Sunday, April 19, 2015

Uganda: Supreme Mufti Kayongo Dies At 81

At about 8:15am on Thursday, Supreme Mufti Sheikh Zubair Sowedi Kayongo was pronounced dead at Aga Khan hospital, Dar es Salaam, where he had been admitted on Tuesday.
He had flown to Tanzania for a week-long regional conference for Muslim clerics that began on Tuesday. Before his journey, he attended Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II's 60th birthday celebration at Bulange, Mengo on Monday.
At the Kabaka's event, he appeared weak, and did not join the other religious leaders in prayer for the Kabaka. An ambulance was later called to take him home, because he could not walk all the way to Lubiri where VIPs had parked.
"He insisted on attending the Kabaka's birthday party, in fact he told me that he couldn't miss it because in his words, it was the last such function for him to attend," said Hajji Asuman Jjunju.
In a message to Prince Kassimu Nakibinge, the Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi expressed shock at Sheikh Kayongo's passing having seen him at his (Kabaka) on 60th birthday.
"His presence at [Monday's] celebration didn't indicate to us that it was the last time for him to be with us because it is so short a time that we are getting the news of his passing [on]," the Kabaka said.
Late last month, Sheikh Kayongo was admitted to Case hospital with diabetes and hypertension, although he was later discharged.
"When I saw him at Bulange, I thought he was back on his feet; it feels sad to get news a few days later that he is dead," Hajji Musa Buwembo, a leader at the Kibuli-based Muslim faction, told journalists yesterday.
At about midday yesterday, his body was moved from the hospital to Dar es salaam's Masjid Shadhully for special prayers. Before he left for South Africa on Thursday, the Mufti of Uganda, Sheikh Shaban Ramathan Mubajje, ordered all mosques across the country to hold special funeral prayers (swalatul Ghaib) for his departed leadership rival.
"Putting aside the [rivalry], Sheikh Kayongo is a great Sheikh and teacher. Most of the elderly Sheikhs we have were taught by him, and he is also a signatory to the UMSC (1986) constitution," Hajji Nsereko Mutumba, the UMSC spokesman, told The Observer yesterday.
A meeting of the UMSC management committee yesterday resolved to hold parallel national funeral prayers at the Old Kampala mosque.
Born around 1934 to Sowedi Kayongo of Bbaale in Kayunga district, Sheikh Kayongo began his early education at the late Sheikh Swaib Ssemakula's Madarasat al-Nahdat al-Islamiyyah Katuumu, Luweero, one of the celebrated Islamic theological schools at the time.
He was one of the young boys that Sheikh Ssemakula identified in mid-1940 to receive instruction in Islamic religious studies. On completion of his studies, he would lead Muslims back home in Bugerere (Kayunga) and across Lake Kyoga in Dokolo.
He spent about 11 years at Katuumu where he was awarded a Thanawi (an equivalent of an O-level certificate), and moved on to Lamu Islamic College where he was awarded a Shahadah certificate. He returned to Katuumu and in 1965, he enrolled for further studies at madarasas run by Swahili Sheikhs at Mengo (near Usafi park) and Kawempe.
"Around that time, he also started teaching. He juggled between his Tajuwid (Qur'an recitation) lessons and teaching," Sheikh Muhammad Kyazze, one of Sheikh Kayongo's contemporaries said.
He was a teacher at present-day Bilal Islamic Centre, Bwaise and Kawempe Mbogo primary school, among others. With the help of the then Mufti, Sheikh Kassim Mulumba (RIP), Sheikh Kayongo bought land at Kiteezi, where he constructed his own school until 2008 when he relocated it to Buswabulongo, Lwamatta in Kiboga district.
Sheikh Kayongo's prominence in Muslim leadership matters can be traced back to 1993 when he was appointed deputy mufti under the Sheikh Ahmad Mukasa, led interim administration which was an outcome of a government negotiated effort to end Muslim wrangles.
He held the position until 2001 when the interim administration was dissolved with the election of Sheikh Shaban Mubajje as Mufti of Uganda. He retired to his teaching occupation until 2009 when he was named Supreme Mufti by a group of Muslims that accused Sheikh Mubajje of inappropriately selling Muslim properties.
"He was a committed leader, a good teacher and preacher that we have lost," Sheikh Kyazze said.
Besides his role in Muslim affairs, Kayongo was very close to Buganda kingdom and headed a conflict resolution committee of the Kkobe (wild creeping bean) clan. Sheikh Nuhu Muzaata Batte, the secretary for Da'awah (Islamic propagation) at Kibuli, likened Kayongo's death to that of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
"Prophet Muhammad died at a critical time when Islam was facing a number of challenges just like now when we got the news of our leader's death," Muzaata told Muslims after Dhuhur (afternoon) prayers at Kibuli mosque.
"Like the companions of the Prophet did, we shall also remain strong and committed to what he stood for. We are still focused on the struggle for Muslim unity in Uganda," Muzaata added.
By press time, government officials, the management committee at Kibuli as well as Buganda kingdom officials were discussing the return of Sheikh Kayongo's remains. A family source told The Observer that the Tanzanian president, Jakaya Kikwete, had offered to fly the body back about the same time President Museveni through Trade and Industry minister Amelia Kyambadde announced that government would meet all burial expenses.
Before the offers from the two presidents came in, the family had booked a Kenya Airways flight that was scheduled to touch down at Entebbe at 10pm last evening.
According to Sheikh Ibrahim Hassan Kirya, the spokesman for the Kibuli faction, funeral prayers are scheduled to start at 8am today (Friday) at Kibuli mosque, before the body is taken to Lwamatta, Kiboga, for burial. Kayongo is survived by at least 45 children and four wives.
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