By: Professor Alhagi Manta Drammeh (PGCerTHE, FHA,FRSA, UK)
I pay tribute to my teacher, Father, brother, uncle, and mentor Shaikh Ahmad Drammeh commonly known Alhagi Banding Drammeh. I have been learning from him for nearly half a century when he took me from my father Shaikh Muhammad Lamin Drammeh of Brikama to stay with him in Banjul where he started his teaching and educational career in the 1970s at a small apartment on Perseverance street. While teaching at Muslim High School Shaikh Banding ran a karanta/Dara where he taught me alongside the children of the late Alhaj Basadi Jawara, the late Alhaj Solo Ceesay, the late Alhaj Kemo Ceesay, the late Alhaj Bundu Sillah and the late Alhaj Daba Kora. He taught us the basics of Arabic and the fundamentals of Islam based on moderation and inclusivity. He was such a dedicated person that whenever he was outside town, he would ensure that our Dara was not interrupted and would bring in a temporary teacher during his absence. The Dara continued form 1974 till 1982 when he moved to focus on the project of the Islamic Institute in Brikama. While the Shaikh embarked on the Islamic Institute project in Brikama in 1978, he continued to teach us in my room between Maghrib and Isha prayers until 1982 when he decided to relocate in Brikama his birthplace and his destination. May Allah bless him! At the Islamic Institute, the Shaikh promoted inclusive education for boys and girls. He integrated Islamic and Arabic education with other disciplines, for example, maths, English and sciences for purposes of employability and access to further education in government English schools. Thanks to his leadership qualities, vision and strategic thinking many of the graduates of the Institute became medical doctors, theologians, political scientists, economists, lawyers, linguists, Islamic jurists and judges to mention but a few. He never relent until he quietly passed away in his humble house in Brikama. Shaikh Banding was known for his humility, simplicity, kindness, high sense of humanity, fairness and justice. He was selfless and extraordinarily wise. Those who know him will testify to the fact that he never discriminated between the people he brough up. He treated his children and students (talibe) equally and fairly. The Gambia lost a great towering figure. The big tree has not fallen. The tree is solidly entrenched with roots spread all over with its branches all over. He preached moderation and the need to embrace all regardless of differences. The Gambia has lost a great personality of exceptional talents who reconciled between people in the Gambia. He managed to win the respect of all the Gambians despite their ideological differences because he was sincere, honest, dedicated and just. His project would not have reached where it is today if he had not had dedication, vision and commitment. He left a gigantic legacy as the Institute, a nursery, an English section and now working on a centre for Qur’an memorisation .
He dedicated his life to teaching and call to Islam with wisdom and good tidings.
I salute my teacher and mentor. I mourn his death but celebrate his legacy.
I will never forget his legacy and will never forget my last words with him.
He did what hundreds could not.
He was a towering figure that would be difficult to replicate.
He epitomised high values of humanity and goodness.
He taught and produced teachers, educators and reformers.
He taught his students to be humble, just and upright.
He taught us the alpha and mega of Arabic.
Above all, he taught us the eternal word of Allah!
May Allah be pleased with him and grant him Jannatal Firdaws.