Recently, the University of Ilorin honoured one of the most prolific Islamic theologians to come out of Nigeria, the late Shayk Adam Al-Ilori. UMAR BAYO ABDULWAHAB was there and writes
There is a common saying that the deeds of men live after them especially when they passed on to the great beyond. This expression recently came to the fore at the University of Ilorin when its Faculty of Arts held an International Conference on the life and works of the late Shaykh Adam Abdullahi Al-Ilory (1917-1992).
Al-Ilory, was the founder, Markaz Agege Centre for Arabic and Islamic Studies, Lagos and a renowned Islamic preacher recognised world over before and even after his death in 1992.
The conference which attracted scholars from different parts of the world including Saudi –Arabia and Egypt among others, coincided with the 20th-year anniversary of the demise of the late Islamic scholar and 50 years anniversary of the establishment of the Markaz.
The calibre of dignitaries and participants at the conference speaks volume of the personage of Al-Ilory .For anyone who knew little or nothing about the late scholar, it was a day of redefining who he was and what he represents during and after his lifetime.
From Sokoto, the seat of the Caliphate in Nigeria to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Federal Republic of Germany and Sudan, the University played host to dignitaries from different parts of the world.
The Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of the Nigeria's Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, who also doubled as the co-chairman of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council, Alhaji Mohammmed Sa'ad Abubakar II; Kwara state Governor represented by the Commissioner for Commerce and Cooperatives, Alhaji Mohammed Raji; Emir of Ilorin Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu Gambari; the Mudiru Markaz and heir to the late Scholar, Shayk Habeebuallahin Al-Ilory were among dignitaries present at the conference. Also, Students of Markaz Agege thronged to the venue of the conference in their hundreds in their blue and brown uniform to honour the late Proprietor.
It was indeed a gathering of who is who within and outside Nigeria, the roll call of Ulama was endless with the Chief Imam of Ilorin, Alhaji Mohamed Bashir Saliu ushering in the conferees with an opening prayer.
While many would wonder why a university that prides itself as ‘‘better by far'' hosted such conference in honour of an individual, its Vice chancellor, Professor Ishaq Oloyede, said the conference was in line with the University's mandate of teaching, research and community service.
"Today is another important day in the history of the university of Ilorin in the discharge if its tripartite mandate of teaching, research and community service. I find it quite appropriate that the personality who this conference is celebrating himself was a university in terms of scope and dynamism.
"Among others things, the widely acclaimed Shakykh Adam Abdullahi Al-Ilory was an accomplished teacher, an astute researcher and a quintessence of the community service. Therefore, to say that he was a university himself is to state the obvious as the fact remains that the beloved Shaykh definitely produced more graduands, more books and papers as well as served humanity more than what some universities have done within the span of his highly eventful earthly sojourn."
He went on, "the contributions of Shaykh Al-Ilory to Arabic and Islamic education in Nigeria within the second half of the last century were monumental. An encyclopaedic compendium of a wide range of academic concerns, this dynamic scholar was many things rolled into one: he was an educationist, a linguist, a historian, a jurist, a preacher, a social commentator, a publisher, an author, a poet, a sage, an ascetic, a polyglot, a Quranic exegete, a philosopher, a geographer and above all, a man of the people and a man God.
Oloyede explained that the involvement of three faculties in the university namely, Arts , Education and Law as well as the Centre for Ilorin Studies in the conference planning, among others, was a deliberate step by the University in ‘‘emphasizing the need for breaking barriers and crossing borders so that our scholars while maintaining their specializations would be broad – minded and versatile, not narrow-minded."
Corroborating Oloyode's remarks on Al-Ilory, the Sultan of Sokoto said, "Shaykh Adam Abdallah Al-Ilori was not only a preacher but a prolific writer who communicated his thoughts and ideas not only to his contemporaries but to the younger generations that he inspired to tread the path of knowledge and rectitude.
"He authored over a hundred books and tracts in almost all Islamic learning including Tawhid, Fiqh, Tasawwuf, Nahwu and the Tafsir. His historical treaties were so broad-minded that he embraced the entire Islamic intellectual legacy of the Central Bilad-Sudan, including that of the Sokoto Caliphate. His works on this Subject, including his book, Al-Islam fi Nigeria wa'l-Shayk Uthman Ibn Fodio, go a long way in confirming these great qualities of Shayk Adam Abdullahi Al-Ilori."
Speaking further, the Sultan said, "Shayk Adam Al-Ilori was also a reformer, who focused his intellect and insight on what was wrong with our society and how to get it right. As a teacher and intellectual, he was particularly worried about the state of Islamic Education in Nigeria and the urgent need to put in place urgent reforms, both in methodology and organization, which would move the system to greater heights. Shaykh Adam's treatise titled Nizam al-ta'lim al- Arabi fi Nigeria and related works, detailed his ideas on this all – important subject. He saw the Markaz that he established as a demonstration school, to put into practice the ideas that he preached. Unfortunately, we are where we are educationally for neglecting many of the teachings of Shayk Adam Abdullahi Al-Ilori."
Abubakar challenged the Muslim Ummah to revive the teachings of the late preacher and "apply his seminal ideas and teachings in addressing some of the pressing problems confronting Islam, and the nation even as he said they should work for the unity of Muslims and brotherliness.
"We must all realise that Islam is predicated on knowledge and Muslim societies are necessarily knowledge societies. The neglect of knowledge in whatever form it represents itself must be resisted at all cost. We must as Ummah strive to establish a model society that thrives on knowledge and wisdom.
"Most importantly, we must put in place the right institutional framework for the training of our future Ulamah, through whom the Ulammah would be able to re-establish the hierarchy of learning and religious authority. This will remain one of the effective ways of checking errant ideas and behaviour that are bound to cause social chaos," he said.
Abubakar, announced an annual special prize of N500, 000 for the best graduating student from the Department of Islamic studies of the University of Ilorin beginning from next convocation in honour of the late AL-Ilory.
In his message to the conference, Kwara state governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed who presented the conference book containing 100 academic papers from different parts of the globe about the celebrant, described him as "a gift from God."
Today, shaky Adam Al-Ilori is no more but his deeds live after him, his works and contribution to man's and societal development world over have continued to speak for him.
Twenty years after his demise and fifty years after the establishment of Markar Agege, the world still remembers Al-Ilory.