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Khalifa Isyaku Rabi’u []1925 – 2018]

The death on Tuesday last week, May 8, 2018 of Sheikh Isyaku Rabi’u marked the passing of one of this country’s greatest Islamic scholars and…

The death on Tuesday last week, May 8, 2018 of Sheikh Isyaku Rabi’u marked the passing of one of this country’s greatest Islamic scholars and religious leaders, one of the country’s most successful businessmen and also one of Kano City and Northern Nigeria’s most important community leaders. He died at a London hospital at the age 93.  

Sheikh Isyaku Rabi’u was born in 1925 into the family of the Kano-based Islamic scholar Muhammadu Rabi’u Dan Tinki in 1925.   He studied Qur’an at his father’s school before he went to Maiduguri, Borno State for four years for further Islamic learning.  Sheikh Rabi’u simultaneously ventured into business enterprise. he established Isyaku Rabi’u & Sons in 1952. He started as a UAC agent, trading in sewing machines, bicycles and religious books before he became one of the distributors of Kaduna Textiles   in 1958. In the 70s Sheikh Rabi’u’s firm ventured into real estate. It also invested in manufacturing, insurance and banking. His children became big businessmen, including Abdussamad Rabi’u, the Chairman of BUA Group and Rabi’u Rabi’u, owner of IRS Airlines.

Sheikh Rabi’u was a member of the Tijjaniyya Muslim sect and was declared its Khalifah [i.e. leader] in Nigeria in 1995. However, up until his death he had a leadership tussle with a prominent Islamic scholar, Sheikh Dahiru Usman Bauchi, which led Tijjaniyya to break into two factions. In March Sheikh Rabi’u’s faction held the Maulud of Sheikh Ibrahim Nyass in Kaduna while Sheikh Dahiru’s faction held its own in Abuja. 

Sheikh Isyaku Rabi’u belonged to the exclusive ranks of men who memorized the Holy Qur’an. Kano-based Islamic scholar Sheikh Ibrahim Khaleel said in his tribute, “Sheikh Isyaku Rabi’u fulfilled the will of his father by constructing sixty houses and donating them to memorisers of the Holy Qur’an. His father had instructed him to do that when he was alive and he did it. These houses are located behind his house in Goron Dutse. Sheikh Rabi’u was a memoriser and consistent reader of the Holy Qur’an. Anywhere you saw him, he would be reading the Qur’an. Three, he was an open minded and straight forward person and took care of Qur’anic scholars and students as well. And lastly he worked diligently for the progress of the Tijjaniyya sect not only in Kano but in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.” 

President Muhammadu Buhari said no tribute could do justice to the amazing virtues of Isyaku Rabi’u in view of his vast contributions to scholarship, industrial investments and development in the country. Senate President Bukola Saraki said the late Khalifah made huge sacrifices in the promotion of Islam and Islamic scholarship. Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara said, “The late Khalifah Isyaku Rabi’u was a great scholar, entrepreneur per excellence and inspiring philanthropist who impacted the lives of many through his uncommon benevolence, generosity and support to the less privileged members of the society.”

Katsina State Governor Aminu Bello Masari described Sheikh Rabi’u as a deeply religious, intensely generous and very simple person whose conduct impacted positively within and outside the shores of Nigeria. Kano State government declared last Friday a work-free day for his funeral, which was attended by a crowd estimated to be in hundreds of thousands. The funeral prayer was conducted at Sheikh Isyaku Rabi’u Jumu’at mosque led by Sheikh Ahmad Tijjani Siese, grandson of Tijjaniyya icon Sheikh Ibrahim Nyass of Senegal. Sultan of Sokoto Muhammad Sa’ad, Emir of Kano Muhammad Sanusi II, Governors of Kano, Jigawa, Sokoto and Niger states, APC National Leader Ahmed Bola Tinubu and business mogul Aliko Dangote all attended the funeral prayer. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo also visited the state to condole with the Rabi’u family and the government and people of Kano State. 

Sheikh Isyaku Rabi’u left behind wives, forty-two children, many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  Indeed, a colossus has fallen. May his soul find well deserved rest in Aljannat Firdaus. 


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