Lt Col Umar Sanda Ahmad (rtd)
A former Imam of the Ghana Armed Forces, Lt Col Umar Sanda Ahmad (rtd), has cautioned the media against the misuse of the word ‘Malam’.
Taking issues with the negative use of the word whose origin is Arabic, he said during an interview with the DAILY GUIDE over the weekend that “in recent times Malam has been used negatively.”
His intervention comes on the heels of the Kasoa murder of an eleven-year-old boy in which one of the juvenile suspected murderers claimed that he was asked by a fetish priest to bring a human being for a sacrifice to make him an instant billionaire.
The ensuing discussions in the media especially, he said, has witnessed the misuse of the word as it is lumped alongside fraudulent fetish priests, herbalists and some bad pastors.
“There is a penchant by some media practitioners to associate the word Malam with negative rituals,” he said.
The word Malam is an Arabic derivative, ‘Ilm’ pronounced ‘Elim’ to wit knowledge.
The word has undergone metamorphosis from Arab teachers and traders who travelled from North Africa and the Mediterranean to East and West Africa.
In Northern Nigeria where it took the form of Malam, it refers to knowledgeable persons. Today, it is the Hausas way of addressing a teacher or a respectable person.
Those who preside over social events such as naming and marriage ceremonies and others are referred to as Malams, he said, adding “the word has got nothing to do with money-doubling, commission of murder and other negative activities or accessories to criminalities.”
Continuing, he said, “Malams provide guidance onto the straight path. Any deviant behaviour cannot be associated with a Malam in the true sense of the word.”
In Tanzania, the famous former President Julius Nyerere was called Mualim Julius Nyerere, the word in Swahili meaning teacher.
Arab traders sailed to East Africa where they established a strong base in Zanzibar, which joined Tanganyika to form Tanzania.
In Northern Nigerian political history, Malam Aminu Kano was addressed as such.
By A.R. Gomda