On Tuesday, September 11, (23rd of Shawwal/1433AH), my dear beloved and caring father – Alhaji Ali Ibrahim Pantami (or Alhaji Ali Kwadon), ‘Baba’ as fondly called by his children, passed on at the Federal Medical centre, Gombe, after an illness which started in the month of Ramadhan. He died around Zuhr time (1:00 p.m.) and his funeral prayer was observed by 5:00 p.m. at the Federal Medical Centre’s Jumu’ah Masjid, with a huge crowd of people, including renowned religious scholars and respected personalities, in attendance. Similarly, Shaykh Dahiru and many others admitted that they were so impressed with the large attendance. He was subsequently buried at the new Gombe cemetery indirectly opposite the Federal College of Education (Technical) Gombe. My only statement at this critical time of trial is the prophetic reminder to a person who looses his dear one, in which he (SAW) says: “It is for Allah what He takes, and what He gives; and everything before His sight has a limited and specific period”.
It was not my initial plan to write this tribute, but I was spiritually motivated to do so as a result of some reasons which include how visitors sincerely, but emotionally praised his virtues and mentioned good things about him. In line with this, I like to narrate from the Hadiths of the Prophet. One day, some of the companions were together with the Prophet (SAW) when a funeral procession filed past. Some people were showering the dead person with encomiums. The Prophet instantly (SAW) said: “It is his right”. After a while, another funeral procession passed with, and the same people made ugly comments about the second deceased. The Prophet (SAW) subsequently said, “It is his right”. The companions demanded clarification. Then the Prophet said that in the case of the first dead person, it is his right to enter Paradise, and in the case of the second dead person, Hellfire is his right”. The Prophet (PBUH) amazingly said, “You are Allah’s witnesses on earth” (Agreed upon by Bukhari & Muslim).
The elating and inspiring message from this prophetic reminder is that, it is highly commendable to articulate, broadcast and amplify the virtues, qualities and credits of a dead person. And as extensively demonstrated and displayed by the Prophet in the prophetic reminder, amplifying and voicing out the qualities of the dead person contributes to his success in the hereafter. And for the those still living, the dead who is portrayed to have lived a good and religious life, serves as role model. This was bodly underlined by Bn Mas’ud (RA): “Symbolise those who died, because the living person has no guarantee over calamity and affliction”.
I wish to mention some virtues and qualities of my beloved and dear father as mentioned by his associates, friends and well-wishers during their condolence visits. I am also a living witness to the virtues for which my father was generously praised. What I’m writing now is only our testimony, but judgement belongs to Allah alone.
First, I like to talk about my father’s adherence to and love of truth and truthfulness. He was a man of truth by his words and actions. He tried to be truthful in whatever decision he took during his life. A close associate of his for over 50 years, Alhaji Mamman Dankade said, whenever we see truth and intended to convey it to others and found it difficult because of its bitterness, we turned back to him- Alhaji Ali Pantami and requested him to convey it, and he always did it without fear or favour. He stood by the truth and justice even against himself or his children. He used to say, “Nafadi gaskiya na mutu dalilinta yafi na fadi karya narayu a duniya” meaning “to speak the truth and die because it pleases me more than to speak lie and live in this world”. That attribute of truth is what I know about. I cannot recall a single time he lied to anybody including his spouse(s) and children.
The second attribute of my father a lot of people testified about is his commitment to and love of congregational prayers. During the condolence visit to our home, some of my dad’s bosom friends, including his mosque’s “mu’azzin” testified that, “since the establishment of their Masjid in 1990, he could not recall a single prayer that was observed while Alhaji Ali Pantami was not in the first row (Assafful-Auwal) of the prayer” as long as he was in the town, safe and sound. The “mu’azzin” of the Masjid added that, for a very long time he had considered Alhaji Ali Pantami as his watch for indicating times of obligatory prayers, for him to stand up and call the prayer. In addition to that, his neighbour, Alhaji Ibrahim Bura emphasised that, “not only in one Masjid, but in this entire neighbourhood, his passing-by was always indicating to us a beginning time for obligatory prayers.” More interestingly, until his death, he always humbled himself in prayers and observed supererogatory prayers before and after the obligatory congregational ones. He mostly, if not always, arrived the Masjid between Magrib and Isha prayers.
Until his death, my father remained committed to voluntary prayers in the night. It is an open secret to all who lived with him in the same home or compound that he was used to waking up in the night by 2:00am worshipping and supplicating till Subhi (Morning Prayer). My brothers say they can’t recall a night that passed without our father waking up by 2:00a.m and observing voluntary and supererogatory prayers. He spent most of his time in observing prayers, supplications and reciting portions of the Glorious Qur’an. It was our tradition, when we lived with him, that if anyone of us wanted to wake up in the night for prayers, assignment, reading in preparation for examination or any serious issue, we would only give him the exact time, and he would to wake each and everyone up at his requested time. We can’t remember a single day that he failed to wake us up according to our requests.
Fourthly, my father never joked with voluntary fasting. He consistently observed voluntary fasting on Thursdays and Mondays. He used to say “I am more comfortable while observing voluntary fasting than eating excellent meals”. His neighbours in the market (where he traded) would eat food on Mondays and Thursdays without inviting him to join them as all of them knew his tradition. In addition to that, he would partake in all activities with all “seriousness”, “excellence” and “consistency”. These are the three words that aptly captured his tradition in pursuing and performing his actions.
Community service was core to my father’s life on earth. When he actively joined business in the late 70s as a regional dealer of brand new Yamaha motorcyles, he single-handedly initiated the idea of electrifying Pantami ward and financed the struggle and even the project. I recall with nostalgia that he travelled repeatedly to Jos/Kaduna for the purpose until he accomplished his mission. The people of Pantami ward soon began to enjoy electricity after the project was commissioned. Then later, the project spread to other wards and communities in the entire ward. My father initiated and completed the project with his personal resources, and without any external material gain. His philanthropic activities touched the lives of many people in the 1970s and early 1980s when he was actively in business. Some of those who benefited from dad’s magnanimity paid us condolence visits during which poured encomiums on my father.
Furthermore, dad laid the foundation for the building of the pioneer primary school in Pantami ward (previously known as Malam-kuri Primary school). And after the establishment of the school, he was unanimously appointed the chairman of the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) of the school.
Dad was also known for caring and monitoring his family. Until his death, he was a very caring father who monitors his children regardless of their age or positions/status in life. Even his friends and relatives testified to his quality of caring not only for his children, but also for them. He encouraged those he knew to partake in and pursue what is good and avoid what is evil and harmful. He had always been spending whatever he had in taking care of his family. His priority in spending and caring for others was more noticeable in the areas of “education”, “health” and “food”.
The seventh attribute of my father I like to mention is his sense of appreciation for every good done to him. Until his death, he was appreciative of any little good you done to him in cash or kind. If you give money, no matter how meagre, it would supplicate for you at home for an hour. In addition to that, I remember the story he repeatedly told his family about the slippers someone gave him in 1961, a period he could afford millions of them. And even after that person died, he had continued to pay frequent visit to his family. He easily and willingly spent two thousand Naira (N2000) in the cause of appreciating a gesture of only five hundred Naira (N500).
By Allah’s grace, I saw him as a practical demonstration of “Suratul –Muminun” from verse 1-10 0f the Glorious Qur’an. After his death, I have been pondering and making comparative analysis between his actions and his associates’ tributes with the description of the Glorious Qur’an about the qualities of believers from “Qad’aflahal Muminun up to wal lathina hum ala salawaatihim yu haafizun”. In the final analysis, I believe he aptly demonstrated the qualities in words and actions.
The last but not the least about my dear father’s personality that I like to mention is that he is a great role model and a source of inspiration. He was neither a prophet nor an angel; he lived as an ordinary mortal in this world. And As a result, he was neither infallible nor impeccable. May Allah forgive his shortcomings, limitations and mistakes and may He have mercy on him.
I am extremely grateful and thankful to all those who cared to condole us with during this period of trial and grief. I am sincerely grateful to all those who had been trooping to our family house from far and near. Special thanks go to Shaykh Muhammad Sani Yahya Jingir (National Chairman of JIBWIS), who in spite of his tight schedule, compelled himself to visit us at our family house in Pantami. I thank many other respected personalities, too numerous to mention, for standing with us in our period of grief. You all are always in my supplication for such a great honour and I am most appreciative and spiritually touched. I also like to appreciate members of the many discussion groups to which I belong. Thank you too, my friends and associates on Facebook, particularly the account created and managed for me by my beloved student, Ibrahim Abu-Fadhima, titled as “Sheikh Isa Ali Pantami”. After posting the breaking news of my father’s death, as at the time of writing this mail, there are over twelve thousand, seven hundred (12,700) comments and over three thousand, five hundred (3500) likes. Many people called me on phone from within and outside the country, whilst others sent text messages or e-mailed me. I am most appreciative and my dear father needs prayers from you all now and always.
My final word to you all is “Jazaakumul-Laahu khairan”.
Isa Ali Pantami (firstname.lastname@example.org), an Islamic cleric, is a lecturer at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, and Ph.D Candidate (Computing & IT) in the United Kingdom