A Visionary, Educator and Spiritual Leader of The Gambia
The writings of great scholars reflect their beliefs, worldview and scholarship. Their books show their wisdom and genius but the institutions set up by great scholars reflect their mastery in dealing with the human condition, good and bad. One of them was Shaikh Ahmad of Gambia who I knew as a friend. Simplicity, service and scholarship marked this wonderful sage of West Africa. He exuded piety, love of Allah and dedication to humanity that was Shaikh Ahmad Drammeh, a man of Allah who passed away on Thursday 2nd July 2020 (to Him we belong and to Him we shall return).
Shaikh Ahmad Drammeh, commonly known as Alhagi Banding Drammeh is a household name in The Gambia. He’s best known for his weekly radio program ‘The Muslim World’, which he has been presenting since 1970. He visited us in Nottingham last July and then I visited him in Gambia only February this year.
His educational journey started at a local Islamic school in Brikama. While with his Uncle in Brikama, he learnt the Quran, Tafsir, Arabic and Islamic Sciences. He also worked on the farm with other students to provide the livelihood for the family and at the farm, he would revise the lessons he had learnt overnight.
In 1964, he travelled to Egypt and studied at the University of Al-Azhar and obtained a BA, after graduation and the completion of Higher Diploma in Libya, he set up a seminary, an Arabic school in Brikama, Gambia. This school has produced thousands of students who serve in every sector of this small country from lawyers to teachers, Imams, bankers and engineers.
Some of the major achievements of Shaikh Ahmad include:
- When he returned to Gambia, he opened the Islamic Institute in Brikama in 1975. As a visionary leader and educator, Shaikh Ahmad decided to have an English section to his Institute that teaches the State curriculum for secondary and high school in addition to the Islamic curriculum. It is the most successful senior secondary schools in The Gambia. The Maahad Senior Secondary School is one of the best schools in the region.
- Publication of the ‘Voice of Islam’, a monthly magazine in Arabic and English. This reflected the Shaikh’s deep desire to educate, inspire and guide the masses.
- The Shaikh was a natural leader and revivalist and was keen to organise the scholars and Imams of Gambia. So, with the support of Shaikh Alhaj Keba Landing Sanynag and others, he established the ‘The Association of Gambian Islamic and Arabic Language scholars.’
- He also played an important role later to integrate the association with the Supreme Islamic Council.
- Shaikh Ahmad tried to unify the Muslim community and encouraged diversity of opinions and moderation. He was inclusive in his approach and made sure that various groups were represented in the activities of the Council.
Let us pray for this wonderful man who dedicated his life to educate and develop young men and women of Gambia. I would like to express my sincere condolences to his family and in particular, my friend Khalid Drammeh the Shaikh’s son, who has big shoes to fill.