Ramadan with a Celebrity Sheikh – No Groupie

Alhamdulillah. I have been humbled by Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan this Ramadan, after reluctantly watching his Tafsir (exegesis) videos on Surah al Baqarah. For years I have been unable to appreciate why many people revere his teaching because I had failed to be impressed by his videos which I sampled, nor attain insight. Celebrity Sheikhs get a different treatment from me. So I tried to assess his teachings by disregarding his celebrity status, which leads me to being cynically critical, which collateralize any learning. Some of his more popular videos cannot be considered classes because they were usually speeches, but I judged him based on that too.


The bulk of the flaws I notice are in his examples and analogies, especially because I was informed that those are supposed to be his strengths; in addition to his relaxed language. Other flaws I couldn’t notice were probably beyond my scope of knowledge. He was alright, but not insightful enough for me, but perhaps for some people; so I moved on. I have since adjusted to keep my eyes on the prize, that is the main points, and not to sweat the small stuff i.e. examples and analogies. This Ramadan, I caught him in his element, which is Tafsir emphasizing linguistic analysis (Lughah, Nahw, Ishtiqaaq, balagha i.e. Lexicography, Syntax, Etymology, Rhetoric). Hats off to him, and may God be pleased with him.

The title of the videos is called Ramadan Exclusive Surah al Baqarah; at least that is what you should search for on Youtube. Content wise, it is quite rich, covering no more than 2 verses in some sessions which typically last an hour. It seems he surveys works on Tafsirs, then presents the most convincing opinions to him. Some of the big shots he references are Tabari (of course), Imam Razi, Ibn Ashur, Farahi, and Islahi (whose Tadabburi Qur’an is still only available in Urdu). Just their names should make your mind salivate. He wanders into biblical sources, to Seerah, to recent statistics, to other parts of the Qur’an, to extra-biblical sources, to academic sources, to video games with no sense of boundaries, in order to drive his points. All the while, he is anchored in Arabic linguistics.

It is narrated that Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, the renowned theologian and exegete, was walking among huge crowds celebrating him while an old woman looked on confused. She asked, who is that? They told her: “He is Imam al-Razi, and he has 100 proofs of God’s existence.” She asked again, laughing, “But why would he need those, unless he had 1000 doubts?!” The Imam was impressed by her remark and used to pray thereafter: “O Allah, grant me faith like that of the old woman!” – Well Known

The first time I committed some scholarly respect to Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan was when I read his response to a controversy raised by some Youtube Salafi’s because of a statement he made at a speech; that people should downplay their obsessions with Aqeedah and connect more with the Qur’an instead. That sure hurt Salafi pride, because what is a Salafi without cramming your Tauhid Al Rububiyya/Uluhiyya/Asma-wal-Sifat?! My respect then was similar to what I have for Dr Yasir Qadhi, because they both appear to have been at one point staunch Salafi-breeds, then they transcended labels, leaving the containers but with a lot more content. Now that I have some insight into Ustadh Nouman’s understanding of the Qur’an, I can appreciate his response better. More than anything, his Tafsir is loaded with theological content, discussed so casually, but profoundly, that it may miss the attention of a trained theologian. Ustadh Nouman is the guy in between Imam Razi (a sophisticated theologian) and the simple Old-woman with basic true beliefs that Imam Razi envies. For instance Ustadh Nouman discusses: the potentially controversial prostration of the Angels to Adam, like that which the brothers of Yusuf did to Yusuf (AS); offers a refreshing understanding of the verse (Q2:61) often read as salvation to Jew, Christians and Sabeans, even while holding the belief that salvation is not exclusive to Muslims; etc. Some of these appear to be opinions he arrived at rather than read from some author. It is through this Qur’an theology that he transcended the Salafi Aqeedah, I suppose, by understanding it more profoundly.

Without sound effects of thriller movies, the videos are full of twists. How many Tafsir sessions do you know that try to empathize with Satan (Iblis). Ustadh Nouman manages to get you into the shoes of Iblis, similar to the biblical account of fallen angels, or those who hail Satan as Lucifer (the light bearer), so that one begins to feel they would act the same in Satan’s shoe. Then Ustadh Nouman rescues you from that shoe of ignorance and arrogance into the bigger picture, as if reflecting an accusatory mirror, so that one humbles themselves before God. Similarly he succeeds in getting one to empathize with the Hypocrites of Madina, especially those who signed up for Islam simply because it was fashionable or pragmatic, and then realize it is demanding much from them. In a similar vein to that of Iblis, one is made to appreciate their error.

While many Muslims would claim the genealogy of Islam was through Judaism (Musa AS) and Christianity (Isa AS), many despise Jews in a racist sense, justified by Qur’an’s reference to their ancestors. The same Muslims would also proudly say they don’t believe in original sins, as in Christianity. This may have been amplified by recent international affairs of Palestine and Israel, though an un-empathetic reading of the Qur’an could also lead to similar attitudes. The videos remind Muslims today that the Jews in the Qur’an are actually Muslims; like an earlier generation of Sahaba. We are reminded that Ya Bani Isra’il is a honorific address, rather than a prelude to accusation and curses. By cross-referencing incidents that are mentioned in passing in the Qur’an, with more detailed accounts from biblical (and extra-biblical) sources, it appears the Qur’an conceals some of the wrongs of the historic Jews. Therefore the Qur’an which has been accused of being anti-Semitic, may be pro-Semitic compared to the biblical sources.

Taking the empathy with the Jews further, the entire story of the Jews in the Qur’an is not presented as history lessons, but as commentary on Muslims today. Muslims today look down on non-Muslims because they feel they are saved, like the historic Jews. Muslims today kill their scholars which they don’t agree with, like the historic Jews killed their prophets. Some Muslims mix-up their religion with others and superstitions, like the Egyptian Jews mixed up their religion with their neighbor’s (Canaanites) belief in cows (which led to the molding of the golden calf). Muslims make so much noise about matters of the mind (e.g. Fiqh discussions/arguments) and ignore matters of the heart (e.g. Fiqh applications and relationship with Qur’an). There are many other examples.

Also valuable is Ustadh Nouman’s experience as a teacher. You can’t really buy experience. Over the years, Ustadh Nouman has had several inquiries thrown his way which are valuable because many people would have similar issues. Of course not all the questions were sincere but we can benefit from the sincere ones, especially if we have been indoctrinated not to ask certain “blasphemous” questions. He has had to come up with convincing answers over the years, which may not necessarily be convincing to you, but worth listening. Why did God inform the angels about creation of man when He seemed to have already decided to do so with or without their input. Why did God allow for the interaction between Iblis and Adam when He seemed to have planned they would both end up on earth. Why did God ask the Jews to accept His guidance while terrifying them with “mountain above them” (Q2:63), since their answers may not be sincere.

Then there is the creativity that goes into his understanding. Many undervalue the role creativity plays in problem solving, including the problem of guidance for Mankind. Ustadh Nouman displays such bridled creativity. Creativity allows us to understand a thing differently, which leads to new insights. Call it Ilham, but like Elizabeth Gilbert, I call it creativity.

Generally speaking, I find writing to be richer in content, depth and insight than videos. Videos also have a way of devouring our time in exchange for an idea that can fit in two sentences, so I may not be able to afford the time for Ustadh Nouman’s classes but there is certainly a lot to learn. It is all pedagogical preference. I recommend it. I should mention that having a bit of Arabic would allow you pick up some Arabic lessons in addition.

We have all had those moments when we feel the Qur’an is talking to us, but I had Tafsir talk to me. The reluctance I had approaching these videos was mainly because my cynical  criticism of the “Celebrity Sheikh” which was a barrier to learning. This is in no way saying I know half the stuff he knows, which is perhaps why I fixate on the few things I know, which I felt he wasn’t presenting well in his examples. With only 10% of your knowledge, I believe I can criticize your talks, and with 20%, I can even make parodies on Youtube, plus memes. Why do you think critics rule social media?! I still find some of his analogies and examples either an over simplification, or not the most appropriate for his points. However, his points manage to come across. Many times, his points are quite enlightening. There is much to learn from Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan.

Another important outcome of watching these videos is that it has re-ignited the courage in me to resuscitate a project I had been working on, but left fallow for 3 years now. It is called Qur’an Hacking (aka Qur’an Haqqing). In summary, this entails outputting primarily eisegetical, but also exegetical, reflections on the Qur’an using the tools of literary theory, fine art, performance arts and other paradigms of expression. I shall follow up with more information soon InShaAllah. For now it suffice to say that Ustadh Nouman was exhibiting a number Qur’an Haqqing skills very well.

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Thoughts of Train – ABJ to KD

The anticipated Abuja-Kaduna train has been launched, and this is not a bluff. Apart from the train actually moving, the train service is littered with issues that could make the train travel unbearable. Consider this post a review of the train experience; the main issues are absence of information and non-optimized processes.

The train ran free for the first two weeks between Abuja and Kaduna, moving at 100 km/h (but would be 150 km/h after the trial phase). There are 8 stops in-between. The cost is N600 for “economy class” and N900 for “business class”. Below are captioned pictures from our trial ride between the Idu station and the next station (Kubwa station); courtesy of Saj.

Nice Floors

The Train!! 💃💃💃

Nice Stairs 😎😎


Wait…is this an Airport or a Train station? Hmm 😕😕


I would call it Thomas, but that’s not original. Idu will do. Idu the Lone Train that travels to Rigasa 😊😊

Its obvious that we will leave “IN” time; but it begs to question…will we leave “ON” time? 🙈🙈

Inside Idu the Loner. Standard Carriage…or as we call it over here…Economy 😎

Mystory 😊

The journey through Idu’s eyes 😊

Arrived at Kubwa! More passengers awaiting to board than expected! 😁

Each stop has a “5 minute dwelling time”

Arrivals 😆😆

Kubwa Station. Idu’s first stop on its way from Idu, Abuja to Rigasa, Kaduna.

This passenger told me to take a picture of him and NEVER delete it 😂

…And this passenger had live chickens inside his box 😂😂😂. Nigeria Railway Corporation…Prepare for what’s coming 😂

I have been unable to find a reliable way to provide them with feedback, so I shall list the issues, and hopefully direct the relevant authorities to this content, or at least have those interested in using the train services.

Locating the Station

The closest station to the city center is Idu Station, but certainly not the easiest to locate. Idu is the industrial area of Abuja, so it makes strategic sense to position the train station there for movement of input and output to the plants/industries. However there is not a single signboard pointing to the location, even articles that made the launching public did not divulge the location; how could they when the location is has no address nor direction, only its man-given latitude and longitude points. So I stored the address using Google Maps (luckily there was phone network coverage).

It took about an hour to locate the place, after getting into Idu. At one point I became hopeless because even the Okada guys in the area did not know where the station was. All of them boasted with the competency to take me to the rail, which to them is just any point on the train track. Luckily one of them that had been busy on his phone suddenly recalled that he had taken someone to a train station there during the week. He led me there; through 4 round-abouts, then an excursion into the bush and out to a serpentine road. The road had some interesting potholes to keep from being bored of the bush, and the last-mile from the road to the gate was not tarred so that it awakens you from your slumber. On my return, I followed the serpent to a more straight forward road to the main road. Let me save you the hassle I suffered, see the Idu station below (you can zoom in and out):

Train Schedule

In other words, no train timetable! There should be a schedule even it was just a trial run. Actually there should be one especially because it is trial run. The idea of a trial run should be to test the machines and processes. However, it seems they have neglected the processes and focused on the machines; in other words they (NRC) are thinking mechanically about an innovation. It is for this reason that it took us two weeks to test the train for 15 mins! I used the first weekend (Saturday) to locate the place and find out about the schedule, then the next weekend to follow the schedule because the trial run did not operate on Sundays, and work won’t allow me weekdays.

A staff I met there told me that the trial train leaves Abuja 8:00 am daily. So it turned out they have a schedule, they just don’t want to share it; it is not even pasted or printed anywhere in the station. Prior to confirming the existence of a schedule, it seemed imaginable that the trains would operate like cars in car-parks i.e. fill in the seats with passengers before taking off.

How does a train service commissioned in 2016 not even have a website for train schedule and ticketing. One would assume, websites come free with every train station.

Ticketing System

In the absence of a website, and ticket vending machines, what do you have? If you said humans issuing tickets, that would be wrong since you need humans issuing from a machine anyway. The right answer is: you have a scissors-cut cardboard ticket that is signed with a pen by a staff for authentication. Unless the ticket signatories for every station would be static and limited, I doubt this has any authentication function… but more on that in the next issue below.

At the point of collecting tickets we were challenged to produce ID cards out of thin air before we get tickets. This information was not provided during my inquiry visit; I was told to simply show up on time and collect ticket. I had an ID but none in my travel company had one so… we didn’t plead but they understood it was an oversight on their part and so we were allowed through especially since the ticket we wanted was to the first stop. Other travel parties there had similar issues. A point to note here is that this is about 11 days after the trial run began, which means I inquired from them 4 days after it started but there was no mention of ID card then.

Station Processes

You would expect improvement on anything after 11 days running. Even fat people lose weight in 11 days, even APC probably made an impact in 11 days… how come this is not the case with NRC. If however we assume that they’ve made improvement, then it would be fun imagining how bad the train station was on the first day.

The efficiency of train services depends significantly on the efficiency of processes within the station. The processes are: update on train services (e.g. train platforms), ticket purchasing, ticket validation, queuing in-out, luggage screening, security checks, etc.

Queuing in and out of the train alone seemed a challenge for the Kubwa station staffs (see picture above), and they have the audacity to write that the station stop-time is only 5 minutes before they move to the next station. It was getting to 10 minutes when we left the Kubwa station, and the train that dropped us was still standing; in other words stand-still. Perhaps the station was understaffed for the trial run? If that is the case then it was a bad trial run.

Feedback Channel 

I could not find a reasonable feedback channel to the NRC on how to improve the new trains. NRC has a liaison office in Abuja, but how bad would I want to give a feedback that I would go there? I could not find a email address, nor a feedback box at the station. I was advised to tag the relevant parties on twitter or Facebook along with my feedback but I could not find an NRC account. I shall try the Ministry of transport and aviation. The absence of a feedback channel means the NRC is probably very proud of themselves at the moment; unfortunately.

By the way, does the NRC have the capacity to manage the processes of this train service? I suppose the Chinese companies setting up the trains would continue to service it for now. I don’t know, because this information is also not available. My best guess is that it would be a partnership for a while.

PS: It appears the trial run has been extended, perhaps indefinitely, or as I read somewhere, by the end of July.

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Niggas in a Death Scandal


Scandals are subjective, a representation of the collective subjective. We simply have to agree that something is scandalous and it shall be, after all the audience are the most important component of a scandal. Scandal is indeed democratic. Just because scandals often have to do with the violation of moral codes (or ethics) it doesn’t mean scandals are morally corrective; instead they are interesting deviations from the norm that have a willing crowd ready to express concern. This became clear to me recently after engaging in a discussion about a “scandalous” selfie; although late after the storm of the scandal has subsided. The selfie shows the self-er, with what seems like two friends and a wrapped dead body in the background given a Muslim burial. It was snapped at the burial of the selfer’s friend. The selfer posted it on his Instagram page with the caption:

Selfie with my dead nigga !!! Rest in peace !!! Keep rocking till we come !!! Safe journey man

The picture was widely shared with outrage and it seems there are a number of points that offends people’s sensibilities. How dare he take a selfie at a solemn burial where he should have been reflecting. How dare one of the friends smile in the picture. How dare he make such a comment about the dead. How dare he share it on social media. The outrage is guttural, emotive, reactive, instinctive but hardly reasonable after closer inspection. Beneath the surface of the scandalous accusations, there is lack of thoroughness, hypocrisy, inconsistency and ignored but relevant aspects of the picture. The scandalous contagion was widely spread and accepted; hence it became a scandal. The responses and comments on the issue are reminiscent of a scandalous blasphemy  in Kano when a Muslim man referred to another as the personification of God; many Facebook commentators said it was worse than all the killings and pillage and oppression carried out by Boko Haram. Similarly I see uncritical instincts shadowing reasoning in this case.

In summary, my arguments are two. The picture does not merit the scandal it caused, if scandals are to be based on careful reasoning. Secondly, the person deserving the most heat of the criticism is not the selfer but those who promoted sharing of the picture in the first place. Although Christians also found the selfie offensive, Muslims took it more personal, to the level of blasphemy or sacrilege; and when asked they incline towards religious explanations. It is for this reason that I shall argue from a Muslim perspective.

It seems the issues people have with the picture are that: it was taken as a selfie; the language used in the first comment; and the pose and smile of one friend in the picture. Scandals, even on selfies, should not be based on careless presumption on the circumstances of the event. Selfie being a prevalent phenomenon today has even warranted a fatwa (or opinion of scholars) on it; most notably selfies with Ka’bah in the background. The egotistic nature of selfie contributes to its ability to disturb our ethical sensibilities. Any thorough (Islamic) legal ruling condemning a cultural phenomenon is bound to be padded around by so many conditions that the focus would be on the conditions rather than the phenomenon. For example, a ruling on the appropriateness of cultural ceremonies like weddings and birthdays depends on the conditions (activities) under which the ceremonies occur. The exception to this is where there is clear scriptural basis to make a judgement on that cultural phenomenon (which probably must have existed similarly at the time of The Prophet).

If selfie itself is not a taboo, then perhaps the public excitement comes from conditions around the selfie, most notably the first comment. Language also is another cultural phenomenon that may be used rightly or wrongly, regardless of the form it takes. The object of language which is subject to moral judgement is its content; not so much its form. So let us now take the scandalous comment and change its form, but maintain the content.

The original form is “Selfie with my dead nigga !!! Rest in peace !!! Keep rocking till we come !!! Safe journey man” in ebonics (Black American English). It is important here to note that ebonics and rap have been unjustly associated with bad morality in the public’s subconscious.

The content of the comment in a more a recognized English is equivalent to:

“Selfie (a moment to remember) with my deceased companion. May you rest in eternal peace. May we also share in the eternal peace when we die. May you reach the peace that awaits you”.

I don’t think many would find the content shocking, after all we have similar sayings which are considered virtuous. So the outrage seems to be merely on the form of language, by those who don’t appreciate the form; I would say that is classist. Interestingly, it appears the selfer is not completely ignorant of Islam’s burial rites because the last comment on the picture is him referencing the late Albany of Zaria on the topic.

So who has definitely violated a moral code; at least in Islam? As we have seen, the action of the selfer, is marred with ambiguity since the content is open to different understandings. However, there is less ambiguity surrounding the action of those who shared the picture, especially those first to share. The language used by those sharing to accompany the image leaves little space for other interpretation other than they are escalating the scandal; or creating a scandal. The first sharer was the one who made available the “scandalous” image to an audience outside the reach of the original post. The first sharer is probably a “friend” of the selfer. The first sharer is like a friend who broadcasts what he sees as your flaws to the world for them to judge. The circle of friends may not be as closed, because hashtagging could easily expose your post that would typically be restricted to a circle of friends, now to a community of strangers who can judge you with little or no information about your background which could contextualize your action. Nonetheless, it appears there was no hashtag on the picture posted by the author, so it seems someone else took the liberty to share the picture to the public for judgement.

Defamation of character is a serious offense in Islam, attested to by Qur’an, Hadith and Seerah. As a result privacy in Medieval Muslim architecture was a major design consideration. Even adjudication in cases of character assassination is very stringent in Islamic legal philosophy. We may not see it that way, but social media has primed us to celebrate the failings of others, even if we have to imagine them failing. Perhaps it makes us feel good about ourselves since the level of astonishment at scandalous failings is proportional to how far we consider ourselves from committing the same act.

Rather than investing time into promoting a scandal that may not even be justified, why don’t we justify our claims of superior moral character to the scandal actors by considering the morality of our response to them. In an attempt to shame them, rightly or wrongly, we shame ourselves. Selfie + ebonics + burial may not be wrong. But sharing a post on character defamation for no reason but to confirm your disapproval may be wrong.

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Celebrity Sheikhs

As cultural phenomena, popular music concerts, Christian evangelical crusades and Muslim ‘lectures’ are more or less the same. There is always a celebrity figure, there are always fans, there is always hyping the event and promotion (posters, billboards and media promo), and there is the tendency to be considered ‘cooler’ after attending. The main difference is the content. It is like having a tank; some use it so deliver water, others kerosene, and others diesel. Recently Nigeria has witnessed a frenzy in Muslim celebrity speakers, featuring such platinum speakers as Zakir Naik, Mufti Menk, Khaled Yasin etc.

Consumerism has long infiltrated Islam, shortly after colonisation via capitalism. These popular Muslim lectures are a product of a consumerist culture, where the product is lectures, and the sustaining myth is that listening to more lectures leads to being a better Muslim. Compare that to the consumerist phenomenon where the product is gadgets (phones, headphones, watches etc.) and the sustaining myth is that owning these gadgets would make you cooler, or rarely more efficient. In the case of gadgets, there is a veil of deception because many are either unwilling to admit, or are unaware zombies, that they are aiming to be cooler/hip/current. Whereas in the case of Muslim lectures, many Muslims are quick to defend that they are indeed performing righteous deeds which would lead to their righteous transformation.

But how true is the sustaining myth; are these lectures making better Muslims? That requires a statistical answer and criteria for evaluating better Muslims. Since the power of any myth lies in the ability of the myth to be propagated and believed, then we can assume they believe they are becoming better Muslims. Perhaps we can count on a psycho-social placebo effect.

Now what is the effect of Muslims believing they are becoming better Muslims? In other words, what is the effect of consumers who believe they are becoming cooler or more effective? In addition to contentment in keeping up with their practice, even at the expense of more useful practices, we can say that the Muslim consumer would continue consuming, more and more.

Having celebrated Sheikhs is not new to Islam’s tradition, but I contend that having celebrity Sheikhs is a new phenomenon because celebrity as we know it today is a product of consumerism; energised by capitalism. Sufi Islam is more accommodating of celebrity culture given its aggrandisement of Sheikhs and donations. On the other hand Salafi Islam, being similar to protestant movement, is very vocal about its disapproval on aggrandisement of Sheikhs which they consider as a serious threat to monotheism. To the Salafi strand, sainthood is deification, and so ascribing divinity to them, or contradicting the sole monopoly of God’s omnipotence. So it is quite interesting when a common theme in lectures given by Salafi-inclined Sheikhs is the denouncing of celebrity status; often in the catch phrase “There is no celebrity in Islam!”. This is pure irony!

It appears those preaching against celebrity status of Sheikhs forget one key fact, which is not simply that they are celebrities, but that they are being listened to precisely because they are celebrities. What is the effect of a celebrity Sheikh who constantly reminds his fans (audience) that he is no celebrity, and that there should be no celebrities in Islam? Some would be quick to call it hypocrisy, and that would be justified, but not charitable.

I would like to think they do not understand the complexity of celebrity as a product of culture; as would be elucidated by cultural studies. They would then appreciate that cultural products are a result of interaction. They would also know that their actions have more impact to culture than their spoken words; such that even if they organise a specific event to discourage celebrity status, the more lasting impact is that they were able summon their fans privileging their celebrity status rather than what they were able to tell their fans. They would then appreciate why the Prophet (SAW), on many occasions, does an action before explaining it, making him a conscious culture producer; walking before the talking.

The situation of those celebrity Sheikhs then becomes one of saying one thing consciously, and doing and promoting its opposite unconsciously. It is not different from those who seek to justify their actions by first saying “I do not mean to justify so and so, but…”. Or those who excuse their actions by saying “I am not trying to provide an excuse for my action, but…”. This self fulfilling deception comes in several varieties.

Others criticise the phenomenon of celebrity Sheikh as an unnecessary expense because inviting these celebrities is quite expensive due to logistics; because I don’t think they charge for their lectures. In addition to plane tickets and accommodation, the venues are typically worth millions of Naira for rent; although the venues may be donated or sponsored by a ‘big person’. The criticism actually has two parts: first, organising these events are expensive; second, why not make use of local Sheikhs instead. Understandably, many have no issue with the first part because they understand that transport and accommodation is not free. The second criticism is often presented as a variation of the import-vs-local debate, where the critics say: why don’t we patronise local Sheikhs as we do international celebrity Sheikhs. Which would mean creating local celebrity Sheikhs, if that criticism is taken seriously. Alas, the criticisms are not at celebrity Sheikh culture but about celebrity Sheikh consumption.

Perhaps the Celebrity Sheikh is above criticism. After all he would be the hardest on himself.

Some celebrity Sheikhs however embrace their celebrity-ness, and simply put effort in humility. But they understand, I believe, that there is now celebrity in Islam, and they are it. But I wonder if they appreciate how entangled their celebrity status is with consumerism of Islam’s knowledge, and what that does to Muslim consumers.

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Dorobucci! Dorobucci!

It kept resounding in my head after a colleague played it over and over at the office. So when Youtube Nigeria suggested the video of the song to me, I caved in and clicked. How enlightening that experience turned out to be. Even exaggerated frivolities can lead to epiphany. I decided to watch the video again and share some of that insight. My claim is that Dorobucci (music video) captures the imagination of many Nigerians on how intertwined power and self-aggrandisement are.

Here is the link to the video. The video is suitable as social commentary because the producer and the several artistes are as representative a sample as can be. The opening scene is at a CEO boardroom presentation with a pretty female presenting her slides as well as herself to the male CEO, while he and others sip expensive looking drinks. The scene ends with cash opened in a briefcase for all to celebrate which shows that the “CEO” is more a mafia boss than a leader of a corporation, or perhaps the two are not different in the imagination of Nigerians. Nigerians tedn to treat a crook and a statesman/politician the same way without an ethical distinction, but with a benevolent assumption of humanitarian generosity.

The two groups of statesmen and business men (crooks included) are grouped under the name of Big Boys. What Big Boys do is they call the shots; or swing the shots, since the sports of the rich man is Polo. For the less energetic rich men, golf is the next appropriate metaphor for a rich man swinging shots. For favour golf has over polo with the white man, the video captures a Big Boy from a rooftop in Ikoyi (Lagos) taking a swing with his expensive golf club, the ball flies overseas and lands in the courtyard of the White House – a hole in one! The Big Boy is that rich man who swings shots from the business capital and lands effortlessly in the government capital; both are executives after all. With the such easy access into the government domain, and the easy access to “scoring”; it can be interpreted as having the government’s administration in the pocket of the Big Boy. The White House here symbolises any government with considerable global influence; after all globalisation is a phenomenon consuming both in governments and businesses. Nothing appears like progress to the colonised subject than the White House especially when it is occupied by a Black Man.

The Big Boy and Big Girl are further enshrouded with the garment of a celebrity. The video shows this connection effortlessly in subsequent scenes. Business men compete with politicians in this arena for celebrity title. To the uncivil and tabloid-minded public, they two groups are simply Big Boys and Girls treated as celebrities. At this point in the video the two titles (business men and politicians) are now smugged together so that henceforth the video only deals with celebrities. Next we see the glorification of fashion consumerism by a female artiste whose worth and popularity depends on her choice of fashion; she seems to have a personal fashion assistant. Then a male artiste living the celebrity vacation in speedboats filled with foreign light-skinned women. The next artiste sings his part lavishing in fame at a club, showered with fans supplicating at the red carpet… and of course a well decorated woman delivering herself to the club aka the domain of the male artists where he wears a hat like a crown. All of this is celebrity gossip material; fashion, vacation, clubbing and red carpets.

It came as a bit of relief to see the next artiste playing the role of the wife of a Big Boy; so far it has been about male artists having females. Actually the female is still being had here but at least she is milking it and becoming a Big Girl by association. Most wives of Big Boys automatically become Big Girls, just in the same way with offspring. This reflects a reality in Nigeria where relatives of Big Boys/Girls become Big by relation; even in-laws these days enjoy this social privilege. The scene ends with the female artiste slipping into the arms of her Big Boy husband, living like a queen and protected by bodyguards. The song had many artists so it wasn’t a surprise that one more artiste gets his scene acting as a Big Boy who is a big careless spender, gambling James Bond style, and of course surrounded by women, in that rare occurrence of a gambler’s streak.

The final scene is a culmination point of all the several Big Boys and Girls that have been featured in the video. It is a celebrity party mimicking the high-class parties from The Great Gatsby. The parties in The Great Gatsby in a lot of ways are an melting pots for ambiguation between the Crook, the Businessman, the Lobbyist (politician). In two words, the personalities at those parties are Big Boys or Big Girls or Shady Figures.

PS: This is among posts that were written several months ago which I dug up and decided to publish.

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Marriage Certification: The Open Legal Man-Hole for Muslims

Marriage is full of surprises, and weddings are cliche, but legally certifying a marriage in Nigeria can be misleading. What follows exposes a prevalent misdirection, so that Muslims, and others with similar issues, don’t fall for the (unintended) booby traps.

Like many traditions, marriage is fundamental to building a sound society for Muslims. For that reason, family law is one of the most prominent section ever-present in books of Islamic law (Fiqh). The Shariah regulates several aspects of the family life through family law. Unfortunately, the constitutional process of certifying Muslim marriages in Nigeria can be misleading; especially due to the officers one encounters. At the risk of stating an irony, Nigerians rely on other Nigerians for much information from directions to locations, to whether President Buhari controls Boko haram, but rarely from officially verified documents and instructions. Not that government agencies make these documents and instructions available.

So you have had a stressful week engaged in your wedding activities. You barely kept your cool to make it through the countless events. You don’t wish to go through another ordeal like this. Relief settles on your mind simply knowing that those last few months of stressful planning are over. Now you know why fairy tales end with “happily ever after”, because there is always a wedding at the end even if the author doesn’t mention it; anything after the stress of wedding seems like “happily ever after”. The Nigerian constitution laughs at you when you feel accomplished that you are married, because it is not legal yet! You need to have a Marriage certificate!

There is hardly any Muslim, faithful to Islam, who would have their marriage regulated by anything other than the Shariah. To be regulated by the Shariah, it is sufficient to have any legal framework that does not contradict the Shariah’s position, or that which allows for Muslims to live according to Shariah. It is a matter of compatibility/accommodation of Shariah rather than exclusively identifying a homogeneous rule-book called Shariah Marriage. Fortunately, Nigerian constitution allows for Muslims to opt to have their marriage legislated by the Shariah. But unfortunately, the Marriage registry staff can be misleading , and often successfully, even if unintended.

Basically, there are two main options to certifying marriages in Nigeria. One is “marriage according to the Act”, and the other is customary (Native Law and Custom) marriage; at least these are the two options we were exposed to. For either, the process begins with obtaining a declaration documents from a court. At this point, the couple is often not aware of the two options for certifying a marriage. So they proceed to the next stage which is the marriage registry. This is where the couple is often presented with the two options to marriage certificate; those that have an idea beforehand probably are just as misinformed as those who are unaware at this point. This second step is also the step of possible misdirection.

Steps to Certifying a Marriage in Nigeria
1. Obtain Marriage Declaration from court
2. Obtain Certificate at Marriage Registry

Do you want blah blah certificate or the flah flah certificate? This is the first question thrown at the couple, or at least the way they hear it. The registry officer who is used to couples being puzzled by the names of the options mentioned, goes on to clarify. If the couple looks Muslim, the officer knows just the right way to break it down to them. Do you want the one-wife certificate or the many-wives certificate? The latter allows for the man to marry more than one wife. The officer might elaborate by saying the one-wife certificate is a more tedious process than the other. All the while with the smile resembling a mischievous smirk. Not all civil servants are devoid of customer service after all.

Actually that is Customer Disservice! Based on an episode I witnessed, when you ask a newly married couple whether the husband would want to take another wife, what do you expect? This is how many Muslims end up taking the option of one-wife certificate. Only a few are bold, or insensitive, enough to go for the many-wives certificate. While polygamy hardly fails to attract interest, that is not the issue at stake when making that decision. By misrepresenting the issue, the registry officer has done a disservice to Muslim couples, probably without intent.

The issue is not whether the marriage can accommodate more wives or not. It is about whether the Shariah court would adjudicate and regulate the marriage, or other courts. The one-wife certificate is actually marriage according to the 1990 Marriage Act, whereas the many-wives marriage is marriage according to customary laws; and Shariah courts fall under customary laws. Marriage according to the Act, which means no Shariah court, also means the marriage would be regulated by other acts like the accompanying 1990 Matrimonial Causes Act which conflicts with the Shariah on matters such as divorce (dissolution of marriage). The 1990 Marriage Act already conflicts with the (default) Shariah in restricting number of wives to one; without a valid justification for sidelining the options provided by the default. Other areas of interest would be the process of re-marrying and child custody, etc.

Basically Muslims are mislead into regulating their marriage using a document that contradicts the Shariah, though unintentionally. Seeing that many Muslims only acquire marriage certificates for official reasons and conveniences, it is no wonder that the many Muslims who have been misdirected to the one-wife certificate are not necessarily affected by the certificate in practice. These same Muslims, follow the Shariah but not via a court, often through family and community. Nonetheless, any of the spouse could insist on taking the other to court for violating stipulations of the marriage regulating acts; which is foreseeable when passions are high and one feels the Shariah is to their disadvantage.

Nigerian Muslim couples, new and old, should be aware of this likely pitfall during marriage certification. Do not be baited into thinking the issue is polygamy, the issue is the regulatory framework of the marriage.


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Anty Bilkisu: For Social Justice & Gender Equity

Anty Bilkisu

Hajiya Bilkisu was Anty Bilkisu to me

And many others like me who lived in


That complain about unstable ecosystem in
Her absence


That lift her up like she did them with
Her presence


That want to endure harsh outside weather to get
Her welcome


That are soothed by the whispers of
Her supplications


That selfishly block a secret not too many notice –
Her radiance


That miss her we seek her by living
Her ideals

Anty Bilkisu - 1 - CoverAnty Bilkisu - 2 - BackAnty Bilkisu - 4 - ContentAnty Bilkisu - 5 - ContentAnty Bilkisu - 6 - ContentAnty Bilkisu - 7 - ContentAnty Bilkisu - 8 - Content

To purchase a copy contact Usman Musa on 0803 286 6545


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