Travelogue: Nigeria? Sheikh Zakzaky? (PART 1)

By Abdulmumin Giwa
Yes has always been the answer to this question asked not only with curiosity but with enthusiasm by people from various nationalities that attended the annual Arba’een commemoration in Karbala whenever they see members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN).
The answer was only an opening to other various questions on the life and condition of the revered and respected leader of the IMN Sheikh Ibraheem Zakazaky which is also followed by a prayer for his health and freedom as well as the prayer for the wrath of Almighty God to befall those oppressing him.
The conduct and coordination as well as brotherhood and love displayed by the IMN members at Karbala added color and respect not only to the movement but to Nigeria as well.
People from different countries have joined and trekked with the group of the IMN members to show their own solidarity to Sheikh Zakzaky. The enthusiasm was such that I saw an Iraqi collecting the Nigerian flag from the IMN member in front and raising it high in front of the Nigerian group and proudly trekking for some kilometers.
Everyone wanted to have his picture taken with the IMN members whenever his question is answered in the affirmative. A lot out of about two hundred of us that attended the event received personal gifts from individuals all in solidarity with Sheikh Zakzaky.
In that event that is seen as the largest humans gathering in the world where over 25 million people from different nationalities gather to visit the holy shrine of Imam Hussain AS in Karbala, the IMN members were treated with love and affection, concern and care as well as honor and dignity all because they were aware that Sheikh Zakzaky is being suppressed by a tyrant in Nigeria.
Indians, Pakistanis, Canadians, Americans, Britons, People from the Comoros Islands, Ghanaians, Nigerians, Saudis, Iranians to mention but a few were all among those that have come to me asked of the condition and present situation of Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky.
It all started when we arrived Cairo for another connecting flight to Baghdad where we had to stay another eight hours for another flight to our destination. We were told earlier that we were entitled to hotel accommodation by the Egypt Air we travelled with while on transit. Unfortunately we were refused that gesture by the airline with the claim that we are refused transit visa due to some security reasons they refused to mention. We had to stay in the airport to wait for our flight.
To worsen matters, the airline also claimed that the accommodation they have at the airport for those on transit flight was also filed up for which reason they took us to the airport mosque to spend the night noticing that we were all Muslims and Shi’ah visiting Karbala. Never the less we insisted that the ladies among us be treated better and they were lucky to have been provided with accommodation in the airport.
As visitors of Imam Hussain AS who sacrificed his life to save Islam and Muslims from extermination we endured and spent the night in the mosque despite the harsh cold weather for which I used a thick prayer rug s blanket to be able to sleep well after a long flight from Kano, Nigeria.
The airport experience only began just as we were excited that we were leaving for our destination that morning when it was announced that our flight had been rescheduled and we had to wait until 1:00pm instead of the expected early morning flight.
The reason for the delay was that there was bad weather in Baghdad and no take-off or landing of planes could be risked. In fact through communication with our hosts in Baghdad we were told that the weather situation was such that even the airport has been closed. For that reason we had to spend another night at the Cairo airport waiting for clearance.
While at the airport the numbers of those traveling to Baghdad from different destinations kept increasing. We met our Shiah brothers from Saudi Arabia, Canada and other African countries at the airport.
I was impressed by the brotherhood displayed by a brother from Canada who saw our distasteful condition for which the airline left us to wallow in hardship at the airport. He was offered accommodation because he was carrying a Canadian passport but he refused the accommodation insisting that he would only accept it if we are also offered the same treatment. The authorities insisted that they could only give such treatment to those carrying American, European or Canadian passport but not to those carrying Nigerian passports in particular because they are a security threat due to the records of terrorism in the country.
The Shiahs we met with from Saudi Arabia were followers of Sheikh Nimr an Nimr who was murdered by the Saudi royal family for being a Shi’ah. The meeting was warm and friendly and we shared stories of how those in authority are submissive to America and Israel who use them as hunting dogs against the Shi’ahs. The duo has induced hatred and enmity on the grounds of sectarianism among Muslims. They use Muslims to kill Muslims just like an Igbo man in Nigeria once made a statement on social media during the Zaria massacre that “Muhammed dey kill Muhammed”.
The next day around noon we were all told to board a plane and we went through the usual checking in and took our seats in the plan after much pressure on the airline by the passengers. The captain announced that we had to be seated in the plane for at least forty five minutes waiting for weather clearance from Baghdad before taking off. We patiently waited only for him to later announce that we should all get off the plane as the weather condition is still not good enough.
We left the plane and went back to the lounge again. We had hardly stayed twenty minutes when it was announced that we should board the plane again that the weather is good enough for take-off which we did patiently.
The most enchanting part of it all was that almost hundred percent of those on the plane were all going for the Arba’een and were all Shiahs. Hence as it is traditional with the Shiahs, at various points of the boarding and the flying one would hear the chant of ‘Salawaat’ and in a loud chorus everyone would answer ‘Allahumma salli ala Muhammad wa Ali Muhammad’.
On the night of our arrival at Baghdad we travelled to Najaf from where we were to commence our trek to Karbala. The distance between the Iraqi Capital to Najaf is about 250 kilometers. The night journey was smooth and there were no potholes on the road nor were there security threats like robbery, kidnapping and terror attacks.
Najaf is also a holy city where Imam Ali bn Abi Talib AS the cousin and in-law of Prophet Muhammad SAWA was buried after being murdered while in a state of prayer. His shrine is also a very beautiful edifice visited by millions of people from different nationalities from all parts of the world.
Najaf is so close to Kufa where Imam Ali AS lived and where his mosque is also sited. The two cities are so close that one could hardly tell that he had left one city to the other. In fact in their geopolitics the entire region is called Najaf even as people identify them as Najaf and Kufa.
The Shiahs in Iraq have a tradition of hosting and feeding visitors of Imam Hussain AS. They are so proud of that to the extent that individuals, groups and families save money throughout the year just to spend it on visitors of Imam Hussain AS. Even commercial banks in Iraq offer special loan schemes for that purpose and it is withdrawn from the salary of a worker in the case of a worker who wants to perform that act of gesture. They do this with enthusiasm and pride.
Our host through his contact was able to convince us to stay in his palatial home where he begged to take in up to 200 people though in the first batch we were not more than 62 in number. He provided mattresses, pillows and blankets for all and gave three square meals to all just for being visitors of Imam Hussain AS.
For the love of Nigeria he nicknamed himself Nigeria. He is wealthy and lived in Kufa suburb. In reciprocation, he was given a gift by those he hosted for which expressed gratitude.

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