Success Story: From Janitor to Lecturer at the Same University

Success  Story: From Janitor to Lecturer at the Same University

Khartoum,  Sudan (SUDANOW)- Sudanow presents the story of a miraculous success of a man who was a janitor in a university and became a professor in the same university. A man who served as a shepherd of camels and sheep and never attended school regularly until he reached 50 years of age and became a renowned writer who wrote hundreds of drama stories for Omdurman Radio that broadcast them in widely listened series. 


The amazing success story of the extraordinarily ingenious man was related to SUDANOW by his youngest son Yassin who was born in 1975, graduated at a computer engineering faculty and presently operates as a computer maintenance technician and lecturer.


Yassin said his father Gareeb Mohamed Raji'e was born in Muafa Village, a suburb of Bara town in North Kordufan, about 600 km west of the national capital Khartoum. He frequented a number of Khalawi (Koranic schools), including that of Sheikh Awad, attended religious sessions in mosques of his village and then moved to the Khawat of Sheikh Taj al-Dinn in Um Dayogah Village, in the same area of Bara.

Like all other families in Sudan seeking a better and dignified system of living, his family moved to Bara town when he was seven and where he had an opportunity of enrolment in the primary school in which only the lucky boys would be admitted.


However, the family suddenly decided to return to the Muafa Village because the father at the time had an adverse opinion about pupils of schools and thus Gareeb missed an opportunity of education despite his desire in learning how to read and write and his ambition for a right future.


Upon returning to his village and like his peers, Gareeb worked as a shepherd and a farming worker .  A year later his father passed away and thereafter, he, at nine, and his mother took up the responsibility of taking care of the family's affairs. Yet, his hopes for resuming education revived when travelled again to Bara to work with an acquaintance of his father who had a small shop and who paid him five piasters a day (one pound equals 100 piasters). In that shop he began to earn commercial experience and continued learning the basics of reading and writing.


Gareeb returned to Muafa Village in 1944 during World War II and by that time, and through the trade operations, he perfected reading and writing skills. Then he moved to El-Obeid city, 700 km west of the national capital Khartoum, and served as a clerk before returning to Bara to work in the cereals market.

In 1948, Gareeb married and was begotten his elder son while he frequented religious learning lessons by a Bara Sheikh who taught Islamic jurisprudence, sayings of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), Koranic interpretation and Arabic Language.


He attended those lessons for four years until he was able to give fatwa (answers to Islamic questions) after the Sheikh, Eissa Mohamed Mukhtar had presented him with a fatwa certificate.


By incident, he travelled to Khartoum to treat his grandfather in Khartoum Hospital and the miracle began to develop when he ran short of money and had to find a job.


"I used to go and join manual labor seekers in Omdurman every day but in futility as no contractor was willing to choose me because of my clean appearance. Incidentally, a person working with the Religious Affairs hired me to make some refurbishments of an old house near Tigani al-Mahi Hospital. By the end of the job he told me that he would not mind, if I wanted, to stay in the house. Days later he told me that there were job opportunities in the recently opened Islamic University of Omdurman but, unfortunately, those jobs required reading and writing skills. When I told him that I was well versed in reading and writing, he immediately took me to the University and, on passing a test, I was appointed a janitor. The job also included serving 20 students residing in one house for nine pounds a month. The duties included cleaning cooking and guarding. My presence with those students was a great benefit to me as I used to listen to their discussions which centered on Islamic jurisprudence, interpretation of the Holy Koran and Arabic subjects of which I had a background. I used to go through their notes when they were away till I was able to share their discussions," Gareeb was quoted by his youngest son as relating.


Yassin went on to say that his father was a poet and used to write the four-line stanza of verses of Kordufan countryside and he possessed a fertile imagination of writing conversations and tales of persons he imagine they were in front of him and putting those in notes.


One of the students stumbled on those notes and upon reading them, they caught his admiration and suggested to Gareeb to take his work to the Sudanese Radio and the officials there found the notes acceptable and concluded agreement with him.

Thus Gareeb became a writer of drama in Radio Omdurman and wrote numerous serials which attracted most of the Radio listeners and have long remained in the memory of the Sudanese people.        

From this stage, Gareeb strides towards glory began to widen.


 He used to sit down in the evenings with the students while they were revising their lessons collectively and sometimes he intervened in their discussions armed with what he had read heard and he had heard from them. One student, namely Bashir Ali Hamad al-Turabi, suggested to take him to the Grand Mosque of Omdurman during his leisure time to attend sessions on jurisprudence, Hadith (Prophet Mohammad's sayings) and interpretation of the Holy Koran so that he might obtain the certificate as a reference in Islamic matters.


Gareeb accepted the suggestion and regularly attended the sessions when he was in his fifties and then moved to the Islamic Institute of Omdurman and after one year he obtained a certificate that qualified him to enroll with the Islamic University of Omdurman as a student and graduated in 1978 at an age of 58. Upon graduation he was promoted from the status of worker to an administrator (workers' superintendent). 


This achievement attracted the attention of the administration of the university as well as senior officials of the state and was patronized by late Culture and Information Minister Omar al-Hajj Mussa until he obtained the Master's Degree with distinction.


He was the first student to get the Master's Degree to be granted after the university opened its high studies faculty. Gareeb obtained this degree for a dissertation on hadith sayings narrated by leading narrator and close companion of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). The external examiner was Sheikh Al-Husseiny Abdul Majid Hashim of Cairo's Azhar University as there were no local professors specialized in this field.  


As for the PhD, according to Yassin, it was another story, saying his father set out for it well after he was over 66. He said at the time they were living in their present house in Um Baddah, an Omdurman neighborhood, a makeshift house with no electricity or water supply. Yassin said they used to revise their lessons in the light of the kerosene lantern or candle.


"We were suffering, but the suffering of our father was something else. After his return from the work in the afternoon, he used to have a little rest and before sunset he had to walk for about two miles to a friend's house in which he was given a private room to read and write and collect information on the dissertation subject. At home we used to help him with some writings as he gave each of us a book to write down a number of specific pages. The dissertation was completed in 1989 but one day which we considered most miserable day, but our father or thought it was not: On that day, the dissertation, which was ready for typesetting, was burnt to ashes, years of efforts vanished in a moment. But my father was of a strong faith and a profound resolve ad determination,

knowing no despair; and his motto was: "Everything of a believer is good and everything chosen by God is good". 


He started anew with indefatigable determination and enthusiasm and finished the dissertation on 'Monotheism as Proven by Ibn Khuzaimah' (an early Muslim scholar) in 1990, it was discussed and he obtained the PhD with distinction.


Then Gareeb began a career as a professor in the same university in which he served as a janitor and turned into a renowned lecturer and a distinguished scholar and gained admiration by all people who knew him and who were astounded by his diligence and his unique story of success.


Gareeb persistently continued studies and research until he obtained the professorship and was sent into retirement in 1994 and his house in Um Dabbah became a beacon of culture and science.


After retirement, he returned to his home area and birthplace: Muafa Village and with assistance of a benevolent Saudi citizen he managed to build a mosque annexed by a religious institute. And despite obstacles of robbing building materials and other acts of destroying what was built, he managed to complete the edifice with the help of his sons and it was inaugurated in 1998.


Gareeb waged war against illiteracy in the surrounding villages of Kordufan and he was invited by a number of villages to stay with them for delivering lectures and give religious lessons but despite temptation, he preferred to remain in Muafa on grounds that the priority was for his own village people.    


Gareeb in his home village

Gareeb's fame expanded beyond Sudan to reach Saudi Arabia and he was asked to go there for work in Mecca and Medina universities but he preferred to remain in the Islamic University of Omdurman. On retirement, he accepted an offer by the Saudi Arabian embassy to serve as an Islamic preacher.


Besides this duty, he used to travel to different parts of Kordufan, disseminating moderate Islamic religious teachings until 2006 when one of his eyes got afflicted and he had to travel to Khartoum for treatment.

When all efforts of treatment failed, doctors decided to deactivate the nerves of the sick eye but they mistakenly made the operation on other wrong target: the healthy eye, depriving him of the entire eyesight and he came out of the hospital completely blind. Yet Gareeb refused to sue that famous hospital, arguing that it was God's will. 


A major problem that faced Gareeb after losing his eyesight, was the inability to pursue his hobby of reading and writing and therefore he used to ask any passing-by person to pick up a certain book and read a specific chapter, but this did not satiate his desire.

He continued practicing his poetic and scientific activities and he remained teaching and pleasing others even when he reached 88 years of age, despite the blindness.


Gareeb remained in his home Muafa Village where he was born and brought up in its plains and valleys which inspired into him the talents of poetry, writing and fertile imagination and instilled resolve and patience into his spirit that led him to this accomplishment.


In 2003, the state awarded Gareeb a well-deserved decoration of science and arts.


Gareeb left behind a number of works and scientific research papers he wrote in addition to public contributions which were highly appreciated and so were his poetic talents that added to his attractive personality that earned him respect and consideration by everyone who was concerned with arts and literature.


Yassin did not forget his mother who, he said, had played a great role in patiently bringing up the children during the absence of their father Gareeb who used to stay in the hostels of the students as required by his job.


Strangely enough, the student who proposed to Gareeb to enter the University was among the professors who discussed his dissertation after becoming a professor in that University. It was Dr. Bashir Hamad al-Turabi. 

When the result of the discussion was announced, Gareeb was awarded a special honoring by then University Vice-chancellor Kamil Al-Bagir who made the unforgettable statement: "Had Islam permitted statues, we would have made  a statues  of Dr. Gareeb at every entrance of this University."


Professor Gareeb died in 2011 at his son's house in Um Baddah, bloc 30 and his funeral to Hamad al-Neel Cemetery, Omdurman from his house in Um Baddah, bloc 8.


His son Mohamed has now started a mission of documentation of late professor Gareeb and is presently making a documentary film that will be shown in the near future



Sudanow is the longest serving English speaking magazine in the Sudan. It is chartarized by its high quality professional journalism, focusing on political, social, economic, cultural and sport developments in the Sudan. Sudanow provides in depth analysis of these developments by academia, highly ...


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