Unknown to many, the late Chief Imam of Abuja, Ustaz Musa Muhammad had travelled for medical attention to the Iranian Hospital in Dubai on 17th February, 2015. His four wives, son-in-law and one of his children, Izzuddeen Musa Muhammad accompanied him. The biopsy conducted on him revealed the existence of a ‘cancerous tumour on the colon in his abdomen’.
Imam abhorred surgical operations generally. Coupled with the fact that informing him about the result may trigger other complications of rise in blood pressure and sugar level, his wives and sons reached a consensus not to reveal to him the outcome of the biopsy. The doctors offered treatments and gave three sets of medications, to keep him stable until such, time as he would be ready for chemotherapy or other options aside surgery.
My friend, fellow Friday columnist with Daily Trust, and Nigerian resident of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Muhammad Qaddam Sidq Isa was kind enough to be at the complete disposal of the Imam and kept me posted.
When I and my wife, Malama Hauwa received him and his family upon their return to Nigeria from Dubai on 11th April, 2015, we met a healthier man who had lost much weight, his skin lighter, smoother, and he was moving with surprising agility. Even though I was constantly conversing with him or his son Izzuddeen throughout their stay in Dubai, I did not inform the Imam that I would be at the airport to receive him when he returned.
‘Yaa Sheikh! You have transformed yourself into a young man.’ I said.
He laughed heartily, enjoying the badinage, and hugged me warmly. I could feel his chest touching mine, which proved my earlier observation on his loss of weight. ‘You should have told me you were coming to the airport.’ He said.
‘Akramakumullaah (may Allah honour you),’ I said in response, ‘I desired this pleasant surprise in you, that was why I concealed our coming for this reception.’
My wife drove Imam’s wives while I joined him in his car for the journey from the airport to his residence during which time I was able to get further details of the success of the medical trip to Dubai. The wives, were also able to speak freely wih my wife, bringing her up to date on the Imam’s health. All was well. He was bubbling with life.
These interactions revealed that part of the medical attention that the Chief Imam received in Dubai was the evacuation of a lot of fluid in his abdomen, caused by certain abnormal internal discharge from some organs. That explained his loss of weight and increased agility. However, no information was given on the need for immediate follow-up on the Imam’s health. Either the Dubai hospital, relying on the fact that everything was spelt out in the medical report, failed to communicate the immediacy required for the removal of the tumour, which, to my mind, was not likely, because Muhammad Qaddam Siqd’s assessment of the hospital was top of the range, even by Dubai’s international standards, or the urgency in having the procedure for the therapy was not understood by the Imam’s medical team.
When he entered the National Mosque for the Friday prayers after his return from Dubai, people marvelled at the imposing and improved image of the Imam ascending the mimbar with ease, and when he started delivering the khutbah, his voice was clearer than it was before the trip.
For the first time in his life, the Chief Imam travelled alone for Umrah on 20th of March, 2015 and returned six days later after completing his devotions in the holy land. Even when some members of his family protested that he must be accompanied on the Umrah trip to lessen the burden of over-stretching himself, the Imam insisted on travelling alone. He went and returned without incident.
All this while, no one raised the issue of the medical report from Dubai with him. The issue of returning to Dubai for the commencement of chemotherapy or seeking for advice from his doctor on what could be done here in Nigeria was not mentioned again. The medications that were given by the Iranian Hospital, Dubai were exhausted; only one of the three drugs was available in Abuja.
The Chief Imam’s condition started deteriorating gradually. The Khutbah and the way he delivered it on Friday 24th April, 2015 left most of us likening the sermon to a farewell sermon,..’ (Hadeeth 28 of An-Nawawi’s collection). He looked frail, pale and languid in his movements, delivery, and the level of his voice was weak. That was a day before the wedding of four of his male children in Jos. Therefore, he travelled to Jos immediately after the Jumu’ah Prayers for the wedding fatihah scheduled for Saturday, 25th April, 2015.
After the wedding ceremonies, the Chief Imam summoned the four grooms in the presence of some of his friends for marital advice, at the end of which he said, ‘Yours is the last marriage I will conduct. I am done.’ He turned to those present, and said, pointing to his last son, ‘As for Sharafuddeen, you will have to conduct his wedding.’
Every year at the approach of the month of Ramadan, the family of the Chief Imam had certain preparations they made for the Tafseer, feeding the needy, and whose turn it was among the wives to travel with him for the pre-Ramadan Umrah. The wives had raised these issues repeatedly with the Imam, but they could not get any answer from him. it was though he was passing the subtle message that there would no longer be need for such preparations. He did not actually say that, but his silence to their persistent questions, appeared to have said so.
On Saturday 30th April, 2015, I went to the Imam’s residence to inform him of my travel to Kaduna, which meant I would not pray Jumu’ah with him, and to congratulate him on the wedding of the four children, since I was unable to be in Jos for the event. He was not the person we received at the airport upon his return from Dubai.
‘Ustaz,’ he said, ‘during my short stay in Jos for the wedding, I distributed my landed properties among my heirs, wives and children, including other relatives and friends that have no share in one’s inheritance. I don’t want any familial dissension after my death.’
This division of his landed assets among his inheritors, friends and relatives was witnessed by lawyers and each paper of assignment had his signature in the presence of witnesses. We discussed other issues that I cannot discuss on these pages. I was deeply affected by the fact that he discussed them with me exactly two days to his demise.
A few hours after I left his residence on that day, the Imam’s condition worsened. He prayed Asr with much difficulty, and told someone to lead them in Maghrib, which he observed sitting down. He retired to his chambers upstairs where he said Ishaa reclining on his side, and spent the night in pains. His household spoke about going to the hospital, but he said, ‘‘Not yet.’’
Even in this condition, when Malam Muhammad Kabir Adam, one of Imam’s deputies at the mosque, came to visit and pray for his speedy recovery, the Chief Imam searched his pockets and gave Malam Kabir N8,000 to distribute to the needy as sadaqah.
Babangida Hamisu is the Imam’s nephew, who was called to the house in order to assess the situation and possibly convince the Chief Imam on the need to go to the hospital. He did not succeed until the next morning when the Imam’s doctor arrived. As soon as the doctor examined the Imam’s eyelids and asked him some questions, he requested to see the medical report from Dubai. Babangida gave it to him. The doctor was stunned. ‘What!’ he exclaimed, ‘How on earth could you people keep this kind of report without drawing my attention to it? We need an ambulance right-away, not a car, with this condition.’
At the Emergency Unit of the National Hospital, Abuja, it was established by the Head of Oncology (a subtle way of saying, ‘Cancer Treatment’), together with his colleagues, after examining the medical report of the Iranian Hospital, Dubai, that; 1) Had the Chief Imam been brought to the hospital two months ago, he would have by now, been back to his normal life because the tumour was likely to shrink through the chemotherapy process; 2) As things stood, the patient must be told the true position of his condition; and 3) If preliminary investigations call for operation, it shall be done with the patient’s consent.
His blood sugar level, sodium and blood pressure needed to be a certain level before he could be operated upon. The doctors were trying to bring all under control and everyone waited.
The Chief Imam, while this endless wait lingered, impressed it upon Babangida and the doctors to move him to the ward where he prayed Zuhr, Asr, Magrib and Ishaa.
As the desired levels of the BP, sugar, etc were not attained, the Imam was administered medications intravenously and put under close observation until Saturday 2nd May, 2015. Babangida and Hajiya Maryam, one of the Imam’s wives, stayed with him Friday night in the ward.
The Chief Imam spent the whole night supplicating to Allah, seeking His forgiveness and beseeching for His pleasure. Babangida said the Imam did not close his eyes even for a second. ‘He told me to keep reciting Ayatal Kursy and to repeat the last sentence of the verse – ..’’and He feels no fatigue in guarding and preserving them’’… ten times. I did that while he continued with his own du’aa until he told me to perform ablution for him for Subhi as his two hands were restrained with needles for drips and medications.’ That subhi prayer was his last as a living man.
Babangida also said that when people came in the morning to greet him from the house, including those who came to visit him from around Abuja and beyond, he called each one of them by their names, and asked them specific questions concerning their affairs. He was very alert and conscious.
The operation was fixed for 8:30am on Saturday. The doctor asked whether he was ready for the surgery and he replied, ‘I am ever ready’. The doctor fixed the ECG sensors on his finger and the monitor showed his heart rate was normal. As the trolley moved towards the theatre, his heart rate dropped drastically to about 45 beats per minute. The Imam uttered one of the greatest words of submission to our Creator, ‘Innaa lillahi wa inane ilayhi raaji’uun!’
The doctors immediately diverted the bed to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), leaving a confused family in their wake. After he was taken into the ICU, the family waited outside. Imagine what would be going on in their minds. Picture the emotional trauma this alone could cause; the uncertainty of your beloved’s condition. As is to be expected, the doctors brought news that evoked hope and fear at the same time; the Imam had suffered a cardiac arrest, but he had been revived. His heart had stopped briefly? That was not good news. You were able to revive him? That was a bit comforting.
The family had to endure the torture of waiting again while the doctors were trying to keep him stable. This went on endlessly until around 4:30 pm. Unknown to the family waiting outside, Imam’s heart stopped a second time and the doctors were battling to revive it. They gave up the fight just after ‘Asr and succumbed to the Will of Allah for the soul of Musa, the son of Mohammed Inuwa. Allahu Akbar! When the bewildered family asked for an update, a forlorn face answered, “We could not revive the heart a second time. I am sorry”. The shock must have been too deep as they did not get the message yet. They asked the doctor, “When are you going to revive it?”. He replied, “When the heart is motionless, there is no life”
‘And Allah shall never grant reprieve to a soul when its appointed time has come, and Allah is well-acquainted with what you do’ ‘Al Munaafiqoon Q63:11’.
For more than 25 years, Imam Musa led the Jumu’ah prayers and countless funeral prayers on other souls gone to meet their Lord. He knew, as every Muslim does, that he would be lying in state in front of others while they prayed over his corpse one day.
People filled the National Mosque on Sunday morning when the janaazah prayer was said upon him and the cemetery in Gudu looked like an Eid day except for the sad looks on the faces of everyone. It was like a jumu’ah day as cars struggled to find parking space and people trooped in at short notice.
Many others who wished to be there were misinformed by unknown rumour mongers that he would be buried in Jos. In fact, His Excellency, the Vice President was one of those who missed the actual burial due to such spurious information. He was however at the mosque for the prayers and he went to offer his condolences at the Imam’s house. It is remarkable that although the VP is an outgoing one, who has no votes to seek or favours to curry at this time, nonetheless attended the funeral prayers and still went to the Imam’s house.
I stood with the FCT Minister, His Excellency, Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed, at the mosque, the graveside and the home of Imam. You could see how sobering it was for him to watch a man he has known for years being lowered into the earth. He remained all through the rites and drove to the Imam’s residence, unlike most of the so-called big men in the country.
I know many will start an ‘analysis’ of the delay in reading and acting on the report from Dubai. My advice is not to bother your heads. You see, before a soul passes on, all efforts to save it is relevant. When it dies, what could have been done to save it becomes fruitless and irrelevant.
No soul will pass away before or after its appointed time. Allah employs various asbaab (catalysts) to bring the soul to its end. It could be disease, accident, war, famine, homicide or even sleep. At other times, the apparently healthy person simply slumps and dies when the appointed time comes. People in the medical profession call it Sudden Human Death Syndrome, which is another way of saying science has no explanation for it.
This is not to say that anyone should treat their health with levity. We should make all human efforts to keep healthy and fit. Islam demands nothing less from us. But to think the cause of anyone’s death was what he did or did not do is to think people can prolong their life.
In retrospect, many things I have mentioned the Imam did made it seem he knew he was going to die. Many use these coincidences to start asserting that people know when they would die. This is nothing but a mistake. No soul knows when it shall die or where it shall die (check Surah Luqman Q31:34). The best that can be said is a man may have premonition of his approaching demise and start doing things he feared would be left undone if he died sooner. Often, people would do this, leaving instructions on how they want to be buried and what should be done after their death. Many times, they do not die and many times they pass away. It is more of a ‘preemptive’ measure, especially if they realise their situation is bad. Imam avoided seeing the biopsy report and did not ask questions about it until he passed away. He perhaps sensed that things were irrevocable and just submitted. The bottomline is to meet Allah with a clean record.
O Allah! Musa the son of Muhammad Inuwa is your bondsman, son of your bondsman and bondswoman. His forelocks are firmly in Your Hands. We beseech You to forgive him his misdeeds and overlook his shortcomings. Ease the trials of the grave for him and place him among the righteous in Al Firdaus. Wash him of his sins with water, ice and snow. Purify his deeds and accept him among the best of your ‘Ibaad. May Your peace and blessings encompass his soul and all he left behind. Take care of his family and be his khalifah as he has gone forth, never to return. You are the Best of Those Who show mercy. Ameen