From obscurity, Leah Sharibu has been thrust upon the consciousness of mankind globally. Like a saint, Leah Sharibu, who was little known outside her immediate family in her time of freedom, has become a global phenomenon in her time in captivity. Leah Sharibu, who turned 15 during the week, was one of the 110 teenage schoolgirls abducted by the Al-Barnawi faction of Boko Haram terrorists from a government school in Dapchi town, Yobe State, in the insurgency-ravaged North-East, Nigeria. However, the joy that heralded the negotiated release of 105 girls a month later was stifled when Leah Sharibu was not among those released. The reason for her continuous stay in captivity was her professed Christian faith, which she was not ready to renounce for Islam.
Leah Sharibu’s display of extraordinary courage and tenacity of faith in God in the face of continuous stay in captivity and possible martyrdom is what has transformed her into a global icon of the Christian faith. She was born into a minority Christian community in a predominantly Muslim region but her faith was so strong that she was uninfluenced by environmental, social and peer pressure to convert to a Muslim. This faith is so strong in teenage Leah Sharibu that, even in captivity, she refuses to renounce Christianity. By refusing to renounce Christianity, Leah Sharibu has conquered her conquerors and her continuous stay in captivity has placed the entire Muslim Nigeria in moral captivity over the link between their faith and the Boko Haram insurgency.
The Leah Sharibu affair has once again highlighted the Christian-Muslim relationship in contemporary times. The widespread belief among the global Muslim community that Christians are unbelievers, like other beliefs (Caliphacy and Takfiri) and doctrines that are the roots of radical Islamic ideology are not Islamic. Pretty much like every aspect of their radical theology, the insistence by Boko Haram insurgents that Leah Sharibu renounces Christianity is inconsistent with the original word of Allah SWT when he says thus: “Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians—whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord. And there will be no fear for them, nor shall they grieve” Quran 2:62. Similarly, the oneness of Muslims and Christians is sanctioned in the Holy Quran in these words of Allah SWT: “. . . and nearest among them in love to the believers will you find those who say, ‘We are Christians,’ because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant” (5:82).
In these divine words, Allah SWT was referring to Leah Sharibu and all devout Christians who are not different from Muslims and together in oneness believe in God and worship him in humility. Like Muslims, Christians are believers in the last day and are doers of good in this world. The common thread of oneness of all Abrahamic monotheistic faiths is summarised in Allah SWT’s commandment to Prophet Muhammad PBUH as contained in this passage from Quran 2:136, “Say ye: We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma’il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: And we bow to Allah (in Islam).”
Leah Sharibu is as much a Muslim as she is a Christian because one cannot be a Muslim without being a Christian. Therefore, asking Leah Sharibu or any other Christian to renounce their faith is tantamount to asking them to renounce their belief in Allah SWT (God). May Allah be pleased with Leah Sharibu for her steadfastness and devotion to him in her captivity and even when faced with the possibility of martyrdom.
Unfortunately, most mainstream Muslim scholars equate the predominant doctrinal belief in the Trinity to disbelief. They argue that belief in the Trinity qualifies Christianity as polytheism, while the unequivocal Muslim belief in the unity and oneness of God properly distinguishes Islam as a monotheistic faith. They contend that the Christians often referred to as “People of the Book” that are “believers” in God and the last day, unlike contemporary Christians, didn’t believe in the doctrine of Trinity. While it is a truism that Islam forbids associating any partner with Allah SWT and specifically rejects the doctrine of Trinity, it, however, does not equate trinitarian belief to disbelief in Allah SWT. It is a historical fact that the doctrine of the Trinity predates the Muslim era by nearly three centuries. It is also a fact that Christians do not worship any other god but God and the doctrine of trinity was simply a means to an end and not an end in itself.
When the gospel of Christ Jesus was taken beyond the confines of Judea and Samaria, away from the exclusive Jewish preserve into the gentile world, the enthusiasm to commune with the living God necessitated the evolution of different doctrines in line with peculiarities and idiosyncrasies of the various peoples that accepted Christ as their messiah. To resolve the true nature of Christ and evolve a unified Christian theology, Emperor Constantine the Great, emperor of Rome, convened the first ecumenical council at Nicaea, Asia minor (modern-day Turkey) in 325 AD.
It was at the ecumenical council of Nicaea that 318 bishops from the four corners of the Roman Empire adopted the Trinity, also known as the Nicene Creed, as the official Church position on the nature of Christ the messiah in relationship to God and the Holy Spirit. The Nicene Creed precedes the first revealed verse of the Quran in 610 AD by 285 years, wherein Christians were regarded as “People of the Book” that “believe in God and the last day” and “who shall not fear nor grieve for their reward for doing good will be granted by Allah SWT.” Allah SWT, acknowledges Christians as People of the Book despite their belief in the Trinity, contrary to their modern-day mischaracterisation as unbelievers by some mainstream Muslim authorities.
A close scrutiny of the words of Allah SWT specifically calling upon Christians to eschew their belief in the Trinity, reveals he was gracious enough to address Christians as people of the book but not unbelievers, as contained in the following verses from Quran 4:171, “O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His messengers. Say not ‘Trinity’: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah: Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs.”
This is because the leaders of the church, who adopted the doctrine of trinity in the Third Century after Christ, did it in good faith, motivated by the love of God and the desire to worship him more. They didn’t set out to spite God or cause mischief. The actions of they and their followers will always be judged according to this intention by Allah SWT.
The Al-Barnawi faction of the Boko Haram insurgents technically defeated the Federal Government when they refused to release Leah Sharibu on the grounds of her Christian faith and her refusal to renounce it. Having earlier renounced violence against fellow Muslims, beginning from 2015, in strict compliance with “Islamic” rules of engagement in war, the continuous stay of Leah Sharibu in captivity has increased the legitimacy of the Al-Barnawi faction of Boko Haram among the predominantly Muslim population of the North-East who had largely been indoctrinated by the latter-day radical ideology that denounces Christians as unbelievers, contrary to the original word of Allah SWT.
This kind of legitimacy portends grave dangers of a full-scale escalation of the Boko Haram insurgency post-Muslim Presidency in Nigeria.