Tick…tick…tick… And the breath suddenly stopped at 11:33 p.m. on Saturday June 4, 2022.
It was the time when I lost my beloved maternal father and my brother friend, my father, Imam Abdulhameed Shuaib Agaka (PhD).
I had arrived in Ilorin on Friday and met him at a private hospital where he had been admitted for treatment for malaria. I delicately collected the prayer beads from his fingers and I held his hand gently, even if a little tight… He replied with a very brief smile, without uttering a word.
Inside of me, I felt that his prayer of the past two years was about to be answered… But I refused to accept that it could happen so soon. I remember when he was 75th born in February 2020, he told me, as the eldest and in the middle of my siblings, that we had to be strong, because he would soon be leaving for the afterlife.
This meeting influenced my tribute to him on my birthday on October 10, 2020, entitled “Imam Agaka: A tribute to my father” https://yashuaib.com/
As he prayed for his transition to happen, we prayed vehemently against it. We weren’t oblivious to the fact that he had had an ongoing battle with diabetes and hypertension. He was even advised to reduce his participation in public engagements, which were quite hectic, including his weekly Islamic radio programs, sermons, advocacy visits and other activities outside the home.
From this period in 2020, he had devoted more of his time to Quranic recitations, remembrance of the Almighty and prayers… and nothing else.
As I held his hands tightly, praying and tears streaming down my face, I had a sudden reminder of the circumstances of the year 1998, when he finally agreed to accept the title of Imam Agaka, a close community of the Emir of the palace of Ilorin.
Since he had made up his mind, we could not prevent him from leaving Kano, where he was fully established as a respected spiritual leader, Islamic preacher and Arab scholar, even with a doctorate in Arabic morphology and Quranic grammar from the Bayero University of Kano in 1992.
He voluntarily retired from public service thereafter and to start a new life in Ilorin.
His family compound in Agaka is home to one of the oldest Koranic and Koranic centers in Ilorin, where members of the royal family, including the late mother of the current Emir Sulu-Gambari, learned basic Islamic teachings.
Apart from his prayer to be buried near his parents’ grave in Agaka, he had refused all calls to travel out of town for the past five years, not even for a visit to Abuja, lest he may die away from his favorite burial place near his parents.
We shared great moments together and he was always happy with the achievements of his children.
On May 26, when I informed him of my intention to travel to Daar es Salaam in Tanzania for the annual African PR conference and awards, he urged me to return as soon as possible to Ilorin with the award. , so that he could bless him as he had always done on similar occasions in the past.
On my return, I received a message saying that he had a fever and that he had been admitted to a private hospital. Earlier that Friday morning, I had packed the awards I intended to present to him, as part of my final professional recognitions, which I was sure would lift his spirits, and embarked for a 40 minute flight to Ilorin. When I arrived, I rushed to the hospital to see him. As mentioned earlier, he noted my presence by opening his eyes, but he couldn’t speak.
As I collected the rosary beads from his hands, he still consciously used his fingers to count the Tasbiu (Muslim prayers). I clapped his hands and he responded with a brief smile.
At that time, I begged Allah Almighty to please give my father more time, so that he could advise me and pray for me as he usually did, at least for the last time. I wanted to experience his jokes, his smile, his prayers and his embrace, if only for a moment longer.
I begged the Almighty to hold the Angel of Death a moment longer to allow me to present our latest publication and awards to him in a state of mindfulness.
Looking up to the heavens, I implored, “God, this man has spent the last few years doing nothing but pray, pray, and pray. Please give him some time so we can talk.
I was there and barely knew when my sister and in-laws took me for medical attention at a nearby health center. I was then checked into a hotel near the hospital, to calm myself down, while sleeping away from stress and trauma.
I went back to the hospital the next morning to see him. He was sleeping and breathing normally, but not unconscious. In the evening, however, the rhythm of his breathing had become a little faster.
At 11:33 p.m. that Saturday, her breathing stopped and her prayers were answered.
I momentarily became an adult “orphan” and sank into deep grief. My thoughts were filled with sadness, loneliness and an overwhelming sense of grief. I also experienced fatigue, confusion and anxiety in heightened measures.
We were comforted by the kind words of many leaders and scholars, and even the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Sulu-Gambari, whose exhortation reminded us of how Imam Agaka had had a positive impact on the Arab scholarship and Islamic education in the North.
I now understand what it really feels like to lose a loved one.
My sincere apologies to anyone whose calls or messages I have not yet answered during the last week of a final care leave in honor of my late father. May we all find the courage to bear the profound losses that come with life when they come our way, while maintaining the presence of mind to continue thanking God regardless.