Merryl Wyn Davies: A short tribute

Ibrahim Sheme

our culture, it is said that it is never too late to submit condolences somebody’ demise. So I felt obligated tonight to pray for the soul of Merryl Wyn Davies and wish that Allah reward her with paradise.

We lost Merryl last February 1. She returned to her Maker at the age of 71. Before then she was leading Muslim intellectuals on the planet.

I will not bore you, dear reader, with Merryl’ biography. However, suffice it to say that she worked mainly the field of Islamic anthropology, da’awah and politics. She wrote many books, most of which she co-authored with another leading Muslim intellectual, Ziauddin Sardar (the current Chairman of the Muslim Institute London, where Merryl was a director prior to her death). I wrote about Prof. Sardar on Facebook a few days ago because I am currently reading his very inspiring book, ‘Mecca: The Sacred City’.

Many years ago (I have to check my diaries to know exactly when), I and Malam Ibrahim Ado Kurawa had the unique opportunity of accompanying Merryl Wyn Davies from Kano to so that she could meet with the then Sultan Muhammadu Maccido of blessed memory. It was the British Council that put Kurawa and me on that guide job (as private consultants). We were given an SUV with a driver the Council and we drove all the way through Funtua, Gusau and on to , where the Sultan was expecting us. His Eminence and Merryl had a very fruitful discussion the next day, after which we left.

From we went to Katsina via Kaura Namoda Zamfara State. Katsina, Merryl met with some Muslim scholars. After a day there, we drove on to Kano.

Now, imagine spending all days together with such an intellectual giant who had been my mentor right from her time as editor of the world-class monthly Afkaar/Inquiry magazine. We talked and talked and talked – for Merryl loved to talk, and I loved to listen when giants spoke.

Merryl, who was Welsh, sent me a thank-you card together with the photograph of a giant baobab tree she took on the road from Katsina when she was back in London and we kept in touch for some time before we cut . But I followed her movement, especially when she lived in Malaysia serving as adviser to Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition leader there.

Merryl had been passionate about serving Islam ever since she converted at the age of 31. She gave her all to it. Her death, therefore, was a huge loss to Muslim scholarship. Her thoughts are, however, preserved in her writings and her BBC radio programmes. I ’t think will ever be lost.