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I’m A Proud Product Of Almajiri System – Adeyemi

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Imam Fuad Adeyemi is the executive director of Al-Habibiyyah Islamic Society. In this interview with MAKINDE OLUWAROTIMI, he sheds light on why the organisation is so passionate about the masses.

What makes your organisation unique?

The name of my organization, Al Habibiyya, was formed from the word Habib, which means love. Incidentally, great scholars in the world bear the name Habib, so, the name comes with a deep meaning of what we intend to do.

Al Habibiyya started in 2006, and it started with reasons. I had already presided as an Imam in so many organisations before we started. I also come from a family of scholars, a family of religious leaders, and I’ve always been a revolutionist even as a young boy. I always observed people learning from my grandfather for over 30 years and I asked myself, ‘why won’t these people do anything else besides reading these things?’ From then, I started nursing an ambition that when I got older, I would build a school where people would be able to read within four months.

In 2002, I performed Umrah and saw a lot of Nigerians who could not read the Quran, while they were on holy ground, they were reading rosary and some children from Malaysia and Indonesia asked some wealthy men from Nigeria why they were using rosary to pray and you could see the pain on their faces because they could not read the Quran and those children were mocking them.

There and then, I decided that by God’s grace, I would remove the tears from their faces. When I got back home, within two months, I started it.

How has it been since then?

I started with Al habibiyya academy, starting with a nursery and primary school in Maitama with about five students. We did the walima in June, but after the walima, we did not see students again, for four months, no single student was around not until January 2004 that we began to have new students, but Allah was faithful.

Interestingly, we were having Al habibiyya society in a man’s house, Barrister Ikpenisho, the former director general of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) before we moved to our permanent site. During that time, we were processing the final paper of the place, the building of the mosque was ongoing and a man we didn’t know completed the mosque because he loved what we were doing. But, in 2005, the Mosque was demolished. The minister of the federal capital territory eventually gave us a new plot of land and that’s where we are today.

In the same year, I had the opportunity to travel to the US on invitation of the US government, and I noticed the homeless being fed at San Diego. I thought to myself, for every one person being fed at San Diego, there are 10,000 hungry people at home in Nigeria. So, when I returned home, I decided to set up a committee that would work on feeding of people.

How many people do you feed?

When we started the food bank, it was to help Muslims during the month of Ramadan but the programme grew and with time, the US embassy in Nigeria, through one of their officers, Mallam Sani, supported us and we expanded the feeding to the University of Abuja and some outlets in Mararaba. But it became insufficient until the new chairman of the food bank, Faduna, used his experience and exposure to re-organise the food bank making it a world class foundation and today, we feed about 1700 people daily.

We also assist them with raw food that is enough to sustain them even after Ramadan. Presently, our mosque project is on ground and from the day we commence, we will be feeding people three times a week, on Fridays, Mondays and Thursdays.

Tell us about Project EAT-FIn

Project EAT-FIN (Encouraging Accountability and Transparency Through Faith-Based Intervention) is a programme of the JUST Foundation, an NGO of Al-Habibiyyah Islamic Society (AIS). The program is designated to promote accountability and transparency among Islamic Preachers (Imams) and Scholars. The program is ongoing in six states of the federation; which are: Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Kaduna, Kebbi, Lagos, Osun and Kogi States respectively.

Meanwhile, for the programme to achieve aims and objectives, the targeted Imams and Scholars are sensitised and trained on courses/activities relatively on anti-corruption and accountability so that they can, in turn, inculcate the ideas, insights and idiosyncrasies they gathered from the aforementioned into their followers, students, members of their organisations etc, in their sermons and other available platforms they chair. The project is supported by the MacArthur Foundation in Chicago (USA).

The standard of education in the north is really poor when compared to other parts of the nation, what do you think can be done about this?

This is another critical area of development, the leadership in the north has not been sincere to themselves and God will ask them. The world learnt from the Islamic Almajiri system and today, many Muslim countries that practice same system have modernised it and are producing professors. This is not same in the North because the leadership has not been proactive and responsive to the needs of the people they claim to lead. Look at the history of almajiri system in Nigeria, before it was the king and the rich that funded the education of the children, there was a special budget through which they gave them various things, so when the colonial masters came, they stopped the king from having power to fund the school, the colonial masters left and if leaders were responsible, this won’t be an issue.

But it has unfortunately given room for terrorism. Government has to be proactive, by taking these children off the streets and integrating the so-called Islamic school. This also exists in the southwest like I earlier said, my parents had an almajiri school with children from different parts of the country. Most of my brothers and myself were students at the school, and today, the school has a college of education, secondary schools, nursery schools and primary schools that have produced professors. That school today is of international standard, Assanusiyyah group of schools in Osun State. So, if we can get there without support from the government, then more can be achieved with their assistance. I am a proud product of the almajiri system.

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