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Ghana’s chief imam is a man of few words, but

the 100-year-old Muslim cleric certainly knows
how to make waves – by attending a Catholic
service as part of his birthday
Pictures of Sheikh Osman Sharubutu, sitting
attentively in the. pews of Accra’s Christ the King
Catholic for an Easter service, went viral
on social media. The grand mufti, leader of
Ghana’s minority Muslim community, wants to
ensure that his legacy is peace – the fruit of
inter-faith harmony.
His attendance was given even more
resonance as on the day he was being pictured
alongside parish priest Father Andrew Campbell,
Islamist suicide bombers unleashed attacks in Sri
Lanka, killing more than 250 people at churches
and hotels. Those on social media championing the
imam’s approach described him as a light shining
in the darkness.
Not everyone was happy – some critics condemned
his actions as an abomination, for a Muslim to
participate in Christian worship. But Sheikh
Sharubutu insisted he was not worshipping but
moving the relationship between Muslims and
Christians from mere tolerance to engagement.
“The chief imam is changing the narrative about
Islam from a religion of wickedness, a religion of
conflict, a religion of hate for others, to a religion
whose mission is rooted in the virtues of love, peace
and forgiveness,” his spokesperson Aremeyao
Shaibu told the.
Unlike Ghana’s chief imam, Father Andrew
Campbell, the parish priest of Christ the King
Catholic Church, is certainly not a man of few
words and it is fair to say he likes to stir things up
a bit.
The 73-year-old was born in Ireland and arrived
in Ghana in 1971 to work as a missionary. Over 48
he has become a champion of unpopular and
unfashionable causes. He has adopted the cause of
lepers in particular and campaigns for them not to
be stigmatised and to be treated with dignity.
His church is situated across the road from Jubilee
House, the seat of Ghana’s presidency. A few
months ago, he was made parish priest for Jubilee
House. The cleric has stated his support for some
government policies, but it is accepted he will be
equally vocal when he feels the need to criticise,
no matter that he might be designated the in-
house priest for the presidency.
He has acquired full Ghanaian citizenship –
however, he has refused to adopt some local
habits. He insists on keeping to time. Not too long
ago, I attended a wedding ceremony and he
started the service despite the absence of the
bride. Half-way through the published
programme, the bridal procession could be seen
trying to make an entrance from the back door.
Fr Campbell rushed down, leading the groom and
stopped the bride in the middle of the aisle, where
he conducted a hurried marriage ceremony and
walked back to the altar to continued from where
he had left off before the bride appeared. But
the combination of the peaceful Muslim cleric of
few words and the trouble stirring loquacious
Irish-Ghanaian priest make an unpredictable and
beautiful cocktail.
The country where everyone is expected to be late
What is Ghana like?
Sheikh Sharubutu has been Ghana’s top Muslim
cleric for 26 , and has always insisted the
key tenets of Islam are rooted in peace and love,
as his weekly sermons at Friday prayers at the
Central Mosque in the capital attest.
Another favourite theme of his is a call to shun
materialism, saying it only brings greed. At his
residence in the poor neighbourhood of Fadama, he
has insisted that the gates remain open. For
now, hundreds of township residents troop in each
morning to fetch fresh water from taps at the
property while others visit at night with bowls to
be served hot meals for free.
It is the nature of Islamic leaders to give to
charity, but his supporters say the scale of his
work stands out. He has personally sponsored
hundreds of students in their education at home
and abroad and has also established an
educational trust fund to support talented but
needy pupils.
Ghana, where Muslims make up 18% of the
population in the mainly Christian country, has no
history of religious warfare. But relations can be
fractious – and the imam has sought to douse any
flair-ups. He is a member of the National Peace
Council, made up of 13 mainly religious leaders –
but he is also known to intervene personally to
resolve tensions.
Earlier this year, he reprimanded a group of young
Muslim men who attacked a church in Accra after
its pastor predicted his death in the coming 12
months. He told those who had been armed with
machetes to forgive the preacher and managed to
defuse the tension, something that earned him the
thanks of the police chief.
When gunshots reverberated through the streets
of Old Tafo in Kumasi in a row over a cemetery in
2016, he immediately made a trip to the Ashanti
regional capital. A curfew had been imposed after
one person died in clashes. Traditional leaders
wanted proof that the Muslim community owned a
section of land in the graveyard to bury their
The situation nearly degenerated into all-out war
after rampaging Muslim youths slapped the
traditional leader of the Tafo community. The
slapping of a chief constitutes a desecration of his
office, a taboo in Ghana which requires war to be
waged – something that could have spread to other
According to Mr Shaibu, the chief imam went to
the palace of the Tafo chief, and without even
speaking a word, he calmed the situation by the
humility and meekness of his presence, preventing
further unrest. It was the second time that he
had interceded in a fallout over a cemetery. In
2012, the corpse of an imam in the Volta Region
was exhumed and dumped by the roadside by a
community who felt Muslims should not bury their
dead in that graveyard.
Sheikh Sharubutu flew into the south-eastern
region and negotiated a peace deal – saving the
state from using force to quell the riots. He puts
his peaceful philosophy down to his favourite
Koranic verse, which says people should be fair
with each other to help achieve a harmonious
society: “Allah does not forbid you from showing
kindness, and dealing justly with those who have
not fought you about religion and have not driven
you out of your homes. Allah loves just dealers.”
As a young man, he made this the central message
of his lessons as a Muslim teacher in Accra – going
on to become one of the country’s most erudite
Islamic scholars. There is some trepidation about
finding a successor who can follow in his footsteps,
given that he has become so central to sustaining
religious peace. But his serene nature seems to be
key to his continued longevity, something those
who come after him may want to emulate.
“I am old, strong and vital. I can see, [am] able to
read and write without the support of any
gadgets. I am able to walk on my own – God has
not tested me with weakness,” his spokesman
quoted him as saying. “I am in perfect control of
my mind, I have not grown senile. Placing God at
the centre of my life gives me calmness and inner
peace in life.”

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  1. Nice one

  2. Worthy of commendation.

  3. Recommended

  4. May God bless us all

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