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Monday, 24 July 2017


The month of Ramadan every year since Dr. Ahmad Gumi returned from studies after his more than 20 years sojourn between Egypt and Saudi Arabia in search of Islamic knowledge is always a time of intense debate on issues of Islamic jurisprudence and others bordering on theology. Oftentimes, these debates are sparked up by Dr. Gumi who uses the pulpit of the famous Sultan Bello Mosque Kaduna to fire salvos at those he tag as self-taught and exuberant “neo-salafis” and “anti-madhhabs”. He accuses them of shortsightedness and lack of grasp of the intricacies and technicalities of fiqh- Islamic jurisprudence; he often lays the blame on their following of “newfangled” ideas of the great scholar of hadith Shaikh Muhammad Naasiruddeen al-Albaani (Allah’s mercy be upon his soul) leaving opinions of the celebrated jurist and the scholar of Madina Imaam Maalik bn Anas (Allah’s mercy be upon his soul) who was closer to the time of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him and his household), lived and died in Madina and had a firsthand access to what was bequeathed to the Madinan Taabi’een by the companions of the Prophet. To him, Imam Maalik’s opinions are no less than the Sunnah; they were based on authentic chains of narration to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him and his household) or his companions. Imam Maalik couldn’t have missed it! But expectedly, he (Gumi) doesn’t go unchallenged.
Sadly however, his challengers are oftentimes hero-worshipers and venerators of other fallible mortals, who hide under the garb of salafiism- an Islamic ideology where all affairs of religion are based upon evidences from Qur’aan and the Sunnah according to the understanding of the first three generations of Muslims. Most of them, either self-taught or tutored by self-taught scholars, are young, exuberant and uncouth in their approach when debating fellow Muslims, branding views of others on jurisprudential issues (of controversy even among early generation of Muslim scholars or companions of the prophet) as innovation or misguidance. And theirs sometimes are weak or strange opinions, only famous in our time. These and others are the hallmark of the Madkhalists (followers of a Saudi-based scholar Dr. Rabee’ al-Madkhali famous for his polemics and whose students are notorious for deriding respected religious figures on flimsy grounds) and some Albaanists who see as Sunnah only that which bears Shaikh al-Albaani’s seal. 
But Shaikh al-Albaani wasn’t just an ordinary person. He was a scholar of great repute whose works are pointers to his depth of knowledge and sincerity.  He dedicated his life to sifting the Sunnah of the Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) of weak and fabricated reports and was amongst those that sacrificed their all in safeguarding the frontiers of Islam from ideological attacks of innovators and extremists. His was like what a defender would do when an attacking striker seeks to score a goal against his team. Al-Albaani would block proponents of innovation from corrupting the religion as much as he could. This earned him respect among his peers; and even his adversaries acknowledged his scholarship. But Shaikh al-Albaani, like Imaam Maalik and other great Imaams, was not infallible. He shouldn’t be taken as infallible as most of his admirers tend to do subtly. Attributing infallibility to scholars has only been prominent in recent times in the circles of the Madkhalists among the Salafists. One of them had once posted online that Rabee’ al-Madkhali is infallible in Manhaj- Islamic methodology; while they (the Madkhalists) are almost unanimous in testing true allegiance to Sunnah by love for Dr. Rabee’ al-Madkhali. You shouldn’t then expect rejoinders coming from people of such inclinations to be far-reaching in dispelling the misfirings of a personage of Dr. Gumi’s status, basking largely in his father’s glory. But who is Dr. Gumi?
Dr. Ahmad is the son of the celebrated Maliki jurist, an expert in Qur’aanic exegesis and a former Grand Khadi of Northern Nigeria, late Shaikh Abubakar Mahmud Gumi. In the words of the late Danmasanin Kano, Dr. Yusufu Maitama Sule (in the documentary on the life and times of Shaikh Abubakar Mahmud Gumi “The Selfless Reformer”), “Shaikh Abubakar Gumi was a learned man, a scholar, one of the leading mallams in this part of the country, if not in the whole country. He was a teacher- a very good teacher; a preacher- a fearless preacher; and he was a rebel. He rebelled against injustice; he rebelled against anything he thought was not in accordance with the teachings of Islam. He was stubborn, but his is what I called principled stubbornness; if he believed in a thing, he would stick to it. He was a great man, a great Nigerian, one of the greatest Nigerians that ever lived. Shaikh Abubakar Gumi was a star; he was a star of his time. Shaikh Abubakar (is) frequently likened to a reformer, but like all reformers, he appeared suddenly, illuminated the firmaments and disappeared as suddenly as he appeared”. This is Ahmad’s father as succinctly captured by the late Danmasani. Dr. Ahmad is the most vocal and famous of the Gumi family- a family of medical doctors, army officers and other professionals. He has vast experience being schooled in both modern sciences and Islamic education. According to his own account at a session with Malam Nura Mujaahid after this year’s Ramadan tafseer, after earning a degree in Medicine and Surgery from ABU Zaria, he joined the Nigerian Army where he spent only six years before resigning voluntarily and leaving for Egypt (his late father facilitated his travel to and study at Egypt) and later Saudi Arabia where he spent at least two decades in active study at the famous Ummul Quraa University, Makka, where he bagged a PhD in Usul al-Fiqh (the principles of Islamic jurisprudence). Dr. Gumi is fearless, stubborn but intelligent. He wouldn’t shift grounds on whatever he believes in and would say it loud and clear not minding whose ox is goad.  His interventions before the last general elections frequently drew criticisms and generated hot debates in the polity. This is Dr. Gumi, the man yet again at the centre of another hot debate in the Sunni circle.
This year’s Ramadaan tafseer, like every other one, had its own share of Dr. Gumi’s attacks on the so-called “anti-madhaabs”. This year however, he was taken up by many senior scholars and some young balanced students of knowledge. Prominent amongst them are Shaikh Dr. Muhammad Sani Umar Rijiyar-lemo, Shaikh Dr. Ibrahim Muhammad Jalo Jalingo, Shaikh Dr. Mansur Ibrahim Sokoto and Shaikh Aliyu Muhammad Sani Misau (a PhD student at University of Madina, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia). Dr. Rijiyar-lemo’s was largely through his Ramadaaniyaat series on social media. Being an academic and a scholar gifted with words and candor, his brief essays easily redirected straying minds to the straight and narrow path of safety. Dr. Jalo did the same, but with longer posts detailing features of those that have held similar views Gumi is spreading and how they were classified. Dr. Mansur’s were largely admonitions during his tafseer sessions. Aliyu Sani’s interventions however through his well-researched, detailed and point-by-point rejoinders have been the most efficient in dispelling some of the spurious doubts Dr. Gumi throws to the public. Aliyu Sani is one young intelligent fellow that, unlike most of the youths in his age group, has a captivating way of keeping you spell-bound to his writings and analysis (always loaded with verses, authentic hadiths, logical reasoning and superior arguments by scholars) and clearing every doubt you may have taken as evidence in religion. The fluidity of his articles too is unbeatable. 
Gumi has clearly stirred the hornet’s nest and for a long time from now, we shall be reading and hearing more and more rejoinders and intellectual exchanges between him (and his supporters) and the core Salafists. To this time, the vibrant youthful Shaikh, Musa Yusuf Assadussunnah has engaged Gumi’s thoughts and assertions in some public lectures and had even challenged him to a debate on all the issues he has raised in his Tafseer, but the two parties couldn’t agree to have the debate. It seems to me, based on his statements during his Tafseer sessions referring to his challengers as exuberant ignorant youths, Gumi feels he should be debated by senior scholars, perhaps a PhD holder like himself. And please, don’t tell me certificates are just papers. They do matter sometimes!  
Interestingly, the Nigerian Salafi circle is saturated with world-class scholars who have excelled in both academic and traditional Islamic sphere capable of handling the situation at hand. This is now a time to test their intimidating qualifications and vast experience. But more important, the Ummah has to be saved from ideological and theological confusion, and scholars have been divinely appointed to do the job. The frontline should be manned by the experienced so that the battle is not lost.
And Allah knows best.  
Abu Sultaan ibn Usman.

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