It was a memorable event on 7th February 2017, when the consummate, astute, phenomenal and professorial Yasir Anjola Quadri bowed out of public service amid applause and ovation after four decades of eventful academic devotion. Much as this occasion was – expectedly – grand and exhilarating, I couldn’t help the overpowering impulse of mixed feelings. The sweet memories of love, reverence, and admiration were tinted with hues of nostalgia. On this day, the University of Ilorin auditorium was filled to capacity as visitors, administrators, alumni, students and well-wishers congregated to celebrate this iconic academic. It was, indeed, a glorious ending that is so befitting of a professor of such prestigious rarity.
My first encounter with the acclaimed Quadri would almost be a faint memory – by now – if not for the accompanying overwhelming sensation of awe that is still as fresh in my memory as the morning dew. Before this ebullient professor showed up for the first time in my class, we had heard so much about his high standards, unbending nature, inviolate principles, and stark meticulousness. Every mind was so anxious to receive the number one Mr. no-nonsense in the Department of Religions. In truth, upon his arrival, the whole class was thrown into total silence. Everyone was held spellbound by his ascetic appearance, striking simplicity, endearing countenance and awe-inspiring personality.
Professor Yasir Anjola Quadri is a father of Professors. In the past forty years, he has inspired, tutored and nurtured a long list of minds to greatness. The celebrated JAMB Registrar and erstwhile Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Prof. Is-haq Oloyede, is one of the shining stars built in the intellectual firmament of this quintessential teacher and shaper of men. As fate would have it, YA Quadri has been of great service to my family having taught my father, Prince Daud Abimbola, between 1982 and 1986; my mother from 1987 to 1990, while I also was under his tutelage between 2013 and 2017. Much more than a lecturer, Professor Quadri is like a father, nay grandfather to me.
A septuagenarian, Professor Yasir Anjola Quadri was born in Ijebu-Ode on the 22nd of February 1947. He attended Ansar-Ud-Deen Primary School, Ijebu-Ode, between 1955 and 1960 after which his father enrolled him in the traditional Arabic school established by Alhaji Apaokagi in Owo, Ondo State. Through correspondence courses, the bright and determined Quadri took the London GCE examination and was admitted to the University of Ibadan, the premier University, where he graduated, in 1974, with a resounding First Class degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies.
Quadri’s voracious appetite for knowledge was unsatisfied by the first degree he had meritoriously completed. He wanted to explore further the broad and deep ocean of knowledge. As it was the tradition in those good days, during his final examinations at the University of Ibadan, firms and companies came to get the best brains (mostly the First Class graduates) from the University to work with them, enticing them with mouthwatering offers; but no glittering promise of riches, comfort and luxury was enough to woo Quadri’s incurably scholastic mind. Rather, he listened to his pedagogic instincts and resolved to toe the rough path of scholarship. He was unswerving in his resolution to find a life in teaching and in building an impactful existence for himself in the academics even when things were obviously not rosy in the sector then. Against all odds, Quadri pursued his passion and rose, gallantly, to the peak of his career.
Baba’s (as fondly called by his students) zeal for knowledge could hardly be described by words. Perhaps a firsthand experience would do a better justice to that than a mere attempt at expressing what insatiable thirst for knowledge he has. You will never go to his office except you meet him engrossed in some scholarly undertaking. Like a typical philosopher, he would always retreat to his office during the dead hours of the night studying.
He joined the University of Ilorin as a member of the pioneering staff in 1976. In 1981, under the supervision of the late Professor M.O.A. Abdul, he bagged his doctoral degree in Islamic Studies and, after nine devoted years of scholarship, our revered Quadri rose through the ranks to become a Professor of Islamic Studies in 1990. Over the past four decades, Prof. Yasir Anjola Quadri has contributed immensely to the world of scholarship and has increased, tremendously, the volume of existing Islamic literature through his copious writings.
Professor Quadri’s large library and copious contributions to the existing body of Islamic literature are evident references to his curious mind, scholarly ability and proficiency. This passionate and invigorated academic animated his absolute commitment to the preservation and circulation of classical Islamic literature by translating a number of invaluable Islamic books into English and Yoruba languages. For instance, he translated the Qur’an to Yoruba language with the title, “Al-Kur’aanu Alaponle”, the famous al-Ahadith al-Nabawiyyah, and Matn al-‘Ashmawiyyah into English language. He also translated moral teachings in Zaburah of Daud, Psalm, to the English Language. The book is entitled “The Profound Admonitions”. In 1990, our honoree also translated with useful notes al-Muqaddimat al ‘iZiyyah to the English language in collaboration with one of his illustrious students, Prof. I. O. Oloyede. As opined by the renowned doctor of English Language, Mahfouz Adedimeji, Professor Y. A. Quadri, in all standards, is unreservedly deserving of the title of an Emeritus.
A versatile scholar, Quadri has convincingly proved that his natural genius is beyond what lies between the spines through the various administrative functions he had successfully held in the past. The astute Quadri was the Head of the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies from 1995 to 1996, after which he served as the Dean of Faculty of Arts, University of Ilorin, between 1996 and 1998. He occupies the Chair of the Editorial Board of “Centrepoint: A Journal of Intellectual Scientific and Cultural Interest” and the Library and Publications Committee of the University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria. He is also the pioneer Editor-in-Chief of “Ilorin Journal of Religious Studies”. Equally, he is the Chairman, Dress Code Committee. Above all, his rare ingenuity and administrative prowess qualified him to serve as a member, Board of Governors, University of Ilorin.
Much as I would love to celebrate his adorable person, I feel reluctant to discuss the glowing qualities that make Quadri a rare specie in the human kingdom. The reason behind my hesitation is easily understandable to those who have met and dealt with this self-effacing figure. His simplicity is so remarkable that you hardly believe he is a high ranking university professor. Although he is highly placed and very comfortable on the university payroll – considering his experience and qualifications, I never – for once – saw Baba don a flashy apparel in my four years of undergraduate studies. In fact, in all sense of reverence and admiration, I can confidently mention the exceedingly simple and decent wardrobe of this foremost University don. Not only I can do that, any student who has passed under Baba Quadri will conveniently do that. He is a real Sufi in the actual meaning of the appellation. Given the decency of his wardrobe, Baba is always admirable to every sight, as he would always appear neat. I have seen simplicity and asceticism but I have seen none parallel to Baba Quadri’s style in contemporary times. His rare breed offers a sufficient proof that ‘simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’, as rightly said by Master Confucius.
Quadri’s discipline is one which has never ceased to amaze me. Throughout my entire two decades of existence, I have never seen anything akin to his acute meticulousness; his diligence is striking! He would never miss a class for anything trivial and even if it be material, it must be of great import. During my undergraduate days, I saw enough instances to safely conclude that university lecturers tend to be less effective in the discharge of their primary assignments as a result of administrative functions. Yet, with many administrative functions he oversees, it so unlike Quadri to skip his class for any reason whatsoever. His primary assignment was always on his mind. In fact, underscoring the importance of the Islamic ethics of work, the conscious, diligent, and ethical Quadri would intently apologize whenever he was helplessly absent in class and would unreservedly criticize absenteeism.
While I adore and celebrate this professor of prestigious rarity, I feel bitter that Professor Yasir Ajola Quadri is the honest, diligent, committed, incorruptible, pedantic and selfless president the Nigerian nation never had. He is compassionate as well as resolute, humane yet disciplined, accommodating yet unbending, rich yet self-denying, self-conscious and, at the same time, selfless. Above all, baba is a great goldsmith in whose refinery many men have been polished great.
About the author:
Ridwaanullah Abimbola is a writer with medals. He is a freelance writer for hire, a digital marketer, trained journalist, a moral poet, an influencer and a published researcher. He teaches Academic Intelligence cum Personal Development at GENICTIVE and, he is the Chief Content Strategist at Genic Writers. He advocates justice, global peace, and a humane humanity through his nonprofit organization – Humane Minds International. He is the best graduating Islamic Studies student, class of 2017, University of Ilorin. You can reach him via firstname.lastname@example.org.