BY DEMOLA AKINYEMI
Exactly 49 days after burial, the corpse of Mr Ahmad Adekunle Abdulsalam, a member of staff of the College of Education, Oro in Irepodun local government area of Kwara State, who was killed by lightening on September 21,2017, was exhumed, last Tuesday, and mysteriously found still fresh.
It was promptly removed from the Christian cemetery and taken to the Muslim cemetery along Yidi Road where it was reburied according to Islamic rites.
On that fateful day, Abdulsalam, aged 47, who hailed from Ilesa in Osun State, was said to have dashed out of the Registry Department of the college, where he worked, to get a document in the Examination Office nearby during a down pour when he was struck by lightning and he died instantly.
After the death, traditional worshippers in the town were said to have insisted that, in order to avoid mysterious deaths in the victim’s family, his corpse must be buried without removing the clothes he was wearing when the tragedy struck, while also performing some rites.
The traditionalists, it was learnt, requested for N100, 000 from the family for the rites, which was promptly paid.
Thereafter, the corpse was taken to the Muslim cemetery in Ilorin for burial but was rejected following Abdulsalam’s family’s alleged refusal to allow the dead body undergo prayer and washing in lslamic way.
The corpse was then taken to the Christian cemetery at Okeose, Ilorin and buried.
But dissatisfied with the unceremonious burial of the victim, on Saturday, Oct
14, almost one month after the death, hundreds of members of the Ilorin Muslim community converged at the Muslim cemetery in the town to observe a funeral prayer in absentia for the deceased. The prayer, which lasted less than ten minutes, was led by a former Grand Khadi of Kwara State, Justice Salihu Olohuntoyin-Mohamned.
Mohammed, while speaking at the program, said the prayer was permissible under lslamic injunctions.
He said since there were claims that the victim died as a Muslim, there was need to perform the funeral prayer for him in spite of the non-availability of the corpse.
Also speaking at the occasion, the Coordinator of llorin Muslim cemetery and a lecturer of lslamic studies at the University of llorin, Dr Abubakar Aliagan, said the prayer was necessary since the deceased died as a Muslim.
According to him, efforts to exhume the corpse of Abdulsalam for reburial had proved abortive as nobody could identify his grave at the Okeose Christian cemetery.
“We are conducting the funeral prayer without the corpse being exhumed which is purely allowed under lslamic law”.
At that point, the llorin Muslim community signalled its readiness to find the corpse for reburial.
Briefing Sunday Vanguard later on the decision, Aliagan explained that the corpse was initially rejected for burial at the llorin Muslim cemetery on September 21 following the refusal of traditionalists to allow the dead body undergo prayer and bath in an lslamic way.
The university don said the llorin Muslim community, following the decision for reburial, had secured a court order, the approval of the state government and police permit to carry out the exhumation of the corpse.
On whether the family of the deceased had been briefed on the decision, he said the family was not part of the arrangement since its members had succumbed to the instructions of traditionalists on earlier burial rites.
“We as Muslims have a moral duty to honour our brother who died as a Muslim but we were initially incapacitated when his family and the management of the state College of Education, Oro allowed traditionalists to take over the corpse”, Aliagan said. The corpse was re-buried last Tuesday at the Muslim cemetery, Ilorin.
Before the reburial, a huge crowd of Muslims had stormed the Christian cemetery where Abdulsalam’s corpse was exhumed.
It was learnt that officials of Kwara State Ministry of Health performed the
exhumation of the corpse after pathologists from the University of
Ilorin Teaching Hospital rejected a request to do so.
The leader of Islamic clerics in Ilorin, Alhaji Abubakar Aliagan, who led the exercise, was said to have asked his aides to bring sacks, with which to pack the decomposing body, along.
But the crowd was shocked when they saw that the remains were still intact. An eye witness said the corpse was immediately wrapped in a white cloth and taken to the Muslim cemetery in Ilorin for reburial.
‘Not a family affair’
Abubakar told the crowd that the reburial was a major triumph for Islam.
He dismissed the claim in some quarters that whoever was involved in the reburial of Abdulsalam would die prematurely.
The leader of the Muslim clerics, who is also a renowned radio commentator, said the victim died as a Muslim regardless of the circumstance and it behoved on the Muslim community to accord him a befitting burial.
His words, “The deceased brother, I didn’t know him and I don’t believe we even met when he was alive. But what concerned us is that we were instructed by the holy Prophet Muhammed that it is incumbent upon Muslims, who survive a deceased, to see him buried according to Islamic rites. It is not a family affair. Once a Muslim dies, it is no longer a family affair. The responsibility rests on the Muslim community that he should be given a befitting burial.
“The brother we are talking about died 49 days ago when he was struck by lightning during a downpour and traditionalists were brought in because, according to Yoruba belief, which became the domineering factor during this period, some traditional rituals must be performed on him, which they did.
“And we Muslims insisted that he should be buried according to Islamic rites. He was taken to an unknown place where he was buried and since then we have been on it. We must say that we received the cooperation of the police. They gave us the necessary papers for the exhumation. Pathologists at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital rejected our request to carry out the exhumation following which the Kwara State Health Commissioner took the matter up and everybody cooperated.
“We had problem identifying the grave where this brother was buried. We appealed to those who initially buried him to show us the place, but our appeal fell on deaf ears. But as God would have it, where he was buried was the Christian cemetery, and what we know Christians for is that they bury their corpses in caskets.
“When we went, initially, two weeks ago, for the exhumation, those who were supposed to show us the place were showing the wrong place. So, after we examined about three graves, we found out that the corpses there were buried in caskets, and this particular person we are talking about was not buried in casket. But we knew the area where the burial took place, the only problem is that we could not identify the exact grave and it is not hygienic for someone to be digging all the graves, simply because we wanted to identify a grave of someone who was buried after he was killed by lightning and exhume the body.
“As you know that there is Nigerian factor in everything, those who were not ready to show us the exact grave, their belief is that if they pinpointed the grave, there was the likelihood that they too would be struck by lightning and die. They called this ‘akufa’, so they were afraid. None of the members of the family who witnessed the burial cooperated with us.
“But as Allah would have it, they showed us the area. So, we went into action and the action produced the exact grave we were looking for. We then alerted those who would exhume it for us.
“We wanted to bury him around 7am because we believed the body must have decomposed. But when the corpse was exhumed, we found that the body was fresh and intact. So, we decided to delay the burial till 10am so as to attract more people to come and see and witness that Allah preserved the body of this man despite all the noise surrounding his death.
“Initially, there was resistance due to the fact people believe, according to the traditionalists, that they would die. But, according to Islam, we shouldn’t entertain such fear. So, it is that strong faith that we preached to our fellow Muslims. That is how we discovered the grave and we are happy that we met him without the body decomposing, and we did what Islam demanded from us on him”.