Another look at the Boko Haram philosophy-By Ahmad Salkida

Ahmad Salkida

“there have been violence and bloodletting served from the sect’s terror machinery but the real fuse feeding the violence has been missed till date.”


Terror initiated bomb blasts from the Jama’atu Ahlus-Sunnah Lidda’Awati Wal Jihad sect in Nigeria otherwise known as the Boko Haram, may decline or escalate for any period of time but the indicators for overall peace may truly be far -fetched.

The sense of engagement beyond unleashing military combatants in the hugely affected and now paralysed North Eastern parts of the country is utterly undefined. Indications in military circles and indeed conventional military wisdom do not suggest that the Nigeria Military has the capacity to utterly and decisively defeat the terror band.

The brand of terror introduced into Nigeria by the insurgents is not an affliction that is proverbially skin deep; it is deeper beyond the skin and requires even much deeper strategic and sophisticated engagement. Sadly, all that has been seen from players at the policy level has been anything but out-of-control techniques. There’s been so much opportunism, so much of personal profit and so much shadow acting. The superficial is at the driving seat where professionalism is in dire need.

Nigerians, both at public and private career engagements, classify the Boko Haram “a meddlesome violent band based in parts of the North’ at their own utter peril. Wiser assessment of the sect suggests several scores of thousands with hugely expanding cells across most parts of Nigeria and in significant parts of West Africa. Every assessment of the sect even at its embryo stage by Islamic scholars, government officials, and security intelligence has repeatedly missed the live wire in the complicating issues.

Yes, there have been violence and bloodletting served from the sect’s terror machinery but the real fus feeding the violence has been missed till date.

Politicians from the North, in a fit of self serving displays, had suggested that the insurgency was the offshoot of growing unemployment. Clearly, there’s huge and frightening degree of unemployment in Northern Nigeria. But the real fuse that drives this level of terror is with the sect’s doctrinaire and ideologue. What we are dealing with is a growing Islamic ideologue that greatly appeals to young people.

The root cause of the conflict is ideological in nature. The doctrines that the leaders of the Boko Haram founded their sect cannot be separated from the global Jihad movement that exploits the widespread suffering, resentment, and anger in the Muslim world. In late 2002, when late Muhammad Yusuf and late Muhammad Alli began to take an interest in the global Jihadi movement, they were not driven by issues in their typical settlements instead, they were inspired by a 13th century scholar, Ibn Taymiyya, who was a staunch defender of Sunni Islam based on strict adherence to the Qur’an and authentic Sunna (practices) of the Prophet Muhammad.

Ibn Taymiyya believed that these two sources contain all the religious and spiritual guidance necessary for salvation in the hereafter. Thus he rejected the arguments and ideas of both philosophers and Sufis regarding religious knowledge, spiritual experiences and ritual practices, said many accounts.

Ibn Taymiyya was said to have disagreed with many of his fellow Sunni scholars because of his rejection of the rigidity of the schools of jurisprudence in Islam. He believed that the four accepted schools of jurisprudence had become stagnant and sectarian, and also that they were being improperly influenced by aspects of Greek logic and thought as well as Sufi mysticism. His challenge to the leading scholars of the day was to return to an understanding of Islam in practice and in faith, based solely on the Qur’an and Sunna, said one account.

Late Yusuf carried most of Ibn Taymiyya philosophies during his life time crusade and named the headquarters’ of the sect that was later bombed by security agents in Maiduguri ‘Ibn Taymiyya Masjid.’ Though a few moderate clerics challenged the doctrinal veracity of what late Yusuf preached with vigour and charisma but it did not go deep enough, nor was it far reaching. These clerics included Sheikh Isa Aliyu Pantami, who is now abroad, and Sheikh Jafar Mahmud Adam of blessed memory, who was assassinated in his Mosque in 2007 in Kano.

Late Yusuf was prevented from preaching in several mosques all over the North and was denied TV/Radio appearances in Borno State. But this alienation worked to his advantage as he became the superior voice among an army of unwitting youths unable to defy him. The religious and traditional monarchies across West Africa and in many parts of the Muslim world for over 100 years now narrowed on the subject of Jihad of the sword to consolidate their rule. The rise of Sunni based Jihadi movements that terrorize the status quo, necessitates these monarchs to encourage and moralise constructive Jihad and the Jihad with oneself amongst the talakawas.

And when the administration of former Governor Ali Modu Sheriff backed by late President Yar’adua opted for a military solution to an ideological problem, a methodical and more vicious transformation of the sect into an outpost of terrorist affliction began on the Nigerian state.

On the 11th of June 2009, at the Customs roundabout in Maiduguri, nearly 20 unarmed members of the sect during a funeral procession were shot with live ammunition for refusing to wear safety helmets, by members of ‘Operation Flush,’ the official platform for Sheriff’s field confrontation with the sect, since his vicious political thugs, the ECOMOG, could not march the more organised followers of late Yusuf at that time.

After the unlawful June 11 shootings that triggered the July 26 Boko Haram uprising in Maiduguri and in many parts of the north, government did not see the need for reconciliation, sect members were tracked and summarily executed, properties belonging to sect members were confiscated, people that are associated with Boko Haram in any way recoiled in shame and dishonour. Members of the sect then saw the need to regroup and redeem what their new leader; Imam Abubakar Shekau called their honour.

Life for residents in Borno and Yobe states, in the language of Hobbes, suddenly became nasty, brutish and short. It is instructive to note here that in the current situation investigations by this writer has shown that there is no reason to believe that this government can get to engage in direct negotiations with the sect. This is because there is a missing element that will make it difficult for direct negotiations to occur between the two antagonistic sides.

Salkida is an independent journalist based in Abuja and can be reached at or on twitter – @contactSalkida


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  • hauwa

    Absolutely, the major problem in the north east region, Borno in particular would be associated to high level of illitracy,massive unemploment, poverty etc. And if we do not address these issues in the near future, problems will ever remain unsolved.

    The damages has been done, no idea is useless, let come together to build the future of our youths.

    We pray and seek for Allah’s intervention, May we all pass this trying period! Ameen ya Rabbi.

  • Maigari

    Yes, thought provoking but the real issue behid all this is the win-at-all-costs politics associated with a very select few and utterly selfish politicins. That coupled with the complicity of the leading clergys’ fatalism fatwa created the monster Boko Haram. Now that the genie is out of the bottle, everybody is running scared and confused.
    The handling of the Yusufiyya by president Umaru was certainly an overkill and the atrocities committed by the Military and the Police in particular should have been checked and stopped. Now that things have taken a turn for the worst, saner minds must prevail on the political elites to allow peace a chance to return first and foremost by gaining the acceptance of their subjects. This means an honest, open, free and faor election coupled with the recognition of the voters will.
    The next issue is the corruption monster and this requires monumental effrots because as things today with the exception of one or two states, the treasury is seen and percieved as the “persona” belonging of the regining executive and that just has to stop. If these are done, the rest will be realtively stright foward because the manifest truth will be there for all to see leading hopefully to a dialogue and reconciliation.

  • Abbaty

    Salkida, ur article is very enlightening. Infact the whole issue of Boko Haram seems to have different under tune. Capability of govt, politics, greed, poverty, illitracy of islamic jurisprudence and that of common law. May Allah be our surety. Kudos salkida.

  • Mpitikwelu_na_Ugwu_Awusa

    Thanks for the education. This clearly is an islamic civil war going on in the north east. The status quo has tried to crush it by force and failed. I think it is time we allow Boko haram to exist side by side with other fellow muslims. Nigerian army should not take sides with any of the Islamic sects.

  • Alexis

    Having lived in the north during and after my NYSC days, it’s my opinion that the problem with the northern Nigeria is this issue of senseless overpopulation! The official ambulance driver in our hospital named Aminu had 4 wives with up to 17 children and counting! How can he cater for them and educate them with his meagre monthly salary!