“Anything worth doing”, they say, “is worth doing well”. The event was the launch of a book on one of the great 20th century African scholars from Ilorin, Sheikh Muhammad Kamalu d-Deen Habeebu-llah Musa Al-Adabiyy. It was a privilege for this writer to be asked by the Vice-Chancellor (VC) of the University of Abuja, Abuja, Professor AbdulRasheed Na’Allah, to represent him at the occasion as the book reviewer. Given the fame and influence of Sheikh Kamalu d-Deen in the world of Arabic and Islamic scholarship, all roads in Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja, were supposed to have led to the National Mosque, venue of the book launch, on Sunday January 14, 2023.
The event was forced to formally commence at about 1.30pm with a prayer led by Professor AbdulQadir from the Nasarawa State University, Keffi. This was closely followed with recitations from the Glorious Qur’an by two separate memorizers. The agenda proceeded with chanting of eulogies in praise of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). One of the well-read students of Sheikh Kamalu d-Deen, Sheikh Abdullahi Jibril Sulaiman Al-Fulani Al-Adabiyy, treated the audience to a poetic session of literary feast.
Thereafter, the multi-lingual master of ceremony (MC) called out the Lead-Editor of the book, Sheikh Abdullahi Shehu Onisabi, to make his speech. The MC navigated so fluently between English, Yoruba and Hausa that this writer was prompted to declare, when it was his turn to address the audience, that he would speak in Yoruba tongue at the next event in honour of Sheikh Kamalu d-Deen.
To review the book, my first remark was to urge the audience to give all the credit to the person I was representing, Prof. Abdulrasheed Na’Allah, if the presentation met their expectations. And for any inadequacies, I sought to be blamed. The 370-page book titled “Tributes to Sheikh Muhammad Kamalu-Deen Al-Adabiyy” was edited by three scholars led by Sheikh Abdullahi Osinabi. Consisting of 29 chapters (15 in English and 9 in Arabic), the book is a comprehensive account of the life, scholarship, achievements, and enduring legacies of Sheikh Muhammad Kamalu d-Deen. A section in the preliminary pages of the book provides a concise summary of all the book’s 29 chapters.
While the book was dedicated to two distinguished students of Sheikh Kamalu d-Deen namely: late Prof Musa Ali Ajetumobi and late Alhaji Salman Mohammed Nuhu; Prof AbddulRasheed Na’Allah wrote the lucid foreword. Like a hybrid product, this book combines traditional features of a book and those of an academic journal or newspaper. For instance, sections of the preliminary pages contain features dealing with editorial board, editorial consultants and editorial comment, which are traditionally peculiar to journals and newspapers.
All the writers who contributed chapters are united in their individual account of Sheikh Kamalu d-Deen’s personality, teachings, ideals, values, philosophy of education, principles, and achievements. Born in 1904 (119 years ago) and died in 2005 (18years ago) at 99 years of age, one of the chapter contributors likened Baba Kamalu d-Deen to Imam Shafi’i and Imam Ibn Taymiyyah. While both Imams who were of Arab descent and primarily studied under Arab scholars in Arab societies became distinguished in their career as Muslim intellectuals and preachers at age 15, Sheikh Kamalu d-Deen achieved the same feat at 13 years of age even though he was of non-Arab descent and primarily studied under non-Arab scholars in a non-Arab society. It was not surprising that, as “a blue rose”, he became the first Grand Mufti of Ilorin.
What became of many of Sheikh Kamalu d-Deen’s students or graduates of his schools in Ilorin and Lagos illustrates how foresighted he was to pioneer a system of education that blends between Islamic and western education. The Yoruba phrase, Akewukewe, in the foreword of the book says it all. Today’s generation of professors, academics, and researchers in the twin disciplines of Arabic scholarship particularly in the southwest region of Nigeria owe much of their intellectual attainments to Sheikh Kamalu d-Deen.
Sheikh Kamalu d-Deen’s first trip to Makkah to perform pilgrimage was in 1938. Those who want to know how much he paid to undertake the religious trip to the holy land including BTA should just obtain a copy of this book. His colleagues included Sheikh Adam Al-Iloriyy (b.1917; d. 1992); another great scholar from Ilorin. In 1963, Sheikh Kamalu d-Deen was conferred with a national award of MFR; and 18 years later, he was again honoured with OFR in 1981. He received several other national and international awards including one from the former President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and a honourary doctorate degree from the University of Ilorin.
In 1964, Sheikh Kamalu d-Deen accompanied the then Premiere of Northern Nigeria and Sardauna of Sokoto, Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello, on an official tour to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. The most thrilling story of Sheikh Kamalu d-Deen is his founding in 1942 (80 years ago) of the Ansarul-Islam Society; a Muslim organization in Nigeria. Like its founder, Ansarul Islam is not known for controversies, violence, or extremist ideologies.
The book’s technical features including the beautifully-designed cover, the legible font-size, the paper grammage and binding are all good enough to grab readers’ attention. Since no book in human history other than the Glorious Qur’an has ever been an error-free publication, the reviewer took time to highlight some of the though excusable errors in the book.
When the MC announced it was time to launch the book, a ‘bombshell’ came from the soft-speaking chairman of the occasion, Engr Suleman A. Yahaya, He said he would not speak as chairman of the occasion but as the Dan-Masani of Ilorin; Sheeeeeeehu! He ordered that the book launch would not proceed as planned because, as a pupil enrolled 60 years ago in Sheikh Kamalu d-Deen’s privately-run school in Ilorin, he was ashamed of the poor attendance recorded at the event. Up to that moment, the hall was as scantly occupied as a space.
Dan-Masani said the gathering should have been larger even if the launch were taken to the remotest part of Nigeria, let alone Abuja. That, the book launch in honour of Sheikh Kamalu d-Deen deserves better posthumous homage, at least from graduates of all the schools established by Ansarul Islam. The Dan-Masani, thus, ruled that a new date would be announced later for the book launch in Ilorin; adding that people were, meanwhile, free to buy copies at cover price. While we pray to Allah to grant Baba Kamalu eternal mercy, we also pray his legacies would continue to endure until end of time, amin.