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Ibrahim El Zakzaky

Ibrahim El Zakzaky

Ibrahim El Zakzaky is an imprisoned outspoken and prominent Shi’a Muslim leader in Nigeria.

Background information

Full Name: Ibrahim Yaqoub El Zakzaky

Born: 5 May 1953

Birth place: Zaria, Nigeria

Nationality: Nigerian

Alma mater: Ahmadu Bello University

Years active: 1979–present

Known for: Founder of Islamic Movement in Nigeria

Spouse(s): Zeenah Ibraheem

Children: Muhammad, Nusaiba,Suhaila
Ahmad (Killed in 2014),Hameed (Killed in 2014), Mahmud (Killed in 2014), Hammad (Killed in 2015),
Ali Haidar (Killed in 2015),
Humaid (Killed in 2015)


Ibrahim El Zakzaky

Biographical and educational history

Ibrahim El 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.

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.

The same year, Ibrahim El Zakzaky is said to have become so impressed with the 1979 Iranian Revolution that he wanted one at home.

Later, Ibrahim El Zakzaky went to Iran, ultimately becoming a Shia cleric. 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.

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Ibrahim El Zakzaky

Islamic Movement in Nigeria

Ibrahim El Zakzaky is the primary figure and spiritual leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (formerly: Muslim Brothers), 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.”

Dr Iqbal Siddiqui described El-Zakzaky as “the de facto leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria”.

Ibrahim El Zakzaky

Political alignment and activities

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 May 21, 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.

Nigerian army attacks against the movement 

Ibrahim El Zakzaky

Zaria Quds day massacre 

On Friday 25 July 2014, the Nigerian Army reportedly fatally shot 35 followers of Ibrahim El Zakzaky, including three of his sons, 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.

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2015 Zaria massacre

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.

Detainment and ordered release of Ibrahim El Zakzaky

According to the judgment of the high court of Nigeria on 2 December 2016, Ibrahim El Zakzaky was ordered to be released from Department of State Services (similar to the US FBI) detention into police custody within 45 days.

Ibrahim 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.

On January 16, 2017, Amnesty International demanded that the “Nigerian authorities must immediately comply with a High Court order and release Ibrahim Zakzaky and his wife from detention.”

On January 13, 2018, Ibrahim El 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.

since 2014 Ibrahim El Zakzaky was held captive by Nigerian federal government and Kaduna State government for criminal charges, since then, many of his followers make a protest in all the state for his release.

The act of detaining Ibrahim El Zakzaky long time without being judged was said to be against the law of the federation.

2019 clashes 

On January 22, 2019, Ibrahim 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.

In July 2019, in order to demand the release of Ibrahim 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 Ibrahim 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”.

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.

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

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Family and personal life 

Ibrahim El Zakzaky is married to Zeenah Ibraheem, with whom he had nine children. 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. Three more sons were killed in the 2015 Zaria massacre.


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