The spectacle of death

In preparing a booklet I called Let’s Talk about Death published in 2003, one source I found useful is Khawalaja Muhammad Islam’s The Spectacle of Death, the adopted title of this column. A first reading of the book made me feel I had obtained sufficient “glimpses” of the inevitable but my real spectacle of death did not occur until Saturday, October 22, 2016, a day that has become permanently etched on my soul.

Ordinarily, I was looking eagerly forward to participating in the 32nd convocation ceremonies of the better by far University for more than one reason. Apart from an additional role as a co-anchor on the first day, three of my wards, Abdullahi Kareemat Oluwanifemi, Amzat Abass Olayinka and Kareem David Oluwamuyiwa, would be bagging their first degree and four PhD graduands of the Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies, which I am privileged to head, would be also convoking. Besides, my elder sister, Salahudeen Aishat Bolanle, would be bagging a Master of Arts degree while my immediate elder brother would be formally awarded a PhD in Arabic. I was already basking in the euphoria of rejoicing, naturally.

However, it was in the early hours of that momentous day that the Almighty Allah, the Unquestionable, chose to recall my brother, Dr Abdul Hafeez Adeniyi Aremu Ahmad Adedimeji, to the celestial realm. It was also the day I had the closest encounter with a dead body, the first time I would have the unusual task of actively participating in the bathing, shrouding and burying a deceased person, the man after whom I suckled. The spectacle of seeing him still and at peace, with face glowing, was sense-numbing and heart-shattering – the last time I would see him in this life.

Born in the famed city of scholars (Gerin Malami), Iwo, more than four and a half decades ago, my late brother was a mobile library of the best of Islamic and Arabic education. Educated in Iwo, Ibadan and Ife, where he was an undergraduate of English, before he proceeded to Saudi Arabia where he spent 10 years (1994-2004) of intense study, obtaining a Diploma as well as first and second degrees in Arabic, he was reckoned by those who knew him as a man of oceanic knowledge. Amidst a career as a teacher, administrator and academic at Imam Malik College, Ibadan, Al-Hikmah University, Ilorin, and Fountain University, Osogbo, respectively, he capped his academic pursuit with a PhD in 2016.

His life was devoted to serving the Almighty God and humanity. He was the Secretary General of the Nigerian Centre for Arabic Research (NCAR), member of the Union of African Muslim Scholars, Mali and International Forum for Moderation, Jordan. He had published widely in the fields of Arabic and Islamic Studies both nationally and internationally. He was the Grand Imaam of Fountain University and Head of the General Studies Department of the University.

The late Dr Adedimeji ruffled a few feathers when on August 11, he wrote a couplet on his Facebook wall with a photograph, saying that a human being is a visitor in this life and that he was a visitor too, only to be remembered with his photograph when he left. On October 12, through a Watsapp message, he sent his will to me as he was about to be operated on for a minor surgery on his leg. He appeared to have a premonition like all men of God that his end was near. He was buried just the way he wanted and I felt glad I fulfilled that promise. May Allah forgive him his shortcomings and admit him to Aljannah.

Since it was God’s wish that his death would be a global sensation attracting eye-popping, unsolicited publicity, with condolence calls and messages from virtually all continents, I just want to make two clarifications. First, my brother did not die an untimely death. He might have died unexpectedly, the notion of untimely death being bandied about on the Internet is alien to our doctrinal philosophy. Even in Western philosophy, as surmised by Martin Heidegger in his Being and Time (1962 p.289),  “As soon as man comes to life, he is at once old enough to die,”  death is no respecter of age. The saint and the sinner are both condemned to death and whoever does not die today will certainly do another day.

Second, he did not die mysteriously. He drove his children to school in Osogbo where he breathed his last on Friday  and it was God’s plan to offer him a Certificate of Paradise rather than a PhD handshake on Saturday. A convocation day is like any day in God’s reckoning, nothing is special about it, just as the death of Prophet Muhammad’s son, Ibrahim, on the day of Eid or festival was also normal and natural.

I use this medium to sincerely appreciate members of the immediate and wider community for all their love, kindness and support from current and former Vice-Chancellors, Principal Officers, Deans, Directors, Heads of Departments and units, Professors, colleagues to staff, students, friends  and associates. This page cannot contain all the names of eminent personalities who visited my family both in Iwo and Ilorin while I have lost count of thousands of text messages, pings, Watsapp messages, Facebook posts and phone calls.

My beloved brother and alumnus of the University of Ilorin has paid his debt, the question is: who’s next?