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Centenary celebration of Shaykh Adam Abdullahi Al-Ilori (1917-2017)

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“And do not say that those who die in the path of the Almighty are dead; no, they are alive but you do not perceive (Quran 2:154).

A century. Just like yesterday. Moments became seconds; seconds became minutes; minutes became days. Then weeks. Then months. Then years. Now a century. Yes. A centenary refers not to a man or a woman but to an event. Thus this centenary celebration refers to that momentous space and time when Shaykh Adam Abdullah al-Ilory (rahimahullaah) became like a gravity orbiting in space. The space of life, of scholarship, of knowledge. Yes. A centenary, not simplistically of his birth but rather of his arrival and departure. What an irony? To arrive is to prepare to depart; to every opening there is a closing.

This centenary which marks that particular moment in history when the icon, Shaykh Adam Abdullah al-Ilory, emerged to give moments to history has actually been preceded by another centenary- the centenary of the arrival and departure of the icon of the Sokoto Caliphate- Shaykh Uthman b. Fodio (rahimahullaah). Thus humanity has been privileged to witness the arrival and departure, one after the other, of one icon after the other, of one scholar after the other and of one great man after the other.

In other words, when Shaykh Uthman b. Fodio arrived in the 19th century, little did history know that it was partly meant to presage the arrival of Shaykh Adam Abdullah al-Ilory in the 20th century. Yes. When Shaykh Uthman b. Fodio entered history in the 20th century, little did humanity know it was for the sole of purpose of given history an identity. On the other hand, when Shaykh Adam Abdullah al-Ilori, entered history in the 20th century, little did Nigeria know it was for the sole purpose of giving identities to history. Yes. While Shaykh Uthman b. Fodio had to go through the sword in order for humanity to discover their essence, Shaykh Adam Abdullah al-Ilory, on the other hand, had to go through the thorns in order for humanity to appreciate their essence. Brother! While Shayykh Uthman b.Fodio elevated Bilad Takrur (Bilad Sudan) onto the pages of history, Shaykh Adam Abdullah toiled in order that Bilad Nigeria could be reckoned with even among (Arab) writers of history. Sister! While Uthman b. Fodio wrote to deprecate Bid’ah and adulate Sunnah, Shaykh Adam wrote and spoke against, among others, taqalid al-Jahiliyyah. Brethren, Shaykh Uthman b. Fodio departed leaving no estate behind except that of Islamic identity and extremely rich intellectual and spiritual patrimony, Shaykh Adam equally departed the mirage which this world is leaving behind a huge heritage of scholarship and souls forever in constant yearning for the eternal, for the extra-terrestrial.

Yes. A century. A centenary. Of his arrival and departure. It feels as if it was only yesterday. Just like yesterday. He journeyed across history. Moments became seconds. Seconds became minutes. Minutes became days. Then weeks. Then months. Then years. Now a century. Yes. A century of his arrival and departure. He counted the years before his arrival; he counted the years on his arrival. Then he stopped counting. By His Will. Then we started counting. By His Will. We have now counted the years. Since his departure, we have counted years. Since his arrival and departure. But in reality, neither he nor any one of us could actually account for the number of years he had been on the journey, on his journey; the journey to greatness, the journey to mean. None of us could actually count the number of years we have all been on the journey; nor the number of years we would be on this and that journey. Shaykh Adam Abdullah strove to count the uncountable, the uncountable and inestimable of the beatitude of the Almighty, of His blessings, at a time humanity chose to count dollars, naira and kobo.

But one thing I am sure of is this-he was not alone when he started the journey; we were not alone, when we started our journeys too. He was not alone; in the womb of time. “Shaykh Addam Abdullah al-Ilory, Sir!” “Naam! Yes. I entered the entered the zone; I entered the space of time. I entered the dated zones and spaces of time. I competed for entry and succeeded. I was destined to excel, to be great. The day I emerged from the loins when and where others failed was the day I started my tortuous journey to greatness”.

Brethren, it does not matter where they are born. It does not matter where great men are born. What, however, usually matters is this: who delivered the seed? Shaykh Adam Abdullah al-Ilory was of the finest stock. He was born of the finest stock. He was reared and nurtured by the finest bosoms. To him and to his forebears the centenary is and should be dedicated.

Thus not one centenary shall we celebrate. But centenaries of excellence, of greatness, of uncommon scholarly erudition. Not one centenary shall we celebrate. Rather, it is centenaries of global recognition; centenaries of the founding, by Shaykh Adam Abdullah al-Ilory, of an empire not of the slippery ones where money and empty fame mattered, not one marked by the iniquitous pursuit of the ephemeral and the chimerical but that in which what mattered is the immersion in the ocean of blessings which only the Almighty could bestow and endow.

In other words, of what purpose is this centenary? Of what purpose is this day, this week? Why are we here today? Not yesterday. Not last year. Of what meaning is this celebration? Of life and living.

Brethren! Centenary celebrations, like all others, are rare moments in which we strive to rediscover what it means to have meant something to life and humanity. It furnishes a rare opportunity for humanity to express feelings of reverence and appreciations to great men, women and institutions whose contributions to the word and the world are memorialized and entombed in the minds and the souls of humanity. Centenary celebrations, I seek to argue, provides the moment when the celebrants and the celebrated jointly enter into time, metaphorically speaking, where the eternal finds value and where the solemn enjoy patronage. Centenary celebrations refers to nothing other than the search for the meaning, and in line with Abdul Qahir al-Jurjani in Dalail al-Ijaz, the meaning of the meaning of the life of the celebrated. I thought that through the centenary of the life and times of this icon, Shaykh Adam Abdullah al-Ilory, the assemblage of his heirs, the congregation of his students and students of his students, the concatenation of his followers and the followers of his followers should seize this auspicious moment to attempt to map and re-map, as if by cartographers, the next hundred years of his patrimony. Shaykh Adam Abdullah al-Ilory would be pleased the more, while looking back, to discover that the Markaz is not only thriving in Agege but that the greater Markaz, the Markaz in your hearts and minds, the Markaz in your conduct and carriage, the Markaz in your speech and tongue remained unsoiled and contaminated. The greatest celebration Shaykh Adam Abdullah al-Ilory deserves, I would therefore argue, is that in which his noble life is seen in our daily lives. The greatest memorialization you could accord him is to ennoble the Markaz in your lives.

Thus before I close, this question appears urgent and important: who is the new Shaykh Adam Abdullah al-Ilory? To the construction of the persona of the new al-Ilory (2018-2118) our next sermon shall be dedicated.By His Grace!

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