– Set for 173rd inaugural lecture at UNIPORT
– To discuss ‘the dialogue of monotheism and the struggle to surrender’
– Why I founded Al-Usrah two years after arriving PH in 1994, its effect
–Juggling between academics and Da’wah
Professor Abdulrazaq Olubusuyi Kilani of the Department of Religious and Cultural Studies is set to deliver the 173rd inaugural lecture at the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
Kilani, a foremost Islamic scholar and preacher began his academic sojourn in 1987 at the Zulikha Abiola College of Arabic and Islamic Studies in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Muslim News gathered.
The Varsity Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Owunari Georgewill and Ag. Registrar, Mrs. Joyce Tamuno are expected to grace the event on Thursday, September 16, at the University of Port Harcourt with the theme, The Dialogue of Monotheism and the Struggle to Surrender.
In an exclusive interview with Muslim News ahead of the inaugural lecture which will also be streamed live, via zoom, the university lecturer said he feels honored for the great opportunity and remains thankful to Allah for the privilege.
“The inaugural lecture is a platform for a university professor to mount the rostrum and x-ray what he has been professing as a university scholar. It is a rare opportunity given to professors. It’s like coming to the market square or town hall to dish out what God has endowed you with, based on intellectual achievements,” Prof. Kilani explained.
“So, I feel honored, because not every professor has had the opportunity. Some have died before they were able to do it. Others were unable to do it till they retired. I consider myself as privileged and thankful to Allah for this great opportunity.”
Prof. Kilani explained that the choice of his inaugural lecture topic, “The Dialogue of Monotheism and the Struggle to Surrender” was influenced by his interest in debunking some misconceptions about Islam.
He noted that when he got to Port Harcourt in 1992 as an Assistant Lecturer to teach Islamic Studies, he discovered that Islam was at a low ebb.
“When I came here (Port Harcourt), I found out that Islam was very low. So, I consider it to be a challenge. God sending me here to come and teach Islamic Studies, I saw it as a kind of mandate to do what I was doing as a member of MSSN in Ogun State, and to combine it with academic activities. I was involved in da’wah outside the university and was also involved in teaching.
“I discovered a lot of misconceptions exist in the minds of students, non-students and the community. So, I devoted my research towards debunking some of these misconceptions, both in the class and in my public engagements and interactions with the people. That’s why most of my publications were geared towards addressing that and that’s also why I titled my inaugural lecture the Dialogue of Monotheism and the Struggle to Surrender. The struggle to surrender simply means efforts Muslims have been making to surrender to the Almighty Allah being their Creator.”
Kilani established Al-Usrah, an Islamic organisation to solve the challenge of low understanding of Islam in Port Harcourt in 1994 two years after his arrival at the city.
He said there are now remarkable changes regarding Islam in Port Harcourt.
“I can confidently say that things have changed, courtesy of the efforts of Muslims, Muslim organizations, Muslim professionals and Muslim individuals. When I came to Port Harcourt in 1992, there were barely about four or five mosques in the city of Port Harcourt. I can assure you that today there are over 100 mosques where Jum’ah services are observed every Friday, including ratibi mosques where five daily solawat are observed.
“Apart from Port Harcourt as a city, in other nooks and crannies of the state, Islam has been established. Things have really changed. We thank Allah for these efforts and pray He rewards all the Muslims that have contributed one way or the other, financially, physically or intellectually to ensure that the efforts of our forefathers who came here before the civil war were not wasted.
Narrating how he juggles between academics and da’wah, he said both endeavours do not clash, as they have always been mutually beneficial. He stressed that, though, it could be challenging, he has been able to navigate with the grace of Allah.
“The truth of the matter is that the two of them have been of mutual assistance to me. I came here in 1992, started Al-Usrah in 1994, barely two years after, when l saw the gap. About three to four of us first gathered to start the weekly circle. It has assisted me a lot, because I move out of the university every Sunday to go to town and do other programmes which has provided me enough exposure which I was able to use in my academic career. I think I’ve benefited mutually in my town and gown engagements. No aspect of my life has affected the other negatively, but the two of them have assisted me to excel both in da’wah and my academic endeavors. It could be very challenging, but I thank the Almighty God for keeping me in good health, which has assisted me to navigate.
“Apart from Port Harcourt, I move around, to the North, Abuja, Ibadan, Abeokuta, Enugu, Calabar to give lectures. I give thanks to Allah for this privilege. If I were in the Southwest, maybe I would not be able to do up to 30 percent of what I have been able to do here. I consider myself privileged in order to add to my good deeds by taking me down to Portharcourt to start this academic sojourn.”
Prof. Kilani also provided insights into the operations of Al-Usrah which he founded, noting the Islamic group does not have physical presence outside of Port Harcourt so as not to duplicate efforts and organizations.
“When we started Al-Usrah in 1994, it was basically to provide an opportunity for the Muslims in Portharcourt to have an understanding of Islam. Our ideological underpinning is that there is no need to duplicate organizations. If you go to Lagos, there are other organizations working. We have the TMC, NASFAT, MSSN. Going to Lagos to establish Al-Usrah is like a duplication of efforts. Going to Ibadan to do the same thing is a duplication of efforts. So, what we have done over the years is that we have collaborated with organizations of similar ideologies and understanding in carrying out Islamic activities.
“So, we have been partnering. Today, we can boldly say that we are in Rivers State. But that does not mean that we don’t have members who have moved out of Port Harcourt. Some are in Abuja, Ibadan, Lagos, Abeokuta, even, some are outside Nigeria. It is a worldwide organization. And they are also continuing the good work they started in Port Harcourt wherever they find themselves.
“In terms of physical structure, we do not have any branch anywhere in the Southwest. Currently, we are establishing a university which is sited in Ekiti State. We’ve started physical infrastructure. That’s our understanding of how da’wah can be done without necessarily duplicating efforts of prominent organizations in other parts of the country. When we have programmes, we invite scholars from these organisations to come and share their knowledge with us, because we do not think that we know it all. It is a networking thing; it is a collaborative thing which we think Muslims should do, rather than see it as a contest and contestation for recognition and power play, that is a major pitfall of da’wah in major parts of the country today.”
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