Happy New Year
By Femi Abbas
The appearance of the title of today’s article (HAPPY NEW YEAR) in this column once in a year often looks strange and even sounds odd to most Nigerian readers because it does not come up in January. In Nigeria, like in most other African countries south of the Sahara, the idea of ‘New Year’ is ignorantly believed to be peculiar to January which is the first month of Christian Gregorian calendar. That is the effect of colonial scar on the smooth body of the African continent.
From whichever angle it is viewed, European colonialism has a thick Christian colouration that still portrays African culture in a rainbow of colonial Christian religion and tradition.
Public Holidays in Nigeria
It is a well known fact that out of the 109 days of official religious holidays in Nigeria today, Islamic religion enjoys only five days as public holidays (two days for Eidul-Fitr, two days for Eidul-Adha and one day for Mawlidun-Nabiyy). The remaining 104 days are for Christianity.
At least, it is undisputable that in every one of the 52 weeks in a year, two days (Saturday and Sunday) are conceded to Christianity as religious holidays. From the colonial era until 1972, the official religious holidays in Nigeria did not exceed 57 days. It was in 1972 that General Yakubu Gowon, the then Christian military Head of State, gave Saturday, which was then an official working day, to the Seventh day Adventists, (a Christian denomination), with fiat, as additional Christian worship day. The total population of the Seventh Day Adventists in Nigeria, in that year, was just about 700,000 out of Nigeria’s population of 58.67 million people.
Yet, when the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), was formed four year later (1976), its first assignment was to irritatingly embark on a malicious song of ‘Islamization’ of Nigeria with loud voice, especially whenever a Muslim assumes office as President.
Even at the State level, that monotonous sour song of ‘Islamization’ often gets loudest whenever a Muslim is elected as Governor. And, the hatchet job is invariably done by the Christian dominated media. Incidentally, this media irredentism often originates mostly from the Southwest of the country where the main hub of Nigeria’s media Islamophobia is based, despite the demographic majority of the Muslims in that part of the country.
Why this Article?
The event that motivated the publication of this article today will come up at the Liberty stadium, Ibadan, this coming Sunday in sha’Allah. That event is the celebration of 1443rd Hijrah year, which often comes up on the first day of Muharram, the first month of Islamic year of Hijrah calendar. That is an occasion that is yearly celebrated by about 1.8 billion Muslims around the world, in commemoration of Prophet Muhammad’s triumphant entry into the city of Madinah as the climax of his emigration from Makkah, for safety, following a plot to kill him in his birth place by the pagans of that city, in 622 CE.
The celebration of that event has been on course for almost one and a half millennia.
NACOMYO’s Frontline Role
Thus, with the beginning of 1443rd Hijrah year, the National Council of Muslim Youth Organizations (NACOMY) will be celebrating the victorious day on Sunday. This is without minding the malicious cancelation of that public holiday in Oyo State, for two consecutive years (2019 and 2020) by the Christian Governor of the State, Engineer Seyi Makinde, who is now vigorously championing a crusade against Islam in the State. This development reminds us of the necessity to remember the immediate past Governor of the State, the late Senator Ishaq Abiola Ajimobi who graciously granted Hijrah holiday, officially, on the principle of fairness and equity. We pray the Almighty Allah to repose his soul in eternal bliss. Amin!
In a country like Nigeria, celebration of new Hijrah year is like a coin with two sides. A deformation of one side on that coin neither debases the coin nor renders it invalid.
While, on one side of the proverbial coin, the celebration of this festival brings victorious joy to Muslims, it ironically attracts sadness to the antagonists of Islam. But unknown to those sadists, Islam is like the Sun which aids the ventilation of oxygin to all living organisms and photosynthesizes all plants in the environment. Any blind person may claim not to recognize the existence of the Sun because of his/her inability to see it due to blindness. But such a person cannot deny the scorching effect on his/her head whenever that celestial object fully bulges out of the orbit.
Besides, any sincere observer will notice that this divine religion, called Islam, is like a train. The barking at it by over one trillion dogs can never halt its unstoppable surge.
The Fastest growing Religion
Despite all odds, intrigues, blackmail and evil machinations being constantly and surreptitiously erected on its way, by its antagonists, Islam continues to wax stronger even as it remains the fastest growing religion in the world today. Alhamdu Lillah!
Throughout the 99 years of the British colonial rule in Nigeria (1861-1960), the Southern Muslims were never granted any public holiday to celebrate their festivals. It took Nigeria’s first and only Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, to address that malicious injustice by granting religious holidays officially to Islamic festivals at national level after independence in 1960. Hitherto, the recognized religious festivals that were granted as public holidays by the British colonialists and their immediate Nigerian successors in the Southern part of the country were Easter, Christmas and the first day of the so-called New Year. That was in addition to the weekly holiday every Sunday at that time.
It takes well- educated Muslims to understand the facts stated here and relate them to their religious lives. It is such education that prompted the former Governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola to be the first Nigerian Governor to declare a public holiday for new Islamic year in Osun State in 2013.
That historic declaration by Ogbeni Aregbesola was not only an exhibition of sound Islamic understanding and civility on his part, it was also a clear evidence of dispensation of justice which had for long, been denied to Nigerian Muslims in that State despite their demographic majority. And, was he not frontally attacked and called all sorts of names in the Southwest media for declaring that holiday which he did statutorily? That is Nigeria for you as far as religion is concerned.
Islam has its own calendar called Hijrah calendar. And, like in other calendars of the world, there is a beginning and an end for every Islamic year which consists of 12 months. However, unlike those other calendars, the Islamic calendar, otherwise known as Hijrah calendar, is divinely ordained because it originated from the Almighty Allah who created the universe and sustains it. This is confirmed in chapter 9, verse 36 of the Qur’an as follows: “Surely, the number of months ordained by Allah when He created the heavens and the earth is twelve. Therefore, do not wrong yourselves in them….”.
That verse is also a confirmation of Islam as Allah’s divinely approved religion.
Significance of Hijrah Calendar
The first day of the Hijrah month (1st of Muharram) is one of the most significant days in Islam. Without ‘the great Message of Islam’ Prophet Muhammad (SAW) would not have had any cause to migrate from Makkah to Madinah.
It was that Great Message that compelled him to migrate to Madinah for safety, an incident which eventually paved the way for him to become the greatest man that ever lived.
Benefits of Hijrah Calendar
Basically, the Prophet’s migration (Hijrah) from Makkah to Madinah, institutionalized three important aspects of Muslim lives in that city. These are social, economic and political aspects of life. When the Qur’anic revelations started coming to the Prophet (SAW), in Makkah, in 610 CE, he devoted a period of twelve (12) years to the incubation of the principles of Islam and their implementations in the minds of believers at a time when no pattern of a collective life, based on any true religious concept, could be presented to the world. As a result, the status of the individual Muslims in Makkah at that time gave rise to the misconception that Islam, or rather, believing in the mission of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was a personal affair which concerned only the Hereafter and had nothing to do with people’s collective life in the present world.
It was only after the Prophet’s migration (Hijrah) that people began to see Islam clearly as a total way of life which paid attention to, and reformed every facet of human existence. It then became evident that Islam was the divine religion that gave mankind directions regarding almost every moment of a believer’s conscious life. Hijrah also enabled the Arabs, in particular, to see what a Muslim’s matrimonial home should be in a Muslim society as against what it was in the days of ignorance. Hence, it was only after the Prophet’s migration that the world could see the aspect of human social decency and decorum prescribed by Allah through Islam.
More details about Hijrah calendar will be published in this column in a foreseeable future in sha’Allah.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!