The Chief Imam of the Al-Habibiya Islamic society, Sheikh Alhaji Adeyemi Ademola Fuad, has demonstrated through his unprecedented charity work that men of God should not limit themselves to missionary work, but should also be committed to improving the living standards of their members as well as the entire society.
He nursed the ambition to read law, but his father wanted him to pursue a different career. Born into a family of Islamic scholars and imams, albeit with a blend of ardent Christians – his father, a renowned Islamic scholar and Imam – reasoned that he should follow his footsteps by reading a course that would place him firmly under the family tree.
Though he finally read Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Ibadan, Sheikh Alhaji Adeyemi Ademola Fuad, still made several unsuccessful attempts to veer off into a career different from that of his father. Ultimately, he settled down to perform the spiritual and charity work which God had destined him to do.
Today, Sheikh Alhaji Adeyemi Ademola Fuad, a master’s degree holder in public administration, obtained at the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) Kaduna, is intensely involved in charity work through the auspices of Al-Habibiya Islamic Society.
In appreciation of his humanitarian services to humanity, he has received so many awards, from both local and international bodies, including an award from the US Embassy in Nigeria.
In an interview with Pleasures magazine, Sheikh Adeyemi Fuad, confessed that he was literally by divine arrangements dragged into performing spiritual and by extension, charity work to mankind, and from all indications, he has discharged himself creditably
He said: “First and foremost, I don’t like clergy work, because that is the only work we know in our family. My father used to go from one village to another to preach. That’s what I grew up to know. I used to follow him to deliver lectures; to go and do preaching from village to village, as far back as 1979. The only work I know in my life is about Islamic missionary. So, I grew up not to like it, and therefore, decided to read law. I was given admission to read law at the University of Benin (UNIBEN) in 1984-85.
“My father said I shouldn’t read law. He said that I should read a course that will enable me make use of his books. So, in 1987, I went to the University of Ibadan to read Arabic and Islamic studies. I tried to please my father, and not that I wanted to read that course.
At the completion of his first degree programme at UNIBEN in Arabic and Islamic Studies, young Fuad was still bent on going against his father’s wish to get involved in Islamic missionary work.
He said: “I came to Abuja as a youth corps member, and was to serve in Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS). The head of Immigration then was a Zikitie from the University of Ibadan. He had earlier assured me that I would be posted to Immigration as soon as I arrived Abuja. Incidentally, the person who was supposed to post me to Immigration travelled outside Abuja, and so I was posted to an Islamic school. So, I said, God, I am back to this …
“After about a month, the man came back and they said they would change my posting, and with my brother working in the NYSC then, I had all the opportunity to change my posting. But I had become a star at the Islamic school where I was posted, so my conscience told me that I can’t go anywhere. I concluded that God has destined me to teach in an Islamic school.
“Thereafter, something happened around 1993. You remember the Abiola saga in the North. Those of us from Yoruba extraction were suspected to be supportive of Chief Moshood Abiola to the core. So, I wanted to leave the school. That time, the Road Safety wanted to employ people. I sat for their examination, and came first. Before I collected my letter of assumption of duty at Road Safety, I went to pray in a mosque at Area 1, Garki, Abuja. Then, somebody ran to me and said they have been looking for me to start an Islamic school for them. That was how I started the Shehu Shagari Islamic School in Area 1, Garki, Abuja. I designed everything in that school – the logo, the name, the motto. Besides, I was the headmaster, teacher, cleaner when we first started. The school is still there till today.
“At a point, I became angry and left the school. I ran away when they wanted to make me chief Imam, but I ended up being the Imam of An-sar-Udeen. That time too, there was a crisis, and I started looking for another job, but before that job materialized, we started teaching people how to read Koran in four months since that has been my spiritual calling. I know that is the way that God has really endowed me.
“After delivering a powerful lecture entitled: ‘Education, a challenge to contemporary Nigerian Muslim, the former Governor of Niger state, who was then a permanent secretary invited me to his office. I thought they wanted to arrest me because that lecture was so powerful. But I didn’t know they actually invited me to their council meeting to present the same lecture to them. That day, they gave us a land to build a mosque. But the land was taken away from us, but we still got another one.”
On the concept of Al-Habibiya Islamic Society
He said: “Let me first of all start by telling you the name started from the word Habib. It has a prefix and a suffix. Habib means love, which is called Fatwa, meaning that we should give. And biya means pivot of love. We tried to model that name after the second University in the world which is called Al-Nizamiyya Academy. It will interest you to know that Al-Nizamiyya Academy was established around 915 AD and up till today, it is still a University. Most people don’t know that the oldest University belongs to the Muslim. The Muslim had gotten a University for more than 250 years before University got to Europe in 1088 AD in Bologna. The first was Al Quaraouiyine, in 856 by a lady, Fatima al-Fihri, the daughter of a wealthy merchant named Mohammed Al-Fihri, followed by Al-Nizamiyya Academy in 915 AD, a multi-campus academy of which there is one in Iran and another in Iraq. The third which everybody believed is the first, Al-Azhar University in Cairo, established in 920 AD.
“We discovered that there are so many Muslim elites who are in big positions, and who have money, but who do not know how to read the Qur’an. So we started Hababiya on January 6, 2003, to teach people how to read the Qur’an. Al-Habibiya Islamic Society gave birth to so many things. In 2004, we opened what we called Al-Habibiya Food Bank. Al-Habibiya Food Bank gave birth to Al-Habibiya Zakat Foundation in 2008. Al-Habibiya Food Bank also gave birth to Al-Habibiya Relief Services. Al-Habibiya Food Bank feeds people during fasting and at any other time. We started with a modest number of 150, 200, but today we feed over 1,400 people every day during the month of Ramadan.
“Al-Habibiya Zakat Foundation disbursed about eight million naira to both Muslims and Christians during our first outing. Zakat is the fourth pillar of Islam. You must have enough money to pay it once in a year. If you have up to one million naira now, you pay 2.5 percent of that amount, which is N25,000. If the money you have in a year is not up to one million naira, you are not entitled to pay Zakat. The Al-Habibiya Food Bank provides food during the month of Ramadan, while the Al-Habibiya Relief Services comes to the rescue of people when there are natural disasters. The Zakat Foundation empowers people. We also have what we call Teenagers Workshop where
On whether the money given as Zakat is not corrupt money?
He said: “We are lucky that the maximum any one has given us as Zakat is five million naira. The essence is to purify your wealth, and when you get it you should be conscious of how you spend it. If you steal money, you know you can’t pay Zakat on it. In fact, the first day we disbursed our Zakat, my landlord gave me quit notice because he said he saw me on television disbursing money, yet I have not paid my rent. We disbursed eight million naira that day, but I couldn’t get eight hundred naira to pay my house rent. The people who are in this missionary have other jobs. I have other jobs. We have ambassadors. Military personnels and I am at the Sharia Court, I have school that I run and I still have other work I do.
Our definition of life is to take care of the people around us. They have to be empowered, and when they are empowered, you live a peaceful and blessed life. It should not be about you living like a king. If I am in my car, and I see some of my members trekking, I have to park and find a way to arrange for their transportation. I will not be able to sleep when people around me see me as a tin god, and they don’t have anything. Then, I am a failure.
“Under our Zakat Foundation, we have less privileged children who are under our scholarship. Besides that, we empower women; we give them start-up capitals. We provide some of them deep freezers, pop-corn machines, sewing machines. We provide motor cycles to men and other valuables materials. We give aids to people, without asking whether you are a Muslim or Christian. The list of the people we have empowered is endless.
Though Islam connotes peace and love for mankind, but experience has shown that anywhere one mention Islam or Muslim, the first thing that comes to some peoples mind is Boko Haram, and terrorism. And as a leader of this mission, what does he teach his followers and others?
“I teach them good life, and good life hereafter. If terrorists are against non-Islam, there headquarters will be in a country with less Muslim population, like South Africa. They will not be in Somalia where about 99 per cent of the population is Muslim; they will not be in Mali, which is the centre of Islam in West Africa. They will not be in Maiduguri, Borno state, which is another centre of Islam in Nigeria. When they strike, the people they kill are Muslims, and not non-Muslims, only a small percentage are Christians. That means that terrorism is actually against Muslim. You can see that terrorists are out to destroy Islam. I have participated in a programme sponsored by the office of the National Security Adviser, and during the meeting, some of the terrorist leaders caught and presented to us were not able to recite Koran. They don’t know the five pillars of Islam; it’s like a pastor who is not able to recite the Lord’s Prayer.
On what the organization is doing to stem terrorism
“We discovered that those joining the terrorist gang do so out of poverty. So what we do is to empower people to be able to stand on their own. Immediately hunger is removed from poverty, then poverty is gone. So, through the Zakat Foundation, we empower people through many ways. Besides that, we talk to our members about the true meaning of Islam. Every Fridays, and Sundays, we have lectures, television programmes. I have appeared in so many public forum to discuss these things. There was a small boy that his mother brought to me who said he will no longer go to school, because he loves Allah so much. I sat the boy down, and said If you say you are no longer going to school, how can you be useful to anybody even to yourself? I told him that Islam is the owner of education. I said also that those who invented biro, wrist watch, were Muslims. I told him that those who started flying aeroplane were Muslims, and that if he failed to go to school, he’ll become a nuisance to himself and to people around him. I told him the fourth pillar of Islam is to pay Zakat and if you don’t go to school, you will not have money to pay it. Thereafter, with all humilities, he left here and got admission into the University of Ilorin, he is there now as a student.
On challenges facing the organization
“We have two or three challenges: Some people have over-rated us. They believe we already have millions of naira. But we thank God. Secondly, we don’t have enough manpower to meet our challenges. Many people will want us to do this or that, yet they cannot make sacrifices. What we do here is about services. Look at the secretary seated ‘here’, he is a big man but since morning all he care about is not his personal business but Al-Habibiya. Thirdly, we don’t have enough funds for our programme. But we still thank God. The money we have disbursed in the last two years is enough to complete our mosque but our focus to on the people, not the structure as we are not competing with anybody.
If there are other Branch of Al-Habibiya
We are in Abuja, we are in Lagos, Okenne, Lokoja, Kaduna, Minna and by God’s grace Oyo branch will start on January 8. We also have a branch in Atlanta USA,
Looking back these ten or fifteen years, are you fulfilled?
“We have not gotten to the level we wanted to reach. However, we have been able to spread love, compassion. We have been able to spread the right education, the right knowledge. We have been able to teach people to do the right thing. When we were making our tenth anniversary, they brought one big cake, I asked where did they got such big cake, because at that time, we don’t have enough money, so I was told, it’s from one of the beneficiaries of our empowerment programme, a Christian. According to the secretary “she applied and we gave her money to start her catering business.). There was this another man, I wanted to carry something in Juwa, so as I parked, he came to greet me and I said to him I don’t know you and he said “this motorcycle that a driving was given to me by you people (through Al-Habibiya) and through it, I have built a house for my mother.” My brother, hearing this how would you feel?
On where he’ll like Al-Habibiya to be in the next five years?
“I see A-Habibiya as a melting pot. Al-Habibiya as a bridge between the haves and the have not. I see Al-Habibiya between the pain and the pleasure of life. I want to see Al-Habibiya as the centre of knowledge, as the centre of excellence. Thank you