The day Sheikh Adam Abdullah Al-Ilory was visited by Chief MKO Abiola – Part I
“And do not say of those who are killed in the cause of Almighty that they are dead; no, they are alive but you do not perceive (Quran 2:154).
Today’s sermon was not originally planned to plumb the inner portals of the legendary patrimony of the icon of Arabic-Islamic scholarship in this part of the world, Shaykh Adam Abdullah al-Ilory, who departed this world in 1992 even though to do that whether in Ramadan or Shawwal would only function in the ventilation of this atmosphere that is already held in the jugular by the insuperable odour of ignorance and the infelicities of corruption. Indeed, if there are voices Muslims in the Southwest missed most particularly during the just concluded Ramadan, that of Shaykh Adam Abdullah would be one. A reading and re-reading of his patrimony and the stellar Arab-Islamic scholarly heritage that he left behind can only assist the tutored make meaning of the otherwise meaningless sights and sound that we apprehend in our milieu every passing day.
Thus, initially, I had planned to explore the present tense of contemporary Muslim life some of which continually call to question the known ideals of Islam. I thought nothing speaks to the disconnect between Islam and Muslims of today, nothing images the evil effect of global politics on Islamic brotherhood other than the collusion between some Muslim nations and the Other in order to frustrate the struggle for the establishment of the State of Palestine. I do not know how to make sense of Saudi Arabia’s vote against the Palestinian State when it is fully aware that majority of those suffering on that land are Muslims. I am still struggling with the thought, or rather the claim that support for the Palestinian State- the mainly Arab-Muslim race without a state in the modern period – could become patronage of terrorism. Brethren, when support for those struggling to reclaim their national identities becomes acts of terror, it follows, ceteris paribus, that all supporters of such stateless subjects would become terrorists. Remember in diplomatic and cultural circles, the friend of my enemy is equally my enemy; the friend of my friend is ordinarily my friend.
I had equally considered spending some time to reflect on Saudi Arabia’s current but gradual ‘migration’ to the West. Remember the Sudanese writer, Tayyeb Salih, who wrote the popular Arab novel titled Mawsim al-Hijrah illa Shimal (Season of Migration to the North). Remember the Prophet’s tradition that ‘every action shall be judged according to intention’; that humans, by nature and destiny, are fated to be migrants- migrants in pursuit of the real and the unreal, migrants in pursuit of the chimerical and the eternal. Contemporary critics of current politics in Saudi-America, rather Saudi Arabia, would have seen the measured steps being taken by the new authorities there to migrate Saudia from the desert of Arabia to the bucolic and slippery landscapes of the West. I had thought spending some time to reflect on this and plumbing its connection to our spiritual development would be useful.
But then I remember that we have just exited the month of Ramadan. It might be useful for you to not forget some subtle lessons the month of fasting came to teach to us. Thus I decided to side-step all of the above in deference to some of the highly insightful and memorable stories shared with me and another Professor by a former student of Shaykh Adam Abdullah al-Ilori, himself a Senior Professor, a former ‘this and that’ and currently a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a popular Federal government’s agency. An excursus into aspects of the life of the intellectual prodigy and a stellar intellectual of uncommon characterization that was Shaykh al-Ilori, did not happen by design. We did not set out to relive his life. Rather we were immersed in the discussion of the challenges confronting Muslim scholars of today. We were lamenting how individuals who ordinarily should represent the cremé-dé-la-cremé of our society have become charlatans in the cathedral of the devil. Only a couple of weeks ago, a former CEO of a government agency was asked to return properties worth billions of naira back to the coffers of the Federal government. The said CEO had illegally amassed so much wealth that politicians would have envied him for his insatiable taste for acquiring the ephemeral. There you have an intellectual who succumbed to the material. There you had a scholar who had become a businessman. There you had a man whose action has called to question the dignity and integrity of the Professorial gown and robe. Yes. there are certain conducts that are too shameful than involvement in theft and burglary; there are stations which are un-dignifying for certain status.
Professor then decided to recall only two instances, out of many, in which the life of the late Shaykh Adam Abdullah al-Ilori began to have lasting impacts on his vision and mission in the world. It was a story he told, with relish and passion, in storeys. It was a story of the contact between the philosopher (Shaykh Adam) and the king (Chief MKO Abiola). May the Almighty have mercy on their souls.
Oladosu is Professor of Middle Eastern, North African and Cultural Studies Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan,