Featured: Biography of Sheikh Ismaila Manjang:
By Sheikh Sulaiman Danjo
Translated by Basidia M Drammeh
He is the great educator, Imam Ismailaa
bin Sheikh Muhammad Al-Amin known as "Arafang Malang Manjang" Ibn
Muhammed Lamin Manjang ibn Abu Bakr Mnajang famously known as "Manjang
Fing". Sheikh Manjang is a resident of Gunjur, but originally hails from
Suluko- May God protect him. He is a graduate of Umm Al-Qura University in
Makkah Al-Mukarramah and principal of the Khaled Bin Al-Waleed Islamic School
in Kombo Gunjur.
Birth and upbringing:
Sheikh Ismaila Manjang was born on June
12, 1945, in Gunjur in Kombo South. He grew up in the custody of his father,
Sheikh Muhammad Lamin Manjang, known as "Arafang Malang Manjang" -
May God have mercy on him. His older brother is Sheikh Noha Manjang, the
Muezzin of the Gunjur Mosque. May God protect him.
As for his great-grandfather, he is the sheikh Foday Abu Bakr Manjang Fing - May God have mercy on him), who had historical encounters with the kings of Brikama, as well as the colonists. The family is originally from the village of Seuluko in Guinea-Bissau. The Manjang family was famous for bravery and possessed high skills in hunting, and the descendants were skilled and experienced in war machines.
His quest for knowledge in traditional
In the early fifties, Sheikh Ismaila began
his educational career in the traditional learning circles of Gunjur, starting
with the Sheikh Omar Jammeh’s learning circle, known as “Fajerreh Jammeh,” may
God have mercy on him. The latter’s learning circle was in Jammeh Kunda. Sheikh Ismaila Manjang spent nearly three years under the tutelage of Jammeh, where he learned Arabic alphabets.
Then he turned to the learning circle of
Sheikh Muhammed Lamin Bojang, known as “Arafang Malang Bojang,” may God have mercy on him. The traditional learning circle known as Majlis was on the
southern side of the Grand Mosque, where the house of “Sandang Bojang” is
located. He stayed there for a short period.
In the mid-fifties, Sheikh Ismaila Manjang
turned to the learning circle of Sheikh Abu Bakr Jabang, known as "Arafang
Demba Jabang,” may God have mercy on him where he spent a long period during
which he mastered the Arabic alphabet in the traditional method known, as
(the Baysimim method). In the same learning circle, he read the Qur’an
until he completed it in the conventional manner, which enables the student to
read the Quran without focusing on memorization abstractly. Then he proceeded to study Shari’a sciences in accordance with the Maliki school.
Sheikh Ismaila Manjang used to help his
sheikh in educating younger students, such as Sheikh Muhammad Al-Amin Touray, Sheikh Dembo Kurus Touray, may God have mercy on him, and others.
Transition to regular schools:
In the early sixties, one of the
associates of Sheikh Hattab Bojang opened an Arab school in Gunjur Barrow
Kunda, specifically in the house of Kejara Barrow, who is Sheikh Kawsu Omar
Jatta, where he taught children the Arabic language. When Sheikh Ismaila Bojang
heard about it, he moved in. This coincided with the opening of Arabic school in Latrikunda Jaman by Sheikh Hattab Bojang, specifically in the home of his friend Sheikh Dodou Faal, may God have mercy on them, where he taught
children, so when the youth of Gunjur heard that one of the sons of
Gunjur opened a regular Islamic school in Latrikunda Jaman, they went to him
and insisted on relocating the school in Gunjur. The Sheikh yielded, with the
school being consequently relocated to Gunjur, his hometown. This was the
underlying factor behind the relocation of the school from Latrikunda Jaman to
About seventeen years ago, and since 1962. Sheikh Ismaila Manjang was one of the first students enrolled in Sheikh Hattab Bojang’s school in that year, at most outstanding. They were about
seventeen. Since 1962, Sheikh Ismaila began to accompany Sheikh Hattab
Bojang constantly and remained attached to him until his death in 1984, except
for travel and other essentials. Until he became a shadow of the sheikh, may
God have mercy on him. In 1962, Sheikh Hattab moved his school to his hometown
of Gunjur and resumed teaching in a small house that belonged to one Mr.
"Fasaikou Bojang, Abdul Wahab Bojang’s father, may God have mercy on
them., He was the only young man who belonged to the "Karaba" area -
which supported the then (PPP) ruling party. Karaba area was involved in a
longstanding political rivalry and tribal tension with “Karanding” - the
pro-opposition (UP) party. Karanding was the area that Sheik Hattab Bojang, may
God have mercy on him, belonged to. Certain people from the "Karaba"
area spew out enmity simply because he was from "Karanding.” As for Sheikh
Ismaila Manjang, despite being from the Karaba area, he was not affected by
these political conflicts and tribal strife.
Between 1976 and 1977, his mentor, Sheikh Hattab Sharif Bojang, appointed him as a teacher in the Kombo Sanyang public primary school, at the age of 31, to succeed Sheikh Dembo Kurus a scholarship in Kuwait in the 1976.
In 1977, Sheikh Ismaila Manjang participated in the training course supervised by Sheikh Hattab Bojang in coordination with Saudi universities to qualify teachers in public schools. After the training course, he was transferred from Sanyang Primary School to Gunjur Primary School.
Among the students who participated
in this training course were Sheikh Essa Darboe, Sheikh Muhammad Al-Amin
Touray, Dr. Mbai Kebba Kah, Imam Baba Leigh, Sheikh Tijan Kah, Sheikh Sidya
Ceesay, and Imam Ratib Sheikh Ali Moaz Kah, Sheikh Omar Bun Jeng, Sheikh Kawsu Jatta, Sheikh Bala Musa Fatty, and others.
Sheikh Ismaila Manjang has benefited from
Sheikh Hattab Bojang in many aspects, for example:
On the academic side: When
Sheikh Hattab sat to explain the Qur’an in Janneh Kunda, Sheikh Ismaila was
among those who attended this learning circle and read the exegesis of the
entire Quran to Sheikh Hattab Bojang. Sheikh Hattab used to refer to several
books of Tafseer in his explanation. However, Tafseer Ibn Kathir was his
primary reference, along with the Tafseer Al-Baghawi and Jalalain, may God have
mercy on him.
Years later, the Tafseer learning circle
was transferred to the main mosque, but that did not continue, so it stopped.
As a result, the Majlis was moved to Sheikh Hattab’s house in “Bojang
Kunda.” The Sheikh started giving lessons in various fields, such as
hadith, jurisprudence, among others. The Sheikh’s Tafseer learning circles
helped enable Sheikh Ismaila Manjang to master Tafseer. In the regular school,
Manjang was one of the outstanding students who excelled in language,
jurisprudence, history, and so on, so when Sheikh Hattab opened an Islamic
school in the border village of Katong in 1964, He chose four of his
distinguished students to teach there, including Sheikh Ismaila.
Due to his closeness to the Sheikh,
his manners resembled those of his mentor, Sheikh Hattab Bojang. May God have an understanding on him, as evidenced by his frankness and lack of flattery, honesty, honesty and humility, in addition to his eagerness to volunteer work and embrace of students, especially those who came from outside the Gambia, and
other things that I cannot mention here. 2- The ethical side: Sheikh Ismaila has been involved in his Sheikh’s life for a long time, since 1962, until he died in
1984. He never stayed away from him except when the Sheikh travelled
outside the country or otherwise. Despite his proximity to the Sheikh, he did
not receive a scholarship to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to continue his
studies until late, after the death of Sheikh Hattab. May God have mercy on him.
His enrollment in Umm Al-Qura University
In 1983, Sheikh Hattab travelled to Saudi
Arabia. He presented papers by many students to Saudi universities; among these students were Sheikh Ismaila Manjang, Sheikh Kawsu Jarju from Brikama, Sheikh Ahmed Jako, Sheikh Musa Jaiteh from Katong, Sheikh Ibrahim Touray, and others.
In 1984, before the admission results were announced, the Gambia was shocked by the death of one of its pillars, Sheikh Hattab Sharif Bojang! May God have mercy on him and make the highest Paradise of Heaven his resting place.
In 1985, following the death of Sheikh
Hattab Bojang (may God have mercy on him), the names of those admitted to
Umm Al-Qura University were announced; amongst those admitted were Sheikh Ismaila Manjang, Sheikh Ebrahim Touray, Sheikh Musa Jaiteh, Sheikh, Ahmed Jako, and
Sheikh Kawsu Jarju. Thus, Sheikh Ismaila Manjang joined Umm Al-Qura University,
where he continued his studies until he graduated in 1988. During his
stay in Makkah Al-Mukarramah, he participated in many training courses and
learning circles in the Great Mosque of Mecca.
His educational efforts:
After Sheikh Ismaila Manjang graduated
from Umm Al-Qura University, he returned to The Gambia. Sheikh Muhammad Al-Amin Touray and Sheikh Essa Darboe, who had graduated before him at the Islamic University in Madinah, had already taken over the management of Sheikh Hattab Bojang’s educational projects, renaming the Sheikh Hattab School in Gunjur as Khalid Bin Al Waleed Islamic School.
When Sheikh Ismaila Manjang returned to
The Gambia, he joined them and worked with them as a team. When they set out to restore several schools, Sheikh Ismaila was appointed as principal of the
Khaled Ibn Al-Waleed Islamic School in Gunjur. At the same time, Sheikh Essa
Darboe became Principal of the Solidarity Center for Islamic Studies in
Serrekunda, and Sheikh Muhammad Al-Amin Touray became head of the Islamic
Solidarity Association for West Africa. From 1988 to the present day, Sheikh Ismaila Manjang has continued to serve as the principal of the Khaled Ibn Al-Waleed Islamic School in Gunjur. In addition to his administrative work, he teaches Tafseer and other subjects in the school and provides other classes at the
Solidarity Center for Islamic Studies in Serrekunda. In addition to these
duties, he also offers lessons in his mosque about Tafseer and hadith,
addressing questions raised by the students after these lessons.
His Da’awah efforts:
Sheikh Ismaila Manjang is one of the
leading preachers in the country, as shown by his weekly Radio Gambia program broadcast every Friday in which he interprets the Quran. He is also one of the founders of the famous Islamic radio program ‘Islamic Forum,’ which he used to present with Sheikh Omar Bun Jeng, Sheikh Muhammad Al-Amin Janneh and Sheikh Sidya Ceesay (may God have mercy on them).
Sheikh Ismaila is also one of the clerics
who serves as a substitute for the imam Ratib of the mosque during the five
daily prayers when the usual imam is unavailable and has a mosque in his
compound where he leads Friday prayers. He began his clerical career under his
mentor Sheikh Hattab Bojang before working with Sheikh Omar Bun Jeng and
occasionally with Sheikh Muhammad Al-Amin Touray. At other times he delivers
sermons alone. His Da’awah is focused chiefly on correcting beliefs,
fine-tuning morals, calling for unity, and similar issues.
His charitable projects:
During his study at Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah Al-Mukarramah, an amicable relationship has developed between Sheikh Ismaila Manjang and some Saudi students, including Sheikh Abdul-Samad Al-Bukhari,
Sheikh Abdullah Al-Asiri and others, and they were his best friends at the
university. This relationship resulted in numerous benefits for many Gambian
cities and villages, as he built more than ten mosques in the Gambia.
God Almighty said: “And We will surely test you until We make evident
those who strive among you [for the cause of Allah] and the patient, and We
will test your affairs.”
He also said: “And We will surely test
you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits
but give good tidings to the patient.”
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) was asked: “O Messenger of Allah, which people are most severely tested?” He replied: “The Prophets, then the next best and the next best. A person is tested according to his religious commitment. If he is steadfast in his religious commitment, he will be tested more severely, and if he is frail in his religious commitment, his test will be according to his commitment.
Trials will continue to afflict a person until they leave him walking on the
earth with no sin on him.”
Sheikh Ismaila was well-known for
clarifying his approach in Da’awah, his keen desire to follow the Sunnah, and
his condemnation of heresies and superstitions. His Da’awah was characterised by wisdom and sound advice, in addition to frankness and fearlessness. However, he was not spared by the cunning of his detractors and enemies.
Sheikh Ismaila Manjang, like other
reformists who refuse to tolerate evil, has been subjected to many trials by
his enemies, the most famous of which were his arrests on two occasions during
the reign of former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh (may God forgive him).
First: In 1996, two candidates ran for
Parliament in the Kombo Constituency, where Gunjur is located. One of the
candidates was Mr. Kebba Barrow, a Muslim who was then running for the United Democratic Party (UDP) and currently the majority leader in Parliament. The other candidate was Mr. Paul Mendy, a Christian and the local candidate for the ruling party candidate. That year’s parliamentary elections ended with Mendy winning the parliamentary seat for the ruling party, defeating the opposition party candidate, Barrow.
On the day of the election, Sheikh Ismaila
led Maghreb prayers in the mosque, delivering a sermon following the completion of the prayer in which he reassured the congregation, and urged them to be patient, referring to the hadith of the Messenger of God (may God’s prayers and peace be upon him), which states: ‘How wonderful is the case of a believer; there is good for him in everything, and this applies only to a believer. If prosperity attends him, he expresses gratitude to Allah, which is good for him; if adversity befalls him, he endures it patiently and is better for him. Sheikh Ismaila added, “This is a
trial from God, so take it in good faith, as long as you have exerted your
efforts, remain patent and be content with God’s fate and destiny.”
After dinner, a group of police officers
turned up to question him about the sermon when he returned home. Sheikh Ismaila explained that he was explaining the stance of a believer to the mosque
congregation to reassure them. The next day, security operatives returned to
his home, where they found him laying out the prayer mats in the mosque and
arrested him on the orders of the then Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Sankung
Badjie. The sheikh was taken to the Brikama Police Station, where he was
detained overnight and was subsequently released the following day after his
innocence was established.
The second occasion: In 2011, a Da’awah
lecture was held in Gunjur, with Sheikh Omar Faba Gitteh (may God protect
him) as the Guest speaker. Sheikh Ismaila Manjang was a commentator
since he is one of the city’s prominent leadership figures and dignitaries. In
his speech at the event, Sheikh Ismaila Manjang condemned those who, according to the information given to him by his mentor, Sheikh Hattab Bojang, had been visiting heretical shrines on the coast of Gunjur and elsewhere. Because of that speech, Sheikh Ismaila’s enemies accused him of targeting the Head of
State in his condemnation because the latter had visited the shrines in
question, asserting that this indicated Sheikh Ismaila’s message was
politically motivated. He was subsequently arrested again and remained in detention for more than a week, during which he was subjected to severe harassment. He was, however, released after being found innocent.
The persecution inflicted on Sheikh Ismaila is a carbon copy that befell his mentor Sheikh Hattab Bojang with the
government due to politically and tribally motivated charges. Neither cleric
condemned the Head of State in particular, with both simply delivering sermons which their enemies chose to misrepresent as condemnation and sedition against the Head of State; ultimately, however, God exonerated them, proving their innocence and saving them from the machinations of evil people.
May Allah have mercy on his soul.