere in their religious affairs.
“But the paradox lies in the fact that while the Oba wields such immense power on the mosque and the Imam, he has no such influence on the church and the bishop. Yoruba Obas control the Imams in their cities but they dare not try the same with the pastors and bishops. Muslims need to think about this.
“Muslims in Yorubaland must therefore use every lawful means to sever themselves from the Oba’s umbilical cords. The Yoruba Ummah (Muslim community) cannot make real progress until this is done.
“We urge the relevant Islamic organizations to step up enlightenment of the Muslim populace in Yorubaland towards achieving autonomy for the Imamate. The League of Imams in Yorubaland, the Muslim Ummah of South-West Nigeria (MUSWEN) and other Islamic organizations have a big role to play in this regard.
“This is not the responsibility of any federal, state or local government. Neither does it concern any state assembly, Senate or the House of Representatives. It requires no form of legislation because no government imposed the Obas on the Imams and it is not written in any law that the traditional rulers should decide matters of the Imamate.
“This harmful policy was self-imposed by the Muslims in times of ignorance. What is clear to us is that the Muslims need no revolution to change it. All it requires is the spiritual will to stop all external remote controls of the Ummah so that Yoruba Muslims will be able to think like Muslims who have Muslim minds, not like Muslims who possess colonial cum traditional mentality in Muslim bodies.
“How can the body function properly when the mind is alien to it? How can the Muslims operate as one united community when they have leaders who pay allegiance to the agents of neo-imperialism?
“What the Muslims need to set themselves free from the control of traditional rulers is a change of mindset and a determination to liberate themselves from traditional slavery. The Glorious Qur’an says, “Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change their own ways” (13:11).
“The wind of freedom for Yoruba Muslims is blowing. The tickets of freedom train is readily available for those willing to liberate themselves. To start with, the League of Imams and MUSWEN must step out boldly to stop the involvement of Obas in the appointment and installation of new Imams across the region.
“We are not rejecting the Obas totally and categorically. Let them be invited as royal guests without playing any authoritative role. They must be given recognition. They must also be respected. But they must stay away from the Imams and the Imamate.
“We appeal to Muslims throughout the South-West to desist from going to court over disputes concerning the post of Imam or issues affecting their mosques. It is unethical, condescending and despicable. Most of the judges are non-Muslims and they are not in a position to understand Islamic points of view.
“How can you ask a plumber to service your car? It makes no sense. Majority of court cases which resulted in the closure of mosques for years were decided by non-Muslims. It will not be wise for two quarreling rats to take their case to the cat. Both of them will end up in the cat’s belly.
“Instead of going to conventional courts where non-Muslim judges are most likely to make a mess of cases involving mosques and Imams, Muslim communities and Imams who have disagreements should take their cases to the League of Imams or to MUSWEN. Both groups have branches in all Yoruba towns and villages. More importantly, they have eminently qualified Shari’ah experts capable of giving justice to cases involving Muslims.
“From now on, any Yoruba Oba who unilaterally orders the closure of any mosque will face the wrath of Muslims. All forms of remote control of the Ummah from non-Muslim quarters must stop. Let the Muslims go!”
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC).