ABUJA - A recent case of memorizing the Noble Qur'an by a three-year-old girl is reviving a new debate in Nigeria about the practice of hero-worshipping gifted people by some Muslims.
Islam forbids hero-worship, Sheikh Tajudeen Olohungbo, head of Qadiriyah Muslim group in Ogun State, told OnIslam.net.
International headlines were dominated earlier this year by reports about the memorization of the Noble Qur'an by a three-year-old girl.
The girl, Ruqayyatu Fatahu of the scholarly family of renowned Sufi scholar Dahiru Usman Bauchi, completed the Qur'an memorization at the age of three year and eight months.
First and foremost, we must commend and congratulate the parents of Ruqayyatu for this wonderful feat their daughter has achieved, Olohungbo said.
But there is a tendency for people to go beyond boundary when such things occur even though the truth is that it is just among Allah's wonder.
Ruqayyatu, like other gifted persons, is just one of Allah's wonders. That's all.
Anybody who believes otherwise may be committing shirk (associating partners with Allah) which amounts to a grave sin, he said.
Nigeria and other African countries have recorded a number of miraculous events which tended to inspire hero-worshipping.
For instance, Sheikh Tajudeen-al-Adaby, from Ilorin in north-central Nigeria, is believed by many that he was never taught.
However, he is yet considered as one of Africa's most knowledgeable Muslim scholars of his generation, prompting many to go to the extreme in extolling him.
The list also includes Tanzanian scholar Sheikh Sheriff, who is believed to be a hafiz of the Qur'an, though he was not taught the Noble Book.
During Sheikh Sheriff's visit to Nigeria in the early 2000s, people did trample on themselves in reverence for him.
Another cult-like figure is young scholar Jamiu Sunusi, popularly known as Amin Olohun (Wonder of Allah), who is a hafiz though he was not taught the Qur'an.
Today, many people, especially in southwestern Nigeria, venerate him to a level close to Shirk.
Muslim scholars warned that hero-worshipping Qur'an hafiz runs against the basic teachings of Islam.
Hero-worship of any of Allah's creation is forbidden and Muslims must run away from it, imam Abdur-Rahman Ahmad, a leading Muslim scholar in Nigeria, told OnIslam.net.
I therefore warn fellow Muslims against it.
Scholars cite ignorance of the basic Islamic teachings as a main reason behind the practice among some Muslims.
Allah is capable of everything and anything good and it is in that light that I see the story of the little Ruqayyatu, Yushau Ismail, a prominent civil society worker, told OnIslam.net.
It would be totally un-Islamic for anybody to turn her to a demi-god by attributing to her qualities that take us closer to associating partners with Allah.
Musbau Razak, a Muslim journalist, called for more robust efforts from scholars to enlighten Muslims about the danger of hero-worshipping.
Unless people know the implications, such incidence as a three-year-old memorizing the Qur'an and another baby reportedly born with Qur'an in his hand are capable of inspiring hero-worshipping because people will see it as not ordinary.
Imam Sulaiman Muhammadu Awwal agrees.
Together we must work to propagate knowledge among Muslims.
Nigeria, one of the world's most religiously committed nations, is divided between a Muslim north and a Christian south.
Muslims and Christians, who constitute 55 and 40 percent of Nigeria's 140 million population respectively, have lived in peace for the most part.But ethnic and religious tensions have bubbled for years, fuelled by decades of resentment between indigenous groups, mostly Christian or animist, who are vying for control of fertile farmlands with migrants and settlers from the Hausa-speaking Muslim north.