Sheikh Zaria: A Devoted Cleric Short-circuited By Terrorists’ Bullets
Sheikh Muhammad Auwal Adam Albani Zaria, born on September 27, 1960 was brutally assassinated by Boko Haram terrorists alongside one of his wives in Zaria, on their way back home after attending their usual evening Tafsir lecture in the city. Before his gruesome murder that fateful Saturday, February 1, the Sheikh was teaching and conducting different lessons at his school in Gaskiya layout, Zaria.
In the evening, he delivered his organised lecture at Markazu-Salafiyya, Maje Road in Tudun Wada, Zaria at about 8:15-9:30 p.m. from the Book of Sahihul Bukhari, in the chapter of Hajj. It was after this that he drove himself with one of his wives and some of his children.
Albani did not like moving on convoys and always drove himself. This must have been capitalised on by his assailants as they waylaid him on his way after the lecture at Tudun Wada. He stopped over at a Central Store along the Zaria Gaskiya where he did some shopping and as he got to Magume junction, the killers overtook him. First, they smashed his windscreen, shot his wife. When the Sheikh saw this, he came down and confronted them. He could not just sit back in his car and got killed without making any effort. This must-have annoyed them as the terrorists started shooting wildly.
He fell while reciting Laila ha illallahu. It was someone who lived close by that rushed out and took him to the nearest hospital at Wusasa (Saint Luke’s). All through the journey, he was reciting Laila ha illallahu. Inna lillahiwa’innailaihi-raji’unn (from Allah we are and to Him we shall certainly return). Sheikh Albani Zaria was shot when he was close to his residence about a kilometre away along Gaskiya Layout in Zaria. The wife and son died on the spot of the shooting while the Sheikh was rushed to hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Boko Haram Leader, Abubakar Shekau, claimed responsibility for killing Sheikh Albani. His burial was attended by many Islamic scholars from across Nigeria. Among them were Sheikh Muhammad Bin Uthman, Sheikh Aminu Ibrahim Daurawa, Sheikh AliyuAbdullahi Telex, Sheikh SalihuAbubakar, and Sheikh Tukur Almannar, among hundreds of other Muslims.
The renowned Islamic cleric gave up the ghost on February 1, 2014. He specialised in the field of Hadith, Islamic Law, mass communications, telecommunications engineering, and ICT. He was a prominent Islamic scholar and the leader of the Salafis movement in Nigeria. He was a tailor at his earlier stage of life of which he usually called himself (specialised tailor). He was the first scholar to describe the word “Salafiyah” to the generation of scholars and students of Islamic denomination in Nigeria. Albani was considered by many contemporary Nigerian scholars as to the greatest Salafi scholar in Nigeria.
Early life and Education
He had his origins in Kano, a metropolitan city but was born and bred in Muchia Sabon Gari, Zaria. He had his primary education in the area before he moved to Barewa College. He studied Mass Communications at Bayero University, Kano, and later obtained a degree in Information Technology from the Federal University of Technology Yola, in Adamawa State. Before his death, he was a post-graduate student at the Department of Electrical Engineering at the ABU, Zaria.
His father, Abu Abdurrahman, hails from Kano. The Sheikh is survived by three wives and over 20 children. He was the proprietor of the Albaniy Science Academy in the Gaskiya layout, Zaria. He was also the leader of DaarulHadeethis-Salafiyyah School and delivered weekly lectures at Markazu-Salafiyya Centre in Tudun Wada, Zaria.
Apart from his teaching in Zaria, Sheikh Albani used to visit other states and countries for preaching. This was in addition to his enormous study into Islamic Sciences especially Hadith, having spent decades studying hundreds of books of hadith and teaching the same. His vast knowledge and authority in Northern Nigeria led him to adopt the nickname of”Albani”, after the famous Muhammad Nasiruddin al-Albani. His students, many of whom are erudite scholars now, are spread all over the country, especially the Northern States and particularly from the states of Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Plateau, Bauchi States, and other Northern and Southern Nigeria, as well as some Western African countries.
In a tribute titled, Sheikh Albani: Legacy Beyond Dying, published in 2014, a writer, Mahmud Yabo, said, “Nigeria is ironically a country presently not trapped in war but whose internal security situation has, largely due to institutional collapse and the dearth of competent leadership, grossly deteriorated to the extent that criminals like kidnappers, armed robbers and murderers have turned its once serene and peaceful cities and towns into a terror-stricken population. The recent proliferation of gunmen, attacking innocent people including women and children in broad daylight, suggests that killers have become more grotesquely determined in carrying out their dastardly act of bloodletting. Some were killed in their sleep; some in mosques and churches while in communion with their Lord. More worrisome is the fact that most of the people killed were the poor who had already been denied their share in the nation’s wealth by their rulers.
“With exactly one month into 2014, and in what appeared to be the killers’ new year bloody ‘gift’ to the Nigerian Muslims community, the gruesome murder, February 1, of a renowned Islamic cleric, Sheikh Muhammad AuwalAlbani along with his family by unknown gunmen in his hometown of Zaria was an indication that insecurity has continued to rear its ugly head at an alarming rate in the country. Before his death, the prominent Islamic scholar was a leader of the Salafiyya movement, an Islamic reformation movement advocating strict adherence to the teachings of the Qur’an and the Sunnah per the understanding of the pious predecessors (Salafus-Salih), the first three Islamic generations. Like all other Wahabbi-oriented movements, the Salafiyya movement seeks to ‘clean’ Islam of all the innovations that later generations of Muslims have introduced into its doctrines, teachings, and practices.
“The word ‘Albani’ was later added, by himself, to his original name (Muhammad Auwal) and used as a pseudonym out of respect for and admiration of one of the twentieth century leading Islamic thinkers and unarguably the number one authority in the science of Hadith (Musdalahul Hadith), the late Allama Muhammad Nasiruddeen Albani. In trying to follow in the footsteps of the first Albani, the late Sheikh Albani (the second) pursued Islamic scholarship with that great avidity to have been recognized as one of the best Nigerian Islamic scholars in the fields of Hadith, Tauheed and Aqeedah.”
Yabo further added, ‘’in addition to that, the late Sheikh, also a renowned engineer, was no mediocre in the areas of western education. Before his demise, he was undergoing a doctorate programme in engineering at the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. He was an ideal product of both Islamic and western education who preferred education and intellectualism to militancy. He was also an embodiment of a needed balance between extremism and religious compromise. All his numerous lectures, discourses, and symposiums, which have been recorded in audio and video formats, were mostly centered on religious purity, moderation, education, and good leadership.
“Not only that, his unwavering courage of telling truth to power, and of saying his beliefs and convictions even if they would not be entertained was the most exceptional quality that the Sheikh possessed. And I believe that it was that ingrained courage, more than any other thing, which attracted him admirers and adversaries alike. Nonetheless, he was deeply loved by his disciples, colleagues, and associates, and whoever had taken time to observe his radiating intelligence and to listen to his mesmerising eloquence.
“Many people have been curious about his killers’ identity and the motives behind the killing. More curiosity abounds on what must have warranted the swiping away of those souls in one blow like that. The Sheikh was obviously the main target; but unless the timing was wrong and the gunmen were amateurs (which I think otherwise), his family could not have been killed accidentally. People have already started speculating and insinuating which I consider premature, baseless, and unfounded pending the conclusion of the police investigation.
“But what his assailants need to know is that they only killed the Sheikh but not his legacy, for his teachings will continue to be an illuminating spiritual guide for millions of Muslims in Nigeria and beyond; let the culprits understand that the Sheikh has bequeathed a sacred legacy beyond dying, by making his 54 years on earth beneficial to humanity. And after all, the Sheikh died for what he had hoped for dying for.
“With this, there is no doubt that insecurity in Nigeria is the woeful failure of leadership because the first responsibility of the government as the custodian of the nation’s security through its various institutional security apparatuses is the protection of life and property of the citizenry. If the leadership in the land is incapable of performing this first-line function properly, then there is no justification for its continued being in place. Nigeria is fast becoming a ‘jungle republic’ where the powerful and the rich command more than seventy percent security, while the poor and the majority having zero percent protection. It is therefore imperative that the government undertake holistic overhauling of security machinery for optimal performance, especially as we approach elections period. And also all cases of murders should be properly investigated and the perpetrators are dealt with accordingly if Nigeria must continue being called a nation (not a jungle).”