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Malam YUSUF Olaolu ALI, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, (SAN), simplicity personified, Alumnus of the golden era of MSSN and head of Ghalib Chambers, contribute chapters to various legal publications and published articles in fields including litigation and commercial law. He prosecutes cases for state governments in Nigeria, high-net-worth individuals, corporate and institutional clients. He has over 30 intellectual articles published in learned journals and contributed chapters to many books. Above all, Islam defines his actions.

In this interview to honour his senior in the MSSN, days, Asiwaju Liad Tella He says, “Islam in Nigeria is receding because of Muslims of today slacks”. Excerpts

 What is your opinion of Islam and Muslims of today?

I think the situation today is very akin to what a Muslim writer once said while visiting France. “I got to France, I saw Islam but no Muslims but in my country, I saw Muslims but no Islam”. Today in the world there are more Muslims than adherents of Islam; Nigeria is not an exception! Muslims of today have abandoned pristine Islam and discarded the Quran unlike our forebearers. They now behave as if they do not have Islam. What I am saying, in essence, is that it is like Islam is in recession in Nigeria and we need to do all that we can to stem the tide.  Unfortunately, we have all abandoned the means to do that; Knowledge acquisition. Islam is knowledge-based religion. The moment Muslims abandons the seeking for knowledge that was where the recession started. Most of the aqeeda being propagated today are from people who do not have deep knowledge about Islam, by people who apparently do not understand the basis of Islam, rely mostly on writings of others and some of those writings, unfortunately, were by enemies of Islam, especially in the late 70s to  80s. Abandonment of knowledge is prime in the issues that have drawn Nigerian Muslims backward. I think we should try to retrace our steps and go back to knowledge-based Islam.

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How can we achieve that?

Well, all of us are stakeholders, parents, teachers, society and Islamic societies. If you follow the history of the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria, since 1954 that it started; you will see clearly that early members were a set of youths who were propelled to try to use methods that could be scientifically proved to spread Islam. we must go back to those days when Islam was like a mass movement in our country when the practices of Islam was such that it attracted every non-Muslim and it was able to sustain and retain Muslims. Then in this country, at that time MSSN was seen as a force by all and sundry and succeeded to have spread knowledge-based Islam, but today that is not the case. Hope is not lost, If we all can give appropriate education to ourselves and our children, through the use of the internet, mass media and so on and so forth. , instead of our children to just use social media for the wrong things they can use the platform of social media to propagate Islam.

What are those ideas in the 80s that you felt cause today’s problem?

Let me mention two key ones. Tagging and promotion of trivialities. The Prophet (SAW) said: “it is haram to call anybody who utters the Kalimah a Kaafir”. But many were tagged as that because of mere differences in mundane things like If one does not put on a cap at prayers and if one does not wear a turban. This tagging by people who felt anybody who was not behaving or not doing things they thought should be done as a kaafir, shows lack of knowledge about Islam and  Knowledge about cultural differences of people of the world. There are cultures where people don’t put on caps and they will have to practice Islam and there are non-Muslims who wears caps and turbans, for example, the Sikhs and Christians Kings like The King of Jos who is not a Muslim.  Secondly, they promoted trivial things to the detriment of important things particularly ethnicity and divisibility, over the oneness of the Muslim Ummah. Allah admonishes “we have created you into races, into tribes, so that you can know yourselves”, it is not for division. These two: tagging of others as kafir and divisive tendencies change Islam and Muslims of today to be far from Islam of the olden days.

What are your opinions on Asiwaju Liadi Tella?

Well, let me start by saying that Alhaji Liadi Tella was the generation ahead of our own generation in the MSSN. So our relationship dated back to the 70s.  When you relate with him it will be apparent that he has a God-given leadership quality that can propel people and bring out the best in them in terms of religious or even mundane activities. Similarly, he is a committed professional, a good family man and community leader. Of course, a loyal person, loyal to friends, to subordinate to superiors and to any cause he believed in. For instance, he stood with the ambition of late Bashorun MKO Abiola till the end even despite the kind of temptation that was offered to him to jump ship and dump MKO. He ignored them all even at the risk of his economic well-being. That is a very rare thing in many people.

What would be your expectation now that he is made Asiwaju Musulumi of Iwo land?

 I think he should be doing more of the good things we knew of him. This new call, I see it as a call to serve the whole community, serve the Muslims, serve humanity and serve Allah which is the most important. So I challenge him that he should use the position to promote the ideals of Islam. Although the community has done its duty by inviting him to come and take this exalted position, the community should also be ready to lessen his burden by doing things that will promote Harmony and Concord and give him maximum support so that he could deliver on the mandate expected of him as the Asiwaju.

Alhamdulillah you have been exemplary in conduct and character what is the driven force?

At all times I tried to remind myself that I am a Muslim before any other thing.  I put the scale of Islam over and above everything I do and it is the acid test for what I do and if it does pass through the test, I thank Allah for it but if it does not, I try to moderate those faults.  Of course, I am human I have a lot of faults as a human being. Perfection belongs to only Allah but I feel the easiest way to remain focused as a Muslim is to remember that whatever you are, you are a creature of Allah and that Islam should be the basis for measurement of what you do or what you fail to do.

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