From Zaria to the Zarih

Zakzaky

The Trials of Zakzaky and Zeenah

By Professor A.L.I.

Yaro was the first Nigerian I ever met—he was from Lagos and for a time, back in the early 1990’s he would be my roommate. Since then I’ve made profound connections with many Nigerian people of various tribes, ethnicities and linguistic backgrounds. Some have adopted me into their families as an extended member, trusting me with their family suya recipes and dodo-making techniques–this type of familiarity and love breeds both interest and a sense of belonging and so as a result I’ve been tuned to Nigerian frequencies for years–listening to news about its people and nation.  This is how I came to know of a unique movement to reform Islam in Nigeria, led a person, who was returning Nigerian Muslims to the practice of Islam as exemplified by the family of the Prophet Muhammad, and he is known as Sheikh Zakzaky.  I write this piece on the heels of troubling news about Zakzaky, his family and his followers–and for all I know at the time of this article and piece being written, they could all be dead.

Ibrahim Yaqoub Al-Zakzaky is an Islamic scholar from Zaria, Nigeria, who studied Islam and continued to study it until he re-connected to its primary sources, which include the narratives belonging to the family of the Prophet.  Most Muslim ulema (scholars) or psuedo-scholars as they should be called, are not life long learners and limit the scope of their study to the memorization of Qur’an and ahadith.  Hence they have a hard time relating to the realities of the modern world, as they have not understood the context of these texts, nor those who embodied its values like the family of the bloodline of Muhammad through his only surviving child, Fatima.  These narratives have been threatening to the Saudi regime (in its illegitimacy) as well its Wahhabi-Salafi octopus, whose tentacles stretch out over the globe as ISIS/DAESH, the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Boko Haram.

The latter group works its wickedness in Nigeria at the behest of its Saudi paymasters and it is this group I suspect is behind or at least in the very least involved in the latest Nigerian military backed atrocities carried out in Zaria against Zakzaky and his family. Last year Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife Zeenah lost three of their sons at what is referred to as the Qods Day Massacre, a peaceful protest of Nigerians commemorating the significance of Jerusalem to Muslims.  A week ago, it seems that Sheikh Zakzaky, his wife and three more of his sons were killed along with their followers in estimates that range from 1000-6000 people by the Nigerian military in Zaria.   Reports of a mass grave with over 800 bodies have just been verified by independent human rights organizations in the area but no one has yet heard from Zakzaky or his wife Zeenah—however we are being told by the Nigerian military that they are in custody.

I am greatly troubled by this as an educator and a Nigeriaphile because I’ve followed Zakzaky’s career from afar and admire what he has tried to do. Those who follow the news casually may remember the global lament and attention paid to the kidnapping of 300 girls by Boko Haram; it was Zakzaky who was the main critic of this organization before this tragic event, its other numerous atrocities, and throughout the mass kidnapping episode up until the recent massacre, which may have claimed his life.   Even as global news ceased to talk about the happenings in Nigeria, focusing their lens on ISIS and other tentacles of the Wahhabi kraken, Zakzaky kept his focus on Boko Haram.

Sheikh Zakzaky worked fervently to build ties between Muslims and Christians both in and outside of Zaria. At one point, due to his following he was referred by many outside observers as the most influential Islamic leader in Nigeria and when he transitioned, as he learned to a form of Islam emblemized in the practice of the family of the Prophet; it put him at odds with Saudis who have invested heavily to spread of their Wahhabist interpretation of Islam in the region.  Their ideology, which is based on the re-Arabicization of Islam preached by 14th century ideologue Ibn Taymiyyah, in which figures like Muawiyya and Yazeed, former caliphs who targeted and eventually murdered the family of the Prophet are considered hero figures.

Zakzaky’s work with the Nigerian Muslim community flourished and names like Fatima and Ali, as well as Zaynab and Husayn, became re-introduced to the people–even as their shrines were attacked in the Middle East by Wahhabi-Salafi extremists.  His peaceful marches reminding Muslims to stand up against all forms of oppression, in solidarity with Christians and other groups was a revolutionary concept in a region that was once controlled by the British through divide and conquer strategies.  In Zakzaky people had an individual who represented human beings, and was loved by Christians and Muslims of various denominations–and this love made him a target by those who profit off of war.

Yaro once told me that the people of Nigeria, especially his people who honored and invoked Orishas as conduits to the divine, would truly understand and embrace Islam in its original sense, instead of the Arabized Islam that was being proselytized to his people.  He argued that Islam with respect for the family of the Prophet was more in line with culture of saintly veneration, of conduits to the divine and I find myself unsurprised by Zakzaky’s success in Nigeria as a result.

Sheikh Zakzaky developed a powerful Islamic movement centered around the commemoration of the event of Ashura in Karbala, which retells and reenacts the story of how the caliph Yazeed murdered Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad along with his family and tortured and chained Zaynab, his sister, after murdering her children and cutting off their heads to display in his Damascus palace.  Yazeedian methods are still being used by the ISIS/DAESH’s and Boko Haram’s of the world–and the story of a family who stands up to such violence, unwavering in their faith, remains a powerful testament to true Abrahamic principles and as a result Zakzaky’s efforts spread like wildfire and threatened fringe extremist groups like Boko Haram because their form of Islam requires the ignorance of their adherents to the peaceful & justice oriented way Islam was practiced by the family of the Prophet.

Hearing the news of Zakzaky’s capture/torture/or demise, I felt compelled to write in my personal journals and was urged to share my reflections by my extended Nigerian family members, Yaro and Abdul-Rahim, an American Islamic scholar who, like me felt so broken-hearted over the most recent tragedy to befall Zaria and Zakzaky that he compelled me to write a piece and tell Zeenah and Zakzaky’s story as only a Hip-Hop educator can by telling this story and asking the questions we have all had hearing of this tragedy and so I have and the lyrics to my piece follow the video below:

From Zariah to the Zarih by Professor A.L.I.

I spit like oil slicks that Shell spills in Niger delta

Exposing corrupt politicians, spirit of Saro Wiwa

Invoke brother Ken, before other men,

Understand this battle is commerce of elements

They coerce presidents; replace ministers,

With the sinister, the most wicked on this earth,

The sickness they insert, into wombs so at birth

Young seeds will wield, the weapons that assert

The will of the beast, so righteousness stay alert

See a Sheikh emerge, sparked by Hussain’s thirst

A Shia, but at first, was just another brother

Who understood Islam, but not Yemeni cover

Given sight, blinded by light, of the mother

Of her father, like Fatima there is no other

He shuddered, then evolved, and led his people

Became target, they fear, revolution’s sequel…

 

Ya Sheikh, are you alive, are you safe?

The pictures we’ve seen, make us shake

Their Bloodied faces, and Mass graves

Will you survive their torture and awake?

 

Ya Sheikh, are you alive, are you safe?

The pictures we’ve seen, make us shake

Their Bloodied faces, and Mass graves

Will you survive their torture and awake?

 

From Zaria to the Zarih, Islam is what he studied

Till photos emerge, of a body left bloodied

Why was he threat, a cleric guiding heretics

Who’s pockets knew lint more than money Arabic

An advocate for unity between Abrahamic branches

Representin’ PEACE, is kryptonite for the kraken

Whose tentacles damage, strangle whole planet,

The Taliban in Kandahar, brotherhood in Kemet

Isis is global cris, Boko Haram’s a cancer

For West Africa, its head lives in Saudi palace

So Zakzaky’s movement used for target practice

His followers are slaughtered, mass graves stacked six

Of his sons martyred, divide and conquer tactics

The Zariah Massacre, is the epitome of tragic

Zeenah and Zakzaky’s story is that of sacrifice

Like Jesus and Husayn, the resurrection and the life

 

Ya Sheikh, are you alive, are you safe?

The pictures we’ve seen, make us shake

Their Bloodied faces, and Mass graves

Will you survive their torture and awake?

 

Ya Sheikh, are you alive, are you safe?

The pictures we’ve seen, make us shake

Their Bloodied faces, and Mass graves

Will you survive their torture and awake?

 

Shout out to my my Nigerian fam… my Yoruba fam, my Ibo fam, my Fulani fam, my Hausa fam… It’s all love… PEACE from Cradle to the Grave.

 

 

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