Many who have their ears to the ground have been sniffing the possibility of the emergence of Sheikh Sulaiman Faruq Onikijipa as the Grand Mufti of Ilorin for quite sometime. His appointment was therefore not surprising to that category of people. Yet, many others expressed profound surprise with the development.
He is seen to be relatively too young compared with the age of his predecessors as at the times of their appointments.
The title was established by the incumbent Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu Gambari in 2004.The first holder of the title was the celebrated avatar and highly venerated founder of the Ansarul Islam Society of Nigeria, Sheikh Muhammad Kamaldeen Habeebullahi Al-Adabiyy, MFR, OFR, ORSA, FISN (1905-2005).He held the position for about two years before his demise.
The second holder of the title was a direct student of the pioneer Grand Mufti, Sheikh Khidir Salaudeen Apaokagi Al-Adabiyy (1917-2013).The penultimate Mufti held the title for five(5) years from 2008 to 2013 before he died. Sheikh Apaokagi, the founder of Adabiyyah Arabic Institute, Owo,Ondo State; and the immediate past National President of the Ansarul Islam Society of Nigeria, was succeeded by the eldest of his teacher’s children, Shaykh Sofiyulahi Muhammad Kamaldeen Al-Adabiyy (1926-2014) who held the office for less than a year.
The new Grand Mufti is certainly the youngest holder of the title as he is still in his 50s while none of the previous holders was less than 80 years of age as at the date of their appointments.
Sheikh Onikijipa shares some similarities with his predecessors. He comes from the same part of Ilorin as they did. He also attended the same Arabic and Islamic Training Centre(Markaz), Agege, as did his immediate predecessor. His teacher, mentor and the founder of the Arabic School from where he graduated, Sheikh Adam Abdullahi Al-Ilory (1917-1992) was a close friend and intellectual comrade to the penultimate Grand Mufti, particularly during their younger days.
While the new Mufti has demonstrated convincing admirations for all his predecessors, he is expected to bring to bear his scholarship and sense of moderation as endowed, manifested and clearly demonstrated by all his illustrious predecessors to justify his position as the “Overall Head of Islamic Jurists” in Ilorin Emirate. It is believed that the highly sophisticated new Grand Mufti would discharge his responsibilities competently.
Sheikh Onikijipa later spoke with Muslim News, in an exclusive interview, where he expressed his feelings, and how he emerged the new Mufti of Ilorin. Excerpts….
MN: How do you feel emerging as the Grand Mufti of Ilorin?
Mufti: I feel eternally grateful and enormously indebted to the Almighty Allah for this great honor He has bestowed on me and my household. Alhamdulilah!!!
MN: Is it something you have been anticipating or you didn’t see it coming?
Mufti: The position is one with the highest prestige in the line of Da’wah, be it in our beloved homeland (Ilorin) or any other Islamic state. And as my calling has always been in line with Da’wah, to anticipate and aspire reaching such a prestigious height is a dream becoming reality.
MN: How did you get the news and your reaction?
Mufti: The news was delivered to me in person in the presence of our Royal Father, His eminence, the Emir of Ilorin and its environs, As-Sheikh (Dr) Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, CFR, as the same was announced and pronounced by him at the annual Durbar celebration of the Ilorin Emirate. My reaction was nothing short of Alhamdulilah!!!
MN: How did you emerge as the Mufti and what are the qualities the Emir looked out for in you, Sir?
Mufti: An appointment to any position is within the sole discretion of the Almighty Allah, most especially a position that is so reputable in the Deen. It is only Allah that emerges and appoints whosoever He wishes and no matter the supposed qualities I may possess to fit in as a selectable candidate, it is with His mercy and benevolence I have been chosen, as the best quality one can possess, to aspire for such a position of remarkable repute, is a firm belief in the Almighty Allah and His scriptures.
MN: As a Mufti, what programmes and activities do you have for your people in Ilorin?
Mufti: As a Mufti, I am here to serve my people, as we have learnt from our prophet (SAW) that a leader of any team or congregation is their servant. I am welcoming all suggestions in any form from our people. However, as popular demand has it, the first project we have in plan is to deliver the “DHARUL IFTAH” for our people where numerous programs will be coordinated in shaa Allah.
MN: How do you plan to unite Muslims in Kwara, and Southwest Nigeria?
Mufti: The plan we have for the unification of our brothers and sisters from the southwestern states and Kwara is to select delegations from each state and involve them in our institution of IFTAH. All relevant information regarding contemporary topics and settled laws of Islam will then be disseminated via such medium and by this, we plan to bring together all our brothers and sisters under one umbrella, as Islam calls for oneness.
MN: Tell us briefly your educational background (both western and Islamic)
Mufti: I began my Quranic education at a tender age under the tutelage of my Father, As-Sheikh Umar Faruq Onikijipa, then proceeded to complete same under the mentorship of our father As-Sheik Zakkariyah Ataragba. In furthering my Arabic and Islamic education, I enrolled in Darul-Ulum Eruda, Ilorin. Then proceeded to complete my Arabic and Islamic training at secondary level at Arabic and Islamic Training center, Markaz. I furthered my Islamic education at Diploma level at the Institute of Religious and Behavioral Education, Lagos State. Then I attained both my Bachelors Degree and Masters Degree in Islamic Studies at Pebble University, Australia. Then, I was awarded the Doctoral of philosophy in Islamic Studies after completing my PhD at Pebble Hills University.
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