Theme: ALIGNING WITH GLOBAL DIVERSITY Protocol- It gives me great joy to welcome you all to this great citadel of learning, University of Ghana, Legon, in this beautiful city of Accra, and in this great country Ghana, for our Biennial conference.
Ghana, we all know is home to many Nigerians, including some of us here who seized the opportunity afforded by this conference to visit home. To those, and many others visiting for the first time, and indeed, to all of us, I say Akwaaba; I say welcome! May our experiences here in shaa Allah give us optimum reward and satisfaction.
The theme of our conference is Aligning with Global Diversity. On the face of it the import is quite straight forward: our world is one of diversity; what is our stake in it? And what is our role as a pace setter international Islamic organization? I don’t intend to take the wind out of the sails of those whose role it is to make presentations based on the theme, but I wish to raise one or two issues relating to Islam and diversity generally.
First, I discern two levels of diversity: a) internal and, b). external. Internal Diversity. While there is uniformity in the practice of Islam, there is diversity among Muslims; diversity in terms of nationalities, cultural values, historical evolution, perceptions, etc. For instance, whatever sects we may belong to, we all agree first and foremost, that we are Muslims.
All Muslims are bonded to our article of Faith, our essence as Muslims, as encapsulated in the first Pillar of Islam – Khalima Shahadat. Now, by merely looking, can we tell the Ghanaian Muslim from say, the Malian Muslim, or the Egyptian Muslim from his or her Nigerian counterpart? Even within the same country we have Muslims from different socio-cultural backgrounds all practising the same faith.
At another level, we can also talk about how cultural values have enhanced, promoted, or even distorted, our understanding of Islam. What has been the impact of our respective indigenous culture, customs and more on our practice of Islam? Isn’t it the case that some of the things we applaud or condemn are the result of our giving cultural interpretation to purely Islamic issues? It is, therefore, pertinent to acknowledge that Islam, and the acceptance of it, has not eroded the existence of diversity. Or, expressed in another form, diversity has not, and should not, undermine in any way the practice and observance of our religion, Islam!External Diversity: If internal diversity is among Muslims, we are right to conclude that external diversity has to do with the larger society with which Muslims have relationships and interactions.
The attitudes, perceptions, actions and reactions, and world view of various members of that society affect our own attitudes, perceptions, actions and reactions, and world view. Even as it is acknowledged that the world has become a global village through science and technology, these advances have not removed the diversities that set Muslims apart from non Muslims in much the same way as internal diversity has not guaranteed peace and harmony in the Muslim world.So what do we have? A world in a turmoil; turmoil fuelled by diversity, mutual distrust, insecurity, ambition, greed, oppression, materialism, poverty, etc. Paradoxically, it would also appear that diversity whether internal or external throws up the challenge of containment: accommodation, understanding, tolerance, alignment, fellow feeling, etc.
My view is that as Muslims, we should first close ranks and lead the way in aligning with diversity, both internal and external. We need to be exemplars of positive values of accommodation, tolerance, love, justice and equity. We need to have family at the core of our lives if we are to break the barriers that keep us apart. Family in this sense means all members of a Muslim unit imbibing the true values and culture of Islam; reflected in total submission to the will of Allah, respect for one another, hard work, integrity, sacrifice, charity, humility are true attributes of the true Muslim.
I look forward to the day where governments, organisations, will perform well and people will say it is because the head is Muslim! I mention earlier the turmoil in the world today, which has been fuelled by insecurity and mutual distrust. Almost in all cases, Islam, my religion, our religion, is so shamelessly implicated you would think the original sin was committed by Muslims! I have read many accounts which linked the commission of a crime to Muslims because the perpetrators uttered Allahu Akbar – two simple words that anyone can be taught to say in a matter of seconds! Words like fundamentalists, jihadists, militants, all negative labels, have been attached to Islam to give genuine Muslims a bad name. And yet we do nothing, especially we Muslim leaders and elites. Instead of being the face and voice of Islam, we have shirked our responsibilities – because we are busy seeking other pursuits – and allowed the masses with scanty knowledge of Islam to represent and speak for us. They interpret Allah’s injunctions, upside down.
They are the perceived and recognised faces and voices of the beautiful religion that Islam is! Those with knowledge and mastery of the religion are recognised and heard only by the thunder of our silence. When we fiddle when Rome burns, as the expression goes, are we not guilty of complicity?As an international organisation, with branches in almost every major city of the world, NASFAT has elected to align with global diversity through its commitment to continuing education and public enlightenment on the tenets of Islam.
It is knowledge that will break down barriers, diffuse global tension and remove suspicions. It is education and knowledge that will promote understanding. Our regular, weekly Assalatu is one of the vehicles of education and enlightenment. We have, of course, gone beyond that by setting up educational institutions, the flagship of which is Fountain University, Osogbo, Nigeria. That institution is still evolving; the goal is to make it a world class Islamic university that will be the first choice of our members whose children and wards seek quality education.
But who will make Fountain University so? Of course it’s the owners, NASFAT! You and me, and all those members who are not opportune to be here today; our friends, well wishers and contacts! If we allow our sense of charity to drive us, Fountain University will be a dream come true. We all know that our World Headquarters is at Asese on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway! That, too, is work in progress.
We are building a world class mosque complex, which will be a signature statement for our society. We have a responsibility to ensure that that project becomes a reality.I am glad to inform you that NASFAT year in, year out, is gaining altitude but it is still far from attaining its cruising altitude. But we shall get there. You all know about the resignation of our second Chief Missioner, Alhaji Abdullahi Akinbode, I want to seize this opportunity to thank him for his services to the society. May Allah wataallah continue to guard and direct him aright in his future endeavours.
It is also with pleasure and pride that I announce the appointment of and congratulate our new Chief Missioner Alhaji Azzez Onike, following a very rigorous selection process that all members should be proud of.Brothers and sisters of NASFAT and Islam, there are no strangers in Islam, wherever we may find ourselves. Assalamu Alaikum, is a very potent expression; it is a prayer, a greeting and an introduction. It is a veritable door opener and way paver that is recognised among Muslims, and throughout the Muslim world. The response it elicits is – wa alaikum salaam wa Ramattulahi wa barakatahu it is equally a statement of welcome to cement a sense and feeling of brotherhood.
As Muslims, therefore, and as brothers and sisters, let us all dedicate ourselves to peace and harmony wherever we find ourselves. Let us abide by the laws of our host countries and let us be shining examples in generosity, self sacrifice and integrity.
May Allah subhannah wattaallah be with us all and guide and protect us in all our endeavours. Assalamu alaikum wa rahamatullahi was wabarakatahu.ABDULAHI-KAMIL ABAYOMI BOLARINWA