Aisha Ahmed Lemu, British women who converted to Islam during her teens and settled in Nigeria devoting her life to Islamic education and training, passed away on 5 January 2019 at the age 79 in Minna, Nigeria.
She was a prolific writer having published a large number of books on various aspects of Islam, developed a number of training programs for daawah workers and promoted empowerment of women on a global level.
The President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari described late Aisha Lemu as “a repository of knowledge whose depth of scholarship was overwhelming and enviable.”
President Buhari said that late Aisha Lemu “admirably dedicated her life to scholarship and moral uplifting of her society, producing massive literature on religious education during her remarkable life on earth.’’
Together with her husband Sheikh Ahmed Lemu and son Nooruddin Lemu, she developed a highly successful and popular “train the trainers” course for Islamic workers conducting it in various countries.
Dr Qazi Ashfaq Ahmad, who served on a number of international Islamic bodies with Sheikh Lemu and Aisha Lemu, invited them to conduct their train the trainers course in Australia that was followed up by their son Nuruddin Lemu for a decade after the year 2001.
Dr Ahmad said that he was saddened by the passing away of Aisha Lemu, who he compared with American Jewish convert to Islam, Maryam Jameelah who settled in Pakistan.
“Aisha Lemu, teaming with her husband Sheikh Lemu and son Nuruddin Lemu working as a family will be remembered, by a large number of daawah workers all over the world, who pioneered systematic way of training people to propagate Islam effectively in our contemporary society,” Dr Ahmad said.
Aisha Lemu was born in Poole, Dorset, in 1940, as Bridget Aisha Honey. At the age of thirteen, she began to question her faith and began exploring other religions including Hinduism and Chinese Buddhism.
She studied at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), pursuing her interest in Chinese history, language and culture.
While there, she met Muslims who gave her Islamic literature to read and she converted to Islam at the Islamic Cultural Centre in 1961, during her first year of study.
She subsequently helped to found the Islamic Society at SOAS, becoming its first secretary, and also assisted in the formation of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS).
After graduating from SOAS, Aisha studied for a postgraduate qualification to teach English as a foreign language and while doing so, she met her future husband, Sheikh Ahmed Lemu, a Nigerian, who had been studying at another college of the University of London and was involved in the Islamic activities around the institution.
Having obtained her Postgraduate Certificate in Education, she moved to Kano in Nigeria in August 1966 to teach at the School for Arabic Studies there, where Sheikh Ahmed Lemu worked as headmaster.
They married in April 1968, with Aisha becoming his second wife. She subsequently moved to Sokoto to take up the position of principal of the Government Girls College.
Sheikh Ahmed Lemu was Grand Qadi of the Sharia Court of Appeal of the State of Niger when it was founded in 1976, and Aisha was principal of the Women’s Teachers College in Minna from then until 1978.
The couple founded the Islamic Education Trust (IET), which now operates in several Nigerian states has offices and a library, primary and secondary school and adult education centre for women.
Aisha was a member of the Islamic Studies Panel, set up by the Nigerian Educational Research Council, which was to revise the national Islamic curriculum for different school levels.
In 1985, Aisha founded the Federation of Muslim Women’s Associations in Nigeria (FOMWAN) with other Muslim women and was elected as its first national Amirah for four years. She served as a civil servant after this term of office.