Muslims gathered on Friday and observed Jumah prayer as the Inisa Central Mosque in Odo-Otin Local Government Area of Osun State, which has been under lock and key for three years over the Imamship tussle, was re-opened today, December 1, 2023, for Muslim men and women of the community to observe Solatul Jum’ah.
The announcement of the reopening was made on Thursday at the palace of Olunisa of Inisa, Oba Joseph Oladunjoye Oyedele (JP) Fasikun II, on behalf of the Grand Chief Imam of Osun State in conjunction with the League of Imams and Alfas in the community.
In anticipation of the first-ever Jum’ah prayers after three years, it was learnt that the Muslim youths in Inisa stormed the central mosque on Thursday to make necessary preparations including cleaning to make the House of Allah conducive for the congregation of Muslims that will attend.
Behind the news
Inisa Central Mosque came to the limelight when Ilorin-born Muslim scholar Sheikh Ahmad Labeeb Lagbaji early this week posted a video of his visit together with his disciples to the mosque on social media.
In the video, the Islamic scholar lamented how the central mosque had been locked for several years without prayers being observed there over leadership tussle.
According to Sheikh Lagbaji, community members said a spell had been placed on whoever leads prayer at the mosque to die following the tussle.
He, however, led the dhuhr prayer at the central mosque during one of his visitations, to break the ‘pray and die’ jinx, saying no evil would befall them.
“It is embarrassing that a central mosque would be shut down for years due to flimsy issues. My mission here is to ensure that the mosque is reopened for prayers. We will achieve that. I come from Ilorin every day to show I am serious about this,” he said.
The Islamic scholar who was accompanied to the mosque by one of the leaders of Inisa Muslim community said he has been enjoying support from various quarters to ensure the mosque is reopened.
“Now, we have the support of Leagues of Imams and Scholars from various parts of Nigeria including Oyo, Lagos and Bauchi, among others. They said there is a jinx that prayer must not be observed here again. We will break that jinx and spell.”
Following his video, the issue came to the front burner with netizens coming up with their versions of stories and experiences about the Inisa Central Mosque crisis.
One of the leading voices in narrating his experience was the Grand Mufti of Yorubaland and Amir of Ta’awunul Muslimeen, Sheikh Molaasan.
In a Facebook live video, the Grand Mufti said the Imamship tussle could be traced back to 2020.
He added that the tussle divided the Muslim community in Inisa town, while also alleging that Oba Joseph Fasikun II had a preferred candidate for the Imamship position despite being a Christian.
“Muslim leaders and stakeholders in Inisa all agreed to select someone with relevant Islamic knowledge, but the monarch wanted a different person who was not versatile and had a pending case in court,”
Sheikh Molaasan said.
“The League of Alfas in Inisa choose someone who had his Arabic education in Saudi Arabia and had been Imam in Canada and Osogbo for over 20 years. Although the person did not seek to be the Imam of the Central Mosque, the clerics visited him and beckoned him to be the overseer of the mosque. The king’s favourite is lower in rank to become Imam. And it is not done that way anywhere in the world.”
Molaasan advocated a competence test between the two contenders to see who is more capable of being the Imam.
He said, “This is the practice laid down by Prophet Mohammad (SAW), which entails appointing someone with a good knowledge of Islam. The two contenders should be invited and asked to sit for a competence exam.”
Also sharing information at his disposal, Dr. Sanusi Lafiagi of Al-Hikmah University, Ilorin, wrote that a couple of Imams have died in the course of the tussle.
“There is more to the Inisa central mosque saga than meets the eye. This morning, I received a voice note from one of our mothers on this street detailing what transpired and led to the closedown of the mosque,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
“I couldn’t believe my ears. I sent it to a couple of friends, and a Shaykh who is familiar with the story corroborated the narration and even added more to it. Apparently, a couple of Imāms have been spiritually ‘kpained’ (by Allāh’s permission) over the Imamship tussle.
“I heard that the last Chief Imam who stubbornly refused to be stopped from leading the Salāt didn’t have the opportunity of leading another Jumu’ah prayer after that day. He became so sick that in one day, he received about 20 IV bags (drips) and none was found in his body.”
Although Dr Lafiagi didn’t mention the names of the imams who lost their lives due to the crisis, an Osun State-based medium, Osun Defender, in a story published in May 2021, revealed their identities.
In the report, titled, “3 Imams Die In Quick Succession In Inisa, Govt. Shuts Central Mosque”, the medium wrote, One of the late Imams, Sheik Surakat Asiyanbi (81), was sick for over 10 years before he died in 2020. When Asiyanbi died, his deputy, Qaseem Adebisi (87) was installed as the new Chief Imam of Inisa.
“However, Adebisi was able to lead one Jumat Prayer before he fell sick and later died in 2020. Another Imam, Sheikh Mustafa Baruwa (85), who was installed after Adebisi did not spend three months before he gave up the ghost in 2020, according to some residents of the community.”
The medium also noted that since the death of the three Imams, there has been a crisis in the Inisa Muslim community on who to fill the vacant Chief Imam position, adding that the Eesa of Inisa, Chief Enoch Ajiboso, slumped and died while settling rift among the Muslim community members, late December 2020.
Realizing the danger in the trend of the crisis, the immediate former governor of the State, Mr. Adegboyega Oyetola shut down the Inisa Central Mosque indefinitely and also banned any central congregation at the Mosque for Eid prayers.
The announcement read, “Governor Adegboyega Oyetola, as part of efforts to ensure the security of lives and properties in that axis of the state, directed that the central mosque be shut indefinitely to forestall further religious or communal crises. Already, the mosque has recorded the death of two Imams in quick succession.
“Security operatives have been deployed to the town to enforce the closure and ban on Eid prayers. This directive will be in place until reconciliatory process towards amicable resolution is concluded,” it read in part.
Also, The Punch, in her report published on Wednesday, quoted the President of the League of Imams and Alfas in Yorubaland, Edo and Delta states, Sheikh Jamiu Bello, represented by Sheikh Iskeel Lawal, saying that the mosque was locked on the order of the court and not by Muslim elders in the community.
He noted that the state’s governor, Ademola Adeleke, is the only one who can solve the lingering Imam crisis in the community, adding, “The Islamic scholars should continue to push for an end to the issue so that the community can begin praying there.”
However, the representative of the Grand Chief Imam of Osun State, while clearing air on the issue on Thursday, November 30, at the palace of Olunisa, stated that the central mosque was not shut down due to the Imamship tussle.
He said that, from findings, it was established that the court ordered the closure because one of the parties in the tussle was charged to court for allegedly falsifying his educational qualifications.
He added that the delay in the trial of the suit account for why an Imam has not been appointed.
In his efforts to ensure that the mosque is opened for Muslims to pray starting today, Friday, after three years, Sheikh Labeeb Lagbaji during his resolution mission paid visits to stakeholders involved in the central mosque tussle, including the Olunisa of Inisa and Iya Sunnah of the community.
He wanted to ensure that the Jum’ah prayer was re-established at the mosque this week.
During Sheikh Lagbaji’s visit to the palace, the Olunisa of Inisa denied having an anointed candidate for the imamship, noting he is a Christian with little knowledge about the appointment of an Imam.
He said the two feuding parties in the tussle have met him severally, noting he only stood by the decision of the majority of the ratibi Imams, who also form members of the League of Imams and Alfas in the community.
“I don’t have any hand in the closure of the mosque. Four Imams have successfully been installed since I ascended the throne of my forefathers and I never went against the decision of the ratibi.
“But the problem is that people are becoming more interested and exerting influence unnecessarily in recent times. From time immemorial, the decision on who becomes Imam rests with the Muslim community in Inisa. So, I don’t interfere. It was the Ratibi Imams that selected the Imam of Inisa Central Mosque which led to the crisis. Out of 36 members of the ratibi, 30 came to me to support and choose an Imam. The advisory I got from my consultations within and outside Inisa was that I should queue behind the ratibi. That’s what I did,” the monarch said.
The issue was, however, later resolved at the palace during a meeting held on Thursday, November 30, with the involvement of Grand Chief Imam of Osun State and other critical stakeholders in the crisis.
It was learnt that with the approval of the grand Imam of Osun State, Jum’ah prayer began at the mosque today, Friday, December 1 and an Imam from Oyan, a member of League of Imams and Alfas in the zone, lead the salat.
As stated by the representative of the Grand Imam of Osun State at the reconciliatory meeting held on Thursday at the palace, “By the permission of the grand Imam of Osun State after consultation with the members of the League of Imams and Alfas, Inisa Central Mosque will be open for jum’ah prayer today. Pending the selection of a substantive Imam, each community under the zone is to present representative Imams that will lead jum’ah prayer at the central mosque rotationally every week,”