(For Prof. H. A. Abdulsalam)
On Friday, July 27, 2018, Nigeria, like many parts of the world across Africa, Middle East, Southern Asia and the Indian Ocean region, witnessed the longest lunar eclipse of this century, which would not be matched until 2123. That day, the Moon became visibly red for 103 minutes as the Earth completely blocked direct sunlight from reaching it, resulting in what is otherwise called ‘blood moon’, which we beheld in eye-popping wonder and open-mouthed amazement.
Not only was there a lunar eclipse, there was also a dark cloud over the University of Ilorin community especially and the country at large same day as we witnessed the human eclipse of a foremost scholar, revered cleric, admirable personality and complete gentleman, Prof. Hashir Adekanmi Abdulsalam. A former Head of the Department of Religions, Ex-Sub-Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Director of the Centre for Affiliated Institutions at the time of his transition, Prof. Abdulsalam, famously known as “Mallam Hashir”, was a great man whose demise shook our community to its foundation like an earthquake.
The late Prof. Abdulsalam meant many things to many people as a father, brother, teacher, friend, partner, colleague, neighbour, intellectual, role model and accomplished family man. In all, he discharged his responsibilities with impressive panache and admirable finesse, which made him beloved to the high and low, the young and old, all and sundry. Exceptionally brilliant, remarkably eloquent and strikingly modest, the late don and jurist “lived a life defined by religious devotion, impeccable simplicity and infectious humility” as I immediately noted on the social media when the news devastatingly hit me like an intercontinental ballistic missile. His long-time friend, associate and “twin brother from another mother”, the prodigious Professor AGAS Oladosu and Chief Imam of the University of Ilorin, aptly described him as “an embodiment of righteousness, paragon of humility and icon of piety.”
It is a testament of fate that Prof. Abdulsalam’s long-awaited professorship didn’t come until October last year, not long after which he suffered some ill-health, which became known to many when he could not attend one of his sons’ wedding earlier in the year. After a period of attention at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital and University Health Services, he proceeded for more medical interventions in India from where he returned the same week he breathed his last. That he died on Friday, a day many Muslims would choose if they had a choice, in one of the four sacred months in Islam, Dhul Qa’dah, is a further testimony to what is known about him. Coincidentally, as Niyi Osundare wrote in one of the poems in his Eye of the Earth, “Hole in the sky”, it could be said that “the sky’s eyes were red with grief” as the bloodshot eyes of the moon shed tears down our damned mortality.
My encounter with Prof. Abdulsalam began in 1996, a year after he joined the academia after a distinguished career as a judge. That year, I was his student in RIS 223 (Origin and Development of Islamic Law), where his erudition and versatility left a deep impression in me. We started to relate more closely when I joined the Faculty five years later and the relationship blossomed when we became neighbours in the staff quarters in 2008. There was a more personal dimension to it when we were both at the University of Cape Coast, Ghana, in 2010 when he was on sabbatical and I was on a short research visit. Throughout the period and beyond, I found his personality magnetic and his philosophy of life admirable.
Both staff and students attest to his excellent character, a striking feature of which would make him consider everyone special. An essential man of town and gown, his life and death are a further reminder that everything that has a beginning automatically has an end and that the purpose of life is to live a life of purpose. This purposeful life was demonstrated by Prof. Abdulsalam as attested to by those who knew him closely, like his friend and former Dean of Postgraduate School, Prof. Badmas Olanrewaju Yusuf, who delivered a passionate and emotional lecture on the deceased at the Fidau programme organised at Mallam Hashir’s Otan Ayegbaju town penultimate Sunday.
While commiserating with the University, the Faculty of Arts, the Department of Religions, the family and friends of the late Mallam, I pray that the Almighty Allah forgive Prof. Abdulsalam’s sins and grant him Al-jannah Firdaows.
For Agunu too, a death too much
In what appeared as evidence of the limitation of human knowledge, on Sunday, July 15, 2018, a day after my last column celebrating “Of July and Joyful News” went to bed for appearance in the July 16 edition of Unilorin Bulletin, sad news enveloped the University community that the unassuming Dean of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Prof. Abdulkareem Agunu, had returned to his Maker. Little did I know that last month would actually be a mixture of “sadness and joy” for the University, as Mr Kunle Akogun wrote a fortnight ago, due to the situations that would make us ponder on our “illusion of immortality”, as Dr L. A. Azeez submitted last week.
Within the short time that Prof. Agunu spent in the University, he left indelible footprints in helping to build the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences from the scratch to its enviable status of today, a proof of his academic distinction and administrative sagacity. He was affable, amiable and above all, godly. In the mosque of the Senior Staff Quarters, you would always see him on the first row as one of the first to arrive for each prayer. It is a painful loss but God knows better why the proverbial straight trees are the ones falling.
May Allah overlook his shortcomings and grant him Aljannah Firdaws too.