Thursday, 13 August 2015
Praying in accordance with the Sunnah
When Shaykh Nasiruddeen Albani wrote one of his scholarly classics, Sifatu Salaatinnabiy, minattakbiri, ilattaslimi, ka’annaka tarahaa, (The Prayer of the Prophet From the Beginning to the End as Though You Saw It), Shaykh Aminuddeen was the first Islamic scholar to bring it to Nigeria. He sent a copy to a number of scholars within the country. But he didn’t stop there, he included it among the books he taught his students, and he did it practically.
Those who visit Daawah Group at the time would have witnessed how he dedicated his energy during each prayer, ensuring that every aspect of Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) command; Sallu kamaa ra’aitumuniy usalli (pray as you have seen me praying), are adhered to. He would walk from the beginning of the row to the end, sometimes using his hands to ensure that people were standing shoulder to shoulder, feet by feet, and admonish everyone to pray with full concentration. During one of his visits for Hajj (pilgrimage), it was in the 1990s, he performed the pilgrimage with some of the leading students of Shaykh Albani.
On his return to Nigeria, he delivered a Friday Khutbah on how he saw the students of Shaykh Albani were praying, practicing the Sunnah (tradition of Prophet Muhammad, pbuh), step by step as Shaykh Albani taught them. For months, after that Khutbah, he intensified his effort on daily basis, taking as much time as he could, during each prayer, until everyone on the row stands in a proper manner. He sometimes use humour to ensure that the message gets across. “When you stand for prayer, your legs must be straight like figure eleven, if your feet resembles figure seven, then you are not standing correctly”, he would normally say, an example that attracts a smile from the congregation.
It reached a point in the 1980s, when people would travel from Wudil and other Local Governments in Kano in order to pray the Fajr prayer at Daawah mosque, and participate in learning Almaathurat, a book of remembrance of Allah (SWT). During the rest of the daily prayers, the mosque was so full, that on a number of occasions, a traffic warden from the Nigeria police, would have to direct the traffic due to the number of people attending regular prayers. This was how lively the centre was.
An exceptional legacy of Shaykh Aminuddeen was his contribution to the education of women. Although his emphasis was on religious education, he encouraged people to enrol their daughters and wives in the conventional Western schools. The women section which runs for five days from Saturday to Wednesday in the evenings, between Asr and Maghrib was a revolutionary contribution.
Those familiar with Hausa society knew how women were left in a perpetual state of ignorance. With the exception of few, it was common to find an Islamic scholar whose wife and even daughters were as ignorant as the ordinary women in the society. Educating women, despite clear example in the Islamic tradition of brave and highly knowledgeable women such as Khadija bint Khuwailid, Aisha bint Abibakr, Hafsa bint Umar, Fatimah bint Muhammad (pbuh) may Allah be pleased with them, Nusayba bint Ka’ab Al-Ansariyya, Khawla bint Al’Azwar, Rabi’a Al Adawiyya, Zainab bint Ali, Umm Habiba, Rubiyya bint Mu’awwidth, , and in more recent history Asma bint Fodio and her grandmother Ruqayya, the mother of Shyakh Uthman ibn Fodio, yet the education of women in Hausa society took back stage. For more on women scholars in the history of Islam, refer to the book AlMuhaddithat: The Women Scholars in Islam by Muhammad Akram Nadwi.
Therefore by encouraging women education, and establishing the first organised school for women in Kano, Shaykh Aminuddeen was taking a huge risk. But it was one worth taking, as no serious society could afford to exclude the primary source of socialisation in a state of ignorance. Although, people signified a lot of interest in educating their wives and daughters, Shaykh Aminuddeen introduced official buses for women only, transporting students from different parts of Kano to the school. One of them carries students from the inner city, another one covering eastern part of Kano such as ‘Yankaba, Dakata and Sauna, while another one covers different areas in Nassarawa such as Bompai, Gawuna, Brigade, etc.
As an example of the level of resistance to women pursuing religious Islamic education at the time, let me highlight one example. Around 1985, my father enrolled my mother (May Allah bless both of them and increase them in health and purposeful life) in the women school. To benefit from the Qur’anic school, my father registered me in the children section in the evening, making me partake in both the evening and night classes. On numerous occasions when my father was at work, we join the bus to go to the school. On our way, sometimes children would be throwing stones at the bus, expressing anger at women wearing hijab or furthering Islamic education. I was a small kid, and so will only watch as the driver patiently drives his way out. The irony was that these children were either playing football or just wasting away time on the streets, while we were on our way to school.
Even some Islamic scholars, were vehemently against women furthering their education, and Shaykh Aminuddeen had to bear the pressure of their criticism. Some members of the society troop to the late Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero to express their displeasure. To the credit of late emir, a prominent member of the Kano Emirate Council, Alhaji Babba dan agundi became a regular member of Daawah Group. He visits the centre and listen to the studies between Maghrib and Ishaa. He sometimes even visit our classes at the night school for children.
The women school was highly organised. He introduced a uniform, blue in colour, consisting of hijab, long gown and trouser for all students, making them look equal. The classes were organised according to the level of proficiency in Arabic and other aspects of Islamic education. Books from Al-Arabiyyatul Jadida fiy Nijeria, also known as Bari da Biba, Khulasatu Nurul Yakin, Arba’una hadith (40 collection of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad, pbuh) by Imam Annawi and Qur’an Juz amma, Tabaraka, upward, were taught at the school. Other subjects taught include Imla’, Insha’ and Nasheeda among others.
Teachers of the school at the time include Shaykh Aminuddeen himself, Dr Ahmad Ibrahim Bomba, Shaykh Yahya Tanko, Shaykh Nouh Musa Nouh, Shaykh Muhammad Sanusi Abubakr, Shaykh Musa Ibrahim Abdurrahman, Shaykh Murtadha Umar, Shaykh Tahir Suriy, Shaykh Mustapha Miga, Shaykh Muhammad Ghali Musa, Shaykh Baita Muhammad, Dr Qasim, Shaykh Idris Donga and my father. Some of these scholars were also teaching in the male adult classes as well as the children section.
In the early 1990s, he established Daawah Comprehensive Secondary School for women and girls. Upon completion, the school offers Senior Arabic and Islamic Studies Certificate which enables students to pursue higher education in tertiary institutions. An advantage offered by the school was opening the window for the women who attended the evening classes, to join the secondary school, paving the way for them to pursue higher level of education without limit. Products of this school have successfully completed degrees in Nigerian universities and abroad.
Some of the women who attended some of the schools established by Dr Aminuddeen have excelled in various fields in both Islamic and Western education, with some of them holding professorial chairs in some universities in Nigeria.
Today, the education of women has become a norm rather than an aberration in northern Nigeria, despite the pocket of resistance that remains from some groups.
To be continued insha Allah.
Saturday, 8 August 2015
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.