The Menace of Almajirchi
The Menace of Almajirchi
Hassan Ado Sabari
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Almajirchi means itinerant learning. It depicts the action by which parents send their children to a different land in search of Islamic knowledge. Almajiri means any such child or a student searching for knowledge outside his area of residence. The word was derived from the Arabic “almuhaajir” meaning someone who travels, and historically, “almuhaajiruun” refer to those who moved with Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina to find solace and concentrate in their religious practice.
This practice has transformed into many variants such as those roaming the streets begging people for all kinds of help. Amongst them you will see blind, lepers, cripples and people with all forms of deformities. Almajirchi has for many centuries served its purpose of transmittal of Islamic knowledge, but has over time lost its appeal and ultimately, its value.
Today is a great day and also a day of relief for me. This is because Allah in his infinite mercy give me the chance to finally write about the subject that is bothering me in my heart for so long. So many factors make me feel so reluctant about the need to write on this topic among which are religious sentiment attached to it and culture. The longer I delayed writing, the more anger builds up within me.
Almajiri population in Nigeria has been estimated to be 6 million as at 3 years ago; this is equivalent to the population of Portugal. This is a waste of human resources considering nations like Japan that capitalize on the human resources they have for their own development. Nigeria could do the same with her almajirai by putting them to good use.
Japan has no natural resource but yet has one of the largest economies in the world. Just imagine if these 6 million people have been properly harnessed in developing the nation, Nigeria would have been proud of such population, but sadly, that enormous number is wasted as destitute. Among them we could have had Doctors, Engineers, Economist, Scientist and great politicians that could change the country for good. It is high time the country take this very seriously by enforcing laws to abolish such archaic and detrimental practices.
As a Muslim I know almajirchi to be alien to my religion and all the Muslim Scholars that are advocating for it are doing so for their selfish interest. This is because you will not find their children suffering with the same people they are enslaving. The Almajiri provide the Mallam with everything ranging from food to money. Some of them give their children qualitative western education while enslaving their Almajiri.
Every time I walk in the streets of Lagos seeing how some Nigerians disgrace the Almajiri, I feel very bad. Knowing that if those people have stayed in their cities, none of this will happen. I can’t believe how someone will think they can just make a living by roaming and begging, sleeping on the streets with ravaged clothing and exposed to so many dangers like rape infections. They will follow every car that stop in the traffic begging, moving from shop to shop in the market. Sometimes getting pennies while other times receiving insults. Some abuse Islam and the northern region and culture. How can you beg someone in the name of a God and messenger that they don’t even believe in?
The people from the villages should please learn how to take care of their kids because those kids that they send to the city pretending to learn Islamic education only end up to be a menace in the city. How can you send a child without knowing where he will sleep? What he will eat? I can go on and ask a hundred questions that cannot be answered. I found it irresponsible to see a child as young as 4 years on the street begging. That child will be deprived of so many rights ranging from maternal love, education and many more. Any child brought up like that will grow with hatred for his parents and society for such conditions he is exposed to. He will be in the city where children of his age are going to school and experiencing care and love. That child will be maltreated by his seniors in the school and if care is not taken exposed to sexual abuses of all sort, ending up as thugs and all kind of societal nuisance. They would care about nothing because their parents are not there. This is because they are denied some crucial developmental stages in their lives by their parents.
I have a personal story to tell. The reason is to show you how the action of some minor population cause people to have a kind of generalization about all of us. Back in April 2005; I was opportune to represent my beloved city in a national quiz competition in Ondo State. All the best students from different States in the country were selected and we all met there. On getting there we were engaged in a written mathematics competition before the main quiz. I was wearing my white uniform with cap since I am student of Dawakin Tofa Science College and it happens to be a Government school in Kano. The guy I was on the same bench with look condescending on me thinking I will copy his answers .He covers his work then I laugh in my mind and say he don’t know what he’s up to. He saw me solving my math’s problem without looking at him and later wanted to copy my own to which I denied him the chance.
After the exam he approach me and ask me a ridiculous question. The question was do people from the North attend western school? To which I replied with both amazement and calmness. I did not pick offence from that because this is how the Almajiri are portraying us over there. I can see the level of sincerity and frankness the guy used to ask the question. The guy is from Enugu and possibly he was not opportune to travel anywhere outside the Igboland. If he has travel to the North he would have a different opinion about the people there. I replied by asking whether he knew one Sarki Abba, He said no. I told him Sarki Abba and I attended the same school. We became friends since then and from time to time he comes over to my place for help.
In addition, to those of us who don’t know who Sarki Abba is. He was the first to have 9 A’s in the West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination. Sarki Abba had 8 A’s first to which people in the other part of the country did not believe. He was called to WAEC head office in Lagos to defend the result. New question papers were given to him on which he made 9 A’s. He got admission to study Medicine at the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He left a record in the Faculty of Medicine that has not been broken up till today. Immediately after his graduation he left for the United States of America to continue with his studies and career and is now one of the best Pathologists in the world. When I finished the story, the guy was speechless hearing one of the people he believed to be beggars can have this kind of achievement. There are many people like Sarki Abba in the North.
On the first day of the quiz competition I felt unease seeing people wearing all kinds of assorted uniforms while we were left to wear white uniform with jumper and cap. I was together with my three other colleagues who are now all Medical doctors namely Dr. Nazeeru Abbas, Dr. Abubakar Imam and Dr. Isma’il Hashim. We wanted to remove our caps but our quiz master Mallam Shehu Umar stopped us. We entered the hall thinking those people wearing suits and all kinds of beautiful uniform will beat us. Our quiz master encouraged us by stating that dress is not a determining factor for success. At the end of the quiz, we ran the finals with Cross-River State, which we won with a Margin of 10 points. That sent a hard message to all other States and since that day people stopped looking down on us.
The essence of this story is not to promote myself and my colleagues but to show how Almajiri have blurred our image in the eye of other people in different parts of the country. My humble opinion is for the Government and the Muslim Scholars to condemn the act, legislate its abrogation and enforce it. Islamic scholars should be encouraged to speak its ills through preaching in Lectures and Jumu’at prayers.
Engr. Hassan Ado Sabari (GreatSabari) writes from Lagos, Nigeria.