Ibrahim Zakzaky

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Ayatollah Sheikh

Ibraheem Yaqoub Zakzaky
Sheikh Zakzaky.jpg
Ibraheem Zakzaky in 2013
Born (1953-05-05) 5 May 1953 (age 67)
Zaria, Nigeria
Alma materAhmadu Bello University
Years active1979–present
Known forFounder of Islamic Movement in Nigeria
Spouse(s)Zeenah Ibraheem
  • Muhammad
  • Nusaiba
  • Suhaila
  • Ahmad (Killed in 2014)[1]
  • Hameed (Killed in 2014)[1]
  • Mahmud (Killed in 2014)[1]
  • Hammad (Killed in 2015)[2]
  • Ali Haidar (Killed in 2015)[2]
  • Humaid (Killed in 2015)[2]

Ibrahim Yaqoub El Zakzaky (alternately Ibraheem Zakzaky; Ibrahim Al-Zakzaky) (born 5 May 1953) to a Fulani mallawa clan in Zaria, is an imprisoned outspoken and prominent Shi'a Muslim leader in Nigeria.[3][4] He is the head of Nigeria's Islamic Movement, which he founded in the late 1970s, when a student at Ahmadu Bello University, and began propagating Shia Islam around 1979, at the time of the Iranian revolution—which saw Iran's monarchy overthrown and replaced with an Islamic republic under Ayatollah Khomeini. Zakzaky believed that the establishment of a republic along similar religious lines in Nigeria would be feasible. He has been detained several times due to accusations of civil disobedience or recalcitrance under military regimes in Nigeria during the 1980s and 1990s, and is still viewed with suspicion or as a threat by Nigerian authorities.[4] In December 2015, the Nigerian Army raided his residence in Zaria, seriously injured him, and killed hundreds of his followers; since then, he has remained under state detention in the nation's capital pending his release, which was ordered in late 2016.[5][6] In 2019, a court in Kaduna state granted him and his wife bail to seek treatment abroad but they returned from India after 3 days on the premises of unfair treatment and tough restrictions by security operatives deployed to the medical facility.[7]

Early life and education[edit]

Ibraheem Zakzaky was born on 5 May 1953 (15 Sha’ban 1372 AH), in Zaria, Kaduna State. He attended the Provincial Arabic School, Zaria (1969-1970), the School for Arabic Studies, Kano from 1971-1976, where he obtained the ‘Grade II’ Certificate, and the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria (1976-1979), where he earned a first-class bachelor's degree in Economics. The degree was denied to him by the university authorities due to his Islamic activities.[8] During his university days, he was active in student Islamic unionism, where he became the secretary-general of the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN) at the Main Campus of the university (1977/78), and later became Vice President (International Affairs) of the National Body of the MSSN in 1979.[9]

Sheikh Zakzaky giving a lecture at ABU's mosque in the 1990s.

The same year, he is said to have become so impressed with the 1979 Iranian Revolution that he wanted one at home. Later, Zakzaky went to Iran, ultimately becoming a Shia. At home, he became the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria and turned it into a vehicle for proselytizing and gaining followers in the 1990s. As a result of his activities, millions have converted to Shia Islam in a country once with hardly any Shia population.[10]

Islamic Movement in Nigeria[edit]

Ibraheem Zakzaky is the primary figure and spiritual leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (formerly: Muslim Brothers[11]), Africa's most prominent Shi'a Muslim movement. Of Nigeria's 180 million population, around 50 percent are Muslim, a small minority of which belong to Shi'a Islam. According to Nnamdi Obasi, Senior Analyst on Nigeria at the International Crisis Group (ICG), the IMN's goals are twofold: “to ensure more stringent application of Islamic legal and administrative systems...then ultimately to create an Islamic state in Nigeria.”[12] Dr Iqbal Siddiqui described El-Zakzaky as "the de facto leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria".[13]

Political alignment and activities[edit]

The Resource Forum of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) held a symposium on "The Creation of the Illegal State of Israel" at Arewa House Kaduna on 21 May 2008. Zakzaky said,

when Israel is celebrating sixty years of occupying Palestine's land, we are mourning because the truth is Israeli State is created on the basis of terrorism and what is not yours is not yours, no matter years of oppression and hostage it would slip someday along with those supporting them. Israel will fall with her allies certainly.

— Cited by All Africa[14]

Nigerian Army attacks against the movement[edit]

Zaria Quds day massacre[edit]

On Friday 25 July 2014 , the Nigerian Army reportedly fatally shot 35 followers of Ibrahim Zakzaky, including three of his sons,[15] after a pro-Palestinian procession in Zaria. The UK Islamic Human Rights Commission published the report Zaria Massacres and the Role of the Military in October 2014.[16]

2015 Zaria massacre[edit]

Sheikh al-Zakzaky was injured and arrested along with his wife, in the 2015 Zaria massacre, in which three of his remaining sons, as well as hundreds of his followers, were killed by the Nigerian Army.[17][2]

Detention and ordered release[edit]

According to the judgment of the high court of Nigeria on 2 December 2016, Ibrahim Yaqoub El Zakzaky was ordered to be released from Department of State Services (similar to the US FBI) detention into police custody within 45 days. El Zakzaky and his wife were to be paid the sum of 50 million Naira ($164,052) in compensation. The judge announced that the justification of "holding him for his own protection" is not sufficient.[6]

On 16 January 2017, Amnesty International demanded that the "Nigerian authorities must immediately comply with a High Court order and release [...] Ibraheem El-Zakzaky and his wife from detention."[18]

On 13 January 2018, Zakzaky, detained at an unknown location without charges since December 2015, made a short public appearance, his first in two years, being allowed to see his doctor.[19] since 2014 Zakzaky was held captive by Nigerian federal government and Kaduna State government[20][21] for criminal charges,[22] since then, many of his followers make a protest in all the state for his release.[23] the act of detaining zakzaky long time without being judged was said to be against the law of the federation.[24]

"Free Zakzaky" protest graffiti in Kaduna State

2019 clashes[edit]

On 22 January 2019, Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenat head to the Kaduna High Court for hearing on the bail application. They were guarded by heavily armed operatives as they made their way into the court.[25]

In July 2019, in order to demand the release of Ibraheem el-Zakzaky, hundreds of people gathered outside government buildings and policemen tried to disperse them by using gunshots and tear gas. During the clash, two people died and 40 protesters were arrested by police. The Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), a group of Nigeria's minority Shia Muslims, said protests will continue until they secure the release of el-Zakzaky, because he suffered another stroke on Monday and it is needed urgently for him to be flown abroad for medical treatment. Abdullahi Murtala, a security analyst said, "Shia Muslims are emboldened by the perceived injustice of an 'immoral state' and will continue their protest and show of defiance against the Buhari government".[26] [27]

Another clash with Nigerian police on 22 July claimed many lives both of the Shi'ites, police officers and a young reporter, Precious Owolabi under NYSC. A Deputy Commissioner of Police also lost his life during the clash.[28][29]

The Muhammadu Buhari-led government proscribed the sect as illegal movement in Nigeria after meeting with service chiefs over the clash[30][31]

Personal life[edit]

He is married to Zeenah Ibraheem, with whom he had nine children.[32] Currently, only three of his children (one son and two daughters) are living. Three of his sons were killed in the Zaria Quds Day massacres in 2014.[5] Three more sons were killed in the 2015 Zaria massacre.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Sheikh Zakzaky's 3 sons, 9 others died in Nigerian troops, Shiite Muslims Clash". Vanguard Newspaper. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Three sons of Zakzaky killed in Nigeria massacre: Rights group". Press TV. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  3. ^ Dan Issacs (1 October 2001). "Nigeria's firebrand Muslim leader". BBC News. Retrieved 28 February 2014.
  4. ^ a b Connor Gaffey (16 December 2015). "Who is Sheikh Zakzaky, Nigeria's Most Powerful Shiite Muslim?". Newsweek Magazine. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  5. ^ a b "Family Of Sheikh Zakzaky Unclear If He Is Dead Or Unwell, According To Family Sources". Sahara Reporters. 17 December 2015.
  6. ^ a b "Court orders DSS to release Shiite leader, pay him N50M compensation". Pulse Nigeria. 2 December 2016.
  7. ^ "Nigerian Shia leader, wife reject treatment in India, return home". www.aljazeera.com.
  8. ^ "Biography of Mu'allim Ibrahim Al-Zakzaky". Bregava.tripod.com. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
  9. ^ "Official Website Of The Islamic Movement In Nigeria". Islamicmovement.org. 5 May 1953. Archived from the original on 26 February 2011. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
  10. ^ "As Trump Makes Threats, Iran Makes Friends". Bloomberg. 8 March 2017. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  11. ^ Michael Olufemi Sodipo (2013). "Mitigating Radicalism in Northern Nigeria" (PDF). p. 3. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  12. ^ "Who is Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky?". Newsweek Magazine. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  13. ^ [1] Archived 19 November 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ "Nigeria: Israeli State Would Crumble, Says Zakzaky". 21 May 2008 – via AllAfrica.
  15. ^ Punch Newspaper. "Soldiers killed three Elzakzaky sons, 32 others". Archived from the original on 27 July 2014. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  16. ^ "IHRC. Zaria Quds Massacre: The role of the Military". IHRC United Kingdom. October 2014. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 December 2015. Retrieved 16 December 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^ Nigeria: Comply with court order to release Sheik Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, 16 January 2017, Amnesty
  19. ^ "Nigerian Shi'ite leader, rumoured dead, makes first public appearance in two years". Reuters. 13 January 2018. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  20. ^ "Shiite leader El-Zakzaky brought to court, charged with murder - Premium Times Nigeria". 15 May 2018. Retrieved 2 March 2020.
  21. ^ "Eight-count charge filed against Shiite leader, El-Zakzaky". Vanguard News. 27 April 2018. Retrieved 2 March 2020.
  22. ^ "Why we never release El Zakzaky - Presidency". BBC News Pidgin. 23 July 2019. Retrieved 2 March 2020.
  23. ^ "Reflection-Online - The official site of the Free Zakzaky Campaign". Reflection-Online. Retrieved 2 March 2020.
  24. ^ "Nigeria is Violating Constitution on the El-Zakzaky and Dasuki Cases | Abdullah Tijani". African Liberty. 22 July 2019. Retrieved 2 March 2020.
  25. ^ "Updated: Heavy security as El-Zakzaky, wife head to court in Kaduna". Oak TV Newstrack. oak tv. 22 January 2019. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  26. ^ "Nigeria's Shia Muslims continue protest over el-Zakzaky detention". aljazeera. Retrieved 11 July 2019.
  27. ^ "Nigerian parliament: Violent clashes at Shia protest". bbc. Retrieved 9 July 2019.
  28. ^ Bello, Raphel (23 July 2019). "How Deputy CP, reporter died during Shi'ites protest". Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  29. ^ Alejoh, Daniel (23 July 2019). "Police kill 11 of our members ---IMN". Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  30. ^ Adeniyi, Olakunle (23 July 2019). "Breaking: Buhari to proscribe IMN Shi'ites "to put end to madness"". Nigeria News | FellowPress.com. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  31. ^ Press, Fellow (27 July 2019). "Breaking: Court proscribes Shiites terrorists". Nigeria News | FellowPress.com. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  32. ^ "Biography of Sheikh Zakzaky". Official Website of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria. 18 September 2013.

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