“The Life Story of Sheikh Hattab Through the Lens of His Acquaintances”
“The Life Story of Sheikh Hattab Through the Lens of His Acquaintances” by the Gambian writer Sulayman Danjo
Translated and reviewed by Basidia M Drammeh & Abdullah Ebrahim Samateh
This book entitled “The Life Story of Sheikh Hattab Through the Lens of His Acquaintances” by the prolific Gambian writer Sulayman bin Tumani Danjo is a truly remarkable work of scholarship that will serve as a bountiful reference for scholars of both Arab-Islamic and Western cultures. Its captivating and straightforward style, amongst other features, means it has significantly changed and improved the face of literature in the fields of Arabic language and Islamic studies in The Gambia.
The author, Sulayman Danjo, was born in 1988 in the village of Kuwonkuba in the Sandu district of the URR region. Mr. Danjo is now pursuing a master's program in the Department of Literature and Rhetoric at the Islamic University of Medinah in Saudi Arabia. He has previously served as the Gambia Students Union's president at the same University from 2018 until mid-2020. Mr. Danjo, who has authored more than twenty works, including articles, research papers and a book, is also the founder of the Gambia Cultural Renaissance Foundation and The Gambia Cultural Renaissance Magazine, and a member of the Gambia’s Literary Club.
The book sheds light on the life story of one of Gambia’s most prominent figures and illustrious sons, Sheikh Hattab Sharif Bojang, who left behind an enduring legacy reflected in his glorious achievements and remarkable deeds. The book equally highlights his invaluable contribution in spreading the pure Islamic religion, which earned him great admiration and prominence both locally and regionally. Sadly, however, his blessed memory began fading into oblivion soon after his demise, as happened to his predecessors and may also befall his successors among the religious scholars. The reason for this stark reality may be attributed to the absence, since the dawn of Arabic-Islamic education in The Gambia, of writings and scientific research that specialize in biographies and memoirs of religious figures recounting their deeds and virtues. Consequently, these legendary figures and their glorious achievements pass unnoticed in a country whose authorities and mostly western cultured citizens show no regard for religious figures dead or alive.
This important book, therefore, ushers in a new culture of biographical literature and authorship, unlike the usual works typical of scholars of Arabic language and Islamic studies in The Gambia, taking Gambian literature beyond its standard scope, dealing with topics of common interest to the country’s intellectuals from a wide variety of backgrounds. The book also serves as an implicit invitation to celebrate the religious figures mentioned within its pages and commemorate their achievements, to immortalize their memories so that others may emulate their achievements for self-betterment in various aspects of life.
We are certain that this work will motivate scholars and intellectuals of Islamic and Arabic education in The Gambia to devote themselves to scientific research and authorship, especially in the field of documenting the efforts of earlier generations of Islamic scholars, to whom credit is due, after Almighty Allah, for spreading Arabic and Islamic education in The Gambia.
We, as translators of this book, have learned valuable lessons from the life story and virtues of Sheikh Hattab, the vital role he played in spreading the correct Islamic Da’wa, and his tireless efforts in preparing the elites and a generation of scholars who carried the torch after him to illuminate the path for successive and future generations, in addition to being inspired by the great personal sacrifices he made to achieve his goals and ambitions during difficult times.
Commendably, the author masterfully presented the facts in chronological order, beginning his narration with the era preceding Sheikh Hattab Bojang, ensuring coherence and cohesion of the text, in addition to demonstrating masterful ease and eloquence of expression, which leave the reader with a vivid mental picture of the facts and events with their minute details and organic relationships.
Beginning with a historical tour across West Africa, the work shines a light on the era of the pagan kingdoms that existed in the early days, which eventually perished under the feet of the Islamic kingdoms, notably the Islamic kingdoms of Ghana and Mali, amid bloody conflicts that ravaged the area, after which the Islamic kingdoms emerged victorious, consolidating their grip on power and remaining the ruling power for decades.
The author then presents an extensive study on the origins of the Bojang clan, which go back to three originally pagan brothers who arrived in the Kombo region after fleeing the Islamic Kingdom of Mali. These three later formed the nucleus of the Bojangs in Kombo, with Brikama as its capital city to this day. After tracing the roots of Sheikh Hattab, it’s clear that the Bojang clan, which soon spread throughout Kombo, became one of the majority clan in the region and its ruling elite since it was a pagan kingdom. After tracing the roots of Sheikh Hattab Bojang, the author concluded that Sheikh Hattab was a member of the Bojang clan and a descendant of Bojang Sankarang, the kings and historical rulers of Kombo.
The author also touched on the history of the great city of Gunjur, whose foundation contributed to sowing the seeds of Islam and consolidating its roots in the pagan kingdom of Kombo. Gunjur was the city that sheltered Muslims in the early stages of Islam and served as the departure point of reform and jihad-oriented da’wa, led by an elite of valiant Mujahideen and venerable scholars, including that of Sheikh Hattab Bojang’s modern da’wa, becoming the bastion and beating heart of the Islamic Kingdom of the time. Gunjur has since continued to serve as a proud home of religious knowledge and erudite scholars.
The book will be available at all major Arabic and Islamic schools in Gambia, including Tadamun, Talinding Islamic Institute, Brikama Islamic Institute, Khaled Bin Waleed Arabic school of Gunjur, Tawfeeq Islamic school in Brikama and Al Noor in Brufut.
To be continued