By Haj Saeed Hamid Jallo
A few days ago the nation of Ghana experienced the death of one of its seasoned musicians, Daasebre Gyamenah. This gentleman had endeared himself to the hearts of Ghanaian music lovers both at home and abroad with his scintillating songs that are mostly appealing to both the young and old.
Many people knew Daasebre Gyamena as a musician but until his demise only a few ever attributed Islam to him. As a media person and a former Programmes Director of a radio station I was privileged to know much about Ghanaian musicians including Daasebre, however I only got to know him as a Muslim after he was released from jail somewhere in 2007.
Daasebre Gyamenah was indeed a Muslim by birth.
Those who heard for the first time were shocked that this man had been a Muslim all his life without the knowledge of many; especially as he is quoted as saying he always drew a distinction between his religion and social life.
After the death of this gentleman his family has refused to release the body for Islamic burial, citing his status as a royal. According to them royals are not supposed to be buried immediately after death. He therefore must be buried with the pomp and pageantry their custom and traditions demand.
Some Muslims castigated the family for the stance they took, whilst others were of the view that Muslim leadership is not doing enough to protect its adherents especially those of them who revert to the religion later in life.
Many a time a Muslim dies and the non-Muslim family refuses to allow Islamic burial for the deceased, therefore unfortunately such a person is buried amidst singing and dancing, drinking of alcohol and all other unislamic activities. This makes it difficult for Muslims to participate in the burial.
Now who should we blame? Are those who are blaming the family justified? Or those who put the entire fault on Muslim leadership whom they claim are not doing well to bring such people closer?
Daasebre in an earlier interview with KSM on his TGIF programme on Metro TV, made it clear that he was a Muslim, he went on to say he was having a prayer mat, Qur’an and rosary beads in his prison cell in London and therefore was not joking with his prayers. This at least alludes to the fact that he was conscious of his deen (religion). However one of the most important aspects of being a Muslim is identifying with the people and being seen at Islamic programmes and events. This Daasebre never did.
In this particular case I do not see why Muslim leadership is to blame. Daasebre decided to do away with any Islamic identity saying he is separating his religion from his work. The name Abubakar Siddiq was not an adopted one but a name given to him at birth; what then prevented him from identifying with his people?
This Daasebre issue is not a case in isolation; many good Muslims have had the unfortunate situation of being buried as non-Muslims and in non-Muslim cemeteries simply because they failed to make their positions clear to their families.
In order to minimize such occurrences revert Muslims must make their position clear to their families. They must make them aware they are Muslim and thus have to be buried in accordance with the precepts of their faith and not of the tradition of their people. They must exhibit their Islamic faith very well as to let their families accord them the necessary respect as Muslims.
However in a situation where Islamic principles are missing in the conduct and characteristics of any individual, family would then not have it difficult holding on to the body for their own interest,especially in an era where funerals are sure to rake in more revenue than business.
Now to Muslim leadership; in as much as we would not blame leadership for such occurrences we believe they have an important role to play in salvaging the eemaan(faith) of such people. Leadership in Islam have been entrusted to them by Allah, therefore their duties are not isolated to weddings, naming ceremonies and funerals. Their responsibilities go far beyond that. The welfare of every Muslim must be seen by our leaders as a very important task, especially the new reverts.
We therefore call on leadership to have the mechanism of identifying such people and bringing them closer so that they will see themselves as members of a larger society. If anything of such nature had been done in the lifetime of Daasebre Gyamenah, maybe the royal family and Muslim leadership of Koforidua will not have been in such a crunch meeting debating on who has the right to bury the deceased Muslim musician.
Burial is our responsibility and the rest is left to Allah.
We pray for Allah’s mercy on the soul of our brother Abubakar Siddiq and all Muslims who have made it to the other world. We also pray for those of us still on earth to be Muslims at heart, in words, deed and action.
Wa jazaakumullahu khairan.