Farooq Kperogi, a professor and newspaper columnist of Nigerian descent, has questioned if Bola Tinubu, the APC’s presidential contender, is a true Muslim in the truest sense of the word.
Farouq focused his criticisms in a Saturday opinion piece titled “From “Muslim-Muslim” to “Is he Really a Muslim?” on the APC candidate’s inconsistent recitation of Srat al-Ftiah, the first chapter of the Qur’an.
He claimed that discussions regarding the Tinubu-Shettima ticket’s shared religious beliefs looked to be shifting to inquiries about Tinubu’s actual religious affiliation.
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He observed that Tinubu frequently made mistakes when reading Srat al-Ftiah, the first chapter of the Qur’an. In one instance, he mispronounced “bismillahir rahmanir rahim” and instead uttered “auzubillah minashaitan ni rajeem” before “bismillahir rahmanir rahim.”
According to the media scholar, Tinubu also had an incident in which he uttered “auzubillah minashaitan ni rajeem, bismillahir rahmanir rahim” and was unable to continue to the next stanza. Alhamdu lillahi Rabbil ‘Alamin, which is actually translated as “Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Universe,” is an incorrect translation of the verse in his confused attempt to translate it from Arabic into English. He even managed to say this, which is a doctrinal outrage in Islam, “God, the father of all.”
Farouq claimed that the APC presidential candidate’s use of the term “father” during a speech to Muslims in Kaduna had caused many Muslim zealots to doubt their faith.
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The second stanza of Srat al-Ftiah, “Alhamdu lillahi Rabbil ‘Alamin,” which he had previously mistranslated as “God, the father of everyone,” is shown in the viral video trying excessively hard—and failing—to recite it.
Kperogi said, “Not since 1993 when MKO Abiola chose Babagana Kingibe as his running mate has the religious complexion of a presidential ticket excited the passions of Nigerians as much as Bola Tinubu’s choice of Kashim Shettima as his running mate. It at once got some Christians enraged and some Muslims engaged.
“For a long time, Muslim clerical investment in the Tinubu-Shettima ticket, at least in the Northwest, was proportional to the amount of Christian opposition to it. For instance, in late 2022, an audio recording of a northern Christian, which went viral on WhatsApp, said the victory or defeat of the Tinubu-Shettima ticket in 2023 would be a referendum on the numerical strength of Christians and Muslims in Nigeria.
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“Of course, that was a supremely shallow and simplistic, not to mention reductionist, religionization of voting behavior. Many people vote for reasons other than religion. Peter Obi, whom the audio touted as the “Christian” candidate, will get many Muslim votes, and both Tinubu and Atiku will get many Christian votes.
“But that audio—and several others like it—inspired a backlash of reciprocal religious particularism from previously politically aloof Salafist Muslim clerics in the Hausaphone North who now preach that the success of the Tinubu-Shettima ticket—or, as they call it, Musilim-Musilim ticket—is a religious imperative and that Muslims should support it to signal the supremacy of Islam in Nigeria. That’s also silly, superficial drivel that ignores the complexity of voting behavior and the multiplicity of impulses that propel people to vote.
“Anyway, the conversation about the same-faith character of the Tinubu-Shettima ticket appears to be shifting to questions about whether, in fact, Tinubu is a Muslim. This discursive shift is instigated by Tinubu’s multiple stumbles with reciting Sūrat al-Fātiḥah, the first chapter of the Qur’an. In one instance, he said “bismillahir rahmanir rahim” before saying “auzubillah minashaitan ni rajeem” instead of the other way around.
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“In another instance, he said “auzubillah minashaitan ni rajeem, bismillahir rahmanir rahim” and couldn’t proceed to the next verse. In confusion, he attempted to translate the verse from Arabic into English but bungled it and even ended up saying “God, the father of all,” which is both an incorrect translation of “Alhamdu lillahi Rabbil ‘Alamin” (which actually translates as “Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Universe”) and a doctrinal outrage in Islam.
“Well, my own sense is that Tinubu is a cultural Muslim. His hometown of Iragbiji in Osun State is predominantly Muslim, particularly when he grew up there in the 1960s. Like most kids in the town, he attended ile kewu (which Hausa speakers call makarantar allo), that is, an informal school for Islamic learning. The way he says “auzubillah minashaitan ni rajeem, bismillahir rahmanir rahim” clearly shows that he was born into Islam and learned to say it from an impressionable age.
“I suspect that after leaving Iragbiji for Lagos (and later for the United States), he ceased to be an observant Muslim, but hasn’t given up his Muslim identity. His trip-ups with reciting the Qur’an first chapter, in my opinion, don’t indicate that he isn’t a Muslim; they only indicate that he hasn’t been praying for most of his post-Iragbiji life.
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“Tinubu, as I pointed out in a previous article in 2022, is an effectively non-religious but nominal Muslim. He chose a northern Muslim running mate for precisely that reason. Until recently, Tinubu didn’t identify with Islam publicly, is married to a pastor, and all his children are Christians. He sees himself first as a Yoruba man before he is a nominal Muslim.”
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