Aisha Ahmed Lemu (1940-2019): Author and Islamic scholar
Aisha Lemu was a British-born author and religious educator who embraced Islam in 1961 and resided in Nigeria until her death on January 5, 2019 at the age of 79.
Lemu was born in Poole, Dorset, in 1940, as Bridget Aisha Honey.
At the age of 13, she began to question her faith and thus, explored other religions, including Hinduism and Chinese Buddhism, according to Wikipedia.
She studied at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) with strong interest in Chinese history, language and culture.
While there, she met Muslims who gave her Islamic literature to read and she converted to Islam at the Islamic Cultural Centre in 1961, during her first year of study.
She subsequently helped to found the Islamic Society at SOAS, becoming its first secretary, and also assisted in the formation of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies.
After graduating from SOAS, Lemu studied for a postgraduate qualification to teach English as a foreign language and while doing so, she met her husband, Sheikh Ahmed Lemu, who had been studying at another college of the University of London and was involved in the Islamic activities around the institution.
Having obtained her Postgraduate Certificate in Education, she moved to Kano in Nigeria in August 1966 to teach at the School for Arabic Studies there, where Sheikh Ahmed Lemu worked as headmaster.
They married in April 1968, with Aisha becoming his second wife. She subsequently moved to Sokoto to take up the position of principal of the Government Girls’ College.
Sheikh Ahmed Lemu was Grand Qadi of the Sharia Court of Appeal of the State of Niger when it was founded in 1976, and Aisha was principal of the Women’s Teachers College in Minna from then until 1978.
The couple founded the Islamic Education Trust (IET), which now operates in several Nigerian states with offices and library facility.
At its headquarters in Minna, other facilities of the Trust include a publishing house, primary and secondary school and adult education centre for women.
Mrs Lemu was a member of the Islamic Studies Panel, set up by the Nigerian Educational Research Council, which was to revise the national Islamic curriculum for different school levels.
In 1985, sheset up the Federation of Muslim Women’s Associations in Nigeria (FOMWAN) with other Muslim women and was elected as its pioneer national Amirah for four years, after which she served as a civil servant for many years.
Since her eldest son, Nurudeen Ahmed Lemu, announced her death last Saturday, tributes have continued to pour in from the Muslim community as well as notable Nigerians including President Muhammadu Buhari.
To FOMWAN, it was a great loss as the group lamented the big vacuum her transition has created within the Muslim womanhood.
She was eulogized for conceptualizing the FOMWAN platform in 1985 and which has remained formidable in nurturing, mentoring and uniting Muslim women on the path of religious ethics.
As a result, FOMWAN, last Sunday, organised a Fidau (prayer for the dead) for the repose of her soul.
At the prayer session, Lemu’s virtues as a “dedicated Muslim woman, author and scholar of high repute” were celebrated.
President Muhammadu Buhari in a condolence message expressed deep shock over her passage while emphasising her personality as “a repository of knowledge whose depth of scholarship was overwhelming and enviable.”
To Buhari, Aisha Lemu “admirably dedicated her life to scholarship and moral uplifting of her society, producing massive literature on religious education during her remarkable life on earth.”
“As a Western woman who converted to Islam, Hajiya Lemu had demonstrated that knowledge was not about inheritance, but about curiosity, enthusiasm and dedication to expand our intellectual horizons.”
Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani-Bello also extolled the deceased’s virtues of being an extraordinary woman in Islam and an educationist who believed in the education of women as a priority in Islamic jurisprudence.
President-General, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), and Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, said her acceptance of Islam and her migration to Nigeria for Islamic propagation could not have been timelier than they happened.
His words: “With Hajiya Lemu’s arrival in Nigeria, the participation of Muslim women in Islamic propagation took a new positive dimension which particularly gingered the northern Muslim sisters into an action never hitherto dreamt of in the country.
“It was Hajiya Aisha Lemu who initiated the idea of bringing all Nigerian Muslim women under a common umbrella called FOMWAN which is vividly active and effective in all corners and crannies of the country today. And she was the first National Amirah of that solidly organized and highly respected body.
“She also cooperated fully with her husband, Justice Ahmad Lemu, in establishing an intellectual Non-Governmental Organisation named ‘Islamic Education Trust’ (IET) that is very well-recognised globally today.
“Hajiya Lemu has written many books either for academic purposes or for general Islamic understanding. Through those activities, Hajiya Lemu did not only facilitate job opportunities for many young Nigerian Muslims, she also opened ways to scholarships, home and abroad, for many intellectually aspiring young Muslims seeking attainment of higher levels in education.
“Hajiya Lemu’s demise last Saturday furthers confirms that Allah has wonderful ways of doing certain unimaginable things that cannot elicit questions from any mortal being. That the two great women (Maryam Jameelah and Aisha Lemu) from different countries lived alike and were demised alike is one of those wonders,” he stated.