On Tuesday, The Standard ran a banner headline RAWDATUL MAJAALIS CALLS ON GOVERNMENT TO END SUPREME ISLAMIC COUNCIL DISPUTE. Rawda which represents the majaalis (the centuries-old traditional centres of Islamic teaching and propagation) and imams have been locked in bitter dispute with the main Supreme Islamic Council which it regards as being controlled by exponents of the Wahhabi leaning ideologues trained mainly in universities in Saudi Arabia. After SIC repeatedly thwarted Rawda’s attempts to take over the council, the latter set up parallel Supreme Islamic Council headed by Sheriff Muhammed Nano Hydara, son of the venerable Sheriff Kebba Hydara of Brufut. So we have the curious case of two Supreme Islamic Councils shepherding one flock of Muslims in the country since 2017.
The two councils have engaged in unedifying quarrels and name calling in columns of newspapers, radio airwaves, on television and on the various online media platforms. It has been ugly and embarrassing for a majority of Muslims in the country. The leaders of these two councils are men of timbre and calibre who are looked up to by the two million Muslims in this country as spiritual guides and exegists of Allah’s words on earth. To see them engage in public spats as authors and subjects of bellicose rhetoric is disheartening. It is a tragedy that this fitna has not been resolved to this day.
That is why the statement by Alhaji Baba Drammeh, the president of Rawda, in The Standard is of great significance. It is a call to unity in the ummah, an extension of the hand of brotherhood. We believe Drammeh was speaking on behalf of the entire membership of Rawdatul Majaalis boldly and clearly when he stated: “It is my considered opinion that the competent Gambian authorities should call for a general Islamic conference to which all the stakeholders of Islam in the country could be invited with a view to discussing matters of concern to the citizenry.”
He added: “In this regard, they should endeavour to provide an enabling environment under which all stakeholders would feel obliged to contribute to the efforts of bringing people together and finding ways and means of unifying divergent views on Islam in the quest for peace and national unity. There are common grounds on which we could all meet and discuss… We all believe in one God, in the same prophet and messengers of Allah with the Prophet Muhammad, being their leader and seal, in the same Holy Qur’an and the same sunnah of the Messenger of Allah, then we have more that unites us than divides us.”
The minister responsible for religious affairs Alhaji Musa Drammeh and the president’s adviser on religious matters Alhaji Dembo Bojang, should take cue and rise up from their inaction by immediately summoning both parties to a reconciliation dialogue where they should serve as fair but firm arbiters. If these two men of good standing bring half the fervour and passion they expend on NPP matters to this reconciliation enterprise, they will achieve a breakthrough within 72 hours. The warnings are all there for whoever cares to see. This standoff between the two councils has the potential to degenerate into a violent conflict that could imperil the security of the nation. Therefore it is in the self-interest of the government to put a high premium on efforts to secure an immediate resolution of the dispute.
Allah told us in the Holy Qur’an: “The believers are nothing else than brothers (in Islam). So make reconciliation between your brothers, and fear Allah, that you may receive mercy.”(Qur’an, 49:10). In another place He commanded: “And hold fast all together by the rope which Allah (stretches out for you) and be not divided among yourselves, and remember with gratitude Allah’s favor on you; for ye were enemies and He joined your hearts in love so that by His grace ye became brethren; and ye were on the brink of the pit of fire and He saved you from it. Thus doth Allah make his signs clear to you: that ye may be guided” (Qur’an, 3:103).
Our Messenger is quoted in Sahih Muslim as saying: his Hadiths: “The similitude of believers in regard to mutual love, affection, and fellow-feeling is that of one body; when any limb of it aches, the whole body aches, because of sleeplessness and fever.”
As we can see from the above, both our Creator and our guide have laid great stress upon the unity among Muslim brothers.