Mudaththir Dangaata writes: Who succeeds the National Chief Imam?

By Mudaththir Dangaata
Opinion Mudaththir Dangaataleft and the National Chief Imam, Sheik Osmanu Nuhu Sharubutu
MAR 25, 2024 LISTEN
Mudaththir Dangaata[left] and the National Chief Imam, Sheik Osmanu Nuhu Sharubutu

The National Chief Imam (NCI), Shiekh, Osmanu Nuhu Sharubutu, will be 105 years old in April this year, 2024.

Having been appointed into the Islamic religion’s highest office in Ghana in 1993, it is exactly 31 years since he began his formal stewardship of Muslims and non-Muslims alike in Ghana and beyond.

To this day, he continues to serve with diligence – with the same zeal and passion as was in 1993 and the years before.

The NCI today represents a symbol of selfless service, kindness and unity – a manifestation of his traits and persona.

His is a life of dedicated service to humanity, especially the less privileged. He has spent over 80 years of his life as a teacher.

That, he still is today at 104 – a divine call which immortalizes him.

If wishes could come true, I’d wish His Eminence, Dr. Usumanu Nuhu Sharubutu remain NCI forever, but nature would not grant that.

As a Muslim, I can, as every other well-wisher, only continue to pray for his sustenance – in good strength and the best of health so as to continue his divine duty and service to humanity.

The issue of succession with regards to the office and position of the NCI is treated like a malignant plague.

The discussion is often avoided anytime it arises within the Ghanaian Islamic setting. To be hyperbolic, the hint of any idea in relation to the succession is treated as distasteful and abhorrent.

Everyone is feigning interest, but one could sense the deep, lingering worry among the Muslim population.

Nonetheless, I believe being nonchalant about it is to downplay the gravamen of the crisis that beckons.

If we must make any meaningful progress, it is best we start having the uncomfortable discussion lest it’d be too late.

As Ummah, we have many past incidents to learn from. Till date, the religion still pays for some of the leadership/administrative crisis in its history.

It is also instructive to note, that as Muslims, we believe in the certainty of death and its significance in our transition into the afterlife.

This is affirmed in Qur’an chapters 3:185, 63:10-11, 31:34, 16:16, etc. The verses not only remind us of the certainty of death but also require us to be adequately prepared for it at all times – mentally, psychologically and socially etc.

It is only when we prepare adequately in life, that any challenges are averted after death visits. If that is the case, why do we not make the adequate preparation for that which is certain with regards to the position and office of the NCI in order to avert the foreseeable crisis, which portend to desecrate the dignity and sanctity of the office?

The office of the NCI is a state-recognized institution, which in essence makes it a public office in its distinctive way.

It therefore must not be lost on us to give it a structure that is deserving of it in order to safeguard its honour for posterity. The office, arguably, has a part of the soul of the religion of this country in it.

Meanwhile, the ordinary Ghanaian Muslim is not aware of any succession plan for the position/office. All we have are speculations about who the possible candidates are for the position, who deserves what, inter alia.

But that cannot be deemed serious if we have to rely on mere speculations for such a crucial decision – a delicate and sensitive one as such.

The issue of sectarianism gained prominence after the death of the Holy Prophet Muhammad in 632 AD.

A hadith is reported by Tirmidhi of the Holy Prophet declaring that the religion, Islam, will divide into 73 sects from which only one sect shall be on the right path for whom paradise is assured.

Meanwhile, there are hundreds, if not thousands of sects scattered across the world today.

It is public knowledge that Islam is battling sharp sectarian divide in every part of the world and Ghana is no exception.

Ghana, like any other country where Islam is practised, has the major sects prominently featuring in Islamic affairs in the country.

There are rumours that the Shi’ite, Ahmadiyya, Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama’a (ASWAJ) are interested in the position/office of the NCI. The serving Grand Mufti, Sheikh Usman Nuhu Sharubutu, is a Tijjaniyya Suffi.

The interesting twist to the rumour, if true, is how two of the three sects, Shi’ite and ASWAJ, would have a valid claim to succession when they already have their respective national leaders whom they recognize other than the NCI.

The case is different with the Ahmadiyya sect. They recognize and bear allegiance to the office of the NCI.

From my point of view, the insubordination and secessionist disposition of the two initial sects, however tacit, disqualifies both for the position/office because they do not recognize it in the first place.

Ahmadiyya mission can lay claim for the position when the time comes, but how clear are their chances? The optics in our current dispensation, in my candid view, is not very favourable to them.

Islam in Ghana is predominantly Suffi/Tijaniyya. The dominance is vivid in all aspect of the religion, from ratio of clerics to the number of masajid and the numerical data of the adherents.

The Suffi/Tijaniyya is primarily the face of Islam in Ghana.

It therefore is high likely, that the next NCI will be a Tijaniyya, but the question however is, who?


In the height of the rumours are names that have in their respective ways and lifetime rendered service to Islam and Muslims and consequently have earned the respect and favour from Muslims and non-Muslims in Ghana and beyond.

Interestingly, most, if not all of them, have a string connecting them to Senegal. Historically, Senegal has a special place in Ghana’s Islamic leaders because of the overwhelming influence of the renowned Sufi with global acclaim – Shiekhul Islam, Alhaji Ibrahim Inyars – who was teacher to most Ghanaian pioneer clerics of the 20th century, including the current NCI.

Mention 10 prominent clerics of the 20th century in Ghana and 7-8 of them were students of the renowned Sheikh Ibrahim Inyars.

Names like Shiekh Abdulai Maikano, Sheikh Alhaji Harun, Sheikh Baba Al Wa’iz, Sheikh Usumanu Nuhu Sharubutu (The current NCI) etc.; all of them are well established and grounded in Islamic affairs in Ghana and have immensely contributed to Islamic development herein, footprints of which remain a guide to present and future generations, as far as Islam in Ghana is concerned.

It therefore won’t be far-fetching if the status quo is maintained. The NCI, in my candid opinion, must be either a student or khalifa of one of the aforementioned religious juggernauts.

As pioneers and the largest bloc of Islam in the country, they have a much legitimate claim to the office/position of the NCI.

The names of possible successors making rounds, thus far, are people who have accomplished great feats in their respective ways.

Their service to the religion as teachers and servants of the religion is enviable. Their loyalty to the religion and its development is without questions.

Their contributions in same is immeasurable to date. They all have travelled far and wide across the country and the world at large, in service to the religion.

I believe belief that when the position/office is reserved for the Suffis, who are not just the oldest sect in the country but also the majority, there is assurance of order and continuity.

However, the biggest challenge, I believe, is who becomes the NCI after Sheikh Osmanu Nuhu Sharubutu?

There cannot be a discussion about succession in Tijaniyya without first acknowledging the existing issues within the sect, which makes it impossible for a unanimous decision on the successor.

Some of the issues predates the current generation of clerics but are still relevant in the scheme of affairs within Tijanniyya.

As it stands now, there is no clear individual who has the total support or could potentially garner the support of ¾ of the whole of Tijaniyya.

However, all the potential candidates have significant following and wield unprecedented influence in and outside Tijaniyya and Islam.

Some of the traits of the Tijaniyya sect are respect and obedience. For these two values, there is a high chance that whoever emerges as the successor will have the support of the majority nonetheless.

Since there’s no clear succession plan/procedure for the position/office of the NCI, raging backroom conversations have varied proposals as to what the structure should be.

One school of thought suggests a rotational basis of Regional Chief Imams Imams of the 16 regions of the country.

Another also proposes that the Greater Accra Regional Chief Imam be made to automatically succeeds as a way of preserving the path on which Sheikh Sharubu became the NCI, he was the Greater Accra Regional Chief Imam before becoming the NCI.

There is also another school of thought who believe the successor must not necessarily be an appointed Imam but anyone whose service to the Deen and Ummah is evident and verifiable to any Muslim in the country.

I however suggest a national dialogue on the method/plan to make room for the best, collective agreement in putting together a plan that endured forever.