One of The Gambia’s most prominent Islamic scholars Sheikh Abdou Gitteh is a native of Brufut. A man who will continue to be remembered as one of the most popular Islamic preachers in the history of this country. Sheikh Abdou Gitteh was a household name in The Gambia, someone who was well known for his bravery in executing his Islamic duties.
The erudite scholar was born in Brufut West Coast Region. His father’s name was Alhaji Kawsu Gitteh and his mother Dallou Drammeh. Gitteh started his early education with his uncle Fabuwa Drammeh where he learned different Islamic books including fiqh. While with his uncle, his father was moving in between Casamance and Gambia.
People were seeking prayers from his father across regions. He later joined his father to continue with his majlis education. His father first settled in Casamance in a village called Tabajang before finally moving to Brikama.
Throughout his lifetime Sheikh Abdou never attended formal school; he was a traditional majlis student who was so much hardworking and determined to become the person he was.
Sheikh Gitteh taught in Mahadd secondary school in Brikama where he served as senior lecturer and an executive member. He played a pivotal role in building that school to be one of the recognised schools in the country. He taught in that school for years spreading the words of Islam.
He was among the founder fathers of the supreme Islamic council. The council was initially formed by majlis students and few other students that went abroad for studies.
He was a societal reformist who always advocated for the reform of the ills of the society based on Islamic principles. He was well recognised for attending and promoting celebrations of the birth of the prophet of Islam locally called ‘Gamo’ throughout the country. Those events served as a platform in preaching the words of Allah. He toured the length and breadth of this country in different capacities extending the message of Islam, where he earned the respect of thousands of people across the country.
Sheikh Abdou Gitteh was well known for his strong but controversial views, like supporting female circumcision. He was against those advocating for an end to female circumcision. His belief was that the act was happening during the time of the prophets and nothing was said to condemn it. He advocated for those who believed in it to continue doing it and those that did not believe in it to stay away from advocating against it. According to his close associates he wrote a paper regarding female circumcision.
According to his close associates there was a ‘Gamo’ in Foni Bondali during which the former president Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara sent a state Minister to find out the Islamic ruling of FGM. The minister narrated his mission at the Gamo and was asked to be settled down beside Abdou Gitteh so he could hear what the preacher had to say.
He asked the Minister to inform the president that FGM was an act happening during the time of our prophet (puh) and it was not condemned. He believed that western education played a role in condemning FGM. He asked those advocates to keep quiet and let those who believed in it to continue their practice.
A workshop was once organised at Gambia College by one of the top feminists currently holding a key position in Barrow’s government. In that workshop different Imams were called to talk to them about female genital mutilation. During that event Sheikh Abdou Gitteh categorically debunked her statement and asked his colleagues to leave the event.
Sheikh Abdou Gitteh also talked about tourism and its devastating effects on society. His belief was that tourism had more negative impacts on our lives than its benefit. He also talked about the practice of family planning. According to him family planning is an evil act and whosoever did it for a cause of not bearing a child was indulging in an act that is ‘Haram’. He believed that it is un-Islamic and whosoever is fond of doing such dubious act should stop.
Sheikh Abdou was one of the scholars that was never afraid to speak the truth anytime. He was someone that respected humanity and yet he was never bothered by other people’s opinions in the exercise of his religious duties. In that regard he never wanted to get close to the powers that be even though former president Jammeh called him state house on so many occasions. He believed that his was a mission that he had to accomplish at all cost. He was so much concerned with the society in which we lived. He believed that people needed to change their ways of life to live in a good society free of corruption and other societal evils.
Sheikh Gitteh lived a fulfilling life and was a force to reckon with in our society. His students could be found in all walks of life playing major roles in the society.
Basiru O. Ceesay
BA in Development Studies
University of The Gambia