KENYA’S SOCIETY IS DIVIDED along many lines. There is, of course, the most fundamental, which is ethnicity. The tribe is the most basic characteristic of the various divisions of society. Then there is race, which though as basic as tribe, usually attracts little attention. And then there is religion.While Hinduism, Buddhism and the Sikh religion follow a racial pattern among their adherents in Kenya, Christian and Islamic adherents cut across every tribe in the country. Although Christianity has the majority following, Islam today has followers in every town and in every community.It is, therefore, logical to say that beyond the strict issues of religion – our belief in Allah and adherence to the Holy Prophet – Muslims in Kenya are different in their secular concerns.We are, in the ways of the world, divided by our varying economic status, our ethnic backgrounds and our political beliefs. And these divisions are not only natural, but specifically made by Allah.
It therefore borders on blasphemy for any Muslim leadership to purport to use Islam to manipulate followers towards secular political objectives. It goes against Islam in two ways.
Firstly, because Allah created these divisions and celebrated them, they cannot now be made the object of ridicule and intrigue.
Divergent political following among Muslims is not only healthy for us as Kenyans, it is also quite in conformity with Allah’s plans in creating us in diversity.
Secondly, and more fundamentally, Islam cannot be used to garner political following for a human being. That is tantamount to elevating the human being into the status of our Holy Prophet.
Recently, a group of Muslims going by the name Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya, and also National Muslim Leaders Forum, declared they would support one candidate for the presidency. They even directed Mr Najib Balala to back that candidate’s bid.
BUT THEN THIS RAISED THE QUESTION: What happens to Muslims in Kanu, Narc Kenya, ODM Kenya and Ford Kenya? Do they cease being Muslim? Are they to follow this candidate as a religious edict from imams and preachers in Kenya?
Every Muslim in Kenya has a right to make his or her independent decision on who to support for the presidency. And unless there is any candidate who has insulted our God, our prophet or our religion, there is no basis for any imam or preacher to intimidate Muslims to support one or the other.
One of my political mentors, Sheikh Abdillahi Nassir, in a sermon he gave in 1992 advising Muslims on how to respond to the new multiparty politics in Kenya, told the faithful that there was no Western-style democracy in Islam.
While a Western-style democracy is “a government of the people, by the people, for the people”, he said, Islam is a theocracy: “Government of the people, by the people, for Allah”.
And since there is no Islamic theocracy in Kenya, a predominantly Christian country, Muslims cannot participate in politics on religious assumptions. Presidential polls are a purely secular issue.
There are a number of questions raised by the action of Muslim leaders. For one, it is questionable from where Muslim imams and preachers derived the authority to pronounce religious edicts on secular matters.
It is also questionable how representative these edicts are of the thinking of all imams and preachers, and the whole Muslim community in Kenya.
It is imperative during this time of elections that Muslim leaders act responsibly towards Islamic adherents, instead of causing divisions amongst them.