From obscurity, Leah Sharibu has been thrust upon the consciousness of mankind globally. Like a saint, she who was little known outside her immediate family in her time of freedom has become a worldwide phenomenon due to her captivity. Leah, who turned 15 during the week, was one of the 110 teenage school girls abducted by the Al-Barnawi faction of Boko Haram insurgents from a government school in Dapchi town, Yobe State, in insurgency-ravaged North-East Nigeria, in February this year. However, the joy that heralded the negotiated release of 105 girls a month later was stifled when Leah Sharibu was not among those released. The reason for her continuous stay in captivity was on the basis of her professed Christian faith, which she wasn’t ready to renounce for Islam.
This display of extraordinary courage and tenacity of faith in God by Leah Sharibu, in the face of continuous captivity and possible martyrdom, is what has transformed her into a global icon of the Christian faith. She was born into a minority Christian community in a predominantly Muslim region but her faith was so strong that she was uninfluenced by environmental, social and peer pressure to convert to Islam. Her faith is also so strong that the teenager refuses to denounce Christianity even while in detention. By refusing to renounce Christianity, Leah has triumphed over her conquerors and her continued captivity has placed the entire Muslim Nigeria in moral constraint over the link between their faith and the Boko Haram insurgency.
The Leah Sharibu affair has once again highlighted the Christian/Muslim relationship in contemporary times. The widespread conviction among the global Muslim community that Christians are unbelievers – very much like the belief in other doctrines (such as those of the Caliphacy and Takfiri) at the roots of the radical Islamic ideology – is actually unIslamic. In a manner similar to every aspect of their radical theology, the insistence by Boko Haram insurgents that Leah Sharibu renounces Christianity is inconsistent with the original word of Allah (SWT), when he says thus, “Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians—whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord. And there will be no fear for them, nor shall they grieve”, in Quran 2:62. Similarly, the oneness of Muslims and Christians is sanctioned in the holy Qu’ran in these words of Allah (SWT), “…and nearest among them in love to the believers will you find those who say, ‘We are Christians’, because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant” (5:82).
In these divine words, Allah SWT was referring to Leah Sharibu and all devout Christians who are not different from Muslims and who, in oneness, believe in God and worship him in humility. Like Muslims, Christians are believers in the last day, with many of them being doers of good in this world. The common thread of oneness of all Abrahamic monotheistic faiths is summarised in Allah (SWT)’s commandment to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), as contained in this passage from Quran 2:136; Say ye: “We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma’il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: And we bow to Allah (in Islam)”. Leah Sharibu is as much a Muslim as she is a Christian because one cannot be a Muslim without being a Christian. Therefore, asking Leah Sharibu or any other Christian, to renounce their faith is tantamount to asking them to renounce their belief in Allah (SWT) [God]. May Allah be pleased with Leah Sharibu, for her steadfastness and devotion to him in her captivity and even when faced with the possibility of martyrdom.
A close scrutiny of the words of Allah (SWT), specifically calling upon Christians to eschew their belief in the doctrine of the trinity, reveals that he was gracious enough to address Christians as “people of the book” but not unbelievers, as contained in the following verses from Quran 4:171…
Unfortunately, most mainstream Muslim scholars equate the predominant Christian doctrinal belief in the holy trinity with disbelief. They argue that the belief in the trinity qualifies Christianity as polytheism, while the unequivocal belief in the unity and oneness of God by Muslims properly distinguishes Islam as a monotheistic faith. They contend that the early Christians, often referred to as “people of the book” who are “believers” in God and the last day, unlike contemporary Christians, didn’t believe in the doctrine of the trinity. While it is true that Islam forbids associating any partner with Allah (SWT), and specifically rejects the doctrine of the trinity, it however does not equate trinitarian belief with disbelief in Allah (SWT). It is a historical fact that the doctrine of trinity predates the Islamic era by nearly three centuries. It is also a fact that Christians do not worship any other god but God the Almighty, and the doctrine of trinity was simply a means to an end and not an end in itself. When the gospel of Christ Jesus was taken beyond the confines of Judea and Samaria away from the exclusive preserve of Jews into the world of gentiles, the enthusiasm to commune with the living God necessitated the evolution of different doctrines in line with peculiarities and idiosyncrasies of the various peoples who accepted Christ as their messiah. To resolve the true nature of Christ and evolve a unified Christian theology, Constantine the Great, emperor of Rome, conveyed the first ecumenical council at Nicaea, Asia minor (Modern day Turkey) in 325 AD.
It was at this ecumenical council that 318 Bishops from the four corners of the Roman Empire adopted the trinitarian belief, also known as the Nicene Creed, as the official Church position on the nature of Christ the messiah in relationship to God and the Holy Spirit. The Nicene Creed precedes the first revealed verse of the Quran in 610 AD by 285 years, wherein Christians were regarded as “people of the book” who “believe in God and the last day” and “who shall not fear nor grieve for their reward for doing good will be granted by Allah SWT.” Allah (SWT), acknowledges Christians as “people of the book” despite their belief in the doctrine of trinity, contrary to their modern day mischaracterisation as unbelievers, by some mainstream Muslim authorities.
A close scrutiny of the words of Allah (SWT), specifically calling upon Christians to eschew their belief in the doctrine of the trinity, reveals that he was gracious enough to address Christians as “people of the book” but not unbelievers, as contained in the following verses from Quran 4:171: “O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth.
…the leaders of the church, who adopted the doctrine of trinity in the Third Century after Christ, did it in good faith, motivated by the love of God and the desire to worship him more. They didn’t set out to spite God or cause mischief. The actions of they and their followers will always be judged according to this intention by Allah (SWT).
“Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His messengers. Say not “Trinity”: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah: Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs”.
This is because the leaders of the church, who adopted the doctrine of trinity in the Third Century after Christ, did it in good faith, motivated by the love of God and the desire to worship him more. They didn’t set out to spite God or cause mischief. The actions of they and their followers will always be judged according to this intention by Allah (SWT).
The Al-Barnawi faction of Boko Haram insurgents has technically defeated the federal government when it refused to release Leah Sharibu on the grounds of her Christian faith and her refusal to renounce it. Having earlier renounced violence against fellow Muslims, beginning from 2015, in strict compliance with “Islamic” rules of war engagement, the continuous stay of Leah Sharibu in captivity has increased the legitimacy of the Al-Barnawi faction of Boko Haram insurgent group among the predominantly Muslim population of the North-East who had largely been indoctrinated by the latter day radical ideology that denounces Christians as unbelievers contrary to the original word of Allah SWT. This kind of legitimacy portends grave dangers of a full scale escalation of the Boko Haram insurgency in the post-Muslim presidency in Nigeria.
Majeed Dahiru, a public affairs analyst, writes from Abuja and can be reached through [email protected]