Following his sermon of Friday, April 1, 2022, the Chief Imam of the National Assembly Quarters’ Jum’mat Mosque, Abuja, Sheikh Muhammad Nura Khalid, was first suspended.
However, in a letter dated Monday, April 4, 2022, and titled, ‘Letter of Disengagement from the Services of the National Assembly Mosque’, the management committee of the mosque parted ways with the cleric.
In the letter signed by the committee chairman, Senator Saidu Dansadau, the Imam was accused of not showing remorse following his suspension. Since then, Sheikh Nura Khalid has got another job in Abuja as Chief Imam.
Nonetheless, the issue has generated so much controversy and interest among many Nigerians, especially on social media. In this interview, the Sheikh bares his mind after his sack.
Do you think there’s anything you said in that viral Jum’mat sermon you now regret?
Every word I said (in the sermon) is mine and I stand by it. I pray, may the Almighty put it in my record and read it to me in the hereafter, because I believe the sermon is a rewardable act.
I only tried to preserve the lives of innocent Nigerians by reviving the morale of government. I only tried to remind them that democracy is not all about election, but, more importantly, about the preservation of life. Security is one of the duties of every sensible and reasonable government.
So, what is wrong in that sermon? I don’t see anything wrong, but if someone else sees otherwise, he can educate me.
Do you believe the mosque committee was wrong to pick offence in the first place with some of things you said?
I don’t want to say the mosque management committee was wrong because there was no meeting of the committee before the action. It was a one-man business and decision.
He (Senator Dansadau) took the decision in company of one or two men and not a quorum of the committee. If I say they were wrong that means I want to go back to that place.
I only want them to monitor and evaluate the reaction of Nigerians. Are Nigerians happy with the situation?
By their action, especially that of the committee chairman who hails from Zamfara, they are sending wrong signals to Zamfara people that they are happy with what the bandits are doing. But you can’t say you sack me, because I said let’s have a united Nigeria free from banditry, crime, terrorism, conflict and insecurity. I am asking for a secured Nigeria. Is that an abomination or a sin?
But in the sack letter by Senator Dansadau, which is now in the public domain, he accused you of persuading Nigerians not to vote in the 2023 elections, and not for condemning insecurity.
You have the video. Is it a call not to vote or to vote under a condition? Let him check his English very well. The first statement I made was “Yes, we are going to vote but under a condition that security must be provided before 2023.”
If you become upset because of this, you are telling us that you know that there wouldn’t be security in Nigeria before 2023. It shows that you guys are either not willing or unable to bring security. But if there is a political will to bring security, then you will laugh and tell me after my sermon that before 2023 that there will be security.
Perhaps the point the mosque committee was trying to make is that without voting in 2023, the country will face a constitutional crisis that will be worse than the present insecurity, because there will be no legitimate government…
Do you think I am calling for no voting? That is not my call, but you can reinterpret it the way you want. Let’s assume that without voting in 2023 there will be chaos, but have you forgotten that a sitting governor in this country once said bandits are able to shut down Nigeria, because they have the capacity to do so?
If that is the situation on ground, if we do not take action before 2023, can’t they still shut down Nigeria? Therefore, we must start doing something, and this is what I did; to tell government there could be no election by 2023 if they failed to take action. I am lucky because the message has gone viral and everyone has heard it. So, whether you like it or not, it will bring a positive change in Nigeria.
One of the issues the mosque committee raised in your sack letter is that they think you were not remorseful after you were suspended, because the suspension was supposed to help you reflect and double-check some of the things you said in the Jum’mat sermon. What exactly is there between you and the mosque committee, because Nigerians want to know?
They are the ones calling their actions punishment. They intended to punish me, but they rewarded me, because Nigerians now know about me more than before.
I am more popular now than ever and more people have listened to my sermon in the video. Even if they are really punishing me, I can absorb it. I can’t change. I will never feel free and happy that Nigerians are dying or support incompetence and lack political will to deal with bandits and crime. It is not me who is saying ‘No’ to killings who is supposed to change, but the bandits.
It is government that will deal with them to change. If you have the power to punish anyone, go and punish the bandits. You can’t flex your power in the mosque. I have been in the service of the mosque for 15 years and I have criticized previous governments.
Under Jonathan regime, I said ‘No’ to killings till the extent that I asked the President to resign. It is there in the records. At that time, they were happy and congratulating me. Were they silent? I don’t have any record of them writing to me at that time to condemn my action. How much is even my allowance from the mosque? I will like them to answer if in the last 15 years, there has been any internal or external audit of the mosque.
But Senator Dansadau made it clear that there is nothing wrong with criticizing government, but that the pulpit is not the best place for doing so, because the mosque is a religious space. How do you respond to that?
Well, I can’t understand his language, because I have a record of Dansadau using the mosque to preach and to criticize government and I can produce it. He did that not once but many times. He did it against a government I don’t want to mention, because I don’t want to be seen as favoring one over another.
However, let me clarify that there is a difference between criticizing policies and being political. We know that campaign was done in that mosque for this administration.
Meanwhile, I want to say that a mosque is an Islamic centre. Islamic is about the holistic life which includes politics. People are being killed, our train is attacked, many kidnapped and others are dying.
Now, are you trying to tell me that the mosque is not an appropriate place to condemn these evils? If people tell me that it is wrong to say killing is bad in the mosque, then what kind of religion is Islam? Instead of me to be quiet when people cannot protect lives but enjoy the privileges of the government, it is better for me to die or become unable to feed myself. I can’t stay in a place that I can’t call a dog by its name. I have nothing to lose.
Are you pained because you’re not enjoying the privileges of government like they are doing, and so, you’re critical of efforts of government?
I am always on the side of the public because I am one of them from whatever angle you look at me. I am from the masses. My children go to public schools. I reside in a local area. I sit and eat with the local people. My students are local people. I move around with the masses and so I feel what they feel. I am not caged in a place, I don’t know what is happening. I don’t want any undue privilege from government. I only want my rights.
But some people think you are a show-off person who enjoys the eulogies you receive from the public and on social media…
I am popularly called ‘The Digital Imam’ because of my early adoption of the social media in what I do. But in this instance, who went to the social media first? Was it me or the committee? Why didn’t they use the mosque to inform me of my suspension? Why did they rush to the media first?
Now, they don’t want me to give them a reply via the media. Who leaked the sack letter to the media? Am I the one? If you are not comfortable with my large social media following, go and create your own. I created my social media pages and handles to propagate my Islamic Tafseer (lectures) always. I don’t even know when I started attracting followers, but I came to realize I had a huge following because I am not biased and always tried to unite Nigerians.