By Femi Abbas
One of the most remarkable characteristics of history, which makes it an all-time teacher for mankind, is random repetition of facts and figures.
Without such repetition, man’s natural forgetfulness would have shown the way of permanent oblivion to history. It can therefore be concluded that history is not just a master teacher but also a nonesuch reminder of events and occurrences. Brilliant researchers and genuine seekers of knowledge can gracefully testify to this assertion.
On Tuesday, the 16th of November, 2021, all roads led to Iseyin, in Oke Ogun area of Oyo State. That was the day on which a galaxy of foremost traditional rulers, notable Imams and Alfas, frontline professionals including justices of the various Courts in Nigeria as well as sundry prominent men and women of distinction from Yoruba land and other parts of Nigeria assembled in that city with an unprecedented sense of history. The most vertical personality that conspicuously stood out of the pack, on that occasion, was the Sultan of Sokoto and President General of Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), His Eminence, Dr. Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, CFR, mni. He came all the way from Sokoto accompanied by a retinue of scholarly elite from all parts of Nigeria. And, the frontline traditional rulers of Nigeria’s South West region, led by the Alaafin of Oyo, His Royal Majesty, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Atanda Adeyemi III, were readily on hand to welcome His Eminence and his entourage to Iseyin city at a least expected time and, for an undreamt purpose.
On the other hand, the President of the Muslim Ummah of South West Nigeria (MUSWEN) who is also the Deputy President General (South) of Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Alhaji Rasaki Oladejo, FCS, also led a large group of South West Muslims to the occasion as part of His Eminence’s entourage. It was an elaborate carnival of a sort, never to be forgotten in Yoruba land.
The Purpose of the Occasion
The purpose of that unprecedented occasion was the rekindling of the glow of Islamic renaissance, in Iseyin, as facilitated by a ‘son of the soil’. The occasion was also meant for the commissioning of a unique Citadel of knowledge named ‘Ayisat Aweni Raji Memorial Islamic Centre’. Hosted by Iseyin city, that historic Citadel is a vivid reminder of the first Institution of Higher learning, in Islam, which was christened ‘Baytul Hikmah’ (House of Wisdom), and sited in the city of Baghdad, Iraq, about 200 years after the demise of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Just as Iseyin, in Oyo State of today’s Nigeria, is now aspiring to zoom into a global intellectual limelight, with this newly established Citadel, it was Baytul Hikmah that brought the name of the city of Baghdad into the archive of historic reckoning in intellectualism. Now, Iseyin is on the its way to making a similarly noticeable historic mark on the world map.
Baytul Hikmah was founded in 830 CE by the seventh Abbasid Caliph, Abul ‘Abbas Ibn AbduLlah, popularly known as Caliph Al-Ma’mun, in Baghdad, during the golden era of Abbasid Dynasty. It was from the establishment of Baytul Hikmah that the idea of the first University in the world, the University of Cordoba, in Spain, germinated under the rule of the second Umayyad Dynasty, in the early 10th century.
Baytul Hikmah was not just a Centre for theoretical learning. It was also an intellectual institution where literacy was practically transformed into effective education for the purpose of ushering civilization into the world, based on Islamic ethos. Built on the campus of that Institution was a functional library that later became the biggest library in the world and served as the main reservoir of references in knowledge. Even, as at that time (the 9th century), that library contained about 400,000 books, most of which were translated into Arabic from other languages of Hellenic and Assyrian sources. In fact, there was no field of discipline in sciences, arts, philosophy, theocracy and social sciences that could not be richly found in those books as references. And, it was due to the establishment of that Institution that the exigesis (Tafsir) of the Qur’an became sophisticatedly boosted for thorough human understanding. In summary, the University of Cordoba, which happened to be the very first University ever established in the world, was an offshoot of Baytul-Hikmah. University of Cordoba itself was established by the Muslims of Umayyad dynasty, in Spain in about the early 10th century.
Genesis of Baytul Hikmah
For quite some time, before the founding of Baytul Hikmah, there was a very strong intellectual competition between two cities of Basrah and Kufah, in Iraq, which later paved way for the thought of establishing a citadel that came to be named ‘Baytul Hikmah’. The leader of Basrah group was Abu Bishr Amr Bn Uthman Bn Qanbar Al-Basri who was popularly known as Sibawayh. And, the leader of the Kufah group was Abul- Hassan Ali Ibn Hamzah Ibn Abdullah, Ibn
‘Uthman, who was popularly known as Al-Kisai. The latter was one of the seven reputable memorizers and readers of the Qur’an and he was a frontline seeker of permanent solution to the complexity of the exposition (Tafsir) of the Qur’an. While the Basrah group specialized in the syntax (Nahw) aspect of Arabic grammar, the Kufah group specialized in the morphology (Sarf) aspect of the same Arabic grammar. The two scholarly groups constituted themselves into two separate schools that were always at intellectual loggerhead. In every seeming problem there must be a divinely blessed way out.
The fierce intellectual rivalry between the two schools in Basrah and Kufah was what gave the world tertiary level of knowledge acquisition that became known as University. And, the formation of grammar for Arabic language was the foundation of that feat to the benefit of the Quran and its exegesis.
It must be remembered that the revelation of the Qur’an did not come with grammar because Arabic language, which was the language of Qur’anic revelation, had no grammar prior to the revelation of the Qur’an. It was the revelation of that sacred Book that led to the formation of Arabic grammar championed by Sibawayh and Al-Kisai.
From this historical background, therefore, it can be inferred that the intellectual rivalry between two renowned grammarians (Sibawyh and Al-Kisai), which strengthened the Umayyad and Abbasid Dynasties intellectually and culminated in Europe’s eventual renaissance, that led that Caucasian continent to industrialization that introduced technology into the contemporary world.
Today, we can read or talk about ‘Baytul Hikmah’ as a point of intellectual reference because there was a Caliph Al-Ma’amun who valued intellectualism and had an appropriate foresight to back it up with the intent of establishing the citadel called Baytul Hikmah for posterity.
Here in Nigeria, especially, in Yoruba land, there is cause for the Muslims of today and those of tomorrow to say Alhamdu liLlah for gaining free access to a citadel like ‘Ayisat Aweni Raji Memorial Centre’ in Iseyin, at the instance of a single person whose way of thanking Allah for His merciful bounties is to provide a citadel named after his demised mother for the benefit of today’s Muslim generations and those of the future.
‘Ayisat Aweni Raji Islamic Memorial Centre’ is an institution that tacitly speaks volumes in intellectual language to those who understand the language of knowledge and can sensibly interpret that language to suit the purpose of this ephemeral life and
that of the life hereafter.
While most Yoruba Muslims unnecessarily keep arguing and boasting on the precedence of their cities or towns in gaining access to Islam, Iseyin indigenes simply kept quiet while thinking of exhibiting genuine Islamic faith and practical adherence to it without any verbal boasting. That is a way of confirming, in practical terms, that only empty barrels make the loudest noise.
Meanwhile, rather than inviting fellow indigenes to join hands together in providing a unique citadel that can propel Islam practically aloft to make Iseyin a special template, the provider of ‘Ayisat Aweni Raji’ citadel just decided to hold the bull by the horn, all alone. This is because he knows that embarking on such a spiritual venture by a group or groups of people may take decades if not a century. To invest in such a gargantuan, non-materially profitable venture, in today’s material world, therefore, is a glaring exhibition of absolute faith in the Almighty Allah, the reward of which can come only from that same Allah alone.
The Provided Facilities
The facilities provided in that citadel are obviously legendry. Which of those facilities is not positively lamentable? Is it the Mosque that looks like a mini Haram of Makkah or the Shariah Court complex that favourably competes with most of the modern day model courts which form the wings of pride for most advanced countries in the world?
Like in Baytul Hikmah of Baghdad of yore, a historically distinguished library is provided in ‘Ayisat Aweni Raji Memorial Centre’ to cater for the needs of all strata of knowledge seekers, irrespective of age, gender, tribe or religion. The books stored in that library may not have attained the lofty height of figures in thousands, but the few available therein, have no exclusion in fields of learning. Interestingly, there are as many books in that library for professionals, academic scholars and even students of secondary schools, as anyone can imagine. And, the big, two storey building, which harbours that unique library in that Centre, is so well equipped with effective computers that the only question that an unbiased visitor is likely to be “what else is not here”.
If there was anything provided for enhancement of knowledge in Baytul Hikamah, which qualified it for a vintage position of reference in the archive of history, ‘Ayisat Aweni Raji’ citadel has surely surpassed that. This is not only in terms of computer but also in terms of website and internet facilities that makes that Centre a global outfit for knowledge and dissemination of correct information with easy online accessibility. Besides the grandiose Mosque that is gorgeously decorated therein, the Shariah Court and the library, in that Centre are also modern by all standards. And, to give that Centre a befitting comfort of intellectual requirement, a superb hotel is also provided for accommodation within its premises of as a way of making it comfortable for visitors and other travelers to Iseyin. The proviso, however, is that every provision therein is that of Halal alone.
Irony of Events
In the primordial time, when Baytul Hikmah was provided for knowledge seekers, there were scanty facilities with which to access knowledge. Today, when the facilities are available in abundance, the world is confronted by the dearth of readers. It is, however, hoped that Nigerian Muslims will wake up from their reading slumber and brace up for an effective utilization of the great opportunity provided, free of charge, in that historic Centre, by a unique philanthropist.
Ever since the commissioning of ‘Ayisat Aweni Raji Centre’, tongues have been wagging just as inquisitions have been surging in a bid to know who provided such a Centre for the sake of Allah. For the information of those who want to know, this column, ‘The Message’, will unmask the provider of that historic Centre next Friday, in sha’Allah, and give the details of the personality of that provider. Pease, be on the lookout for it. God bless you.