Two years ago, Abdur-Rasheed Abubakar had an accident that almost claimed his legs. Despite the accident, the popular publisher of Al-Fahm Magazine and lead writer with Encomium Magazine has continued to make Islam and Muslims proud in his endeavours.
Abubakar in this interview with Zulaykhah Abodunrin and Abdul-Waheed Shotonwa, talks about missed opportunities and lessons learnt after the accident happened.
The Custodian: Who is Abdur-Rasheed Abubakar?
Abubakar: Abdur Rasheed Abubakar is a servant of Allah, a journalist, a Muslim and also married to a beautiful wife. Alhamdulilah.
The Custodian: Let’s talk about growing up, how was it for you?
Abubakar: My childhood was fun. Growing up in Otta was an unforgettable experience filled with some ups and downs, before I finally relocated to my base (home) in Lagos after my primary and secondary schools education.
Although, I was an average student, I got so much love from my classmates, even from my seniors because of my inborn artistic skill. And trust me, I enjoyed doing it. I love drawing more than reading (smiles), and it was made easy for me being an art student. At that time, I already decided to study Graphic Design, and the best institution to achieve this was none other than YabaTech. But, my encounter with MSSN impeded me from achieving this dream.
Yes. I am about to explain that. I didn’t join MSSN until SS2 or so. And it was by chance I attended their first meeting in my school, and I felt in love with the way they organise their programmes. Before you know it, I started moving with them, attending Area Council Usrah at Oju-Ore, Otta.
One day, I learnt in one of their lectures that drawing of images and all sort is not allowed in Islaam. It was as if the lecturer was directly talking to me. The same lecture was also complimented the day I attended The Muslim Congress (TMC) Taskiyah at Iyana-Ijoko, Sango. Truthfully, I was convinced but I knew, it’s not going to be easy to quit the job (profession) you love.
I came back to Lagos with that thought. While thinking of an alternative before writing my first JAMB, I was already learning apprenticeship with a Sign Writing company known as Akins-Signs at Randle Avenue, Surulere, where I made stipends and saved for the future (particularly for my exams) because life wasn’t easy. That’s why I said my childhood was filled with ups and downs.
To cut the story short. How I came in contact with Journalism? It was an accident! There was a vacancy for an agent at a popular newspaper depot in my street (Makinde/Akintan street, Ojuelegba), I applied and started working for them. I distributed evening newspapers. There were three (3) major evening newspapers then; namely, TNT, Breaking News published by Daily Independent (now defunct) and the third, which lasted for a very long time, until last year, when it stopped printing, was PM News! But the newspaper is still active online.
Someone linked me up with the publisher of AL-ISLAM islamic newspaper, Alhaji Yemisi Coker and I became the newspaper distributor. It was between 2002/2003.
So, visiting ICNL (the publisher of PM News/TheNews) building every Tuesday and Friday to make payments for sold copies was awesome. That was where I developed interest in journalism, and I told myself, ‘I would work here one day, not as an agent but as a journalist’. The rest is now a history, because I eventually worked as an Education Editor (Campus Square) before I left to join Encomium magazine in 2010.
The Custodian: Many of your fans are still in the dark about the accident
Abubakar: The accident is more than a year now. Exactly February 4 2015. It happened while I was on an official assignment, somewhere at Ojota. I had no premonition that something like dat was about to happen, but Allah knows.
What I can say is that an articulated trailer hit me and I had dislocation on my left leg, and fracture on my right thigh. Alhamdulillah for my life. I am still alive only by Allah’s Grace. And In Sha Allah, I am going to walk again, no matter the challenges I am currently experiencing.
The Custodian: How has life been after then (the accident)?
Abubakr: Life is Good (smiles); Life has been Good. Honestly, it has not been so easy but I thank God I have Allah on my side, then, my family and brethren in Islam have been so dearest to me. Let me use this opportunity to thank my wife, she is indeed a wife, an example for other ladies to emulate! So many personalities have made my life worthy of living despite my present predicament. I want to thank them all. I am very grateful.
The Custodian: What lessons has it (the accident) taught you?
Abubakar: The accident has taught me so many lessons. In fact, I can start talking about it now and won’t exhaust the gist till the day after tomorrow (smiles). Firstly, on the day of the accident, I had lofty plans of what to achieve for the day before leaving home, but man proposes and ultimately, God disposes.
When you have problems, so many people would come up with different solutions and if you’re not careful, you may follow the wrong steps. I experienced something similar; they said, ‘use this, drink that’ and all sorts, but I was able to overcome them because of my steadfastness. It wasn’t easy at all, but Allah is all-powerful, and nothing happens without His permission. I have also used the period to cement my relationship with Allah. Trying my best to improve in my worship to Allah and ‘jihad’ in the cause of Allah. Reading about the lives of early Muslims who achieved so many great things for Islaam during ill-health has really motivated me into trying to think of what to do for Islam. People like baba ibn Baz, sheik Ahmed Yasin and of course, Khurram Murad who wrote his last book, ‘Dying and Living for Allah’ on hospital bed.
It has taught me to appreciate my Lord, Allah and my family more than my work or anything else. Because when the work leaves you, when your friends at work abandon you, Allah and your family will remain. I want you all to learn from me.
Let me share a story with you. A popular company in Nigeria (name withheld) wanted to raise money for my medical trip abroad, give me money (millions of naira) to start my own business. In fact, they’ve interviewed me, shot a short documentary of me – particularly on my ‘little’ contributions to Entertainment journalism.
However, I later turned down their request when it occurred to me (after consultations with my scholars) that their source of income falls under ‘doubtful matters’. It is a form of gambling and a game of chance, even though they wanted to assist me. I decided to reject it based on my understanding of Hadith six of Imam An-Nawawi, which says: Whoever is wary of these ‘unclear matters’ has absolved his religion and honour. And whoever indulges in them has indulged in the haram. It was a painful decision though I didn’t regret it. I told those who blamed me for rejecting the offer, what if I didn’t live to spend the money, what would I tell Allah? Somebody even said; ‘how I wish I am in your shoes’ (smiles). This shows how desperate people are, especially when it comes to riches. And I told the person, who told you i’m not going to become a billionaire in the future (smiles.)
Honestly, I want to use this opportunity to apologise to the man that breached all the company’s protocols to make that offer a reality. If you’re reading this interview, I am very sorry sir. May Allah reward you abundantly.
And to my friends, patience is a virtue. This is me, I am still alive and hopeful, that I would soon be on my feet in sha Allah.
The Custodian: What were the philosophy you held on to as a child that helped to shape you into who you are today?
Abubakar: I didn’t live with my parent while growing up. I spent most of my childhood with my grandma in Otta. I learnt so much from her; and that alone really shaped me to who I am today.
I learnt discipline, determination and doggedness. If she gives you a task and you fail to carry it out; or you didn’t achieve the desired results; there would be no food for you on that day. And because I didn’t want to miss my meal, I have to do all my assignments (smiles) and achieve results despite all huddles or irrespective of the difficulties.
That later became part of me, not because of the “food” per say, but because I don’t like to fail. I love to see the result of my handwork. For instance, as a journalist, I must meet the deadline of every story, irrespective of the challenges. I go extra miles to do my stories despite the fact that I have to submit four cover stories every week for ENCOMIUM Magazine.
The day I fail to meet my deadline, I feel bad about it. Also, we work so hard to produce AL-FAHM islamic newspaper. All hands were always on deck to put the newspaper of about eight pages together. I worked days and nights with the editorial crew – just to meet our target but sometimes, we fail to deliver. And you know what? Don’t bother to come and tease me at that moment, because I won’t take it lightly with you because I hate to fail.
The Custodian: What made you venture into journalism?
Abubakar: Actually, it’s just a passion. I always admired media practitioners whenever I see them. I used to feel like they are Angels especially those on the television. When I see them, I used to admire them a lot. So my venturing into journalism then had no mission for Islam. It was when I started as a trainee that I discovered that Muslims are not properly represented and the so called “Muslims” who were practising journalism were not really practising Muslims. Because of this, I decided to change my focus probably because we just want to go there to become famous and make money but now it is for Islam. That was how I started preparing myself for today. Whenever I was in the newsroom or during my leisure periods, I would gather materials as per Islam. From there, I was able to keep many materials about Islam and the Media. That was how it all started. My being a journalist has a focus. For Allah and of course Islam.
The Custodian: On 3rd of May, 2015 in the city of Surulere in Lagos, you launched your book – ‘Muslims and the Threat of Media’. What can you say to be the motive behind the book?
Abubakar : Like I said earlier that I have a focus which is for Allah and Islam, so the best way to share the knowledge to would-be journalists for them to know that they have a great responsibility or task ahead of them or for the ignorant Muslims that have been deceived by the media propaganda. So, I believe it was necessary at that time to come up with that publication. Meanwhile, the first edition was published in 2009. What you saw last year was a revised edition meaning that between 2009 and last year, several events have unfolded in the Islamic world. As the role the media played was actually recognized. That was why the revised edition came and at the right time. Hopefully, in the next four or five years, there would been a revised edition of the book because it is a reference book that generations to come can be able to know what happened at a particular time, so that they know how to plan their own program as a Muslim media practitioner in order to help them get ready for the future. Maybe in the next 4 or 5 years, we would come up with another edition though it might carry another name but the story continues on what we are discussing- ‘Muslim and the Threat of Media’.
The Custodian: With your present state of health, how were you able to come up with the book and create a balance in the media?
Abubakr:Alhamdulilah. Firstly, we need to understand that in my present condition, I won’t be the first and of course won’t be the last. People before us even the Prophets of Allah experienced worst than what I’m experiencing, Even the Messengers of Allah. If you look at the present generation, you see a lot of people even due to their physical challenges, that still achieved one or two things. For instance, Sheikh Ahmad Yasir, who founded Hamas despite his health condition. Also, Qurad Muran wrote his last book on his sick bed where he died. The last book he wrote was like a will he left for the Muslims. Then Sheikh Ibn Baz who is a major contributor to the field of Fiqh- Islamic jurisprudence. He lost his sight a long time ago yet he was able to write books which made him highly rated in the world. When you read about these people, it inspires you to do more. This means that I have not even utilized completely my present condition to achieve so many like those people. It is my prayer that before I get on my feet, Allah should assist me to come up with at least one if not two that I would say apart from ‘Muslim and the Threat of Media’, I was under this particular condition when I wrote this book and may Allah make it easy. So It’s not a challenge but a normal thing. For my case, I would still get better In Shaa Allah but we don’t know the time, but for the aforementioned scholars, there was no hope that they would get better. So, we should always learn from them so that we can see that whatever we are going through now, Allah tested those before us and they didn’t say because of that they would not pray or fast. It does not affect their Ibadah and relationship with Allah. So, it should not affect ours and our immediate society.
The Custodian: It could be derived that your ideology concerning the media and society is to strike a balance between the media reports and what Islam is all about. Do you think it is achievable?
Abubakar: It is achievable if the fifth column that are hijacked in the media see reason why we should not use the media to tarnish the image of another religion.
Basically, we are to follow the rules of journalism like objectivity, fair hearing and others, but the fact remains that the present media being controlled by the West is not going to be objective especially when it comes to Islam and we have seen the recent events in Nigeria. For instance, how the Muslims were being misrepresented. Even in the global scene, we see how the media paint Islam bad. So because of that, to achieve objectivity is very rare. However one of few media houses still maintain objectivity. 90% of Nigerian media are biased even though some claim to be objective.
Only when we have Islamic media house controlled by conscious Muslims, because they are aware that it is against the injunction of Allah to lie. So I think that is when we can achieve objectivity.
The Custodian: Many upcoming journalists are looking up to Abdur Rasheed Abubakar for mentoring and as a role model. What advice do you have for them and the Ummah in general.
Abubakar: First is that, you need to be conscious of what they are doing. In the sense that you know what you want for yourself. If you want to be in the Print media, ask yourself if you have the qualities to be there. What you need more is the ability to write, so start writing, definitely you will improve when you continue. Same goes to broadcast, you know you can talk very well so start working towards that. Then, what is important is to ask yourself about Islam. We will continue to have problem in the media if we have Muslims who don’t really understand their religion and we have them more in the media. First thing to do is to have a very strong Islamic background which will guide you to differentiate what is right, wrong and also necessity when you find yourself in the media.
Lastly, they should not go into the profession because of money.