Chapter Twelve from the African Caliphate – The Vision of a Mujaddid

Chapter Twelve 

The Vision of a Mujaddid

We shall now take our leave from the volatile arena of jihad for a quieter, more serene, but equally vital arena of Shehu Usman’s thoughts on the new, noble state that had just come into being. How, for example, would he visualize the unfolding of history in the course of the life of this young state? What was his vision of an Islamic state (dar al-Islam). In which way, for example, would it differ from the Hausa kingdoms it had replaced, and if decline is inevitable for all peoples and all states, what would be his recipe for avoiding disintegration? Our main sources in this endeavor are the Shehu’s Bayaan Wujub al-Hijrah, his Kitaab al-Farq and his Uṣuul al-ʿAdl.

The Road to The Revival of the Sunnah  

The Shehu saw his role in leading to the establishment of the khilaafah (caliphate) as similar, in many respects, to that of the Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) who came to call his people ‘to profess belief in the unity of Allah, and demonstrated to them shining miracles in the face of which no man of sound judgment would doubt that he was the Messenger of Allah’; however, the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was at first rejected and severely persecuted. His followers were killed and forced into exile, but he endured and persisted in his mission.

The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) had an ardent desire to see his people spared the prospect of destruction, even though their treatment of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was contemptuous and unjust. “When their persecution intensified,” the Shehu recalled, “Gabriel came to him and said, ‘Oh Muhammad, Allah has ordered heaven, earth and the mountains to obey you.’ He replied, ‘I (wish to) grant a respite to my community for it may be that Allah will forgive them’.” The question of rushing to establish a ‘state’ on the ruin of his community was never contemplated by the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم). All along, he had hoped for one of three things: that his people be guided to the right path, by which they would be saved from the wrath of Allah, and made to live a successful life here, and a still worthier and more successful life in the hereafter; that in the case of their rejecting his message, Allah might, in His unbounded mercy, grant them His pardon; and that, alternatively, He would at least, raise out of them a generation that would accept the message and be guided rightly.

The Prophet’s (صلى الله عليه وسلم) conviction that perseverance was a key to ultimate success restrained any tendency in him to seek an armed confrontation prematurely. “In spite of the offer his Lord gave him,” the Shehu insisted, “he was not the first to resort to force against them, on the contrary, he used to present himself to the tribes and during festive seasons saying, ‘Who will believe in me? Who will help me so that I can convey the message of my Lord and thus secure for himself (a place in) paradise?’ In the end, Allah opened for him the door of hijrah and through it, the ultimate door to the perfection of religion and the termination of the days of ignorance.”

The system established by the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), after his victory over the systems of ignorance, thrived principally on his ‘sublime attributes’, including his personal discipline and his austere and abstemious life, in the midst of numerous opportunities for an easy and comfortable life which his position as the head of state necessarily opened to him. The leader’s self-restraint, his indifference to material privileges and his selflessness constitute the essence of being an Imam – as opposed to being a king. It is in this way that a leader symbolizes the spirit that gives birth to a new system, and carries it further and reinforces it by personal example and commitment.

The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) also had an absolute sense of humility, both in his personal conduct and his exercise of power. The Shehu noted that when the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was given the option of being either a prophet and a king or a prophet and a slave, he replied, ‘Rather a slave!’ He noted further that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) prevented his people from standing up for him as a mark of respect, saying, “I am only a slave. I eat as a slave eats and sit as a slave does.” His humility in private life was also revered by the Shehu:

“In his own house, he used to pursue the occupation of his family, i.e. serve them. He deloused his clothing, patched it, repaired his sandals, served himself, gave fodder to his camel used for water-carrying, swept the house, ate with the servant and kneaded dough with him and carried his own goods from the market, (a job) which he allowed nobody else to do for him… He himself served when entertaining a guest… He used to accept the excuse which one made, be the first to shake hands with his friends, and he never interrupted anyone who was speaking, nor made any displeasing remark to anybody. He never avenged himself save when the holy things of Allah were abused, then he would punish for the sake of Allah.”

Another attribute of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was that he fixed his gaze in the course of his entire life on the hereafter, disdaining to take advantages of his life lest he should be occupied with it to the detriment of his relationship with Allah. Even as the booties from the battlefields kept pouring into his treasury, even as territories came under his control at a rate beyond his imagination, even as people came to him in complete submission, the Prophet’s (صلى الله عليه وسلم) mind was always occupied with the thought of Allah, and his ultimate abode. “Nothing is dearer to me,” the Shehu quoted the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), “than to join my brothers and my intimate friends (i.e. his fellow Prophets).” One month later, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) died, without ever desiring to enjoy material benefit from his lifetime struggle in the guidance of mankind – he died seeking purely the reward that is with Allah.

The Shehu’s objective in telling about the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) and the four Rightly Guided khulafaa’ (Caliphs) (Allah be pleased with them) perhaps killed two birds with one stone: he showed the attributes of the best of Muslim leaders, the nature of the Islamic state (dar al-Islam) and the fundamental goals of Islamic polity; and secondly, he showed the likely trend in the history of his own state – from a merciful and compassionate khilaafah (caliphate), to monarchy and then to universal corruption and tyranny; and all could happen within a period of only fifty years.

Shehu’s Vision for the khilaafah (caliphate) 

The mujaddid‘s vision of his own khilaafah (caliphate) was essentially characterized by two fundamental attributes: a commitment to moral values and to an unconditional, universal justice. The mujaddid was determined to create a state far superior to and totally different from the Hausa states he had just overthrown. The new spirit can be summarized in two words: justice and piety.

The Moral Foundation of the State

Of the ten ‘qualities commendable both for princes and others’, mentioned in Bayaan, we shall content ourselves with five. These qualities are an expression of the Shehu’s concept of the nature of the new social order.

The first quality is wisdom – that moral and intellectual discipline which enables a person to join the company of angels while retaining essential human characteristics. It is the ability to strike a balance between the material and the spiritual in life. Proceeding from the two premises laid down in the ḥadiith: namely that ‘the best men are the wisest’ and that ‘wisdom takes one nearer to Allah’. The Shehu stated that to be wise means that one should be a master of one’s desires. Wisdom is therefore acquired not as much from books as from a life supported by honest and lawful income. The overriding importance of wisdom to the new order was articulated by the Shehu. “A wise man,” he said, “is guided aright by his wisdom and fortified by his sound judgment, so that what he says is sound and what he does is commendable, while an ignorant man is caused to go astray as a result of his ignorance; so what he says is unsound and what he does is objectionable.” Further, “the merit of wisdom is that one can judge what one has not witnessed according to what one has witnessed. So he who can judge what he has not witnessed by what he has witnessed is called wise.” Wisdom entails the ability to make sound moral judgments and the possession of a keen and penetrating sense of history. The Shehu was, however, quick to add a proviso: “wisdom is essential, but its value can be undermined if it is not freed from its mortal enemies – caprice, envy, arrogance, greed and other desires.”

A second quality that should characterize the spirit of the new state is knowledge. The need for the ruler of the Islamic state (dar al-Islam) to be a man of knowledge is vital, for in as much as the ruler is the symbol of the state, his actions, behavior and character are bound to influence society as a whole. “All people,” the Shehu explained, “derive fine qualities from the ruler and are indebted to him for laws, the checking of quarrels and settling of disputes. So, more than any other of Allah’s creation he is in need of being acquainted with learning and gathering (knowledge) of the law.” The very fact of his being a leader places on him the obligation to be learned. To be successful in government the ruler should not have to rely on aides who might tell him what they think he wants to hear, rather than what he ought to be told. “For a ruler,” as the Shehu says, “sets himself up to deal with people’s natures, to settle their disputes, and to undertake their government. All that requires outstanding learning, keen insight and extensive study. How would he get on if he had not made the necessary preparations and made himself ready for these matters?” An ignorant ruler is most likely to be held hostage by his own advisers who inflate his ego in order to use him for their own purposes. A state will be on a sure path when the love of knowledge, its acquisition and its propagation becomes a characteristic.

The role of scholars as administrators, judges, custodians of moral values and ideological guides of the khilaafah (caliphate) was crucial. In fact, the success of the state depended ultimately on the extent to which it was able to draw inspiration and support from the scholars.

A further essential quality to the state is that of generosity, which operates on two levels: the first level consists of the material support that a state can give to individuals, which individuals can give to each other, with the aim of strengthening mutual brotherhood, and the second level of generosity is the higher, which entails being ‘so generous with your soul that you wear it out for the sake of Allah, in worshipping Him and in willingly undertaking jihad in His path, seeking nothing but His good pleasure’. The khilaafah (caliphate) had two tasks before it: the advancement of the well being of the people through a voluntary mutual support scheme initiated by the people themselves but boosted by the state, and the development of the khilaafah (caliphate) through a continuous effort to defend the state and expand its frontiers.

The quality of patience is also necessary. In the post-jihad phase, it acquires a new significance. It means an unswerving determination to carry out the fundamental objectives of the state and to establish the required institutions, regardless of the material and moral costs. Patience would mean a determined resistance to the forces of evil which might have adopted new tactics to frustrate the realization of the objectives of the state.

The last of the five essential qualities is gratitude. How else could Muslims express their appreciation for Allah’s support? When they were weak, He strengthened them. When they were scattered, He brought them together. When they were oppressed, He gave them victory and made them rulers.

Allah has said, “Few are those who are thankful among My servants.” Gratitude is of three degrees. Gratitude from the heart, from the tongue, and from the bodily members. The first is to recognize that blessing comes from Allah alone. On this subject there is Allah’s word: “Whatsoever blessing you have, it comes from Allah.” The second, which is gratitude from the tongue, is to talk about that, as in Allah’s word: ‘And as for your Lord’s blessing, declare it.’ The essence of it is to praise the Beneficent for His beneficence. The third, which is gratitude from the bodily members, is to pay Allah’s due with each member and to worship Him with all of them. On this subject there is Allah’s word: “Labor, O House of David, in thankfulness.”

The Social Edifice of the State

We shall now look at the Shehu’s conception of justice that should characterize the state. Proceeding from the principle established in the Qur’an that Allah is not heedless of the atrocities being committed by oppressors – He is only giving them rope with which to hang themselves – the Shehu postulated two assumptions in his Bayaan: first, oppression is the main source of the collapse of a people: “oppression is the thing most conducive to the withholding of divine favor and the occurrence of catastrophes.”; and second, the oppressed are the ones most likely to triumph. Allah’s statement that He would ultimately destroy the oppressor and oppressive systems is, in the Shehu’s words, ‘a sufficient warning to the oppressor, and a sufficient consolation to the oppressed’.

Justice, then, was Shehu Usman‘s recipe for national stability and progress. it is the key to a nation’s endurance on the stage of history. The principles of justice put forward by the Shehu and the social and political policies he recommended for the state are the subjects of his Uṣuul al-ʿAdl and Kitaab al-Farq. In Uṣuul al-ʿAdl, the Shehu laid down ten principles of justice, mainly addressed to the overall ruler himself, as the symbol of the state. The first of these principles is that the sulṭan should bear in mind the implications of his office. It is on the one hand a source of blessing for one who exercises it properly and on the other, for one who misuses it, it is a source of unmitigated torment and misery. The just sulṭan will have the enviable benefit of being the ‘dearest of people to Allah’, and the unjust sulṭan will have to pay the consequences of being the most hateful of people to Allah.

The essence of justice is that the laws of Allah should be applied meticulously, without fear or favor. Since Allah established His law in a perfect order and for the purpose of realizing a comprehensive justice, it is foolish for a sulṭan to tamper with it, even with good intentions. The ruler should recognize one fundamental principle: Allah knows best how society should be organized and managed, and how an abiding and comprehensive justice can be achieved, as set out in the Shariiʿah.

An additional principle is that the ruler should endeavor to have upright and courageous scholars as his advisers and should himself listen to their advice. The scholars, on their part, must advise the ruler in accordance with what is best for both the ruler and the ruled, and must therefore, not hide anything from the ruler for fear of displeasing him. Here the Shehu was stressing the crucial role of the intellectual community in the state. As the conscience of society, they are under a binding obligation to give direction to government. Similarly, as the symbol of the oppressed, they have a duty to raise their voices against injustice and against all tendencies that could lead to permissiveness and luxury. Their exalted status in society demands that they dissociate themselves from all oppressive policies, and that they rush to the aid of the oppressed against the oppressor. They must share the people’s aspirations, yearnings and, as much as possible, their sufferings, and because the scholar’s association with the rulers is to establish justice, such an association should cease when justice is abandoned by the state. Thus, in reality, the scholar’s tent should ever be pitched with the people, not with the ruling class, and the intellectual community should not constitute a community separate from the mass of the people.

The Shehu went on, in the third principle of justice, to state that it is not sufficient for the ruler himself to be fair and just. He must ensure that all the departments of state of government functionaries obey the rules of justice, until, we presume, the whole state is permeated by justice. The ruler must never tolerate any act of injustice committed by any of his officials – be it his personal servant, an army officer, a civil servant or a governor, for Allah will hold him personally responsible for an unjust act committed by those who serve in his government.

As the fourth principle states, the ruler should put himself in the position of his subjects whenever he introduces policies. If he feels that as a subject of the state, the policy would be advantageous to him, he should proceed with it, but if he feels he might be injured by the policy, he should abandon it, otherwise his actions would amount to a misuse of authority, and even treason against the people.

In addition, as the fifth principle states, the ruler must open his doors to complaints of aggrieved and oppressed citizens, and must beware of the danger of turning a blind eye. If he ignores the injustices committed by his officials and strong citizens against the common people, he cannot be helped by his personal piety. His most important task as a ruler is to establish justice and prevent injustice, and not to be engaged day and night in personal piety, for ‘redressing the grievances of the Muslims is more meritorious than voluntary acts of devotion’. The shutting of the door against the poor and the oppressed is characteristic of unbelieving rulers, and not of a Muslim ruler, we are told in Kitaab al-Farq.

In three more principles, the Shehu warned against forms of behavior that could undermine the government itself. The ruler must not allow himself to be dominated by arrogance, for pride might kindle in him the fire of anger. Anger on its part blots out intelligence. The ruler who is likely to be roused into anger, should remember the Prophet’s (صلى الله عليه وسلم) words: “Woe to him who gets angry and forgets Allah’s anger against him.” The ruler should treat his people with forgiveness, forbearance and magnanimity. He should avoid treating his people harshly or unkindly by imposing unjust taxes on them, or misusing or squandering their wealth and resources. The states resources should be utilized in such a way that everyone has his basic needs satisfied, and economic and social justice reaches every corner of the state. The ruler should not allow his passions and appetites to get the better of him. The Shehu recounted the story of ʿUmar ibn al-Khattab (Allah be pleased with him) in which he asked a certain ascetic, ‘Whether he had heard any objectionable thing about him’. The ascetic replied, “I heard that you have been putting two loaves on the tray for your meals, and that you possess two shirts, one for night-time and one for day time.” ʿUmar (Allah be pleased with him) asked if there was anything else, to which the man answered in the negative. “By Allah,” replied ʿUmar (Allah be pleased with him), “both these two things shall also cease.” That a Muslim ruler should live sumptuously is offensive.

In the ninth principle, the Shehu turned the ruler’s attention to the crux of the matter – the Day of Judgment. He noted that in the hereafter, there are two homes, paradise for those who are righteous, hell for those who have squandered their lives. Real life is that of hereafter, and if one is seeking power, glory, prestige and enduring happiness, the hereafter has the best prospects. It is futile to risk that higher existence for the fleeting and delusive pleasures of this life, but more important is the fact that on the Day of Judgment, every human being will give his account before Allah. The ruler will in addition account for his stewardship: how he tackled poverty and spread happiness, how he battled against injustice and initiated or facilitated the flow of justice, how far he had curbed the excesses of the rich and powerful, and protected the poor and the weak, how he had taken care of the citizens, particularly, the children, the old, the sick, and the most important of all, women. In addition, he will have to account for the three most important issues of government and of human society: the blood of the citizens, their property and their honor. In essence, the Shehu was saying but one thing, that the ultimate source of restraint for a ruler in the face of enormous power at his disposal is his inner self, his conscience, his consciousness of Allah.

Finally, in the tenth principle of justice the Shehu reiterated that Allah has sent prophets to show mankind the best way to organize their lives, so that none can ever have an excuse for following a wrong cause. He sent the Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) as the last of the prophets to give glad tidings and to warn people. “He perfected his Prophethood,” the Shehu said, “in such a way as to leave neither room nor warrant for any addition whatsoever – thus, He made him the seal of the Prophets.” That perfected model, therefore is the one the leader should follow. The tenth principle is, in fact, the sum total of all the principles the Shehu enumerated. He was effectively telling his own men, if you want to rule with justice, if you want a perfect model for your government, if you want your rule to succeed, your state to live long, your society to be happy, then follow the footsteps of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) – read the Seerah, retain the essence of it. The Shehu thus returned to his theme, namely, that he wanted the Sokoto khilaafah (Caliphate) to be the nearest approximation to the state established by the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) himself.

As for the policies, the Shehu grouped them, in his Kitaab al-Farq, into two categories: those geared towards elimination of corruption in both spiritual and mundane matters’, and those intended for the well-being of the people. The former include the defense of the state against unbelievers, brigands and rebels, the blocking of all sources of corruption and the prevention of crimes and other social evils. The pursuit of the well-being of the people includes such measures as improvements to the mosque, which symbolizes Muslim piety and unity, the ‘commanding of the people to strive earnestly to study the Qur’an’, disseminating knowledge in all its ramifications, the improvement of the market system, the relieving of the burden of poverty from the people, and ‘commanding everything that is good’. These constitute the essence of the social and economic policy of a state. Briefly, the Shehu was telling the young state, defend yourself against all possible enemies, wage war against corruption, crime and oppression, re-establish the purity and sanctity of religion, give education the utmost priority with the Qur’an as its root, establish justice as the basis of the economy, fight against poverty, enrich the people and make them happy, and do whatever Allah has ordered to be done.

Forestalling Disintegration

Is there a way in which a state can forestall its decline, or at least lengthen its life? We draw from the Shehu’s thoughts on this subject in the Bayaan.

The state, in the post-jihad phase, should endeavor to end disputes, conflicts and divisions by a sustained policy of forgiveness and leniency towards those who might not have full sympathy with its cause, but who are, nevertheless its citizens. “The wise men,” the Shehu emphasized, “have said, Authority cannot go with revenge, nor leadership with self-esteem and self-admiration. Be it known that it is better that you should pardon wrongly in one thousand cases than to punish wrongly in a single case.” Hence, transgressors should be ‘killed by goodness not by evil’. Perhaps in this way, the process of reconciliation in the wake of turmoil and upheaval associated with jihad could be facilitated, but if punishment is unavoidable, then it should not exceed the limit set by law. Yet, “if vengeance against… a wrongdoer may stir up civil strife or incite a man known to be docile to commit an offense, and the wrongdoer comes to seek forgiveness, then in this case pardon is better.” This does not imply giving a free-hand to corrupt elements, for “if the wrongdoer shows forth wickedness openly and is uncouth to people and does harm to the young and the old, then it is better to take revenge on him.”

The state should not allow the fervor of jihad to get the better of its citizens. Those who have lost their power as a result of the success of the jihad should not be subjected to ill-treatment nor to confiscation and seizure of property or land, for the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) has warned that, “for him who seizes a Muslim’s property with his right hand, Allah has made hell binding upon him,” even if such property does not amount to more than a twig of a tree. Assaults on people’s honor must be discouraged and prevented. Once the objective of establishing a new order is achieved, the State must not allow the uncovering of old wounds, nor the unnecessary slandering of people.

The new state must guard its secrets and not expose itself to  enemies. Proceeding from the ḥadiith of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), “Seek the help of secrecy in achieving your aims,” the Shehu counseled, “Know that keeping secrets is a commendable practice for all mankind and a necessary quality for kings, and an essential duty for wazirs, courtiers and the royal retinue.” ʿAli ibn Abi Taalib (Allah ennoble his countenance) said, “Your secret is your captive so long as you do not tell it, but when you do, you become its captive.” Hence, “He who keeps back his secret attains his end and keeps free of attack. Your secret is part of your blood, so do not let it circulate in veins other than your own, and if you tell it, then you have shed your blood.”

The state has to be conscious of the fact the complexities of human nature and society are not swept away merely because a jihad has taken place. As long as ‘every human being has in himself some aspects of animal behavior’, as the Shehu said, those complexities will remain. The state, and especially the ruler, must learn to deal with complexities in such a way that the prosperity of the state and of the people can be guaranteed and sustained without necessarily harming any section of society.

The state must anticipate having leopards, monkeys, donkeys, dogs, polecats, dung-beetles, hawks, wolves, ostriches or jerboa among men. Caution, therefore, is the key policy in these matters. For instance, in dealing with the dung-beetle among men – those who ‘delight in eating human excrement and are accustomed to the smell of filthy things’, by trading in worldly tales, lies and superstitions – the ruler should throw flowers on them, for ‘they die when musk or flowers are cast on them’. The ostrich, ‘which buries all its eggs in the sand and sits on only one egg,’ thereby creating false impressions, should never be believed. ‘The man of experience… is not deceived by that first egg (but) goes on digging until he achieves his end.’ Such is the treatment of liars. As for the jerboa which creates two openings to its hole and enters through one hole and comes out through another, thus symbolizing hypocrisy, the best course of action is that he should be avoided completely. As for the lion, ‘no peace can exist in the face of a lion’s roar,’ so the answer is a full-scale defense of state interests.

There has to be recognition that the state can only be preserved by a rigorous and austere political culture, a deep sense of justice, and humility on the part of rulers. Conversely, the state can be toppled by the forces of luxury, nepotism, and oppression. On luxury, the Shehu warned that, “when Allah desires to destroy a state, He hands its affairs over to extravagant sons of rulers whose ambition is to magnify the status of kingship, to obtain their desires and indulge in sins. And Allah takes glory away from them as a result of that.” Nepotism has the effect of bringing a government to an end, while injustice terminates the life of a kingdom.

Finally, if despite these precautions and measures the state finds itself in a state of disharmony, it should question its policies of social justice and equity. If they are not the cause of the insecurity or the trend towards disintegration, then the ruler must return quickly to the roots, ‘by summoning the scholars and enjoining truth and acting in accordance with it, by upholding the Sunnah, by making justice prevail and by sitting down on skin (rugs) to review torts’. In addition, he should quickly restore honor to whom it is due, abolish unlawful and oppressive taxes, and forced labor, and give due respect to scholars and men of piety. ‘He should not deprive a chief of his chieftaincy, rather he should make sure that every mighty man retains his position, and cause everyone to occupy the place he is entitled to. Only then can he be chief of chiefs.’

A king gains victory over his enemies according to his justice over his subjects and is defeated in his wars according to his injustice. Seeing to the welfare of subjects is more effective than a large number of soldiers. It has been said that the crown of a king is his integrity, his stronghold is his impartiality and his wealth is his subjects. There can be no triumph with transgression, no rule without learning of the law and no chieftaincy with vengeance.

Published in: Uncategorized on April 8, 2018 at 20:38  Leave a Comment  

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