NOVEMBER 7-20, 2006As on-going efforts to immunize children against Polio in Northern Nigeria were failing, and new cases of the crippling disease continued to be diagnosed, the President of the Republic of Nigeria, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) turned to Shaykh Hassan Ali Cisse to lend the high esteem and respect with which he is regarded throughout West Africa to the fight against Polio.  In response to their concerted, urgent requests, on November 7, 2006 AAII’s Founder and Chairman embarked on a campaign to sensitize the Ulama and influential individuals of Northern Nigeria to the importance of stopping the spread of Polio through immunization and to obtain their commitment to convey the message to their people that the Polio vaccine is safe and that Muslim children must be protected against the disease.

Shaykh Hassan Cisse addressed the rumor that the Polio vaccine is being used as a vehicle to reduce fertility among Muslims, which he said has no basis in fact.  The Shaykh said that Muslim physicians in Malaysia and in the United States have tested the vaccine and confirmed that it is both safe and free of chemical substances that adversely affect fertility.  Shaykh Hassan noted that although the rumor is completely false, the consequent rejection of the Polio vaccine has led to paralysis and death among children in the four countries remaining in the world in which Polio has not been eradicated: India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.  With regard to the understandable suspicion of Western motives toward Africa and Muslims, the Shaykh pointed out that almost all medicine, beverages, sugar, salt, rice and other commodities used throughout Africa are imported from the West, offering ample opportunity for contamination.  Further, the Shaykh noted that when wealthy people in Africa become ill, they immediately seek medical attention in Western nations, yet children are being denied protection against Polio because of suspicions about the Western source of the vaccine. Most importantly, the Shaykh reminded the people that Allah alone is responsible for the creation of life.

To Allah belongs the dominion
Of the heavens and the earth.
He creates what He wills
He bestows
(Children) male or female
According to His Will.

Or He bestows both males
And females, and He leaves
Barren whom He will

Supported by ayats of the Holy Qur’an and sound ahadith of the Prophet(SAW), Shaykh Hassan explained that immunization does not contradict Islamic principles. In fact, Islamic principles support preventing disease, protecting children and saving life.  With regard to having a healthy body, the Shaykh said the mission of mankind on earth is to worship Allah and since human beings are composed of flesh and soul, each must be cared for properly. Quoting  the hadith of the Prophet (SAW),  “A strong Believer is better and more loveable to Allah than a weak Believer, although there is goodness in each of the two groups”, Shaykh Hassan said the Muslim Ummah must take as much responsibility for its physical health as it does for its spiritual health.  Regarding illness, the Shaykh quoted the hadith of the Prophet(SAW), “Seek remedy for sickness, for Allah did not send an illness for which He did not also send a remedy.”  Shaykh Hassan said that the ability to prevent a disease is a Mercy from Allah.  Then, quoting from Suratual Rahman, he added, “Which of the Favors of your Lord will you deny?”

Shaykh Hassan further explained that Allah enjoins the believers to seek protection for themselves and their families (Do not destroy yourselves; and in another ayat, Do not kill your children).  Immunization is a way of seeking protection for children and, surely, protection (prevention) is better than cure.  Failure to immunize children can lead to premature death or major reduction in the quality of their lives. Therefore, it is incumbent upon all parents to immunize their children against contagious disease.  Quoting the hadith of the Prophet (SAW), “It is enough of a sin for one to neglect or let down his dependents,” Shaykh Hassan urged the Muslim leadership of Northern Nigeria to advise their people that it is an obligation to protect their children from contracting Polio, thereby saving both the current and future generations.  The Shaykh continued, “We must protect our children so they will have healthy bodies and sound minds.  We are all accountable for our children on the Day of Judgement.”  Furthermore, the Shaykh said that since the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has decreed that any person who has not been vaccinated against Polio will not be allowed to enter to perform Hajj, by implication, vaccination against Polio has become compulsory upon Muslims. According to Muslim jurists, any pre-requisite for obligatory worship is itself obligatory.

Shaykh Hassan referred to two additional Islamic principles that support his mission.  Allah enjoins a Muslim to love for his brother what he loves for himself. He said that children in Medina-Kaolack, Senegal are being immunized and because he knows it is beneficial to them, he wants his neighbors’ children in Nigeria to also be immunized.  The Shaykh then expressed concern about the spread of Polio throughout Nigeria and beyond as a consequence of the failure to immunize in the North. He said it is our duty as Muslims not to harm anyone.  “The benefits of having halted the spread of Polio will reach us on this earth and in the Hereafter, for Allah says in Qur’an:

And if anyone saved a life
It would be as if he saved
The life of the whole people.

As Shaykh Hassan traveled to the Nigerian states of Bauchi, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara, as well as the Arzai section of  Kano City and Kaura-Namoda in Zamfara State, he was received by distinguished members of the Ulama and respected individuals, to include:  The Emir of Zazzau, His Eminence Alhaji Shehu Idriss; the Deputy Governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Mahmud Aliyu Shinkafi; the new Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III; the Emir of Katsina, His Eminence Alhaji Muhammad Kabir Usman;  the Governor of Kaduna, His Excellency Alhaji Ahmad Muhammad Makarfi;  the Commissioner of the Shari’a Board of Kano State, Alhaji Ibrahim Sheikh Maihula; Sheikh Uba Sufyan of the Village of Dorayi; Sheikh Tahir Usman Bauchi;  the Emir of Bauchi, His Eminence Sheikh Imam Bamaina; the Governor of Gombe State,  His Excellency Alhaji Danjuma Goje; the Governor of Bauchi State, His Excellency Alhaji Ahmad Adamu Au’azu, Sheikh Mahmud Salga; Khalifa Isakha Rabi’u. In addition to these distinguished leaders, the Shaykh was greeted by huge crowds. In Kaura-Namoda, a convoy of thirty cars and over a hundred motorcycles drove 12 kilometers out of the town itself to greet Shaykh Hassan, many more thronged his motorcade and 2,000 people awaited his arrival in the mosque. At every destination, his message was received enthusiastically by both Islamic leaders and the masses of people.

Determined to reach as many people as possible with his message to immunize against Polio, Shaykh Hassan employed a number of strategies. Many of the meetings took place inside the main mosque of the area, where, surrounded by malams and Islamic leaders, the Shaykh explained the dangers of Polio, the safety of the vaccine to prevent it and the obligation of Muslim parents to protect their children.  The Shaykh also effectively utilized press conferences that were well attended by both broadcast and print media outlets, to include: BBC/Hausa, Voice of America, FRCN, KSTV, New Nigerian, Radio Kano, Triumph Kano, Sharifa Kano, Ray Power Kano, Gernman (DW), Daily Trust and Voice of Nigeria, Leadership Companies Newspapers, NTA, BATV, BRC, Fed FM, Public Agenda and VON.

In collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), massive immunization sessions were organized in schools with student populations in the thousands.  During four such events, one in Bauchi, two in Kaduna and one in Kano, Shaykh Hassan personally administered the Polio vaccine to several children. After having heard the Shaykh’s appeal to parents in the media, in which he said they are responsible for the health and education of the children God has given them, some non-Muslims brought their children to be immunized.

During his visits with the leaders of Northern Nigeria, many of them expressed their appreciation for Shaykh Hassan’s work on behalf of the Muslim Ummah, all African children and humanity as a whole.  In addition to expressions of appreciation, many prayers were offered for Shaykh Hassan in recognition of his continuation of the work of his father, Sayyidi Aliou Cisse(RA) and his grandfather, Sheikh al-Islam El Hadj Ibrahim Niass(RA) to spread Islam through good manners and good actions.

A prominent Sheikh and member of the Ulama, Malam Imama Bamaina, stated that he had already heard Shaykh’s message on the radio and had begun informing his people. However, now that Shaykh had come to tell him personally, he thanked Allah for sending permission to disseminate the message. Sheikh Mahmud Salga emphasized the importance of Shaykh Hassan’s support regarding the Polio vaccine by sharing an experience he had in the early 1970’s.  He said he was in a convoy of Pilgrims on their way to Mecca via Beirut and there was confusion as to where they should don Ihram. Some scholars said it should be assumed in Beirut to avoid crossing the precinct of the holy land without it; others preferred Jeddah as the location in order to ease the stress on the Muslims.  It happened that Sheikh al-Islam El Hadj Ibrahim Niass(RA) was also on his way to Hajj from Paris through Beirut.  Shaykh Ibrahim (RA) solved the problem by giving the legal opinion that intention should be made to travel to Jeddah instead of to Mecca.  This would automatically remove any confusion, for according to the leading book of Maliki jurisprudence, no Ihram is incumbent on someone passing the precinct, unless he makes the intention to travel to Mecca.  Sheikh Salga said that in the same way, Sheikh al-Islam’s grandson, Shaykh Hassan Cisse, has come to clear the confusion concerning the safety of the Polio vaccine, based on Islamic knowledge.  He said, “We, the people of Kano now have a legal opinion from our world leader, which has become incumbent on us to follow”  Similarly, Khalifa Isakha Rabi’u said, “We have indeed been blessed by knowing and associating with Sheikh al-Islam, Ibrahim Niass (RA), who has benefited us enormously in every respect.  Today, without doubt, Shaykh Hassan is the heir to Sheikh al-Islam (RA) with regard to his divine secrets and miraculous gifts.”

Shaykh Hassan recalled his first visit to Kano in 1962 with his grandfather and again with his father, Saydi Aliou Cisse(RA). The Shaykh said, “The relationship between us is divine, because what is divine is continuous and whatever is not for the Sake of Allah is bound to be disappointed.” Shaykh Hassan led the Jum’ah prayer at the Kofar-Mata Juma’at Mosque in Kano. That evening, the Shaykh led the Dhikrul Jum’ah and Wazifah in the mosque, with more than ten thousand worshippers in attendance at both the Jum’ah prayer and the Dhikr gatherings.

Upon meeting with the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, Shaykh Hassan expressed condolences on behalf of himself, the people of Kaolack and the entire people of Senegal upon the death of the former Sultan, Alhaj Muhammad Maccido.  Shaykh Hassan said that the late Sultan is well remembered in Senegal as one who paid condolences to Kaolack  upon the passing of Sheikh al-Islam El Hadj Ibrahim Niass(RA) on behalf of the Sultanate and the Muslims of Nigeria.  Shaykh Hassan prayed for Allah to grant him forgiveness, show him mercy and bless him with the wide expanse of His Paradise.  Then the Shaykh congratulated the new Sultan and prayed for peace and protection for him, the Muslims of Nigeria and the entire nation.  The Sultan promised to meet with religious, tribal and community leaders to immediately initiate efforts to protect children from Polio.

[Photograph Shaykh and the Sultan of Sokoto]

Upon completion of his mission to promote understanding and acceptance of the imperative to immunize children against Polio in Northern Nigeria, Shaykh Hassan Cisse met with the Nigerian President, His Excellency Olusegun Obasanjo, in the nation’s capital city of Abuja to advise him of the level of cooperation and commitment that had been achieved during the campaign.

On November 30, 2006, Shaykh Hassan Cisse and his delegation met with senior World Health Organization (WHO) officials at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland to submit the official report of the campaign.  During the luncheon that followed, one high level official related the statement of a WHO representative in Nigeria, “Shaykh Hassan Cisse has accomplished in two weeks what we were unable to do ourselves in six years.”

That evening, at a dinner in his honor hosted by Ambassador Babacar Ba, Permanent Observer, Permanent Mission of the Organization of the Islamic Conference to the United Nations – Geneva and Vienna, Shaykh Hassan was again in the company of senior WHO officials.  During conversations that spanned a multitude of topics that included global public health concerns, international events and AAII’s innovative health initiatives in Senegal, the WHO officials demonstrated a fresh receptivity to a new understanding of Islam and Muslims as presented by Shaykh Hassan Cisse and attested to by the unprecedented success of his mission in Northern Nigeria.

(Submitted by Ashaki Taha-Cisse and Auwalu Inuwa Diso)

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