Death always draws crowd, physically and virtually. It’s an affirmation of our state of living and the reality of our mortality. The amount of crowd it draws and the kind of people it attracts, depends on how the dead lived his/her life.
The shocking death of Alhaji Dawud Arogundade came like thunder on Saturday and own legendary Abu Ruqayyah was lowered to the mother earth on Sunday. As usual, an almost unprecedented crowd of sympathisers graced the city of Abeokuta to give him a befitting and deserving burial.
I grew up to know Abu Ruqayyah as ‘Grandpa’. That was the nickname his colleagues and the rest of our fathers gave him.
One day, as a little girl, I asked my dad why he sometimes called Abu Ruqayyah ‘Ajala’. My dad told me the story of the popular Yoruba man callled Ajala renowned for travelling all over the world. Then he said Abu Ruqayyah was always travelling. And as I grew, I witnessed the veracity of the story. You can speak with Abu Ruqayyah at night while in Osun and when you call him the following morning, he’s already in Ibadan or Lagos or even Abuja. He was always travelling for the work of Da’wah – even after the emergence of mobile telephones.
I remember how Abu Ruqayyah contributed to making me one of the pioneer members of TYMa (The Young Muslim association). Back when we used to attend the Monthly Adhkar at Nawairudeen Mosque, Oshodi. So, while the Adhkar session was ongoing, some of us used to sleep. While some of us may be paying attention to the Adhkar, some of us would be running around; I’m sure Abu Ruqayyah was the brain behind (or at least a major part of the brains) gathering the children and having a children’s session separate. The first time the children’s session was held, Abu Ruqayyah was the one that personally saw to it that each child was accounted for. He practically ‘arrested’ all of us, arranged us on benches that were placed under a tree in the mosque compound and started the session of what would later give birth to The Young Muslims (TYMa).
As a student of Vanguards Academy, Abu Ruqayyah was that man that never showed up empty-handed. He always had some form of snacks with him. Abu Ruqayyah would just suddenly show up at Maghrib or Ishai or even Fajr. After we would have all greeted him, he would ask a question or a series of questions. The person/persons to get the answer(s) correctly would benefit from the snacks.
Abu Ruqayyah was the one that mandated scarves under the hijab of female students. He could just suddenly show up in VA, call the Senior Girl, her assistant, the Health Prefect, the Hostel Prefect and School Counsellor to ask why some girls are wearing Hijabs with traces of their hairstyles visible under the Hijab. And he’ll say, “you’re the Head Girl, you’re supposed to make sure no girl is dressing anyhow. You, the hostel prefect, are supposed to make sure everybody is well-dressed before leaving the hostel.”
When we attained SS1, he came to visit and while inspecting our class, he saw the Duty Roster posted on the notice board. The next thing we heard was, “who is your Class Captain? Why did you spell your “roster” as “roaster”?. He always paid attention to details which many us do take for granted or ignore.
When we didn’t have a Geography teacher, Abu Ruqayyah would make it to Vanguards as frequently as possible to teach us. And we all enjoyed his classes. He never wanted to see any “Essential” textbook in front of you. He’ll fling it out of the classroom and call it a “lazy student’s” textbook.
When some of the materials of our weekend uniforms were transparent, Abu Ruqayyah mandated us to wear a smaller white hijab underneath them.
Even after graduating from Vanguards Academy, Abu Ruqayyah monitoted his students in the ivory towers and endeavored to attend as many of our convocations in our various universities as he could.
When Vanguards Academy Old Students’ Association (VAOSA) was founded in 2009, Abu Ruqayyah arranged our movements from the various venues of our camps to the school in order to bring that vision to life. He always talked about the dream of us marrying ourselves (one another). “We want to see the day we would hear a Vanguards old student is marrying a fellow Vanguards student”, he would always say. And Alhamdulillah, he lived to see nine of such unions – his Abdullah being one of them.
Whenever our fathers wronged our mothers, Abu Ruqayyah was the one they’d call to call his brethren to order. How many of our husbands (or even ourselves) have someone who can call us to order the way Abu Ruqayyah used to do?
Before my father published his book, Da’wah: An Experience, I remember reading one of the rough drafts and getting to the part where he mentioned that Grandpa was the one Allah used as sabab to make him a da’ee (caller).
There’s no way anybody would have been in contact with Abu Ruqayyah and wouldn’t feel his positive influence.
Death has struck again and has taken another father of ours. Our mouths have expressed grief; our eyes are moist and our hearts are heavy, but we take solace in the fact that Grandpa lived his life for the mission of Islam. We take solace in the fact that Grandpa had ‘children’ in every place he went; children whose prayers for him won’t cease. We take solace also, in the fact that the souls of his brothers and his children who are in the barzakh would welcome him joyfully. We can’t fight Allah over it, we accept it and take solace in the fact that the departed have lived his life for the mission of Islam.
May Allah have mercy on the souls of our departed brethrens – particularly our fathers and mothers – and grant them all Jannah.
We would always miss them and we would always feel we won’t be able to fill the vacuum they’ve left, but we won’t despair of the Mercy of Allah on them.
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