Why Boko Haram Got It Wrong


The Boko Haram group started its campaign to establish, as it calls it, an Islamic State in Nigeria and topple the present democratic government. It has been almost eight years now that Nigeria has been enmeshed in the battle to disband the group. However, the group continues to cause havoc, despite the so-called technical defeat it has suffered in the hands of the Nigerian Army.

But why is Boko Haram wrong? Boko Haram believes that it is a divinely sanctioned group to fight God’s battle on earth. It believes that since democratic ideals have failed, then its proposed Islamic government could beat things back into shape. In order to do this, the group did not constitute itself into a political group and explain its programmes and policy directions to the people it hoped to govern. Rather, it started an army, launching attacks on government institutions, schools and police formations, army barracks and hospitals.

Boko Haram believes it is following the teachings of Islam and the examples (Sunnah) of the Holy Prophet (saw). But we need to consider for a moment: If the Prophet Muhammad had been alive today, how would he have confronted a morally decadent government? There are ample examples from the life of the Prophet to prove the Boko Haram group wrong. It is on record that the Prophet, for forty years, before his call to Prophethood lived among his people and was an exemplary character, popularly known as the Trustworthy. He was a man of virtue whose character endeared many people to him. After the Call, he continued to talk to people and call them to God, explaining to them what was wrong in their ways. The admonition of the Quran is “Call unto the Way oo your Lord with wisdom and goodly Speech”. If Boko Haram desires to save us all from hell, as it claimed, it should have followed this golden example of calling us with good speech, not with guns and IEDs.

The Prophet withstood the various insults hurled at him for thirteen good years. In those 13 years, he sought exile in Taif and was rebuffed. His followers were exiled in Abyssinia, present day Ethiopia. When the persecution got to a point where he could be killed, he sought refuge in Yathrib, present day Madinah (literally meaning The City). The prophet did not start to attack state institutions. In fact, God declared in the Quran that he should tell the disbelievers that their religions were different, that is: Your religion for you, and My religion for me (Suratul Kafirun). At another point, God declares that there is no compulsion in matters of faith, as what is right is clear from what is wrong (Surah al-Baqarah). These verses show that at no point does Islam condone the killing of people because they professed a different faith from you. Boko Haram got it wrong when it declared then that it was fighting for God. Even the Prophet had no authority to compel people to obey God. God says that We have sent you as a Warner to them, how then could you labour if they did not accept the Truth. Leave them with Me, their return is to Me. So it is not for Boko Haram to compel everyone to become Muslims.

In its campaign of destruction, Boko Haram has targeted places of worship much. The death recorded in attacks on churches and mosques are too numerous to count. One starts to wonder, if both Christians and Muslims pray to the God of Abraham, how absurd is it that people who also claim their God to be the God of Abraham would visit them with so much violence. Boko Haram’s actions and ideologies are not supported by the Quran, nor by the practices of the Prophet whom they claim to follow. When the minority Muslim population of the Prophet’s time sought refuge in Madinah, they were welcomed by an enthusiastic local population that pledged allegiance to Prophet Muhammad, and accepted him as leader. At this point, many people were making trips to Madinah to visit the new leader and listen to his claims. The Makkans who had driven him out were envious of this new arrangement that they started various kinds of ambushes against Madinites. The security of the new thriving city then became the responsibility of the Prophet. Yet, he did not start a war with the Makkans until he received a clear direction from God. God says, “Permission to fight has been given to those against whom war has been made.” This verse points out that though the early Muslims had been permitted to fight, it was meant to be in a defensive role. War had been proclaimed against them, so it was time for them to fight, to defend themselves. God continues that if He had not permitted it, then all places of worship: churches, mosques, synagogues, cloisters, sepulchres where His name are remembered would become extinct as a result of these attacks on faith. So it was the responsibility of the early Muslims to defend all places of worhips from attack. However, Boko Haram and other associated terrorists group gleefully attack religious places. Places of worship are sanctuaries of the Almighty. Attacking them is attacking God. So, how absurd that Boko Haram, which claims it is fighting for God, now attacks the Houses of God.

One of the most absurd things that ever happened in the Boko Haram crisis was the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in Borno State. In that one action, Boko Haram says it was wrong for girls to seek education, and that as it had captured them, it would sell the girls into slavery or marry them off. Boko Haram also shot itself in the leg, nay in the heart, with this action. In Islam, which it claims it is following, slavery is illegal, in whatever form. So, Boko Haram cannot sell people into slavery as that is a clear illegality in the face of Shariah, the Islamic legal code. The Quran declares that all humans take the same process of birth, and that no one is more superior to another, except those who are most righteous. Only God can measure righteousness, it is not by outward appearance. Righteousness is by keeping God’s command and by serving humanity. In fact, the Prophet has been declared as Mercy unto all mankind. So how would those who claim the mantle of the Prophet become the opposite of mercy to mankind? The prophet himself freed many slaves by paying their deed of manumission. When prisoners of war were taken in the early wars, it was because they actively took part in the war against the first Muslims. So what was the crime of the Chibok girls? They were not the army fighting Boko Haram. They were a group of teenage girls looking forward to a good life. Boko Haram thus split the family, visiting them with abundant sorrow.

On its claim that seeking education is forbidden, Boko Haram evidently repudiates the Prophet’s saying that ‘seeking knowledge is compulsory on every Muslim man and woman’. Where was it when this basic hadith was taught? Seeking knowledge is not limited to religious knowledge; it is also knowledge about this life. The Qurran taught the prayer, Our Lord, grant us the good of this world and of the world hereafter. So wht good could one gain in this world that can be gained without basic knowledge and skills. The Quran is replete with ideas on mining, seafaring, manufacturing, astrology, science, arts and so on. In fact, the first verse revealed to the Prophet was ‘Read, read in the name of your Lord, the Great, who taught the world what it does not know.’ See how absurd it is for a group, which claims it is following God’s orders, to forbid others to read.

In the story of Adam, God told us in the Quran that what made difference between Adam and the angels was in the knowledge that Adam possessed, and because Iblis was so obstinate that he could not fathom someone knowng more than him, he became the accursed and rejected. Knowledge sets the world apart. There is a popular saying attributed to the early Muslims that they should seek knowledge even if they had to crawl to the ‘school’. If Boko Haram interprets this to mean knowledge is for men, how come the early Muslim women were teachers? Have they not heard that after the prophet died, his wife Aisha was foremost among the teachers of religion, or that Hafsah was one of the first memorisers of the Quran, and one of its eventual compilers? In present parlance, we would call Hafsah an archiver. To be an archiver today, a university degree is required. Fringe sects like Boko Haram do not want their women to learn in the fields of medicine, yet they would object to a male doctor treating their wives in the intimate places. If you do not allow your women to become doctors, how would other men not touch your wives in intimate places? The ideology of Boko haram is nothing but absurd.

It is the popular language of Boko Haram that all non-Muslims are kafir (unbelievers); and they are possible candidates of assassination. Nothing could be further from the truth. A deep look at the Quran shows that the only group referred to, as unbelievers are the idolaters, nothing more. Every reference to Christians and Jews, regard them as People of the Book. That is, they, like Muslims, also receive guidance from God. The Quran’s term for Christians is ‘Nasara’-people who were Helpers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So, if Muslims believe that Jesus was truly a prophet of God, then it means Christians in the basic are also helpers of Jesus, and ultimately helpers of God. In the Quran, God says that he is the one who revealed the Quran as a Guidance, confirming what is revealed earlier in the Torah and the Gospel. It is therefore absurd for anyone to call Christians and Jews unbelievers. The Quran unequivocally declares all Prophets as true, all Books as true, and that followers of the Prophet Muhammad do not make a distinction among the prophets or their books. The Quran says that Muslims can marry from among the People of the Book. How irrational then, that a fringe group would want to declare those whom God does not declare as unbelievers as one.

Then, there is the issue of suicide bombing. This is the most absurd ideology terrorists like Boko Haram can come up with. Where is it seen in the Quran that a person who deliberately killed himself is rewarded with seventy-two virgins. Nowhere was it mentioned in the Quran. Out of the six most-cited Hadiths, only one referred to this controversial gift, and with a weak method of transmission at that, yet deluded people believe that they can have what God did not promise them. If male suicide bombers get seventy-two virgins, what would female suicide bombers get? seventy-two gigolos? The rewards of paradise are for all righteous people, whether male of female, so it is absurd to think that men who blow themselves up would be rewarded with an hereafter of wine and women.

The truth is that Boko Haram is deluded in its campaign. Nothing it does is supported by Islamic principles. Islam is based on five pillars- the Faith that there is only one God; praying five times daily, fasting in the month of Ramadan, paying tax to the state to help the under-privileged, and performing a religious visit to Makkah. Every other good deed that one can do makes one rank among the righteous. God says that the mark of the righteous and the believers would be humility and not being haughty. How I wish that Boko Haram and its apologists could heed God’s call and shun their heinous ways.