Alhaji Momodou Lamin Bah

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Alhaji Momodou Lamin Bah was born in Bathurst on 3 December 1906. He was the son of the former imam of Bathurst Imam Waka Bah, who died in 1953, and Madam Fatou Tambedou. Waka Bah was the son of Imam Sait Matty Bah, and grandson of Maba Jaxou Bah, the great Gambian jihadist of the mid 1800s. Imam Momodou Lamin was therefore of stout Islamic ancestry.

Imam Momodou Lamin Bah joined the government service as Qur’anic teacher at Muhameddan School in 1945 and taught there until January 1964 when he retired with a record of exemplary conduct and efficiency. When his father the venerable Imam Waka Bah died on 18 June 1953, Imam Momodou Lamin was elected to succeed him. Imam Momodou Lamin wasted no time to rise to his calling.

During his imamate, the Banjul Central Mosque was enlarged and the main ground for Eid prayers in Banjul was provided with permanent structures. Also, he distinguished himself as a scholar and by his flair for learned and uncompromising sermons. His annual gaamo at Half-Die which he personally conducted from dusk to dawn, and his promotion of the pilgrimage to Fez, Morocco, were other noteworthy features of his life. Throughout his time as imam, he represented The Gambia on the rabits, the constituent council of the World Muslim League, based in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The league meets on the eve of the hajj to consider the situation of Islam and Muslims in the world and to make recommendations about their welfare to government.

In addition, Imam Bah was chairman of the Banjul Mosque Committee and the president of the Gambia Muslim Association, since defunct, which built the Muslim High School in 1974 through his effort. Furthermore, for many years he was chairman of a group of Imams in The Gambia which strive to ensure unanimity in the timing and sighting of the moon for Eid prayers.

In recognition of his services to the development of Islam in the community, he was among the first Gambians to receive the ORG insignia in 1972: “By his prestige and erudition as Imam, he has played a significant role in welding together the Muslim community in The Gambia”, read his citation.

His death in December 1983 elicited a state of national mourning in the country. For instance, his funeral brought together for the first time in a long period, the leader of the opposition SM Dibba and the Vice President BB Dabo and cabinet ministers. Moreover, the crowd of mourners was so huge that Ppolice could not control the barricades and the cement block wall of the cemetery was brought down by the frenzied crowd eager to touch the coffin of the imam. 

A journalist for the Gambia Information Services (GINS) reported in a despatch published in The Gambia News Bulletin of 7 December 1983: “This was the biggest crowd Banjul had ever seen in its history”. A columnist in the Nation newspaper also lamented: “(People are mourning) the imam because he was a mediator between government and the people… he always led peace delegations. His death is mourned not only in The Gambia, but in Senegal and in the entire nations.” Imam Bah was survived by three wives and many children and grandchildren.

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