Barely one week after the demise of Nigeria’s first Executive President, Alhaji Shehu Usman Shagari, who was buried on the last Saturday of December 2018, the Nigerian Muslim Ummah was bombarded with another breaking news, last Saturday, of the demise of a great and exemplary woman, Hajiya Aisha Lemu.
She was reported to have stopped breathing last Saturday (January 5, 2019) after a brief illness. Her demise has come to create a new leadership vacuum for Nigerian Muslim women, the like of which a onetime American woman convert, Margaret Marcus, who adopted the name Maryam Jameelah after accepting Islam, left behind in 2012 in Pakistan after her demise.
Incidentally, the two great women were contemporaries in birth and in lifestyle. While Maryam Jameelah was born in New York City in 1934, Aisha Lemu who was named Bridget Honey at birth, was born in Poole Dorset, England in 1940. Both women coincidentally embraced Islam in the same year (1961) and their roles in Islamic propagation were as similar as if they jointly planned them.
Thus, Aisha Lemu, a Briton, became to Nigeria what Maryam Jameelah, an American, became to Pakistan in Islamic propagation even as one of them married a Pakistani and the other married a Nigerian, each being a second wife.
Like Maryam Jameelah, Aisha Lemu’s life was fully dedicated to Islamic propagation and the grooming of younger women propagators of Islam. However, the methodology she adopted for training young women in propagation of Islam in a complex country like Nigeria was unique.
As a matter of fact, Hajiya Lemu’s acceptance of Islam and her migration to Nigeria for Islamic propagation could not have been timelier than they happened. With Hajiya Lemu’s arrival in Nigeria, the participation of Muslim women in Islamic propagation took a positive dimension which particularly gingered the northern Muslim sisters into an action never hitherto dreamt of in the country.
It was Hajiya Aisha Lemu who initiated the idea of bringing all Nigerian Muslim women under a common umbrella called Federation of Muslim Women Associations in Nigeria, FOMWAN, which is vividly active and effective in all corners and crannies of the country today. And she was the first National Amirah of that solidly organised and highly respected body.
She also cooperated fully with her husband, Justice Ahmad Lemu, in establishing an intellectual Non-Governmental Organisation named Islamic Education Trust, IET, that is very well recognised globally today.
Hajiya Aisha Lemu has written many books either for academic purposes or for general Islamic understanding. Through those activities, Hajiya Lemu did not only facilitate job opportunities for many young Nigerian Muslims, she also opened ways to scholarships, home and abroad, for many intellectually aspiring young Muslims seeking attainment of higher levels in education.
Hajiya Lemu’s demise last Saturday is a further confirmation that Allah has wonderful ways of doing certain unimaginable things that cannot elicit questions from any mortal. That the two great women (Maryam Jameelah and Aisha Lemu) from different countries lived alike and were demised alike, is one of those wonders.
Maryam Jameelah left the world at the age of 78 and was buried in Pakistan, her husband’s home country in 2012. Hajiya Aisha Lemu stopped breathing at the age of 79, in 2019, and was buried in Nigeria, her husband’s home country. Yet, it is doubtful that the two personalities ever met in their lifetimes. Now, the big question is this: Who fills the vacuum?
In commiserating with her family, FOMWAN, IET and the Nigerian Muslim Ummah, the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, NSCIA, under the able leadership of its President-General, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, CFR, mni, urges all concerned to brace up for the continuation of her excellent work so that her footprints on the sands of time may remain indelible forever.
“We are all from Allah and to Allah we shall all return.” Inna Lillah, wa inna ilayhi raji‘un.
Femi Abbas, is the Chairman, NSCIA Media Committee