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Sheikh Jafar: In evergreen memory

It seems like only yesterday, that bleak Friday morning, when we woke up and the phones wouldn’t stop ringing;  ‘Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un’,…

It seems like only yesterday, that bleak Friday morning, when we woke up and the phones wouldn’t stop ringing;  ‘Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un’, the callers were all saying, ‘Sheikh Jafar Mahmud Adam has been killed in cold blood.’ This great scholar had been leading the dawn prayer in the mosque when his assassins arrived. By the time they were through, Sheikh Jafar had returned to his Maker and world had been deprived of an honest and irreplaceable scholar.
But, as with all those who dedicated their lives to the service of Almighty God and humanity, Sheikh Jafar still reaps the bounteous rewards of his intellectual enterprise. In his numerous lectures and lively Qur’an exegesis, the late scholar continues to earn his sadaqatil jariyah. His murder remains unsolved six years after but Sheikh Jafar lives on in his invaluable works. My little brother and former MSSN national president, Abdullahi Abubakar Lamido, speaks for all of us who revered Sheikh Jafar, in the following remembrance tribute.
Remembering an intellectual revivalist
Abdullahi Abubakar Lamido
History is replete with personalities who at various times and in different places and dimensions were able to shake the world and influence it for the better. In history we learn that although some people came, lived and left without the world noticing their presence; others only existed to destroy the world’s equilibrium. But there are some who do not only benefit humanity in different ways they also change the cause of history through reforming and revolutionizing the way affairs are conducted in different human societies.
Sheikh Ja’far Mahmud Adam, the late Daura-born, Kano-based erudite scholar, belonged to the third group. This writer first came into physical contact with the late Sheikh in 1995 when the latter presented a public lecture in Gombe. The extraordinary power of the Sheikh’s memorization of the Qur’an, his mastery of the Hadith, his proficiency in Arabic, his mastery of Islamic Jurisprudence, his overriding oratory and mesmerizing sense of humour, in addition to his charismatic nature, all overwhelmed his teaming listeners. Of particular interest was the level of maturity displayed in the lecture, which made it so unique.
Sheikh Ja’far was an embodiment of true Islamic scholarship. He was sound in knowledge of the Quran and the Sunnah; vast in the knowledge of Islamic history much as he was very familiar with the realities of the world around him. And he was widely travelled. He refused to be greedy. He refused. This gave him the courage to stand firmly against any anti-religious or oppressive force. He boldly criticized anything unislamic and fearlessly challenged any inhuman policy proposed or implemented by ‘any authority or person throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.’
He never stopped learning and reading till his last breath. In fact, if a scholar is a person who knows many things about one thing; a talented person someone who does ordinary things in extraordinary ways and an intellectual, a person who knows something about many things, then Sheikh Ja’far was a talented, intellectual scholar. Whoever does not know the specialization of the Sheikh, will be left in a serious difficulty when trying to identify such. He spoke on other fields of endeavor sometimes far better than many specialists. Though he specialized in the sciences of the Quran and its exegesis, he spoke on other fields as competently as he his Tafseer.
The Sheikh truly viewed Islam as it is; a comprehensive and unique way of life that is supposed to guide mankind in all aspects. Therefore his version of Islamic scholarship was an all-inclusive one. His teaching (ta’leem), Tafseer and lecture sessions were learning centres where many people regularly attended to receive practical lessons on how to successfully live their spiritual, economic, social, political lives; and all within the context of the pristine teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah. He was an epitome of a true Imam, who understood the relevance of the Jumu’at pulpit as a perfect tool for ‘rebranding’ the entire society and bringing it back to the desired social equilibrium.
Sheikh Jafar effectively utilized the mimbar to comment perfectly on national and international issues, thus empowering his audience with a  balanced and well informed grasp of the phenomena around them. He would deliver a khutbah on EFCC, OPC, democracy, elections and political violence, marriage and women rights, education, science and technology, globalization, the New World Order, international terrorism, middle east crisis, child rights, etcetera while carefully and competently analyzing the  impact of all these issues on the Muslim Ummah.
One central thing about the Da’wah of the Sheikh was his tireless advocacy for moderation in everything. He was able to strike a balance between laxity and extremism. He insisted that Islam is not a monopoly of the scholars or those who are seen as the ‘religious leaders’. Rather every Muslim has a contribution to give towards the progress of Islam and the entire humanity, and that unless all hands are put on deck, with scholars, professionals, technocrats, politicians, business men, youths and women all using their talents and resources to develop the religion, the Ummah can never achieve the desired positive change.
His view on development and modernity was a marvelous one. He never rejected modernity; neither did he mistake for westernization. He constantly urged people, especially the youths to educationally pursue modern sciences and to excel in them. He believed that was the only way we could develop and continue to be relevant in this era of globalization. The late Sheikh went round university and polytechnic campuses enlightening the youths and reminding them of the enormous challenges facing  particularly the Muslim Ummah and Nigeria as a whole.
Throughout his life, Sheikh Ja’far consistently called on Muslims to completely Islamize their society. While doing that however, he employed wisdom, good preaching and the principle of gradualism. He believed change is a dynamic process which is only achieved through patience, forbearance, organization and dedication to a meaningful and well defined direction. His humility gave him the ability to confidently acknowledge his mistakes. He would accept corrections from the least of his students and would announce his own mistake and withdraw his Fatwa in public, insisting that no scholar is truly a scholar unless he can admit his mistakes even before his enemies.
The Sheikh was a strong enemy to indolence and idleness. He was persistent in calling people to be hardworking and stop what he called Zaman dumama benci, a Hausa expression that best describes the meaning of laziness and idleness. In fact if there was anything one could learn from the late Sheikh’s Dawah, it probably is seriousness about life. He encouraged people to empower themselves economically and abandon the despicable ‘profession’ of begging which has according to him, caused northern Nigeria a great shame in the comity of nations. His view was that young men could learn the Quran, as it were, without necessarily being subjected to begging; an act which is clearly against the categorical teachings of the Quran, Sunnah, and of the natural instinct of human respect and dignity. That was why he advocated for a reform in the Almajirci system of Islamic education (an institution which he himself was a product of) in a way that does not tamper with the true spirit of the system. 
Those who killed the Sheikh are no doubt the real enemies of the Muslim Ummah. They saw in him a revivalist whose approach to change was a unique and all-embracing one. They saw a man who identified the relevance of the youths in fighting any selfish interest that sets out to exploit humanity either in the name of politics, religion or whatever cause.  They saw a real scholar who was able to first fight his own desire for personal aggrandizement before he faced the inhumanities perpetrated by man against fellow men.
His murderers could be internal or external enemies. They might have killed him because he advocated a return to unadulterated Islam; a call that received an overwhelming acceptance among men and women, the poor and the rich, the young and the old, the elites and the merchants. They might also have murdered him because of his uncompromising stands against injustice and cruelty exhibited by the people in power. They knew he could not be bought by money, or position, or recognition. Again his killers could be from the so-called international community; those whose hatred for anything Islam is no longer news.
Whoever killed this great scholar is no doubt the greater loser. He has given the Sheikh a chance to have a good end. He has turned many of the Sheik’s critics to his admirers. There are those who hitherto did not care to listen to the late Sheikh speak but are now researching into his life and works. His teachings are in the cell phones and laptops of many people including the elites. His tafseer and other programmes are aired over the radio and television in Kano, Maiduguri, Bauchi, Gombe, Jigawa, and Kaduna among many other states; and on the newly established satellite channel, Sunna TV. He is also aired in many other African counties.  And if the murder was to get rid of the Sheikh and consequently achieve some worldly gain, then the murderers might have achieved this short term aim. But no doubt, they must be preparing to accommodate Allah’s wrath for killing His innocent and committed servant.
What else could one hope for a man whose 47 years were only spent in learning the Qur’an, teaching people about their religion, guiding people on how to ‘live, learn, love and leave a legacy’? What could one say, of a man whose whole life was spent in struggling to make life easy and prosperous for others? What should one say about a personality who spent sleepless nights in reading and research just to be able to educate others? And what can a person achieve in life better than to sacrifice his time, talent, resources and indeed his life in fighting for the rights of the poor? May Almighty Allah forgive Sheikh Jafar’s shortcomings and bless his surviving family, amin.
Abdullahi can be reached through [email protected]

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