The seventy-fifth (75th) foundation anniversary celebration of the Ansarul Islam Society of Nigeria really calls for celebration.
Members, products and friends of the first voluntary Muslim organisation in the defunct Northern Nigeria and millions of admirers of the founding father of the society and followers of his several intellectual progenies truly have every reasonable reason to mark the date of the establishment of the foremost Islamic body because of her several monumental and enduring achievements over the years. It is also a remarkable way of marking the seventy years anniversary of existence of the famous Ansarul Islam Primary School, Okekere, Ilorin, which first opened its gate to pupils on the 1st January, 1947.
The school was a fulfillment of the prediction of Shaykh Taju-l-Adab (1877 – 1923),who was reported to have declared that the school’s site that was then dreaded as an abode of fearful supernatural beings will be converted to a centre of intellectual accomplishments for generations. The school, with the support of the then Emir of Ilorin, Mallam Abdulkadir Shuaib Bawa, who reigned between 1919 and 1959, was from 1950 to 1960, an intellectual hotbed of Ilorin because of the presence of eminent and dedicated teachers, including Major- General Abdullahi Mohammed CFR,GCON, who capped his public service career as the Chief of Staff to the President of Nigeria between 1999 and 2008;Mr.Femi Ajayi,who later edited the rested ‘Daily Sketch’; Shaykh AbdulRaheem Aminulahi Oniwasi Agbaye Al-Adaby (1931-2012) and Shaykh Musa Alfanla Al-Adabiy (1914-2002) and, of course, Shaykh Abdullahi Onikijipa Al-Adabiy (1910-1952).The school was so famous as it exposed her pupils to both qualitative western and Islamic education imparted by practising Christians and devout Muslims who were recruited, without bias, by the Founder and General Manager of the School, Shaykh Muhammad Kamaldeen Al-Adabiy as ably assisted by Alhaji Salman Oniyangi. The popularity of the school was so penetrating that it was seen as a minus on parents who do not have their kid(s) enrolled there. That was the time the people of Ilorin were singing that
Meteta lowumi mi odore oluwa×2
Kini owo lowo bi to Moito,
kinko petesi bi to omo Olumo
kin lomo leyin biti kamaru,
Meteta lowumi lodore oluwa
Oh Lord’ Grant me riches as you did to Moito.
Make me a landlord as you favour Olumo
l also beseech you to make me a wonderful and successful educator as Kamaru.
The three were the most illustrious indigenes of Ilorin of that era who were also glittering models in their various areas of endeavor.
It is, indeed, gratifying to note that the group founded by one of the most timelessly illustrious sons and the pioneer Grand Mufti of Ilorin, Shaykh (Dr.) Muhammad Habiblahi Musa Kamaldeen Al-Adaby MFR, OFR, ORSA, in 1942 has come of age not only in longevity, size and its geographical spread but also in worthwhile and penetrating achievements in several sectors and fields of human endeavor. It is not by accident or not even incidental that the anniversary of the Ansarul Islam Society of Nigeria is taking place about the same time Kwara State is marking her golden jubilee. To me, it is so because destiny appeared to have placed the task of complementing the developmental efforts of the successive state governments on the shoulder of the organization. I say this because the society, more than any other voluntary Muslim organisation, has functionally adopted the ‘State of Harmony’ as her operational headquarters. This is because Kwara State has benefited more than any other state in the developmental strides of the body. For instance, the state hosts more than 75% of educational institutions established by the body. It is also the base of innumerable members and products of the institutions established by the organization. I am also aware that the proposed private university of the body is also sited in Ilorin while many of the products of the body are also functional stakeholders in the growth and development of the state since 1967.
While the above assertion is not controvertible, it is important to critically analyze the contributions of the society to national development for us to appreciate the fact that the society’s anniversary is worthy of being celebrated. To start with, the association has the singular honour of being the first of such in this part of the country and, undoubtedly, one of the most remarkable of such in the history of the country. It is also the first Muslim Organization in Nigeria that will meaningfully promote the acquisition of balanced education among Nigerian Muslims. By this, I mean the integration of both the Islamic and western education to produce worthy and productive citizenry. This is not debatable as there are abundant sources to show that, prior to her establishment,all the existing formal Muslim Organizations were vigorously but understandably promoting acquisition of western education so as to, if possible, level-up with Christians who have gone so many steps beyond the Muslims in producing capable hands in every field of humanity. This is particularly true of the Ansarudeen Society of Nigeria (founded in 1923) which focused most on western education just as the Ahmadiyyah Muslim Jama’ah (brought to Nigeria in 1916) and the Nawarudeen Society of Nigeria (established in 1939).
Right from its foundation, the Ansarul Islam Society has been very busy with the promotion of both western and Islamic education simultaneously without allowing either to suffer on any ground. While the founder was convinced that to maintain Muslim identities, the adherents of the religion must, as a matter of necessity, acquire sufficient knowledge of Islam, he also believed that for Muslims and Islam not to be relegated and cheated out in the scheme of things, particularly in a knowledge-driven world, there was the need to grant the then emerging Muslim population a thoroughly balanced education,which will enable recipients of such the ability to islamise western education that will make it impossible for them to be dissuaded from Islam.
One must say that it was that conviction and ability that made Ansarul Islam Society of Nigeria to be the major supplier of Islamic tutors, preachers and scholars to the Ansarudeen Society of Nigeria,among others. Early members of the Society, who were assigned to Ansarudeen Schools, particularly in south- western Nigeria, were Shaykh AbdulRahaman Salaudeen Al-Adabiy (1919-1987) who later served as the Chief Missioner of the Ansarul Islam Society of Nigeria and the Deputy Chief Imam of Ilorin. He worked for the Society at Igbimo-Ekiti, Ikenne and later at Ilesha before joining Shaykh Adam Abdullahi Al-Ilory (1917-1992) in establishing the famous Morcas Institute of Arabic & Islamic Studies first at Abeokuta in 1952 before facilitating its relocation to Agege in 1955 and Shaykh Khidir Salaudeen Al-Adaby (1917-2012), the penultimate Grand Mufti of Ilorin, who initially worked at the Ansarudeen Primary School, Owo, Ondo State, between 1945 and 1955,when he established his own private Arabic and Islamic School at the same town.Employing the instrumentality of the School, Shaykh Apaokagi subsequently trained many who later became pride of Muslims and lslam.
Other trainees of Shaykh Kamaldeen who were also members of the Ansarul Islam Society of Nigeria transferred to the Ansarudeen Society, in its early years, were Shaykh Muhammed Lawal Oniyangi, who after some years at Ilesha, Osun State, was moved to Ondo town where he later made his marks. It must also be pointed out that about that same period Shaykh Abubakar Babatunde Muhammad Al-Adabiy was transferred to Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State, where he worked as a teacher with the same Ansarudeen Society of Nigeria. He later settled at the Ajilosun Area of Ado-Ekiti where he trained generations of Ekiti Islamic scholars before relocating home. Similarly, Shaykh Hashir Alaya Al-Adabiy was, for many years, the Chief Imam of the Jos Branch of the Ansarudeen Society just as Shaykh AbdulRaheem Alabi Al-Adabiy did with the Zaria Branch of the Society for so many decades. Let me, however, say that the collaboration between the two leading organisations was symbiotic. While the Ansarudeeen benefited deep Arabic and Islamic education from the Ansarul Islam Society of Nigeria, members of the latter also gained sufficient access to western education from the former. They also had practical exposure to skills needed in building modern organisations. It is important to say that the society, through her several products, was the first to plant sophisticated Arabic and Islamic knowledge, which they acquired from the very fountain of Islamic scholarship, in the southwest,which was later boosted by the products of Agege-Lagos based Morcas of Shaykh Adam Abdullahi Al-Ilory (1917-1992).
The society also built collaborative partnership with similar bodies North of the Niger. Such collaborations led to the establishment of the Jamaatu Nasril Islam, with headquarters in Kaduna, in 1964.The Premier of the defunct Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, who was also the Sardaurna of Sokoto, had visited Ilorin in1962 and he was so much impressed with the activities and achievements of the Ansarul Islam Society of Nigeria,which organized a colourful reception in his honour that he decided to promote the establishment of the Jamaat Nasril Islam. The Sardaurna was in Ilorin as a guest of the society along with the then Grand Khadi of Northern Nigeria, Shaykh Abubakar Mahmud Gumi (1922 – 1992) and Alhaji Abubakar El-Nafty,an outstanding pioneer broadcaster of Northern Nigeria origin and father to the President of the Court of Appeal, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa.
To facilitate the smooth take-off of the Jamatul Nasril Islam, the Ansarul Islam Society of Nigeria had to release her then General Secretary, Alhaji Shafi Labaeka Bello, to the Jamaatul Nasril Islam in order to serve as her foundation administrative Secretary. Therefore, the success of the Jamaatul Nasril Islam is traceable to the helping hands extended to her, at infancy, by the Ansarul Islam Society of Nigeria,which also included the release of one of her female teachers, then Miss Adedoyin, to set-up the first Muslim Day Care Center in Kaduna also in 1964 for the Jamaatul Nasril Islam.
Another reason why the Society deserves to be celebrated is the several personal accomplishments of the great founder of the Society, Shaykh Muhammad Kamaldeen, which were recorded through the instrumentality of the organisation. Perhaps, the most important reason why the date of establishment of the body should be celebrated is the greatness in the magnitude and caliber of the products of the Society whose impact in the all-round development of the Nigerian nation and humanity cannot be over- emphasized.
These products have served and are still serving humanity in various sectors. One of them was the late Alhaji Saka Saadu OFR, (1938-2017) a distinguished scientist, foremost educationist and remarkable public servant, who served as a Civil Commissioner, Permanent Secretary and Secretary to the Military Government of Kwara State from 1988 to 1990. He also served as an Honorable Minister of State (Education) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria during the regime of General Abdulsalam Abubakar between 1998 and 1999. Alhaji Shehu Ahmad AbdulGafar OON is another worthy product of the Society. He was the Secretary to the Kwara State Government between 1992 and 1993. He has also held so many positions of responsibilities in public and community service thereafter. The immediate past Secretary to the Kwara State Government, who is also the longest serving, Alhaji Sola Isiaka Gold, also attended Ansarul Islam Primary School, Okekere, Ilorin.
Other outstanding products of the school are Justices Mutalub Ambali OFR, Abdukadir Oba Imam-Fulani OFR, and Shehu AbdulBaki who are former Grand Khadis of Kwara State. Honorable Justice Idris Abdullahi Haroon, another Ex-Grand Khadi of Kwara State is also a product of the Society. Alhaji Aliyu Alarape Salman SAN, the unassuming doyen of Ilorin Bar and whose father, Shaykh Salman Ake (died 1974),was one of the founding fathers of the Society, is also a product of the organisation. Other eminent products of the Society are Engr.Suleiman Oba Yahaya, the former Managing Director of the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company; Engr. Ahmad Kola Ibrahim, and the late Alhaji Alhaji Shehu Adisa Onikoko. Professor AbdulRasheed Na’Allah,the former Vice-Chancellor of the Kwara State University, Malete,and the current Vice-Chancellor of the University of Abuja; Professor AbdulGaniyu Oladosu, the Chief Imam of the University of Ilorin, Professor Kamaldeen Balogun,who recently retired from the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye; Professor Abubakar Sidiq Afunku and Professor Moshood Mahamood Jimba both of KWASU,Malete,Professor Yasir A. Quadir and Professor Zakariyah Ozeni, the Chief Imam and Waziri of Auchi and, of course, Professor K.K. Kamaldeen, a grandchild of the founder, as well as Professor Musa Ajetumobi, Prof.Usman Abdulsalam, Prof.Hashir Abdulsalam,all of blessed memory, were among the several egg-heads who attended various institutions established or promoted by the Society.
The Society also made a lot of impact in the military and paramilitary services through her products. Among those who did well as such are Major-General AbdulWahab Ayo Garuba, who served as the General Officer Commanding 1st Mechanized Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Kaduna, Brigadier-General AbdulRasheed Kamaldeen, one of the children of the founder, who retired as the Chief Imam and Director, Islamic Affairs of the Nigerian Army and AIG Baba Adisa Bolanta,who retired as the Commandant of the Nigerian Police Academy, Wudil, Kano.
Others include Mr. Suleiman Bello, who served as the Deputy Commandant-General of the NSCDC and the late Alhaji Ibrahim Adebayo Lawal,who retired as an Assistant Controller-General of the Nigerian Immigration Service.
In the realm of journalism, Ansarul Islam Society is also magnificently present with the impact of the late Alhaji Ahmad Hameed, who edited the then ‘The Nigerian Herald’ during the Nigeria’s second Republic before retiring as a topnotch of the National Population Commission and Alhaji AbdulRaheem Adedoyin, who served as the Editor-in-Chief of ‘The Herald’ before serving as the Honorable Commissioner for Information, Kwara State. Other distinguished media professionals nurtured by the society are Shaykh Aliyu Bayo Salah, who pioneered Islamic broadcasting on Radio Kwara, Ilorin, and his successor, Dr. Abubakar Imam Aliagan as well as Dr. (Mrs) Saudat Salah-AbdulBaqi, a distinguished Mass Communication Scholar and former Head, Department of Mass Communication, University of Ilorin.
In fact,many do not know that the founder of Oduduwa University,Ile-Ife,who is also the Maye of Ife Kingdom attended Ansarul Islam Primary School,Ile-Ife.This same personality also started his working career as a teacher in another Ansarul Islam Primary School in the Field Region.
The Ansarul Islam Society of Nigeria also has meaningful presence in various fields including teaching from where the incumbent spiritual head of the body,Shaykh Ahmad Olayiwola Kamaldeen (born in 1938), a degree holder in Arabic from the World-famous Al-Azhar University, Cairo, who was the founding National Secretary of the National Association of Teachers of Arabic and Islamic Studies, rose to become a Permanent Secretary/Director-General in the public service of Kwara State before serving as the State Commissioner for Education between 1992 and 1993 and Alhaji Abdulkareem Olarewaju, who retired as the Permanent Secretary of the Kwara State Ministry of Education. Other well-known teachers who are products of the Society are Alhaji Babatunde Lawal Yusuf who died in active service as the Principal of Government High School, Ilorin; Shaykh Abdulateef Adekilekun Al-Adaby; Mallam Musa Adeleke Ahmad who headed both the Colleges of Education at Ilorin and Oro; Shaykh Salman Olarongbe Abdulkadir, the District Head of Ballah and Alhaji Ibrahim Alfa Ibrahim and several others who are too numerous to be mentioned.
The society also produced influential clerics like Shaykh Muhammad Bashir Saliu OON, the Chief lmam of Ilorin;Shaykh Mustapha Ajisafe, the late Chief lmam of Osogbo,who also served as the President-General of the League of Imams and Alfas of Yorubaland and Shaykh Bashir Alimi, the Chief lmam of Ondo as well as Shaykh Muyideen Salman, the eloquent Chief lmam of Offa.Other eminent spiritual leaders from the stable of the Society are Shaykh Ahmad Aladesawe, the Chief lmam of Owo and Secretary-General of the League of Imams and Alfas of Yorubaland and Shaykh Ali Olukade Jaji, who along with Alhaji Y.P.O Shodeinde, pioneered Islamic preaching on Radio Nigeria,Lagos,in the 1950s and, of course, the late Shaykh Ahmad Abdukadir Alaye, who was one of the pioneers in production of Islamic preaching on label. Shaykh Suleman Onikijipa and Shaykh Yahaya Salati also attended Ansarul Islam Primary school, Okekere Ilorin in their formative years.
The society also enjoyed membership of outstanding individuals who never schooled in any of the society’s formal institutions. These include Alhaji Shehu Usman Mustapha, the Wali of Ilorin, Honourable Justice Abdulkadir Orire, CON, the Serikin Malami of Ilorin, Senator Ayinla Olomoda, Alhaji Hamidu Ayinla Alarape, Justice Haleemat Saleeman and, of course, Professor Shuaib Oba AbdulRaheem, OFR,the phenomenal former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, among several others, who are too many to be enumerated.
I, therefore, join millions of other beneficiaries of the society in rejoicing with her spiritual leader and her National President, Alhaji Suleiman Layiwola Afolabi, on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the wonderful society. I must, however. use this medium to appeal to all the products, friends and members of the society to team-up, work harder and offer more sacrifices to ensure that the proposed university, named after the illustrious founder of the society and which implementation committee is being chaired by Professor S.O. AbdulRaheem OFR, is completed and eventually issued with the enabling license by the Federal Government of Nigeria. That will not only be a way of immortalising Shaykh Muhammed Kamaldeen the more but also a means of complementing the efforts he exerted throughout his one century of his impactful life dedicated to the illumination of humanity better than he met it as well as justifying the continuous existence of the organisation.