A few months ago, I had the honor of interviewing Sheikh Zakzaky in his latest journey to Iran– he had traveled to Mashhad to participate in the International Festival of Imam Reza - and it was indeed excruciating for me to hear about martyrdom of his followers and family in addition to contradictory news concerning his condition. However, in days after the bloody massacre in Zaria, the bodyguard of Sheikh Zakzaky who is a student at Qom seminary was restless and left for Nigeria. Before he left, he told me a sentence about which I’ve thought many times and with which I have consoled myself. He said, “There is a secret in the martyrdom of us, the Shiites, which only God and Imam Hossein are aware of. Its reason will be disclosed in the future.”
Something about Sheikh Zakzaky and Nigerian Shiites has come to my mind; it is the African Shiites’ sincerity and their being oppressed which even Iranians do not know about. Sheikh rose in the form of a Shiite revolutionary militant in Africa and the Zionist regime was most aware of his actions in Africa. I have met and talked to some Nigerian Shiites; they are so passionate and sincere, they are widely known as Khomeinions in Africa.
Unbelievably, before Islamic Revolution in Iran just a few Shiites lived in Nigeria. But, after the Revolution and by the help of Sheikh Zakzaky’s leadership, Nigeria has become one of the largest Shiite countries around the world containing about 12 million Shiites. Most of them reside in the north of Nigeria. Zaria is the birth place of Sheikh Zakzaky and it is the most important Shiite city in the country.
This city is located at North-East of Nigeria and it is called City of Knowledge or Nigeria’s Qom among the Shiites of this country as it is center of theological knowledge and seminaries.
Sheikh Zakzaky was born at Zaria. His was a Maleki. In 1980, one year after Islamic Revolution of Iran-in its anniversary- when he was an economics student in Zaria University, he traveled to Iran as Deputy Secretary General of African Muslim Students. He visited Imam Khomeini (R.A.) and he was fascinated by the founder of Islamic Revolution.
In the meeting, Imam Khomeini bestowed him a copy of Quran and said: “Go and guide your people by this Quran”. Thereafter and when the Nigerian army once raided and searched Sheikh’s house that copy of Quran was among the stuff that officers looted and Sheikh loved it dearly.
Nigeria Shiites got to know Imam Khomeini and Islamic Revolution of Iran through Sheikh Zakzaky. They have great devotion to Islamic Revolution, Imam Khomeini and the Supreme Leader.
Reuters wrote a sentence about Sheikh which is thought-provoking: “Events in Iran made Sheikh Zakzaky believe that Islamic Awakening may reach to Nigeria.”
This year, in the last days of August I had the honor of meeting Sheikh Zakzaky and I could have a conversation with him as a journalist on the happy and auspicious birthday anniversary of Imam Reza (A.S.).In those days, he traveled to Mashhad in order to take part in the International Festival of Imam Reza (A.S.) and at the closing ceremony, Iranian Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance praised him as a top devotee of Razavi culture.
When I met the prominent leader of the Islamic world, I was extremely influenced by his spiritual attraction. A hero who went to jail 9 times and the last one was from 1996 to 1998. Three of his sons (Sayyed Mohammad, Sayyed Hamid, and Sayyed Ahmad) were martyred in the Quds Day Rally 2014. His only remaining son (Sayyed Ali) was martyred along with Sheikh’s wife (Zinat Ebrahim) in the raid on the sheikh’s house. The condition in Nigeria is in such a way that the Shiites are martyred every week for various excuses. The placidity and on-going smile on Sheikh’s face during the meeting transmitted some sort of tranquility to me. He talked about wisdom behind Imam Reza’s hegira to Iran which was quite interesting.
Sheikh Zakzaky loved the Supreme Leader and he used to pursue internal affairs of Iran carefully and spoke about them.
In some parts of the conversation, Sheikh said: “Imam Reza’s hegira to Iran was according to God’s wisdom so that he would be buried in a remote village of Khorasan and centuries later his court would play an important role in the Islamic world.”
“Iranian should prepare to manage the world, a world which is based on rationalism and Iran will be its leader” he also noted.