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116-year-old Imam laid to rest

Jan 6, 2016, 9:58 AM | Article By: Abdou Rahman Sallah

The sudden death of the Imam Ratib of the Central Mosque of Sinchu Alhagie formerly Medina Sey, Imam Alhagie Abdoulie Ceesay, came as shocking news to the community and its environs.

He died at the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital in Banjul on Monday morning at 01:11 a.m. at the age of 116 years, after a brief illness, and was laid to rest the same day at Sinchu Alhagie around 17:00 p.m.

The news of his death triggered a mass gathering of people at his family home to pay their last respects to the venerable imam.

The gathering included relatives, friends and sympathisers from across the country and beyond. He is survived by three wives and sixteen children (10 females and 6 males).

The late Imam Ceesay was said to be one of the longest-serving imams in the Greater Banjul Area, with forty-nine years serving as Imam Ratib of Sinchu Alhagie Central Mosque.

He took the mantle of imam-ship in 1967, the very year Sinchu Alhagie was founded.

The community of Sinchu Alhagie and satellite settlements regarded him not only as a father, but also as a grandfather, a mentor, peace-builder, a pious and down-to-earth person with solid leadership qualities, among them a commitment to truthfulness and great devotion to Islam and the teachings of the Holy Quran and the Sunnah.

Speaking to this paper yesterday at his family home in Sinchu Alhagie, the elder son of the late Imam, Alhaji Salif Ceesay, said his father was born in a village called Jammalacha in Kabada, but migrated to The Gambia at the age of 11 years.

He was a relative to the families of Juma Ndour in Banjul and Kombo before he settled down in SererKunda London Corner from 1963 to 1967, and later founded Sinchu Alhagie in 1967.

According to him, the late Imam Ceesay studied from his late father Sheikh Ismaila Ceesay of Kabada and from his uncle Cherno Musa Khan, and later established five major Daras (Koranic schools) in the country.

His enduring legacy is the personal investment in teaching people about the Quran and the hadith, where he graduated over 380 disciples who have in turn established their own Islamic schools in The Gambia, Cassamance and Futta Toro, spreading the word of Allah.

His truthfulness and unique qualities could have been attributed to his upbringing, said his son, Alh. Salif Ceesay, who believes his father had contributed immensely to propagating Islam and the teaching of the Quran and the hadith to youths and communities as a whole.

“He was best father, a kind father, a father who was determined to bring up his children with discipline and in the Islamic way,” he said.

He respected everyone in the neighborhood, lived with belief in speaking the truth and died with the truth and honour.

“Apart from the fact that he is my dad, he was one of the kindest people I have ever seen in my life. He was a mentor, a friend, teacher, role-model to everyone and everyone respected him.”

Everyone respected and loved the late imam for his morals and behavior, as well as for being pious and truthful, according to his son.

As part of the contribution of the late imam to the socio-economic development of the country, many of the students whom the late imam had succeeded in teaching are now working in various sectors of the economy, including the ministry of Education.

In addition, he continued, that the late imam had closed allies like Cherno Modou Saidou Bah of Medina Gunass and Sheriff Basiru, son of Sheriff Unus of Bangeer, and Cherno Mansour Barrow, whose friendship was based on propagating Islam within the sub-region.

Meanwhile, the management and staff of The Point Newspaper extend their heartfelt condolence to the Ceesay family and pray that the departed soul rests in eternal peace.