Sheikh Thaoban has extolled the virtues of his late father, Sheikh Adam Abdullah Al-Ilory, saying that the Fulbright Muslim scholar in Nigeria was a multidisciplinarian who combined Islamic teaching, propagation, scholarship and Imamship when he was alive.
While speaking exclusively with Muslim News on Sunday, Sheikh Thaoban said his late father was a man of many parts, noting that it is rare to find scholars in the contemporary world with such great features.
Yesterday, May 3, marked exactly 28 years after the demise of Sheikh Adam, the founder of one of Nigeria’s leading Arabic and Islamic school, Markaz Ta’alim Al-Arabiy wal Islaamiy, in Agege, Lagos. He was born in 1917 and died in 1992.
According to him, “Sheikh Adam was one of the erudite scholars in the world, with special reference to Africa, and particularly Southwest Nigeria. He was a frontline and pioneer Islamic Scholar. He combined teaching, propagation, scholarly publication, Imamship and lots more together. It is very rare to find scholars with all these combined qualities. They either major in one or two.
“Sheikh Adam was one of the few Islamic Scholars who had huge followership, both as students, admirers and lovers. He was also blessed by Allah that most people who stood by him were always successful in their endeavours. Anyone who drew close to him had a share of blessing. This was how Allah made him,” he added.
▪︎ He stood for unity of the Muslims
The Mudeer of Markazul Uloom Arabic and Islamic Center told Muslim News that his late father stood for unity throughout his life, forging a common front within and among families and the larger society.
He said, “Beyond the 28th remembrance, I think, we should attach more value and importance to Sheikh Adam’s legacy and message while he was alive. What were his teachings and practices? Baba sued for unity throughout his life time, but those who are claiming to love him by commemorating his death anniversary are unfortunately throwing this message to the bin.
“They are causing disunity within his family. They have soured the relationship between brothers and even students. They have created divisions among his followers. This is very worrisome. This is what they ought to focus on, than taking pleasure in commemorating his death anniversary.
“Did Shaykh Adam support disunity within families or sidelining some people and depriving them of their rights? Those who profit from evil, fostering enmity and disunity within the ranks of family members, taking sides with one person against the others have abandoned the teachings and legacy my father stood for. He was not an architect of disunity. He ensured cordial and harmonious relationship among all,” he explained.
▪︎ His followers must unite, cooperate
Sheikh Thaoban therefore called on all the lovers of Sheikh Adam and by extension Muslim faithful to unite and cooperate among themselves, saying that they are instructive for societal reformation.
He urged the leaders to rule with the fear and commandments of God, just as he enjoined everyone to discharge their duties in society appropriately.
“One of the preachings of Sheikh Adam that the populace can learn from is his consistent call to unity. He forged unity among people, even those of other faith. In one of his lectures, titled, ‘Ta’alaw’, Sheikh called for unity, understanding and cooperation between Muslim and Christian scholars.
“So, scholars, leaders and the masses can learn from this message. Leaders should know that there is a difference between rights and duty. Nobody asks for rights without observing his duty in the first place. Everyone should know his duties for peace and development to reign.
“Most of these lessons have been well documented in his works. Government should know that religion cannot be divorced from society and leadership. They should rule by divinely ordained dictates. Both the leaders and the led should be guided by divinity.
Advising his fellow Islamic scholars, he noted that they should refrain from being agents of disunity and destabilisation, saying this would mean going against the teachings of Sheikh Adam.
He also advised them to make commentaries on and reviews of Shaykh Adam’s scholarly publications in order to make it comprehensible to the general public.
▪︎ Markaz not the best in Nigeria, but Southwest
Sheikh Thaoban, a former lecturer at Lagos State University (LASU) asserted that it’s an overstatement and an exaggeration to say that the famous Arabic and Islamic school, Markaz founded in 1952 is one of the best in Africa, adding that it isn’t among the best in the whole of Nigeria.
He however said that saying Markaz Agege is one of the best in Southwest Nigeria is appropriate, as it was not in doubt to all observers, adding that the institution has given birth to many other prominent Arabic schools with its alumni scattered around Yorubaland.
“The Yorubas used to say that it is only a person who has not explored around that would think of his father’s farmland as the biggest. To be candid, saying Markaz is one of the best in Africa or West Africa or even Nigeria is going extreme. However, if we consider only the Yorubaland, it is,” he added.
▪︎ Foundation of Islamic education in Nigeria
Sheikh Thaoban disclosed that his late father was not the one who laid the foundation of Arabic and Islamic education in Nigeria, adding that he was fortunate to have stood out of his contemporaries.
According to him, There are many scholars in Ilorin, Kwara State capital, who also commanded some level of influence in Yorubaland. However, in Southwest Nigeria, Markaz is exceptional.
“There are so many other Arabic schools that are prominent and beyond Markaz in Nigeria. In the North for instance, there are many Arabic schools, either funded by government or privately, that are at the at the top of their game, speaking figuratively. Students and other members of the public throng there to learn and benefit.
“In Kano, there is a scholar called Shaykh Abubakar Ateed Ibn Khidr el-Kashnawiy. He has an Arabic school that draws membership from the nooks and crannies of Nigeria. History has it that he is one of those with huge followership.
“We have many of them in the North; in Katsina, Bauchi, Kaduna, Borno. When you visit their places, you will forget whatever we have here in the Southwest, and conclude that we have nothing. Their membership strength, scholarship and Islamic education are staggering.
“So, saying Markaz is the best in Nigeria would mean exaggerating the situation. However, in Yorubaland, we can conveniently claim to be a leading light,” Shaykh Thaoban said.
▪︎Challenges facing Markaz
Sheikh Thaoban noted that though Markaz has witnessed some setbacks in the past, it is undergoing a kind of repositioning, courtesy of some well-meaning individuals who stood by the current management.
Also speaking on calls to transform Markaz to a University, he said that it might not be feasible considering the fact that the Nigerian government does not attach value to Arabic education.
He however urged everyone with beneficial ideas to lift the Arabic school forward to come on board.
“On the present management of Markaz, well, the people at the helm of affairs are trying their best possible. However, the disunity that has been entrenched between family members and students might have affected the development and progress of the Arabic school. Had it been we were united, Markaz would have gone beyond its current level. Alhamdulilah, those in charge are changing the narrative.
“At the beginning when Sheikh Habeeb was made to oversee everything, I must confess that there were a lot of setbacks, given the controversies that surrounded his emergence. He was not ready for leadership, and does not parade necessary leadership qualities. However, with the intervention of some well-intentioned individuals in recent times, Markaz is coming back to life and gaining its ground, compared to some twenty years back.
“Notwithstanding these setbacks, Markaz would still take the glory of whatever achievements they are able to record moving forward. The thought of many is that the Arabic school should have grown to a University. And it’s good. There are many colleges that have transformed to University in recent times.
“The challenge in this part of the world is that the government is not supportive of anything Arabic education, particularly, the Southwest. So, the issue of becoming a University might not be feasible. But whoever has any meaningful contribution to make to the growth of Markaz should reach out to the management. All these boil down to destiny. May Allah assist the current management of the school,'” he prayed.
By Rasheed Abubakar and Abdul Ganiy Abdullah
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