Oct 18 2021
Sheikh Abdillahi Nassir is a Kenyan scholar who converted to Shiism and has since become a massive ambassador for Shiism in Africa.
Abdilahi Nassir is a Shia cleric based in Mombasa, Kenya. Though raised a Sunni, Nassir converted to Shiism, and publicly identified himself as Twelver Shia.
- Early life
Sheikh Abdillahi Nassir was born in Mombasa on 1 June 1932. His early education commenced with Madrasah education as he enrolled in Madrasah at a young age of four years and continued attending Madrasah from 1936 to 1946.
At the same time, he had simultaneous normal school education attending the Arab Boys Primary School from 1941–49 and later joined the Zanzibar’s Bet-el-Ras Teacher Training College from 1950-51.
- Early career
Upon his return to Mombasa he taught at the Arab Primary School from 1951-54. Because of his health condition, he was medically boarded out. Recovering from his ailment, he then joined the Mombasa Institute of Muslim Education as an accounts clerk and as a part-time religious Instructor, from 1955-57.
Sheikh Abdillahi Nassir took active interest in pre independence Kenya politics from 1957-63. He was elected to Kenya’s pre-independence Legislative Council and served in this capacity from 1961-63. As a member of the Kenya Legislative Council, he also attended the historic Kenya Constitutional Conference held at the Lancaster House, London, in 1963.
From 1964-1965 he worked as an Arabic/Swahili monitor with the BBC in Nairobi.
Later he joined the Oxford University Press and worked as a Swahili Editor with the Eastern Africa Branch of Oxford University Press in Nairobi from 1965-73. In 1973, Sheikh Abdillahi left the Oxford University Press to form his own Shungwaya Publishers Ltd. In 1974 he was recalled by the Oxford University Press to head the Eastern Africa Branch as General Manager and served in this capacity from 1974 to 1977.
Nassir’s positions have included serving as the principal of the Shia Theological Seminary near Mombasa, and his role in the Coastal People’s Party. He attended several meetings in lancaster house to liberate Kenyans from the colonial rulers. He later on left politics after independence for not being pleased by politics of that time.
Despite being active in Kenya politics, Sheikh Abdillahi devoted part time in preaching and tabligh activities from 1954 till 1959. During 1960-80 he engaged in translating and commenting on the Holy Qur’an during the holy months of Ramadan while living in Mombasa (1960–64) and later when he settled in Nairobi (1965–80).
From 1978-80 he worked as East Africa Representative of the Jeddah based WAMY (World Assembly of Muslim Youths).
With his intellectual knack, Sheikh Abdillahi did not blindly follow the widely held common perceptions about the Shia faith. The spirit of inquiry led him to read books written by Shia scholars. At the same time, he interacted with members of the Shia community with a view to understand the Shia faith better. In due course, he showed growing leanings towards the Shia faith and his question/answer sessions on the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation’s radio programs from 1977-80 aroused much interest.
Upon his return to Mombasa in the early 1980s, he was a regular lecturer for the Muharram Majalis organized by the Bilal Muslim Mission of Kenya held at the Huseini Imambargah.
Among other speakers for the Muharram majalis were Sharif Khitamy, Sharif Badawy, Prof. Bakari of Nairobi University and a number of other Sunni scholars from Mombasa and Lamu. When the Bilal Muslim Mission of Kenya Assembly Hall was formally opened in 1988, Swahili majalis for the months Muharram and additional lecture series were then held at the Bilal Hall. Sheikh Abdillahi would be among the main speakers attracting good crowd.
In due course, he declared himself as a practicing Shia Ithna-Asheri.
Through the Bilal media section, Sheikh Abdillahi has recorded various talks which have been broadcast in special Radio and TV programs organized by the Bilal Muslim Mission of Kenya. At the same time, Tabligh Section of the Dar es Salaam Jamaat and the Al Itrah Foundation of Dar-es-Salaam also extended similar cooperation to Sheikh Abdillahi. As a result, series of lecture sessions organized in Dar-es-Salaam and Zanzibar were well received.
In addition to Tanzania, Community members and organization in India, Pakistan, U.K., USA and Canada and the West Indies invited Sheikh Abdillahi for lecture tours since he was able to deliver lectures in both English and Kiswahili.
Sheikh Abdillahi has written/assisted in writing several books and booklets on Kiswahili language, (seven in all) and on Islam, (twenty), some of which have been translated into English and Rwandese.
Currently he is engaged in writing a Swahili translation and commentary of the Holy Qur’an and working to project the Shia Ithna-Asheri outlook. Since 2004, he has also set up a free reading room public library in Mombasa.
- Selected works
- A Concise Dictionary of English-Swahili Idioms
- Tamrini za kiswahili: sarufi na matumizi (pamoja na majibu)
- Al-Battar: Sherehe ya Dhul Faqaar
- Tafsiri ya Juzuu ya ‘Amma. Bilal Muslim Mission of Kenya.
- Tafsiri ya Sura At-Talaq. Shungwaya Publishers.
- Shia na Qur’ani: Majibu na Maelezo. Bilal Muslim Mission of Tanzania. ISBN 9976956819.
- Shia na Sahaba: Majibu na Maelezo. Bilal Muslim Mission of Tanzania. ISBN 9976956835.
- Shia na Hadith: Majibu na Maelezo. Bilal Muslim Mission of Tanzania. ISBN 9976956827.
- Maulidi: Si Bida, Si Haramu. Bilal Muslim Mission of Kenya.
- Ukweli wa Hadith ya Karatasi. Ahlul Bayt Centre.
- Mut’a Ndoa ya Halali. Ahlul Bayt Centre.
- Shia na Taqiya: Majibu na Maelezo. Ahlul Bayt Centre.
- Malumbano Baina ya Sunni na Shia. Ahlul Bayt Centre.
- Sura Al-Ahzab: Tafsiri na Maelekezo. Ahlul Bayt Centre.
- Yazid Hakuwa Amirul-Mu’minin. Bilal Muslim Mission of Kenya.
- Hadith Al-Thaqalayn: Hadith Sahihi. Ahlul Bayt Centre.
- Ahlul Bayt: Ni Nani, Si Nani. Ahlul Bayt Centre.