That man proposes while Allah disposes is a permanent norm upon which human life is realistically based. That norm is a natural clockwise phenomenon that cannot be turned anticlockwise by any mortal being. And that is what most faithful Muslims acknowledge as an evidence of destiny.
The originally proposed contents of this column today are not what you are about to read here. While yours sincerely was trying to weave the web of an article into another vestige of thought for readers, Allah’s disposing will suddenly came to intervene with divine authority. And, thus, the title as well as the contents of today’s article had to be changed as a matter of expediency. That expediency symbolized an authoritatively divine intervention that could neither be altered nor appealed against.
Death, like life, is a natural phenomenon divinely programmed by the immortal Creator for the mortal beings. Both (life and death) are like the day and the night exchanging baton at specific hours as divinely scheduled. By that schedule, the one never takes the place of the other. And, thus, the rotation of that divinely scheduled process continues ad infinitum.
Throbs of Death
Very early in the morning of last Saturday, February 29, 2020, the throbs of death fortuitously tolled the bell of obituary announcing to the world that a proverbial eclipse had occurred at ‘noon’ prompting a human falcon to fly away while leaving a falconer behind. And by that announcement, most contemporary Muslim activists in Nigeria and abroad came to know that one of them had left the shores of existence without a prior hint.
That falcon was Barrister Abdus-Salam Oyetunde Abbas who, 24 hours earlier, was heartily alive but not hale.
He departed this ephemeral world at the solemn hour of about 4.00am. By Hijrah calendar, that morning fell on the fifth day of the month of Rajab, the first leg of the four sacred lunar months that often precede Ramadan annually. Semantically, the Arabic word ‘Rajab’ means respect which is symbolic in the demise of our brother.
Besides Allah, who could have decreed that Abdus-Salam Abbas would not fast in the coming Ramadan? After all, he had done that conscientiously for about 54 years in the past haven started fasting at the age of about 12 years.
Who was Barrister Tunde Abbas?
Barrister Abdus-Salam Oyetunde Abbas was one of the grand children of Chief Abbas Abioye, the patriarch of Abbas family and second Baale of Afaake in Ejigbo Local Government. Tunde, as I used to call him, was a younger brother to yours sincerely and an elder brother to Professor Wole Abbas (now the Head of the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies, University of Ibadan), Barrister Kunle Abbas and a host of others (males and females) from Abbas genealogical tree. He was born in Abidjan, the capital city of Ivory Coast about 66 years ago.
Background of his Islamic Activism
Like yours sincerely, Tunde Abbas was enrolled in a Madrasah in Iwo, Osun State, where the cutting of his teeth in Arabic language began after his elementary school education at Tajudeen Primary School, Ilawo, Ejigbo, in the early 1960s.
He then moved to the famous Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies popularly known as MARKAZ in Agege, Lagos State, from where he had graduated before proceeding to the University of Ibadan for a Certificate Course in Arabic and Islamic Studies.
Before Tunde graduated from MARKAZ, a strong agitation had tacitly been prompting me to equip my younger brothers and sisters with a rare ornament which our family’s religious tradition had not permitted me to be garlanded with. And that was Western education. During our kid age, our parents would not want to hear of Western education for their children because, to them, that was a euphemism for conversion to Christianity.
In those days, it would only be a matter of accident and exceptional luck to see even one out of ten Muslim children enrolled in Western oriented Secondary Schools to remain a Muslim after graduating from those schools despite school fees and other charges paid by their parents from scarce resources.
In other words, Muslim parents who desired Western education for their children, at that time, were compelled to pay heavily to get those children/wards converted to Christians under the guise of education.
Yours sincerely became exposed to Western education when I got admitted into the University of Ibadan, in 1968, following a successful performance in a concessional examination. The background that prepared me for the courage to go for that course was the combination of the then Modern School Certificate (an equivalence of today’s JSS III Certificate), which I already possessed, with that of MARKAZ. And, when the certificate I obtained from UI propelled me to become a proud tutor in a conventional secondary school where I started earning a handsome salary, my eyes became wide opened and I decided not to limit such a unique privilege to myself alone.
At that time, the tradition imbibed by our parents was for all children in the family to attend Madrasah where they could be thought about the fear of Allah with decent character and the act of worship in the way of Islam to enable them become big Islamic clerics in life. Thus, the so-called western educationK was, to our parents, a diversionary aberration from the path of Allah.
Unknown to our parents at home, as soon as Tunde completed his final year examination in MARKAZ, in 1971, I decided to smuggle him into a conventional Secondary School where he could be qualified to obtain the West African School Certificate, an opportunity I never had. I, therefore, approached one brother Abdur-Rashid Ajani Raji who was then teaching at Nawairud-Deen Grammar School, Obantoko, Abeokuta, for assistance in getting him admitted. But brother Raji thought it was already too late for that year as admission process had closed.
He advised that the boy should be presented for admission the following year. But, dissatisfied by that suggestion, I implored brother Raji to please, get my brother admitted into Form II as his starting point in the conventional secondary school. But when brother Raji who was later to become a Professor of Islamic Studies and Chief Imam of the University of Ilorin expressed doubt about the boy’s ability to cope, I promptly disclosed to him that Tunde was coming from the great Institute called MARKAZ and that he would surely meet up with any standard set for that level. Brother Raji then reluctantly assisted in getting him admitted into Form II in the belief that if he failed to cope, he could repeat the class.
Surprisingly, however, after the first two terms of acclimatization, Tunde held all his tutors nonplussed by topping his class in virtually all the subjects. Brother Raji was so much impressed that he quickly drew the boy very close to himself as a symbol of pride. From thence, Tunde became the bull’s eye of his class which was targeted by all potential and real rivals. And for the four (instead of five) years he spent in that school, he was the enviable model of his set coming first in most subjects. Eventually, he passed his WAEC examination with a Grade I status.
His Higher School Certificate (HSC)
His Grade I WAEC status was the impetus I needed to get him admitted for HSC at Ahmadiyya College, Agege, where I was then teaching Arabic and Islamic Studies. And, despite the strictness in that school’s admission process, it hardly took me 10 minutes of waiting to get my brother admitted on merit in that first Muslim Secondary School in West Africa that was established in 1948.
And luckily for me, the boy lived delightfully up to my expectation by displaying the real MARAKAZI in him. He finally graduated from that school with an academic wreath of honour by scoring A in two of his principal subjects and B in two others. But by the time he was preparing for his final HSC examination in 1976, I had succeeded in securing admission with scholarship for myself to study in a tertiary institution abroad. I had to hand Tunde over to some trusted Muslim brothers (the Akangbes from Oyo Alaafin), who were my bosom friends, when I had to vacate the one room apartment in which I was living with the boy.
Thus, my supervision of his educational progress and that of his younger ones in the family became a matter of frequent instructions dished out through letters from abroad.
By the time I came home on holiday in 1977, Tunde had got the results of his HSC examination and sought and got admission OFFERS into four different Universities.
⁷Those were the days before the establishment of JAMB. The Universities to which he applied for admission were: University of Ibadan where he was offered admission to read Philosophy; the University of Lagos where he was offered admission to read Law; the University of Ife where he was offered admission to read Political Science and the University of Benin where he was offered admission to read English. Seeing those results and admission offers with unlimited gladness, I asked my brother to name his choice of course to study and he proudly mentioned Philosophy. When I asked him for his reason he said apart from the fact that UI was the Premier University in Nigeria, he preferred Philosophy as a course because of the bewildering pronunciation of its name: ‘PHILOSOPHY!’.
Ordered to Read Law
Following that conversation, I ordered my brother to go and accept the UNILAG admission offer for Law because we would need a lawyer in our family. But, for the first time ever, my brother disagreed with me on the argument that our parents at home must not hear of his pursuit of a Law degree in the University.
However, I promptly debunked his argument by reminding him that our parents never knew that he (Tunde) attended a secondary school in the first place because all they knew was that all of us were still in madrasahs. What I did to see him through the conventional secondary school at that time was to use the Madrasah fees (coming from our parents) to settle the charges in the convention secondary school. But when I noticed reluctance in my brother on my choice of a course for him, I decided to follow him physically to UNILAG to ensure that he complied with my guiding order. I had to ensure that he completed the process of registration in the Law Faculty at UNILAG before I returned abroad.
That was how Tunde became the first child from Abbas family not only to obtain WAEC and HSC but also to obtain a degree in Law. Alhamdu Lillah! Today, our family has about 10 lawyers among the grandchildren and great grandchildren of Abbas Abioye, an achievement that turned that family into a cynosure of awe and admiration in the entire Local Government. And there is hardly any other beneficial profession in which our own children are not well grounded.
Human life is a pilgrimage from the unknown to the unknown. No one knows whence he emanated or whither he is bound. The process by which man evolves is a special tapestry which size and shape cannot be measured in whatever term. As humans, all we know about life is that we are on a journey which naturally conveys us through series of coffins before arriving in the puzzling transit which we globally call the world. This means that the loins of our fathers are a coffin. The wombs of our mothers are a coffin. And the larger transit called the world which some people take as their final destination is a coffin. When we are in a car, a bus, a train, a ship or an aircraft, we hardly remember that we are in a coffin. Each of these coffins is a transit leading to another.
Process of Human Journey
For a period, we were in our fathers’ natural loins where we struggled for space and for survival. And in the attempt to shoot out through the iron gate of life we suddenly found ourselves, albeit unconsciously, as molecules swimming in the midst of billions of others in the name of spermatozoa. At that stage, human beings can be compared to fingerlings, in their millions, struggling to become juveniles in an aquatic pond before growing into various sizes of fish. Those in the fishery sector are in a better position to understand that analogy.
The World of Man
The world of man is like a cloud moving forwards and backwards from time to time and gathering momentum for a paradoxical rain that could fall at any time and in any place. After the dispersal of that cloud, one of two occurrences becomes experienced. Either the rain falls to give the earth a renewed life or there is no rain at all. In the latter case, the sky becomes clearer as fresh air renews the oxygen of the world. Who can fault that natural phenomenal process?
Human beings in their multitudes are like a galaxy of stars which float incessantly in the orbit while jointly illuminating the spheres. Some of those stars are by far larger than the earth. But because of their distance from the human sights, they look small. Some are moderate in size while some are actually small. Consequently, each functions according to its pre-destined assignment. ALLAH AKBAR!
Classified in Greatness
As it is with the stars so it is with human beings. Some are great in life and in death. Some are great only while alive but as soon as they are demised, their greatness becomes like a dispersed cloud paving the way for a clearer atmosphere. Some function positively. Some function negatively. Some cannot be placed at all with regards to their functions. And after they might have all departed this world history takes the centre stage revealing both the hidden and the manifest aspects of their lives individually. And from such revelations, those left behind pick the relevant substances that can positively aid the continuation of their own lives.
Philosophy of Life
Perhaps no Nigerian intellectual of contemporary time has ever captured the above painted scenario so philosophically as did by Nigeria’s first President, Dr. Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe. In the introduction to his autobiography ‘MY ODYSSEY’, published in 1970, he observed as follows:
“…Man comes into the world and while he lives, he embarks upon a series of activities absorbing experience which enables him to formulate a philosophy of life and to chart his courses of action. But then, he dies. Nevertheless, his biography remains a guide to those of the living who may need guidance either as a warning on the vanity of human wishes or as encouragement or both…”
In what way can this seemingly axiomatic observation be faulted?
News of Death
News of death can never be shocking to those who believe in Allah; His Angels; His Revealed Books; His Apostles, the Last Day and Destiny. We have been taught repeatedly in the Qur’an that “every soul shall taste of death”. But neither the Qur’an nor any other revealed book has told us when and how. Now that Abdus-Salam Oyetunde Abbas has moved a step ahead of us in the pilgrimage of life, we are duty bound to pay him a debt which we all owe him. And, that debt is DU‘AU. But whether we pay it or not, we shall all join him some day just as he has joined those who preceded him on that unavoidable journey.
Now, having gone to the world beyond ours, tunde’s life has become a chapter in history. And from that chapter, those of us who are still alive can cultivate clauses of guidance or those of encouragement or even those of warning against the vanity of human wishes.
To many people in Nigeria and abroad who, out of sheer ignorance, see death as an intruder, Tunde Abbas’ death might have come as “a rude shock”. But to genuine Muslims who understand their religion very well and know that death is an inevitable alternative to life, it couldn’t have been a shocker. Such Muslims know that death will come to lay its icy hand on man when it is time divinely scheduled for it and that every Muslim should prepare for it. When man’s time to die comes, no one can save him from the scourge of death. And no one can die for another. Just as we came into the world one by one and no one eats or defecates or sleeps for another so will no one help another to bear the scourging effect of death. Every soul, according to the divine programme of Allah, the Immortal Creator and Sustainer of all lives, shall bear his burden and face the consequences of his earthly actions. Wealth, position and fame are no barrier to death. Children may die while their parents remain alive. The healthy may die while the sick remains in coma. The wealthy may die while the poor keeps begging for daily meal. Death, the leveller of mankind, will come when it will come.
Who will not die?
Adam, the primogenitor of man who came into the world without a father or a mother died. Hawau, the first created woman who came into the world without a mother died. Prophet Isa (Jesua) who came into the world without a father is no more. All men and women born of fathers and mothers who had sojourned at one time or another in this world before us had fallen prey to the icy hand of death. All the Apostles of Allah dispatched to the world to guide mankind died. Who then is that mortal being that will escape the dragnet of death?
Attribute of Destiny
Death is an attribute of destiny. An Arab poet once said about death in a famous stanza thus:
“Whoever does not die by sword will surely die by another means; the causes of death are many but death itself is only one”.
Today, like billions or even trillions of mortal beings who had passed through this world before him, Barriater Abdus-Salam Oyetunde Abbas, the husband of Hajiya Muibat Omobolanle (nee Sanni) Abbas is no more. One of the known characteristics of death is to change the name and status of its prey and those around him. That is why Hajiya Muibat is now a widow while her children have become orphans.
Particles of Hiatory
Now, after Tunde’s demise, all other things about him are particles of history. But from those particles of history is a lesson to learn by those who are succeeding him in private and public lives.
We pray the Almighty Allah to grant his soul the divine mercy of forgiveness and blessings while He preserves that soul in eternal bliss. We also pray Him to imbue his wife, children and larger families on both sides with the needed fortitude to surge ahead in life without rancour. Amin!
In our peregrinations on earth as human beings, some of us live meaningfully in associations. Some others live meaninglessly in isolation. Each of these has an indelible mark on the rock of life. For those who live in associations, there are times to look back with appreciation of the individuals’ roles in forming and building the associations that bind us together. The same cannot be said of those who live in isolation.
Despite the short notice that the announcement of the demise and internment of our son/brother, Barrister Abdus-Salam Oyetunde Abbas, took last Saturday, February 29, 2020, you all left your scheduled programmes and turned up in droves from all walks of life and from all parts of the country to play your roles as Muslim brothers and sisters in bidding one of you auravoire forever. You paid your last respect to him in awe on the platform of Farduk-Kifayah and that of Sunnah. Those of you abroad or far away from Lagos, where he was buried, either called passionately by phones or sent messages online to commiserate with his family.
That was a confirmation of the meaningfulness of living in associations. It was also an evidence of building a formidable foundation of Muslim Ummah today for propelling Islam to higher pedestal tomorrow.
Mere expression of theoretical appreciation without practical gratitude by which to live in common as a community cannot serve as a measure of accorded esteem.
It is on this premise that the entire family of ABBAS hereby says THANK YOU ALL for standing by us at that moment of agony.
We pray the Almighty Allah not to make our reciprocation of this sorrowful gesture a repetition of agony or that of sadness.
God bless, guide and stand by you all in all circumstances of life. Amin!