Unsung Muslim heroes of Uganda – Sheikh Obeid Lutale (2nd Edition)

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Sheik Obeid Lutale's legacy.File/Photo

By Haji Nsereko Mutumba:
Dear friends, in 2013, I published the first edition of the late Shk. Obeid Lutale among the unsung Muslim heroes of Uganda, and promised to share the improved edition after getting more information. In the course of my research, I got in touch with two of his grand children; Mwasa Kamulegeya and Abbas Muluubya who were kind enough to give me more information about the life of this great man. 
I am therefore glad to share with you the improved edition of Shk. Obeid Lutale – the unsung Muslim hero. 

FAMILY BACKGROUND

Sheikh Obeid Lutale was born in 1910, at Walugombe village, Bulemeezi County in present day Kikyusa Sub County, Luwero district. His exact day of birth is not known as parents of that time were not keen at records, but the year is determined based on events. His father was Kitagaana, son of Silimu Ssemindi of the Monkey (Nkima) clan, Lujumba consanguinity group (Mutuba), Lutale Matu-Mpaggwa line (lunyiliri) and Ssemawempe sub-clan (essiga).

His mother was Nnajjuka Watuwa of the Mushroom (Obutiko) clan from Zirobwe in Bulemeezi.

His grandfather Siliimu Ssemindi converted to Islam and was a religious war hero (Mujungute). Upon return from the holy wars, he and Muwalimu Musa Mudde settled at Waduduma in Bulo Sub County.

But the soils there were not fertile, so they migrated and settled at Kalamba from where Mudde moved to settle on the opposite hill at Buyenga in Kalamba Sub County in Butambala County.

Ssemindi was very concerned about his legacy since none of his children Kitagaana, Mukasa and Taliiko Munne who he left when going to war had embraced Islam. So, with his ‘sworn brother’ (o’womukago) Ali Lubanyi son of Kawagga, Ssemindi went back to Walugombe and got his grandson Kisuule but on their way back to Butambala Kisuule escaped around Bombo. Ssemindi was determined to have a Muslim heir and so he went back and got a younger grandchild Lutale who was circumcised at present day Kalamba Mosque and named Obeid.

Upon the death of Ssemindi in 1919, his 9-year-old heir Obeid Lutale was left under the guardianship of Sheikh Ahmada Nsambu of Lubugo village (on the outskirts of Kibibi trading Centre in Kibibi Sub County) and that is where he grew up.

EDUCATION

Obeid Lutale was first taught by Sheikh Ahmada Nsambu at Lubugo and other tutors like Sheikh Abdallah Sekimwanyi, Obeid Sulum Bboggomensi a Muwalimu at Mirembe from Yemen who taught him and Sheikh Umaru Kiyonga the Arabic language.

He attended Lukalu Quran School and also had some secular education at Kabasanda under the auspices of Juma and Dhuhur sect where he met Sheikh Ali Kulumba who was sponsored by the Bukoto Nateete sect.

CAREER AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS

An accomplished Islamic preacher and tutor:

At 19 years he had become a Preceptor of Islam in 1925 and this role took him places meeting and mentoring various people, spreading Deen and building relationships along the way.

From tutoring at the home of Sheikh Nsambu which was like a theology teaching center, Sheikh Obeid served as Imam and tutor at Mirembe (Twaibu Magatto) mosque, Kibibi mosque and at his own home at Lubugo.

His protégés include among others; Sheikh Sulaiman Katende; Sheikh Umar Mboozi of Wakatayi Zirobwe; Sheikh Amir Nsubuga; Sheikh Ibrahim Tamusuza of Simba and father of prominent Sheikhs Hakim Sekimpi (deceased), Abdallah Semambo (Deputy Mufti), Jalal-Deen Ssozi and Asadu Galabuzi; Sheikh Kaabi Kinene of Kinaawa; Sheikh Kalifani Saburi of Zigoti; Sheikh Abdul Gaffari of Kawolo; Sheikh Lukenge of Bwaise; Sheikh Ismail Sitajululu; Muwalimu Abubakar Kasawuli; Sheikh Setuba of Ngando Butambala; Sheikh Swalik of Kilokola Butambala; Sheikh Isa Semwogerere of Nakawa; Sheikh Kaboggoza of Lubugo; Sheikh Huseini Ssebbaale; Sheikh Ismaila Ssendawula of Kalamba; Sheikh Nsugga and Sheikh Musa Sserunjogi.

Amongst the many relationships he built later on in life as an adult trader and preacher, was with Mzee Abdunoor Kalisa from Ntungamo, who also gave him his son Anas Kalisa for tutoring.

Sheikh Obeid handed over the young Anas Kalisa to his eldest son Sheikh Abdul Obeid Kamulegeya who mentored him to this day. At the time of his death, Sheikh Obeid Lutale still received persons at his homes in Lubugo and Nateete coming to learn.

A one Dr. Abu Lwanga Senkayi of Duncanville Texas USA and an Environmental Scientist with the U.S Environmental Protection Agency lived at Sheikh Obeid’s Nateete home while going to school at Kibuli.

When Shk. Obeid Lutale passed on, all his mentees listed above came under the mentor-ship of his eldest son and heir, Shk. Abdul Obeid Kamulegeya. I can state without fear of favour that, Shk. Kamulegeya did not disappoint his father. He mentored them into very influential and important personalities who are still making tremendous contributions to their religion Islam and their country Uganda.

Therefore, it is not surprising that Shk. Mukulu commands a lot of respect among the Ulama in Uganda. 

One of Uganda’s first pilgrims to Makkah

At one of his last public functions during a Mauled at Bukoto, Sheikh Obeid Lutale, the then only survivor of the first batch of Ugandan pilgrims, narrated the stories of the very first two Ugandan Muslim pilgrims.

He chronicled how Sheikh Abdallah Sekimwanyi and Abubakari Kibali traveled on foot to Port Sudan in 1920 and then on to Makkah and that this journey used to take months.

He said, they met difficulty, hunger, wars and disease to which Abubakari Kibali succumbed, and that this did not stop their intention of performing their first and subsequent pilgrimages.

At the forth attempt, and following the same route, Shk. Obeid Lutale, the then young mentee of Sheikh Sekimwanyi, was able to join his mentors in Makkah and performed his first hija in 1943.

Sheikh Obeid Lutale had accepted requests to write a book on this and other Muslim milestones in Uganda but this was not to be accomplished as he was murdered shortly after. On May 3rd 1978, to be exact.

An accomplished Muslim leader

During the Muslim theological wrangles of Juma versus Juma and Dhuhur, his Arabic knowledge acquired mainly from Sheikh Sulum, came in handy when he successfully petitioned Makkah to give guidance.

It was in Makkah during pilgrimage of 1943 attended by both Sheikh Haji Abdallah Sekimwanyi (Juma sect) and Sheikh Haji Muhammad Lubowa (Juma and Dhuhur).

Sheikh Obeid Lutale used the opportunity to raise the differences amongst Ugandan Muslims of one group praying only Juma and the other praying Juma but adding Dhuhur prayer immediately after on Fridays. The authorities in Makkah issued a Fatuwa (Islamic ruling) on which Sheikh Haji Swaibu Semakula and Sheikh Haji Ahmada Nsambu based to reconcile the two sides and establish Juma Prayers in Uganda.

As a Muslim leader, Shk. Obeid Lutale served as the Twale (County Sheikh) for Butambala, a position he held for 8 years before assuming the position of Deputy to Sheikh Ahamada Nsambu as leader of the African Muslim Community Juma sect Bukoto-Nateete.

He served as the chairman of Hajjis (present day Hijja bureaus for Muslims who perform pilgrimage to Makkah) for 10 years. He chaired a committee that wrote the first constitution for Muslims of Uganda and Sheikh Obeid Lutale was at one time Deputy Kadhi under Kadhi, Sheikh Muhammad Lubowa for two years.

By then, the title of Kadhi meant the head of the Kibuli based Muslim Community. Under this responsibility he was in charge of Muslim properties (Land and Mosques) in Uganda. Upon the formation of the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council in 1972, he was elected the District Kadhi of West Buganda.

An accomplished politician:

The political wave leading to independence did not leave him behind. A supporter of the KY (Kabaka Yekka) who had served as a Junior Judge (B) for a period of four years in Mengo, Sheikh Obeid Lutale was among the Buganda loyalists who crossed to the UPC by the then Muslim Community leader Prince Badru Kakungulu, shortly before Uganda’s independence.

Sheikh Lutale chaired a committee that was in charge of political affairs of the colonial and Ugandan political leadership. Truly the responsibility was to ensure a healthy coalition between UPC and KY where they counselled rivalling candidates from both parties to agree on one.

This effort was mostly in parts of Uganda outside Buganda which did not have direct elections and greatly enhanced his influence in the entire country. For this and many other reasons, he became a Trustee of the ‘National Association for the Advancement of Muslims” (NAAM) when the organization was formed to offer the Muslims of Uganda a national outlook and outreach.

An accomplished family man

The late Shk. Obeid Lutale loving husband to his wives and a father of he was survived by 21children; Hajjat Fatuma Nantongo (deceased), Sheikh Abdul Obeid Kamulegeya, Haji Asadu Lutale (deceased), Hajat Aisha Naluzze, Hajat Jalia Nakiwoga (deceased), Haji Abdallah Kimbugwe (deceased), Haji Muhammad Mwasa (deceased), Hajat Hadija Naluwembe, Sheikh Badru Luzze Lutale (who was actually a young boy in the house during the attack and kept asking why all things in the house were being taken away especially his suitcase), Sarah Nakiwoga, Omulongo Isa Kato Ngobe, Babirye (deceased), Nabawanuka Jawuhara (deceased) and Hajat Sumiini Maganyi, Sarah Lutale, Safina Namazzi, Kulthum Lutale, Sulaiman Sewankambo, Sekyaaya Hussein, Halima Namuddu Lutale, Sophia Muzima Lutale.

His grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren cut across all spheres of life, professions and are spread onto the entire globe.

Following his gruesome murder on the fateful Tuesday morning of 3rd May 1978, Sheikh Obeid Lutale was laid to rest at Kibibi Mosque in Butambala later that Tuesday afternoon.

Sheikh Obeid Lutale was a versatile family person, an accomplished Sheikh, politician, trader and farmer. But his legacy will forever remain his dedication and hard work towards the development and streamlining of Islam in Uganda.

What else can you call this fallen son of Buganda and Uganda other than a Muslim hero, though unsung?

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