There is a strong connection between literary aesthetics and scripture – Dada Paiko




Sheik Umar Dada Paiko, a popular Islamic cleric, is presenting his debut collection of poetry to the public today. AWAAL GATA caught up with him in the thick of organising the event and they took a peep through his life as an evangelist and a creative writer

Rarely do we see Islamic clerics with flair for creative writing; why are you different and how did yours gestate?

 I think it is either that the scholars with a flair for the literary arts/creative writing are disguised or that a large number of them exhibit their literary inclinations via the Arabic language, but definitely not that they aren’t literarily inclined.

It might interest you to know that the young poet, Sadiq Alabi is a scholar. His ‘Shaikhism’ is veiled by literature and probably his youthfulness. Dr Kamar Hamza, Dr Shakir Balogun, Dr Ahmad Holderness are also deeply grounded in Islamic literature but they aren’t tagged “scholars’. There is a strong connection between literary aesthetics and scripture. Those who know the Qur’an can easily comprehend this chemistry. It is therefore natural for Muslim devotees to have literary inclination. I therefore don’t see anything different about me.

Having said this, the answer to the second segment of your first question isn’t far-fetched.  Poetry kindles in me the grit with which I swim through the ferocious waves of this sea called the world. During the days that I was almost drowning as a result of my failing limbs and dampened morale, poetry served as a panacea. Poetry it is to which I owe my smile and strive.

The Jane Austin’s, George Owell’s prose, Wole Soyinka’s intellectual sorcery and most importantly, great Achebe’s sublime storytelling dexterity served me well in my literary teething years. The Qur’an and Sunnah seasoned their good soup for me.

Hafez, Jaluluddin Rumi, Ibn Arabi, etc. were 13th century poets who were also prominent clerics in their time. Did you find inspiration from their lives and oeuvres?

None of the geniuses you mentioned inspired my poetry. There is no denying the fact that I have indirectly nourished my literary bones with the milk their depth is, but only indirectly, because I have been tutored by their admirers. To this extent, yes, if not, no!

How deep are you into sufist poetry or what sort of poetry do you favour?

 Sufism has two major-and interestingly divergent-realms: the first one is philosophical obscurantism, which is devoid of the limitations by pristine  spirituality. The second realm is the logicality that is subject to divinity or scripture. I am comfortable with scripture. The sufism that stops at mere asceticism as prescribed by the Qur’an appeals to me greatly. I am, infact, this brand of sufist.

My depth in sufi poetry goes as far as ‘halal’ takes me and is sandfilled by ‘haram’. Of course, I expectedly favour philosophical, didactic poetry, though I drift into other less serious forms, as dictated by the mood that may have birthed the leaning in a scribbling.

I favor the poetry that sires iconoclastic mortals.

Generally, as a poet, what do you want to achieve? Is it an extension of your evangelism?

 As a writer, I will love to inspire the world to unlearn the learning which incited them against learning. I will like to teach the world to know they know not. In my six decades of earthly voyage, I have discovered that the earth is more unseen than seen. The former educates more than the latter; this I hope to teach. Yes, literary writing is to me, the unpronounced alphabets of the oble concept admonition.

What is the idea behind “apthongs,” its recurring motif?

aphthongs is here to douse the fire that arrogance kindles in mankind. It is encouraging mankind to collectively act as those letters that, though unpronounced, give beauty to the word that life is.

How long did it take you to pen the collection?

I scribbled some lines over a decade ago, which I considered poetry. Having learned from the intellectual thunder Gimba Kakanda and the erudite, soft spoken and meek Opeyemi Dedayo, I knew I hadn’t known poetry. I wrote another which was bashed by the fiery literary critic Paul Liam. Then I advanced to aphthongs. This brief literary Odyssey has taken only ten years.

Who are your literay role models and why? Which are your best literary books and why?

George Orwell, William Shakespeare, Chinua Achebe, Romeo Oriogun and Ahmed Maiwada, among others, have oiled my romance with literature. These have shown, with their peculiar dexterity, how sweet writing can be, even to Malaria ravaged tongues. For this, I adore them and aspire to be the balm for aching bones, as these great writers are.

My best literary books are Julius Caeser, Things Fall Apart and eyerhymes.

What sort of reader were you as a youngster and which books were your diets?

I was an unorganised, unserious reader as a youngster. I read James Hadley Chase, Harold Robbins, Fredrick Fosyth, etc.

How do you navigate between being a creative writer and being a cleric?

I must say that the works that are considered secular are mostly a distraction to an almajiri like me. With volumes and volumes of jurisprudential books to read in order to be adequately equipped for the daunting task of giving ‘fatawa’, sermonising and also writing books, concentrating on secular literary works is tough. Nevertheless, my passion for English literature affords me the bravery to take the labyrinthine job of mixing both. As you know, discipline makes the writer. The discipline to plan and work within the dictates of such plans makes it possible for one to make pets of a dog and hyena.

Where would you want to see yourself few years from now as a writer? Any award you are targeting ?

Awards?  No, not at all. I who wish to learn cannot compete with my teachers. I don’t like being unteachable, just as I find unteachable people distasteful. Established writers who are worth it should target awards. I want to learn, unlearn and learn again. My award, for now, will be an impact on souls through my humble offerings.

There is the perennial debate that poetry isn’t allowed in Islam; what is the true position of poetry in Islam? Didn’t the debate deter you from writing at any point in time?

Those who say poetry isn’t permissible aren’t far from the truth. Their undoing might be their failure to expantiate this point to the extent of differentiating between the condemned form of poetry and the permissible.

Hassan Bn Thaabit, the great poet, was a great companion of Prophet Muhammad. His poetry was a useful da’wah (Islamic propagation) tool that pleased the Prophet greatly. Islam forbids insolence, lewdness, vulgarity, slander, etc in poetry, as it prohibits it for non-poets alike. When the Qur’an condemned poets, it outlined the vices which led to the prohibition of their trade.

My poetry is therapeutic, a soothing soliloquy for, first and foremost, my ailing soul. It also fights injustice, lauds Justice and kindness, professes love without adorning or condoning lust and mere infatuation. I have no cause to worry about that condemnation, for it has nothing to do with me. There are many scholarly works we were taught in our local learning centres that are stanzas from cover to cover. They were written by world renowned salafi scholars. That controversy has nothing to do with positive poetry.

What should the world expect from you after “apthongs”

After aphthongs, it is possible for my short stories to hit the markets, if Allah wills.

———- Forwarded message ———

From: Awaal Gata <[email protected]>

Date: Wed, Feb 12, 2020 at 3:01 AM

Subject: Literary interview

To: <[email protected]>

There is a strong connection between literary aesthetics and scripture – Dada Paiko

Sheik Umar Dada Paiko, a popular Islamic cleric, is presenting his debut collection of poetry to the public today. AWAAL GATA caught up with him in the thick of organising the event and they took a peep through his life as an evangelist and a creative writer

Rarely do we see Islamic clerics with flair for creative writing; why are you different and how did yours gestate?

 I think it is either that the scholars with a flair for the literary arts/creative writing are disguised or that a large number of them exhibit their literary inclinations via the Arabic language, but definitely not that they aren’t literarily inclined.

It might interest you to know that the young poet, Sadiq Alabi is a scholar. His ‘Shaikhism’ is veiled by literature and probably his youthfulness. Dr Kamar Hamza, Dr Shakir Balogun, Dr Ahmad Holderness are also deeply grounded in Islamic literature but they aren’t tagged “scholars’. There is a strong connection between literary aesthetics and scripture. Those who know the Qur’an can easily comprehend this chemistry. It is therefore natural for Muslim devotees to have literary inclination. I therefore don’t see anything different about me.

Having said this, the answer to the second segment of your first question isn’t far-fetched.  Poetry kindles in me the grit with which I swim through the ferocious waves of this sea called the world. During the days that I was almost drowning as a result of my failing limbs and dampened morale, poetry served as a panacea. Poetry it is to which I owe my smile and strive.

The Jane Austin’s, George Owell’s prose, Wole Soyinka’s intellectual sorcery and most importantly, great Achebe’s sublime storytelling dexterity served me well in my literary teething years. The Qur’an and Sunnah seasoned their good soup for me.

Hafez, Jaluluddin Rumi, Ibn Arabi, etc. were 13th century poets who were also prominent clerics in their time. Did you find inspiration from their lives and oeuvres?

None of the geniuses you mentioned inspired my poetry. There is no denying the fact that I have indirectly nourished my literary bones with the milk their depth is, but only indirectly, because I have been tutored by their admirers. To this extent, yes, if not, no!

How deep are you into sufist poetry or what sort of poetry do you favour?

 Sufism has two major-and interestingly divergent-realms: the first one is philosophical obscurantism, which is devoid of the limitations by pristine  spirituality. The second realm is the logicality that is subject to divinity or scripture. I am comfortable with scripture. The sufism that stops at mere asceticism as prescribed by the Qur’an appeals to me greatly. I am, infact, this brand of sufist.

My depth in sufi poetry goes as far as ‘halal’ takes me and is sandfilled by ‘haram’. Of course, I expectedly favour philosophical, didactic poetry, though I drift into other less serious forms, as dictated by the mood that may have birthed the leaning in a scribbling.

I favor the poetry that sires iconoclastic mortals.

Generally, as a poet, what do you want to achieve? Is it an extension of your evangelism?

 As a writer, I will love to inspire the world to unlearn the learning which incited them against learning. I will like to teach the world to know they know not. In my six decades of earthly voyage, I have discovered that the earth is more unseen than seen. The former educates more than the latter; this I hope to teach. Yes, literary writing is to me, the unpronounced alphabets of the oble concept admonition.

What is the idea behind “apthongs,” its recurring motif?

aphthongs is here to douse the fire that arrogance kindles in mankind. It is encouraging mankind to collectively act as those letters that, though unpronounced, give beauty to the word that life is.

How long did it take you to pen the collection?

I scribbled some lines over a decade ago, which I considered poetry. Having learned from the intellectual thunder Gimba Kakanda and the erudite, soft spoken and meek Opeyemi Dedayo, I knew I hadn’t known poetry. I wrote another which was bashed by the fiery literary critic Paul Liam. Then I advanced to aphthongs. This brief literary Odyssey has taken only ten years.

Who are your literay role models and why? Which are your best literary books and why?

George Orwell, William Shakespeare, Chinua Achebe, Romeo Oriogun and Ahmed Maiwada, among others, have oiled my romance with literature. These have shown, with their peculiar dexterity, how sweet writing can be, even to Malaria ravaged tongues. For this, I adore them and aspire to be the balm for aching bones, as these great writers are.

My best literary books are Julius Caeser, Things Fall Apart and eyerhymes.

What sort of reader were you as a youngster and which books were your diets?

I was an unorganised, unserious reader as a youngster. I read James Hadley Chase, Harold Robbins, Fredrick Fosyth, etc.

How do you navigate between being a creative writer and being a cleric?

I must say that the works that are considered secular are mostly a distraction to an almajiri like me. With volumes and volumes of jurisprudential books to read in order to be adequately equipped for the daunting task of giving ‘fatawa’, sermonising and also writing books, concentrating on secular literary works is tough. Nevertheless, my passion for English literature affords me the bravery to take the labyrinthine job of mixing both. As you know, discipline makes the writer. The discipline to plan and work within the dictates of such plans makes it possible for one to make pets of a dog and hyena.

Where would you want to see yourself few years from now as a writer? Any award you are targeting ?

Awards?  No, not at all. I who wish to learn cannot compete with my teachers. I don’t like being unteachable, just as I find unteachable people distasteful. Established writers who are worth it should target awards. I want to learn, unlearn and learn again. My award, for now, will be an impact on souls through my humble offerings.

There is the perennial debate that poetry isn’t allowed in Islam; what is the true position of poetry in Islam? Didn’t the debate deter you from writing at any point in time?

Those who say poetry isn’t permissible aren’t far from the truth. Their undoing might be their failure to expantiate this point to the extent of differentiating between the condemned form of poetry and the permissible.

Hassan Bn Thaabit, the great poet, was a great companion of Prophet Muhammad. His poetry was a useful da’wah (Islamic propagation) tool that pleased the Prophet greatly. Islam forbids insolence, lewdness, vulgarity, slander, etc in poetry, as it prohibits it for non-poets alike. When the Qur’an condemned poets, it outlined the vices which led to the prohibition of their trade.

My poetry is therapeutic, a soothing soliloquy for, first and foremost, my ailing soul. It also fights injustice, lauds Justice and kindness, professes love without adorning or condoning lust and mere infatuation. I have no cause to worry about that condemnation, for it has nothing to do with me. There are many scholarly works we were taught in our local learning centres that are stanzas from cover to cover. They were written by world renowned salafi scholars. That controversy has nothing to do with positive poetry.

What should the world expect from you after “apthongs”

After aphthongs, it is possible for my short stories to hit the markets, if Allah wills.

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