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Inside Kaduna’s unusual religious sect


Inside Kaduna’s unusual religious sect


Inside Kaduna’s unusual religious sect
Gawsiyya Sheikh Isma’il Yusha’u, right, with Malam Salisu Abubakar, sect leader in Makarfi

.We’re monitoring group – Police
.I was chosen by Allah – Sheikh Yusha’u

Following the alarm raised by Kaduna State governor Nasir el-Rufai in a recent interview on the emergence of a new religious sect in the state, Daily Trust traced the new group.

Nasir el-Rufai, Kaduna State governor, in a recent interview, said a new Islamic sect with headquarters in Makarfi local government area of the state had emerged. The governor said he was alarmed because the sect was recruiting youths, who if not properly guided, can become problematic. Not only that, el-Rufai said, allowing such type of groups to operate without a law guiding their activities usually results to disruption of peace. The statement from the number one citizen of a state like Kaduna of course caused concern among not only citizens of the state, but Nigeria in general.

However, Daily Trust’s investigation revealed that the spiritual leader of the sect is living in a remote village on the outskirts of Zaria. When our correspondent visited Makarfi for the first time, the leader of the sect in the area was not on hand to speak. On a second visit, Malam Salisu Abubakar declined to speak, saying that the right person to do so is the overall leader of the sect.

In company of the Makarfi sect leaders, Daily Trust took a ride to Madinatu Zaria. Named after Madina, in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Madinatu Zaria is where the spiritual leader of the Gawsiyya sect resides. It is an isolated settlement that only members of the sect dwell in.

Madinatu Zaria is located between Zaria’s ancient gate of Kofar Gayan and Amana Mai Kasuwa town in Igabi local government area of Kaduna State. To get there from Kofar Gayan takes a 20-kilometre journey through the villages of Yaskwaki, Mangi and Turunku. At Siddi village, a traveller to Madinatu Zaria diverts from the main road to take a bush path that would lead him to the settlement, which is another journey of about five kilometres.

Because of the distance and the condition of the narrow un-tarred road that passes through the bush path, this reporter arrived Madinatu Zaria when it was already dusk, as such the cleric and his followers had commenced their Magrib prayers. Escorted by over 100 faithful, Sheikh Isma’il Bn Sayyadi Yusha’u emerged from the sect’s gigantic Juma’at mosque, built with mud. Amidst Zikr (loud praises of Allah), Sheikh Yusha’u retired to his seat at a special location outside the mosque. Immediately, the evening Wazifa (group recitation of Allah’s praises) began. After about 40 minutes of Wazifa, the Sheikh suddenly thundered: “Where is the journalist?”

While the Wazifa was going on, it was observed that the cleric commands unusual loyalty and respect among his followers, most of whom remove their shoes about 50 metres away from he sits a large mat made of used sacks. This reporter, summoned, followed suit before moving close to the Sheikh. The faithful had all removed their caps and sat attentively, similar to the manner which palace assistants and counsellors sit in a typical Hausa palace.

Sheikh Yusha’u explained that the Gawsiyya sect is not a new one as alleged by the Kaduna State governor, and other Nigerians. He said they are adherents of the Tijjaniyya sect, and their leaders are Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), Sheikh Ahmadu Tijjani, a 19th Century North African cleric, and Sheikh Ibrahim Nyass, a 20th Century Senegalese cleric. “I am not an alien in Zaria. I was born and bred at Kaho Zaria to the family of Sayyadi Yusha’u and Sayyada Hindatu about 50 years ago. I started my Qur’anic education in Kaho in Zaria city and I completed my Qur’anic education in Igabi. I have been to many places in this country in search of knowledge of Islamic jurisprudence before I finally settled in the school of Sheikh Atiku in Sanka, Kano.”

“After the demise of Sheikh Atiku, I met one Sufi (saint) by name Dalhat Bn Dahiru Al-Kanawee. It was in his school that I learnt many things about Tijjaniyya. After my sojourn in Kano, I returned to Zaria where I met Malam Usman Na Malam Na Iya. I learnt many things about Islamic jurisprudence, the science of Hadeeth and Qur’anic commentary (Tafseer) in Malam Na Iya’s school. After my pursuit for knowledge, I began teaching where I started with Tafseer and these continued up to the time I was divinely anointed as Gawsiy,” Sheikh Yusha’u said.

Gawsiy, according to Sheikh Yusha’u, is a divine anointment that usually takes place every century. He said Allah chooses one of his servants to lead Muslims globally. He said before his anointment as Gawsiy, the last one that the world had was Sheikh Ibrahim Nyass of Senegal. He said age, wealth or other social status is not prerequisite to the attainment of the position. He added that since Allah has anointed him as the new Gawsiy, Muslims all over the world are obliged to accept and give their allegiance to him.
On the issue of coming up with a new religion, Sheikh Yusha’u said his background and the sect’s activities are proof to the fact that they are not introducing a new faith. He told Daily Trust: “I teach the books that are known in Islam, like Sahihul Bukhari, Sahihul Muslim, Muwadda Malik, among many others. I have written many books on different aspects of Islamic jurisprudence, science of Hadeeth and Islamic poems. I just told you some of my teachers and where I was born, then tell me how our religion is new. If you want to know my actual creed, you can go to the books I wrote because they are in the public domain. We are not hiding anything.”

“All the people that are spreading these rumours are mischief-makers. If they are jealous about my position as the new Gawsiy, they are fighting Allah, because I was not the one that gave myself this position. It is not my power, age or wealth that gave me this position of Gawsiy,” Sheikh Yusha’u said.
On the issue of time for prayers, where the sect is said to differ with other Muslims, the cleric said they only observe their prayers in accordance to what is stated in the Qur’an and Sunna of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). He said according to the teachings of the Prophet (pbuh), times for prayers are not static, they change.

Sheikh Yusha’u said: “This is what we follow. We don’t observe our prayers at a single time. For example, the Prophet (pbuh) has directed us to observe Zuhr (afternoon) prayer when the sun cools down. During hot weather like the present condition, the sun only begins to cool down from 3pm upward. In order to follow the directive of the Prophet, this is why we sometime observe our Zuhr prayer around 3-4pm while Asr (evening) prayer around 5-6 pm. We rotate time for prayers depending on the weather. Therefore, anybody who says we are observing Zuhr prayer by 11:00am is not telling the truth. Our doors are open for anyone to come and see what we are doing. We don’t have anything to hide. Our sect is Tijjaniyya and our school of thought is that of Malik.”

Sheikh Yusha’u explained that there was a time he was invited to the palace of the Emir of Zazzau where he was given an opportunity to defend the position of his sect before some selected scholars. He said the discussion ended peacefully, where the scholars understood his position and what he believed in. Apart from the sect’s settlement that was named Madinatu Zaria, he said he has followers all over Nigeria and beyond. He said Makarfi is just one of the many branches of the sect.

In Makarfi, Daily Trust observed that the sect is running two conventional Islamiyya schools with students that cut across different ages and genders, with an approximate population of about 200 students.
Some residents of Makarfi interviewed by our correspondent said with the exception of the time for prayers that the sect differs with majority of Muslims, they don’t have any problem with the group, as they have never exhibited any tendency for violence.

Chief Protocol Officer to the Emir of Zazzau, Alhaji Abubakar Ladan, confirmed that the cleric was once invited to the palace for the emir and scholars to have a clear understanding of what Sheikh Yusha’u preaches.

Area Commander in charge of Zaria Police Headquarters, Muhammad D. Shehu, said the police are aware of the sect and are monitoring their activities. He however urged all and sundry to be vigilant on the activities of all religious groups and report any suspicious movement to the relevant authorities.
As Sheikh Yusha’u continues to develop his Madina, and more followers join him, the prayer of residents of Zaria and neighbouring villages of Madinatu Zaria is for the sect not to transform into a violent one which would disrupt the peace of Kaduna State, and Nigeria at large.

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