Unjust Accusation of Professor Abubakre: Setting the Record Straight

Unjust Accusation of Professor Abubakre: Setting the Record Straight

By Fatima Abubakre

This piece is written to clarify the baseless accusations made against Professor Razaq ‘Deremi Abubakre. Having the privilege of being his wife, I am able to observe my husband’s dedication to his work as an esteemed scholar and the incorruptibility of his character. Hence, with utmost sincerity and the pursuit of truth, I shall share the following account. Recently, a letter was made public which does not accurately represent my husband’s character, who was involved in a significant project- the review of the translation of the Qur’an into Yoruba language.

It should be noted that Yoruba Muslims did not prioritise translating the Qur’an into Yoruba until the second half of the 20th century. Some of these factors may have been due to the perceived association of Yoruba characters with missionary evangelism. Consequently, the Yoruba translation of the Qur’an was not met with resistance from any organised group. Professor Razaq Deremi Abubakre, the first Muslim Professor of Arabic Literature, hails from South-west Nigeria, the same region as the first Professor of Arabic Studies from Yoruba land, Isaac Ogunbiyi, a Christian.

In the 1960s, Yoruba Muslims made their first significant effort, inspired by the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, and Kamil Sherif, the Jordanian ambassador to Nigeria. The trio of Imam Imam Lawal Augusto, I.S. Akanni and H.Y. Dindey, based in Lagos, took part in the translation project to convert the Quran into Yoruba. Another activity undertaken in 1972 was the proofreading of the translated text by Abdul-Lateef Ahmadu (Adekilekun), Khidr Mustapha, Isa Ade Bello and Abdul-Wahab Sanusi, who were studying at academic institutions in Egypt and Saudi Arabia at that time.

In January 1973, Shaykh Kamalu-deen El-Adabiyy chaired a committee that reviewed the Qur’an. Shaykh Adam Abdullah Al-Ilory, a Yoruba scholar of Arabic and Islamic Studies and the founder of the Markazu’t-ta limi l-Arabi al-lslami, which was based in Abeokuta before being moved to Agege, Lagos, was the Secretary. Shaykh Burhanu-deen Sanusi Alaka, Shaykh Abdur-Rahman Salahu-d-deen El-Adabiyy, Shaykh Muhammad Raji Slaiman El-Imam and Alhaj Musa Aliy Yahya Ajetunmobi were also members.

Notably, Professor Abubakre, a protégé of the late Shaykh Al-Ilory, headed the review committee for the latest project, which was commissioned by the Mudir Markaz, Sheikh Habebeullahi Al-Ilory, one of the scions of the late Shaykh Al-Ilory. The other members of the committee included: Dr Y.K. Jimoh, Prof. AGAS Oladosu, Justice I.A. Haroon, Prof. H.I. Abdur-Raheem, Prof. S.A. Abdussalam, Prof. B.O. Yusuf, Prof. K. Balogun, Prof. I.A. Abubakar, Prof. M.M. Jimba, Prof. M. Muhibbu-Din, Justice Abdullateef Kamalud-Din, Prof. A.M. Usman ath-Thaqafi (late), Prof. S. Jamiu, Prof. H.A. Abdus-Salam (late), Prof. A. Zubair, Imam Mas’ud Abdul-Ghaniyy Imam Oyo (late), Imam A. Abdus-Salam Imam Ikere, Shaykh R. Mayaleeke, Prof. A. Abdussalam, Prof. L.O. Ibraheem, Dr K.U. Gbodofu, Dr. A.B. Yusuf, Dr. A. Mahmoud Mukadam, Dr. Mrs H.F. Abubakar-Hamid, Dr. A.A. Adebisi, Dr. Momine Yousouph and Alhaj B. Al-Ameen.

The project spanned nearly four years, from January 18, 2015, to September 22 2018. Initially conducted at the Kwara State University Annex office in Ilorin, it later moved to the main campus of the University of Ilorin Language Laboratory and eventually concluded at our home, where it underwent final editing. Before writing this piece, I had the opportunity to interview some members of the committee, including Dr. M.M. Jimba of Kwara State University, Malete. Dr. Jimba noted that the relocation of the Qur’an translation meeting to the University of Ilorin main campus posed a challenge for some committee members due to the distance. Following its completion by the end of September 2018, four hard copies were produced, and they were distributed by Professor Abubakre to Mudir Markaz, Alhaji Rafiu Ebiti, Dr. Mahmoud Mukadam, the Secretary of the editorial committee and himself as the committee chairman. 

Upon my husband’s departure to the United Kingdom in January 2019 during my doctoral studies, he maintained communication with the Mudir, who expressed satisfaction with the work. Both hard and soft copies were provided to Alhaji Ebiti. Along the line, he gathered from the Mudir that he would like to subject the work to a further review by a master’s graduate in the field of Qur’an translation for his comments which Professor Abubakre, as an academic, endorsed. My husband and I returned from the UK in September 2021. The observations from the reviewer, as suggested by the Mudir, were not made available to my husband despite his continuous efforts to obtain them.

Furthermore, the allegation that Professor Abubakre published the work as his own, dignified by other names, is unfounded. Alhaji Ebiti, the financier of the project, has records of monthly emoluments paid to all active participants, including my husband, until September 2018, when the work was completed. Professor Abubakre made diligent efforts to involve the review committee members in the finalization process. He provided soft copies of the completed Qur’an to the committee members and requested their input for improvement.

In the same year, Mudir and my husband became ill, and it seemed to be a potentially fatal illness. This took away my husband’s focus from the project of the Qur’an, due to his love and care for the Mudir. He then remembered how Sharafudin Busayri in classical Arabic literature was able to obtain healing through his poem al-Burdah in praise of the Prophet Muhammad, and thought that if the Qur’an was published and distributed freely, both the Mudir and himself could also be healed.

He therefore invited a few senior members of the alumni of Markaz mentioned in that letter to consider how to go about getting the work published and getting the Mudir to know about the plan. In deference to the Mudir, Professor Abubakre asked the members present to give him a copy of the observations of the person mentioned by the Mudir to effect the corrections through the committee, but such observations were not made available to Professor Abubakre from August 16, 2022, till date.

On the same August 16, 2022, Professor Abubakre made soft copies of the completed Qur’an to all the five members who attended a meeting at Dr Y.K. Jimoh’s residence for their further input for improvement with a request for each person to work on the whole work to agree on the final correction. On 19th of November, Professor Abubakre sent a message to the Mudir thanking Allah and mentioning the project as possible key for the final healing of the Mudir. The work was then published in December 2022 under Alhaji Ebiti’s name (Ibeji Foundation) in association with Professor Abubakre’s publishing house, Daaru ’l-‘Ilm, Iwo. Alhaji Ebiti and Professor Abubakre mutually agreed to bear the costs of publishing, sharing the financial responsibility equally.

Aside from those who, for one reason or the other, were unable to carry on with them, especially when the meetings moved to the main campus of the University of Ilorin, a most Senior Professor of Islamic Law in Yorubaland, son of Ibadan, and who was not an alumnus of Markaz, Professor Zubair, former Dean of Law, University of Ilorin, a sound professor of Arabic, Professor Usman Abdussalam At-Thaqafi who is not an alumnus, Professor Lateef Onireti Ibraheem, an impeccable alumnus of Markaz, as well as Dr Abdurrasheed Mukadam, one of the most loyal persons to the Mudir was Secretary; all participated to the end.

It is evident that Professor Abubakre acted in good faith throughout the project and diligently carried out his responsibilities as the head of the review committee. The allegations made in the offending letter, accusing him of arrogance and unauthorised publication, are baseless and unfair.

Professor Abubakre is aware of the three-fold responsibilities towards the project: Firstly, his mentor, Shaykh Adam Al-Ilory was originally commissioned to do the work and he enlisted the help of numerous scholars, now represented by the Mudir. Secondly, Alhaji Ebiti, the financier of the project, is in agreement with Professor Abubakre that the work should be published after four years of completion. Lastly, is the consideration for the alumni of Markaz and other non-alumni who were faithful throughout the exercise and who should not be burdened with the purpose of the delay.

In light of these facts, it is essential to recognize Professor Abubakre’s contributions and the significant effort he invested in the completion of the work. His actions were driven by his commitment to the project and his belief in its potential benefits for the Muslim community. Therefore, the defence of my husband rests on the solid foundation of his adherence to the project’s objectives and his dedication to its successful completion. He edited and published a two-volume book of 2000 pages on his mentor titled ‘Shaykh Adam Abdullahi Al-Ilory in the Tableau of Immortality’, in 2012. No scholar could have done more to honour Shaykh Adam Abdullahi Al-Ilory than this monumental work.

Disseminating the offending letter without proper communication with my husband or allowing him to address these concerns directly is akin to the ancient Greek mythological tale of the Trojan horse. It is a deliberate attempt to inflict harm without regard for the truth. Ultimately, we believe in the ultimate judgment of Allah SWT, who knows our intentions and actions.

I share this account not as a means of retaliation but to ensure the truth prevails, as my husband’s reputation deserves redemption. May truth and justice prevail.

Dr. Abubakre writes from Ilorin, Kwara State.

Related Articles