One of the interesting moments of my life was the time I shared with a renowned scholar who distinguished himself as an erudite cleric and lived his life as a great man. If you are observant enough you will realize that the verbs in the opening sentence are in the past tense. This is sadly because that great man, Sheikh Musa Abdul Qadir has been lowered into the bowels of the earth.
To remove all garnishing euphemisms, he died on 24th April, 2018 in the early hours of the day at the Legon Hospital. One important confession I must make is that our spirits never met when he was alive. I was not one of his biggest fans; a normal phenomenon. However, his greatness and great works can never be denied.
On that particular day, I was the emcee for a graduation ceremony of a bevy who studied fashion under the auspices of Supreme Council for Islamic Call and Research; an organization that champions the cause of Muslims in the country at large of which Sheikh Musa served as its Deputy General Secretary till he was called by his Maker.
Several vehicles had passed on the electrical wires and they snapped out so we had to continue with no microphone. I had to amplify every word Sheikh Musa Abdul Qadir spewed to the gathering of well-wishers. I really enjoyed it because it was to me a remarkable feat to be in the company of such a stalwart and re-echo his words.
Growing up as a young boy who was so concerned about weekend Islamic education, there were names of many scholars we became familiar with though we were yet to set eyes on them. Their names were always mentioned as those giants our school produced.
And our elders have already relayed to us that “he whose name is called again and again by those trying in vain to catch a wild bull has something he alone can do to bulls.” Their names were mentioned because they stood out in their various fields of study and have also done their part to ensure the progression of Islam in Ghana and beyond.
Sheikh Musah Abdul Qadir was one of such scholars. Though he never gave too much information about his life, the little that we have been able to piece out is a testament to the fact that he never lived what a great man termed “a cowardly existence.” If for nothing at all, the mammoth crowd that came over to pay their last respects to his remains forms the very foundation of my perspective that he really lived a fulfilling life.
Born in Accra when the country was Gold Coast, he set out from a very tender age to acquire as much information as possible. Like Lord Varys of Game of Thrones “knowledge was his trade”. At a young and tender age, he began studying under the great and renowned scholar, Mallam Hamza at Tafsiliyya School for Training and Education. He showed overwhelming signs of industry and diligence. Therefore he was ‘promoted’ to go study at the feet of Hajj Umar, the Imam of Ahlu-Suna Wal Jama.
He afterwards got an international scholarship to study at the Islamic University of al- Madina al-Munawarrah. It is important to note that those times scholarship opportunities were open for all to go write an examinations towards it at the Accra Arts Center. The one who qualified was then chosen, taken through an interview and the procedures followed.
Sheikh Musah’s scholarship however was handed to him straight from the university. He did not have to go write any examination. This alone is a testament to his hard work and industrious nature as a student. This happened in the early seventies.
At the University, he continued to carry the torch of his brilliance and industry. The University had him start from year three in Senior High School before he joined the mainstream university academic work. He majored in Arabic Literature. He was taught by the renowned Imam and Khateeb of the Great mosque of Medina, Abdul Rahman al Huthaify.
Sheikh Musah was also fortunate to have schooled in the university at a time when the former Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abd al Aziz ibn Baz was the head. Due to his insatiable desire for knowledge and progression, he stayed on to study for his Masters in Arabic Literature before he came down to his homeland, Ghana at a time when a Bachelor’s Degree was seemingly unreachable.
When he touched down, he zoomed straight into action, teaching and imparting knowledge and morals into the youth. He taught at the Institute of Islamic Studies, Research in Nima and became the de facto assistant to Hajj Umar. He taught Arabic Literature, comprehension and Quran exegesis. Those who learnt under him have attested to how he always held the lid high for them to catch up.
He also joined other great scholars and clerics to form the famous Supreme Council for Islamic Call and Research under the abled patronage of the great scholar Sheikh Ibrahim ibn Quood. There, he served as deputy secretary under the belated Dr. Mohammed Salis Saeed till his unfortunate demise. The organization did well by establishing schools in Tamale, Kumasi and subsequently, Tema in 2003.
Together with Dr. Ahmed, Sheikh Mahmoud Gedel and others, Sheikh Musa was instrumental in getting the funds for the establishment of five classrooms for the commencement of Academic work at the Institute of Higher Education and Islamic Studies, Tema. There, he taught Arabic Literature, Rhetoric and comprehension till 2011/2012 academic year when he delegated some of his students who have blossomed to take-over.
All the time that he worked with Supreme Muslim Council, it was on purely voluntary services. He therefore worked with African Muslim Agency till he resigned and worked for the council full-time.
The GTP billboard has an inscription I like the most. It says, “Teach, it inspires change.” And that was exactly what happened to the ideas that Sheikh Musah spread. He fueled the enthusiasm of his students. He opened their minds to this life that is full of harsher realities. And he also partook in the change he set in motion.
He helped Sheikh Nasir Mansour to establish an institution for the training of teachers. This institution metamorphosed into the renowned College of Holy Quran located now at Madina-Accra. He continued to lecture there till he became late. The college now churns out many students as the years unfold. Great students have passed through this particular institution which has Dr. Tamim Abdul Wahab; a man who shared a significant part of his life with Sheikh Musa at Tafsiliyya.
The learning of the Quran with activities germane to it was the stock-in-trade of Sheikh Musah. He was the one who taught the Quran, its exegesis and explanation in Ramadan for several years till he left Research in 1996. After that, his home became the citadel of Qur’anic exegesis. Every evening in the month of Ramadan saw people from all walks of life gathered to learn from this great man. Indeed he has left a very big shoe for anyone who will step in to take over from him this year.
Once upon a time in the 2010/2011 academic year, as part of the week celebrations of the Ghana Muslim Students Association, then Accra Polytechnic branch, we visited the late Sheikh Musa Abdul Qadir at his Quranic Exegesis grounds, Alaska-Nima. He was more than welcoming and ejaculated with an indescribable fit of happiness that students from a secular tertiary institution have come officially to learn the Quran.
His profound advice that day still lingers in mind. He really explained and taught the Quran. He was a constant feature on Metro TV teaching and explaining the Quran some time ago. On normal days, you almost always saw him in front of his house reading or reciting the Quran.
One of his numerous students, Seidu Bashiru, who is doing wonderful things in the United States of America, had this to say, “Sheikh Musah's life has been in Da’awah (propagation of the Islamic knowledge). Anything associated with Da’awah is Sheikh Musah. He was one of the pioneers of Sunnah movement in Ghana. He constantly preached about unity among Muslims.
When there was an escalation of sectarian tension between Sunna and Tijaniyya Muslims, he called on Muslims to embrace the name ‘Muslims’ because that brings us together rather than sectarian Islamic association. Sheikh Musah was a Da'e, Teacher and peace broker. He was an embodiment of true reflection of Islam.”
Sheikh Musah was also a humanitarian. Though humble in his humanitarian activities, he saw to it that a group of orphans were given some money for upkeep yearly. He also been able to rally some support for the poor and marginalized in the community.
Sheikh Musah also actuated his literature studies by producing powerful poems. One famous one is on character. He wrote elegiac pieces for his teacher Mallam Hamza and other scholars like Sheikh Tawfiq of Kumasi, Alpha-Ejura of Tamale and Sheikh Hassan, another teacher of his who taught me at Tafsiliyya as Headmaster. May Allah bless their souls.
Sheikh Musah was great in his scholarly works. During the reign of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, he published some papers and presented them at conferences; notable ones in South Africa and Saudi Arabia.
Sheikh Musa Abdul Qadir was a human being and fallibility is one of human characteristics. He may have had his flaws but we will always remember him for the profundity of his good work.
We will always remember him for being the one who boldly fought for the rights of the spouses and families of fallen colleagues. We will always remember him for not wasting even a micro-second when the call to Salat is made. We will always remember him also for rewarding students who take on the practices of the Prophet seriously specifically the Mondays and Thursday’s voluntary fasts.
Sheikh Musah once wrote in his poem that “great works of men never get diminished. They never get erased even when the storms of time hit them.” His works on earth were great. And the storms of time can never erase them.
May Jannah be his terminus.
And may Allah grant his soul respite.
The Writer is a Youth-Activist and a Student of Knowledge.