Remembering Moalin Abdirahman

On the afternoon of 14 March 2019, a former Madarasa-mate Abdirahman Waare called to inform me that Moalin Abdirahman had passed away in Buulaburte several minutes ago. My brother and mother also called me shortly after to tell me about the departure of our great teacher.

Moalin Abdirahman Muhumed Ali was ill for years but his health condition deteriorated in the last several months. In 2018, doctors in Mogadishu diagnosed that he had liver cancer that spread across many parts of the body. Doctors said that they can no longer treat his cancer.

He was a man of faith. He did not panic, and he was treated in Mogadishu for months using natural medication. His health condition improved, and he looked like he was healthy. He went to Buulaburte to spend the remaining time of his life with his family.

When I called his phone last month to ask about his situation, his wife received my call, and she told me that Moalin Abdirahman was not able to talk. That was when I knew that my Qur’an teacher was in a tough situation.

Moalin Abdirahman was a great man who devoted his whole life to teaching the Holy Qur’an to the young generation. When I joined his Madarasa in early 2000, he became a close friend. I finished the memorization of the Holy Qur’an in one and a half years. I did not need to restart the study (naqtiin) because I learnt all the Qur’an versus by heart in that first phase. Thanks to Moalin Abdirahman’s tireless efforts and dedication to motivate and guide us to memorize the Holy Qur’an in a short period of time.

He was one of the greatest people I have ever known. He used to appreciate my efforts and dedication. Before I finish the Qur’an memorization, there were occasions where a group of individuals (most of them from a neighborhood village called Jameeco) came together, divided themselves into groups and recited the Qur’an by heart (subac). One group was about to start from Surah Al Baqarah and the other group from Surah Al-Kahf. I went to the Madrasa’s small mosque that afternoon to be part of the Qur’an recitation. Since I had not finished the Qur’an at that time, I joined the second group. Moalin Abdirahman was in the first group. He was not aware of my presence. After finishing the reading (subac), he saw me during the Maqrib prayer. He couldn’t believe I was there. He appreciated my presence so much and gathered all the participants of that Qur’an recitation and asked to read Surah Al-Fatihah for me. He was proud to see his student in that special gathering.

My teacher was principled and meritocratic in his heart. His actions and decisions were a testimony. Islamic holy books were once donated to him. And in an afternoon, he distributed some books to the best-performing students. I was not present that afternoon, but he thought that he gave me one. There was a second chance of distributing some holy books to those with the fewest mistakes in a Qur’an recitation (subac) contest. I won one, and he said this is your second holy book, right? When I informed him that this is the first, he told me that he thought that he had given me one.

I also used to accompany him in subac-soon, Qur’an recitation during the Holy month of Ramadan especially in the afternoon. He also used to add me to a team of disciples (seven in total) who used to accompany him when reciting Qur’an for families. This later was a rare occasion where we were given nice food and some money (between 10,000 to 20,000 Somali Shilling) after finishing the Qur’an reading. His selection of the students who accompanied him was always based on student’s qualities.

Moalin Abdirahman’s role was not specific to the Madarasa. When Sheikh Omar Faruq came to Buulaburte to start Arabic Grammar (Nahwa), Prophetic Traditions (Hadiths), and Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqi), he went directly to our home and asked my mother for me to join the disciples. My mother accepted, and I studied Nahwa, Hadiths, and Fiqi from Sheikh Omar for two years. It was an extraordinary opportunity for me, and I could not have benefited from the Sheikh without Moalin Abdirahman’s support.

In 2005, a Kuwaiti woman sponsored the construction of our Madarasa and mosque. A vast Madarasa and mosque were constructed. At the opening ceremony, Moalin Abdirahman assigned me to prepare a lecture in Arabic. After presenting my lecture about the rights and obligations of the neighbor (xuquuqul jaar) at the ceremony, which was video recorded to send to the women that funded the construction, he asked me to become a Khatib(especially the Friday Khutba) for the newly constructed mosque. It was an offer that I sadly had to decline as I was preparing myself to go to Beledweyne for secondary school education.

Although I left Buulaburte in mid-2006 to pursue high school, I used to visit the Madarasa and Moalin Abdirahman when I come to the city. The Madrasa students had a uniform and he used to say that students studying the Holy Qur’an should dress well and be clean. He was challenging the narrative that students dress well when they go to the school but wear dirty clothes for the Qur’anic madrasas, a practice that is still prevalent in Somalia.

He was a natural poet, but he did not tell that to many people. He once recited for me a poem he composed in Arabic when Ethiopian troops entered Somalia in late 2006, cursing the Ethiopians. He said that after feeling the difficulty, these words came out of his mouth.

When my wife was in labor three years ago, I called him and asked his prayers as we were expecting to get our first baby. He started reciting the Holy Quran that night and did not stop until our baby boy arrived at dawn.

Moalin Abdirahman produced thousands of students who can recite the Holy Qur’an by heart. His students have opened madarasas in many Somali cities teaching the Holy script to our young generation. His children are the teachers of the same Madarasa he founded in Buulaburte. He left us, but his legacy will live on forever.

Buulaburte and its people will remember Moalin Abdirahman for his noble contribution. He did not get a national commemoration, but surely he received thousands of prayers and supplications from his disciples, parents, friends and acquaintances around the world. We will always remember you. And may Allah reward you with his Jannatul Firdowsa Al-Aclaa. Aameen.

Mahad Wasuge

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