Gambian Islamic Cleric has vehemently challenged President Yahya Jammeh’s intentions to turn The Gambia into an Islamic State. Momodou Ceesay, the Chief Resident Imam of Detroit Islamic Center, said the West African nation has not met the conditions of an Islamic State. Imam Ceesay was responding to a question by a Kairo Radio listener who wants to know what conditions must be met before a country becomes an Islamic State.
Below is a translated version of Imam Ceesay’s response:
I give thanks and praise to Allah, Lord of the world. I bear witness that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is His Prophet and Messenger [Peace be Upon Him]. Someone asked me to explain what conditions must be met before a country becomes an Islamic State. I will not mention any name since I have not been asked to do so.
Angel Jibreel [Gabriel] once came Prophet Muhammed and found him in the midst of people. Jibreel asked the Holy Prophet to tell him what Islam means.
Prophet Muhammad replied thus: “Islam is all about believing in only one God but Allah and that Prophet Muhammed is the Messenger of Allah. It is also about believing that Muhammed has no influence over Allah’s judgment or decision; that you observe five daily prayers, pay zakat [alms] and perform pilgrimage to Mecca when you have the means. This is what is called Islam.”
Only a person who is in full control of his actions performs Islam. But the question therefore becomes: can a country be called an Islamic State or not? Let us at this point define an Islamic State. It is a country whose judgments and affairs rely on Shariah or Islamic jurisprudence. It is a country that must be ruled by Haybatou Ulamau [Council of Scholars] well versed in Islamic Jurisprudence. An Islamic State leader must be well versed but he does not have individual powers, for all his decisions must be filtered by the Council of Scholars. An Islamic State must not be a source of division for Muslims. In essence, it must be agreed by all citizens and that whoever leads it must be a pious, highly educated and well-mannered Muslim. Not the one who flip flops. The one who understands the Quran, its language, hadith [sayings and doings of Prophet Muhammad] and Islamic jurisprudence. He must also be trustworthy, man of wisdom and responsible.
There is no dictatorship in an Islamic State; it is forbidden for one person to dictate the state of affairs. Every one is equal before the law. Every one is treated equally when it comes to punishment or favour. No single person decides because all decisions must go through the Council of Scholars for review and approval. There is no Executive Orders in an Islamic State. Also all state resources must be equally distributed. No judgment is done outside the ambit of Shariah. No person has the audacity to defend crooks or punish innocent people just because he has personal scores to settle with them. An Islamic State does not have any room for tribalism, favouritism or nepotism.
Another fundamental principle in an Islamic State is that leaders and their families are not given any preferential or special treatment. They are not above the law and that their families must live in the country instead of outside where they will be outside the Islamic jurisprudence.
When Allah wanted Prophet Muhammad to be a role model for his Ummah [Community], he prevailed on him to advise his wives and daughters to cover themselves when they are leaving the house. Allah didn’t tell Prophet Muhammad to advise others and forget about his family. That is why whoever wants to propagate Islamic State ideology must first take care of his own family.
Our country does not need the Islamic State; it is nothing but a tactical plot aimed at ruling people hiding behind Islam. There is no iota of truth in President Jammeh’s Islamic State declaration. I see it as a propaganda tool whose foundation is based on falsehood. The President carefully crafts the Islamic State ideology when he knows his politics of manipulation that breeds on falsehood, twisting of opposition and instilling fear among Gambians cannot be sustained. The President’s 20 years of iron fist rule keeps many people away from politics. That’s why you hear people saying “I’m not interested in politics,” which is their constitutional rights. They fear what befalls them. There is no truth in his Islamic State call; it is a plot for the leadership to extend its arm of ruling and stay in power forever. In a nutshell, an extension of anarchy!
In fact, none of the current leaders in the Jammeh government is qualified to govern in an Islamic State. So they should get out of power and allow Gambians to decide their own fate.
As a matter of fact, Gambians want him to manage the affairs of their country. No one voted Jammeh to office to implement an Islamic State. Did he go to school in Cairo, Egypt else where to learn about Islamic Jurisprudence? But we have seen the same leader bluffing and mocking religious scholars that none of them reads the Quran more than him. In reality, he is only fooling himself because he knows where the truth lies.
The duty of any government is to preoccupy itself with creating avenues that improve people’s lives and standard of living. How many poor and needy people we have in the country? All these people expect the government to help. But all the leaders do is to lie, steal and infringe on the rights of the very people they swear to help and protect. Today, the situation becomes so unbearable that many of our youths decide to risk their lives in sea and desert. All they are looking for is good life, peace and happiness. But they don’t have that at home.
Clearly, Allah is watching over your actions and will judge all of you on your leadership responsibilities. We are all shepherds who must be asked how we shepherd our flock. You cannot expect desperate Gambian youths to risk their lives abroad yet their leader is not doing anything but call for an Islamic State. Before you busy yourself with creating an Islamic State, you first need to bail out your hopeless citizens.
I want to warn our religious clerics and scholars – Imams, priests, pastors and all peace-loving Gambians – to distance themselves from a man who wants to bring division and hypocrisy in our country. The Islamic State is a constitutional provision. The only person who pushes its rhetoric is President Jammeh who wants to package or root his sinister agenda in Islam.
This must be condemned by all – Imams, scholars, politicians, Christians – because The Gambia does not need an Islamic State. We are a country where majority of people are living as good Muslims and Christians.
I have earlier warned those who know nothing about Islam to leave Islam alone. I am sending this message to Jammeh to keep his hands off Islam. Let him help alleviate the sufferings of our people; that is why he is elected into office. He must not be allowed to police Gambians hiding behind Islam.
There is no compulsion in Islam and that none of us should put a mortal being in the place of Allah. Prophet Muhammad was advised not to force Islam on Jews and Christians. Allah wants people to accept Islam at their own free will. Allah tells Prophet Muhammed to call on Jews and Christians to agree on the worship of only one God instead of applying force on them.
We have to be careful of implementing an Islamic State in world riddled with religious extremism. We are seeing how religious extremism has and is still ripping some countries apart.
I want all of us to listen carefully to my final message.
The fact is that this Islamic State issue is about the future of our country, its noble citizens, values and way of life. It is a duty on every one to carefully scrutinise what the President is bringing to us. A leader who restricts the rights of his citizens is not the right person to implement the laws of an Islamic State. Is he not the same leader who restricts the political and civic rights of Gambians. A leader who rules with deception and empty rhetoric must not be trusted. All he cares about is his selfish interest while the country is on its knees. He has failed his promises which is why many of our youth are dying in the desert and sea. Many are locked up in prisons where Arabs are torturing and killing them.
We don’t need an Islamic State; it is not important for us because we don’t have the human resources to handle or manage it. All President Jammeh will do is to bring outsiders to help him implement his sinister agenda. That means no Gambian will have a say in the way their country is being administered. An Islamic State cannot function in such an environment. It is therefore a duty on all of us to challenge this so-called Islamic State ideology because we don’t need it. It will not serve the collective interest of all Gambians.
No one should tell Gambians how to become good Muslims. No country becomes an Islamic State; it is the people who become Muslims. So the idea of an Islamic State is untenable.