Alhaji Garba A. Isa, a very senior public servant in Jigawa State and a prolific writer in his own right, has been writing A Remembrance of Gumi almost every year since the Mallam’s demise. Therefore, seeing that the end of this quarter coincides with 20 years since the Shaikh’s death, this Column invited Alhaji Garba to pen a comprehensive remembrance, especially for the millions of Muslim youth who only know the Shaikh through Radio Nigeria (FRCN) Kaduna. Enjoy Garba’s piece, TWENTY YEARS AFTER SHEIKH ABUBAKAR GUMI.
How time flies! Shaikh Abubakar Mahmud Gumi, the well-respected Kaduna-based Islamic scholar, died 20 years ago on Friday September 11 1992 in a London hospital. During his eventful scholarly lifetime, the Shaikh was a rallying figure for the Muslim Ummah, especially during some of its trying moments. His life was an embodiment of worship to Allah the Most High, and a service to humanity. Shaikh Gumi was never obsessed with materialism in a world awash with craze for easy money – a cancer that afflicts even some of the most respected religious leaders today. When Shaikh Gumi died aged of 70 years in 1992, many described his death as ‘the end of an era’. Indeed!
Abubakar Gumi was born in 1922 in Gumi, then under Sokoto Province, to the family of Mallam Mahmud, an Islamic scholar and Alkali (judge). Abubakar started his education under his father’s tutelage. He then went to secular school, beginning with Dogondaji primary (where he was to meet the future Sultan of Sokoto, Ibrahim Dasuki), and later to Sokoto Middle (where he met the future Sardauna of Sokoto Ahmadu Bello). In school, Abubakar was recognised for religious diligence and was delegated responsibility for catering to the students’ religious activities. He later went to Kano to study law at the Kano Law School. Though he trained as a judge, the Shaikh first took to the classroom, teaching at the School of Arabic Studies, SAS, Kano and later at a college in Maru, Sokoto Province. There, he met another radical person, Mallam Aminu Kano, founder of the Northern Teachers Association, NTA. Thus began Gumi’s acquaintance with most of the then emerging Northern leaders.
During his life, Mallam Gumi served in many capacities, top among them Grand Khadi of then Northern Nigeria (now nineteen states and the Federal Capital). He was chairman of the National Pilgrims Board, Chairman of the National Teachers Institute (NTI) Kaduna and member of the Judicial Service Commission. He was also a member of the Saudi-based Muslim World League (Rabidah), and his influence led to the placement of several Nigerian students in Saudi Arabian institutions, notably the International Islamic University of Madina. But perhaps the culmination of Gumi’s Islamic activism was the founding of the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) in 1962 with the Sardauna.
The JNI is often wrongly compared with the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in terms of agitation. Radicalism is one word very strange to the JNI which is an organisation largely run by traditional rulers. The current Sultan of Sokoto Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar however seems to be making moves to rejuvenate the JNI in an action akin to the saying: ‘better late than never!’ The Sultan Bello Mosque in Kaduna was the JNI’s nerve center. The magnificent mosque, venue of the late Gumi’s Da’awah programmes, does greatly miss his Ramadan Tafsir and Ahadith sessions. (To underline Gumi’s national appeal, when the mosque went through major rebuilding, the project was financed by the late Lagos-based tycoon Alhaji Abdulwahab Folawiyo, the Baba Addini of Yorubaland).
After Gumi’s demise, he was first succeeded by one of his most well-known associates and students, Shaikh Lawal Abubakar, a man given to much mirth and humour, and a man of knowledge in his own right. Sadly, Shaikh Lawal died only a decade later. Through sheer accident than by design, Gumi’s son Dr. Ahmad, who had been based in Saudi Arabia, succeeded the late Sheikh Lawan in conducting the annual Ramadan Tafsir at the Sultan Bello Mosque. The junior Gumi, truth be told, is somewhat a departure from his late father in temperament and style, but in terms of pure northern bluntness, particularly on national politics, Dr. Ahmad is very much like his father.
A large part of Gumi’s teachings focused on the differences between tradition and religion, and how to understand and embrace an Islamic identity. He also wrote interpretations of several Islamic books, topping it with his Tafsir Compendium Raddul Azhan Ila Ma’anil Qur’an. Gumi’s effective use of the mass media, especially Radio Nigeria Kaduna led to the dissemination of his teachings to a larger, Hausa-speaking West African audience. His views and messages on fundamental Islamic teachings indeed found a wider audience, but they earned him constant criticism especially from the Sufi Brotherhoods.
The late Gumi was an embodiment of peace whose often blunt views were picked upon by others to imply a hostile personality; his views on Muslims and political leadership or the marginalisation of Muslims in the Federal Civil Service or the Armed Forces, for instance, were often cited to buttress the point that he was too much of a fundamentalist. An irony of Gumi’s life was that his appeals for peaceful co-existence were so loud as to earn him the wrath of some of his disciples who believed he had ‘compromised’ too much.
The greatest tribute to the late Gumi is to ponder over his life of Da’awah, learn from its lessons and continue to build on his good works. When Gumi went to receive the prestigious King Faisal Award for Service to Islam in 1987, a wide spectrum of the society followed him to Saudi Arabia to receive it. Finally, it is worth noting for Muslims of today that people like Gumi existed; people who did not crave the world and its lucre and lived an ascetic life as dictated by Islam. We continue to pray to Allah to reward him with Paradise.
AND FROM THE COLUMNIST…
Recently, the University of Ilorin convened a very commendable commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the demise of Shaikh Adam Al-Ilory, the scholar who is credited with the contemporary advancement of Arabic and Islamic Studies in Yorubaland. At the occasion held at UniLorin, the Sultan of Sokoto, who was personally in attendance, endowed an annual prize of N500,000 for the University’s best graduating student of Islamic Studies; another excellent, commendable gesture. Those who cherish the memory of Shaikh Abubakar Mahmud Gumi will wait on Usumanu Danfodio University, Sokoto, and the Sultanate, to borrow a leaf from the University of Ilorin and commemorate Gumi. May Allah forgive Shaikhs Al-Ilory and Gumi.