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Sheikh Ahmad Drammeh: A visionary, educator and spiritual leader

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By Dr Musharraf Hussain

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 Sheikh Ahmad Drammeh of The 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 Sheikh Ahmad Drammeh, a man of Allah who passed away on Thursday, 2 July 2020.
Sheikh Ahmad Drammeh, commonly known as Alhaji Banding Drammeh is a household name in The Gambia. He’s best known for his weekly radio programme The Muslim World, which he presented since 1970. He visited my family in Nottingham, UK and then I later visited him in The Gambia.
His educational journey started at a local Islamic school in Brikama. While with his Uncle in Brikama, he learnt the Qur’an, 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 a 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 the judiciary, education, banking and engineering.
Some of the major achievements of Sheikh Ahmad include:

  1. When he returned to The Gambia, he opened the Islamic Institute in Brikama in 1975. As a visionary leader and educator, Sheikh 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 one of the most successful senior secondary schools in The Gambia. The Maahad Senior Secondary School is one of the best schools in the region.
  2. Publication of the Voice of Islam a monthly magazine in Arabic and English. This reflected the sheikh’s deep desire to educate, inspire and guide the masses.
  3. The sheikh was a natural leader and revivalist and was keen to organise the scholars and imams of Gambia. So, with the support of Sheikh Alhaji Keba Landing Sanyang and others, he established the The Association of Gambian Islamic and Arabic Language Scholars.
  4. He also played an important role to integrate the association with the Supreme Islamic Council.
  5. Sheikh 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 The Gambia. I would like to express my sincere condolences to his family and in particular, my friend Khalid Drammeh, the sheikh’s son, who has big shoes to fill.
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