Those who “predicted” their death-remembering Shaykh Mustafa Zuglool Al-Sanusi (D. 2017)

Late Shaykh Mustafa Zuglool Al-Sanusi

In the name of the Almighty, the Beneficent the Merciful

Are they equal in rank-those who know and those who know not? (Quran 39:9)

My sister, the event took place around May 2012. Location was Abeokuta, the city on the rock, rather the city of the rock. The “actor” was a foremost Islamic cleric and scholar “who not only imbibed the teachings of Prophet Muhammad but equally taught others to live in the fear of the Almighty and in obeisance to His commandments”. The plot was the onset of death, the liquidator of pleasure. Time was exactly that moment when timeliness became timelessness. The story line was eerily told by the actor himself. It was not more than two sentences- “I shall die on a thursday and I shall be buried on a Friday”. Eventually he fell sick. Dr Saburi Biobaku was admitted into a popular hospital in Abeokuta. Stealthily, as it usually does, death entered unto him on a Thursday. His soul was consequently dropped in that timeless repository where souls interpellate in expectation of resurrection.

1909 he honour the invitation. In his estimation, moral currency is beyond dollar attractions. Shaykh Zuglool had the means to buy a car but he refused to do so. “How comfortable would I feel inside the car when my elder brother has no bicycle in his name”? Shaykh Zuglool was said to have wondered.
When the above milestones in the life of Shaykh Zuglool became available to me, I said, in line with the Hadith tradition-wajabat (that is expected). We should not expect anything less from a Shaykh who emerged from the stable of the Shaykh- Adam Abdullah al-Ilory. Remember, only last week I sought to reinsert al-Ilori’s memory into our current slippery realities. Shaykh Zuglool was a product of that intellectual “mill” -Markaz. The latter has churned out some of the best brains in Arabic and Islamic tradition in this part of the world. He emerged from Markazand into the Markaz. He was a product of Markaz which in turn reproduced the other Markaz- the Markaz in Dar al-Dawah wal Irshad now Isolo, Lagos. Like his mentor and progenitor in scholarship, Shaykh Zuglool became a great Islamic scholar, an irresistible social critic, a reformist and a builder and molder of minds and intellection.

But how did Shaykh Zuglool complicate the known in relation to the unknown? Did he equally “predict” his own death the same way the renowned British playwright, Mark Twain, foretold his demise in the early 20th century or in the manner of Dr Saburi Biobaku? Did Shaykh Zuglool had premonition of his transition like the renowned French mathematician, Abraham de Moivre who calculated the last time the beat would stop for him?

In 1909, Twain joked that the next time Halley’s Comet passed close to the earth, he would “go out” with it. The Comet had last been visible from earth in the year Twain was born i.e 1835, so he claimed it would be the “greatest disappointment of my life” if it did not also pass at the time of his death. In other words, at the moment Twain made that statement, the Comet was due again in the following year. It did happen that the Comet appeared again in the world on April 20, 1910. The following day Twain died of a heart attack.

Twain’s death was however less dramatic than that of Abraham de Moivre, the renowned French mathematician who famously worked on mortality tables with Edmond Halley (of Comet fame). Before his death, Abraham had spent his whole life time studying death through numbers . Using math and formulas, de Moivre produced a theory that you could figure out a person’s life span based on death rates. Now when he became eighty seven, Abraham de Moivre noticed that he was sleeping fifteen minutes longer each night. Still obsessed with math and death, he therefore speculated that when those 15 minutes added up to 24 hours, he would simply not wake up. According to his calculations, the date of his death would fall on November 27, 1754. Brethren, that was indeed the day those minutes added up to 24 full hours; that was the day de Moivre died.

Here comes Shaykh Zuglool’s uncanny story; the story of death. It was customary for his school to mark graduation ceremonies during the middle of each year. This year’s ceremony was initially scheduled to begin between the eighth and ninth of July 2017. But he shifted it to between the fifteenth and sixteenth of this month. When he was pressed for an explanation, he said there was going to be a big event on the first date. Brethren, that eventually turned out to be the day Fidau prayers were offered for his demise!

Brethren, it is certain that every man’s heart shall one day beat its final beat. When that beat stops for you, with what would people remember you by and forever too?

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