There is always a price to pay for my many years – two decades worth – outside the shores of Nigeria. And I keep paying that price the more events unfold here at home. The latest of such was the dearth of knowledge on my part of the person of our departed brother – Mudathir Niyi Sanuth (NS). How could I not have known such an influential Muslim figure? Especially one of the suave, cosmopolitan, elite orientation which I very well relate to! Just this morning, I got to know that he died at 56 – my exact age as I write this. Allahu Akbar!
Of course, NS and I got to meet. I remember as though it was yesterday, the day we met by chance at the 1004 Masjid in Victoria Island, Lagos. This was sometime between 2009 and 2010. It was our first formal meeting and the introductions were done by our mutual friend – Alhaji Luqman Obileye whose name appeared in the very first edition of Deen Digest. Although that was our first (formal) meeting, it was clear to me that I knew him before I left Nigeria for England 20 years ealier. He (NS) equally reacted in a manner which suggested that he knew me too.
By the accounts which I have read from different sources, NS was the Aafa who did not study Islam. The Da’ee who made maximum impact with very limited knowledge. The corporate guy who became the face of Islam. The Yuppie who called and called. NS encapsulated the face of Islam which I very much wish to project.
Two years or so ago, I was guest lecturer at a Waleematul-Qur’an somewhere here in Lagos. It was a University environment and, fittingly I thought, I opted to speak about the need to raise more hybrid of scholars who are not only Imams but medical doctors. Shaykhul-Islaam who is also a space scientist. Professor of Law who doubles as Mufassir. I used as examples Christians who have made names in two vocations simultaneously – with Professor Yemi Osinbajo and Ben Akabueze coming to mind. This, of course, does not recognise any less the need for the traditional Imams and Imamship. Where would we be without our scholars and Imams?
The Master of Ceremony – an Aafa – who could not connect with me – protested what he considered an inappropriate comparison of our scholars with motivational speakers. But I was not advocating for scholars; I was advocating for Influencers.
I do not want my son to be the Imam; let him be the Doctor who leads Jumu’ah at the College of Medicine. The Haafidhul-Qur’an whose Arabic is as good as his English. The Dean of Faculty who doubles as Chief Imam. Give me not an Imam; give me an Influencer. This is the NS model.
To the average person reading this on social media, the author is Imam Nojeem Jimoh, Ustaadh Najmudeen Jimoh, Shaykh Najmuddeen Jumu’ah. How embarrassing! If ever I have referred to myself in writing as Imam Nojeem Jimoh, then here is the first time. Yes, I am an Imam – officially appointed and turbaned – but so embarrassed am I to carry that title that I am often simply Nojeem Jimoh. Reason? My knowledge of the Deen is so little, I almost feel I shouldn’t be so-referred. But like Niyi Sanuth Rahimahullah, my enthusiasm to spread the message is far bigger than the knowledge. So big is it that the Imamship came almost as a reward for my exuberance. But I do not want to be the Imam; I just want to be an Influencer. Influencing for Islam.
SO, HOW DO WE PROTECT SANUTH’S LEGACY?
For me it is very simple. And that is for more Muslim elite – and I consider myself one – to stand and be counted for Islam the way NS did – and at a great personal cost.
There are many people calling to Islam; what we do not have enough of are Muslim elite joining in the calling. And by calling, I do not mean doing da’wah in the strict sense. For me, we need more personalities around whom the young and impressionable Muslims can rally and be proud of their identity. Mr Motivator. Our Deen needs more motivators.
Let any Muslim with my level of education, exposure and socio-economic standing accept this challenge. Tomorrow’s Da’ee is a motivator.
May Allah cleanse our brother with the difficulties that he went through, widen his grave, accept him into the company of the righteous, protect all that he left behind and admit him into Jannatul-Firdaws.