By Dr Abdullahi Shuaib PhD
The celebration of a living centenarian is a special favour from the Almighty Creator and not every mortal has that privilege to attain such a feat. Little wonder, Allah’s Messenger said: “The best of people is the one whose life is long and his deeds are good…” It is so hard on me to write this tribute in honour of a centenarian activist. Nevertheless, I would try to share a tip of the iceberg of my 30 years’ interaction with Sheikh Abdul Hafeez Abou, the Executive Chairman of Lagos Central Mosque and Baba Adinni of Lagos State. A living legend of our time who has influenced my life greatly. As a young man, I’ve heard and later seen Sheikh Abou’s desire to live a life worthy of emulation so I am not so surprised that many are celebrating his greatness today. He is an amiable personality who seeks the happiness of others. He is very sacrificial, and has given a lot to the service of the Muslim community of Lagos State in particular and Nigeria generally. Sheikh Abdul Hafeez Abou is worthy of emulation in every respect of good works and service to humanity. As a custodian of the complete Qur’an which he had committed to memory, Sheikh is a staunch advocate of knowledge in all ramifications. He places high premium on quality education for all and sundry. His contributions towards the establishment of schools are exemplary. His preference for the Muslim youths to access both qualitative and quantitative knowledge stems from his early childhood desire to become a great scholar and Muslim activist using the knowledge of the Qur’an as a fulcrum to preach peaceful co-existence and unity among the Muslims and non-Muslims. He has an unavoidable mien in the formation of the establishment of the Muslim Ummah of South West Nigeria (MUSWEN), a unifying regional umbrella organisation in the South-west geo-political zone of the country. I recall that the appointment of a successor to the late Alhaji AbdulWahab Iyanda Folawiyo, Baba Adinni of Nigeria almost caused schism among the Jamaatul Muslimeen of Lagos Central Mosque. As a man that loves his people dearly and always desire to preserve the culture of peace and brotherhood among the rank and file of the community, he sacrificed a lot to reconcile brethren who were on different fault lines. However, providence played fast one on him as the alternative and anointed Baba Adinni of Lagos in August 2009. He reluctantly accepted the position in the overall interest of peaceful and amicable settlement of the misunderstanding on the tripod of transparency, justice and fairness. His love and passion for the development of the Jamaatul Muslimeen of Lagos Central Mosque to greater heights is second to none. Having lived a good life, he has invested and still continues to invest greatly into many people, both young and old. He is a coach to many and a mentor to others. Baba Adinni does not belong to the club of the elites and money-bags, yet he is a cheerful giver; an embodiment of love and generosity. Sheikh Abdul Hafeez Abou is a man I admire and respect so much; his life and achievement have brought me much inspiration to pursue my goals and aspirations in life. I recall one of the red letter days of my life when I led a team of young Muslim activists to his house on a courtesy visit with a view to tapping from his wealth of knowledge and experience. One of the lessons that inspired me was his tenacity, commitment and knack for knowledge and skills which he gained from some notable leaders of global Islamic movements in Egypt and Pakistan. Little wonder his indefatigable activism in the Da’wah (Islamic propagation) space in Nigeria and Lagos State in particular has continued to date. Sheikh Abdul Hafeez Abou is a lovely person and a lover of Muslim youths in Da’wah using modern techniques to spread the message of Islam to the nook and cranny of the country. Baba Adinni has a heart that cares completely for Islam, Da’wah and humanity. In the words of William Shakespeare, “some people are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” Sheikh Abdul Hafeez Abou has lived this life practically for ten decades. He is an epitome of greatness and an alumnus of the prestigious Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt. Sheikh Abdul Hafeez Abou had the greatest opportunity of crossing the paths of some notable international and national leaders such as former President of Egypt, late Jamal Abdul Nasir, late Farouk I, King of Egypt, late Hassan Al-Bana, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, late Muhammad Alli and former President of Ghana, late Kwame Nkrumah. Others were the first indigenous Premier of Western Nigeria, late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, former Prime Minister of Nigeria, late Tafawa Balewa, former Premier of Northern Nigeria and Sardauna of Sokoto, late Sir Ahmadu Bello and former Minister of Defence, late Alhaji Muhammadu Ribadu. As a product of Ansar-Ud-Deen School, Sheikh Abdul Hafeez Abou had a stint with Ansar-Ud-Deen schools as a teacher and later as a principal. Without mincing words, he has raised many students like him and has been a role model to many others. Talking about the impact of his life and achievements in my life, I have learnt diligence, dedication, attention to detail, time consciousness, patience perseverance, humility, knowledge-driven approach to work and other great values of life from him. His impact on the life of the Imams of Ratibi and Central Mosques in Lagos through his manpower training initiatives has given them great hope and desire to live a life of accomplishment. His impact on education, the field of Da’wah and community development shows how great his life has changed many brethren. He is not just great but has worked so hard to become great. It is pertinent to mention that greatness is not only in building monuments and leaving great edifice behind. Rather, the life of Sheikh Abdul Hafeez Abou is synonymous to the great monuments and great edifice that are not physical to several people. Many thanks Baba Adinni for living so great and impactful life. Sheikh Abdul Hafeez Abou is eminently qualified to be referred to as the symbol of Islam. When Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) was asked “What is Religion?” He replied: “Husn al-Khulq” meaning “Excellent Moral Compass.” Over my three decades of interaction with Sheikh Abdul Hafeez Abou, he has been able to distinguish himself as a man of strong character and moral compass. Either amongst his contemporary or his mentees, there has not been any scandal whatsoever, past or recent, linked or associated with him over the 10 decades of his life. According to Carol Alt, “If you have a moral compass, and you stay with it, people will always gravitate towards you…” The life of Sheikh Abdul Hafeez Abou has lived this quote and with gratitude to Allah. What an exemplary life of a man of integrity. He has been a great motivation and encouragement to me for a long time. I have equally learnt a lot from him ranging from good character to great values such as honesty, truthfulness and hard work. Sheikh Abdul Hafeez Abou’s life is worthy of emulation and he will forever live in our hearts as a great grandfather, leader, scholar, coach and mentor. I pray Allah grant him good end, increase him in faith, blessing in aging coupled with good health and abundant provisions.
Dr Abdullahi Shuaib is the Chief Executive Officer Jaiz Charity and Development Foundation Abuja, Nigeria.