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Remembering prisoner 2019, Umar al-Bashir of Sudan

Days before days ago- indeed our lives are nothing but days, made up of hours that are made of minutes that are in turn made…

Days before days ago- indeed our lives are nothing but days, made up of hours that are made of minutes that are in turn made of seconds – I was confused, confounded and utterly bewildered by the news of the passage of the former Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the University of Ilorin Governing Council, Mallam Abidu Yazid. Mallam Yazid had, only a couple of weeks before, presided over the selection process of the new Vice-Chancellor of the University. He was the King-maker who was destined to make another ‘king’ for the University of Ilorin before he meets our Creator, the King of kings.

Whereas destiny never brought me into close contact with him, the information I had about his forthrightness, sagacity and honesty throughout the past couple of years while serving as the Pro-Chancellor of that University had had lasting impressions on me. Unlike that other Pro-Chancellor, he desired not the fleeting passions and illusions of this world. Unlike that Chairman of Council, he never sought to patronize the ego or the greed of those he had to interact with. Unlike others, he did not crave more than what was lawfully his. He avoided biting more than his mouth could chew. No monument was erected in his name; no building was named after him. But at his passing, he left behind a good name, and an unblemished record of performance.  

Thus his death last week was utterly confounding. He died as if he was expected never to die. Except for those suffering from earthly trials by way of serious ailments and infirmities, we often become so enarmoured about life and living that we forget about death and dying. We often forget that to be alive is to ride on the train of life that is headed for eternity; that to ride on that train is to prepare to disembark at any point in time; that to be born of the womb is to prepare for the tomb. When death comes, everything else becomes nugatory. It is a reality that bears no postponement nor entertains no intercession. It is a garment we are all fated to wear!  

Thus when the news of his passing broke, I began to imagine how he would have felt when Azrail, the angel of death, came calling; I imagined how he would have felt when he realized that the selection process was his last official assignment as Pro-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin; I imagined what his circumstance would have been now had he engaged in any infractions or failed to remedy and atone for his sins while on earth. I imagined what would be his circumstance now, all alone in his grave, having been ‘seized’ suddenly and without warning by the angel of death. I imagine how he would have felt as he was being ‘plucked’ from the tree of life by the ‘destroyer’ of happiness and the liquidator of illusion. I asked: exactly what do you think would be your last duty on earth? Exactly where do you think death will catch up with you?

I was busy trying to proffer responses to the above questions when the news ‘broke’ yet again- but why is it that the news that breaks is often not salacious but grievous; the news broke  of the death of that great scholar of Islam. Yes. The beat started for him in 1926. It stopped in the year 2022. The journey began in 1926. Only days ago, it was terminated by the Owner of the path and those who traverse it. He arrived the world close to a century ago. He departed couple of days ago. That was Yusuf al-Qardawi.

The late Shaykh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi was born in 1926 in Saft Turab rural village in the Nile Delta, now in Gharbia Governorate, Egypt, into a poor family of devout Muslim peasants. He became an orphan at the age of two. I always argue that properly understood, parents are not determiners and deciders of the fortune and future of their children. We are like farmers whose sole duty is to plant the seed – the seed whose source and chemistry is unknown to us-, it is always His duty to ensure the plant germinate and fructify.

Following his father’s death, late Shaykh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi was raised by his uncle.  By the time he was nine years old, he had already memorized the entire Quran. He later joined the Institute of Religious Studies at Tanta, and graduated after nine years of study. While in Tanta, Al-Qaradawi first encountered Hassan al Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, when the latter gave a lecture at his school. He described the lasting impacts that al-Banna had on his life saying the latter’s words “were like revelation or live charcoals from the light of prophecy”.