At 5:50pm on Friday, the remains of Supreme Mufti Sheikh Zubair Sowedi Kayongo, who died Thursday, were lowered into his grave at Buswabulongo Islamic School, Lwamata, Kiboga district.
Kayongo asked to be buried at the school he built in 2009 to deter his children from selling off the more-than-20-acre school land. He wanted the family to carry on helping orphaned and needy children at the school.
Earlier in the day, a huge crowd from across religions, tribes and nationalities had converged at Kibuli mosque to pray for the soul of a widely- acclaimed Muslim leader. But in Kiboga an even larger crowd gathered to see off a cleric credited with training many sheikhs in the country and trying hard to reconcile Ugandan Muslims.
As the funeral went on, some stood in groups, discussing Kayongo’s successor. Three names are being mentioned: Sheikh Mahmood Kibaate (first deputy Supreme Mufti), Sheikh Muhammad Lunanoba (president general of the Juma-Zukuuli group) and Sheikh Abdul-noor Kakande (district Kadhi, Mukono-Kayunga).
Sheikh Lunanoba was previously fronted for the same office when Kayongo’s first four-year term expired, but that may now be in the past. Sheikh Kibaate has many admirers because of his leadership qualities.
But some are critical of his subscription to the salaf creed that preaches against celebration of Mauled (birth of Prophet Muhammad) and the observance of a deceased’s last funeral rites (duwah). To the salafs, such ceremonies are innovations (bidi’ah) in Islam because they were not observed by the Prophet. Sheikh Kakande, on the other hand, is seen by some as someone who cannot be easily shaken, and can fight on.
Addressing mourners at Kibuli mosque, Prince Kassim Nakibinge Kakungulu urged the college of eminent Sheikhs to find a replacement.
“Unlike the last time when I proposed Sheikh Kayongo’s name and you accepted him, this time I will not be available because I want the structures that we set up to exercise their mandate,” Nakibinge said.
Interviewed on Saturday, Sheikh Ibrahim Hassan Kirya, spokesman for the Kibuli group, said they were not in a hurry to find a replacement.
“I think we don’t have a leadership vacuum yet. The Supreme Mufti had two deputies and as of now, the first deputy [Sheikh Kibaate] will act in that capacity until such a time when we will be ready to elect Sheikh Kayongo’s successor,” Sheikh Kirya said.
Sheikh Kirya also dismissed candidates suggested by some Muslims, saying the college, led by Sheikh Abdul Obeid Kamulegeya, would identify potential candidates.
“There are qualities that we look for and it may take quite some time,” he said.
At Kibuli on Friday, President Museveni urged Muslims to carry on with Sheikh Kayongo’s struggle, “because death of a comrade” does not stop a struggle.
“Sheikh Kayongo was crucial in our efforts to unite Muslims because he appeared to have credibility among many Muslims. To be credible is a self, built [trait] and it is not common among many people,” Museveni said, adding that he was committed to uniting the Kibuli and Old Kampala factions.
“These divisions can appear small but can spill over into something big like what we are seeing in the Arab world,” Museveni said.
Several dignitaries, such as the retired archbishop of the church of Uganda, Livingstone Mpalanyi Nkoyoyo Buganda Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga, his predecessor JB Walusimbi, former FDC president Dr Kizza Besigye and ambassadors were among the mourners at Kibuli. Speakers remembered Kayongo as a peacemaker, a great teacher and an honest man.
He was the first man to get scholarships for Ugandan sheikhs to study abroad. Sheikh Kayongo was among the people former president Idi Amin Dada consulted hours before toppling Dr Apollo Milton Obote in 1971. After that consultation at Bulange (the Republic House), Sheikh Kayongo drove to Kibuli and informed Prince Badru Kakungulu about the coup plot.
In 1972, after the return of Sir Edward Mutesa II’s remains, Sheikh Kayongo formed part of the team that received crown prince Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II at Kakungulu’s house at Kibuli. In 1986, he was part of the delegation that went to Mecca, Saudi Arabia to negotiate peace among Ugandan Muslims.
The negotiations resulted into the 1987 Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) constitution under which he deputized Mufti Sheikh Ibrahim Saad Luwemba. In 1993, to resolve the rivalry between Sheikh Luwemba and Sheikh Hussein Rajab Kakooza, Museveni instituted a committee led by retired Supreme court judge George Kanyeihamba to resolve the wrangle.
The outcome of this effort was the institution of an interim administration led by Sheikh Ahmad Mukasa and deputized by Sheikh Kayongo. The wrangles did not end until December 2000 when Sheikh Shaban Ramathan Mubajje was elected Mufti.
Sheikh Kayongo went off the scene but resurfaced on January 28, 2008 when he was installed as Supreme Mufti, a rival to Mubajje.
Source : The Observer