Why shouldn’t he? Why should he? This is an ongoing debate. I have read people’s reactions—Muslims and non-Muslims. I observed most of the reactions are emotional; beneath them is bigotry. Bigotry is an ugly concept. I will not define it because of its relativity. But we should ask some questions. Is mosque a shrine—in a fetishistic sense—or a place of worship? Can non-Muslims enter the mosque with shoes or without shoes? Is Osinbajo’s entering the mosque with his shoes desecrating? If it is desecrating, must he have done so intentionally?
To begin with the last question, it is not intrinsically desecrating to enter the mosque with shoes except if the one who does so intends desecration. Since it is difficult to know the intention of the Vice President and I cannot speak for him (nor could anyone), it is better to judge his action; not his intention. And if we argue that he intended desecrating the mosque by his action, then we ask; to what political end? I think common sense answers this question better. Let’s leave it at that.
A mosque is a revered place of worship. It is the best house on earth in Islam. It does not matter if it is big or small, furnished or plain, a multi-billion-construction or mud building. Once it is a mosque, it must be revered. Yet, it is not a shrine—a magical building—where any act of desecration is expected to be followed with immediate repercussions. For instance, it is not a place where you expect thunder to strike, or fire to descend on anyone who steals or commits a crime in it. Hope this is clear. Yes.
On non-Muslims entering the mosque, we need to ask why. Is it to dance or to trade? To fight or to campaign? To worship, listen to sermon, or to accept Islam? I am asking these questions to create the impression that non-Muslims can enter the mosque (except al-Masjid al-Haram in Makkah) provided they are not there to do acts which illegality is established. The Prophet once accommodated some Christian delegations in the mosque.
The Vice President was welcomed in a mosque when he paid condolence visit in honor of the late imam, Sheikh Ahmad BUK (may his soul rest in peace). This is what stirred the online hullaballoo. I wish the late Sheikh, an emblem of moderation, could whisper from his grave to give a nod of approval to what Osinbajo did. Lest you think it can happen, it can never. For the deceased do not know anything about—let alone have a say in—the affairs of the living. Here, we can see the glaring inanity of those who call on the dead or their graves for succor or protection. Animals are enlightened than them.
Next, can we enter mosque with our shoes? Yes. And if not for the fear of misunderstanding, I would have even said it is the Sunnah. Scholars have discussed this comprehensively. We should understand that an established practice might be different from an established ruling. Putting on shoes while praying in mosques falls into this category; it is a very good example. Not wearing shoes while inside the mosque is an established practice; but the established ruling is that it is permissible. On this, I don’t know of any disagreement among the learned scholars.
So, why do Muslims pray without shoes in mosques? But have you also noticed that we observe funeral prayers outside our mosques without putting off shoes? The only explanation is modernity. Note that modernity is different from civilization. Muslims, in the modern or pre-modern era, are civilized and they are ever civilized people. But because Modern mosques are furnished with expensive rugs, tiles, or carpets, stepping on them with shoes amounts to soiling them. Not desecration. Understood? Yes.
Let’s read these sayings of the Prophet (SAW) together so that we can stop arguing bigotedly. The Prophet said; “Be different from the Jews, who do not pray in their shoes” (Abu Dawood, 652). Anas (RA) was asked, “Did the Prophet pray wearing shoes?” He said, “Yes” (Bukhari, 386; Muslim, 555). Abu Sa’eed Khudri (RA) said: “While the Messenger of Allah was leading his companions in prayer, he took off his shoes and place them to his left. When the people saw that, they too off their shoes too. When the Messenger of Allah finished his prayer, he asked, ‘What made you take off your shoes?’ They said, ‘We saw you take off your shoes, so we took ours off too.’ The Messenger of Allah said, ‘Angel Jibril (AS) came to me and told me there was something dirty on them.’ When anyone of you comes to the mosque, let him look and if he sees anything dirty on his shoes, let him wipe them and then pray in them (Abu Dawood, 650).
Having read the above ahadith, let’s turn to Osinbajo’s shoes again. Should we still nail him for not putting off his shoes in the mosque? Should that cost him Muslims’ votes? Did he desecrate the mosque? If you still think he did, why didn’t those who ushered him into the mosque tell him the needful? Are they hypocrites or guided by knowledge? And do you expect the Vice President’s shoes—coming out of his multi-million car—to be so soiled with dirt such as to untidy the mosque? Again, I will leave answers to these questions to our common sense.
I think what we should be asking the VP is his role in this mess we find ourselves. We should ask him hard questions on insecurity, bleak economy, and the lackluster government which he is part of. We should ask him tough questions on what he thinks he will do better and differently if he becomes President. Oh! These questions are too early. He hasn’t informed President Buhari of his intention to contest.