Africa mourns great Islamic Scholar, Sheikh Abdillahi Nassir
Sheikh Abdillahi Nassir, a top Islamic scholar in Kenya who had an influential role in spreading Islam in the country, passed away on Tuesday at 90.
A funeral procession for the top Islamic leader was held on the same day in Kenya’s coastal city of Mombasa and was attended by thousands of Muslims.
Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto eulogized Sheikh Nassir and said he served Kenya’s Legislative Council (Legco) between 1961 and 1963 with distinction.
"Nassir was an academic giant, an astute political thinker and a faithful force for development who made a huge contribution to the aspirations of Coast region," said Ruto.
The Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho said Sheikh Nassir as a revered scholar who was at the forefront in fighting for independence.
"It is with profound sadness that I receive the news of the passing on of Sheikh Abdillahi Nassir. He was a highly revered scholar, a literary genius and a man of impeccable character," said Joho.
Born in 1932 in Mombasa, he was a major thinker and author of religious books. Many people started following Ahl al-Bayt (AS) in eastern and central African regions after reading his books.
He was initially a Sunni Muslim but converted to Shia Islam in 1975. Wahhabis and centers affiliated with Saudi Arabia allegedly adopted some measures against him to make him return but they did not succeed.
Speaking in an interview about the reason for his conversion, Sheikh Nasir said after getting acquainted with the virtues of Imam Ali (AS), he gradually understood that Imam Ali (AS) was the best Muslim after the Prophet (PBUH). “After a while, I received Allamah Amini’s Al-Ghadir. When I read the first volume, I recognized the rightfulness of Shia. Then I went to Shia mosques and read more books and eventually became a Shia Muslim.”
He has penned several books about Shia Islam, including “Shia and Taqiya” written in Kiswahili. The book is a response to a book published some 10 years earlier in Kiswahili which had raised doubts about Shia Islam among African Muslims.
Sheikh Nasir also held several stages of debates with Wahhabi scholars about the history of Islam and the principles of Shia beliefs.
A series of his sermons have been recorded in cassettes and still circulate in eastern areas of the continent, playing a major role in disseminating Shia Islam in Kenya as well as other countries such as Tanzania.