Mallam Modu Njokumami--one of two great scholarly titles in Borno



Turbaning of every traditional titleholder in the millennium-old Borno Emirate Council is conducted before the Shehu at the palace, which is the overall seat of power, except for two positions: the Chief Imam and Mallam Modu Njokumami.

Traditionally, the heirs of these two classical positions are turbaned at the premises of their houses, indicating the longstanding respect the emirate has for scholarship and learning.

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On February 6, the council has turbaned a new Mallam Modu Njokumami, maintaining the same tradition.

The title is taken from the name of a 19th-century Borno scholar, Mu’allim Muhammad Ben Yusuf El-Komami, popularly known as Mallam Modu Njokumami (RA) or simply Mallam, student and companion of El-Kanemi.

The person now appointed into the office is Umar Usman Jaafar.

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Jaafar, also a direct descendant of El-Komami, was turbaned following the death of his brother, who held the title.

Mallam Modu Njokumami, was considered as the Grand Qadi (judge) who also oversees some Islamic activities and services of the palace.

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According to a historian, Waziri Laminu, familiar with the tradition of the council, presently, the 'major function of Mallam Modu Njokumami is the interpretation of sharia at the shehu's palace.'

His other responsibilities are presiding over Moduwa, a ritual of Maulidun Nabi, commemorating the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). He also leads the opening of the daily activity of the Shehu's parliament with prayers.

The new Mallam Mallam Umar Usman Jaafar, is a staff of the Nigerian Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF).

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Greeting the Shehu of Borno, Alh. Abubakar Ibn Umar Garbai Al-amin Elkanami

Some of the associates of the new Mallam Modu Njokumam, who spoke to YERWA EXPRESS NEWS, have described his appointment as a great pick.

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'Mallam Jaafar is a staff of the Petroleum Equalisation Fund working directly under me. I saw this leadership quality very long in him. He is a very easy going staff who is intelligent, calculated and straightforward.

'That he is given this position, is not a surprise to me. My prayers is that may Almighty Allah give him the wisdom to go ahead with this position.' Mohammed Olakunle Mustapha, his head of department at PEF, commented, among others.

Speaking to this paper, after the turbaning, Jaafar thanked Almighty God; the Shehu of Borno, Alh Abubakar Ibn Umar Garbai Al-amin El-Kanemi; his family members and the entire people of Borno.

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He promised to do everything in his capacity to live up to his task. He also noted that his doors are always open to ensure the upliftment of his people.

More about Mu’allim Muhammad Ben Yusuf El-Komami

Mr. Laminu, a historian and the former director of Trans-Saharan Studies University of Maiduguri (1990-1992) said: Mallam Modu Njokumami, is from Al-Njokumami. He was from the Ajidi tribe of Kanumbu.

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'Among the respected scholars of international repute that Borno produced in the 19th Century was Mu’allim Muhammad Ben Yusuf El-Komami, popularly known as Mallam Modu Njokumami (RA) or simply Mallam.

'He was was one of El-Kanemi’s students and a close friend of Shaikh Umar al-Futi, who he had the privilege of hosting when he visited Kukawa during El-Kanemi’s reign. He served as the Grand Qadi under Shehu Umar bin El-Kanemi,' Waziri explained.

Further elaborating, he cited a German explorer, Gustav Nachtigal, who had prior information on Njokumami before coming to Borno, describing him:

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'This gentleman was primarily the interpreter of the religious law, the sharia, and the chief judge, an office which according to the universal opinion he administered with integrity and conscientiousness.

'He enjoyed a reputation far and wide for great learning, and possessed a library, the richness of which was without equal from Khartoum to Timbuktu.

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'His instruction in jurisprudence and grammar attracted to Kuwa (Kukawa) from all the countries of the Sudan, even among students, to be sure, only a few were sufficiently advanced in their studies to be able to follow his lectures…

'His dress was clean and simple, as befits a man of religion, he wore a red tarbush (Zawa Kalawus, Dara)… and talked about Turkey and the European countries, their power, their industries and their culture, with an expert knowledge, which in his circumstances was considerable, and which he seemed modestly to parade before the people around him.

Mr. Laminu further said the high level of exposure of Njotkumami, and other Borno scholars of his time, and their interest in contemporary developments in the academic world, can also be seen in the surprise shown by the colonialists when they found the ulema of Kukawa in the Shehu's Palace, discussing the astronomical theory of Claudius Ptolemy that prevailed at the time.

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Mallam had a great influence on the institution of chieftaincy. 'As a result, only the chief imam and himself were turbaned in their own houses: all other titleholders were turbaned by the shehu in the palace.

'This is because of his great importance and attachment to the title by the Ulamas and political class, as such he is turbaned in his house,' the historian said.

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