A competition with a septugenerian: A tribute to Alh. Ali Ahmed by Abdulhamid Al-Gazali



I have lost a big part of my every day motivation. Moving forward, what I consider my weekly dose of motivation is gone, and forever so. I am writing this tribute only because I want to give an earthly account--from what is discernible to men and what I know of him out of that--that Alh. Ali Ahmed had indeed lived a life of a true, pious and submissive servant of Allah and lover of His prophet, Muhammad, sallahu alayhi wa sallam.

For him, and his like, even I had been driven several times to think that I am weird. In fact, I have stopped thinking about that now, because I have admitted wholeheartedly that I am. In a world subdued by TV and smartphones, where Hollywood and its proteges have overthrown the institution of family, it must be, even for adults now, weird to have and keep role models outside that marketplace of indecency, social aberration and complete immortality.

If I am not in the whole weird, then I am, at least, on how Alh. Ali Ahmed became one of my role models and a constant source of motivation. For the record, our relationship had never gone beyond greetings. All my attempts to go into his presence failed. The last attempt was last eid. Myself and a few of my colleagues--Muhammad Adamu Chul, Abubakar Muhammad, Usman Mohammed and Yunusa Bunu, drew up a list of people to whom we had wanted to pay sallah homages, including him. He was one of about four or so we could not visit, for no any reason, I now have to admit, other than the fact that we were never destined to meet in the way I had wanted.

About four months ago, I was compelled to visit him. The reason is why I am writing this tribute! As a matter of fact, I pray Jumma'at in Mohammad Ali Jumma'at Masjid, GRA, whenever I am in Maiduguri. He did same until some months ago. I don't know why, but I love to be the first in the mosque every Friday. I would be there as early as 11:00am.

Interestingly, he was always one of the two people who competed with me on that. Whenever anyone beats me to being the first, it was always one of them. I am many folds younger than them. For instance, even Modu, his second or third son, who became known to me through my friend IG, is many years older than me. As such, you can imagine the age difference.

The two of them always sat in the first row, in the extreme right. I am always three rows behind them. These are our permanent spots, and I think, because we were almost always the first three, whenever anyone else found those spots vacant, it was certain we were either not in town or would not be praying in the mosque for unusual reasons.

I don't know for them, but seeing them every Friday gives me an extraordinary joy and motivation--joy and motivation found in nothing else. In their faces, their happiness was also always apparent. From the way they shook my hands, they may have felt the same. Alh. Ali Ahmed's love for the prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, I stand to give witness, was all over him. He had always worn white. He had always smiled. Despite being as young as his fourth son or so, he would always come down to greet me before he moved to take his spot. And when I stood to greet him, he would insist I remained seated. What a humble man.

After he had said his nawafil, he would go straight to the donation box to put his donation. He would then pick the Holy Quran. He would recite till sermons begin at 1:45pm. You see, all I want to say is that I am a witness to all these! Probably, I may have witnessed only a little; for IG told me last night that despite being most probably in his 70s, he had also learned that the man would recite the whole Holy Quran at least three times a month. Add all these to a decadeslong career in teaching and public service.

My visit four months ago stemmed from the fact that I had stopped seeing him in the mosque. Of course, my longing to see his face increased each week. It went on for over three months. I could no longer bear it, as is the case with this kind of heavenly inspired sublime connection. I then decided to visit him, on the calling of my essence.

Very sadly we could not meet even though he was at home. I told his gate man, a Tuareg, why I had come over. He assured me that Alh. Ali Ahmed was well; except that he had changed his Jumma'ah mosque to Indimi Mosque. I thus, with the relief, left a note, along with my phone number, with a promise that I would return again. Immediately he received the note, he placed a call and confirmed what the gate man had told me. However, he added that he had traveled to Egypt with his wife for her treatment and then in-between to Saudi Arabia to perform the lesser hajj or so.

About two months after that, he came to the Mohammed Ali Masjid once. Even if he had come some other time, for me, that was our last meeting! You can therefore imagine my disappointment at not visiting him during the last eid! You can imagine the gravity of my loss! In a world already taken hostage by a dajalic culture and short of the needed moral compasses to guide an already confused young people to lead a responsible life, it is truly painful that people like him, who have earned the moral crown in his own right, are leaving us. But no matter how big the gravity of your pain is, you find consolation in the fact that there are only a handful who are as pious and as godly! May Allah forgive him and admit him into Jannatul Firdaus.

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