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He died hours after conducting a Nikah ceremony

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In the name of the Almighty, the Beneficent, the Merciful

“Death which you are running away from, will certainly catch up with you. Then you will be returned to the Knower of the Unseen and the Visible and He will inform you about what you did.” Qur’an 62:8

Brethren, he was – and how sad human existence could be; an existence that can only be referenced either in the present or in the past.

Brethren, indeed he is now past and has passed. I have to now refer to him in the past and with a heavy heart; and in the full knowledge that the bridge he has passed is awaiting our own passage, mine and yours, and patiently too. Yes. He has now passed on. One of the great minds in Arabic-Islamic scholarship in the Southwestern part of Nigeria has passed on. He passed on like yours, mine and ours have all passed on before him. He came to the word in silence. The moment death came to him was also a moment of silence. The event took place five days ago. Monday morning was the last day he spent in life; Monday morning was the first day he spent in eternity.

But before that eventful day, Shaykh had woken up the previous day like he always did. As a scholar in the city and one whose intellectual capital was in high demand, he had a long list of socio-cultural and religious functions and outings he had to attend. Like those before him, the Shaykh led his life as a scholar. I refer to him as a scholar not only because he was properly ‘schooled’ and trained in the ‘grammar’ of Arabic and in the ‘mechanics’ of Islamic studies in al-Azhar University. I refer to him as a scholar because when death knocked on his door on Sunday night, he knew he had few hours left on terrestrial earth.

Brethren, the last assignment he had on Sunday before his death was a wedding ceremony he had been invited to as one of the officiating ministers. Highly intelligent, vivacious and unassuming, our Brother-Shaykh eventually got to the wedding venue. He blessed the newly married couples like we always do, like they always do. He prayed that may the bride become like Hawa (r.a) -the “fruits’ that have come forth from Hawa (r.a) have been as uncountable as the pebbles in the desert. Our Brother-Shaykh equally prayed for the groom- ‘may your masculinity never tire in front of your wife’s femininity’. Our Brother-Shaykh prayed and prayed- he probably supplicated that may the event of that moment never become the last moments of fame for one and all.

Meanwhile, agents from the celestial had already begun to do the count-down for him; neither the groom nor the bride, neither the in-law nor the coterie of ‘out-laws’ who usually camp on the margins of social events like vultures in search of prey, knew they were witnessing ‘one of their own’ whose last day on earth remained only few hours. Sometimes when I ponder the reality of our lives, I marvel at the illusion in which most of us are steeped; the rain that led to the destruction of the people of Lut began like droplets. When it started, the people of Lut brought out their pots and utensils to fetch water; little did they know that it was not rain but destruction. There is no way humans could know the unknown and the unknowable.

Brethren, fully sated and satisfied that the day had been well spent, our Brother-Shaykh returned to his abode. He returned to his modest home in the city centre, amidst the un-sung and the unpopular. He returned to his home and immediately offered the Salat Isha. Shortly after he took his dinner, the process that would eventually lead to his passage to the great beyond began. He suddenly began to feel a rumbling in his stomach; the rumbling soon became a major body discomfort. Our Brother-Shaykh was known as a man of action. Fully aware that a moment could make or mar human destiny, he gathered himself together, jumped inside his car and drove himself to the hospital.

Brethren, that happened to be the apotheosis. Hours after his arrival, something told him his time was up to meet with his Creator. Something told him he was not going back to the beautiful women he had said bye to hours before. Here is the most instructive part of the incident. One of my former teachers who informed me those moments before he passed on said our Brother-Shaykh told those who were in his presence: “should death overtake me, let there be no wailing and mourning after me; let there be no three-day or eight-day fidau after my departure. Let the Ulama pray over my body; let it be interred as quickly as possible; let everybody go back to their various abode immediately thereafter”.

Like testamentary provisions, our Brother-Shaykh did not bother about those affairs, which only the Almighty can properly dispense. He did not or could not leave any statement for his young children; he did not or could not leave any statement for his wives. Such were unnecessary since it shall not be his duty to take charge of their affairs after his demise; such statements would have been null and void since the Creator has always been there attending to their ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ desires and needs since the day they emerged in this world. Shortly after making those solemn statements, our Brother-Shaykh breathed his last in this world in order to breathe his first in the hereafter. “Allah is He who created death and life to test you as to which of you is best in deed.” (Qur’an 67:2)

Brethren, whenever people who are close to our hearts depart for eternity, whenever we are bereaved we experience such pains and agonies as are beyond description. Monday this week reminded me of the past; of those who were dear to us all of whom have bade us bye. Then I wondered: could it be that the best experience of death is that which is most painful to the bereaved? Then I told him, i.e my former teacher who witnessed the whole event as it unfolded last Monday: “Sir! this type of death frightens us all” Then he remonstrated: “But what can we do? Have you forgotten His word and statement: “I did not make them witness to the creation of the heavens and the earth or to the creation of themselves, and I would not have taken those who have gone astray as assistants.” (Quran 18: 51)

Thus a journey which started years ago came to end last Monday. It came to end with thousands of mourners praying for the repose of our Shaykh in eternity. It reminded us of the ephemerality of this life, of the nothingness of this sojourn. What shall count at the end of the day shall not be the countable; what shall count shall be your uncountable good deeds and good words. If you fail to hearken to this reminder, rest assured the angels are; they do not go on leave. (08122465111 for text messages only).

• Oladosu is a Professor of Middle Eastern, North African and Cultural Studies, Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies, University of Ibadan.


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