Remembering Shehu Adams, Popular Nigerian Islamic Scholar

Adam Abdullah Al-Ilory was a Nigerian Islamic scholar who lived from 1917 to 1992. He was the author of several books written in Arabic. In 1952, he founded the Arabic and Islamic Training Centre in Agege, on the outskirts of Lagos, Nigeria, from which generations of Qur’anic exegetes emerged.

Early Life and Education

In 1917, Shaehu Adam Abdullahi Al-Ilory was born. He is from Ilorin, and grew up in Waza, Dendi Local Government, Republic of Benin. During his father’s lifetime, he was an Islamic scholar, preacher, and Imam of Waza. He was born into the Abdul Baqi al-llory family. Shaehu Adam was born during his father’s dawah activities, and his mother Aishah was the princess of her town’s ruling king.

When he was 13, he moved to Ilorin with his parents and began studying the Quran under the supervision of his father. He traveled to Lagos to study with Shaykh Umar. He later continued his studies with Sheikh Adam Nam’aji, a Kano-born Islamic scholar. He was sufficiently confident and satisfied with himself after gaining the necessary knowledge.

In 1946, he traveled to Cairo and took an examination at Al-Azhar University. He did exceptionally well in it, earning credits and a certificate in Arabic and Islamic Studies. In the same year, he traveled to Mecca to perform the Hajj pilgrimage for that year, where he interacted with some scholars and was declared to be a brilliant and talented young scholar.


Shaehu Adam traveled throughout the world in search of knowledge. He traveled to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Senegal, and Somalia to attend conferences in search of Islamic resources and exposure. Shaehu Adams founded Markazu’t-ta limi l-Arabi al-Islami in 1952 in Abeokuta, Ogun State.

The institution moved to Agege, Lagos State, in 1957. The institution was the first in Yorubaland to establish an Arabic school with various physical structures for classrooms, dormitories, mosques, clinics, uniforms, assigning students to classrooms based on their level, and blocks of teacher offices. The institution attracts applicants from both within and outside Nigeria, with graduates working in a variety of positions while spreading the message of Islam.

Shaehu Adam achieved a significant victory for his strategies at the first graduation ceremony of Markazu’t-ta limi l-Arabi al-Islami in 1957. Following that graduation, a few aspirant local Alfas enrolled as students at Markaz to further their education and receive training in modern teaching techniques.

Shaehu Adam was an accomplished scholar and prolific writer. He wrote well over a hundred books, journal articles, and manuscripts on Islam and other relevant topics. He received numerous B.A. Theses, long essays, and M.A. dissertations, doctoral theses, and papers published in reputable journals have all cited his books as primary sources.

Impact and Influence 

One of his books, “Al-lslam fi nijiriya,” which is strangely read by other seekers of knowledge, is one of the most consulted references on the history of Islam in Nigeria by different scholars all over the world. His other book, “Misbau-d dirasat’l-Adabiyyah fi’d-diyari’n-nijiyyah,” is an Arabic literature text on Nigeria written for the University of Ilorin M.A. program. Arabic curriculum Shaehu Adams gave several lectures both inside and outside of Nigeria during his lifetime.

He was widely regarded as the first to deliver the Friday Khutbah in both Arabic and Yoruba. He also led congregations at a number of international seminars hosted by the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria. During Ramadan, he gave daily tafsir for about four hours in the morning and evening public lectures.

Shaehu Adam, a daring and hardworking speaker who served as the organization’s Secretary General until his death in 1992, founded the League of Imams in the South West. His work from his time on Earth is still relevant and receives references. He was the first Ilorinite to be given the title Al-llory, which means “Son of Llorin.” In recognition of his academic achievements, the Egyptian government bestowed the nation’s highest honor upon him in 1990.

Shaehu Adam’s Books

  • Aseem Soba (Morning Breeze)
  • Markaz Talimil Arabiy (Markhaz Center for Arabic Language Learning)
  • Ali Heedu Al’Arbahuna (Markhaz Center, 40 years old, 1985)
  • Aslu Koba il Yoruba (History of the Yoruba People)
  • El Islam Fi Naijiriyya (Islam in Nigeria)
  • Lamhada fi Barul al Ulama al-Ilory (Overview of the Scientists of the City of Ilorin)
  • Attarulilemi Watasowuf (Role of Science and Sufism in Islam)
  • Dahoru Tasowuwasofiyat (Purpose of Sufism)
  • Niusomtahalim Arabiy Wahlislamiy (Guide to Learning Islam and the Arabic Language)
  • Ukukuli Hinsanni (Human Rights)
  • Al Islamdinu Wadaholat (Islam and Government)
  • Al Islam Watakolid Jahili (Islam and the black race)

May Allah grant him Janat Firdaus.

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