LONDON – The month of January 2019 started with a great loss for the Muslim community with the death of the British Muslim convert Aisha Lemu, the founder of the Federation of Muslim Women Associations in Nigeria (FOMWAN), The Telegraph reported.
“I have lost my second mother. We belong to God and to Him is our return. Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un,” Bashir Mundi, the director of inspire academy in Abuja wrote on Facebook.
Aisha Lemu, who died at the age of 78 on January 5, was brought up as an Anglican in Britain. She converted to Islam, married a Nigerian sheikh, and became a prominent educationist in the Muslim West African country of Nigeria.
As she recalled in a speech in 2002: “…was brought up in the Church of England but I found I couldn’t believe its teachings. I felt the need for the truth and set out to seek it elsewhere.”
Since the age of 14, she started to research Buddhism and Hinduism as well as Chinese religions. This interest drove her to study language and culture at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London.
When she turned 20, she suffered a spiritual crisis, confessing at the same speech “that I had no beliefs and no certainty about anything, even the existence of God.”
Journey to Islam
A few years later, she met a group of Muslim students who talked to her about Islam and gave her a translated Qur’an “to remove some of my misconceptions”.
“I knew very little about Islam and had never considered it a possibility because of the negative image it had – ‘something like Christianity, but worse’,” she recalled.
As soon as she began reading, she “sensed that this was the real thing… This wasn’t a book addressed just to desert tribesmen 1,400 years ago. It was also addressed to me – a 20th-century doubter, a religious skeptic, living in an age of science.”
Just a few weeks later, she visited Regents Park Mosque to convert to Islam. She subsequently helped to found the Islamic Society at SOAS, becoming its first secretary, and was instrumental in the formation of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies.
There, she met her husband Sheikh Ahmed Lemu whom she traveled within 1966 to Kano, Nigeria to teach at the School for Arabic Studies. Afterward, she transferred to Sokoto as the principal of Government Girls’ College, and the principal of the Women Teachers’ College in Minna, Nigeria.
In 1969, Aisha and her husband founded the Islamic Education Trust (IET), an education charity devoted for integrating the Islamic perspectives into the modern Nigerian curriculum, and in 1978 she became its director.
Aisha was the author of some 30 books, many of which, including a junior Islamic studies series, are used as textbooks in Nigerian schools. In 2000, she was appointed a Member of the Order of Nigeria.