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Mourning ‘professor’ Nunow: A solemn political figure, cleric and distinguished herbalist



By: Abdikadir Ukash

WAJIR—Hundreds of mourners gathered at a cemetery in Wajir town this morning following the death of Sheikh Mohamed Nunow who passed on Saturday evening while receiving treatment at a the a local hospital.

Born 1932 in Wajir town, the late Sheikh Mohamed was a man of many parts, and bindings—a solemn political figure, a cleric whose service was defined by unquestionable propriety and a renowned “professor” of herbal medicine for over 65 years.

“I got the nickname ‘professor Nunow’ when I started practicing herbal medicine since I always had a book with me at all times because it’s one area I’m passionate about, and has really helped many people who were suffering from illnesses which modern drugs could not help,” Sheikh Nunow told Kulan Post during an interview in April, 2019.

His workplace was particularly conspicuos for the dozen patients waiting in line for his attention, the distinctively labelled varied herbal medicines and troves of medical books such as the classical dictionary of Islamic medicine—a setting that told alot about the rich tapestry of his legacy and the struggle he had to endure in a bid get an effective yet affordable medicine for thousands of patients who would seek his services from as far as Somalia.

“I did not inherit this knowledge from my father nor am I a self-proclaimed tradional medicine man. I’m a professional. It’s a subject I studied and keep on researching non-stop, because Arabs have a saying: Nothing worthwhile comes out of anything you engage in if you lack the knowledge to implement it,” Sheikh Nunow noted, adding that: “I started practicing medicine in 1957, years before Kenya became a republic.”

At one time, Sheikh Nunow reminisced, he was arrested by the colonial administration while administering antivenon to a man writhing from a snakebite. He was held in prison by the colonialists for more than a month for practicing “unknown type of medicine.” He was later released after it was established that: “I was well equipped with enough knowledge to attend to patients, although they classified the source of my knowledge as a foreign concept unknown to them, but surprisingly effective,” he recounted.


“Professor Nunow” projected the image of a no-nonsense conservative when commenting on public affairs and matters of moral decadence in the society, a demeanour compounded by an authoritative voice that came in handy when expressing his dislike for mediocrity, tribalism, lethargy and corruption. He was a regular analyst of current affairs in media and public events without relinquishing the conscious propriety of his demeanor.

“I speak my mind without fear or favor because I have never solicited for favours from any politician even though I back them during campaigns, and if my conscience allows it, I endorse their candidacy and invest my own money in their bid. Is there anyone here who ever gave me charity money?” Posed professor Nunow to which everyone responded “never” in unison. He was speaking at an endorsement event for the former Wajir West legislator, Ahmed Kolosh who lost to the incumbent, Yusuf Farah.

“It’s not that I don’t need help from the people, but overtime, I learnt to rely on what I earn from my practice of medicine, and the absolute reliance on the power of Allah, the Infinite Provider,” he noted, adding that: “I consider my preaching work as voluntary and not a gainful venture.”

Sheikh Mohamed Nunow served as the Wajir District head of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM) for thirteen uninterrupted years.

Shortly after the announcement of his demise, social media platforms became awash with condolence messages by the leaders, clerics and community elders.

Eldas Member of Parliament (MP), Adan Keynan eulogised the late Sheikh as “a respectable scholar, respectable elder and true icon of our region who championed for many spheres of development and growth of the community as a peace ambassador, a reliable and vibrant medic.

“In his demise, we have lost a distinguished servant and a role model whose legacy of leadership, compassion and dedication to the community and the nation brought immense pride and dignity,” Keynan said in a statement.

Wajir County governor, Ahmed Abdullahi said the news of Sheikh Nunow’s death is “a great sadness”.

“May Allah reward him for his contributions to our social, spiritual and medical well being during his lifetime and forgive him,” the county chief said.

“He united us, gave us guidance, and, whenever called upon, spread his wisdom to our entire society,” Abdullahi further noted. A similar condolence was made by his deputy, Ahmed Muhumed.

Sheikh Mohamud Yusuf said the demise of “Professor Nunow has left a leadership void in the region since he was an elder and the voice of reason during crisis. We mourn, not only his death, but what he stood for and the position he held that’s no more,” Sheikh Mohamud told Wajir Community Radio.

The late Sheikh Mohamed Nunow died aged 91-years old.


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