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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Hatab Bojang (1937 – 1984) ”Pre-eminent Islamic scholar”

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When Hatab was just 7, Pa Sano entrusted him for scholarship to Abdullah Ibn Sheikh Siddiyah in Mauritania. Young Hatab proved himself highly diligent with keen receptive intelligence and he soon memorised the whole Qur’an, his son, Muhammed Bojang, told The Standard.

Upon completing his studies in Mauritania, Hatab got admission to the Islamic University of Madina, Saudi Arabia later moving to the Ummu Juruman University in Sudan. After graduation, he returned to The Gambia and first taught Islamic and Arabic studies at Muhammedan School in Banjul. Eventually, he returned to his native in Gunjur and built his first Islamic/Arabic school. He later built similar schools in the neighbouring villages. One of the schools he built in Serekunda is today known as the Omar Kuraish Islamic School. He has built schools all over The Gambia as well as Sierra Leone and Ghana. Hatab Bojang had also presented Islamic talk shows on Radio Gambia and served as a supervisor of Arabic and Islamic studies at the Ministry of Education.

In the heady days following the 1981 abortive coup, Hatab was arrested and incarcerated at the state central prison at Mile 2 for 40 days and 40 nights before being unconditionally released by Jawara’s government. According to his friend, Oustas Kawsu Jatta, Hatab was “reported” by some locals for being outspoken and commentating on social issues in a way that could potentially incite young people.

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Indeed Hatab Bojang had always been vocal and strident in his sermons and social commentaries. He was not a shockjock like the late Abdullah Gitteh of Brikama Madina or his recent reincarnation Ba Kawsu Fofana. He was a tad too intellectual and urbane. But he never shied away from talking to authority in unvarnished language. For example, he vociferously condemned the Jawara government for selling food aid sent to Gambians in the ’80s.

One of his first students, Oustas Sidi Ali Janneh himself a prolific writer, researcher and imam in the Swedish city of Gotenborg, told The Standard that because of his personality and erudition, the Saudis contracted Hatab to embark on advocacy and sensitisation in the mainly Arab Middle East.

Janneh – who court fame and notoriety – for his seeming liberal interpretation of Islam, said his master was invited to Al-Azhar University, Egypt – Islam’s highest institution of learning – to discuss several issues on the religion several times.

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During his days, Hatab was a very popular figure among the young people of Gunjur and the alumni of his Khalid Ibn Walid school include Lamin Touray, current president of the Supreme Islamic Council and luminaries like Dembo Touray, Essa Darboe and Ismaila Manjang.

He died on the morning of Monday 30th April 1984 while making his genuflections in the house of his wife, Ya Khan Jobe, in Serekunda. Thousands congregated in his native Gunjur to pay their last respects to a fearless champion of social justice and warrior of Allah. He was survived by two wives, three sons and four daughters among them the very vocal Amie Bojang-Sissoho, the programme coordinator at Gamcotrap.   


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