Saturday, 8 August 2015

(107): The Legacy of Shaykh, Dr Aminuddeen Abubakr (I)

Sometime in 1983, my mother broke the news to me that henceforth, I will be joining my father to attend Friday prayers at the Bayero University old campus mosque, where my father regularly prays. It was an excellent news for a little kid. Apart from attending prayers, it was an opportunity to go out, and as you know, when you go out with your dad, you get a treat, and I still remember those days with nostalgia.

On arrival at the mosque, sitting by the side of my father, we listened to the sermon delivered by Imam Abbas. But even as a kid, I noticed a man sitting slightly ahead of the first row, listening attentively to the sermon, you can’t miss his exceptional devotion from the way he sat. Immediately after the prayers, this gentleman stood, and after some introduction in Arabic, he started translating the Khutbah (sermon) in Hausa, our native language. Instead of people leaving the mosque shortly after the prayers, they started moving forward, those outside the mosque where trying to find a space inside in order to listen to the translation of the Khutbah. The man was dressed in a long gown, an ash coloured jallabiyya, and a cap  made from wool, also an ash colour with some black stripes.

I asked my father, who is this gentleman?  He said this is Shaykh Aminuddeen Abubakar. He was looking youthful, most likely in his mid or late thirties at the time. Then comes another good news. “We will pray Asr, (the late afternoon prayer) in his mosque”, my father told me. It means we will stay some more hours before returning home.  After listening to the translation of the sermon, we came out of the old campus mosque; there was a convoy of cars, one of them an SUV with public address system on top. The translation of the sermon was played, and the convoy started moving, which we also joined, and move straight to No 483, Sulaiman Crescent in Nassarawa quarters, Kano metropolis.

Again I asked my father, to tell me more about this place, and he said, this is Da'awah Group of Nigeria founded by Shaykh Aminuddeen Abubakar. Inside the compound was a newly built school, a mosque made from wood, painted in blue, but made bright by the number of fluorescents in and outside. Some feet away from the mosque was a construction site, which later became the current mosque within the vicinity of the centre, some classes as well as the office of the Shaykh.

We prayed Asr in the mosque shortly after Shaykh Aminuddeen arrived from Bayero University. He attended to a number of students and visitors afterwards before entering his house briefly, to be ready for the Magrib (night prayer), where he also deliver different lessons on daily basis in between the Maghrib and Isha (late night) prayers. After spending the entire evening at the centre, my father broke another news to me, "a new Islamic school has started here at night, and you would be enrolled in the night classes", he said. I still remember with ecstasy when my father took me to Shaykh Muhammad Sanusi Abubakr, the brother and one of the closest associates of the Shaykh, to interview and register me for the classes.

The founding of Daawah Group of Nigeria was in my opinion one of the major legacies left by Shaykh Aminuddeen Abubakr for a number of reasons. First, it was the first modern religious organization of its type established in Kano, and one of the first in northern Nigeria with a completely different approach to Islamic education.

Da'awah Group was a major religious centre with a global worldview, but rooted within the local culture. Shaykh Aminuddeen Abubakr has established strong partnership with international organisations particularly in the Middle East and other parts of the world. As such, the centre was a major hub for international visitors from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, Syria, United States, United Kingdom, Morocco, Algeria and different parts of the world.

Whenever these visitors came, he seized the opportunity either to ask them to deliver the Friday Khutbah (sermon) or dedicate to them one of the slots during the lessons he delivers between Maghrib and Ishaa. This culture established by the Shaykh contributed significantly in creating a worldview among the visitors, which made them understood global issues, and learn how Muslims live in other parts of the world, as well as the challenges they were facing.

This culture provided an opportunity for comparison between various Muslim nations and what obtains in Nigeria. I can still recall the visit by Shaykh Babandi Abubakar Gumel in the early 1990s, who took his time to lead a delegation of Muslim reverts to Nigeria, and they camped at the Daawah Mosque sharing their experiences on how they came in contact with Islam, and why they devote their time to the propagation of Islam.

Secondly, Daawah Group was unique because of the chain of schools established by Dr Aminuddeen Abubakar. The schools include a modern primary school which combines both Islamic and Western education. In the evening there was a school for married women which I shall elaborate on later. The school for women runs simultaneously with a section for children learning the memorization of the Glorious Qur’an. The children school was a perfect fit, because the women do not have to worry about their children, as the section takes care of the kids, with an added value, which is learning the Qur’an. At night there was the school for children which runs for four nights at the time, and the remaining three nights dedicated to male adults. These chain of schools completely revolutionized the running of Islamic schools in Kano, a feat that continue to be replicated to date in Kano and other parts of Nigeria.

Thirdly, Da'awah Group was unique with the daily lessons between Magrib and Isha delivered by Dr Aminuddeen. This contribution was unique because he brought for the first time a different methodology of teaching which was different from the traditional system of Makarantun Zaure. Under makarantun Zaure, as I witnessed with my late grandfather, Malam Yusuf Abdurra’uf, a group of students will visit the scholar, each of them with his book(s), usually, Taalimul Muta'allim, Al Akhdari, Al-Izziyya, Arrisala and Mukhtsar Khalil. There were other books  like Aajurumiyya, Muwatta Malik and Tafsir Al Jalaalain, as well as the Sihah Assitta for more advanced students. This system treat each student according to his learning ability. The scholar listens to each student while reading from the text, and then translates and provide interpretation in Hausa.

It was a unique system that has value till date, because apart from the textual lessons, the students learn from the character of the scholar, listening to more advanced students and becoming more familiar with advanced texts before reaching that level. The student also has a more learned authority to make reference to whenever the need arises. It is a system that the Muslim community should pay significant attention to its revival, especially in this age when people accord to themselves the status of scholars without going through tarbiyya that is associated with learning from pious scholars.  

What Dr Aminuddeen Abubakar did was to add a spice to the traditional system of makarantun zaure by encouraging the learning of Arabic as a language, at least ensuring that students have an excellent reading and writing proficiency. Then he transformed the Da'awah mosque to provide multipurpose function by serving as a mosque and library.

The first thing a visitor will notice in the 1980s and 1990s when he enters the mosque, which differentiates it from many mosques, was that it was covered by bookshelves. The bookshelves contain abundant copies of books from the Sihah al-Sitta (Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhy, Abu Dawood, Ibn Maja, Nasaa’iyy, and Sunan Ahmad), Riyad Assalihin, Kitaab Al Kabaa’ir, Fath Al Majid, Bulugh Al-Maram and several books of Tasfsir (Quranic exegesis) and Dhikr (remembrance of Allah).

He ensured that enough copies were made available. Between Maghrib and Isha he teaches one book only from the collection stated, and each student attending the lesson has a copy available for use. A student does not have to worry about purchasing a copy, especially those who cannot afford to do so. For those with strong thirst for knowledge, they can utilize the time after prayers to revise the lessons and even read from other books. At any time, the mosque was a reference point.
This system that he established contributed greatly in producing a lot of youths with a sound understanding of Islam, some of whom later developed to study in higher institutions of learning in Nigeria and others in universities in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, Pakistan and Niger among others. In those days, we have witnessed people who embraced Islam in Daawah Group, or came to the centre with a very weak foundation, yet develop sound understanding of Arabic and other religious texts, which enables them secure admission into secondary and post-secondary institutions in Nigeria and abroad in order to advance their studies.

To be continued insha Allah.

03:22 am