Insult is prohibited in Islam regardless of whoever the target of the insult is. Although he did not make mention of any specific people, however, considering the context of the discussion, it was obvious that the Emir of Kano was referring to Shia Muslims.
Now, the question is, do Shiites insult the companions of the holy prophet (SAW)? The answer is NO – Shiites don’t insult the companions. So what do Shiites make of the companions? First of all, it’s important to note that Shiites divide the companions into two categories – let’s say A and B. (A) Those who were loyal to Holy prophet and his teachings while he was alive and after his death. ( B) Those who were loyal to the prophet and his teachings while he was alive but violates the teachings after his death.
The Shiites therefore accept A and reject B meanwhile Sunnis accept both A and B. Sunnis believe the prophet had no problem with any of his companions. Thus even when it appeared that a particular companion offended the prophet, they go to any length to either cover up or defend the companion involved. In some cases they defend a companion against the prophet (SAW) directly or in directly. For example, it was narrated that one day the prophet sent AbdullahiibnAbbass to invite Mu’awuyyabnAbusufayan to him (the prophet). Mu’awuyya said he was having his lunch. The holy prophet sent ibnAbbass again. Mu’awuya said again that he was having his lunch – this was repeated three times. Finally, the prophet said may Allah not allow his to get satisfied. In defense to Mu’awuya, a Muslim scholar in Kano said “the message bearer probably did not deliver the message to Mu’awuya”. What an insult!
This amounts to an insult to both the prophet and ibn Abbas. On one hand, to say that probably, the message bearer, ibn Abbas did not deliver the message – it means he is a liar. On the other, it is contempt of the highest order to the holy prophet. How can you imagine that an ordinary scholar was clever enough to realize that the message bearer might not have delivered the message, unfortunately the prophet could not realize.
Narrating a story like this is regarded by most Sunni Muslims as an insult to prophet’s companions. Surprisingly, the Emir of Kano appeared to have this kind of mindset… probably he forgot that some of his write ups are full of such narratives. For instance in a lecture he delivered on 3rd December, 2000 at the Auditorium of Law school, Victoria Island, Lagos on the topic: “Probity and Accountability in Islam”, he had this to say about BanuUmayya in general and Uthman in particular…. “the truth and the truth be said, is that no discussion of accountability and probity in Islam and how Muslims ummah lost these values, is complete without a discussion of reign of Uthman and more profoundly the rule of his clan, the ummayit over Muslim world. Uthman became caliph in old age and lasted for twelve years. The first six years were in keeping with sunna of the messenger, Abubakar and Umar. Then old age set in and some of his strengths became his weaknesses. He loved his family and in old age became hostage to them. He was generous in spirit and in old age allowed profligacy with public funds. He held that as imam he had the right to give public fund as gift and allowances. When HarisbnHakam married Uthman’s daughter, the latter gave the former 200,000 Dirhams from the public treasury leading to a showdown with and removal of Zaid bn Arham from his position as a treasurer. Uthman gave Zubair 600,000 Dirhams one day, and Dalhat 200,000 and presented his cousin, Marwan bnHakam one-fifth of land tax of the entire Ifrikiyya. The companions expostulated with him but he insisted that he had to take care of his relatives and kinsmen. Abu-Sufyan, the prophet arch-enemy who refused to accept Islam until the defeat of his forces in Mecca, and who even joining Islam he had nothing but contempt for Islamic values, especially the high esteem in which early companions whom he considered slaves, like Bilal, Salman and Suhaib were held, was still alive like the mother-hen, he gathered his flock around him. He guided his son, Mu’awuya, his nephew, Uthman and Marwnan bn Hakam and other ummayyit like Alhakam bn Al’as who had been expelled but rehabilitated by Uthman. Marwan had unlimited control of the treasury. Abu-Zar, the prophet’s companion was exiled for his strident criticism of the prodigality. At the end of the day, exercise of Uthman appointees led to fitnah in which he was sadly killed. But the seed of corruption was already sown.”
The narrative above given by Emir of Kano, is the kind sometimes Shiites give in order to enlighten the Muslim community on the wrongs of Muslims’ historical past, and know whose examples among the companions are worth following. It should not be surprising if companions make mistake, because they were not prophets. The world has never produced a community in which all its members were rightly guided. In fact this contradicts human nature. Thus, if the above narrative constitutes an insult on the prophet’s companions then not only Shiites but also the Emir is guilty of such insult. And if Shiites cannot be tolerated, the Emir too must not be tolerated for ‘whatever is due for the drake, is due for the gander.’ (We all deserve justice).
Shia Islam is about justice and peace; it’s been against injustice and oppression throughout times and spaces. In that same lecture, the Emir of Kano gave the following testimony. “It seems to me somewhere along the line, Islamic ethics in the area of public policy lost its essential contact with divine reality. The Ulama deliberately or by accident, gave prominence to certain Hadiths which were interpreted in a manner that made it incumbent on people to accept lack of probity and accountability. This was particularly true of Sunni Islam.
Among the Shiites it was a different story. The principle of Adl (justice) like Imamah (leadership), is one of the pillars of Islam according to Shiite thought. Most of the philosophical discourse around Adl roots it squarely in the principle of Tawhid. It is therefore inconceivable that anyone who believes in Allah can perpetrate or tolerate injustice”
Among others, this is the reason why some people say the Emir of Kano is a Shiite. The Emir perhaps considers this as serious challenge being a ruler of majority Sunni Muslims, and so had to distance himself from Shiites. Alas, the manner in which he did that was not befitting his position as one of the most influential monarchs in Africa. His speech had tendency of sparking further violence in the violence stricken nation.
Peace, blessing and protection of Allah be upon the rightly guided.