By Kabiru Haruna Isa
“The death of a scholar is the departure of knowledge”.~Yahya b. Ja’far
In the afternoon of Friday, January 7, 2022, Dr Ahmad Muhammad Ibrahim, who was popularly and variedly known as Dr Ahmad Bamba; Dr Ahmad BUK; and Кala Haddasana, succumbed to the cold hands of death. Whoever attended the Muslim traditional funeral prayer did not need to specialize in Thanatology or the assistance of any thanatologist to decipher that his passing on has shocked not only the northern Nigerian Muslims but perhaps the entire Muslim world.
Hundreds and thousands of mourners from different nooks and crannies of northern Nigeria trooped to his mosque, Darul Hadith Masjid, at Tudun Yola quarters in Kano Metropolis to observe his Salat al-Janazah (funeral prayer). Based on my personal observation, the congregants comprised adherents of different doctrinal and ideological groups who were deeply touched by his death.
Dr Ahmad was one of the elder statesmen of the Muslim North who chose to be independent-minded, honest, forthright, focused and overtly apolitical. Those who grew up in Kano can vividly remember his educational sessions in the 1990s when he read a series of hadiths (narrative records of the sayings and customs of the Prophet Muhammad), which were aired on CTV (now Abubakar Rimi Television, ARTV), Radio Kano and other broadcast media.
What distinguished his educational sessions from those of other Islamic scholars were his sonorous voice, interactive dialogue, active learning process, and the constant prodding of his audience to debate jurisprudential issues. He created a convivial and liberal atmosphere for his students to either agree or disagree with his interpretations of holy texts without necessarily derailing from the subject matter, which demonstrated his deep knowledge of theological hermeneutics.
Even though a Salafi, Dr Ahmad was a bridge-builder between Sufis and Salafis in northern Nigeria ostensibly due to his old age, maturity, accommodation and toleration. He always tried as much as possible to avoid deployment of insulting and libellous language to either demonize or hereticize those whose doctrines differed from his.
To err is human. As a human being, he might have wronged others, especially during his formative years, but he personified moderation and toleration as a fully accomplished and elder-scholar. Muslims will surely miss his fatherly voice of moderation, reason, truth and honesty.
Despite his erratic temperament, Dr Ahmad was a forgiving person who never intended to hold animosity beyond the grave. I remember my personal interaction with him when Malam Babangida Namadi introduced me to him sometime in 2020. I pleaded with him to document his life narrative as some scholars did, such as Shaykh Abubakar Mahmoud Gumi in his autobiography, Where I Stand.
Dr Ahmad responded that he had a lot of stories to pass on to the younger generations based on varied phases of his life, bitter and positive experiences, social networks, scholarly itineraries and odysseys, family life, marriage counselling, pedagogy, university and national politics, truce and reconciliations and intra-faith relations. He further said that he would never write an autobiography because many people offended him and had already forgiven them; therefore did not want anything that would trigger his emotions.
The death of Dr Ahmad has created a vacuum that will take time to be filled because of his dedication and contributions to scholarship and the study of hadith in the Muslim world. To produce a scholar of his calibre is not an easy task, especially in the 21st century when young people exhibit hedonistic tendencies and many societies experience a systemic educational decline.
I will conclude with a famous quote of Umar “the death of a thousand worshipers is easier to bear than the death of a scholar who has knowledge of what Allah has permitted and forbidden”.
It will take us a long time to come to terms with the departure of Dr Ahmad. May Allah admit him into Jannatul Firdaus, amin.
Gmail: firstname.lastname@example.org Department of History Bayero University, Kano.