By Abubakar Abdurrahaman Dodo and Amina Alhassan
May 6 2016
Dr Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips a Jamaican-Canadian Islamic scholar
Dr Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips a Jamaican-Canadian Islamic scholar based in Qatar has established an online Islamic university that offers courses in various fields of human endeavour. He was recently invited to Nigeria by an Islamic organisation, Light of the Umma. He responded to questions by Daily Trust reporters in an interview. Excerpts: -
What would you say about Donald Trump, most especially how he tries to denigrate Muslims in the US?
Donald Trump is ready to say anything to mock himself and catch the attention of the media. What he is saying is just manipulation and exploitation. He is manipulating the media to try and gain support for himself.
In a country where the adherents of the two religions - Islam and Christianly - live with one another, a Muslim group called Izala organised a conference on how to fight terrorism jointly with the Muslim World League, owing to which some people have abandoned them. What do you think is the way forward?
Well, if you have identified terrorism with Islam, that is a problem and it has become an issue of what means you have to contain the situation. One has to find out if Christians in Nigeria ever committed any act of terrorism. Therefore religion should not form an issue in dealing with terrorism. So the point is that religion should not be an issue in dealing with terrorism. If there is support from the Christian organisation, it is quite legitimate for Nigeria to participate. If there is any Christian group fighting terrorism, Nigeria should participate along with them. Also, if there is a Muslims group committed to fighting terrorism, then Nigeria should participate and it is legitimate.
Is there any Islamic perspective on giving women the same opportunity as the men? And recently, a bill on gender equality failed to scale through at Nigeria’s National Assembly. What would you say about these issues?
I think women should be given the same opportunity men are given. You know, Islam does not create a line of distinction between males and females; between the right to acquire education, wealth, socio-economic advancement etc. Thus, the structure of the family is given much priority; women are empowered to be there for the children. But still if the woman chooses to work in an area which is not harmful in the society, of course in marriage setting, where the woman works outside the house, this is something in which she needs her husband to give her permission. This is the way the Muslim family is organised. The final authority in the home is the husband.
Some would say, but the man goes out to work, why should the woman ask for permission from the man to work? This is not gender equality here right! Man is saddled with the responsibility of looking after the woman; he is assigned to provide all that is needed at home. And that is the home in which his children will be raised. So he has the right to assign the woman to look after the children and the home. So if she has decided to work, it should be in an area that is beneficial to the society and family. Here she can work with the consent of her husband.
The critics of the Islamic inheritance law do not see justice that a female be given half of a male’s share. Can you tell us the wisdom behind this?
When it comes to inheritance, the law says the man gets twice the share of a woman. When you divide the inheritance you give a portion to the female and you give a similar portion to a male. The male is among others also required to look after the female. So that additional portion given to the man is based on additional responsibility given to the male. But in a society like America and the UK, where the male is not required to look after the woman; each one is on their own. Then in such a society if you say divide the inheritance 50-50 it is fair since both males and females would take care of themselves or look for a living independently. But in our society it is fair because of the additional responsibility of looking after the female by the male.
What would you say about Nigerian Muslim-Christian co-existence?
Let’s look at it this way, if the reality of Nigeria that the majority of Nigerians are Muslims then the prospect of ruling the country under Islamic law is quite reasonable. But if that is not the case that the majority are Christians, then Muslims don’t have the right to impose their religious, economic and political system on the rest of the country.
Muslims ruled Spain and India for hundreds of years, people’s rights were protected and they lived in harmony. Where people use the religion to get votes, but they are not really just leaders, governors, then they are exploiting religion.
What should be the concern of the people is the individual character; is this man a just ruler or administrator, whether a Christian or a Muslim, that should not in the end matter. This is because what guides the society is justice not playing to one religious camp or another.
What measures are you taking to ensure that students of your school do not fall prey to extremist ideas?
First and foremost, in our online university the majority of courses are not specifically Islamic. It started with the Shari’ah. May be when we had my previous interview (with Daily Trust), at that time the other departments had not began, but now, we have Islamic banking and finance, education, psychology, business administration and information technology.
We have expanded the university. It is not specifically all in all Islamic. However, the Shari’a is still there and whatever course in the university is taught starts from the Islamic perspective. So accurate transfer of knowledge, that is actually unique about it, is taught by people who have solid foundation in Islamic teaching.
So transfer of knowledge with regard to Islam is given by people with the correct background of religious understanding which will prevent them from extremism disposition. This is because they are teaching authentic Islam.
The message taught by Islam is moderation. That is authentic. But if you are teaching a version or sectarianism Islam teaches us to take the middle course.
Many of our markets have burnt down unfortunately Muslims in this part of the world do not know about Takaful. Do you agree that taking Islamic insurance, known as Takaful can help solve the problem of fire in our markets?
I have heard about fires that destroy markets in Nigeria, and I even asked whether there is Islamic Insurance or Takaful. Some people were even reported to have kept huge amounts of money in their shops. They don’t know anything about Islamic banking and Takaful.
Well it is a failure on the part of the knowledgeable in the society who should establish an Islamic cooperative that will ensure the protection of people in the various professions. This was started by Umar ibn Khattab, where he took all the professionals and instructed them to put money into the central fund, which is there to protect people from any man made calamity. All the people selling shoes and others were assigned to put money into a fund, which will be kept. They were shoe sellers, makers and repairers, so that if anything happened to any of their businesses, the money would be taken from the fund to help them get back on their feet.
This is where the concept of Takaful comes from. From the decision made by Umar bn al-Khattab Takaful came into existence.