‘Keep Your Hands Off Islam’

imam (2)Leave Islam With Clerics

Political leaders have been advised to “concentrate on their executive responsibilities and keep their hands off Islam, which should be left with clerics.”

The erudite cleric’s comment comes after Gambian leader banned female genital mutilation. President Yahya Jammeh also threatens to deal with any religious and traditional leader who defies his impromptu ban.

“Political leaders should preoccupy themselves with solving or addressing the needs and wants of their subjects,” says Imam Momodou Ceesay.

The Chief Imam of Detroit Islamic Center says leaders should, among others, provide development, fix challenges, guarantee peace and justice rather than “digging their finger into religious matters. Islamic affairs should be handled by those who spend their life studying it and not those who don’t. As a matter of fact, scholars and clerics should keep away from leaders who insist on interfering in religious matters to avoid incurring Allah’s wrath.”

Imam Ceesay supports Imam Abdoulie Fatty’s take on female circumcision. “This has never been an issue in our country; there are tribes that do it and others don’t. But nobody raises eyebrows and we have never heard that Muslims should not marry uncircumcised women either. It has never been a problem,” he says, insisting that political leaders keep their hands off Islamic matters. “Let them concentrate on people’s many pressing problems and leave Islam for those who study the Quran and Sunnah. Those who don’t must simply quit.”

Imam Ceesay is worried about today’s Gambia where people want to unload anger on anything. “They prove their bravery by insulting their religious leaders, the very people they need in times of good and bad times. Clearly, no society can be guided in the absence of those who know. Then it behooves on people to respect them.”

Ceesay says Prophet Muhammad dealt with circumcision in a very clear tone.  He cites some hadith saying “circumcision is compulsory for men but an honour for women.” In one instance, Imam Ceesay said Prophet Muhammad advised “Umm Atiya to circumcise girls but she should cut a little to avoid causing harm.” He said Aisha once heard his husband, Prophet Muhammad saying “that there should be purification anytime two circumcised parts touch each other.”

“While some scholars say female circumcision is compulsory, others think it is not. But no one can say it does not exist. Besides, prophet never commanded Muslims not to do it. Anytime scholars argue on something, they open door for compromise.”



  1. Luntango Suun Gann Gi

    OK, fools jump in where the wise fear to tread! So here I go.

    Good Imam Momodou Ceesay, i have read about your work with the community in America and I have great respect for you. I have great respect for Imam Fatty too. Imam Fatty blessed my compound when new, and blessed my daughter when she was born. He and I believed it was only Allah that enable us to complete a DREADFUL journey to Dakar, hurdled together, alive. As we sat down on the Banjul-Barra Ferry this father sat next to us and put the tiny little bundle of the dead baby he was taking home for burial at our feet – Imam Fatty prayed for the dead child’s soul while I sat there holding back my tears. Unforgetable – and an omen for the dreadful journey we were to embark on from Karang.

    I have great respect for Islam too. My late father was named Hassan, my first Gambian son is named Hassan and my second Gambian son is named Hassan. I built the Al-Hassan Library for the 1,000 children of Kotu Muslim Senior School and Al-Hassan Madrassa in the village. My daughter here in London wears a Hijab to school – absolutely her choice – and her Muslim Fula people in The Gambia are proud of her. That said …

    Respectfully, on an issue of such importance as FGM in terms of health for the girl child, what the Hadith of 1,500 years ago said is neither here nor there. If religious scholars try to influence political and social debates about life in BLACK AFRICA TODAY or in the WEST, using stories from the Arabian Peninsula 1,500 years ago, the young people (and even some 60 year olds like me) will switch off! As you noted above, much of the Hadiths is what Judges would call “hearsay evidence” (“Aisha once heard her husband, Prophet Muhammad saying”). We can’t have important social issues like FGM decided on “hearsay evidence” from 1,500 in the Arabian Desert.

    My people in Ethiopia practice FGM and I wanted it eradicated there too. When I was at school in Nairobi I was a great Literature reader (in addition to being on the Executive Committee of the Muslim Society). Ngugi Wa Thiongo was our great Literary Hero. His book, THE RIVER BETWEEN is based on Female Circumcision – and the book’s Tragic Heroine is Muthoni. She disobeys her Christianised Pro-British father and agrees with the Mau Mau Nationalist line that a proud Kikuyu girl should be circumcised! We loved her and her proud defiant stance. But she died soon after the operation – her wound got infected. But that is history – and that is where 21st Century Africans must leave that culture behind.

    (By the way, our heroic Mau Mau committed atrocities too and one of them was to attack a British Mission, kidnap a 50-year old Scottish Missionary and … circumcise her. Terrible brutality.)

  2. You can question anything that Prophet Muhammad gave us, thinking that is your right but such people are categorized hypocrites. Questioning authentic verses or hadith means you are selective in your beliefs. The Honourable Imam is very clear that whenever scholars argue on something they open room for compromise. This means those who practice circumcision do so and those who don’t shut up. That is democracy. Thank you Imam Ceesay.

  3. Bakary Badjie

    Sometimes I can see arrogance and disrespect looming anytime the issue of female circumcision (I don’t call it FGM) pop up. People who have not been circumcised or know nothing about it talk or write as if all circumcised girls will die. For some it is all about lining up their pocketd. Now that the fool bans it let’s see how they will survive.

  4. Bakary Badjie

    I’m surprised that Dida Halake is a Muslim. Your line of questioning and doubting Islamic dotrines has made me believe that you don’t belong to the Ummah. Now that you prove me wrong, I want you to pause, ask questions and read Quran and Hadith just like you have been doing with all the best literature books. This will help change your perception on Islam generally. I admire your zeal and passion for anything Africa. Peace.

    • Luntango Suun Gann Gi

      Questioning, Bakary, is simply PROFESSIONAL PRAXIS for me. Not “disrespectful” at all! When I walk into a class of 30 students whom I have never taught before, I make sure that I introduce my lesson with this poem.

      The last two verses are about “a person small” – probably the author’s grand-daughter – who asks so many questions as most children do (the tragedy as we grow older is that we stop questioning!)

      Finally, I am not sure that I want to belong to any kind of “Umma”, but my name is also “Abdulqadir” – merciful abbreviated to “Abdi” in my passport. But I am happy with Dida Halake or simply “Luntango”!

      Assalam, here is the poem.

      “I Keep Six Honest Serving Men …”

      I KEEP six honest serving-men
      They taught me all I knew;
      Their names are WHAT and WHY and WHEN,
      And HOW and WHERE and WHO.

      I send them over land and sea,
      I send them east and west;
      But after they have worked for me,
      I give them all a rest.

      I let them rest from nine till five,
      For I am busy then,
      As well as breakfast, lunch, and tea,
      For they are hungry men.

      But different folk have different views;
      I know A PERSON SMALL –
      She keeps ten million serving-men,
      Who get no rest at all!

      She sends them abroad on her own affairs,
      From the second she opens her eyes –
      One million HOWs, two million WHEREs,
      And seven million WHYs!

      Rudyard Kipling (Jungle Book author)

    • Bintou Jarju

      We will ban you from entering our country Imam watch it

  5. Abdul Karim

    Allahu Akbar! Subhanallah truth telling clerics are still there for us. Thank you Imam Ceesay for hamnering truth home.

  6. I like imam Ceesay and I know he is a good imam but I totally disagree with his view about FGM . Dictator jammeh’s ban of FGM is just political and personal interest . Jammeh knows what he did and what he is doing and for what purpose he banned FGM . It has absolutely nothing to do with the welfare of Gambian women. This was done to protect his interest only .
    People like Abdul Karim and others with obsessive-Islamic syndrome has no idea why FGM is bad for our women .
    Bintou Jarju as a female if you are a real one , please educate yourself about FGM and its harmful practice . If you have been abused by this evil practice , please demand compensation for physical and psychological problems it has caused . I would encourage you to see victim advocacy groups and a lawyer to institute legal actions against Gambian state for simply failure to protect your fundamental human rights such as a rights to sexual satisfaction , failure to protect you physically from abuse , mutilation and degrading human treatment . This will serve as first ever case post FGM ban and it can attract international attention . I am sure you will have more legal advices as the case proceed if there is needs to file more charges against the state . Please don’t tell me you are powerless .

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