Sheikh Ibraheem El Zakzaky was born on May 5th, 1953 in Zaria City, in Kaduna State, Northern Nigeria. He is the founder and leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) with the mission to propagate Shi’ite Islam in Nigeria.
Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky was a Fulani born from both sides of his Father and Mother, who originated from Mali. The name of his mother is Hajiya Salaha, popularly addressed as ‘Hari’ (which is a nickname given to anyone born during the rainy season in Fulani community). Her father is Malam Muhammad Gidado the son of Malam Abdulqadir, who was a Fulani man from Mali.
El Zakzaky Early Years & Education
El Zakzaky early education was at the traditional Quranic and Islamic schools from a tender age to the age of sixteen in the historic city and traditional center of learning. El Zakzaky did not attend formal primary school. His first contact with formal education was in 1969 at the Provincial Arabic School, Zaria – a school where the then Zaria Nigerian Army was locally training Arabic teachers for its primary schools.
From 1971 – 1975, he attended the famous School for Arabic Studies (SAS), Kano, which was founded in 1934 as Northern Nigeria Law School. It has been described as “the mother of Bayero University”. Almost one hundred percent of Northern Grand Khadis are products of the school. Grand Khadis or Khadis are judges that preside over Sharia courts.
Being interested in some subjects not taught at the school, El Zakzaky combined his Grade II Teachers Certificate course with private GCE studies in subjects like Government and Economics. In 1975, after finishing school exams, he sat for the Advanced Level GCE in Government, Economics, Hausa and Islamic Studies.
Successful results in these exams qualified him for direct entry into the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria for a B.Sc. (Economics) degree course from 1976 to 1979. He was an active member of the Muslim Student Society (MSS) at both campus and national levels.
In 1978, El Zakzaky, then Secretary-General of the MSS (ABU), was believed to be the main brain behind the nation-wide demonstrations in support of the inclusion of Shari’ah in the Nigerian constitution. He was elected Vice-President (International Affairs) of the MSS (National Body) in 1979.
El Zakzaky was allegedly expelled from the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) after a disciplinary committee found him guilty of invading a party organized by ABU students union to protest the sale and consumption of alcohol by those in attendance. Ango Abdullahi, then-acting vice-chancellor of ABU and chairman of the committee expelled El Zakzaky and Sani Daura, then-president of the Muslim Student Society after claiming he had warned them against the protest.
Interestingly, he continued to learn from deferent ulama in the traditional system of learning in both Kano and Zaria. His teachers include Malam Sani Abdulkadir, Malam Isa of Madaka, Malam Sani Na’ibi and Malam Ibrahim of Kakaki all in Zaria.
In Kano, he learnt from Shawish Abdallah of Sagagi and Malam Nuhu the Imam of Yola. His main occupation from student days to date is an Islamic scholar and activist – engaged mainly in learning, research and teaching Islamic studies. His speeches have been written into many booklets mainly in the Hausa Language.
In the words of Dr. Iqbal Siddiqui, he is “the de facto leader of the Islamic movement in Nigeria”. The goal of the Islamic movement is to enlighten the Muslims as to their duties as individuals and as a community. The movement owns more than three hundred primary/secondary schools located in different places mainly in the northern part of the country. They are known by the name of Fudiyyah Schools. This is in addition to many Islamic centers and other institutions. The movement also owns Nigeria’s most widely circulated newspaper, Al Mizan, in the Hausa language.
El Zakzaky & the Nigerian Government
Sheikh El Zakzaky has been jailed several times for his ideas by all the successive Nigerian regimes from Obasanjo in khaki to the last Abacha/Abubakar regime. Charges against him were always sedition or inciting disaffection to Government.
In Abacha’s era, it was for declaring, “there is no government except that of Islam”. His total prison experience is over thirteen years in nine different prisons across the country – the most famous being Enugu (1981-1984), the notorious Interrogation Center of NSO, Lagos (1984-1985), Kiri-Kiri Maximum Security (1985), Port Harcourt (1987-1989 and 1996-1997) and Kaduna (1987 and 1997-1998). This excludes Department of State Services (DSS) custody he has been placed under since 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn into office.
On July 27th, 2019, a Federal High Court in Abuja, the nation’s capital, proscribed and declared the Shiite movement as a terrorist group.
El Zakzaky has traveled widely across the world. Countries visited include the UK, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Lebanon, Sudan, South Africa, US, and Russia. All the travels have been for Islamic reasons – mostly attending conferences and seminars. He is married to one wife with nine children.
Being the founder of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), his followers have rioted and protested at different times since 2015.
In August 2019, El Zakzaky was allowed to get treatment in India by the Nigerian government over his failing health. He was allowed to travel alongside his wife but they barely stayed a week after he claimed the Nigerian government wanted to kill him. El Zakzaky returned to Nigeria and under the DSS custody where he has been since 2015.