Boko Haram: What would Nana Asmau say?

Boko Haram has egregiously violated fundamental tenants of Islam.   They’ve bombed churches and Muslim critics as they continue to wreak havoc Boko_haram1in Nigeria . Recently, Boko Haram has added another deplorable act to their long list of atrocities, – the cowardly kidnapping of female students while they were in school! A poem from a female  Islamic scholar Nana Asmau entitled,”Be Sure of God’s Truth”  is very relevant today.  In it Nana Asmau powerfully writes,” Those who disrupt family harmony are nothing but firewood to burn, Be Sure of God’s Truth.” Though claiming to represent Islamic interest,  Boko Haram has forgotten God’s truth by completely disrupting family harmony stripping female students away from their family.  The family of these kidnapped women have been earnestly protesting,”bring back our girls” to no avail. In reality,  rather it be the incompetent Nigerian government or the “Islamist”  organization Boko Haram, they both fundamentally represent two sides of the same useless extreme.  They both are extremist groups, the Nigerian government represents the capitalist extreme;  as its leaders are mainly western puppets who have been given access to oil, even going as far as to remove Nigerian people from their land to give corporations more access to resources. The organization Boko Haram represents  a reactionary organization with a bankrupt ideology.

Nigeria is a fundamentally a western neo-colony. In the Niger Delta, Shell Oil was allowed to accumulate oil from their lands without any of it Boko_Haram_930039119going to the needs of the people. Large environmental destruction were caused by Shell Oil, hurting the food source of locals, resulting in malnutrition. The government is largely corrupt and paid by Shell Oil. Ken Saro-Wiva, who organized non-violent protests, was subsequently arrested by the Nigerian government who works hand in hand with Shell Oil..The Nigerian government has increasingly been dealing with corruption as a result of neo colonial regimes supported by the west. Many politicians squander money – the Gowon administration, the Shagari administration, the Buhrari administration, and Abache administration all squandered the wealth of the people and their policies led to massive social problems. It is the inequities of the Nigeria society, which breed violent extremist groups such as Boko Haram as noted by the Nigerian univerty professor Chris Kwaja,”religious dimensions of the conflict have been misconstrued as the primary driver of violence when, in fact, disenfranchisement and inequality are the root cause.”  The neo -colonial media then utilizes the antics of Boko Haram, to demonize Islam and promote the flawed belief that islam oppress women.  However, the media never focuses on capitalist extremism  when the previously existing Islamic societies in Nigeria with a strong tradition of female scholars was destroyed by the British Empire.    The media  never focuses on   “capitalist extremism”  in Nigeria when Shell Oil places profits above human lives?  Nor do they give media attention to capitalist extremism in Africa  when Shell Oil orchestrated the assassination of Ken Saro Wiwa? It is these social conditions which give birth to organizations such as Boko Haram. Abdulkarim Mohammed a senior researcher on  Nigeria notes

“Boko Haram is essentially the fallout of frustration with corruption and the attendant social malaise of poverty and unemployment… The young generation sees how [the nation’s resources] are squandered by a small bunch of self-serving elite which breeds animosity and frustration, and such anger is ultimately translated into violent outbursts.”

This is not to excuse Boko Haram’s actions, what they have done is despicable and none of their antics can be justified from Islamic texts.These conflicts must be looked at holistically and western imperialism in these areas must be condemned. Malcolm Fabiyi, make an excellent point on Boko Haram noting:

  Some inconsistencies in your position on education need to be addressed. Your discussion with journalists was carried out by mobile phone, a technology developed by “western education.” You use improvised explosive devices that incorporate timer mechanisms developed by western education. These explosives derive their destructive power from violent chemical reactions and exothermic processes that have been tamed only through a deep knowledge of chemistry and physics. The cars that you load your bombs in are powered by an internal combustion engine developed from thermodynamic principles which we understand only because of “western education.” The rifles that you carry, the camera that you use to record your messages, the computers on which you type and process your messages, the internet that allows you to reach the entire world with your views, the printers that publish your positions, the compact disks and thumb drives that you use in sending your messages – all these are products of the western education that you claim to despise.

educating-muslim-women-the-west-african-legacy-of-nana-asma-u-1793-1864Lastly, Boko Haram claims to be reviving the legacy of Uthman Dan Fodio. This is outrageous,  in actuality Boko Haram like British  imperialists of the past are actively working to destroy his legacy. The dogmatic belief that all western education is forbidden halts one’s ability to spread knowledge which is obligatory in Islam. It should be noted that the son of Uthman Dan Fodio, Sultan Mohammed was an avid reader of Euclid’s text on mathematics and other Greek classics despite them coming from outside the Muslim World. Uthman Dan Fodio’s daughter, Nana Asmau encouraged the women of her society to actively seek knowledge writing, “In Islam, it is a religious duty to seek knowledge. Women may leave their homes freely for this.” Yet  in Nigeria today, women leaving their homes to pursue their studies can result in brutal kidnapping by a senseless group  ironically claiming that they want to revive  her father’s legacy!


caliphsisterInterestingly enough, In “Be Sure of God’s Truths”,  Nana Asmau   condemns the rape of female prisoners of war and sex slavery which Boko Haram has actively participated in. In the society that Uthman Dan Fodio established, women played an active role in politics, scholarship, and education.  Women  lived within a safe enviroment unlike in modern day Nigeria with Boko haram terrorizing women . Speaking the tradition of female scholars in Sokoto, Jean Boyd writes, “Asma’u was a pearl on a string of women’s scholarship that extended throughout the Muslim world. This chain of women scholars originated long before Asma’u’s lifetime and stretched over a wide geographic region from the Middle East to West Africa.” However, Boko haram has barbarically kidnapped these studious women during their studies completely disrupted family harmony and damaging Uthman Dan Fodio’s legacy. Both Boko Haram and the Nigerian Government represent two corrupt extremes, and the Nigerian people deserve a better alternative and that alternative is to be found in the life of Nana Asmau.