When you are to write about someone with multiple blessings, one would be in a fix on where to even start from. Khalifa Sheikh Isyaku Rabiu was probably the most multi-blessed person in Nigeria. He was a Qur’anic memoriser, a blessing which he treasured above any other thing. He was a noted industrialist, a community leader, and was blessed with a large family. Khalifa was also an Islamic Scholar, Elder statesman among others.
Khalifa Isyaku Rabiu was the patriach of the Sheikh Muhammadu Rabiu family. His father, Sheikh Muhammadu Rabiu, whom I was named after, was equally a noted Islamic scholar and memoriser of the Qur’an. Khalifa Isyaku Rabiu, who we all called Alhaji Babba, was perhaps his most famous son, but his other sons were also scholars in their own right.
They are all Qur’anic scholars; the likes of the late Malam Zubairu Rabiu, the late Alhaji Bala Rabiu, Gwani Tijjani Rabiu, Malam Almustapha Rabiu, the late Malam Sabiu Rabiu and Alhaji Shehu Rabiu, all great memorisers of the Holy Qur’an.
For his religious evangelism, his service to the Tijjaniyya sect and philanthropy, Sheikh Isyaku Rabiu was conferred with the title of Khalifa in the mid 1990s.
Khalifa’s probable date of birth was 1928, but many said Khalifa was close to 95 years giving by his oral account of events. Khalifa virtually spent all of those years in the service of the Holy Qur’an, its learners and the Islamic faith as a whole.
In this tribute, I am not going to delve into his business acumen, but rather one or two of his exemplifying qualities which we can learn from as young people.
Unlike most people of his status, Khalifa’s door was always open to people, one can see him without passing much protocol, especially on Fridays after the Jumaat prayers. To members of his larger family however, he was accessible virtually anytime of the day.
One quality that we can learn from him is that despite his elavated status, one can see his old friends or their relations from his days of itinerant Qur’anic studentship visiting him. He interacted with them freely and he was happier to be in their midst than any other category of people. Khalifah was perhaps the most successful Almajiri in the world.
Also, another quality we can learn from him is never to discriminate against people base on their creed. Khalifa was generous to people and various sects without any discrimantion, that is why you will see leaders of various sects visiting him. On some days he may crack jokes and say someone is ‘Dan Izala’ and people will always laugh, but that never stopped him from being good to the person, eventhough they may not be members of his Tijjaniyya sect, which he led with vigour and magnanimity in Nigeria.
It was not for nothing that he was named Khadimul Qur’an (the servant of the Qur’an). His house is always a hub of recitation and reciters of the Holy Book. He was generous to reciters of the book, he pays them, provide shelter to hundreds of them. He was in constant service to Allah. He recently ordered for 10,000 copies of the Holy book which he said will be used for a special prayer, they have been duly delivered and kept in a room in his palatial residence. He however did not mention what occasion to use the Books, it is now that people are saying that the Qur’an will be shared to mourners as a form of sadaqatul jariah.
His love for his country Nigeria and its people is second to none. Khalifah was probably the only wealthy person that will summon special prayers for Nigeria, for peace and prosperity. Usually Qur’anic reciters were summoned from the nook and cranny of the country to converge for the purpose. He had done this countless times, especially during the ugly phase of insurgency in Kano.
Perhaps the last of his wish before his demise was the creation of a private university for the study of Qur’an and other Islamic jurisprudence. The multi billion naira University is completed, it is situated at Gadon Kaya in Kano, what we are waiting now is the final accredition from NUC and other paperworks for takeoff.
His latest bout of illness started around December 2017, and from his utterances, one may say that the amiable Sheikh had a premonition of death. Though he recovered to return home around April 2018, after he spent time in Nigeria and London Hospitals. He was his boisterious self for some weeks before he relapsed again. He was advised to be returned to London but he insisted that he was not going anywhere. He said it was time, and he should be left at home.
After several pleas and intervention from many closed relations, including his equally successful son, Alhaji Abdussamad Rabiu, Khalifa agreed to be taken to London for another round of treatment. I was with him with other family members the day that he left, eventhough he was weak, he was indeed very alert and his voice very clear. After I greeted him, he said “Malam ya aiki?”, and I said alhamdulillah, ya jiki, he said “To mun gode Allah”. Some days after he returned to London, the cold hand of death took him away on the 8th of May, 2018.
May the gentle soul of Khalifa Sheikh Isyaku Rabiu rest in perfect peace, may Allah reward him for his selfless service to Al Qur’anil Kareem and Islam in general.