Sheikh Alhaji Ba Kalilou Jaiteh was a renowned scholar born in Kaur Janneh Kunda in 1935. He descended from a devout family of scholars. His grandfather Sheikh Abdul Kadir Jaiteh was the son of a great saint, Foday Mahmoud Gillan Jaiteh who hailed from Senegal.
He is the last son of Sheikh Karang Kawsu-Kaaba Jaiteh who was a prominent Islamic scholar and had a large following of disciples in The Gambia, Mali and Senegal.
At an early age, the precocious young Kalilou started mastering the Qur’an under the tutelage of his father.
By the time his father died in 1945, he was just 11 and continued learning under the care of his mother Kadijatou Mbinkinding Saidy.
At age 23, in 1957, he travelled to Mauritania to pursue further Islamic scholarship under Sheikh Sidia who was one of the greatest Islamic scholars in Africa at the time.
And as his son, Alh Abdou Kadir Jaiteh puts it, this hijra was meant for him “to strive in the cause of Allah and to continue the religious tradition of his father and forbears, which is to learn and teach the Qur’an and spread Allah’s message”.
He spent five years in Mauritania under Sheikh Sidia and took time to further drink from the well of knowledge in some majlis in Senegal before eventually returning to his native Kaur.
Upon his return in the early ’60s, Sheikh Alhaji Ba Kalilou Jaiteh built an Islamic school, madrassa, in which he enrolled hundreds of students. According to his son, the school was free tuition and accommodation was provided for all the teachers (oustases).
The madrassa is 40 years this year and has been a success story according to Abdul Kadir Jaiteh, because the sheikh’s disciples have spread to different parts of the world. “Some travelled to Saudi and other parts of the Arab world and are contributing to the socio-economic development of their societies,” said Abdul Kadir.
Alhaji Ba Kalilou was a royal model in all aspects of his life; a fervent humanist who serve as a beacon of inspiration for his family and the country.
Alh Ba Kalilou Jaiteh was a religious and community leader of impeccable character, virtue and piety and spent all his life contributing to the progress and promotion of the Islamic religion and social justice. He was a humanitarian and a philanthropist who helped whoever sought his assistance.
He was an adviser to former president Jawara and played a crucial role in the rise to power of the former Sierra Leone president Joseph Momo who ruled from 1985 to 1992. “In fact, when Momo was vying to become a president, he called my father and he prayed for him which was why during his rule in power he would invite him every year to Sierra Leone,” Abdul Kadir recalled.
First Republican politician Amulai Janneh was his close friend and he enjoyed close ties with former Senegalese presidents Leopold Senghore, Abdou Diouf and Abdoulaye Wade.
It was believed that due to his righteousness and piety, his supplications were said to have never been left unanswered which may be a testament to the many prominent Gambians and non-Gambians who called on him seeking prayers.
“He does not differentiate between people. All what he saw was the improvement of humanity and the advancement of the society,” his son eulogised. Alh Ba Kalilou Jaiteh died on 26 July 2017 in Kaur and was laid to rest the same day. He was survived by four wives and 14 sons and many daughters.
On Saturday 10 March 2018, all roads will lead to Kaur Janneh Kunda for this year’s annual ziyyareh which is characterised by recitations from the Holy Qur’an, sermons, and offering of prayers for the country and the Muslim ummah.
The annual event was initiated by Alhaji Ba Kalilou’s former students in 2013.