Sheikh Imam Yahaya Tajudeen was the First Chief Imam of Ebira land. A scholar, astute administrator, financial advisor, Treasurer, a Prince and a pious man who studied under Sheikh Adabi, another well known scholar around the west coast which Sheikh Kamaldeen El- Ilorin was his latter student. The Islamic title “TAJUDEEN” was given to Imam Yahaya by Sheik Adabi and later a title of “KAMALUDEEN” was given to Sheikh Adam El- Ilorin.
It was Iyebe though a corrupted name of IYABA(bo), Attah’s mother who sought Tajudeen’s help after she learnt about him during her travels around the yoruba land & met him in Kabba, the then Kabba province where Sheikh Tajudeen stationed as treasurer to the British Government.
Tajudeen’s first coming to Ebira land was around 1915 on duty call and the second was to assist in the propagation of Islam after he resigned as Chief treasurer from British government in 1924.
Sheikh Imam Yahaya Tajudeen was born in 1875 to the family of Aliyu Badamasy and Princess Zainab in the compound called “Ile Adafila” compound in ilorin. His mother was a very famous princess known as “Shinabu” in Irun town, Ondo state. Sheikh Tajudeen received his Qur`anic education from his father, Aliyu and his post Qur`anic education “ilm” knowledge from various muslim scholars before joining the famous Sheikh El-Islam Tajul – Adabi of Ilorin.
Sheikh Tajudeen came to a virgin land, cleared it, harrowed, cultivated ridges, planted crops for future generation to harvest and consume.
He met Ebiraland with few converts and without Islamic education, and within forty years of his sojourn in Ebira land, he established a virile, dynamic and purposeful Ummatul-Islam with the assistance of his bosom friends, the spare headed leader by the first muslim ruler, the able leader His royal Highness Alhaji Ibrahim Atta and his younger brother, Alhaji Yakubu Walikili and his close associates like Adai Muhammadu Bello and Adai Abdullahi of Ahache, Muhammadu Badamasy Akwoji of Nagazi, Adai Opata and Adai Aliyu Ogedembe of Ihima, Balogun of Eganyi etc.
Sheikh Tajudeen was a great saint around whom many success and Islamic scholars surrounded and he will be remembered as a great saint to Ebiraland.
Sheikh Tajudeen directed his general preachings and teachings towards the masses comprising the Ebira people, Akoko Edo people, the Okuns in Kabba, the Nupes of Lokoja and the Oworo’s etc.
For about 41 years 1915-1956 that Sheikh Tajudeen spent in Ebira land ,carrying the message of Islam to the people, he was never tired of telling and upholding the truth. He was found, according to Alhaji Ali Asoso and Alhaji Abdullah Unogo to be always calm and kind to all and sundry. By gradual teaching, he won over most of his opponents through constructive reasoning, persuation and patience. He possessed an exceptional Islamic quality of sincerity, piety and honesty said Ustaz Yunus Abdallah .
Sheikh was very understanding of the social and traditional attachment the Ebira have for their life pattern. He applied a method of caution in his preaching and guidance of the people instead of confrontational attitude. Together with the the Attah of Ebira Land, Alhaji Ibrahim Onuroiza ,the Sheikh and others scholars maintained a quiet, simple and persuasive method of conversion.
The very first Arabic letter written on Ebira soil which speaks for itself was by the Khalifa of Ebira Land, Imam Yahaya Tajudeen.
” In the name of Allah the Compassionate, the Merciful. And on him we rely. And may peace and blessing be upon our leader Muhammad, the Prophet, the Honourable, and his family and his honourable friends. This is a letter from Yahaya Tajudeen to our Sheikh, Sheikh of Islam and Murshid-Guide Muhammad Labeeb Tajul Adab.
” Peace and greetings and honours upon you oh the guide Sheikh, and the same to all of our brothers and sisters in Islam. We have reached Ebira Land in tranquility and good health on Monday the 4th of the month of Safar. The European accommodated us in Ebira town. We had our rest on this day. On the second day the European appointed me Treasurer, he gave me the key to the Treasury and all its money and the books (account), and he placed me on four (£4) per month.
In this town, food items and firewood are very expensive and the people are all pagans except their Prince whose name is Ibrahim.
When we landed in this town my horse called “Sahabau” got sick and died after three days at dawn on Friday. “Sooner than later, Allah will give me a replacement and we, onto our Lord, we put our hope”. We shall be struggling by the power and permission of Allah, and by your blessing oh, the Sheikh the guide. “As for their Prince, he has now become the King and we thank Allah for that. The son of Maryam has returned now. Please send a assistance oh the Sheikh, the guide. Your Children will grow good and happy by the will of Allah, the most High. On Him we ask for assistance and reliance.
May Allah help you Strengthen you with His help and His assistance. He will let you attain your ambition, and will guard or cover your secrets, and prolong your authority and your life.
May the peace and blessing of Allah be upon Muhammad (SAW), the honourable and his familys and his companions. Peace be on all those who follow the right guidance. Ameen. ”
Dated , Wednesday 14 Rabiul -Awwal 1336AH.
These are the signs of enriched Arabic Scholarship left by Sheikh Yahaya Tajudeen in Ebira Land.
Sheikh Yahaya Tajudeen Trying Moment : In 1946 ,an incident occurred that the compound of Audu Iriji, which harboured Sheikh Tajudeen, his family and some of his students got burnt down. As posterity would have it, his eldest son Sheikh AbdulRahim had completed the building of his personal house at Irivucheba for their daily studies. As Sheikh Tajudeen moved to Irivucheba, the whole spiritual life followed him. As he used to educate people about every aspect of Islam.
First Maulud Night Observation in Ebira Land in 1947
As Sheikh used to educate people about every aspect of Islam, he called on his beloved student Sheikh Musa Galadima and informed him about the sacred night in which the holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was born. The obedient student Sheikh Musa Galadima Abdullahi quickly surmoned some students who were boarders with Sheikh Tajudeen and they moved round Okene town for the first time in the history of Islam in Ebira Land, chanting: Zikri; ” Laillaha Ila Allahu Muhammad Rasulu Llah and Madhu Nabiyi, Like:
1. ” Hashimiya Muhammada Hashimiya Muhamma
Uhibbu Na Biyyal Hashimiya Muhammada ”
Meaning: (I love Prophet Muhammad of Hashimite tribe)
2. “Habat naru Iblisa bi nuri Muhammadi
Meaning: “The fire of the devil has been extinguished with the light of Muhammad. ”
Two important actions marked 1947 Historic Maulud Night Outing:
First, when the Muslims singing group branched at Sheikh Ahmad Rufai house, he inquired from Sheikh Musa Galadima of what was happening, after the information was passed to him that, they were marking the night of Rabiu-el-Awwal ,the elated happy, learned scholar beaming with joy quickly entered his room and brought out 2/6 d (Two shillings and Six pence) for the students. By this act ,Sheikh Ahmad Rufai was the first person who spent his personal money for Maulud in Ebira Land. May Allah grant him more nuur in his grave and reunite us with him in Al-Janah Firdaus.
Secondly, when the group reached the house of Mallam Yusufu and Mallam Sadiku ,still at Idoji Area ,it was very late in the night, a devout Muslim woman by the name Fatima, the mother of Mallam Raji and Mallam Maigida, persuaded the tired, roving students to wait and eat food before dispersing to their various homes. By this act, Hajiya Fatima also became the first person who cooked food for the students during Maulud in Ebira Land.
Later in the year, Sheikh Abdulmalik together with Alhaji Uthman Otinawu performed the most historic pilgrimage to the holy Land, Makka . On their return, the people in Ebira Land celebrated the occasion with meaningful songs including the Hausa residents.
The Period of Crisis in the Imamship of Sheikh Yahaya Tajudeen.
An Avoidable Action: Removal from Imamship
His Royal Highness Attah Ibrahim and his junior brother Alhaji Yakubu Wakili had some misunderstandings, which resulted in Wakili ‘s redeployment from Lokoja back to Okene. Some mischief makers were fanning more trouble between the two ruling brothers. Sheikh Tajudeen and a host of few well wishers, like Alhaji Muhammad Bello and his brother, Alhaji Abdullahi of Ahache ,were trying to mediate and settle them. Alas! The dice of disunity was cast. The consequence affected many things and some peace makers received their natural proverbial blows. Imam Tajudeen was affected. He was removed from Imamship by Attah Ibrahim.
Three Chief Imam emerged between the period of trial: Sheikh Aliyu Goni Al-Hafizee ,Sheikh Suleiman Idogido and Sheikh Muhammadu Natumbi . May Allah grant all our departed Imam more nuur in their graves and reunite us with them in Al-Janah Firdaus.
Attah Ibrahim and Sheikh Yahaya Tajudeen was finally reconciled in 1953 by Sheikh Adam Abdullah .He pleaded fervently with both leaders to forget, and forgive each other. They both consented to end their quarrel, and prayed for Sheikh Adam Abdullah. Attah Ibrahim said:
” Dear young man, Allah has made you as the cause of the dispute settling, but there remained the question of Imamship of Sheikh Tajudeen. If I remove the incumbent now, there will be another dispute between me and that present Imam. So plead with Sheikh Tajudeen not to make this settlement as a pre-condition for his Imamship, but if Allah destined him to outlive the incumbent Imam, I will reappoint him as the Chief Imam. ”
Sheikh Tajudeen agreed with this agreement, and as Allah would like it, he outlived Imam Natumbi (May Allah grant him Al-Janah Firdaus), and by the grace of Allah, Sheikh Tajudeen was re-appointed as the Chief Imam in 1953 ,a post he held till his death.
Earlier on, Sheikh Adam Abdullah had informed the Muslim Community of Ebira about the establishment of the “Markaz” : an Arabic Training Centre at Abeokuta. The Muslim community, under the Chief Imam Tajudeen, resolved to send students to that Arabic College, and both Sheikh AbdulRahaman Abdullah and Dr. Nasiru Bello were sponsored by the Ebira Muslim Ummah as the poineer students of Markaz in January 1954.
When Sheikh Tajudeen was reinstated as the Chief Imam, Sheikh Ahmad Rufai was also appointed as the “Naibi “(Deputy), among other prominent roles played by Sheikh Ahmad Rufai was that he, together with Alhaji Bello Upahi , were responsible for the Friday weekly money collection, out of which, the two sponsored students were given token maintenance allowance in form of subvention. By this action Sheikh Tajudeen stood out prominently as the first Chief Imam, under whose supervision, the Ebira Muslim Community was creatively organized and introduced Scholarship award to qualified beneficiaries for Islamic and Arabic Education.
Sheikh Tajudeen upholding strong Tauheed: It will be recalled that some people alluded the death of the three Chief Imams, i.e Imam Goni , Imam Suleiman and Imam Natumbi, as untimely death, and an act of special proof that the deposed Chief Imam was innocent of the offence he was charged by Attah.
This insinuation and superstition belief was corrected by Sheikh Tajudeen as he drew the Muslims special attention to pure faith in Allah. He made it crystal clear to the people that Allah has destined the three late Imams as the Chief Imams of Ebira Land one after the other. The same providence of Allah has it that he ,Tajudeen, who was then the incumbent Imam, must live longer than those three pious Imams. The decree of Allah must come to pass, and as long as he -Tajudeen-remained the Chief Imam of Ebira Land. His removal from Chief Imamship was a destiny, the death of the three Chief Imams, was also a destiny, and his own death as the Chief Imam or otherwise was also a destiny.
Imam Yusuf Ogori reported that Sheikh Tajudeen said ” Let every body understand that Allah alone has the power of life and death. As to the Amir Attah ,he was misunderstood. As to him Yahaya Tajudeen, ‘ Lahaula Wala Quwata Illa Bi Llahi ‘. As to the previous three Imams, (May Allah bless and show mercy on them) ,Allah has registered their names in ‘Lauhul Mahfuz’ that they were to serve and die as the Chief Imams of Ebira Land, hence the dispute between him and the Attah of Ebira. When Allah decided to fulfill His divine duty of returning him to Imamship, He, the most high and gracious, sent a saintly arbiter, and conciliation took place between him and the Attah. If Allah had destined that he would die as an ordinary Mallam, there was nothing he could do.
Sheikh Tajudeen Sickness : He fell sick in the first week of the sacred month of Ramadan 1956. According to Alhaji Aliyu Asoso, Sheikh Tajudeen sent the Jumah Khutbah plus his staff of office ,i .e walking stick to Sheikh Ahmad Rufai as the Naibi of that time .
During his Sickness, Sheikh Tajudeen encouraged and allowed a young nurse, Alhaji Ahmad Badamasiyu to administered modern medical treatment on him. At a stage, as he told the newly qualified nurse that he sanctioned the English style of treatment on his person in order to lay down good precedence for future Muslims Scholars who may be preaching against everything European, and also to demonstrate that there was nothing wrong in taking injection, which is known as “huqnat ” in “Fiqh ” books as a means of treatment . However, he directed his ” nursing doctor ” , to halt further treatment since he knew that no medicine could cure death.
Sheikh Departure: Imam Yusuf Ogori, a devout disciple of Sheikh Tajudeen says that he was lucky to have witnessed the day his beloved master/Teacher breathed his last as the Chief Imam of Ebira Land, on the 17th of May 1956 during the sacred month of Ramadan and he was buried at Okene Muslims Cemetery.
Sheikh Yahaya Tajudeen was an epitome of humility, tolerance, simplicity, as he was accommodating. He was a true advocate of hard work, sacrifice ,self confidence, honesty, charity, prudence and focus (like Anabi Yusuf ). All of his contributions were from the heart ,without a need for fanfare. His Leadership style is worthy of emulation for those who intend righteous life in towns and cosmopolitan cities .
There is no better tribute one can pay to these pioneer Imam except to continue praying for his departed soul. May Allah grant him more nuur in his grave and reunite us with him in Al-Janah Firdaus .
Credit:Late Ustaz Yoonus Abdullah (May Allah accept his efforts as Sadaqatu-Jariah and grant him Al-Janah Firdaus).
Compiled by Salahudeen Ustaz Yunus
17th May, 2020