LAGOS – Praising him as a philanthropist and great contributor to the growth of Islam in Nigeria, Muslim leaders and groups have paid tributes to Alhaji AbdulAzeez Arisekola-Alao, saying he has left a big vacuum within the Muslim community that will be hard to fill.
"Inna liLlaahi wa inna ilaehi raajihun - from Allah we came and to Him is our return!," Dr Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, Secretary General of Jama'atu Nasril Islam (JNI), an umbrella body for Muslims, exclaimed on phone when OnIslam.net broke the news to him Wednesday afternoon.
JNI said his death represents a huge loss for the Muslim community nationwide, describing him as "one of the most distinguished Muslim leaders from the southwest and Nigeria as a whole."
Obviously fighting tears at the hearing of the news, Aliyu added: "It is very shocking to hear the demise of one of the most important leaders of Islam in southwest in particular and Nigeria in general.”
He added that the loss of Arisekola-Alao is a loss to the whole Muslim ummah.
“A distinguished elder statesman and a Muslim philanthropist who lived for Islam and Muslims. He workers tirelessly for the unity of the Muslim ummah,” he said.
"His contributions to Islam in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. We sympathize with the immediate family. We condole with them, and we pray that Allah's maghfira and rahmah (forgiveness and blessing) be with him. And our condolences indeed go to the entire Nigerian Muslim community."
Chief Imam of Nawair-ud-Deen Society of Nigeria, Lagos zone, Sheikh Abdul Mojeed Ayinla, described Alhaji Arisekola-Alao as rare among the Islamic personalities in the country.
“His death is indeed a great loss to Islam and it will take time to get someone who can act in his capacity. May Allah forgive him, have mercy on him and grant his household and the Muslims in general the fortitude to bear the great loss,” Sheikh Ayinla said.
National Amir (President) of The Companion, Alhaji Musibau Oyefeso, said Arisekola-Alao “was a very successful businessman, a dutiful husband, responsible father, passionate community and religious leader.”
“He was highly generous and always played key role in who governs Oyo state,” Oyefeso added.
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) Director Prof Ishaq Akintola said Arisekola-Alao was a "shining model for all and a leader of exemplary qualities", describing his departure as leaving a big vacuum in the Nigerian society.
"Arisekola-Alao was a deeply religious man. He was a lover and promoter of peace. He was a philanthropist nulli secundus, a humanist primus inter pareil and a patriot numero uno. He was kind to a fault and he was also a very pious man,” Akintola said in a statement obtained by OnIslam.net.
“As a committed Muslim, he single-handedly funded the propagation of Islam in the whole South-West of Nigeria for several decades. As a philanthropist, his generosity knew no religious or ethnic bounds. He fed thousands on a daily basis without asking for anything in return. He was a true friend of the poor. He loved the city of Ibadan with immense passion, Oyo State with great zeal and Nigeria with an unusual patriotism.
“Unlike many other wealthy Nigerians, he rose from a very poor background. With little education, he built a great business empire by dint of hard work and transparency. His business acumen and fame started manifesting from the 50s.”
Professor Akintola said the deceased has left a big vacuum that would be difficult to fill.
“MURIC commiserates with the Sultan of Sokoto and President General of the NSCIA, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, the Muslim Ummah of Nigeria and the Nigerian people at large,” he said.
“We pray that Almighty Allah will forgive Aare Arisekola-Alao, shower His Mercy on him and grant him Al-Jannah al-firdaus. We also pray that Allah will give his family the strength to bear this great loss."
In a community built on tribal loyalties, Secretary General the Al-Mu’minaat, an umbrella body for Muslim women nationwide, Kudirat Adedeji, described Alhaji Arisekola-Alao as a detribalized Nigerian leader.
“The late Islamic leader and business tycoon not only contributed to Islam but to the development of Nigeria as a country,” she told OnIslam.net.
“Alhaji Arisekola-Alao’s belief in the human rights and freedom of information led him to publish the now defunct Monitor Newspaper.
“An advocate of peace, he co-chaired a committee to facilitate understanding between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria in 1990 and has since been part of various efforts at ending intolerance in the country.”
The Al-Muminaat said the man also contributed to youth development through numerous grants, youth employments and sponsorship of sporting activities.
“We hope that the Muslim community in Nigeria will be able to replace Alhaji Arisekola-Alao with yet another leader that will touch the lives of all and assist the Nigerian government in bringing peace and stability to the country, especially at this trying period," she added.
Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN) Lagos State Area Unit Amir (President) Kamil Kalejaiye has also expressed grief over the loss of the philanthropist leader.
“He was an exemplary character. He gave to the known and the unknown. Yet he never advertised his generosity on the pages of newspapers,” Kalejaiye said.
“He did this every day. He is one of those Muslim philanthropists who gave without looking for any recompense from fellow human beings. He spent so much on the path of Allah"
OnIslam.net's efforts to get the comment of the NSCIA - for which the deceased served as deputy president general until his death - were not successful.
Findings show that both the NSCIA president-general Sultan Sa'ad Abubakar III and the Secretary-General Prof Ishaq Oloyede have travelled to London to join the family of Arisekola.
His remains are expected to be flown to Nigeria later today for burial according to Islamic tradition.
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