By Dr. Mustapha Adebayo Bello
I have severally resisted given my opinion about Shaykh Habeebullah Adam Abdullah al-llori and his theological interventions on matters bordering on the principles and practice of Islam in Yorubaland.
Except in my classes on Islam in Yorubaland where sometimes I try to dissect the problems plaguing Muslim societies thereby reviewing the contributions and methodologies of different scholars including Mudiru–Markaz, my preference has been to wait till the fullness of time when my view about him would have fully crystalized.
Another reason for my reluctance was the fear of being subjective knowing fully well my enormous love for his father Shaykh
Adam Abdullah al-llori and the historical fact of his being my eldest brother’s intimate friend during our growing years in Agege.
But my pen has been so restive in recent time so much so that Ilam compelled to share this thought about him from the lenses of an insider-outsider perspective particularly after I had in the previous weekS reenacted my musing on our
glorious past which Shaykh Adam represented.
If there is any scholar in Yorubaland today who has attracted to himself by his preaching love and hatred in almost on an equal proportion, it is Shaykh Habeebulah Adam Abdullah al-llori.
His penchant to express his views in a no holds bare manner has wittingly and unwittingly earned him both praise and
blame depending on which of the divide of the theological dissension you belong to.
He has become the mouthpiece and rallying point of the traditional Malikiyyah/Ash’ariyyah school of thought
whose age long theology of permissiveness and tolerance is been fiercely challenged by the emerging ultra conservative
Hanbaliyyah/Wahabiyyah/Salafiyyah movement in Yorubaland.
While other traditional scholars are
offering their resistance to this “seemingly puritans” surreptitiously and in hush voices, Shaykh Habeebullah has chosen to confront them frontally using his own platform and audience to dish out
uncensored refutations to their claim of representing the best of Islam in terms of principles and practice.
He has become a thorn in the flesh of these Sunnah merchants who spare no effort in labelling everything the traditional school stands for as Bi’dia.
Carrying the toga of reinventing Islam, these Salafi clerics are unapologetically critical of the Aqeedah and Fiqh of their brethren at home who provided them with
platforms to ventilate this Salafiyyah ideology after their return from educational sojourn in Saudi Arabia.
Rather than seek means of collaboration and intellectualization of grey areas of dissension, their Zawiyas, Asalatu sessions and religious ceremonies are classified as Majlis-l-Bi’dia and their madaris and
ilmiyyah colleges were branded as haven of irreligious indoctrination that must be submerged at all cost.
Suddenly the Islam which has been in
Yorubaland since the 15th century (or thereabout) is no longer seen as being good enough and the Muslims in the region must be re-indoctrinated on the right Aqeedah and the best way to observe Salat and
Deploying all manners of tactics ranging from theological subterfuge, gross exaggeration of the religious aberrations of our people and sometimes outright lies, unsuspecting brethren who are desirous of constant hidayah are hoodwinked into believing that everything about our past is evil and everything about what we are been fed by them is wholesome goodness.
To them the commemoration of Maulud-n-Nabiyy, congregational Tahajud, Laylatu-l-Qadr and other religious ceremonies which also serve as means of socialization amongst them over the centuries are either watered down through their Salafiyyah alternative methodologies or outrightly classified as
The institution of Tasawwuf (mysticism)
which represents the spiritual realities of Islam and accounted for the spread and consolidation of Islam in West Africa is constantly being rubbished by them as unsunnatic and irreligious.
All these aforementioned attacks are directly aimed at the foundations of what Markaz and similar other schools represented as well as what Shaykh Adam
and his contemporaries strove and died for.
Therefore, to give in to them or be subtle with them is to render the labour of our heroes past in vain and expose our tomorrow represented by our children to
this intolerant exclusive Aqeedah which has shown in different parts of the world where it is tolerated as being the breeding force for terrorism.
While Salafiyyah looks puritanical and altruistic on the surface value, it is so dangerous because of its exclusivity doctrine which does not recognize
plurality and theological diversities. It is from this perspective that the intervention of Mudiru–Markaz as the loudest voice in the growing opposition to the Salafiyyah onslaught in Yorubaland should be
Digging deep through reference to
archival materials and deploying technology to bring home his points to his audience, he has left no one in doubt as regards his resolve to expose their real
intentions and follies.
Even when he was uncharitably called a dog by one of the Salafiyyah clerics, he
poetically turned it around as something to be proud of as someone so trusting and loyal like a dog to safeguard the legacies of our heroes past in Islam from the Salafiyyah marauders whose sole objective
is to pillage the house of lslam and divest it of its enormous treasures.
The truth is that these Salafiyyah scholars with so much energy have put the traditional scholars and their revered institutions on the defense for almost two decades now without little or no resistance from them owing to their permissive and tolerant nature.
Now that the table is being turned against them by the unearthing of the family backgrounds as well as the educational orientation of Ibn Taymiyyah and Muhammad bn Abdul Wahab, hell is being let loose on social media as if the world is coming to an end.
While it is so easy for them to openly lampoon renowned scholars like Hassan al-Banna, Sayd Qutb and Yusuf Qardawi and rubbish all they stood for because of their affirmative theological resistance of
the West which the Salafiyyah often cooperated with, they should not find it inexpedient when searchlight is beamed on their own scholars.
l am not saying that Shaykh Habeebullah is right all the time. In fact he cannot be even if he wanted to because he is as fallible as every mortal but no one can attribute lies, deceit and calumny to him in the discharge of his da’wah responsibilities.
Everybody is free to say anything they like about him but what is crystal clear to me is that; yes he is controversial but not allergic to truth and superior argument (if only his
adversaries can present any).
He is outspoken on any issue whether socio-economic or political for as long as it affects the Muslims without being garrulous.
He is daring but not combative, bold but
not arrogant and simple but not stupid. Above all, he is not a liar. He speaks the truth without embellishment and that was the stuff his illustrious father was made of.
Never known to run away from theological battles, just like his father, Shaykh
Habeebullah Adam Abdullah al-Ilori has remained undaunted and unperturbed in the defense of the legacies of the collective heritage of the Yoruba Muslims which recognizes plurality and continuous
peaceful engagement amongst themselves as they individually and collectively strive to attain the best in the practice of Islam.
Unlike his adversaries who are majorly religious scholars, Mudiru-Markaz is both a
religious scholar and a scholar of religion whose understanding transcends the primordial sentiment of theological affiliations and rigid sectarian attachment.
He is not just a religious cleric; he is an
historian, a dialectician, a philosopher and a scion of the old generations of scholars, very many of whom personified all these traits in their scholarships. None would reflect over this except those with
Imam Mustapha Adebayo Bello (PhD)
Director, Center of Theology and Spiritual Intelligence.
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