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On the 10th year anniversary of MUSWEN – Part I

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You are the best Ummah (nation) produced [as an example] for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in the Almighty.. (Quran 3: 110)

The Muslim Ummah of Southwest Nigeria (hereafter MUSWEN) is marking its tenth year anniversary. Yes. It has been ten years since the day the idea was birthed. It has been ten years since the seed was planted. MUSWEN was an idea. Like this world, your world and mine; `the organization was conceived not by force but by choice. On the 10th of August 2018, it marked a decade after its formation.

But how was the seed sown? How was it planted? ‘We have a response”, so says The Companion. Yes. Our “Companion”. The Companion is an association of veterans in the field of Dawah; it is an association of professionals, of men integrity, of men who have gone through the furnace- the furnace of trials and tribulations of life and in life. They have all gone through the furnace of deprivation and oppression simply because they chose to be Muslims. That happened to them many years ago when most of them were students either in secondary schools or as members of Muslims Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN). Yes. Members of The Companion are veterans of the MSSN- the society that gave voice to the voiceless; the society formed by Muslim students and for Muslim students at a time when to be Muslim was to be a ‘convertible’ subject. Members of The entire membership of The Companion are fully aware that unlike other religions Islam is incomplete if it is not practiced in a community; he is not a Muslim that man who feeds his own family and watches others sleep in hunger.

Thus knowledge and experience compelled careful introspection and contemplation of urgent gaps in the reality of Muslim life in the Southwest. The Companions, ably nourished and supported by the Criterion, subsequently and eventually invited other organizations to join it in thinking through the problem. What exactly was that problem? – lack of a broad-based platform for Muslims in Southwest Nigeria. In 2004 (1425 AH), when the roundtable, or was it a ‘square-table’, for the analyses of this problem took place, none of the participants knew back then that they were partaking in history. None of them knew that their vision had been blessed in the celestial; none of them was aware that the idea they nurtured would fructify and become the MUSWEN of today.

Thus the anniversary is beginning. Today the anniversary is starting. Today history is being celebrated. Today men and women who made and wrote history, the history of MUSWEN, are being memorialized. Today I remember him. I remember late Professor Aliu Babatunde Fafunwa who was appointed the Chair, Coordinating Committee. The Committee whose task it was to midwife the birth of MUSWEN. Brother! Open any page of Muslim history in Yoruba land today, I am certain that you would find totems and imprints of Professor Fafunwa’s struggle to mean well documented there. But there he lays presently, in His grace, in his grave and in silence. Nothing becomes of man except death, the ultimate. Again, nothing shall be for man, after death, except the good works he did while he was on earth. The other day, while re-reading the book of wisdom, the book of life, I became attentive to the fact that shrouds, in truth, have no pockets. But I soon contested that; I told myself- shrouds do have ‘pockets’; inner pockets! Yes. Shrouds have ‘containers’; vessels, which bear records of humans, conduct while on earth, the good and the bad. May the bliss and sustenance of the Almighty continue to accompany him in his grave.

I also remember him too. I remember Justice Tijani Bolarinwa Babalakin, CFR. Justice Babalakin succeeded Professor Fafunwa after his demise in piloting the affairs of MUSWEN. But make no mistake here. This is not and would not be an elegiac piece; not the praise of his grace and eminence. Only reminiscences and commemorations. Yes. I remember that whenever destiny brought us to his presence, Justice Babalakin always ensured we went away with words of wisdom the like of which no teacher could teach in a class. From him I learnt the hard fact that someone who is hungry would not belch; that hardly would the man who is hungry yawn. Yes. Jusstice Babalakin knew what it meant to be a Muslim in Yoruba land. He was one of those who refused to leave Islam at a time his contemporaries succumbed to the intimidation- either you convert and enjoy free education or you forgo your education and remain a Muslim.

While the ‘notice’ of and for this anniversary is being read, I realized that it would be incomplete and invalid until the memory of Alhaji (Aare) ‘Abdul ‘Azeez Arisekola Alao, CON, the eminent Muslim businessman, philanthropist, former Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland and pioneer Deputy President-General (South) of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) is thrown into the mix. There you had a man who came to the world with the ‘designer-shoe’- the shoe of philanthropy. He was an extra-ordinary man who was blessed in an extra-ordinary way. He was blessed ceaselessly; he spent of those blessings ceaselessly. After his demise, many doubts persist with reference to whether his like would emerge on this shore again. May the Almighty, by His perfection, efface Alhaji Arisekola’s imperfections and by extension that of Late Shaykh Sodrudeen Biobaku, former Secretary-General of the League of Imams and Alfas, late Emeritus Professor Lateef Salako, NNOM, CON, former President of the Nigerian Academy of Science and that of late Alhaji (Chief) Abdul Fattah Idowu Sofola, MON, SAN who served as the pioneer Chairman of MUSWEN Elders’ Forum even in his capacity as the former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, first black Secretary General of the International Bar Association, former Chairman of the Body of Benchers, Life Bencher, former Secretary General and former President of Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE).

While weaving this tapestry of MUSWEN’s tenth anniversary together, I could not but remember Dr. Lateef Adegbite, the former Seriki/Baba Adinni of Egbaland and Secretary-General of Nigeria Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (NSCIA). Dr. Adegbite was a predecessor of uncommon achievements; in MSSN. He was the voice of Islam in Yoruba land for many years. He was a connector, a facilitator and one whose commitments to the Deen were indubitable. Together with Professor Fafunwa, he worked tirelessly so that MUSWEN may reach this stage in its development. He came. He has left. Or Rather, he was brought here; he has since been taken away.
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