The Nature And Character of Shaykh ʿAbd Allah b. Foduye

The Nature And Character of Shaykh ʿAbd Allah b. Foduye

By

Professor. A. A. Gwandu

Usmanu Dan Fodiyo University, Sokoto

Introduction

Much has been said and written about Shaykh ʿAbd Allah b. Foduye both by his contemporaries and by later generations. A lot has been written about his scholarship and his military prowess, qualities which no-one can contest because they are as obvious and clear as the daylight.

Similarly there is a general consensus that Shaykh ʿAbd Allah was extremely pious  and God-fearing and had very strong, deep and unwavering faith. However, although this much was known about Shaykh ʿAbd Allah, no in-depth study known to me has been made about the whole nature and character of this icon of light.

I believe that the study of history is very important because, among other things, history tells you about people and events so that you can learn from the interplay of individuals and groups, people and environment, those elements that can help you in your current situation and environment. I believe that in times like ours we need to learn about the character of people like Shaykh ʿAbd Allah and try to emulate them. Our time in particular needs the likes of the character of Shaykh ʿAbd Allah because our present circumstances and environment are in many ways very similar to those under which Shaykh ʿAbd Allah lived. To be specific, our society today witnesses hypocrisy of the highest order, where-in even the most highly placed officials are generally known to be hypocritical in their utterances and actions, just as was the case during the time of Shaykh ʿAbd Allah. We are living witnesses to corruption of the highest order everywhere, including in the building of Churches and Mosques. We see the elites, who constitute a small proportion of the population, cornering most of the resources of the nation. We see venal and corrupt people parading themselves as Ulamii and Shuyukh. We see those who claim to be representatives of the people sucking such people dry. We see Muslims and Christians who would dedicate their lives to studying in various fields of human endeavour but who will not be willing to make a little time to learn even the most basic things regarding their religion. The last time such people would learn about religion may be when they would have taken Senior Secondary School Certificate examination or even before. The Muslims among them forget or may not even know the verse of the Holy Qur’an which explains the whole purpose and meaning of creation.

In our days the Muslims have even succeeded in the total and wholesale adoption of the modern Christian philosophy which confines the jurisdiction of God to matters relating to rituals only, believing that in all other matters – social, political and economic – God should have no say.

Indeed, as far as such modern Muslims are concerned, morality and ethical questions have no intrinsic value: the end justifies the means. If such people would only acknowledge that their brand of Islam was distorted and that they were ignorant of what Islam is all about. there would be some hope. Unfortunately, however, they would regard their own whims and caprices as the true and only correct Islam which they so clearly understand and which no-one else understands. They, therefore, have no apology to God or Man for what they do, nor do they have to beg God for forgiveness or try to learn the true Islam from its sources.

In a situation like the one described above, there is need to learn about the qualities and character of people like Shaykh ʿAbd Allah, and how such qualities helped not only their possessors but others in their communities as well.

Nature and Character of Shaykh ʿAbd Allah.

Shaykh ʿAbd Allah b. Foduye, described by Hiskett as physically “tall, fat and black”[1] is a rare gem in many respects. His most important quality and the one from which all the others sprang was his deep and unshakable faith in Allah and his complete, unalloyed and absolute submission and resignation to the will of Allah. This is his source of strength. Armed with faith and with submission to the will of Allah, Shaykh ʿAbd Allah tried to model the whole of his life on the teaching of Islam. He had the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) as a physical example to emulate and he did everything possible towards that end. It is no wonder, therefore, that the first serious poem he had composed was his takhmis (quintain) on the poem of Shaykh ʿUthman in praise of the Prophet (SAW) [2]. For Shaykh ʿAbd Allah a true Muslim must always be God-conscious and must have Prophet Muhammad as a model to emulate. This quality means that Shaykh ʿAbd Allah would direct his attention to the acquisition of learning, but whatever is learnt must be put into practice. This is the only way the individual, the group and the environment can interact and produce the desired objective of creation.

It follows from the above that Shaykh ʿAbd Allah would be expected to dedicate himself to study and learning – which he actually did until he became recognized throughout West Africa as one of the most learned scholars. Muhammad al-Bukhari described him thus:

… a Shaykh who has no equal in knowledge in these countries. I mean the Imam of his time, ʿAbd Allah’, who led the noble Shaykhs since he was a youth. Master of sciences, their servant and their follower; friend of piety,  learned, generous, perfect; …Wide sea of learning, …Firmly grounded in every branch of knowledge, deeply learned, rightly guided in everything he says. [3]

Shaykh ʿAbd Allah is a great authority in Tafsir, Hadith and Fiqh, having to his credit, two Tafsirs: Diyā’ a!-Ta’wil and Kifāyat Du’afā’ as-Sūdān, a work on Hadith Science: Sirāj Jamiʿ al-Bukhari and a number of works on fiqh.

After the acquisition of knowledge ʿAbd Allah did the next logical thing; he taught and wrote. As an author and a teacher he achieved quite a lot. Even in his youth, he participated in the preaching tours of Shaykh ʿUthman b. Foduye. He continued, throughout his life learning, teaching and writing at the same time. An idea about the number of his students can be gauged from the number of his as-hāb (companions) who, according to Salad b. ʿAbd al-Rahman numbered about 750.(4)It is assumed that all these were advanced students who came to him from different parts of West Africa and sat to learn at his feet.

Although one has no concrete evidence of Shaykh ʿAbd Allah having directly involved in teaching at primary level, yet one would assume quite reasonably, that he must have undertaken that at some stage in accordance with the general practice during his time. This assumption has some support in the fact that he showed a lot of understanding of the atmosphere in a primary school environment as depicted by his views on the handling of small children in the maktabah. Such detailed and precise discussion can only normally come from someone who has experienced the teaching himself.(5) While dealing with the issue of Shaykh ʿAbd Allah as a teacher, one would like to refer to his wonderful methodology of addressing his students according to their level of understanding and their standing in society.  This methodology was employed also in addressing audiences, readers and others. Examples of this can be seen in the way Shaykh ʿAbd Allah writes his books. Those of them meant for the ordinary people are written in a simple language and are all based on the Mālikī School of Law. Even within that School, only the views acceptable to the majority of the Mālikī scholars were adopted. The book Diyā’ ʿUlūm al-Dīn is an example of this sort of writing, so in Taqrib Darūri al-DIn. When writing for scholars and those in authority on the other hand, Shaykh ʿAbd Allah would include a lot of details such as differences of opinion of scholars from within the Maliki School of Law. He also at times brought in opinions from outside that School. An example of this is his Tafsir, Diyā’ al-Ta’wīl meant for advanced students, and his book on constitutional theory and the administration of the state Diyā’ al-Hukkam.

In such books Shaykh ʿAbd Allah would treat issues in some detail, providing various options to a given issue, hoping thereby that those for whom the book was written, who were supposed to be qualified to use it, would consider the various options and use the one most appropriate in their particular situation. Such scholars were learned enough not be confused by the various views and opinions expressed on one issue, unlike the ordinary readers. However, in order to ensure that justice is not miscarried with the resultant negative consequences, Shaykh ʿAbd Allah restricted the judges to the application of only the most well-known rulings (Mash-hur al-Mazhab) which must be drawn from the Mālikī School of Law. With this, uniformity is achieved and the danger of personal, selfish and capricious actions by the judges was curtailed.

Before we leave the subject of teaching, it is pertinent to point out that Shaykh ʿAbd Allah expected parents to bear responsibility for the education of their children. Under no circumstance should a parent dump his child in school in order to get rid of his nuisance and escape responsibility for providing for him or her. No-one should be condemned to begging, a practice ʿAbd Allah seriously criticized. Parents should cater for their children and pay for their children’s education. Teachers should, therefore, have no cause to send the children begging.(6)

Now apart from preaching, teaching and writing, Shaykh ʿAbd Allah as an admirer and emulator of the Prophet (SAW) turned his attention to the other qualities of the Prophet (SAW) among which is courage of conviction and action. Just as the Prophet (SAW) refused pressure from all quarters to give up his mission so did Shaykh ʿUthman and ʿAbd Allah. No amount of gifts from the Gobir kings could influence them.(7) They believed that worldly possessions are worth nothing compared to the reward they anticipated from Allah if they should remain steadfast in pursing their objectives. These objectives are expected to lead to the creation of a just, Allah – oriented society that lives in happiness here on Earth and in the Hereafter. However, this mission can only be fulfilled by following the teaching of Islam as expounded by the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW). These qualities of courage and steadfastness can also be seen when the Jama’ah (Community) of Shaykh ʿUthman b. Foduye, led by Shaykh ʿAbd Allah, resolved to offer oath of allegiance to Shaykh ʿUthman as the Amir al-Mu’minīn – a decisive factor which marked a watershed in the struggle of the Jihad leaders to create a conducive environment in which the Muslim Community could live and practice their religion unmolested.8)

Shaykh ʿAbd Allah’s courage is perhaps demonstrated best when he came out openly to disagree with some of the views expressed by his brother Shaykh ʿUthman, despite his high regard for the Shaykh and reverence with which he held him. While making public his disagreement with these views, however, he exhibited other important qualities he possessed. He was polite, courteous and respectable in the language he used and in the manner he expressed his disagreement. In all he did, he was guided by the general principle that people should act according to facts available to them, but should be prepared to accept the other point of view if and when evidence is made available to establish that view. (9)

Let us consider also the instance when Shaykh ʿUthman, basing his ruling on a fatwa given by Muhammad b. ʿAbd al-Karirn al-Maghīlī, ruled that any scholar or student or ordinary Muslim who offered assistance to non-Muslims should be considered as an unbeliever. Shaykh ʿAbd Allah said that Shaykh Uthman’s :

“generalization in anathematizing those who mingle the truth with bāṭil (untruth) is clear if (that charge) is established. This is because the truth (here) means Islam and the bāṭil means unbelief; and clearly anyone who mixes Islam with Kufr (unbelief) is surely an – unbeliever as earlier stated. However, his anathematization of those who assisted the unbelievers in their armies against the Muslim armies is not clear to me because the verse which al-Maghīlī quoted. (in support of his assertion) was revealed in respect of assistance given by the Muslims to unbelievers in furtherance of their unbelief in line with the normal practice of the hypocrites concerning whom the verse was revealed as the Mufassirun (Exegetes) have explained. Thus assisting them in unbelief is unbelief. However, he who assists them in sin cannot be regarded as an unbeliever so long as he does not regard that (sinful action) as permissible and lawful. The sending of armies against Muslims itself definitely does not constitute unbelief, but rather it is a sin, if it is not based on ta’wil (genuine interpretation allowing that). What more of merely assisting in that? And if an action itself does not constitute unbelief, how then can what it leads to constitute unbelief? As for Ibn ʿAbd al-Karim al-MaghīIī, he did not qualify the meaning of the word “nasr” (assistance). It should, therefore, be taken to mean assisting them in committing unbelief not in committing something sinful. This will bring (the ruling) in line with the views of Orthodox Muslims. May God protect him (al-Maghīlī) from making the taking up of arms against Muslims an act of unbelief. Were the Shaykh (Uthman) to delete his words “in their armies against the armies of the Muslims” it would have been better since we know, by necessity, that a Muslim does not become an unbeliever by fighting a fellow Muslim, what more of his just giving assistance (to unbelievers) in their fight against Muslims’?(10) 

I have decided to quote this whole passage in order to show clearly the attitude of Shaykh ʿAbd Allah to issues and individuals.

Here he is, faced by a very difficult situation. His revered brother, relying on a famous and worldly renowned scholar, al- Maghīlī, has given a ruling on an issue. Shaykh ʿAbd Allah, as a scholar, found it impossible to accept the position of these two respectable and learned scholars. He had one of two options to choose from: either to let things pass as they were, due to the high regard he had for the two personalities, or declare his position, reflecting his understanding and knowledge though it contradicts theirs. Shaykh ʿAbd Allah’s courage of conviction, reinforced by his piety, led him to opt for what he believed in. However, his humility and the respect he had for others manifested themselves in the way and manner he managed the differences of opinion. In the case of al Maghīlī, he gave him the benefit of doubt by arguing that his ruling that anyone, no matter who he is, “who gives assistance to anyone of the (unbelievers) becomes an unbeliever by the testimony of God the Vanquisher of all” he must have meant by “assistance” assisting non-Muslims in unbelief, which is in order and in line with the orthodox view.

He considered al-Maghīlī innocent of condemning, as unbelievers, Muslims who assisted non-Muslims in their armies. This is in line with Shaykh ʿAbd Allah’s principle of searching for an excuse to justify the action of every Muslim. In the case of the view of the Shaykh, however, he was unable to find an acceptable interpretation in line with his view, which he claimed was the view of the Orthodox Muslims. The only thing he could do in that case was, therefore, to suggest how, by removing a few words from the Shaykh’s statement, the rest of the passage could stand.

Similarly Shaykh ʿAbd Allah disagreed with the view expressed by al Maghīlī in his fatwa to the Sultan of Songhay, Askia Muhammad b. Abi Bakr where al-Maghīlī ruled that whenever Muslims voluntarily settled among Muhāribūn, (Muslim rebels) and were captured along with the rebels they should be considered as being part of them. Thus they should be killed and their property confiscated and their repentance should not be accepted. Shaykh ʿAbd Allah opined that this is not correct, because the property of Muslim rebels could not be confiscated when they are fought nor could their wives and children be enslaved since they still remained Muslims. However, as usual. he looked for a way out for al Maghīlī, by suggesting that he might have meant by Muhāribūn (rebels) the Mustaghraq al-Dhimmah (those whose property had earlier on been ruled to belong to the Bayt al-Mal (Muslim Treasury). He also suggested that perhaps by Muhāribūn (rebels) al-Maghīlī might have meant unbelievers at war with the Muslims (Harbiyyūn).(11)

So it is with Shaykh ʿAbd Allah. He would on all occasion say his mind and express his views, but at the same time try to find an excuse to explain the point of view of others. Sometimes also he tries to find an interpretation for the statement of others in order to reconcile it with what he regarded as the correct or acceptable view. In doing this, his politeness and respect for others are always manifested, while his courage to say his mind is not sacrificed.

The courage of Shaykh ʿAbd Allah and his bravery also manifest themselves on many occasions during his military campaigns. Take for instance the battle of Alkalawa in which he commanded the Jihad forces. ʿAbd Allah was struck by an arrow during the first of the three assaults the Jihadists made on the fortress. Before they could prepare for the next assault they learnt that the Touareg were raiding their families. Having made straight for home they, along with Shaykh ʿUthman and the whole family and the rest of the Community left for Tsuntsuwa. The Gobir forces and their Touareg allies now made a surprise attack on the Community at Tsuntsuwa and gave them a crashing defeat in which many notable personalities were killed. Now Shaykh ʿAbd Allah, who was not able to rise up on account of the arrow wound which he suffered earlier at the battle of Alkalawa, rose up lame, confronted the fleeing Jihad soldiers and was able, with a lot of difficulty to rally some of them whom he led in pursuit of the enemy. They eventually met the army who were busy killing and taking booty. He formed those who followed him into ranks and fought and defeated the enemy.(12)

Again when Shaykh Uthman decided to move to Sifawa from Gwandu, the need arose for Muslims in the Western fringes of the Caliphate to be assured that the move did not mean that they would be abandoned to the mercy of the unbelievers in that part of the country. Shaykh ʿUthman, therefore, equipped a small army under the command ofShaykh ʿAbd Allah to pacify the area and give confidence to the Muslim community there. Shaykh ʿAbd Allah, a highly dedicated man, accepted the challenge and was able to get only a few people to join him in this campaign because most people decided to move to Sifawa with the Shaykh in order to acquire houses and virgin land for farming. Despite the small number of his troops, Shaykh ʿAbd Allah moved on until he reached River Niger where he joined some Muslim soldiers from Jarma. Here he had an injury from a horse kick and for five days when the army was crossing the river he could not stand up. But the brave and courageous ʿAbd Allah was able to conceal this from his companions until they had reached the country of Jawaru in Qurma from the northern side, beyond the river and conquered the area.(13)

Next to courage and bravery Shaykh ʿAbd Allah was humane, magnanimous and forgiving when occasion demanded that. For instance, when he commanded the army which conquered the fortress of De’be in Gurma country beyond the Niger all the people there were captured, but Shaykh ʿAbd Allah was so magnanimous and forgiving that he set them all free and sent them away to the countries of Islam.(14)

Again when the forces commanded by Shaykh ʿAbd Allah made a surprise crossing of the Niger and sacked the island of Fas after destroying their crops, the enemy who had taken refuge in the various fortresses around all came to him for submission. ʿAbd Allah accepted their submission and allowed all of them not only to go free but also to remain in their fortresses.(15)

Referring to this, he said in one of his poems:

Turwa and Komba saw destruction and sought refuge with God And Islam, for fear of misfortune. They were saved, after destruction had seized their throats by the copious rain of forgiveness which came after despair.(16)

A similar act of magnanimity, tolerance and even compromise by Shaykh ʿAbd Allah can be seen in his acceptance of the submission of the rebel Fodi, a former king of Kebbi led a revolt against the Jihadists shortly after the sack of Kalambaina. Shaykh ʿAbd Allah, apart from accepting the submission made on behalf of Fodi, a~reed to appoint the latter’s son, Jibrin as Sarkin Kebbi after Fodis’ death.(17)

We have said above that Shaykh ʿAbd Allah could be humane, magnanimous and forgiving when occasion demanded that. We must add, however, that when occasion so demanded he could be ruthless as his attack on Fas demonstrate where his people not only killed and captured the enemy but destroyed all their crops. (18)

Listen to him again saying about some of the people they fought in Gurma country as recorded in one of his poems:

A victory for us through our spears and our arrows and our swords in their bellies, and in their heads. Their children and their women were taken prisoner, and their men were slain with the axe. After the spreading of our carpet on their crops, and after our horsemen had shattered their shields. (19)

Shaykh ʿAbd Allah had consistently throughout his life supported the rule of law and condemned tyranny, injustice and oppression. To check that he ruled that a ruler must make himself easily accessible every day so that he would hear complaints, if any, from the strong and the weak members of the community against oppression or injustices from his officials.(20)

He also saw tyranny oppression and injustice as some of the basic things which distinguish mulk (Kingship) from Khilāfah (Caliphate).(21) He also said that if a ruler oppresses his people “whims will slaughter him by cutting veins of taqwa (God – consciousness).(22) He identified some acts of oppression from which a ruler must keep away. There include punishment by imposing fines in the form of cash or in kind for offences such as adultery and theft whose punishment has nothing to do with fines. They also include illegal taxes and surcharges on the subjects properties.(23) Shaykh ʿAbd Allah’s prowess as a great military leader needs no emphasizing. He was’ a tactician of the first order and used his military skill and expertise to great advantage as we have seen at Kwotto and during the attack on the island of Fas along the Niger river.(24)  Before the battle of Kwotto, Shaykh ‘Abel Allah at first spent three days waiting for Gobir forces until the 4th day when he was convinced that the enemy was faint-hearted and afraid of advancing on their with the knowledge, the Jihadist forces morale must have risen very high and consequently they moved towards the enemy full of confidence. However when they learnt that the enemy had moved towards Kwotto, Shaykh ʿAbd Allah hurried with the few people whom he could muster and met them near the lake of Kwotto. And experienced on skilful tactician, Shaykh ʿAbd Allah ordered his people to ensure that they secured the water source and cut off the Gobir forces from it. They Jihadist forces, with these advantages were able to dislodge and send fleeing the Gobir forces who were twice their number. (25)

One may venture to say at this juncture that Shaykh ʿAbd Allah must have used military intelligence to find out the psychological readiness of the Gobir forces before the battle. It is not unlikely that the four days he and his army had been waiting for the Gobir forces had been used to gather intelligence because, as Shaykh ʿAbd Allah has shown in his Diya alHukkan, the use of spies to gather military intelligence is very important in war as is the imperative of never under rating or under estimating the capability and resources of the enemy. He states:

Know that military tactics require that you do not under rate the enemy, and that you dispatch spies or military intelligence officers (to spy on the enemy). It also requires the choice of brave and courageous soldiers; and none but a brave courageous person should be appointed to lead an army, a person who is experienced in war, and in managing men.(26)

In Fas, Shaykh ʿAbd Allah made use of one of the most important elements in fighting the enemy – the element of surprise. His people made a surprise crossing of the Niger river and fell upon the unsuspecting enemy and thus easily won victory. In connection with this incident Shaykh ʿAbd Allah has this to say in one of his poems:

‘They (the inhabitants of the island of Fas) thought that the river would prevent our army from crossing; The devil with his suggestions deceived Them! They saw multitudes to their right and to their left To east and west, and it was a steadfast army”.(27)

Celebrating this success Shaykh ʿAbd Allah Said:

Then we came back home, hoping For reward with which the sadness of penury would cease. No arrow touched us, nor spear, no sword; We were like those who return from marriage feasts!(28)

Shaykh ʿAbd Allah was an ascetic of repute. Throughout his life he allowed the virtues of asceticism taught by Islam to guide his actions and behaviour. He was always un-easy in the face of temmporal ambitions and the affairs of the world. Thus in the fourth year of the hijrah of the Jama’ah to Gudu Shaykh ʿAbd Allah left the army on its way to fight Alkalawa. He was so disappointed with the way and manner his contemporaries had abandoned the ideals of Jihad in favour of the pursuit of material gains like wealth power, political authority and influence that he decided to abandon his country and people and travel to the Holy land of Arabia where he hoped to stay permanently near the Prophet (SAW).(29) This asceticism is reflected in the number of works written by Shaykh ʿAbd Allah on the subject, and in references made to it in other works.

ʿAbd Allah, who led the noble Shaykhs since he was a youth. Master of sciences, their servant and their follower; friend of piety, learned, generous, perfect. Landmark of right guidance, joy of the time; its pillar, gentle, kindly towards mankind, a mighty chieftain. Strong in his religion, humble, awe-inspiring, pious, trustworthy, sweet as honey. Famous Qur’an scholar, foremost in the science if Prophet tradition, and rhetoric, one on whom others rely.(30)

Conclusion

Shaykh ʿAbd Allah, as we have seen, is a man of very strong faith. His faith is so strong that many people would not appreciate why he acted the way he did on many occasions. Because of his deeply rooted and strong faith he committed the totality of his life to the service of Allah. While doing this, he would not mind whose ox is gored. He rejected all forms of worldly interests if they were not lawful. To him wealth and happiness lie in contentment. Leadership is worth having and authority worth exercising only if the exercise is seen as service to Islam and humanity. This may explain why after the battle of Kalambaina, Shaykh ʿAbd Allah, without rancour, formally stepped down in favour of Sultan Ballo. Shaykh ʿAbd Allah would not be the type to bring about dissension and division among the Jama’ah. That is why it is difficult to believe the claim made by Shaykh Ahmad Labbo of Masina that Shaykh ʿAbd Allah claimed to be the legitimate heir to Shaykh ʿUthman. Certainly no one who understands the nature and character of Shaykh ʿAbd Allah would ever expect him to take such a drastic negative action.

Shaykh ʿAbd Allah tried to model his life on that of the Prophet (SAW). Many incidents in his life can be compared to similar ones in the life of the Prophet (SAW). In fact, Shaykh ʿAbd Allah so much imitated the life of the Prophet (SAW) that he saw in many things that happened a reflection of what happened in the life time of the Prophet (SAW). For instance, the battle of Tabkin Kwotto brought to his mind vivid memory of the battle of Badr. It is interesting to note that after the conquest of Makkah the Prophet (SAW) forgave the inhabitants of the city for all the injustices meted out to him and his followers earlier. Similarly Shaykh ʿAbd Allah set free the inhabitants of Fas after he had got all of them under his control and mercy.

As someone modeling his life on that of the holy Prophet (SAW) Shaykh ʿAbd Allah possessed virtually all the good virtues one could think of.

If our society of today can learn the virtues and adopt the character of Shaykh ʿAbd Allah, most of its ills would be cured. Security, peace, and tranquility will prevail, everywhere. Justice will be dispensed without fear or favour, love and understanding will guide mutual relations and honesty, integrity and rule of law will be the order of the day. If we succeed in emulating his character our nation will be as safe and secure as the Sakkwato Caliphate was during the 1820’s when Clapperton described it as follows:

The laws of the Qur’an were in his (Sultan Ballo’s) time so strictly put in force — that the whole country when not in a state of war, was so well-regulated that it is a common saying that a woman might travel with a casket of gold upon her head from one end of the Fellata dominions to the other. (31)

Notes

1. ʿAbd Allah b. Foduye, Tazyyīn al-Waraqāt (T.\V) (edt. M. Hiskett)

(Ibadan, 1963), p. 21.

2. Ibid, pp. 26, 84 – 85.

3. Ibid. p. 23,

4. Sa’ad b. ʿAbd al-Rahman, Tartīb al-Ashāb.

5. See ʿAbdAllah b. Foduye, Lubāb al-Madkhal. pp. 59 -83 for details

6. Ibid, pp. 67 – 69.

7. T W pp. 30, 88 – 89

8. Ibid, pp. 55, 108.

9. ʿAbd Allah b. Foduye, Diyā’ al-Sultān (O.Su) in Majmuʿ al-Diyā’āt

(published by Alhaji Dan-Ige, Tsamiyar Yaro) (Cairo, n.d), p. 189.

10. Ibid, p. 198.

11. Ibid, p. 191.

12. T.W, pp. 61 – 62, 114.

13. Ibid, pp. 78 – 79, ]27 – 128.

14. Ibid, pp. 75,125.

15. Ibid, pp. 75, 125

16. Ibid, pp. 77, 125

17. Ibid,p.21.

18. Ibid, pp. 75, 77, 125, 126.

19. Ibid, pp. 76, 126.

20. ʿAbd Allah b. Foduye, Diyā’ al-Umarā’, in Majmuʿ al-Diyā’āt p.222.

21. ʿAbd Allah b. Foduye, Diye’ al-Hukkam, in Majmuʿ al-Diyā’āt p.245.

22. Ibid, p. 247.

23. Ibid, p. 251.

24. T. W, pp. 56 – 57,109 -110, 75 – 77, ]25 – 126.

25. Ibid, pp. 56 – 57 – 109 -110.

26. D.H., p. 273.

27. T. W, pp. 77, 126.

28. Ibid, pp. 78, 127.

29. Ibid, pp. 70 – 72, 120 -122.

30. Ibid, p. 23.

31. Clapperton, Narrative of Travels and Discoveries in Northern and Central Africa in the years 1822, 1823 and 1824, (Dixon Henjam, Hugh Clapperton, Dr. Oudney, second edn. (London, 1826), p. 206.

The Sakwatto Model

THE SAKKWATO MODEL 

A Study of the Origin, Development and Fruition of the Jihad of Uthman b. Fodye)

(1754-1817) 

by

USMAN M. BUGAJE 

This booklet was originally a paper presented at an International Islamic Conference held at Bayero University  KANO – NIGERIA  (16th to 22nd April 1980)

INTRODUCTION 

A lot has been said and written on the Jihad of Uthman b. Foduye, initially and adequately by the mujahidun themselves (1) and their contemporaries. To this day, the products of the Sakkwato intellectual tradition continue to write on this subject.(2) Sequel to the fall of the Sakkwato Caliphate to British colonialism another tradition was born. This is a tradition initiated by colonial officers and their clique. Their purpose is very clear: to discredit the Jihad and portray it as a racial and at best a religious fanaticism that has seized power only to perpetrate injustice and oppression. By portraying the ‘dreadfulness’ of the old order and the benevolence of their government, the Imperialist hoped to create a fertile ground for colonial propaganda and justify their imperialism. Later academicians mostly trained by the colonial “pioneers” came to study the Jihad through the spectacles of the secular west, playing down aspects incomprehensible to the Western minds and emphasising only those aspects important to them. For many of them this is the only way to get their degrees and be accepted as members of the learned academic community. Recently, however, there began to emerge some scholars, few though they are, daring to break from the established western Euro-Christian standards and seeking to interpret the Jihad in it’s own context.

Yet another concern for this Jihad has, rather quite recently appeared. This is a concern which was born out of an awareness in the Muslims of the need to return to Islam. This paper is part of this concern and its objectives is to analyse the origin, development and fruition of Uthman b. Foduye’s Jihad with a view to laying down a theoretical framework for Muslim movements in the Fifteenth century of the Hijra. Hence this paper seeks to adopt an indigenous approach which as of necessity must depart from the alien conventional western standards, an approach whose framework is perhaps still to be found.

The only constraint to the realisation of this objective, I must say, is the inadequate knowledge and skill of the author. The most the author can do therefore is to present something that can form a basis for discussion, in the hope that through contribution of other brothers during discussion, the objective of the paper may be realized.

THE SETTING

The Hausaland, where Shaykh Uthman b. Foduye was destined to emerge, was located in the Central Bilad al-Sudan, an extensive Savannah grassland area starting from the Nile Valley in the east to the Atlantic ocean in the west. Sandwiched between the Sahara and dense forest, enriched with fertile soil, the Bilad al-Sudan was particularly suitable for the development of complex civilisations. This land came to be made up of a variety of Black peoples with a variety of languages and cultures. Chief among these were the Fulani, Jolof Bambara, Wolof, Mandigo Kanuri and Hausa. In the course of time group incorporation and integration became regular and massive.(3) Through migration, settlement, intermarriage and trade, inter-ethnic communities with complex social patterns of alliance emerged all over this vast region.

The emergence of the Hausas dates back to the tenth century. According to the popular Kano chronicle they seemed to have migrated from the north, settled and mixed with indigenous hunters and eventually established mastery over them.(4) The Hausas shared a common language and never formed a tribal group as such. By the first half of the fifteenth century the Hausas were controlled by the Borno empire. This lasted up to the end of the century. By the sixteenth century the seven Hausa states, some of which came under the conquest of the Songhai Empire had emerged. The fall of the Songhay in the same century was followed by upheavals in the Hausa states. These upheavals which lasted up to the eighteenth century, saw the rise of independent Hausa city-states. Unlike their eastern neighbors (Kanem Borno) the Hausa states never formed an empire and their history was characterised by inter-state conflicts and wars, which quite naturally had adverse effects on security and commerce in the area.

Until the appearance of Islam in the early part of the fourteenth century, the dominant religion in the Hausaland had been what has now come to be known (rather prestigiously) as ‘traditional’ religion. This is, essentially, a belief system widespread in the then tropical Africa, involving belief in a high distant god not actively connected with every day life of men, supplemented by a chain of supernatural forces directly in touch with men and controlling their destiny in everyday life. Ubangiji was the Hausa’s high god while Iskoki (singular Iska) the variety of those near spirits, and it is the maintenance of good relationship with the latter which formed the object of the rituals. Communication with the Iskoki was achieved through sacrificial procedures or possession. The possession of a human being by any of the Iskoki is called Bori; the Bori-cult is still to be found among the few non-Muslim Hausas today. This belief system naturally supported a class of priests (called Bokaye) skilled in the mysteries of the Iskoki and in addition played a significant political role. The ruler (Sarki) seems also to have occupied a leadership position especially in public rituals.(5)

I. Islamisation. Despite the efforts of some vicious scholars such as Trimingham and Le Chatelier, it has now been established that Islam began to permeate the western Sudan as early as the eighth century. This Islamisation was calmly carried out by traders, merchants and itinerant Ulama, mostly from north Africa, whose trade contacts with western Sudan started long before Islam spread to North Africa itself. As north Africa itself became Islamised, the zeal of spreading Islam across the African Sahara increased the number of caravan traders travelling from the north to the south and vice versa. As a result of this, the influence of Islam in western Sudanese society grew rapidly and spread considerably, integrating groups, forging a stronger socio-economic and political life based on a superior culture.(6)

Though historians are not certain of the time Islam began to permeate the Hausaland it seems obvious that Islam spread into this region from the western Sudan through the deliberate activity of Muslim traders and itinerant scholars as well as natural processes such as migrations, as early as the eleventh century. For by this century Ghana had been so Islamised that there were about thirteen mosques one of which belonged to the King. By the twelfth century Ghana was described as Islamic and the next century saw the rise of the great Muslim empire of Mali which was followed by Songhay.

In Hausa land, until the later part of the fifteenth century, Islam did not assume any political dimension, although the Ulama with their superior culture and rare ability of literacy, must have been involved in administration. Associated with the emergence of Islam as a political force in Hausa land were governmental changes which brought new leadership. This leadership especially in Zaria, Kano and Katsina, affected a number of reforms that were to further Islamise the Hausa land. Notable among these leaders was Muhammad Rumfa of Kano, who went as far as inviting a jurist of international repute, Muhammad al-Maghili, to advise him.

As Islam gained more foothold in the Hausa states, its significance as a pilgrimage route and centre of learning increased. By the sixteenth century the reputation of some Hausa state capitals as Muslim metropolises was already high enough to attract many students and scholars. This coupled with the pilgrimage tradition served as a link with the rest of the Muslim world and a source of continuous flow of Islamic thought and ideas into the Hausaland. The eighteenth century saw the Hausaland further Islamised, with Islam conspicuously enjoying a superior position, many rulers professing Islam and employing more Ulama in their courts. Despite the Islamic identity of the administration, total application of Islam – especially its system of law and morality – was not obtaining. This situation naturally attracted the attention of some of the Ulama and posed as a potential area of conflict between the increasing number of committed Muslim subjects and the nominal Muslim rulers. That the rulers often paid tribute to unIslamic traditional practices must have helped to make this conflict more probable. Worse perhaps was that the rulers often forced the Muslim subjects to also pay tribute to pagan practices or undertake such unIslamic obligations.

Official corruption, heavy taxation, confiscation of subject’s properties, oppression of the poor in general and slavery which instilled perpetual fear, was as much a source of discontent to the Muslim as to the non-Muslim subjects. This state of affairs led to tension and frustration especially to the Muslim subjects, as Smith quite rightly observed:

“The position was frustrating for Muslims were generally conscious of being culturally far superior to the pagans. Their religion, of course, left them in no doubt about this, and on the practical level they were likely to be superior citizens, knowing much more about the world than did the pagans, and conserving a vital monopoly of literacy.”(7)

During the course of this state of affairs in Hausaland, the Ulama were becoming deeply influenced by Islamic ideology through the growth of Islamic literature. As their concern for Islam grew so did their disapproval of paganism or ‘mixed Islam’. Their passive attitude was slowly but perceptibly changing such that by the later part of the eighteenth century a number of local Islamic literature, pointing accusing fingers to paganism and violation of Islamic law especially of food and drink, marriage and inheritance, promiscuity and excessive praise for rulers, were already in circulation. It was in this period that Shaykh Jibril b. ‘Umar a revolutionary and severe critic of this society, (one of the most influential of Shaykh Uthman’s teachers) attempted to wage a Jihad and reform his society. Why Jibril’s efforts failed to materialise is still to be clear, but his extreme position about takfir must have denied him accessibility to the masses of the people as well as fellow scholars making his reform out of tune with his society. Such tension and frustration which led to mounting dissatisfaction in Gobir as much as in other Hausa city-states was to usher the emergence of Uthman b. Foduye.

II. The Emergence of the Shaykh. Shaykh Uthman was born on 15th December 1754 to a learned scholar Muhammad Foduye at Maratta, a town in the Hausa state of Gobir. Not long after his birth, his family moved to Degel, a town still within the state of Gobir, where Uthman spent his childhood learning the Qur’an in addition to reading and writing from his father. Uthman’s youth, like his childhood, was totally given to learning, fitting like some of his contemporaries into an already institutionalised system of education in his society. Uthman studied quite a variety of subjects. Starting with the Arabic language, tafsir, Hadith, and Sirah, through Fiqh to astronomy, arithmetic and tasawwuf. Uthman’s teachers, as his brother Abdullah reported, were too many to be recorded.(8) This only reflects the intellectual background of Shaykh Uthman as well as his brother ‘Abdullah. Prominent however, among many of his teachers, after his father were Shaykh Abd al-Rahman b. Hammada, Muhammad Sambo and Uthman Binduri who was in fact Shaykh’s uncle and influenced him remarkably. Others were Hajj Muhammad b. Raji, Ahmad b. Muhammad, both Shaykh’s uncles, and Shaykh Jibril b. ‘Umar, a scholar of high learning and revolutionary zeal who also influenced the Shaykh tremendously.

Shaykh Uthman’s teachers not only imparted knowledge, but as was usual in this system of education, influenced him profoundly. Of these influences, those of his uncle Uthman Binduri and Jibril b. Umar were the most vivid. Of course, most influential on Shaykh Uthman was Jibril. This however did not prevent disagreement on certain issues, What is interesting is that this disagreement never affected in any way Shaykh’s respect for this teacher of his. As Shaykh Uthman advanced his knowledge and entered his early adulthood his piety and extreme simplicity, exceptional intellectual ability and charismatic personality began to attract disciples from his immediate society. He gradually gained prominence among young Muslim scholars – including his junior brother Abdullah who he in fact taught – sharing some revolutionary idea.

THE PRELUDE 

It is perhaps a trite remark to say that in any revolution there is always in interplay of many factors. This I think is always necessary if the revolution is to be worth it’s name. This is particularly true of Islamic revolutions – such as that of Uthman b. Foduye – for it is the nature of Islam to guide man in all aspects of his endeavours, be they economic, social, political, moral etc. To understand and appreciate the role played by the personnel of this revolution we have to explore the nature and depth of the problems that characterised their society and hence gave their movement its character and dimension. We are however limited in the extent to which we can go in this for, until quite recently, much of the research done has tended to obscure rather than elucidate this point.

By the second half of the eighteenth century Borno was declining and the Hausa city states were plunged into inter-state devastating rivalry and warfare, with its effects on society ranging from forced conscription into the army, and low

6

agricultural output, to decline in internal and external trade. Internally, the contempt in the Muslim-pagan relationship, the mistrust and suspicion in the relation of Muslim subjects (especially the non-court scholars) and nominal Muslim rulers and the fear in the oppressed subjects of their tyrannical rulers, were breeding discontent of increasing magnitude. Thus the economic and political crisis was reinforced simultaneously by social and moral ones. While the court Ulama were advising the rulers and praying for success in military adventures the other Ulama (who form the majority) were busy teaching their small groups of students as well as the public. The role of the Ulama in the social life of the people – in teaching, leading Islamic social rituals, settling disputes etc – was growing in prominence in towns and villages. There was thus, in this eighteenth century Hausa society, a strong tyrannical political power base in the hands of the rulers and their court officials (including some Ulama), though ridden with crisis, and a growing intellectual power base in the hands of the Ulama whose position was growing to a level which can no longer be ignored by the political power base.

By 1774, Shaykh Uthman, who was now qualified to teach, was filled with a lot of zeal and enthusiasm for reforming his ailing society. The question which has often been raised was whether the Shaykh was aware of his role as a reformer from the beginning of his teaching? Or was he like most other scholars of his time, concerned only with teaching (often as a means of livelihood) and quite unaware let alone commmitted to any form of reform? It is now very clear that the Shaykh. perhaps through his intimate contact with Shaykh Jibril b. ‘Umar, a severe critic of the society who had earlier attempted to carry out a Jihad but failed, was aware of the dire need for reform and saw himself more than just a teacher/preacher but as a reformer with a clear sense of mission and commitment. In his own word, in one of his early writings – Ifli-am al-Munkirin: 

“Allah, the Exalted, has ordained to send forth to the Umma at the end of every century a scholar, Alim, who would revive her religion for her. Such a scholar or Mujahid, would take upon himself the duty of enjoying the good and forbidding the evil. He would call for the regulation of the affairs of the people and the establishment of justice amongst them. He would support the truth against falsehood, revive the sunna, suppress innovation, and denounce bad customs. As a result of his activities his conditions will be different from those of the Ulama’ of his age and he will find himself a stranger amongst them, because his qualities are different from their own and men like him are few…”(9)

Convinced of his role in reforming his society Shaykh Uthman devoted his full time right from the onset to teaching, preaching and writing. The content and method of his preaching were geared towards achieving the desired results – reforms. Of course during the cause of his preaching a number of events occurred which influenced Shaykh’s thinking and ultimately directed his course of action.

By teaching and preaching, Uthman was not doing anything new in this society for this tradition has for centuries been practiced in Hausaland. What was actually new was the content and the approach. The Shaykh who was committed to changing his society must have studied its problem and work out a strategy that was most fitting for, the circumstances. What seems to have taken the Shaykh’s immediate concern was the ignorance of the mass of the people about Islam despite the presences of many scholars. True there were many scholars with knowledge but most of them preoccupied themselves in teaching their very few students in their ivory towers neglecting the mass of the people and even their families. The few Ulama who were engaged in mass preaching were very rigid in their views, anathematizing (takfir), the masses and engaging in all sorts of venality. Local customs and beliefs were so mixed with Islam that the issue of what is Islam and what is not Islam was the talk of-the day. Thus at the onset of his mission Shaykh focused his attention on these problems; the mass ignorance of Islam; the rigidity and venality of the Ulama the issue of sycritism and the question of belief and unbelief, Kufr. 

At the early age of twenty (1774) Shaykh Uthman started his teaching and preaching in his home town Degel. In the same year he started moving around Degel, accompanied by his brother Abdullah, teaching and preaching. Later in the company of his disciples he began to travel out of Degel, to the east and west, Birnin Kebbi (to the west) being his first station of call.

With Degel as his base, Shaykh Uthman and his group travelled to other towns in Gobir teaching and preaching with remarkable success. As Abdullah himself reported in his Tazyin al-waraqat:

“Then we rose up with the Shaykh helping him in his mission work for religion. He travelled for that purpose to the east and to the west, calling the people to the religion of Allah by his preaching and his qasidas in other languages and destroying customs contrary to Muslim law. Some of the people from surrounding countries came to him and entered his community while we were in his country which had become famous through him.”(10)

The result, as Abdullah reported, was that people started to respond to Shaykh’s preaching in large numbers and some started coming to him in groups after his return to Degel, thus both Shaykh and his town Degel were becoming prominent. This prominence was the result of the Shaykh’s radical approach. Until then, the difference between the Shaykh’s content and method on the one hand and those of other Ulama on the other was not vivid. Now that the difference and impact of Shaykh Uthman’s method has begun to manifest itself then opposition started. Many Ulama began to oppose the Shaykh and accused him of such things as hypocrisy, sedition, hearsay and misleading the common people. Neither was the opposition unexpected nor was the Shaykh unaware of the problems his preachings would raise. The Shaykh simultaneously started writing, arguing his point with the Ulama – where he excelled them and always, emerged victorious – and attacking the venal and rigid Ulama who have actually created the problems the Shaykh was toiling to solve. In this process alone the Shaykh was reported by Muhammad Bello (his son) to have written over fifty works.(11)

Foremost in the Shaykh’s attack were those corrupt Ulama (‘Ulamaal su), most of whom were associated with the rulers court, who in their efforts to maintain the established order and protect their vested interest, justified political corruption, immorality and all sorts of evils on the grounds that these were customs (ada) and tradition. Making this point clear the Shaykh said:

“Among their misconceptions is that some of them (i.e. ‘Ulama) tolerated unworthy customs on the ground of the sayings which are widespread in the lands, that tht: custom of a land is sunna. But his is falsehood and confusion according to the consensus of opinion ijma because a custom should not be tolerated if it contradicts the sunna (of the Prophet)…. I was told by one of the brethren that he heard some of them say ‘Forbidding evil in the land of evil is the real evil’. And for this reason they do not chide each other for committing an evil. I take refuge with Allah the Exalted; this is one of the characteristics of the Jews.”(12)

Shaykh Uthman also condemned those class of charlatans who posed as saints or sufi shaykhs. Such people were in most cases of very low learning who made their living by divination and prophecy. Many of these Ulama claimed the power of Kashf (mystical experience of transcendental knowledge) and thus duped the common people. Not only did the Shaykh attack and condemn these people but he denied in clear and unequivocal terms, such supernatural claims attributed to him by many people making this point clear in his Tahdhir al-ikhwan, the Shaykh said:

“Know O’ my brethren that I have never claimed the Quthaniyyah or the Wilayah, though that it is heard from the tongues of other men that I can fly in the air and walk on water that the earth is folded up for me in such a way as to enable me to talk to Makka and Madina, that the Jinns serve me as they serve the most perfect saints (al awliya al-Kummal) and that I can guide the people not only on the path of piety and righteousness but also on the path of Kashf. When all these had come to my notice. I composed numerous poems in ‘Ajami to refute the aforementioned claims…”(13)

Of the problems that Shaykh had to confront at the onset of his mission, the issue of belief and unbelief (who is a Muslim and who is not) was perhaps the most intricate. The gravity of the situation becomes more vivid when it is realized that this issue of who is a Muslim and who is not goes beyond the theological or Islamic faith, to determine the right and obligation of the individual in society. This was directly connected with the institution of slavery which was apparently widespread. Since a Muslim cannot be enslaved according to Sharia, the question of who is a Muslim and who is not was no doubt crucial for it determines who can be enslaved and who cannot. This issue of Islam and Kufr being the main categories in which the people of eighteenth century Hausaland were classified has been played down by scholars of the colonial establishment (and their students) who labour to convince us of a Hausa-Fulani dichotomy. In spite of their efforts it is now clear that what was important was not whether one was Hausa, Fulani or Tuareg but rather whether one was a Muslim or not. The issue was a burning one and the Ulama were divided on it. There were the ‘Ulama al-kalam, who claimed that before a person is accepted as a Muslim he must be able to explain the unity of Allah and the Prophethood of Muhammad (P) in accordance with the theology of Kalam. The Shaykh had no patience with this group whom he denounced as ignorant and misguided idiots who were confused by the sophistication of the science of Kalam. Some Ulama took the view of Al-Maghili in his advice to Askia Muhammad. This definition did not solve the problems of the eighteenth century Hausaland for it leaves open what practices constitute unbelief. Shaykh Jibril b. ‘Umar, one of Shehu’s teachers, took a very strict and rather extreme position. For Jibril confession of faith must be reinforced by good works and the commitment of a grave sin (Kaba’ir) constituted unbelief (Kufr). Shaykh Uthman here disagreed with his teacher Jibril. In refuting Jibril’s definition Shaykh Uthman argued that if a sinner recognised his sin, he thus proved he accepted the Sharia.(14) Although it might be argued that to sin either intentionally or persistently implies denying the validity of the law, such an argument involves the intention and personal attitude of the sinner. Since none but Allah can know what is in the heart of a man, any judgement is better left to the last day.(15) The Shaykh’s moderate but dynamic position on this issue is clearly expressed in his book Ihya al-Sunna, where he said:

“Whosoever affirms the confession of faith (Shahadatayn) should be treated in accordance with the Islamic legal rules; he may intermarry with the Muslims, he may lead the prayer, the meat of animals slaughtered by him is lawful, the Muslims may inherit his property and he may inherit their own, and when he dies he should be buried in the Muslim grave yard.”(16)

As Shaykh Uthman’s preaching tours in and around Degel continued, Degel attracted more people and news of his activities became widespread. At this stage the Shaykh decided to extend his preaching to his head of state – Bawa Jangwarzo the Sarki of Gobir. Why the Shaykh did so at this particular point in time is not very clear. The Shaykh must have been aware that news of his preaching and growing success had reached Bawa. By his visit to the Bawa’s court Shaykh might have hoped to assess the degree of political opposition or otherwise, especially when he was soon to extend his preaching tour to Zamfara which was in constant war with Gobir. The visit according to Abdullahi was fruitful for if nothing else it consolidated further Shaykh’s position and boosted his success.”(17)

The Shaykh’s next station of call was the city-state of Zamfara where Abdullah said:

“We remained there about five years, and it was a land over whose people ignorance was supreme; the majority of its people had not smelt the scent of Islam. They used to come to the Shaykh’s gathering mingling with their women. He segregated them, teaching them that mixing together was forbidden, after he had taught them the laws of Islam.”(18)

This suggests that the Shaykh preached to the mass of the people, Muslims and non-Muslims, male and female, who until the Shaykh’s coming had been abandoned in the depth of ignorance. But as it was, the Ulama never got tired of attacking him. One scholar, Al-Mustapha Gwani from Damagaram attacked the Shaykh over mixing men and women and urged him to stop the women from attending his preaching assembly.(19) Abdullahi replying on the Shaykh’s request, argued in a poem, that education of women in Islam is compulsory and it was a far greater sin to leave women in ignorance than to allow them to attend a mixed crowd and after all, the Shehu always separated them.(20) The Shaykh’s preaching tour of Zamfara was apparently producing alarming success which the rulers could no longer afford to ignore. At about this stage it was apparent that the rulers were showing growing concern and in fact beginning to take measures to check this new development. When the Shaykh was still preaching at Zamfara, Bawa Sarkin Gobir invited him along with other scholars, to celebrate the ‘Id-al-Kabir of 1788 (or 1789) at the town of Magami. Though this was said to have been a plan to get rid of the Shaykh, at the end gifts were distributed to the scholars with Shehu reported to have the lions share of 500 mithqal of gold. All accepted the king’s gift except Shaykh Uthman, who said he and his people were not in need of Bawa’s wealth and in its stead he had five demands to make:

1. To allow me to call people to Allah in your country. 

2. Not to stop anybody who intends to respond to my call. 

3. To treat with respect anyone with a turban. 

4. To free all the (political) prisoners. 

5. Not to burden the subjects with taxes.(21)

These demands clearly point to the fact that the Shaykh’s overwhelming success in his preaching tours had begun to assume proportions that the political power base can no longer tolerate. It was clear the rulers were making some effort to frustrate people from responding to his call or the Shaykh must have reason to believe that they would soon embark on this. These demands indicate some opposition to the Shaykh’s activity by the state and he was not ready for any sort of confrontation. If anything Shaykh Uthman was trying to secure the least hostile atmosphere possible to spread the message of Islam and educate the mass of the people.

After five years successful preaching in Zamfara the Shaykh and his group returned to Degel about the year 1791-2. Continuing his tour, the Shaykh travelled west to Kabi and further crossed the river Niger to Illo. Back to Degel he now moved eastwards and reached Zurmi where its ruler was reported to have accepted Islam. By 1792-3 Shaykh Uthman found it necessary to settle down at his centre Degel to receive people coming in quest of learning and guidance.

ORGANISATION 

Here I hope to discuss the manner in which the Shaykh and members of his team, went about procuring, assembling and directing the various instruments of change in his own society. Needless to say that this is the most crucial as well as difficult part of any revolution. More so when the Shaykh had to operate within a people that are largely ignorant of Islam and under a strong tyrannical government that is highly suspicious of any activity of the Ulama.

That the Shaykh spent nearly nineteen years traveling, teaching, preaching, converting, and writing along with his expanding team of disciples shows clearly the Shaykh’s commitment to mass education as a key to reforming his society. Throughout this process the Shaykh distinguished himself from other itinerant scholars not so much by his superior learning and exceptional ability like his deep sense of mission and commitment to reform. More than just preaching the Shaykh was silently but consciously building all over his itinerary a body of scholars and students who he left behind to continue instructing his increasing number of followers in the basic tenets of Islam as well as his idea of reform. During the same tour he was able to familiarize himself with society – its nature, problems and aspirations.

Having roved all over his society, grasping its full first hand information and gauging its intellectual level; having laid a sound intellectual base for his revolution; having raised an adequate number of students and scholars now scattered all over the Hausa land, teaching and preaching Islam along his line of reform, Shaykh Uthman could now settle down at his home town Degel to begin yet another phase of his revolution. This is the organisational phase.

No sooner did he settle down than he began writing, teaching and counseling. Here he devoted more time to his advanced students who he taught every afternoon. He also held a weekly public preaching session every Friday and maintained a separate class for the women. One of his most detailed works Ihya al-Sunna wa Ikhmad al-Bida was written in the first year of his settlement at Degel. This book must have been meant to be a text book for the use of his disciples in particular and scholars in general in teaching and preaching all over Hausaland. The shaykh’s strategy was that in every mosque in every town or village there must be a scholar constantly engaged in teaching and preaching. This is clearly evident from his Ihya al-Sunna, where he said:

“It is incumbent on every scholar not to keep silent in the present time because innovations, bid’a, have appeared and are widespread. Verily the Hadith states: ‘Any scholar who keeps silent in the face of dissention fitna may the curse of Allah fall upon him’. Verily, anyone who today keeps to his home cannot be absolved from responsibility of teaching the people and guiding them to the right path. 

And since the majority of people today are ignorant of the Shari’a, it is necessary that there should be a jurist, faqih, available in every mosque and in every quarter in town to instruct the people in tenets of their religion. Similarly in every village it is incumbent on every jurist who has completed the individual obligation, fard ‘ayn, and is free to carry out the collective obligation, fard kifaya, to go out to the neighbouring territories and teach the people there the tenets of their religion and the stipulations of the Shari’a.”(22)

Through this body of scholars engaged in da’awa, the Shaykh was able to maintain constant contact with his growing followers. His prolific writings which were immediately handcopied and circulated, were no doubt addressed to the masses through the literate group (scholars). The Shaykh’s moderate position on many of the burning issues not only conforms to the Islamic principles of the middle course but also gave a balanced interpretation of Islam easily understood and acceptable to the local population. At a time when newspapers as such did not exist the Shaykh’s writings with their copyists constantly occupied, served as a very effective way of disseminating knowledge and ideas. Equally utilised by the Shaykh in communicating his ideas to the masses was poetry, composed in both Arabic and vernacular. These turned out to be as effective as our contemporary radio and television. Ranging from those that are meant to simplify otherwise complicated instructions, through those that are meant to appeal or preach, to those of praising Prophet Muhammad (P), “the poems”, in the words of Hiskett, “more than anything seems to arrest the imagination of the Shaykh’s followers, when reading or listening.”(23) Thus intellectually and psychologically the masses were prepared to understand the message of Islam and its method of reforming their ailing society. Through all these sophisticated means of communication the Shaykh was forming and directing his revolutionary crowd.

In the course of time Degel was growing to be a kind of University town of its time and becoming the Shaykh’s student was not only a prestige but in fact a qualification. Scholars all over Hausaland and Bornu were finding their way to Degel. Every increase in this team of scholars was automatically an increase in the revolutionary personnel for what they were seeking was not only knowledge but also change. The Shaykh at Degel spent a lot of his time with these students/scholars, teaching them to varying depth and also moulding and shaping them into people who could shoulder responsibilities that lie ahead. Part of the programme that the Shaykh seemed to have organised at this stage for this group include spiritual training through tasawwuf. The Shaykh himself (and a number of his close disciples) was reported to have gone on retreat a number of times. The role this kind of training played in shaping and moulding the revolutionary personnel is often played down by conventional western scholarship and often underestimated even by sincere Muslims who try to study the Jihad in its own context. Here the Shaykh trained his students and disciples to dislike the world and its Zinah, to live in bare austerity and desire the life of a1janna. Such a training as the Shaykh was no doubt aware was crucial to any revolution. Without such properly committed highly disciplined vanguard as the Shaykh trained it is doubtful if the revolution would have been the celebrated success it was. Many people from the Jama’a who were eager for a confrontation and kept bothering the Shaykh for it must have, I believe, overlooked this point which the Shaykh quite rightly considered vital.

Also taking shape at this stage, though perhaps unnoticed, was the revolutionary leadership. The Shaykh’s position at Degel was not just that of a learned scholar dishing out knowledge to his thirsty students, more than that, the Shaykh was increasingly, finding himself as the head of a growing revolutionary party. Next to the Shaykh in the scale of this leadership was a team of close disciples made up among others of Abdullah (his brother) Umar al-Kammu and Muhammad Bello (his son). As the revolutionary party was growing in both membership and commitment, the personnel and leadership were becoming more involved in writing, teaching as well as organisation. That here you have a revolutionary leadership with its personnel and crowd in constant and intimate communication and planning could not be a coincidence. It was a deliberately but patiently worked out arrangement by none other than the Shaykh himself.

CONFRONTATION 

Confrontation, even in the best of circumstances is never unconstrained, least of all confronting a power many times stronger and well organised. The concerted effort of the Shaykh, settled at Degel and his students, scattered all over the Hausa city-states, was to produce a growing revolutionary group cutting across tribal, racial and national boundaries, sharing common fundamental cultural values that were vividly reflected in their manners and dressing – turban for males and veil for women. While this development was in the making, the rulers of Gobir in particular, who had all along been suspicious of the Shaykh’s activity were employing covert measures ranging from intimidation to assassination attempts, to curb this growing threat to their authority. By the turn of the nineteenth century the rate of growth of the Shaykh’s Jama’a has reached a proportion which alarmed Nafata, then ruler of Gobir. Nafata realised that the power base of his declining authority was being eroded by the growing Jama’a and will soon disappear in a matter of time. The Gobir power base was indeed being eroded for every increase in the Shaykh’s Jama’a meant a shift of loyalty from Nafata to the Shaykh. For the Jama’a saw themselves for all intents and purposes as a separate entity whose allegiance was to an ideology (Islam) and not to a state (Gobir), sharing a common set of beliefs, goals, and aspirations. In a desperate effort to save his authority and consolidate his power Nafata intensified his attacks on the Shaykh’s Jama’a; robbing their properties and waylaying them in the hope that they would become disenchanted and revert to their former faith or indolence as the rif-raff, as opposed to the Jama’a who were now distinct by attitudes, manners and dress.(24) This increased hostility had the opposite result of making the Jama’a more firm and committed to changing the state of affairs in Hausaland.

As these persecutions continued the Jama’a demanded a showdown with the Gobir authorities but the Shaykh, composed and far sighted, refused. Instead the Shaykh, in a poem apparently made in praise of Shaykh Abdulkadir Jaylani, urged his Jama’a to acquire arms, as it is sunna (to do so) and prayed to Allah to establish Islamic rule in Hausaland.(25) The Shaykh’s message was very clear. By using a poem the Shaykh meant to communicate directly with the revolutionary crowd to prepare itself militarily both for self defence and eventual confrontation. The Jama’a’s response frightened Nafata, who, feeling more insecure than ever efore, decreed that:

“(a) Nobody except Dan Fodio in person was allowed to preach. 

(b) No more conversions to Islam were to be allowed and those who were not born Muslims should return to their former religion (paganism). 

(c) Men should not west turbans nor women veils.”(26)

These decrees were to no avail as they only provoked Muslims to greater militancy. With his failure evident, Nafata made a desperate attempt to kill the Shaykh but failed. He soon died and was succeeded by his son Yunfa in 1802. Yunfa inherited not only this internal crisis but also an external one. The whole Hausa city states and Gobir in particular were engaged in mutually destructive interstate wars. The Shaykh and his Jama’a were fully aware of these developments but unlike the Jama’a the Shaykh was not in favour of an open confrontation. Even in the circle of his top revolutionary personnel there were many who were pressing the Shaykh for a confrontation with Gobir rulers. That Shaykh Uthman insisted on avoiding any clash at that material time despite mounting pressure is of particular interest to this paper. While many of his disciples and followers saw in the tense situation a simple threat of force which an open confrontation could settle, Shaykh Uthman with his superior learning and discipline, exceptional composure and sagacity knew that there is more to the situation than sheer threat of force; and such open confrontation at that stage was not the answer. Confronting a deteriorating power, operating in a society where a standing regular army as such did not exist and where there was relatively equal accessibility to arms – spears, swords, arrows and shields, it was quite tempting to go for a showdown. But the Shaykh who had spent nearly thirty years preaching and organising his Jama’a knew best their current organisational ability and potentials, must have thought it unwise if not risky to engage in any military confrontation in the circumstances. This incident reflects the Shaykh’s able and firm leadership, the Jama’a discipline and loyalty without which the story would have perhaps been different. But more fundamentally it shows the sincerity and selflessness of the leadership.

But both the Shaykh and the Jama’a on the one hand and Yunfa and Gobir forces on the other knew that a confrontation was inevitable, it was only a matter of time. Shaykh Uthman found it necessary to prepare and guide his Jama’a in the forthcoming conflict. He wrote a fourteen point tract Masail al-muhimma, early in 1803, where he says among other things:

“Muslims should not be left ‘neglected’(hummal) without a bay’a sworn to an Imam. They should migrate from the land of unbelief as an obligation. They should rise against the unbelieving ruler only if they have enough power to do so, otherwise they should not. But if they find they cannot practice their religion or that their property or their own safety is in danger they have to migrate to where there is security. Again, if the Muslims see bloodshed or seizure of property in one area, they have to evacuate it for another where nothing like that occurs.”(27)

The title and content of this tract suggests that many from the Jama’a were raising questions about hijra and Jihad. The Shaykh was clearly preparing his Jama’a for the event whose occurrence was just a matter of time. Jama’a’s response to this tract was to frighten Yunfa whose action was to precipitate the hijra only about a year after the Shaykh had written the Masa’il. 

A certain Jama’a at Gimbana was attacked by Yunfa’s forces, their property robbed, their men and women taken captive, with many left dead and the whole village destroyed. Troubled by the agony of their brethren the Jama’a at Degel ambushed Yunfa’s forces on their way to Alkalawa and released the captives. Yunfa now infuriarated ordered the Shaykh to leave his country. Though Yunfa later changed his mind the Shaykh continued ahead with his preparation for Hijra. The Shaykh soon wrote a twenty seven point pamphlet wathiqat ahl al-Sudan which was immediately circulated through the efficient network of their organisation, calling people to hijra and the fighting that is to follow it. The revolutionary personnel immediately became busy distributing the pamphlet and mobilising support for the hijra. In February 1804 the Shaykh and a party of the Jama’a left Degel to Gudu – a town at the distant borders of Gobir. This marked the Shaykh’s Hijra. It would be interesting to find out the Shaykh’s reasons for the choice of Gudu for hijra. As this is beyond the scope of this paper we shall assume that his reasons were purely strategical.

Such mass immigration of the Jama’a now large and scattered all over Hausaland, necessarily involved a lot of planning and organisation, more so when Yunfa now determined to check the movement, had ordered his governors to attack and take captive all those who moved with the Shaykh. This threat of Yunfa’s forces, transport difficulties, long distance and the haphazardness, made it difficult for the Jama’a to reach Gudu with adequate provisions. Despite these difficulties the mass movement of people and their families continued, and the Jama’a flocked to Gudu in large numbers. At Gudu, the Jama’a assembled and persuaded the Shaykh to become its Imam. Here the Jama’a offered the Shaykh bay’a as Amir al-Muminin. This bay’a at Gudu not only marked a declaration of Jihad but also the birth of a caliphate – later to be known as Sakkwato Caliphate.

The details of how this poor, ill-equipped and comparatively small gathering in Gudu fought and conquered the whole of Hausaland to the borders of Bornu, the military organisation and strategy of the Jama’a, is a subject worthy of another paper. Not long after the Shaykh’s arrival at Gudu, before the Jama’a could muster substantial military force, Yunfa and his forces attacked Gudu as if to put a final end to this “menace”. Though Yunfa and his forces suffered a heavy defeat at Tabkin kwato, the Jama’a were generally weak, roaming without a base until they captured Birnin Kabi in April 1805. These victories of the Muslim forces, were followed with similar victories up to about 1808, when virtually the whole of Hausaland came under the majahidun. By 1810 the Shaykh withdrew to the town of Sifawa to continue with his intellectual endeavours, leaving Abdullahi (his brother) and Muhammad Bello (his son) to administer the caliphate.

Until his Hijra to Gudu, Uthman’s teachings, writings and preachings were centred on the fundamentals of Islam, Ibadat and Muamalat. As if the confrontation that led to hijra took him unaware, be continued to write throughout the fighting period that immediately followed the hijra. This is not to suggest that the Shavkh was totally unaware, that he might have to make hijra and fight afihad. In fact, the fact that the Shaykh continued to write despite the chaos and demand of the fighting would suggest that the Shaykh did preconceived hijra and jihad on his road to reform. The point I wish to stress here is that the events and circumstances that led to hijra did not, as it were, give the Shaykh the chance to write and guide his Jama’a, on issues relating to state administration. While the Jama’a was engaged in fighting the Shaykh their commander-in-chief was doing more than fighting. Far sighted as he was, he saw the dire need to guide the Jama’a on the obligation of the hijra and Jihad, the way the Jihad should be fought and how the booty should be divided. The need to appoint a leader, Imam, qualification required of such a leader, the principles for appointing deputies and officers to handle the affairs of the community. More than that, the Shaykh wrote on general division of administration, formation of a Muslim state and the principles upon which such state should be founded.(28) One of his most elaborate works Bayan wujub alHijra written in the midst of the fighting in 1806, deals with this issue in detail. One cannot sometimes help imagining what would have happened had the Shaykh Uthman not been precisely what he was.

VICTORY, CONSOLIDATION AND CONTINUITY 

Having fought and won, the revolutionary leadership, mujahiddun, found itself, by 1810, heading an Islamic state standing over the ruins of the Hausa city-states of Gobir, Kabi, Zamfara, Katsina, Zaria, etc. The birth of this new Caliphate, cutting across all former boundaries and identities, unprecedented in it’s scope and complexity, was what finally solved the crisis and disequilibrium of the societies and politics of this vast region. This phenomenon has caught the attention of many a scholar of the western tradition. What seems to have attracted them most is the territorial integration, political solidarity and the economic transformations – aspects that are easily comprehensible to the secular west. The perception, nuances and aspirations of the mujahidun is at best played down and often ignored.

VICTORY 

Victory invariably carries with it a notion of achievement of a goal or objective. But victory or lack of it must depend not on the achievement of any goal or objective but on the achievement of the specific goal or objective fought for. The victory of the mujahidun must be seen not in terms of territory, polity, least of all economic gains, but in terms of the ideal they fought for. That Amir al-muminin, Shaykh Uthman, abandoned the caliphate soon after the fighting that established it and retired to Sifawa to continue writing is more than a display of sincerity which indeed the Shaykh had – but more important it indicates that the leadership has an ideal higher than and beyond the state. True the mujahidun were fighting for a change in the state of affairs of the Hausaland, but it must be realised that the change was not the end it was only the means and the end is unmistakably Islam – in it’s comprehensive form. This is further borne out, very vividly, by the fact that Abdullah b. Foduye, one of the commanders of the mujahidun became so dissatisfied with the Jihad at a time when territory and booty was being captured. So dissatisfied did he become that he abandoned the battlefront and made his way to Hajj through Kano. As Abdullah himself put it:

“…then there came to be from Allah the sudden thought to shun the homelands, and my brothers, and turn towards the best of Allah’s creation, in order to seek approval, because of what I had seen of the changing times, and (my) brothers, and their inclination towards the world, and their squabbling over it’s possession, and its wealth, and its regard, together with their abandoning the upkeep of the mosques and the schools … I left the army and occupied myself with my own (affairs) and faced towards the East…”(29)

Thanks to Allah, he was persuaded to stay in Kano where he wrote a monumental work Diya al-Hukkam. Abdullah’s dissatisfaction is clearly because of the material inclination of some of the revolutionary personnel who must have appeared to Abdullah to be fighting for territory and booty instead of the real thing – Islam.

After they had emerged as the undisputable leaders of the new caliphate it was debate, not funfare or celebration that occupied the time of the personnel of this revolution. It was not a debate on who should rule what territory or appointed to what post, far from it, it was a debate on how such and such concept of Islam should be translated into practice. While Abdullah insisted on the letter and spirit of the law, the Shaykh and Muhammad Bello (his son) were generally flexible and practical. It is interesting to note that the debate, hot as it was, never led to a rift or constraint in running the new caliphate. This rare and exceptional incidence should leave us in no doubt that the leadership of this revolution is committed to an ideal (Islam) which ranks higher than state and all that contained in it. The Amir muminin Uthman had to labour to convince Abdullahi and any who might have held his (Abdullahi’s) view that in fact the Jihad has achieved its objectives not in terms of territory but in terms of the degree of Islamisation realised. Writing in his Nasihat Ahl al-Zaman, the Shaykh says:

“Know, O’ Brethren, that – condemning (one’s) time is an unrespectable attitude towards Allah and nothing will accrue from such other than bothering one’s heart and tongue. Know, O’ Brethren that ordering good is obligatory according to the consensus and this is what has happened at this time. That forbidding bad is obligatory according to the consensus and this is what happened at this time. That immigration from the land of unbelievers is obligatory according to the consensus and this is what has happened at this time. That carrying weapons (for Jihad) is obligatory and this is what has happened at this time. That defending oneself, one’s people and property is obligatory according to the consensus and this is what happened at this time. That the application of the Shariah rulings is obligatory according to the consensus and this is what happened at this time. These are ten achievements and the people of this time should thank Allah for them because they are from the greatest bounties of Allah after the faith and they have all happened at this time”.(30)

This is not to give the impression that Shaykh Uthman was not at all critical of the achievements of the jihad, in fact he was but not to the extent of Abdullahi. Taken as a whole the Jihad is a tremendous victory not because of the size of the caliphate but because of the Islamisation it achieved.

CONSOLIDATION 

In the circumstances the leaders of this revolution found themselves soon after the fighting that begot the caliphate, consolidating and protecting the newly procured Dar al-Islam was not just desirable but a duty which Allah has enjoined upon them. Their idea of consolidation, contrary to what some scholars would have us believe is wide and comprehensive. For while Abdullah at Gwandu and Muhammad Bello at Sakkwato occupied themselves in consolidating the boundaries of the caliphate the Shaykh at Sifawa and scholars all over the place were busy consolidating the intellectual base of the revolution. Indeed the governors, the wazirs, the judges, the walis etc, were simultaneously consolidating internal order and security, justice and equity without which the ideal they fought for cannot be realised. It should be added that this consolidation was unique, not simply because of its comprehensiveness not even because of its intensity but mainly because of the sincerity and the sense of mission with which it was carried out. The campaigns of Muhammad Bello with their captives and booty have been well noted by many scholars, what seemed to have escaped notice is this sincerity and sense of mission with which it was executed. Even if later generations turned it into a slave raiding exercise, the fact still remained that Bello was not fighting for captives or booty but for spreading Islam and protecting the Dar al-Islam. 

CONTINUITY 

“In spite of their difficulties, continuous occupation and involvement, first, and throughout their careers in all matters pertaining to Islam, then the Jama’a and subsequently the state, the triumvirate, left a great legacy in writing.”(31)

21

It is this intellectual legacy, unprecedented, thorough and broad which, more than anything perhaps, gave this revolution its vigour, strength and above all its roots. Nourishing its malamai and almajirai as well as keeping them constantly busy from the cradle to the grave. It is the opportune combination of this legacy with this educational tradition that gave this revolution the continuity it had or it perhaps still has. Students of history know that the vigour and tempo of any revolution go down with its later generations. While this was true of this revolution, the literacy legacy fitted as it did into this diligent educational system unique to bilad a lSudan, remained alive and largely unaffected even when the political leadership deteriorated. Even colonialism and now neocolonialism, with its strong institutions and sinister methods has not succeeded much in changing this intellectual base. For despite decades of colonial and how National propaganda, the writings of the triumvirate (Shaykh Uthman, Abdullah, and Muhammad Bello) are readily available in the markets and the makaranta where they are read daily. In fact, this conference should be seen, as indeed it is, as part of the Sakkwato Islamic revolution, for its organisers as well as the author of this paper are profoundly influenced by the intellectual remains of this revolution. With this link now forged, colonialism becomes only a moment, though not a pleasant one, in our history.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

 

The main features of the Sakkwato model which I have attempted to delineate is perhaps best summarized by Professor Ismail when he wrote:

“That there was an Islamic movement with all that Islam stands for by virtue of its universality, its openness, its tolerance, its justice and equity, its knowledge, recognition and provision for previous religions, its civilizations and history, shaking the socio-political order after successfully eroding its cultural and intellectual basis and that it had achieved all this by education and patient persuasion, precisely not to compromise Islam, is simply but subtly overlooked or ignored. Had that movement been conceived or presented on a tribal basis as some wants us to believe it would have been doomed to fail not to mention the fact that it couldn’t have found a place in Islam.”(32)

It is true many events have occurred since this revolution. Many Muslim countries for example were, about the end of the last century, coerced into the orbit of western European capitalist system which has since arrested their development, perpetuated their poverty and broken up their unity. Muslim countries today are characterized not by Islam with it’s system of education, law, economy and social justice, but by western European democracy with its parliament, its courts, its universities, culture and technology, and, not least in giving its support, its corruption. Beyond the glitter of western institutions and technology, manned by a handful of western elite, a large mass of people who, though ignorant, have largely remained faithful to Islam and true to themselves. It is here not anywhere else, any revolutionary movement that hopes to succeed, must root its base. The alternative of course is to become academic. In a society with heavy western European capitalist and even socialist vested interest, highly specialised and heavily equipped institutions of defence and propaganda and not least, people with political and economic vested interests to protect, any revolutionary movement that hopes to survive must afford to combine patient and able leadership with sound and apt planning. The alternative is to hurry up and burn or to alert it’s enemies before it is ready for confrontation. To what extent the Sakkwato model helps us in our contemporary circumstances, I leave to the distinguished audience for discussion.

FOOTNOTES

 

1.See Abdullahi’s Tazyin al-waraqat and Muhammad Bello’s Infaq al-maysur.

2.See Alhaji (Dr.) Junaidu’s works.

3.See Yusuf Abba, “The 1804 Jihad in Hausaland as a Revolution”, Sokoto Seminar paper, 1975,

4.See Kano Chronicle page 148.

5.F. Smith, “The early states of the western Sudan”, in Ajayi and Crowder (Eds), History of West Africa, Longman, London, 1976, p. 190.

6.“Islamic History in the Western Sudan”, International Islamic Seminar on Education. Kano,

1977.

7.H. F. C. Smith, “A Neglected theme of West African History: the Islamic Revolution of the 19th century”, J. H. S. N., 2(1961), pp. 169-85.

8.See ‘Ida’ al-Nusukh of Abdullahi b. Foduye.

9.Uthman b. Foduye: lfhan al-Munkiring, quoted from M. A. Al-Hajj, “The Writings of Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio”, Kano Studies (1), 2(1974/77), p. 9.

10.Abdullahi b. Muhammad: Tazyin al-waraqat, (Ed. and Trans. by M. Hiskett), Ibadan, I.U. P. 1963, p. 86.

11.See M. A. Al-Hajj, “The writings of Shehu Usman”, Kano studies, (1) 2 (1974/77)

12.Ibid page 10..

13.Quoted in M. A. Al-Hajj, “The meaning of the Sokoto Jihad”, 1975, p. 8.

14. Quoted from D. M. Last and M. A. Al-Hajj, “Attempts at defining Muslim in 19th century

Hausaland and Bornu”, JNSN, (iii), 2 (1965) pp. 232-233.

15. Ibid. 

16. Quoted in M. A. Al-Hajj, “The writings of Shehu”, Kano Studies, (1) 2(1974/77), p. 7

17.Abdullahi Muhammad: Tazyin al-waraqat (ed. and Trans. by Hiskett), b. Ibadan, I. U. P.,1963, p. 86.

18.Ibid. 

19.Ibid. 

20.Ibid. 

21.Quoted in F. H. El-Masri, “The life of Uthman b. Foduye before the Jihad,” J. H. S. N. (1963), p. 435-48.

22. Quoted in M. A. Al-Haj, “The writings of Shehu”, Kano Studies (i) 2 (1974/77), p. 9.

23. M. Hiskett, The sword of Truth, London 0. U. P., 1973, p. 56. –

24. Muhammad Bello, Infaq al maysur, (Ed. W. E. J. writing), p. 66.

25. Abdullah Muhammad, Tayzin al-waraqat. 

23

26. F. El-Masri, “The life of the Shehu before the Jihad”, J. H. S. N., 11, 2 (1961), p. 445.

27. Quoted from, “Introduction to Uthman B. Fudi”, Bayah wujub al-Hjtra, (Ed. Trans. El

Masri), K. U. P., 1978, p. 24.

28.See. Bayan.

29. Abdullahi b. Muhammad, Tayzin al-waraqat (Ed. and Trans. by Hiskett), Ibadan, 1. U. P.,

1963, p. 120-121.

30. Quoted from A. Kani’s unpublished M. A. thesis, 1978.

31. 0. A. S. Ismail, “Some reflections on the literature of the Jihad and the caliphate”, in Y.

B. Usman (Ed.), Studies in the History of the Sokoto Caliphate, (SHSC), Lagos, 1979.

32. Ibid. 

Published by Muslim Enlightenment Committee  Nizamiyya Islamiyya School, Sakkwato,  in memory of Alhaji Ahmad Danbaba Marafan Sakkwato, founder of the School. May Allah have mercy upon him, Amen.

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The Islamic Concept of Leadership and Its Application In The Sakkwato Caliphate

The Islamic Concept of Leadership and Its Application  In The Sakkwato Caliphate

By

Professor Sambo Wali Junaid Department of Arabic 

Usman Dan Fodiyo University Sokoto

The Sakkwato Caliphate, as it is popularly called, is that Islamic government which was based on the pattern of the orthodox Caliphal system founded by the Prophet of Allah Muhammad, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him and which he bequeathed to Islamic communities all over the world as a modus operandi for every Muslim Ummah to emulate and be governed by. The major sources of jurisdiction for this caliphal system of government are the Qur’an, the Hadith (traditions of the Prophet) (SAW) and the ʿijma’ (consensus of ʿulama and qiyas (analogy) deduced by scholars of every epoch.

The orthodox caliphs from which the Sakkwato leaders derived their inspirations are those four caliphs, namely, Abubakar, Umar, Usman and Ali who governed the entire Muslim world of their time under strict compliance with Shariah as explained to them by the Qur’an and the sayings, acts and approvals of the Prophet (SAW).

The Sokoto caliphate was founded by the renowned scholar and Mujaddid Shaykh Uthman b. Fodiyo. He initially started his career as a preacher with the sole purpose of cleansing the society of its social, political and religious ills. He began by educating the society on proper ways of worship, separating them from the un-Islamic practices interwoven with Islam but which are diametrical with Islam and border to unbelief. He then criticized the venal ʿulama’ (scholars) who encouraged rulers to misrule by overburdening the subjects with heavy taxes fines and confiscation of their properties without any just cause. He undertook preaching tours within Gobir and Zamfara areas. Within a couple of years, Shaykh Uthman raised a community of dedicated Muslims. The growing number of serious Muslims around him aroused the anger of Hausa rulers. Particularly the Gobir ruler. Shaykh Uthman was able to obtain for and on behalf of his followers some concessions.

The kings especially, the tyrant king of Gobir stepped-up his hostilities against the Shaykh’s community, maiming them, killing them, capturing them and selling them as slaves (Muhammad Bello, Infaq al-Maisur).

At a time the Shaykh had called on the king with the aim of finding solutions to hostilities meted against the Shaykh’s community. No sooner was some amicable solution reached when the king of Gobir, Nafata, after assuming office made contradictory declarations against the concessions given to Jama’ah. He declared that:

1. No one except the Shaykh should preach,

2. No one whose parents or grandparents were not originally Muslims should convert to Islam, and those converted should revert to their former religion,

3. No man should wear a turban henceforth,

4. No woman should henceforth wear a veil.

These and many other provocations made the Shaykh’s community start thinking for a leader to defend themselves under him. The Jamāʿah unanimously chose the Shaykh to be their first Amirul Muminin in 1804 after they migrated to Gudu. They fought many battles, some of which they won and lost some. With the capture of Alkalawa, a solid foundation for the establishment of a Caliphate with all its organs and offices, was laid down. The Caliphate waxed stronger with vast territories covering most of the Northern States of the present-day Nigeria and extending its borders to some parts of the present-day Republics of Niger, Chad, Cameroun and Mali. Even the powerful kingdom of Borno lost some part of its territories to the Caliphate.

The leaders of this growing Caliphate were scholars of repute and they wrote a number of books to serve as guidelines in the administration of the Caliphate. The first Amirul Muminin Shaykh Uthman, his full-brother Abdullahi and their son. Muhammad Bello became the nucleus of the Caliphate and they wrote extensively on religious, social, political and economic aspects of an Islamic government whose constitution was the embodiment of the Qur’an, the Sunnah and the consensus of ʿulama’.

The Islamic Concept of Leadership:

Vicegerency, the Islamic concept of leadership first emerged from the Qur’anic verse that expressed Allah’s wish to appoint His vicegerent on earth soil as to maintain justice among the creations both human beings and jinns that would worship Him. On hearing this, the angels were surprised that the human being who was not to be trusted was assigned this onerous responsibility of being Allah’s representative on earth. They politely inquired:

“Do thou place therein one who will do harm therein and will shed blood, while we, we hymn Thy praise and sanctify Thee …?” (Surah II, Verse 30).

What these verses inferred is that’ Adam’ is the representative of Allah on earth who is to live, worship and maintain justice among other human beings. The concept clearly shows that leadership in Islam is a trust from Allah. A leader should regard himself as representing Prophet Muhammad (SAW) who in turn represents Allah the Creator. Allah is the All-knowing. He keeps records of all His Messenger’s representative’s activities on earth. A leader will be fully accountable to Allah on the Day of Judgment. If he commits any injustice among fellow human beings, among animal and plant kingdoms as a leader of his home, his ward, his village, his local government, his state, his nation, his planet, the neighbouring planets, the Creator of all beings is watching him. He may punish him right here on earth or may delay the punishment until the final Day of judgment. This trust by Allah through His Prophets is an all-comprehensive one and must be maintained with all sincerity.

The quoted verse above has been explained by a number of traditions of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) emphasizing the trust and that man will be accountable to Allah. The first Hadith, which comes to mind, is that which says:

“Each one of you is a shepherd and each one of you would be asked about his shepherd. The leader is a shepherd and would be accountable to Allah about his shepherd.”

In yet another Hadith the Prophet (SAW) said when his companions asked him:

What do you see if leaders were appointed and they asked for their rights from us as our leaders but they in turn refused to give us our rights as their subjects? The Prophet (SAW) replied, “Give them their rights and ask them for your right from Allah for He will certainly make them accountable to what they have been entrusted ‘with.” (Shaykh Uthman, Najm al-Ikhwan, p.8).

This leadership under whatever name it is called, the same principle of trust be applied. The leader may be called Mr. President as in American democracy, the Prime Minister as in democracies of Westminster style, the Imam as in lran, the King as in Saudi Arabian monarchy or the Khalifah as was severally used in the Glorious Qur’an, In the Qur’an, Khalifah, Malik and Imam or their derivations have been used signifying leadership. Thus referring to Prophet Yusuf (AS), the verse reads:

“Oh my Lord! Thou hast given me sovereignty.” (Surah 12, Verse 101).

Also Prophet Sulaiman (AS) said as reported in the Qur’an:

“He said, My Lord! Forgive me and bestow on me sovereignty such as shall not belong to all after me.” (Surah 38, Verse 35).

In another verse referring to Imamate, it reads:

“And We made them chiefs who guide by our command …” (Surah 21.Verse 73).

In another verse referring to Prophet Ibrahim (AS). It reads:

“He said, Lo! I have appointed thee a leader (Imam) for mankind.” (Surah 2, Verse 124).

All these verses refer to various terms used for leadership role but they all point to one thing and that it is a trust which must be preserved by all types and scopes of leadership. It was with this trust in mind that Prophet Yusuf (A.S) requested Paroah to entrust him with the store-houses. He said:

“Set me over the store-houses of the land. Loll am a skilled custodian.” (Surah 12, Verse 55).

After this trust is entrusted upon a leader, then he is expected to maintain that trust and treat everyone equitably without fear or favour. In another Hadith, the Prophet of Allah (Muhammad) (SAW) said:

“The Sultan is the shadow of Allah on earth!”

The leader, therefore, being the shadow of Allah’s authority through the Prophets, should treat everyone equally. Vice such as nepotism, self aggrandizement, promotion of one’s friends, egocentricism, blind-materialism, acquisition of ill-gotten wealth should all be. avoided by a leader. In fact, the leader should be as the Prophet (SAW) described him saying:

“The leader of a community is but their servant.”

When this concept of trust which is an authority bestowed to you by Allah is digested the leader must be just in his dealing with all his subjects. He must be fair to all and sundry and the rule of the Sharfah must be supreme. Whoever tampers with the Shariah must be punished accordingly after full investigations. Justice must be carried out in all facets of human endeavours. It must include justice in relation to terrestrial and marine life as well as in connection with animal and plant kingdoms. He must do justice to the planet he lives in and the planets that he sees and utilises. To sum it all, a leader must uphold justice even against himself. He should not therefore claim immunity of the rule of the Shariah. Everyone, with high or low status, must be equal before the Shariah (Shehu Umar Abdullah. On the Search for a Viable Political Culture p.47).

The leader must see his leadership role as both mundane and spiritual. In other words, the concept of secularism as professed by the so-called modern democracies, which separate religion from politics, is absolutely alien in Islam (Shehu Umar Abdullahi, Ibid, p.46).

It was reported on the authority of Ibn Abbas that the Prophet (SAW) had said:

“Authority and Islam are twins, neither of both can, improve without the other. lslam is the foundation while authority is the protector, Whatever lacks foundatlon will collapse and whatever lacks protector is lost.” (Shaykh Uthman b. Fodiyo, Najm al-Ikhwan, p.68).

In other words, politics and religion are seen in Islam as just two faces of the same coin. The leader, therefore, must see his role as such and must, with all sincerity, carry out his responsibilities with justice irrespective of differences of religion, ethnic affiliations, geographical boundaries, etc. The religion of Islam enjoined him to be fair to all, The Glorious Qur’an says:

“Oh ye who believe! Be steadfast witnesses for Allah in equity, and let not hatred of any people seduce you that you deal not justly. Deal justly, that is nearer to your duty. Observe your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is informed of what ye do.” (Surah 5, Verse 8).

In another verse, the leader is enjoined to maintain justice even if it is against his relative. The Our’an urges that:

“And if you give your word, as justice thereunto, even though it be (against) a kinsman!” (Surah 6, Verse 152).

In another verse, the leader is still being enjoined to uphold justice whenever he passes a judgement among his subjects.

The Our’an says:

“And if ye judge between mankind that you judge justly.” (Surah 4, Verse 58).

The next concept of leadership in Islam is the utilisation of Shura [consultation], The Qur’an enjoins the leader to look for advice before embarking on any serious issue affecting his subjects. The so-called modern models of State or National assemblies under the guise of Western democracies are mere caricatures of the Islamic principle of Shura revealed to the Prophet of Islam (SAW) more than one thousand, four hundred and eighteen years ago. Shuraor Counsel is from the Arabic word ashara. Shura to show or to consent or approve by nodding one’s head.

The person seeking advice would want to know areas of truth and the benefit . to be derived from the issue Shura is sought for Counsel is the search for an expert opinion from experienced persons to enable the leader arrive at what seems to be right, But before the right course or decision is arrived at, a body of experienced persons must come together and critically examining each other’s opinion being guided by the principles of jihad.

Those issues which had already been legislated on in the Qur’an and/or by the Prophet (.SAW) cannot be subjected to discussion or review. The leader may however call for a discussion, presentation of opinions or debate on things that are either not yet clear or have multiple approaches. Matters of peace and war or signing treaties, for example, are issues that should not be taken lightly or rushed into without taking due cognisance of the implications involved.

Particular example which may be cited here where difficult decisions were taken by the Prophet (SAW) was the Hudaibiyah peace accord. Despite the opposition by some of his companions to the treaty, the Prophet (SAW) upheld it and it turned out to be the greatest conquest in the history of Islam.

Another example was the Battle of Uhud when some of his companions advised that he should remain in Madina while others opined that he should move out. Each opinion was trying to arrive at what would be the best option for the Muslims. But in the end, the Prophet (SAW) chose the decision to go out of Madina to meet the enemies (see Abdurrahman Abdul-Khaliq, AI-Shura, p.17).

For any issues to be tabled for discussion, the leader must be able to select experienced persons who are transparently sincere, honest, determined and have strong sense of responsibility who will stand firmly by the decisions taken and implement them as required. That body of decision-making must not be lobbied by the leadership but should let each one of them to be the master of his conscience and the protector of the trust reposed in him by Allah.

The importance of Counsel has been emphasised in the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW). A whole chapter of the Qur’an was named chapter of Shura. In one of the verses of the chapter, Muslim leaders are enjoined to seek for advice before taking any serious decisions.

In another chapter, the importance of seeking for Counsel was also highlighted when the Prophet (SAW) was asked to consult his companions before taking a decision. The Qur’an verse reads:

“So pardon them and ask for forgiveness for them and consult with them upon the conduct of affairs. And when thou art resolved, then put thy trust in Allah Lo! Allah loveth those who put their trust in Him.” (Surah 3. Verse 1.59).

With the establishment of an Islamic State, the leader must not relent in his defence of the Ummah from internal and external enemies by establishing a strong force to defend the nation of Islam defends its territories as well as guarantee the application of the Shariah throughout his domain. The nation of Islam must be combat ready and the leadership must be alert and lead its army in defence of the State. The leadership must protect the religion and its values with all its ‘juristical, administrative and military’ capabilities. The leader must adhere to the following ten conditions in discharging the affairs of the Islamic State. The conditions are:

a) Preservation of faith in its established principles and in the form in which al-Salaf (the predecessors) of the Ummah had unanimously agreed.

b) Enforcement of judgments among contenders and resolving cases among disputants.

c) Provision of security in the territory so that people may live in their homes safely and travel in security.

d) Enforcement of punishments prescribed by the Shariah to safeguard the limits set by Allah and preserve the rights of people.

e) Fortification of borders with preventive equipment and repelling of aggression.

f) Jihad against those who oppose Islam after calling upon them to embrace it or to accept protection as non-Muslims, so that the light of Allah is upheld in proclamation of the religion in its entirety.

g) Levying of taxes and collection of Zakah and charity from the treasury without being extravagant or stingy.

h) Appointing the honest and competent to positions of trust in order to preserve (State) wealth to administer (government’s) affairs.

i) Personal supervision and examination of public affairs to be able to lead the nation and protect the religion.

j) Personal supervision and examination of public affairs to be able to lead the nation the nation and protect the religion (See Muhammad S. EI Awa, on the Political System of the Islamic State, p.?7).

Now we have through the previous pages seen the Islamic concept of leadership and what follows is the application of that concept in the Sakkwato Caliphate.

Concept of Leadership and Its Application in the Sakata Caliphate

The leaders in the Sokoto Caliphate firmly believed that leadership is a trust from Allah through the Prophet (SAW) bestowed on them to rule according to Shariah. Thus, from the onset, the Muslims unanimously agreed to pay homage to Shaykh Uthman b. Fodiyo as the first Amirul-Muminin of the newly established Muslim Ummah, an Ummah which is to be governed by the Shariah. The leadership from the beginning applied Shura when they realised the danger they were exposed to by the enemy. After their Hijra to Gudu, the Muslim Ummah met and agreed to pay homage to Shaykh Uthman as Amirul Muuminin. The first to pay the homage was his full-brother Abdullah, followed by Muhammad Bello and then Umar Alkammu and the rest of the “Ummah (see Wazir Junaidu, Tarihin Fulani, pp.16-17).

The Shariah as the basis of Muslim constitution was implemented in full. Honest, pious and scholarly judges were appointed throughout the Caliphate. In fact, descendants of these jUdges like the Qadi-Qudat (Chief Judge) still retain the titles if not the functions. We also have other titles like the Sa’i who takes charge of the collection and distribution of Zakah. Other are the Sarkin Yaki (War Commander), the title still held by the descendants of Aliyu Jedo, the war commander at the time of the Jihad and the Muhtasib (Censor of Morals). As for the Wazir, the Shaykh appointed four viziers, namely: Abdullah,Muhammad Bello, Umar  Alkammu and Malam Sa’adare. When the Caliphate became stronger, the viziership positions were reduced to only two. The Western flank under the charge of Abdullah has its own vizier as was the case with the Eastern flank under Bello. However, as Muhammad Bello became the second Caliph, the viziership position of the Caliphate held by Abdullahi shifted to  ‘Uthman Gidado.

The application of the Shariah was thorough and that some recordedincidents during the  struggle to apply justice to all were evidenced in some traditions.

Sultan Bello’s strict application of the Shariah is evidenced by his scrutinizing the judges, reversing their judgments dictated by their own interest and his refusal to give them free rein in their posts (Alhaji Shehu Malami, Sir Siddiq Abubakar III, p.25). Sultan Bello was also said to have told his brotherAbubakar Atiku:

If you judge according to the truth, I will not interfere with you.” (Ibid, p.25). Throughout the Caliphate, justice was done and every, citizen was forced to comply with the Shariah. As a result of that, there was absolute peace. This peaceful momentum did not escape the eagle-eye of the Christian white explorer, Clapperton who observed that:

“The laws of the Qur’an were in his (Bello’s) time so strictly put in force … That the whole country when not in a state of war, was so well regulated that a woman might travel with a casket of gold upon her head from one end of the Fellata dominions to the other,” (See Rashid, Islamic Lava in Nigeria, p.39)

The Sokoto leadership promoted learning and scholarship. This promotion was vigorously pursued by the Caliphate so much so that there was no Islamic revivalist movement in the whole of Africa during that time that had bequeathed to the generations of the Sakkwato Caliphate. Shehu Uthman had written not less than one hundred books and manuals in three languages, namely: Fulfulde, Hausa and Arabic. So was also done by his son Bello and Abdullahi and Emirs who received flags from the Shehu. All the flag-bearers were at one time or another students of Shaykh Uthman b. Fodiyo who in turn encouraged scholarship in their own areas of jurisdiction.

With the combined efforts of the leaders and their subjects, within a short period, the massive educational and enlightenment programmes embarked upon by the Caliphate yielded fruitful results.

At this juncture, one can recall the unprecedented educational campaign mounted by Nana Asma’u, the Shaykh’s daughter to educate the women-folk. Nana herself. a poetess in three languages, did not hesitate to compose poems which are still sung today to educate the women masses. She organised the Ysn-teru’ (Associates) system of knowledge dissemination whereby older women from rural areas converged to her home and received lessons from her and in turn disseminated such lessons to the wives in purdah in the rural areas.

The lessons usually imparted by Nana Asma’u included Islamic rituals like the five daily prayers, aspects of Teunia, the Zakah, responsibilities of the wife to the family, etc. These rituals are composed in poems for easy memorization. (Jean Boyd, The Caliph’s Sister, pp.-51-52).

After the establishment of the Caliphate, the leaders built a strong army to defend and extend the territories of the nation of Islam. The leaders led many successful expeditions against the  enemy. Abdullah, who was in charge of the Western flank of the Caliphate and his able lieutenants, ably extended the areas of the Caliphate as far away as the Nupe and Yoruba lands. while Bello effectively controlled the whole of the Eastern flank which extended far beyond Adamawa. The Caliphate remained intact and the leaders successfully subdued to submission the attempted rebellion after the demise of Sultan Bello. Sultan Bello had, during his reign which spanned for over 20 years, led 17 military campaigns against the enemies of Islam.

The Caliphate became the Islamic umbrella under which the citizens of the nation of Islam, irrespective of language, colour or place of birth, converged to worship Allah alone and maintain justice among human’ beings and becametrue representatives of Allah on earth.

Conclusion

The paper traced the Islamic concept of leadership from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, the two main sources of Islamic jurisprudence and constitution. It discussed the Islamic and secular concepts of leadership. It emphasized that the Sakkwato Caliphate believed in leadership being a trust from Allah and had left no stone unturned throughout its life-span which began in 1804 until it was rudely halted in the year 1903 by the British fire power.

The paper also expressed its nostalgia for the Islamic concept of leadership especially with regard to the general security of life and property, which followed the total application of the Shariah.

References

1. Abdullah b. Fodiyo, Tazyin al-Waraqat. Kano, 1383 A.H.

2. Abdullah b. Fodiyo, Diyaul-Sultan, Zaria

3. Abdurrahman Abdul-Khaliq, AI-Shra fi Dhilli Nidham al-Hukm al-Islami, Kuwait. 1988.

4. Alhaji Shehu Malami, Sir Siddiq Abubakar III, Ibadan, 1989.

5. Ibrahim Imam, Tarihin Shehu Usman Mujaddadi, Zaria, 1966.

6. Jean Boyd, The Caliph’s Sister, Nana Asma’u, London, 1989.

7. Kalim Siddiqui, Issues in the Islamic Mivement, London, 198.0-81.

8. Muhammad Bello, Aigayth al-wabi fi Sirat ai-Imam al-Adl, manuscript available in Wazir Junaidu’s personal library.

9. Muhammad Bello, Infaq al-Maisur, London, 1957.

10. Muhammad Bello, Sard al-Kalam fi Ma Jara Bainana Wa Baina Abdissalam, Manuscript available in my personal library.

11. Muhammad Fu’ad Abdul-baqi, AI-Mu’jam al-Mufahras Ii al-Fadh al Our’an al-Karim, Beirut, 1945.

12. Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall, The Meaning of the Glorious Qur’an, Karachi, 1986.

13. Muhammad S.EI-Awa, On the Political System of the Islamic State, Indiana, 1980.

14 Sa’adu b. Abdurrahman, Tartib al-Ashab wa Tajmi’ Ulil-Albab, Manuscript available in wazir Junaidu’s personal library.

15. Shehu Umar Abdullah, On the Search for a Viable Political Culture, Kaduna, 1984.

16. Syed Khalid Rashid, Islamic Law in Nigeria, Sokoto.

17. Uthman b. Fodiyo, Sayan Wuju al-Hijra al Allbad wa Bayan Nasbi al-Imam wa Iqamat al-Jihad, Zaria.

18. Uthman b. Fodiyo, Najm al-Ikhwan Yahtaduna Bihi Bi Idhnil Lah fi Umur al-Zaman. Cairo.

19. Wazir Junaidu, Tarihin Fulani, Zaria, 1957.

International Seminar Papers

1. International Seminar on “The Role of the Ulama in the Sakkwato

Caliphate”, 1800-1803, presented in 1986, organised by C.I.S/U.D.U.S.

2. International Seminar on “Intellectual Tradition in the Sakkwato

Caliphate”, 1987, organised by C.I.S/U.D.U.S.

For similar or related articlesclick on the links below:

Tajdid 1

Tajdid 2

Bilaadu-s-Sudan

The Tradition of Tajdeed In West Africa

The Tradition of Tajdeed In West Africa

by Dr. Usman Bugage

Tradition in the Sokoto Caliphate

From the ninth century to date, Islam has been spreading in the West African region. Even western scholarship (1) has had to concede the fact that in course of these twelve centuries Islam had brought literacy, integrated various ethnic groups, boosted trade and commerce, built states of varying complexities and developed such centers of learning that produced scholars (2) of international repute. At the time of the European invasion in the late 19th and early 20th century it was Islam that put up the greatest resistance to imperialism and what remains of the indigenous features of the region owes more to Islam’s cultural and ideological resistance than to anything else.

Thus the history of West Africa is largely the history of Islam in West Africa. For not only did Islam launch the region into history but it directed and shaped events in the region since the last twelve centuries. And today t remains the only hope the for region against the onslaught of imperialism with its army of Christian missionaries, secular elites and the I.M.F’s and its multi-national fronts.

Of course Islam did not accomplish these achievements and attained position of prominence instantly. Rather, this was a very gradual, if persistent, process made up of distinct phases one leading inevitably to the other. Five such phases (3) are easily discernible:-

First Phase: This covers the period from the ninth to the thirteenth century. During this period Islam spread gradually and for the most part peacefully. The main agents of Islamisation during this period appear to be itinerant traders, a few scholars (mostly Berbers) and equally effective ardent indigenous converts. As the educational institutions had not then take concrete shape, systematic learning as such did not obtain on a general level. Indeed it was during this period the first Islamic State of Takrur was formed, it was during the same period the Al-Murabit movement emerged. But these were exceptions to the general role and the latter in particular points to the dearth of knowledge of Islam among the Muslims of the period for it was this dearth which primarily occasioned its emergence.

Second Phase: This covers the period from the Fourteenth to the Sixteenth century. This is the phase in which the Muslim states of Mali and Songhay emerged and developed, Borno which had emerged much earlier reached maturation under Idris Aloma while many Hausa States notably Kano and Katsina became Islamized. More importantly this was the period during which educational centers developed and produced a multitude of indigenous scholars like Abdur-Rahman al-Sa’adi, Mahmud al-ka’ati, Ahmad Baba and his Shaykh Ahmad Baghouyogho, al-Barnawi, Muhammad al-kashnawi and a host of others. It was also the period when the region received visiting scholars such as Muhammad al-al-Maghīlī who were to sharpen the taste of scholarship and hasten the process of Islamisation.

Third Phase: This covers the period from the 17th century to eighteenth century. This was a phase which started with the Moroccan invasion of Songhay during which Timbuktu, which had become the intellectual center of the region, was sacked. The destruction of the state of Songhay and the sacking of Timbuktu with the consequent dispersal of scholars combined to rob the region its political stability and intellectual stamina. While the political vacuum plunged Hausa States into inter-state destructive warfare, the dearth of scholarship gave pagan beliefs a chance to resurface. Thus plunging the greater part of the region into ignorance, injustice and oppression often under the patronage of venal scholars (ulama al-su). These were the very conditions which occasioned the next phase.

Fourth Phase: This was the phase of the Jihad elements which though began in the 18th century (Karamako Alfa in Futa Toro 1720’s, Sulayman Ba’alin Futa Jallon 1170’s) were in the main concentrated in the 19th century. In fact a few skirmishes continued well unto the 20th century in the Sene-gambia region. This was a phase during which Muslim scholars took up their responsibly of education Muslims ad mobilizing them against the inequities, moral laxities and the excess of rulers (or more properly the oppressors) of their land.

The leading figures were Shaykh Dan Fodio in early 19th century Hausaland, Ahmad Labbo a little later in 1818 and Shaykh Umar al-Futi in mid 19th century Sene-gambia and Bambara region. In each case these Mujahiddeen established Islamic States which held their bounds until yet another invasions this time by European Imperialism. This invasion very much like the Moroccan one marked the beginning of another phase.

Fifth Phase: This was a phase which began in earnest at the beginning of this twentieth century to this day. It is a phase in which European imperialism, in their bid to control the human and material resource of the region, invaded and destroyed the politics in the region and instituted such arrangements as would ensure maximum plunder and exploitation of the material and human resource of the region. This was also a phase in which Islam became the target of a vicious and desperate attack by western imperialism and its agencies. The physical attack by the colonizing army was immediately followed with a psychological warfare. The sharia was replaced by English or French law and any demand for the Sharia was treated as a treasonable offense. The whole Government machinery was operated as if Muslims never existed at all. Educational institutions were opened with courses clearly designed to produce an army of secular elite eager to be employed to protect the status quo. The institutions of defense and security were designed to attack and the slightest move by Muslims to bring Islam again. Meanwhile the mass media is busy dissuading them from the idea of any Islam beyond the mosque and persuading them to give their total loyalty to a government which has blatantly refused them their freedom to live as Muslims all in the name of peace. With the glaring failure of these neocolonial Governments to deliver any goods even its greatest promise of material progress, the future of this arrangement is now being questioned. Islam is once again emerging as a viable alternative to take its rightful place in the scheme of things.

From the foregoing short and sketchy account three points become very clear. That Islam has immense capacity for integrating groups and building great and powerful states. Kanem-Bornu, Mansa Musa’s Mali, Askia’s Songhay, the Sokoto caliphate remain to be the most complex and powerful states that Africa has seen. Their territorial spread, political complexity and military power was unprecedented throughout Africa’s history. That Islam was able to sustain these development over such a long period of time, consistently maintaining its position of prominence points to Islam’s resourcefulness, and capacity to meet challenges. By reasserting itself once again after periods of lapse, Islam exhibits such resilience as not other system known to Mankind. This unique feature of Islam in particular has understandably been a great source of worry to its enemies, European Imperialism in particular.

Islam owes a lot of this power resourcefulness and resilience to knowledge. For Islam has placed its highest premium on knowledge. By making the search for knowledge an obligation on each of its adherents (male and female, young and old), by making the pursuit of knowledge as the most rewarding of endeavour and by making knowledge as the basis of both individual as well as collective action, Islam secured for itself the most formidable weapon humanity has ever known. Subsisting wholly on, anchored securely in scholarship Islam moved gradually but confidently and persistently, eroding the basis of local Jahiliyya and imparting its universal culture and establishing its own society which was always better than the one it found. Knowledge and scholarship, remained the life vein of this transformation.

But human being as indeed human society, is subject to lapses and often the pursuit of knowledge is slackened and scholarship falls to a level where society stagnates or even retrogresses. In such circumstances, the ultimate hope for the Muslim society is a process of rejuvenation which necessarily begins with a regeneration of knowledge and scholarship, the spread of this knowledge to the wider society and ends up with the application of such knowledge in society with all the transformation that has to go with it. This process of rejuvenation and revitalization of society is what in Islam in known as Tajdeed, and those that initiate this process or see it through to its logical conclusion are called Mujahiddun, (sing, Mujaddid). fully aware of human limitations and failure, Allah the Most High, out of His mercy for mankind, promised to raise individual (s) who will undertake the task of Tajdeed at the head of each century. As Abu Dawud narrated in an authentic hadith “From Abu Huraira, may Allah be pleased with him, the Prophet (S.A.W.) said: Verily Allah will raise for this Ummah at the head of every hundred years one (s) who will renew for her, her Deen (way of life).”

Muslim scholars have made extensive commentary on this Hadith in an effort to further clarify the text and expound on the concept of Tajdeed. Suyudi’s work (4) on Tajdeed, Al al-Maghīlī’s Ajwibat, (5) Bustani’s work (6) on the concept of Tajdeed provide a rich sources of such commentaries. We need not detain ourselves with such details here. For the purpose of this paper it may suffice us to note that many scholars have agreed that the Mujaddid need not be one given century. They could be, as indeed there were, several Majaddidun each undertaking Tajdeed in his own domain. there could even be more than one at a time for a given areas. One may even add that the reference to one hundred years not be literal. It may simply refer to such intervals as may be there between one Mujaddid to the other.

It is important to note that Tajdeed (renewing) of the Deen (way of life)’ of the Muslim Ummah is a technical expression connoting a total societal change. It is a profound and comprehensive change which seeks to return the Muslim society to its purity free from he decadence and lethargy that had crept in over a period of time. This change to be sure must necessarily start with pursuit and spread of knowledge which leads to the erosion of the intellectual and cultural basis of the decadent order and ultimately end up with a total societal change – a revolution

The Al-Murabit Factor

The history of Tajdeed in West Africa is nearly as old as the history of Islam itself. By the ninth century Islam had already reached the Sene-gambian region and Kanem on the he eastern edge of West Africa. By early 11th century the Islamic State of Tukrur had emerged. To the north of Tukrur were the Sanhaja Berbers who must have been Islamized much earlier than Tukrur. But by 1030’s their level of ignorance and lack of compliance with Islam was such as to warrant their leader Yahya b. Ibrahim al-Guladi on his way back from Hajj, to request Shaykh Abu Imran al-Fasi at Qayrawan to assign for him a teacher from the latter’s students to return with him and instruct his people. The responsibility of undertaking this task of instructing the Sanhaja fell on Abdullahi B. Yasin. (7) Ibn Abi Zar’s account may be worth recounting:

“When he (Abd Allah b. Yasin) arrived with Yahya b. Ibrahim in the land Sanhaja … he began to teach them religion and to explain the Law and the Sunnah to them, to command them to do good and to forbid them to do evil.

When they saw that he was intent on making them abandon their wicked ways they shook him off turned away from him, and shunned him, for they found his actions burdensome … When Abd Allah b. Yasin saw their opposition and the way in which they followed their fancies he wished to leave them and go to the land of the Sudan who had adopted Islam … but Yahya b. Ibrahim would not let him, saying: “I shall not let you go away for I brought you here only that your learning might profit my person, my religion, and those of my people for whom I am responsible …” (8)

Yahya b. Ibrahim was able to convince Abd Allah b. Yasin to leave for an island in the sea, a kind of Hijra, where he made a ribat teaching his students Qur’an among others. The number of his students grew until he was in a position to return to the Sanhaja fighting those who remain adamant and refuse to mend their corrupt way of life. From here Abd Allah Yasin appointed Yahya b. Umar as a Military commander and with their expanding team of students (murabitun) they conquered the Magrib as far as Spain.

It is significant that Abd Allah b. Yasin had to make a kind of Hijra during which he devoted time for the study of the Qur’an. This is not only a reflection of selflessness but much more. It is also significant that he was rigorous to a point where his very mission became threatened.

This thoroughness of Abd Allah b. Yasin which became hallmark of the al-murabit appear to have been the influence of their grand Shaykh, al-Fasi. For it was the latter’s strictness which apparently led him to fall out with the rulers of Fez of his time warranting his leaving Fez for Qayrawan where he settled and taught until his death.

The extent of al-Murabit’s effect on the development of Islam in western Sudan is still to be assessed. But it was clear that some of the Berber tribes which participated in the al-Murabit movement moved south and settled around the bank of the Niger River which al-Bakri the historian mistook for the Nile. (9) It appears that it was these elements that formed the nucleus of the school of the region. Diakha and Jenne the earliest educational centers which later fed Timbuktu appear to have developed under scholars with al-Murabit links. Timbuktu itself started as a camp for a Sanhaja tribe which made up the al-murabit movement. (10) The Nasiba of the leading scholarly family of Ahmad aba of Timbuktu the Aqits, has been traced back to Abubakar b. Umar the brother of Yahya b. Umar the Military Commander of al-Murabit. (11) This point is further reinforced by the fact that the leading texts studied at the educational institutions of the region, like al-shifa, of Qadi Iyad, Mudawana of Sahnun, Risala of Abu Zaid al-Qayrawani, etc. are mainly the writings of the North African and Andalusian (Spanish) scholars.

The point that is being made here is that the al-murabit made the first attempt at Tajdeed in the region. This attempt had generated a spate of scholarship which formed the nucleus of the educational centers in the region of West Africa. This scholarship appear to have set the tempo of and continued to influence the intellectual climate for along time leaving a permanent stamp on the he intellectual tradition in the region. This intellectual tradition produced chain of scholars for the region, through whose activity knowledge and scholarship spread far and wide in the vast region.

The Al Maghīlī Factor

The next significant input into the tradition of Tajdeed in West Africa seems to be that of Muhammad Abd al-Karim al-al-Maghīlī the visiting scholar who came to the region late in the 15th century, when Muslims were yet to recover from their expulsion from Andalusia, al-Maghīlī spent a good part of his life defending the integrity of the Muslim Ummah and the supremacy of the Sharia. He had to fight fierce intellectual and later physical battle again unjust and corrupt Muslim leaders, their venal scholars and the Jews who had monopolized the economy and had begun to flout the Sharia with impunity. It was in the midst of this struggle and in the spirit of revitalizing the Muslim Ummah al-al-Maghīlī left Tuwat in North Africa for West Africa. His zeal for the total and correct application of the Sharia and his impatience with unjust and venal scholars is thus understandable.

Al-al-Maghīlī’s presence in West Africa seemed to have come at an opportuned time when sufficient awareness of Islam has been generated in the region to make rulers ready and willing to apply Islam. Coming from North Africa, whence most of the basic Islamic literature in West Africa came, operating within the same Maliki Mazhab al-al-Maghīlī found himself intellectually at home in the region. Thus almost where ever he went, Air, Katsina, Kano, Gao, he was highly welcomed and immediately involved int he process of the application of Islam. A great teacher in Takedda, in Air; Qadi in Katsina for many years; a legal and political adviser in Kano where he wrote for Sarki Muhammad Rumfa, Taj al-Din fi ma yajib ala’l muluk; in Gao, Songhay, the ideologue and architect of the State of Songhay under Askia Muhammad; al-al-Maghīlī succeeded in injecting a new drive into intellectual tradition and invigorated the social and political clime of the whole region.

Al-al-Maghīlī’s celebrated success in the region in as much a product of his zeal and vigor as the tradition of scholarship in the region which had always an inclination for thoroughness and precision. Indeed the presence of al-al-Maghīlī only gave a further push and reinforcement to a feature which scholarship in the region had been known to posses from the time of al-Murabit. Al-al-Maghīlī’s experience in North Africa had, however something new and precious to add to this tradition. Al-al-Maghīlī’s encounter with corrupt Muslim rulers and Ulama al-Su’, venal scholars who he sometimes calls ru’asa-ul-zalimin, the chief oppressor, (12) helped sharpened the regions taste for leadership and scholarship and developed for it a standard with which to gauge the scholars and rulers of the region. Thus the intellectual tradition was given new challenges to meet and the society taste to be satisfied.

Al-al-Maghīlī was of course not the only scholar of repute who had access to the region in the late 15th century. His contemporary Jalaluddeen al-Suyuti of Egypt was well known in the region. Many of Suyuti’s books were circulating in the region, many of the pilgrims from the region who go through Egypt met Suyuti (13) and many have sought for his legal opinion (fatwa) on maters. (14) But speaking from the the comfort of his late Mamluk Egypt, free from the kind of conflict al-al-Maghīlī lived with in North Africa, Suyutis’ writings though generally useful may have sounded a little milder than their situation demanded. In any case Suyuti did not have the benefit or being in the region to appreciate the region’s real needs and circumstances. For Askia Muhammad who had met both Suyuti in Egypt and al-al-Maghīlī at home in Songhay found in the latter the vigor and thoroughness he needed.

This impetus which the intellectual tradition as well as the social and political climate received from al-al-Maghīlī was what generated a spate of scholarship which produced such scholars of high learning and virtue like Muhammad Baghaygho, whose student Ahmad Baba of Timbuktu considered a Mujaddid. Though this delicate process was jeopardized by the Moroccan invasion of Songhay at the end of the 16th century, the vital ideas it had generated were kept alive by such scholars as al-Barnawi (15) of Katsina. It were these scholars who bore with courage the risks of preserving these ideas and conveying it to the leaders of the Tajdeed movements of the 19th century. One needs to see Ida’al-Nusukh of Abdullah Dan Fodio, Infaq – al-maysur of Muhammad Bello and such works of Shehu Usman Dan Fodio as Kitab al-Farq to see the role these scholars played in providing this link. (16) Indeed many of the writings of Shehu Usman Dan Fodio, like Hisn al-Afham, Bayan Wujub al-Hijra, Siraj al-Ikhwan, reveal the extent of al-al-Maghīlī’s influence on the Shehu. Even the temperaments of of Shehu Usman and his team, Ahmad Labbo and Umar al-Futi clearly bore the thoroughness and conscientiousness of the al-Murabit and al-al-Maghīlī.

The Tajdeed Movements of the 19th Century

Sequel to the Moroccan invasion of Songhay in 1591, the region lost not only its source of inspiration but also the restraining force of Songhay whose political influence had reached as far as Sene-gambia to the west and Hausaland to the east. With the scholars of Timbuktu scattered, some like Ahmad Baba taken in chains to Morocco, the intellectual stamina of the region became weak and the tempo of scholarship went down, to pick up only later on the eve of the Jihads. Matters were made worse by the political vacuum which the demise of Songhay created. The weakness of Borno at that time did not help the situation. Lacking in any regional power strong enough to check the excess of other states, the region slipped back into interstate warfare with its effect on security, commerce and learning. The resulting chaotic and desperate situation gave a receding paganism a chance to resurface leading to syncretism, decadence, heavy taxation and other forms of oppression b rulers.

The ideas of Tajdeed that were preserved amidst the corruption and injustices of the 17th and 18th centuries were eventually to find their way to their deserving heirs. Rather suddenly, for the whole of the 19th century, the region was seized by series of revolutions that were to totally change it complexion. Syncretism along with the decadence and injustice it fostered was terminated, Islamic states were re-established, learning and commerce went unhampered under the peace and security the new arrangement brought. To be sure these revolutions started even before the 19th century, and were to continue until the first two decades or so of this century. There was al-Karamako Alfa Ibrahim b. Nuhu in Futa Jallon as early as 1725, there was Sulayman Baal in Senegal valley in 1775, and Ahmad Bamba d. 1927 in Sene-gambian region among many others. (17) Restricted by a number of factors these Jihads were of limited scale, their effects largely limited to their locality. For our purpose we only wish to consider the three major ones: Usman Dan Fodio in Hausaland, Ahmad Labbo in Masina and Umar al-Futi in Sene-gambia. What we are primarily interested here is such outline as will allow us to discern the pattern of these Tajdeed movements.

Shehu Usman Dan Fodio

Moved by the level of ignorance among people the Shehu, as early as 1774, then at the age of 20, embarked on teaching people the basics of Islam. He quite naturally started single handedly around his home town Degel in the Hausa State of Gobir, but was soon to be assisted by his brother Abdullahi 12 year his junior. As they began to expand their teaching programs to different parts of Gobir and beyond into other Hausa States like Zamfara they were joined by another hand who though much younger was crucial tot he success of the venture. This was Shehu Usman’s son Muhammad Bello. The three put together formed the triumvirate that led this movement, intellectually and politically, saw it through to its logical conclusion and even had the rare opportunity of translating into practice the ideas they spent the whole of their lives fighting for.

While the triumvirate were undertaking the painstaking task of educating the general public of Hausaland, which they saw as their primary assignment, they were also learning from as many Shaykhs as were around and reading as many books as were available. That Abdullah could not remember all those Shaykhs form whom they took knowledge, (18) that Muhammad Bello alone read about 20,000 books, (19) not to mention the grand Shaykh Usman Dan Fodio, may give one a glimpse to their level of scholarship. “The breadth of their knowledge of Arabic writings” writes Professor Abdullahi Smith “Is particularly remarkable when it is realized that none of them eve visited North Africa or the Middle East.” “This learning of the leaders” continued Smith:

“Showed itself in their writings which were voluminous. The astonishing total of 258 books and pamphlets is at present provisionally attributed to the triumvirate, and this is probably not a complete list. These writings cover a very wide range of subjects including all the classical Islamic Sciences, as well as history, mysticism and medicine … This literary output is particularly noteworthy when it is remembered that a large number of these books were written in the midst of active campaigning, and that they do not include official correspondence which the leaders (especially Muhammad Bello) had to keep up with their supporters in the field.” (20)

For nearly 20 years the triumvirate and the expanding team of disciples and students traveled the length and breadth of Hausaland, teaching the basics of Islam raising yet more students and following. Wherever they went and whenever they moved, they left behind one of their students to continue what they started. Through this unassuming process, knowledge spread far and wide and the Shaykh raised followers among men and women, young and old, all over Hausaland and beyond in Borno and Masina.

For the next 10 years the Shaykh and his team were to return to his home town Degel to settle for more teaching and writing to meet the foreseeable needs of his community, the jama’a. This provided the Shaykh with the opportunity to develop his spiritual potentials through Tasawwuf, produce and mould scholars of higher learning and discipline from amongst his students both men and women. But this opportunity did not last as long as the Shaykh had apparently wanted. For his expanding community, having acquired sufficient knowledge of Islam to raise their level of perception and consciousness, were becoming impatient with the excesses of the pagan Hausa rulers. The more they learnt the more they realized the obligation they owe to their Lord Allah, the Most High, to command the right and forbid the wrong (Amr bil Ma’aruf wal Nahyi anil Munkar) in the face of the corruption, tyranny and oppression rampant in the Hausland.

It was however neither the Jama’a Nor the Shaykh that was to start the confrontation. It was the Hausa rulers, especially of Gobir, whose power based had been drastically narrowed by the ever increasing following of the Shaykh. In a desperate and frantic move to save their dwindling authority, they resorted to attacking the Jama’a. Even then the Shaykh wanted more time, for rather than retaliation he ordered a Hijra from Gobir in 1804. But the Gobir rulers would not leave the jama’a a and the he latter had to defend itself. Thus in the same year (1804), the jama’a, few, impoverished and scattered all over Hausaland, started fighting, under the leadership of the Shaykh, against the corrupt and tyrannical Hausa rulers, along with those venal scholars (Ulama al-Su’) who had always given support to corruption and opposed the jama’a.

The fighting could not have come as a surprise to Shehu or his Jama’a. Shehu’s perceptive mind had long foreseen this eventuality and has apparently prepared the Jama’a for it. His teachings and writings were designed to match the needs and level of development of the Jama’a. Initially it was the basics of Islam and gradually the obligations of Amr bil Ma’aruf wal Nahy anil Munkar and how it should be carried out was expounded. At the onset of the confrontation, the obligation from the Hijra, the basis and rules of the Jihad were clearly explained in a wisely circulated document Wathiqat ahl al-Sudan which Bivar calls the manifesto of the Jihad. (21) It was only during the Jihad and of course after that books dealing with the details of t he Islamic order to be established were written.

It is significant that in the 27 points the Shehu raised in the Wathiqat, the first three were:

“(i) That the commanding of what is right (Amr bil Ma’aruf) is obligatory by Ijma’ (consensus of scholars).

(ii) The prohibition of what is wrong (or evil) (Nahy anil Munkar) al obligatory by Ijma’

(iii) That Hijra (flight) form the land of unbelief is obligatory by Ijma’.”

The Jama’a were thus to fight in order to remove injustice and corruption and establish justice and righteousness in society. The Hijra was a necessary step in this direction. The Jama’a, true to their training, complied.

By 1810 the better part of Hausaland had fallen to the Jama’a, the Jihad was in the he main over, except for skirmishes in Borno, leaving the Jama’a the task of translating their ideals into practice. (22) This tremendous success did not however mean the task was over. In fact it looked like it had just began for it sparked off a spate of writing on the details of the socio-economic, legal and political order that was to be operated in the new dispensation. In fact the Shaykh found it necessary to devote the rest of his time to laying the intellectual foundations of the new State leaving the routine administration to his two able assistance, Shaykh Abdullah and Muhammad Bello.

It was the activities of this small band of itinerant scholars whose primary objective was to simply teach Islam, which silently but effectively eroded the moral and cultural foundations of the decadent society and mobilized the Muslims towards the renewal, Tajdeed, of their society. In due course the small band of scholars were to find themselves at the head of a growing party of believers which inevitably had to confront the party of unbelief and corruption with the ever recurring result of victory. Thus the Jama’a were able to pull their society cut of the decadence and corruption it had drifted into and place it back on the he path of purity and progress. (23) It was this success which triggered off a wave of change which was to cleanse the whole region of decadence, corruption and unbelief and restore to Islam its position of prominence. Talking about “the repercussions which the movement had in West Africa” Abdullahi Smith noted how it occasioned the emergence of Shehu Muhammad al-Amin al-Kanemi who was to revitalize Borno and shook the Oyo empire to its roots. “Perhaps most important of all under this head, however,” observes Smith “was the influence which the Sokoto leaders exerted on later Jihad movements in other part of the Sudan.” (24).

Ahmadu Labbo

Ahmad’s Macina in the pagan Bambara State of Segu was just next door to Hausaland and the conditions in the 18th century appear to be more or less the same as in Hausaland. Though he was in contact with scholars of Jenne, an old center of learning, and Shaykh Mukhtar al-Kunti the Qadiri Shaykh of the region, (25) he was clearly part of that expanding team of Shehu’s students, many of whom like Ahmad did not have the privilege of meeting him. Though Ahmad did not meet his Shaykh he appears to have been in constant contact with him, receiving his books and seeking his opinion and advice.

Due to the dearth of written records, especially when compared with the Sokoto Jihad, details of Ahmad Labbo’s programme is not as yet very clear. He was known to be a scholar who, in the tradition of his days, was teaching and learning at one and the same time. He seemed to have relied heavily on the literature produced by the Sokoto triumvirates in addition to the standard texts and such famous works as the Fatawi of AL-al-Maghīlī. It was clear that in course of his teaching and inspired by the spirit of Tajdeed his growing team of students became conscious of their responsibility to uproot corruption which was rampant and establish justice. It was this new consciousness generated by his teachings that apparently led him into conflict with some Ulama at Jenne who like all venal scholars (Ulama al-Su’) where finding excuses for the decadent order and delaying the process of change, He must have been referring to some of the practices condoned by the Ulama when he wrote in his only book al-idtirar illa Allah ‘”when I saw their satanic innovations in which they were so steeped as to take them for orthodox …” (26) It was to Sokoto he turned for moral and intellectual support in his fight against the Ulama al-Su’. As Brown noted:

“As early as 1815 – 16 A.D. there is evidence of his effort t to build a case against the Ulama of Jenne and other Muslims who followed similar practices. In his correspondence with Amir Abdullah b. Fudi of Gwandu in 1231 H. (1815-6) he sought clear legal (and moral) support for his criticism and received it.” (27)

As in Hausaland it was the excesses of the ruling Ardos of Bambara Sate which provoked the sense of Amr bil Ma’aruf wal Nahy anil Munkar of his Jama’a. The latter’s response to one of the numerous incidences of injustice was what sparked off the confrontation between his Jama’a and the Bambara establishment. In keeping with the tradition Seku Ahmadu as he is often known, declared the Hijra and sent some of his studetns to Shehu Usman Dan Fodio, in his dying year (1817) to receive permission to carry out the Jihad. The permission came in a form of a Flag (28) and the Jihad broke out. By 1818 the pagan establishment was overthrown and Islamic administration made up of five emirates was established and new capital, Hamdullahi was founded. (29)

The Caliphate of Macina had to rely on the literature of the Sokoto Caliphate, Ihya al-Sunnah of Shehu Usman, for example, was reported to have been adopted a s code of conduct for the State. (30) This nearly total reliance seemed to have been necessitated by the absence of local literature, which would have undoubtedly been for more relevant in dealing with the local day to day problems. Seku Ahmadu’s apparent paucity of knowledge, having written only one book, has often been identified, as the scholarship in the Bambara State compared to Hausland and Songhay had been generally low (31) and Seku Ahmadu way well be one of the most learned of his days. In any case he was the best for he took up the challenge and led a process of Tajdeed which rid his society of the corruptionand injustices of the pagan Bambara, converted many to Islam and established in Islamic State. Seku Ahmadu himself died in 1843 and the caliphate lasted up to 1862 when it was taken over by the third major wave of Tajdeed led by Hajj Umar al-Futi.

Hajj Umar Al Fūtī

The earl 19th century Futa Toro where Umar spent his childhood was very much like the greater part of West Africa – weak and decadent Muslim societies under pagan or nominal Muslim rulers. There was the strong pagan state of Bambara to the west which Ahmad Labbo’s Jihad did not dislodge. There were European, mainly French, commercial presence at the coasts serving the twin purpose of trade and reconnaissance. In spite of all these however, the Islamic educational institutions were there to offer their services; services which were to prove consequential to the region. For Umar in particular the traditional education seemed to have only roused in him such thirst for knowledge that it could not quench. In about 1825 he left the region for Hajj.

At Sokoto, on his way to Hajj, Umar spent a few months, which apparently convinced him to return and stay for a longer time after his Hajj. During his Hajj Umar got in contact with the head of the Tijjaniyya Tariqa who initiated him into the order and appointed him his representative for the whole of the western Sudan. Umar returned to Sokoto about 1826 where he stayed until the death of his host and mentor, Muhammad Bello in 1837. During these 12 years Umar became literally integrated into the Sokoto Caliphate, teaching, learning and writing and even taking part in campaigns. He thus drunk from the Sokoto intellectual stream and shared the practical experience of establishing and running an Islamic Sate. He also married Muhammad Bello’s daughter who bore him Habibu who commanded for him at Dinguiray and by another wife given him in Sokoto he had Ahmadu who succeeded him as Amir al-Muminin. (32) In about 1838 he left Sokoto along with his family and a couple of disciples, among them Hausas, passing through Macina and by 1839 settled in Futa Jallon.

In the spirit of a Sokoto tradition, which he had become part of, Umar immediately started raising students, talaba albeit in his own unique manner. For him Sufi discipline under the Tijjaniyya order was essential. It was also necessary for the talaba to learn skills not only to be self-reliant but more importantly to raise the funds to purchase arms and provision for the impending Jihad. Like his Sokoto mentors his engagement with organization and mobilization of talaba did not bar him from writing. In 1845 he wrote his famous Rimah hizb al-Rahim ala Nuhur hizb al-rajim (The lances of the Party of God Against the Throats of the Party of Evil). Most of his writings were designed to mobilize his talaba, rally them around the duty of Amr bil Ma’aruf wal Nahy anil Munkar and prepare them spiritually for the confrontation with the forces of evil. In 1849, he made his Hijra from Diagouku to Dinguiray, along with his talaba, apparently prepared for the inevitable confrontation.

As in Sokoto and Macina, it was the forces of unbelief who first attacked Hajj Umar and his talaba. In 1852 the pagan Mandinka Chieftain of Tamba dispatch an army to destroy the new base of the Muslim community. Hajj Umar and his talaba routed the pagan army and their King along with many of his people converted to Islam. Having started the Jihad in earnest, Hajj Umar attacked and conquered the pagan state of Bambara and later Ka’arta in 1855. Alarmed by the growing power of the Islamic forces the French organised a boycott against Hajj Umar. The latter took his time and later attacked the French strong hold of Medine in 1857. Though Hajj Umar could not dislodge the French and many of his talaba martyred, he however “had made his point: imperialism is an enemy, to be fought at what ever cost.” (33) Hajj Umar never gave up for he continued to organize an effective ideological campaign against the French. Hajj Umar then came to the State of Macina which he took over from the heirs of Ahmad Labbo in 1862. He himself died in 1864 and was succeeded by his son Ahmad.

Though the French colonial army which invaded the area barely two decades after the death of Hajj Umar, did not allow the State he founded to last long, Umar had already brought such changes that were to be of lasting benefits to the region. Being the first to challenge European imperialism in the region, he founded a tradition which was to spur a series of Jihads against European imperialism – Muhammadu Lamin, Maba Diakhou, Samori Toure, Ahmad Bamba, et all were all extension of Hajj Umar’s movement. These Jihads were to pave the way for further Islamisation of the region and to reinforce Muslim’s resolve to fight European imperialism and all other forms of injustices. This resolved to fight having been entrenched into the intellectual tradition of the region will continue to provide a firm base for the next wave of Tajdeed in the region.

The Pattern

The Jihads of the 19th century were essentially a phase in process of Tajdeed. It perhaps need to be stressed that the fight was not against peoples or states but against impiety, corruption and injustices which these people or states symbolized. The fight with the forces of evil was necessary if justice was to be established. But sine justice cannot be established by simply winning a battle, this battle must necessarily be preceded and followed by a programme of education which will raise the social consciousness of society infusing in it the aversion for corruption and injustice, and desire for righteousness and justice and the readiness to make the necessary sacrifices to attain it. For Tajdeed as Ibrahim Sulaiman has observed “does not imply merely the overthrow of a political power in the name of Islam; it is rather the all-rounded improvement of man – his belief, his world-view, and more importantly, his character…” (34) Indeed as Murray Last has rightly noted “The war itself was an extension of intensive preaching, once the war was over, the teaching had to continue as strongly as before not least since ideas are apt to be among he casualties of victory.” (35) This has been the pattern of Tajdeed throughout West Africa from the al-Murabit down to Hajj Umar and beyond. This patter, if details be permitted, seemed to be made up of four distinct phases:

1. Education:- This represents the first phase for it is the bedrock of Tajdeed. It is through basic education that the individual Muslim becomes prepared to play his role as a Muslim, ready to submit to the laws and regulations of Islam. In course of time education sharpens Muslim consciousness until he comes to appreciate his duty of Amr bil ma’aruf wal Nahy anil Munkar. At this point he automatically becomes a defender of the truth, guardian of justice and an enemy of evil and corruption. He thus becomes a willing soldier in the fight against munkar.

2. Mobilization:- Once education has done its part the leadership finds it easy to rally Muslims around Amr bil ma’aruf wal Nahy anil Munkar and direct their new energy in they direction of change. the greatest difficulty at this stage is not to make Jama’a fight but to restrain them until it was time to fight and to do so according to the rules stipulated by the Sharia.

3. Jihad:- Though the forces of ma’aruf are aware that they have to fight the forces of munkar if truth and justice is to be established in society, it is almost always the forces of munkar that start the battle. This is understandable for the forces of munkar, fully aware of their falsehood and corruption began to feel insecure as soon as the forces of ma’aruf dawn on the horizon. Filled with guilt, perturbed by insecurity, the forces of munkar make the mistake of firing the first bullet. Many times the forces of munkar have been proved wrong and man times they have repeated the same mistake. Indeed they are, in the eternal words of the Qur’an QAUMUN LA YAFQAHUN.

4. Victory:- For the process of Tajdeed, once started there is no failure. When and how the victory comes is not the making nor even the concern of the forces of ma’aruf, this is Allah’s prerogative. The forces of ma’aruf continue to perform their obligation and when victory comes they become even more obliged to implement the justice as demanded by Islam. Of course the extent they achieve it tends to vary according to circumstances.

Of the four phases, the phase of education appears to be the most crucial not only because it is the starting point but also because all other phases rely entirely on it. In Hausaland where this phase was longest really thirty 30 years, the process of Tajdeed was far more thorough and had a more lasting effect It was thus able to occasion and influence other waves of Tajdeed in the region. What remains to be discussed now is the source of strength to this invincible process – Tajdeed.

The Backbone

The resilience of Islam and the invincibility of the process of Tajdeed has been a source of great worry for and a subject of unending research by the forces of evil and corruption, European imperialism in particular. For the Muslims this blessing is nothing but a manifestation of mercy from their Lord. We may still however identify some of the elements that form the backbone of Tajdeed, giving it its strength and protecting it from corruption. Three of these ready come to mind and may deserve a paragraph each.

1. The Qur’an: The Qur’an representing the message that the Lord of the Universe sent to mankind, forms the greatest treasure not only for Muslims but the whole of mankind if only they knew. The Qur’an essentially informs man his origin, purpose and destiny, in very clear and absolute terms. It thus moulds the world view of the Muslims and removes ambiguities in his role on this Earth. Reading it constantly sharpens the Muslims’ sense of mission and propels him into action for he comes to realise the real life is that of al-jannah which can only be secured by serving the cause of justice, the cause of Islam.

2. Tasawwuf: Sufism, as it is sometimes called, is essentially a process of discipline which seeks to refine the individuals character ridding him of such constraints and weakness as will curtail him from serving the cause of his Lord, for which he has been created. It is significant to note that all the majaddidun that the region of West Africa has seen have gone through the discipline of Tasawwuf, and there is every reason to believe that had they not been so trained, the story in this paper would have been different. It was Tasawwuf which tamed their character cleansed them of greed for material wealth and the fear of any other than their Lord. Content which their austere life, fired by the fear of their Lord these Mujaddidun and their followers were able to carry the process of Tajdeed through the numerous obstacles they had to surmount.

3. Hijra: It is also significant that each and every of the Mujaddidun had to undertake the Hijra often on the eve of the Jihad. It is also significant that some of them like Hajj Umar kept stressing it throughout his Jihad. Hijra, to be sure, is not simply the movement from one place to another for the purpose of defense. More than that Hijra represents a break with a home, possession, etc. for the purpose of preserving Islam. In other words the Muslim who makes Hijra, al-Muharjir, has placed Islam above home, land, possession and even relatives. the concept of Hijra insists that Muslims attachment is with Islam not land, property or people , and anytime Islam demands his break with this, he should be willing and ready, only then is he a true Muslim. It is this perception which made Muslims in West Africa like their brothers and sisters much earlier in Makka, to leave their homes and possessions and come together to fight for the establishment of truth and justice.

Lest we forget, the intellectual tradition West Africa has preserved for us these three elements of Qur’an, Tasawwuf and Hijra in the young Qur’anic school students, aptly called al-Muhajir (in Hausa almajirai). In this almajirai we find the significance of the Qur’an which is their main subject of study; we also see vividly the austere life fostered by a contentment derived the discipline of Tasawwfu; and of course by deliberately leaving their homes to join a Malam who may himself itinerant they demonstrate their attachment to Islam. Their recent attack and murder in Kafanchan, Nigeria, may well mean that the forces of Kufr have began to realise what these innocent souls mean to the process of Tajdeed.

Conclusion

This paper has attempted the impossible task of reviewing the whole of the 12 centuries of Islam in West Africa. The idea of this tour d’horizon was to see if we can discern the pattern of Tajdeed during the period and identify some of its elements. What we have so far been able to find can be condensed into three points.

1. The tradition of Tajdeed in West Africa bears the stamp of al-murabit, later to be reinforced by al-al-Maghīlī, both coming from a background of struggle for the supremacy of Islam, they conferred on this tradition a taste for thoroughness and perfection that distinguished it from traditions in other parts of the Muslim world.

2. The Tajdeed in West Africa follows a pattern that seem to be made up of four phases, one inevitably leading to the other. It always starts wtih the phase of Education which is followed by Mobilization. The latter leads to Jihad which is followed by Victory. The longer the educational phase the more thorough the process and the longer the benefits last.

3.The Qur’an, Tasawwuf and Hijra have been identified as the major elements which constitute the backbone of the process of Tajdeed in West Africa. That these elements as symbolized by the almajirai are already under attack may suggest the beginning of another wave of the process of Tajdeed. Perhaps, like the Sokoto wave before it, this may also cleanse the whole region of the forces of unbelief and corruption now thriving under the patronage of imperialism.

USMAN M. BUGAJE (23 June 1987)

Footnotes:

1.The West African Region had alwasy its historians born of its own educational institutions nurtured in its own traditionof Scholarship people like al-Sa’adi, al-Ka’ati, Ahmad Baba of Timbuktu, Ahmad bin Fartuwa, Abdullah Dan Fodio, Muhammad Bello, Abdul-Qadir bn. Mustapha, and in our days Wazir Junaid. Sequel to European imperalism, western scholarship was developed essentially as a back up support and propaganda machinery for western imperialism. While many western scholars and their local pupils like Rev. Father Trimingham, Levtzio, Hiskett, remain unrepentant otheres like Murry Last and John Hunwick have conceded to Islam its place in West Africa.

2. See Abdullah Dan Fodio,’ida al-Nusukh; J.O. Hunwick The Influence of Arabic in West Africa in Transactions of the Historical society of Ghana Vol, vii 1964; Ahmad Kani’s ‘The Rise and Influence of Scholars in Hausaland before 1804’ an unpublished paper, Wilks ‘The Trasnmission of Islamic Learning in the Western Sudan’ in J. Goody (ed.) Literacy in Traditional Societies London, C.U.P 1968; Also J.O. Hunwick, ‘Salih al-Fulani (1752/3 – 1809) the Career and Teachings of West African Alim in Medina’ unpublished paper, Sa’ad Timbuktu. Cambridge C.U.P. 1983.

3. SeeDr Omar Jah. ‘Sufism and Nineteen Century Jihad Movements in the Western Sudan: A case Study of al-hajj Usman al-Futi’s Philosophy of Jihad and its Sufi Bases.’ Unpublished Ph.D. Theses 1973.

4. See Suyuti Jalal al-Din, ‘Tajdid,’ Manuscript in author’s possession.

5. al-al-Maghīlī, ‘Ajwiba,’ ed. and trans. hunwick, J.O. , in Sharia’ah in Songhai, Oxford, 1985

6.Sa’id, Muh. Bustaini, Mafhum tajdid al-Din, Kuwait: Dar al-Da’wah, 1984

7. See al-Bakri in Hopkins (trans.), Hopkins and Levtzion (eds.) Corpuse of Early Arabic Sources for West African History. P. 71

8. Ibn Abi Zar in Ibid, p. 240

9. See al-Bakri in Ibid, p. 84

10. See Hunwick, J.O. Sharia in Songhai, Op. cit., p. 15

11. See Abubakar al-Bartili ‘Fathi Shukr fi Ta’arif A’ayan Ulama’ alTakrur

12. See Gwarzo, H.I., ‘The Life and Teachings of al-al-Maghīlī with Particular Reference to the Saharan Jewish Community.’ Ph.D Thesis Univ. London, 1972 p. 86

13. Kani, A. ‘The Rise of Scholars in Hausaland Before 1804’

14. See Hunwick, J.O., ‘Notes on a Late 15th century Document Concerning ‘al-Takrur’, in African Perspectives ed. c. Allen and R.W. Johnson, Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1966, pp. 269-317.

15. See Kani, A. The Intellectual Origin of the Sokoto Jihad, Ibadan, 1405 A.H., p. 20

16. Hiskett, M., ‘An Islamic Tadition of ReforM in the Western Sudan from the 16th – 18th century,’ in B.S.O.A.S. XXV, Part 3, 1962, P.591

17. Smith, Abdullahi, A Little New Light, Zaria. Abdullahi smith Centre for Historical Research, 1987, p. 134.

18. Abd ‘Allah b. Muhammad, ‘Ida al-Nusukh

19. Muhammad Bello, Infaq al-Maysur

20. Smith, A., A Little New Light, Op. cit, p. 136

21. Bivar, A.D.H., ‘The Wathiqat ahl al-Sudan: A Manifesto of the Fulani Jihad,’ J.A.H. II, (1961), p. 239.

22. For details see Sulaiman, Ibrahim, Islamic State and the Challenge of History, London: Mansell, 1987

23. Smith, A., A Little New Light, Op. cit., 138

24. Smith, A., A Little New Light, Op. cit., P. 138

25. Ibid., P. 139

26. Quoted in Brown, W.A., ‘The Caliphate of Hamdullahi,’ Unpublished Ph.D Thesis, Wisconsin, 1969, p. 27. [1]Ibid., . 20

28. Ibid., p. 17

29. Smith, A. A Little New Light, Op. cit. ., p. 138

30. Sulaiaman, I. ‘Tajdeed in West Africa.’ Unpublished article

31. Brown, W.A., ‘The Caliphate of Hmdullahi,’ op. cit., p. 104

32. Smith, A. A Little New Light, Op. cit., p. 140

33. Jah, Umar, ‘Sufism and Nineteenth Century Jihad Movements’ Op. cit.

34. Sulaiman, I., ‘Tajdid in West Africa’, Op. cit.

35. Ibid.

The Education of Usman Dan Fodio: Chapter 2 of The African Caliphate

24598b22-715c-4624-9665-1506c41f0b04.jpg The Education of Usman Dan Fodio 

Chapter 2: The African Caliphate 

By Dr. Ibrahim Sulaiman

Shehu Usman was born into a highly cultured family in 1168/1754. His father was Muhammad ibn Salih, known generally as Fodio. His mother was Hawwa bint Muhammad ibn Usman. Shortly after his birth the family moved to Degel, where the young Usman grew up. In the Timbuktu tradition, the parents were invariably the first teachers and Shehu Usman received most of his education from his parents and relatives.

Our main sources concerning his education are Idaa’ an-Nusuukh  and Tazyiin al-Waraqaat of ʿAbdullahi Dan Fodio and Asaaniid al-Faqiir  of Shehu Usman Dan Fodio. In Idaa’ an-Nusuukh, ʿAbdullahi described his early education:

“The Shaykh read the Qur’an with his father, learned al-Ishriniyyah and similar works with his Shaykh, ʿUthman, known as Biddu al-Kabawi. He learned syntax, and the science of grammar from al-Khulaasah and other works, from our Shaykh Abd ar-Rahman ibn Hammada. He read al-Mukhtasar with our paternal and maternal uncle, Uthmaan, known as Bidduri.… This shaykh of his was learned and pious, well known for righteousness and the ordering of the right and the forbidding of the wrong, and for being occupied with what concerned him. He it is whom our Shaykh Uthmaan (Dan Fodio) imitated in states and in deeds. He accompanied him for nearly two years, molding himself according to his pattern in piety (taqwaa) and in ordering the right, and forbidding the wrong.”

Thus, the Shehu’s character was initially molded by Usman Bidduri. His inclination towards the career which eventually turned out to be the sole purpose in his life, and his keenness to call people to the way of Allah, were instilled in him by this shaykh. His influence on Shehu Usman was fundamental, enduring and far-reaching. Associated with this influence was that of Muhammad Sambo, who supervised part of Shehu’s early teachings. According to ʿAbdullahi, this scholar ‘used to attend (Shehu’s) reading of al-Mukhtasar – if he made a mistake, or let anything slip, this maternal uncle of ours would correct it for him’. Though he was away in the Hijaaz during most of the period of Shehu’s early activities his influence on the whole community was beyond question.

Continuing his account of the Shehu’s education, ʿAbdullahi wrote:

“Now Shaykh Uthmaan informed me that he had learned Qur’anic exegesis (tafsiir) from the son of our maternal and paternal uncle Aḥmad ibn Muhammad ibn al-Amin, and that he was present at the assembly of Haashim az-Zamfari (i.e. from the Hausa state of Zamfara) and heard from him Qur’anic exegesis from the beginning of the Qur’an to the end of it… He learned the science of tradition (hadiith) from our maternal and paternal uncle, al-Hajj Muhammad ibn Raj... reading with him all of Ṣaḥiiḥ of al-Bukhaari. Then he gave us license to pass on all that he had recited of that which he had learned from his Shaykh al-Madani, the Sindi of origin, Abu Al-Hassan ʿAli.”

Muhammad ibn Raj’s knowledge of ḥadiith was indeed profound. He had studied each of the most important works of ḥadiith from an uninterrupted chain of authorities such as the Imams al-Bukhaari, Muslim and Maalik. The other of note was Salih Muhammad al-Kanawi, through whom Shehu Usman also traced his isnaads in Bukhaari, Muwaṭṭa and ash-Shifaa’.

ʿAbdullahi told us further in Idaa’ an-Nusuukh that the Shehu sought knowledge from Shaykh Jibril, and he accompanied him for almost a year until they came to the town of Agades. Jibril ibn ʿUmar’s influence was both intellectual and moral. In ḥadiith, for example, the Shehu traced his isnaad in all the essential ḥadiith works, notably Bukhaari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Muwaṭṭa and Ibn Majah. Jibril was his most important authority in fiqh (or science of law) and most significantly in the various aspects of taṣawwuf (spiritual training). His silsilah (spiritual genealogy) in this sphere of life and especially in the Qaadiriyyah order, and his silsilah in Dalaa’il al-Khairaat, are all traced, in Asaaniid al-Faqiir, through Jibril. There seemed to be no aspect of learning which the Shehu undertook in which Jibril ibn ʿUmar did not leave his indelible imprint.

The real significance of Jibril ibn ʿUmar is that he gave the Shehu the idea of tajdiid, the foundations of which he himself laid. He gave his student the intellectual, moral, spiritual and ideological training he needed for the gigantic work of tajdiid. Jibril later was the first to pledge allegiance to Shehu, even before the jihad. Despite certain differences of opinion the Shehu acknowledged his profound indebtedness to Jibril, which ʿAbdullahi quoted in Idaa’ an-Nusuukh: “If there be said of me that which is said of good report, then I am but a wave of the waves of Jibril.”

Influence, though of an indirect nature, was exerted on the Shehu by Sidi Mukhtar al-Kunti, who was born in 1142/1729 and died in 1226/l811, and was thus a direct contemporary of the Shehu. Sidi Mukhtar belonged to a highly venerated Kunta family which over thirty years had produced an uninterrupted chain of scholars and saints, the most influential being Sidi Mukhtar al-Kunti. Knowledgeable and charismatic, he soon became a veritable institution himself.

According to Abdal-Aziz Batran, Sidi al-Mukhtar attracted multitudes of students, people who sought his barakah and guidance, and scholars seeking enlightenment. He assumed the leadership not only of the Kunta family, but more significantly, of the Qaadiriyyah order, giving unity to branches that had been estranged for nearly two hundred years. Thereafter, he initiated an ambitious and, indeed, successful though peaceful, moral transformation of a large part of Africa.

Sidi Mukhtar taught that the study of taṣawwuf was essential as it was imperative for self-fortification and for achieving nearness to Allah. This nearness itself involves a progressive moral transformation of the individual under the guidance of a shaykh. He also taught that zuhd means giving as much attention to the mundane aspects of life as to the spiritual; wealth, therefore, was essential as it is the cornerstone for jaah, social standing and dignity, as well as for haibah, authority and respect. He wished for a return to the basic sources of Islamic jurisprudence, and for the teachings of the Companions (Allah be pleased with them) of Muhammad to be reinstated. Moreover, he rejected exclusive adherence to one madh-hab and opened the door of ijtihaad to all who were juristically qualified.

Sidi al-Mukhtar believed that he was the mujaddid of the thirteenth century of the Hijrah whom Allah had called upon to renovate Islam and to restore the ummah to its glorious past not only in West Africa, but throughout the whole Muslim world… Like Aḥmad Baba before him, he expressed the opinion that several mujaddidun appeared periodically in different territories, including West Africa.”

We shall now look at some of the principal ideas of Sidi Mukhtar, namely his ideas on tajdiid, the ʿulamaa’ and taṣawwuf. Tajdiid is ‘the resuscitation of what has withered away of knowledge of the Qur’an and the Sunnah and the commandment of their observance’. So long as the ummah would sink from time to time into degeneration or turmoil, so long would tajdiid remain imperative.

In western Sudan, this degeneration (fasaad) was precipitated by the despot, Sonni ʿAli, who appeared in the ninth Islamic century and therefore necessitated, by implication, the tajdiid of Askia Muhammad. Further degeneration was brought about by the invasion of the Moroccan hordes who killed many of the inhabitants of western Sudan, slew the ʿulamaa’, captured as many as thirty thousand people and sacked the towns.

This destruction of life and knowledge of a large part of the western Sudan precipitated a moral and intellectual decline which necessitated the initiation of a new process of tajdiid throughout the region.

Tajdiid, Mukhtar said, could take various forms, and thus could be led by individuals with different emphases, depending on the prevailing situation. The mujaddid could be a statesman who would preserve the principles of the law, make justice triumph among the people and protect the lives and properties of the people, so that they could carry on their temporal affairs and their religious duties without any hindrance. The mujaddid could also be a zaahid who would remind the people of the world to come, call them to righteousness and renunciation of the world. Or he could be a pure scholar who would regenerate the knowledge of Sunnah and establish the authenticity of the Prophetic tradition. Few individuals could undertake tajdiid, for the standard of learning, coupled with moral sanctity, is extremely high. Sidi Mukhtar said of such a person:

“Assuming that all religious knowledge were forgotten, all literatures were burned and he were resorted to, he would have the capacity to resuscitate that knowledge and write similar books.”

It was the Sidi’s view that the center of gravity in the Muslim world had shifted to western Sudan by the eleventh Islamic century. In the century before, those who bad undertaken the tajdiid were firstly, the mujaddid of all branches of knowledge, al-Maghili; secondly, Jalaal ad-diin as-Suyuuti; thirdly, the zaahid, Sayyid Muhammad as-Sanuusi; and fourthly, the statesman, al-Hajj Askia Muhammad, but in the eleventh century, the three mujaddids that appeared in the Muslim world were, according to the Sidi, from the western Sudan. These were the faqih Ahmad Baba at-Timbukti, the famous ḥadiith scholar Muhammad Baghyu at-Takruri, and the ascetic Baba al-Mukhtar at-Timbukti. In the twelfth century, two of the three mujaddids that appeared were from western Sudan, the Sidi Mukhtar al-Kunti himself and Shehu Usman Dan Fodio.

The Sidi attributed the decline of knowledge and the triumph of bidʿah (innovation) in the western Sudan in the twelfth and the thirteenth Islamic centuries partly to the activities of the corrupt scholars (ʿulamaa’ as-suu’), whom he grouped into as many as sixteen categories. They included those who had knowledge, but failed to put it into practice; those who presented an appearance of compliance with the outward religious duties, but had not eliminated characteristics such as vanity, hypocrisy, ambition, desire for political office and high rank; those who presumed that they had the exclusive right to guide the common people and yet entered into unholy alliance with the sulṭans, thus encouraging the sulṭans’ oppression of the people; those who engaged in jihad, but only to obtain fame and wealth; and those scholars who used false methods, such as music, to lure people into spiritual practices. The danger of those scholars, the Sidi said, could be seen from the ḥadiith of the Prophet:

“I fear for my ummah after me more from ʿulamaa’ as-suu’ than from the Dajjal’, and when asked who these were, he replied that they were ʿulamaa’ al-alsinah, ‘the ʿulamaa’ of the tongue.”

Sidi insisted that taṣawwuf is an indispensable aspect of Islam, but true sufism is none other than honest and sincere adherence to the Sunnah. “If the muriid observes the commands of the Shariiʿah and refrains from doing what is prohibited by it, truly and sincerely, Allah will open in his heart a portal whereby he can see (acquire) ʿuluumu-l-ḥaqiiqah. And if he adheres to the rules of ʿuluumu-l-ḥaqiiqah, Allah will cause to open a further portal within his inner self whereby he shall see the Kingdom of Heaven and realities of Allah’s might.” The combination of law and moral purification seemed to him the best way to practice religion.

The Sidi’s views on the use of music in sufism and on zuhd are worth noting. “Allah, the Almighty, is not worshipped by dancing and chanting… We the Qaadirii do not approve of dancing, frivolous playing and merry making because they are degrading to man’s dignity and damaging to his honor.” Zuhd does not mean squandering one’s wealth or declaring as illegal what Allah has decreed to be legal, such as taking up a profession or other economic pursuits. Zuhd is to dispense the world willingly when one possesses it and to be at rest in one’s heart when one loses it’. “The Companions of the Prophet,” he said, “possessed the world and held it like the trustworthy treasurer, kept it in the lawful manner and distributed it in the legal way. They neither clung to it nor had any inclination towards it.”

Sidi Mukhtar’s influence on the Shehu and his movement itself was first and foremost spiritual, for as the undisputed head of the Qaadiriyyah order to which the Shehu belonged and as a dynamic intellectual personality, he was bound to exert a deep influence over the Shehu. Some of the three hundred or so books and treatises he wrote were certainly brought to the attention of the Shehu, and his students and companions also made their own particular impact. Significantly, the Sidi used his vast and profound influence in support of the Shehu and his movement, a support that advanced the course of the jiihad in considerable measure.

We have mentioned some of the men who influenced the Shehu to indicate the kind of training he had, although it is impossible for us to know all of them. There are surely other personalities who contributed to the making of the Shehu in much the same way as those we have mentioned, but who are not known to us and may never be known. What cannot be denied is that the Shehu drank deeply from the great pond of knowledge which the western Sudan had to offer. It is to his credit that he sought knowledge wherever he could find it, and that even when he had grown important and more famous than most of the scholars, he still sat humbly before them, learning from them. He also learned the primary sources – the Qur’an and ḥadiith – from as many authorities as possible. At the end, of the day he had acquired not only a deep and indelible knowledge of these sources, but also the different interpretations that had been developed through several centuries.

The Shaping of a Character

The Shehu, from what we can understand, must have seen in al-Maghili a vigorous intellectual who had a deep knowledge in the sciences necessary for changing the intellectual precepts of people, and who had a noble character imbued with the requisite moral persuasion to sway even the most powerful of men. In al-Maghili, the Shehu saw how an individual, even though having refugee status, could effect a lasting change in the life of nations and set their history, almost single-handedly, upon a totally different course, by the sheer force of his intellect, his moral authority and his absolute reliance on Allah. He took time to study al-Maghili properly, taking from him, as faithfully as possible, the concept of tajdiid, of society and of government, as well as the nature of the ideological divide between Muslims and those who serve the cause of evil.

In al-Barnawi, as well as in a number of scholars of his time and especially those of the intellectual centers of Borno, Katsina and Kano, the Shehu must have seen the concept of an active, purifying and transformative jurisprudence, which even though it had been relegated to the background and lost its supremacy, could still serve as a potent forum for protest and mobilization for the revival of Islam. Indeed, the point that came out clearly in al-Barnawi was that what was wrong in respect of law was not so much the stagnation it had suffered as a result of the loss of genuine ʿulamaa’, as the neglect it had suffered in its abandonment by society. Law grows and develops through application.

In Sidi Ahmad Baba, who epitomized the spirit of the Timbuktu tradition, the Shehu must have perceived the role and place of the scholar in society. The scholar’s first responsibility is to acquaint himself with the basic knowledge of the sources, then of the law, then of different sciences that support the life of society, and then of history and so on. This will place him in a position to guide society in all essential areas and to put himself at the disposal of every segment of society. His second responsibility is to stand up boldly as the guardian of the conscience of society, preventing any assault or outrage against the values of society or against the sanctity of its beliefs and institutions. In this way, he serves as the force behind the preservation of the moral and social purity of society and respect for the integrity of the nation. The scholar’s third responsibility is to stand up for the poor and the oppressed, to defend their rights, and strive for the accomplishment of their aspirations. The scholar’s fourth responsibility is to stand up for the defense of the nation and enhance its integrity as a nation faithful to Allah and submissive to His laws. As an institution in himself and an active observer of events and history, the scholar is morally bound to warn his nation with all the power and means at his disposal against possible deviations from Islam and to state as clearly as possible the moral, political and historical consequences of such deviations. Finally, it is his responsibility to raise a generation of men and women capable of taking societal responsibilities, or of steering the course of society in a positive direction when the signs of degeneration are apparent.

When considering his teachers and contemporaries, the influence of Usman Bidduri should not be underrated. He was a scholar, who combined learning and piety, and who was dissatisfied with the prevailing corruption and felt the acute need for change, but who at the same time had the wisdom and patience first to sow the seeds of change. He quietly transferred his desires for change to a future generation, and died silently, leaving a legacy for the future. The Shehu, we are told, imitated him in almost all situations relating to his work, recognizing that restraint and patience, as well as a depth of understanding of the issues at stake, are essential ingredients for social transformation, but it was the learned and pious Jibril ibn ʿUmar who gave him the instruments with which to strive against the currents of the time. In Shehu’s studies of ḥadiith, in his efforts to acquire a deep knowledge of law and jurisprudence, in his studies and practice of taṣawwuf, in his endeavors to get a more intimate spiritual relationship with the Prophet, and in his endeavors to understand his society and work for its improvement, he found in Jibril a worthy and eager mentor. He learned the importance of restraint, of open mindedness and sympathy for the inadequacies of the common people, and from the reverses which his teacher had suffered in his attempt to change society too quickly.

Other scholars also left their marks. The supervision of his teachings by the saintly Muhammad Sambo, the vast knowledge of ḥadiith acquired from Al-Hajj Muhammad Raj and the important studies of the Qur’an and its exegesis from Muhammad al-Amin all influenced the Shehu deeply.

In Sidi Mukhtar al-Kunti, he found the true embodiment of sainthood; a versatile and richly endowed scholar who had the view that concern for the world and the more lofty concern for the hereafter had to be combined in a single individual to create a saint. The Sidi also maintained that both temporal and spiritual matters should be brought under the single authority of Islam if the world were to be a better place in which to live. In him, Shehu Usman must also have seen a dynamic and revolutionary sufism concerned to secure for man a just society on earth and Allah’s pleasure in the hereafter. He must have seen in Mukhtar al-Kunti the extent to which an individual possessing sanctity and prestige could penetrate hearts and secure their allegiance for the task of creating a better society. It was to the credit of both the Shehu and al-Kunti that they did not view each other as rivals, but rather mujaddids; each engaged in the same endeavors in the cause of Allah; each employing slightly different methods.

There were many other aspects to the shaping of the Shehu’s personality. All that he had learned of the Arabic language, Qur’anic exegesis, science of ḥadiith were a mere introduction to the wider world of learning and scholarship. From the Mukhtasar of Khalil the Shehu moved further to drink from the great pool of jurisprudence of the Maaliki and the other three schools.

Although the Maaliki school was sufficient for his needs, he felt he should know the principles of other schools, for as he himself said, “there is no rule in Islam, other than that of mere convenience, that restricts a community to follow a particular school of law.”

Then, the Shehu ventured boldly in the world of sufism and learned and practiced the rites of several branches of the Qaadiriyyah, including that of Sidi Mukhtar al-Kunti. In addition, he read almost everything that reached him from the works of al-Ghazali, most especially the Ihyaa’ from which he derived much profit. His book, titled boldly as Ṭariiq al-Jannah, was but a summary of what al-Ghazali had written on piety and moral purification. Then he examined the works of other great ṣufi personalities – the sage Ibn al-ʿArabi, the saint az-Zarruuq, his teacher Ibn ʿAtta Allah, amongst others. He also studied other ṣufi orders, because as far as he was concerned, sufism, like Islamic jurisprudence, is but a tree with many branches.

The Shehu studied history, especially of the rightly-guided khilaafah and of Islam in general. He took special interest in the history of the western Sudan from which he perceived the inevitable confrontation between the forces of light and darkness in the region. The most important of Shehu’s personal efforts were in the studies of the Qur’an and ḥadiith. By investigating these two sources over and over again and by teaching some of them from the beginning to the end many times over, he acquired a deep knowledge of them. In his Asaaniid al-Faqiir, the Shehu leaves no one in doubt as to his tremendous knowledge of the ḥadiith – it seems that he had read and taught almost all the ḥadiiths contained in the authentic collections.

The result of all this made Shehu Usman a forest of knowledge, a jurist, a saint, “He grew up penitent and devout,” Muhammad Bello told us in Infaaq al-Maysuur, “possessed of pleasing qualities. And none was his equal. People trusted him, and flocked to him from the east and west.” Bello continues:

“He instructed the ʿulamaa’ and raised the banner of religion. He revived the Sunnah and put an end to heresy. He spread knowledge and dispelled perplexity. His learning dazzled men’s minds. He showed how reality (ḥaqiiqah) was to be reconciled with the Shariiʿah. For years he explained the Qur’an in the presence of learned and righteous men of importance, vying with them, through his reading and the different branches of his learning, in rhetoric, and in the knowledge of the authorities, and of what is written and what is abrogated. At the same time, he was pre-eminent in knowledge of the hadiith, and learned in its unfamiliar parts and different branches. Revered by both great and small, he was a Mujaddid at the head of this generation.”

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The Jihad of Shaykh Usman Dan Fodio and Its Impact Beyond The Sokoto Caliphate

The Jihad oF Shaykh Usman Dan Fodio and Its Impact Beyond The Sokoto Caliphate

By Dr. Usman Bugaje

Background

“Oh send on my behalf to my tribe a letter,
To which men or honest women may pay attention,
To their scholar, or seeker after knowledge, desiring
To make manifest the religion of God, giving good advice therein.
I say to him: Rise up, and call to religion with a call
Which the common people shall answer, or the great lords;
And do not fear, in making manifest the religion of Muhammad
The words of one who hates, whom fools imitate.
And do not fear to be accused of lying; nor the disavowal of the apostate;
Nor the mockery of the ignorant man gone astray
While the truth is as the morning;
Nor the backbiting of a slanderer; nor the rancour of one who bears a grudge,
Who is helped by one who relies upon (evil) customs.
None can destroy what the hands of God has built.
None can overthrow the order of God if it comes.”

Shaykh Abdullahi, the younger Brother of Usman Dan Fodio, and the conscience of the Sokoto Jihad, may not have meant it, but the verses he composed above, succinctly summarise their endeavour from start to finish. It all started with a group of young scholars who were rightly worried about the level of ignorance as well as injustices in their society. Their immediate objective was to disseminate the knowledge of the religion clearly and widely. They were motivated by the consciousness of their responsibility and sustained by their strong belief that God was on their side. They faced an array of obstacles, starting from their peers who thought that they were crazy to contemplate a change in the rotten society they were born into, then their contemporary scholars who were eager to find faults in what they did and called them all sorts of names, and ultimately the rulers of Hausaland who realised that the success of this movement was going to be at the expense of their cherished thrones. These obstacles, formidable as some of them were, did not, however, dissuade them from their path. Those movements that were to follow, invariably took similar path. It was a well trodden path, the path of the prophets of old.

This Jihad in Hausaland was what pulled the Hausaland from out of the abyss of corruption, decadence and insecurity, into which the Hausa states had sunk. It gave these states the security and stability which had eluded it for the best part of two centuries and restored to Islam its position of honour and respect. The Jihad also triggered series of similar Jihad Movements in the 19th century Bilad al- Sudan and beyond. These Jihad Movements were to salvage the societies of the region from decay and collapse and radically transformed their polities putting them once again on the path of Islam. This paper is not about the Sokoto Jihad as such, for this has been adequately addressed by other papers of the conference, rather, the paper is about its impact beyond the Sokoto Caliphate. It may still be necessary, however, to begin with some broad outline of the Sokoto Jihad, highlighting those aspects especially significant to its impact beyond the immediate theatre of the Jihad.

It was the good fortune of Hausaland and ultimately of the people Bilad al-Sudan (the land of the Blacks) that Allah raised among their ranks a scholar who was not prepared to accept the decadent status-quo with the usual fatalism, as the will of God, but saw it as his primary responsibility to change it. To be sure, Shehu Usman did not, and could not have, set out early in his life to organise a jihad and to establish an Islamic state and society. In fact little did he realise that his modest effort will lead to any event beyond his little state of Gobir. Even when he ventured out of Gobir to the neighbouring states, partly to source scholars and pursue his higher learning and partly to expand his enlightenment of the wider society, he clearly did not envisage much coming out of his efforts. But from 1774, at the young age of twenty, Shaykh Usman spent about two decades as an itinerant scholar, constantly moving from one place to the other teaching, writing and gathering an increasing following as his fame spread well beyond Hausaland. By the time he settled down at Degel, in the Hausa state of Gobir, about 1793, he found himself at the head of an expanding network of scholars and students, many of whom never met him in person, covering such areas as Masina and Segu in the West and Borno and Chad in the East, sharing his ideas of reform and yearning for change. This then is the movement, the Jama’a, as Shehu called his following, which in course of some three decades slowly but perceptibly eroded the old and corrupt order in Hausaland and having fought and won the Jihad, reordered their society and polities along Islamic lines.

By the end of the first decade, while a young man of about thirty years of age, Shehu’s name had become household in Hausaland. He had emerged at the head of a group of young scholars, yearning for change and sharing some revolutionary ideas. This naturally attracted for the Shaykh, the envy and wrath of the more established scholars. Some of these scholars took him up on a number of issues, especially some of the shaykh’s liberal ideas about women education and role in society and Shehu’s departure from the hair-splitting issues of ilm al-kalam and the dry as dust fiqh to the more relevant issues of understanding the basics of Islam and the elimination of Bid’ah (superstitions), corruption and injustices rampant in the society. The attack on the Shaykh was sometimes done in letters, poems and often in the form of insinuations. In most cases the Shaykh responded by writing, composing a poem or writing whole works. In this process alone the Shaykh wrote more than fifty works, as reported by his son and helper Muhammad Bello.

By the half of the second decade, Shehu Usman had emerged victorious in this intellectual debate that raged for nearly a decade. The intellectual leadership of Hausaland was gradually, if grudgingly, conceded to him. This leadership was in a way formalised in 1789 when Bawa Jan Gwarzo, the powerful king of Gobir, invited all scholars at the celebration of Eid al-Kabir, and showered them with gifts. Shehu was reported to have been given the lions share, in clear recognition of his leadership position. Not surprisingly, however, Shehu declined to accept the wealth showered on him and instead requested the king to grant him five wishes: the reduction of taxes, release of prisoners, freedom to preach, suspension of harassment by state officials especially in respect of women who wear proper Islamic outfit and same in respect of men who adore the turban as a mark of the new consciousness. By this singular act, unprecedented in his time, Shehu Usman earned himself a higher station yet. For the rejection of the gift earned him respect of the king, independence from the establishment and more profoundly endeared him not only to his followers but the ordinary people at large whose interest he identified with and stuck out his neck to protect.

By 1793, when Shehu saw the need to and eventually settled down at Degel, he saw how this small village swelled with scholars and students from all over the Bilad al-Sudan, and transform into a university town. By this time and in the course of nearly two decades of itinerant life, Shehu found it necessary to write a number of books delineating the basics of Islam, such as Kitab Usul al-Din, Kitab Ulum al-Muamalat, Ihya’ al-Sunnah, etc. Many of these books spread far and wide and became the standard texts of study in the growing number of schools and the expanding circles of students all over Hausaland and beyond. Thus while in Degel, Shehu had cause to concentrate on higher studies and found time specifically to attend to and groom women scholars. It was also here in Degel that he found the time to focus on the spiritual training of both his person and the community, often taking time off to go into khalwa. It was significant that Shehu found time for spiritual training only after he thought he had taken care of the basic and more fundamental aspects of Islam. And that even when he started he made sure he did not overemphasise it nor did he regiment the whole community to the Qadiriyya order, which he chose. In Degel Shehu found himself at the head of a large and ever expanding movement of scholars and students which required co-ordination.

If Shehu was oblivious of the potentials of his growing Jama’a, the Hausa rulers were certainly not. For Shehu, the growth of the Jama’a may only mean an end to the ignorance that propelled him into action in the first place and a hope for a more enlightened and therefore peaceful Muslim community. But for the Hausa rulers, every growth of the Jama’a represent a shrink of their power base and more seriously it represents a threat to the tyrannical and corrupt status-quo, where the rulers did as they pleased. Not surprisingly, the first salvo was therefore fired by the increasingly insecure ruling class whose constituency was shrinking and coming to extinction. This was precisely what started the jihad, a clash which was ultimately inevitable.

As early as 1797 or so, following the rise to power of a new king in Gobir, Napata, in 1796, the Jama’a started to face organised state persecution, in the form of physical attack, arrests and imprisonment. Having sensed danger, Shehu started to prepare the community for a confrontation that turned out to be inevitable. He composed a poem which was auspiciously in praise of Shaykh Abdulqadir al-Jaylani, in which he urged the community to acquire arms as it was Sunnah to do so. The tension continued to heighten and Yunfa who took over from Napata as the king of Gobir in 1803 only made matters worse. This prompted the Shehu to compose another work aptly titled Masa’il al-Muhimma in which he argued the necessity for hijra and the need to rise against a tyrannical ruler, but only when the community has the strength to do so. The mood of the community had changed and the Jama’a grew restive. Following a few skirmishes and a threat for an all-out attack on the community from Yunfa, Shehu called for a hijra to Gudu, a place on the boarders of Gobir. He wrote and circulated in the same year yet another document, this time titled, Wathiqat Ahl al-Sudan wa man Sha’ Allah min al-Ikhwan, arguing for the necessity for jihad and urging the Jama’a to come out for hijra and jihad.

The hijra itself started in February of 1804, and before the Jama’a could finish assembling at Gudu, they came under attack, first by Yunfa and consequently by other kings of other Hausa states, and the jihad began. Until April of 1806 when the Jama’a captured Kebbi, they had no base and had to be constantly on the move, carrying their families as well as their libraries, often pursued by their enemies. Yet in the thick of this no doubt tormenting confusion and daunting obstacles, Shehu and his brother Abdullahi still found time to write. In fact, it was in November 1806, at Kebbi, Shehu Completed one of the most voluminous of his works, the Bayan Wujub al-Hijra ala al-Ibad, a work of 63 short chapters that expounds on, not only the necessity of hijra and jihad, but the rules that govern them and how to set up and Islamic administration in the event of victory. Many battles were fought and by 1810, the jihad was in the main over. The Jama’a emerged victorious and found themselves at the head of an extensive area made up of several Hausa states and soon set about the task of reordering this vast polity, the Sokoto Caliphate.

For similar or related articles on this site click the links below:

Tajdid 1

Tajdid 2

Bilaadu-s-Sudan

Book Review of ‘The African Caliphate’ – Author: Ibrahim Sulaiman

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This is a book about tajdiid and jihād that follows the example set by the Prophet Muhammad صلّى اللّه عليه وسلّم and those who patterned themselves after him, up until the time the Muslims became overwhelmed by the arrival of non-Muslim Europeans  and their eventual occupation of the Muslim lands in the 19th and 20th Century.  The author has chosen to write about ʿUthmaan dan Fodio, a pure scholar who through the method of tajdiid revived the knowledge of the Sunnah, fought a lawful jihād, established dar al-Islam and instituted proper Islamic governance in Hausaland during his time.

Tajdiid can be translated from Arabic to mean: ‘revival, restoration, resuscitation, regeneration and jihād can be translated from the Arabic to mean: exertion, striving, going through pain for the sake of something, a struggle or battle to defend dar al-Islam against its enemy, unbelief, innovation or rebellion against Allah; or a battle to defeat kufr and to establish Islam in its place.

Islam, which is Sunnatu-l-laah (Allah’s perfect command) and Sunnah Muhammad (Prophets perfect behavior) was sent down by Allah and was established by His Messenger, as the perfect balance of social transaction and governance.

Islam is established and revived by a classical pattern of action or behavior which began in the time of the Prophet Muhammad صلّى اللّه عليه وسلّم and the first three generations of Muslims. That pattern is daʿwah for non-Muslims, tajdiid for the Muslims, hijrah, and jihād followed by the establishment of governance or government.  If after a number of generations there is a decline in the practice of Islam, the Prophet is reported to have said in a sound hadiith, “At the beginning of every century, Allah will send a mujaddid (a reviver, regenerator, resuscitator, one who does tajdiid) to regenerate their religion for them.”

Thus, this is the pattern, the model of Islam established by the Messenger of Allah صلّى اللّه عليه وسلّم and re-enacted through out the history of Islam by those genuine and upright scholars who came after him. Shaykh ʿUthmaan ibn Fūdī known as dan Fodio or simply Shehu Usman was one of those scholars who chose to meticulously followed this pattern and model.

Islam had been in Hausaland which included Kano, Katsina, Zaria and Gobir among other states, since its arrival there around 15th century C.E. During his reign, Muhammad Rumfa the Sultan of Kano (d. 1499) under the guidance of Muhammad bin Abdul Karīm al-Maghīlī, strove to see that the pure practice of Islam and true Islamic governance were well established there. However, by the 18 century during the era of Shaykh ʿUthmaan dan Fodio, the practice of Islam had greatly degenerated in Hausaland.

The Islamic practice of the rulers of Hausaland had become corrupt. As a result, these rulers failed to save their nations from moral and social decay and used every means to ruin all constructive efforts to revive and regenerate Islam as a pure practice for the worship of Allah. All aspects of the practice of Islam in Hausaland had become corrupted and Hausa society was continuously sinking into decline and turmoil.

Yet, by the very fact that the practice of Islam had already been established in Hausaland, and then fell into corruption and degeneration, and its rulers were judged by Shehu ʿUthmaan and the fuquhaa’ that were with him to be mukhalliṭuun (those who mix the practice of Islam and the practice of kufr together), and the fact that in Hausaland, there were people who denied the the resurrection, ridiculed Islam, worshipped idols, disrespected Allah and denied the Prophethood of Muhammad – this behavior coming from both those who professed Islam and those who rejected it – Shehu ʿUthmaan did not start out by calling for the forcible overthrow of the government or social order’ in favor of a ‘new system, but rather, he realized what was needed everywhere in Hausaland was the work of tajdiid (the restoration) of Islam and the Sunnah. His first objective therefore, was the education of the masses and to stop the innovation and un-Islamic practices among them, then at a much later stage he decide to go the rulers of Hausaland and explain true Islam to them and encourage them to follow it.

In the book the author demonstrates that through out his mission, Shaykh ʿUthmaan, used the blueprint left behind by the Prophet and the first three generations of Muslims, which showed him the correct approach to opposing the decadent and crumbling old order which supported and upheld corrupt customs and the abominable mukhalliṭ (syncretic) behavior in Hausaland. Shaykh ʿUthmaan aided by the members of his Jamaaʿah, eventually cleansed Islam in Hausaland of the corrupt practices and innovation that had crept into it over a long period of time, and they restored Islam to its place of honor and brought back the practice of Islam in Hausaland to its pristine purity.

Society, the Shehu said, should return to the Sunnah, which is the fitrah (natural disposition) of the human being. Thus, he started his mission with the process of tajdiid, commanding the good and prohibiting evil, a process which was aimed at educating the people, changing their view of the world, transforming their character, social behavior and political allegiance.

This was the most crucial phase in the entire tajdiid process. The Shehu also saw tajdiid as a process of moral refreshment and intellectual rejuvenation and the resuscitation of the knowledge of the Qur’an and the Sunnah and their practice. As long as the ummah would sink from time to time into degenerative and weak state, the need for tajdiid would remain. As a scholar who undertook the task of social change, Shehu Uthmaan believed that the salvation of the ummah in general and Hausaland in particular rest solely in the revival of a social pattern based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah.

The Shehu’s ambition and his declared goal, his purpose, he continually reiterated as previously stated, was to bring about a transformation of society by calling people to Islam, commanding the good and prohibiting evil, and working to destroy the negative affects of innovation (bidʿah) that had crept into the social fabric which also included establishing, once again, the supremacy of the Sunnah. As a true mujaddid, Shehu ʿUthmaan had as his ultimate ambition, the establishment of a society that followed as closely as possible the Madinan society during the time of the Prophet and the first three generations.

The hijrah which followed the Shehu’s work of tajdiid and subsequent jihād was not a hasty recourse to arm confrontation. Recourse to armed confrontation is allowed only when all the possibilities for a peaceful education of the people have been exhausted. The Shehu knew all to well, that it was necessary for a mujaddid and anyone who who undertook the work of tajdiid to first establish roots in the hearts of the people and in the social fabric of society before it ventures into a confrontation.

The Shehu attributed hasty recourse to armed confrontation, to delusional worldly intrigues that was satanically inspired and connected to ambition and love of power. True, authentic and correct jihād is born out of restraint, because rushing to achieve success through armed confrontation when one is in a position of weakness is ruled out as an Islamic strategy. As long as there exists the possibility, to disseminate Islam peacefully, the scholar must maintain the peace and utilized all peaceful methods at his disposal. If the situation changes from what is possible to what is impossible, the next course of action is for the scholar to make hijrah to another area of safety (dar al-Islam) where he can continue his efforts peacefully.

Recourse to armed confrontation is allowed only when all the possibilities for a peaceful education of the people have been exhausted or dar al-Islam comes under the threat of attack or more appropriately, when one has mustered sufficient strength to confront the prevailing order, because once the fighting begins, it does not stop ‘until the war lays down its burden’ as Allah has mentioned in the Qur’an 47:4.

It was only after the hijrah to Gudu and the Hausa rulers threatened the Muslims with razi’ah (the infliction of heavy losses) and extermination that the Shehu declared jihād. The jihād would become a struggle to both establish and revive Islam in Hausaland. The jihād was declared against four kinds of kings who who under the Islamic legal ruling were considered to be kuffaar: the unbelieving king who never was a Muslim, the unbelieving king who professed Islam for outward show only, an apostate king who abandons Islam and return to unbelief, and the king who outwardly remains Muslim, but mixed the practices of Islam with the practices of unbelief.

The jihād fought by the Shehu and his followers was not a revolution. There is no question that dramatic and wide-reaching changes took place in the people’s actions and ideas, and so under those circumstances, the jihād in Hausaland might be seen as a revolution, however the Shehu’s jihād was fought to overthrow kufr, whereas, if it was a revolution in the sense of insurrection and coup d’état, the battle would have been fought merely to overthrow kings. The kings of Hausaland weren’t fought because they were defenders of corrupt monarchy. They were fought because they were defenders of kufr. Another reason why the Shehu’s jihād, was not a revolution is because the jihād he fought was a conflict between truth and falsehood and not a confrontation between individuals or economic philosophies or bankrupt political systems. It was a conflict between two orders, two diins: diinu-l-Islam and diin-l-kufr, a conflict between those who wanted to empower Islam, and its pure practice and method of governance, on the one hand and those who wanted kufr to continue to prevail in every aspect of the social and political transaction on the other. jihād is a command from Allah while revolution is based on the ambition of men.

Finally, we will quote the author of this work, Ibraheem Sulaiman who himself has succinctly and eloquently written in Chapter Five of this book about the difference between the genuine process of tajdiid and the mere effort to effect change by a political revolution:

“If tajdiid were merely a matter of political revolutions or change of leadership, then there are quicker ways than the recourse to the Qur’an and Sunnah, but tajdiid is the transformation of the heart, of human disposition and of the destiny of man itself which clearly transcends the attainment of political power. To believe that a quick political ascendancy is all that Islam is about is to cast a vulgar look at a sublime system. What Islam wants is an enduring transformation, which cannot be realized by a social hurricane which brings destruction and consumes even what it claims to rectify.” pp. 76-77.

On another note, the tendency of certain non-Muslims writers and scholars, who as outsiders to Islam writing about Shehu ʿUthmaan dan Fodio and the establishment of the Sokoto Caliphate, is to concentrate on the jihād in Hausaland while ignoring the prevailing conditions of corruption and the degeneration of Islamic practice in Hausaland, and the work of tajdiid initiated by Shehu Usman to rectify the situation. This often occurs, because it is not the responsibility of non-Muslim writers and scholars to defend Islam nor is it their responsibility to present the life and work of Muslims such as Shaykh Uthmaan dan Fodio in a light or manner that reflects the whole truth.

This book on the other hand has been authored by a Muslim scholar, who does not have the disadvantage of standing on the outside of Islam looking in or the disadvantaged of being restrained by restrictive and ‘straight-jacketing’ academic or publishing requirements and technicalities that are found in the writings of some non-Muslims and Muslims who write about Islam and Muslims. This book, thus is a seminal work on the subject of tajdiid and jihaad and ‘a must read’ for Muslims who are seriously interested in understanding the methodology of tajdiid and the methodology used to conduct lawful jihād, that are found in the Kitaab wa-s-Sunnah.

Non-Muslims also stand to benefit from reading this book. Non-Muslims have been bombarded by the media and other would-be commentators with the term ‘jihād’ out of the context of its correct meaning, application and reality. This book puts jihād as a methodology back into its proper context. It clarifies that tajdiid, hijrah and then jihād is the sequential pattern of action that has been carried out by the people of knowledge, since the time of the first generation of Muslims up until the time of the arrival of the European colonial powers in Muslim lands. This book confirms that jihād has proper rules of engagement and conduct, and that jihād is a last resort measure coming towards the final stage in the process of the establishment or reestablishment of Islam, and not the first or only resort for Muslims.

Buy ‘The African Caliphate’ now from  Diwan Press (Just press the link)

Scholarship and Revolution: An Examination of the Impact of a Tradition of Tajdīd on the Sokoto Caliphal Leader

Scholarship and Revolution: An Examination of the Impact of a Tradition of Tajdid on the Sokoto Caliphal Leader

by

Dr. Usman Bugaje

European scholarship has for a long time wallowed in the infatuation that African history and literature are nothing but reaction to or extension of its history and literature. As late as the nineties scholars in the field of African literature had occasion to complain that “Islam had been ignored, unseen or glossed over. And yet, in the works of many African writers Islam provides the key components.” (1) Professor Bernard Lewis, a leading Western historian of Islam, has himself expressed concern over “this recurring unwillingness to recognise the nature of Islam or even the fact of Islam as an independent, different and autonomous religious phenomenon.” (2) In Bernard Lewis’s opinion, “Modern western man, being unable for the most part to assign a dominant and central place for religion in his own affairs, found himself unable to conceive that any other peoples in any other place could have done so … to the modern western mind, it is not conceivable that men would fight and die in such numbers over mere differences in religion; there have to be some other “genuine” reasons underneath the religious veil.” (3) It is heartening, therefore, to note that studies on the Sokoto Caliphate have continued to gradually if grudgingly, concede to Islam the central role it played in the motivation as well as the management of the revolution.

Reform and revolution or tajdid, to use a more familiar Islamic term, is as old as Islam itself. The word tajdid may not have been used by the Qur’an, but the ahadith are unmistakably explicit. To appreciate tajdid we must recall the fact that the Islamic world view is premised on the principle that man from the time Adam (AS) left the garden has been promised guidance in form of Messengers to be sent, the last of who was Muhammad (SAW). The finality of prophet hood which is very cardinal to Islamic belief system is precisely what made tajdid necessary since human society will continue to be prone to stagnation and decline. “The birth of Islam”, as Muhammad Iqbal, the great philosopher noted, “is the birth of inductive intellect. In Islam prophecy reaches its perfection in discovering the need of its own abolition. … The abolition of priesthood and hereditary kingship in Islam, the constant appeal to reason and experience in the Qur’an, and the emphasis that it lays on Nature and History as sources of Human Knowledge,  are all different aspect of the same idea of finality.” (4)It is significant that it was the Prophet Muhammad that was to declare that “certainly Allah will raise for this community, at the head of every hundred years, one(s) (man) who will renew (yujaddid) for her, her religion.” (5) Since then, the desire among Islamic scholars to meet this expectation has been on the increase, giving birth to a tradition of tajdid in the Muslim community. Scholars of old had since looked out for a mujaddid and had developed numerous criteria and a compendium of mujaddidun of every age, land and clime.

Too often it is not realised that 18th and 19th century Hausaland, where the Sokoto Caliphal leaders lived and led their revolution, is heir to a tradition of scholarship and reform spanning nearly a whole millennium. From the 11th century when the Murabitun movement triggered waves of indigenous scholarship and reform, Western Bilad al-Sudan has seen the sprouting of centres of learning and the network of scholars putting the region at par with its peers around the world. The chain and network of scholarship linking the generations of scholars in the region is becoming increasingly clear as research grows. Abdullah b. Yasin and his military exploits used to be all that was heard of the Murabitun movement. But later research focusing on the likes of Imam al-Hadrami, the learned scholar brought by Abu Bakr b. Umar and made the Qadi of Azzugi, has thrown light on the development of local scholarship. The link between the murabitun scholars and Aqit family of Timbuktu has established the continuity of this tradition. The influence of Ahmad Baba, his Shaykh Muhammad Baghayagho, Shaykh Mukhtar al-Kunti al-Kabir and a host of them on the thinking of the Sokoto caliphal leaders is very evident from their numerous writings.

The Sokoto caliphal leaders were descendants of this network of scholarship and were taught first by their parents and uncles all of whom were scholars born of this great tradition of learning. It is fairly easy to understand where the inspiration of reform was coming from. It is important to also appreciate that when Shehu Usman started his career as itinerant teacher, he distinguished himself from his peers not so much for his learning like his sense of mission. His first ever writing was said to be a poem in praise of the Prophet Muhammad, as was common in the scholarly circle of his time, in which he was expressing his yearning to walk in the shade of the Prophet, reviving his Sunnah. It would appear that the seeds for reform must have already been sown from his early education; all that Jibril b. Umar, his revolutionary teacher, may have done was simply to water it.

Subsequent writings of Shehu Usman continued to emphasise the need, nay necessity of complying with the Sunnah, in worship as well as social conduct. It was not surprising therefore his major pre-jihad work was entitled Ihya’ al-Sunnah wa Ikhmad al-bid’a. Some, especially Arab scholars, have been tempted by this title to think that Shehu Usman’s movement had been inspired by the wahabi movement of the Arabian peninsular. As Fathi Masri had adequately argued (6), this is not tenable if only because the Wahabis are anti-Sufi and Shehu’s was unmistakably Sufi. The sources that Shehu drew upon in his Ihya are strongly sufi and largely from this chain of scholars who have been heirs to the Murabitun and Timbuktu tradition of learning. When Shehu later addressed socio-political issues his reliance on the leading scholars of the western Bilad al-Sudan became more evident. For example in addressing the issue of slavery and the classification of Muslims in the region, he drew very much from the works of Ahmad Baba of Timbuktu, especially his Kashf.

In the pre-jihad period when Shehu Usman had to prepare his community for an eventual confrontation and buttress his position on the need for jihad he had to rely very much on the works of Maghili, like the Taj al-Din fi ma Yajib ala al-Muluk, the Nasiha of Mukhtar al-Kunti and occasionally the Tafsir of Jalalyn of Muhalli and Suyuti, Ibn Khaldun’s al-Ta’rikh al-Kabir, the Takmila of Suyuti and similar works. His Kitab al-Farq drew heavily on Shurb al-Zulal of Shaykh al-Barnawi (Ajrami).

Even after the jihad when the task of running the Caliphate called for more discussion and writing, the caliphal leaders continued to draw from the works of the scholars of the region. Abdullahi’s Diya’al-Sultan drew substantially from Al-Maghili’s Taj alDin.

It is no longer possible to see Shehu Usman and his team in isolation from this tradition whose seeds were sown from the time of the Murabitun and watered by the scholars of the region like Ahmad Baba, al-Maghili, al-Kunti etc, occasionally assisted by others like Sahnun, author of the Mudawwana, Ahmad Zarruq the Sufi of Misurata, Jalaluddin al-Suyuti etc. The mission and the vision of the Sokoto Caliphal leaders has been very much the extension into time and place of what had begun in the 11th century. This is not to deny the Shehu and his team their creativity. (7) The confidence of scholars like Ahmad Baba and Mukhtar al-Kunti who rate scholarship in the Western Bilad al-Sudan region much higher than the then North Africa and the Arab world did a lot to inspire the confidence portrayed in Shehu’s writing. It is instructive that Shehu and his team acquired their enviable level of proficiency in the Arabic language, the language of scholarship, without having to go to any Arab country, not even for Hajj. It was simply remarkable!

It is now necessary to look at the link between scholarship and revolution. What is it in scholarship that inspires or triggers revolution? Are scholars necessarily revolutionaries? Or as Thomas Hodgkins would put it, “When and why do scholars become revolutionaries? (8) It may, perhaps, be easy to see why scholars are revolutionary, but as to when they are and when they are not, this is certainly far more complex. The experience of the Western Bilad al-Sudan from the 11th to the 19th century provides us ample opportunity to probe further and to fathom this important area of research.

To understand why scholars are revolutionary perhaps we only need to examine the nature of Islamic scholarship in this region. As has already been observed, the leaders of the Sokoto Caliphate were heirs to a tradition of learning which goes back to the time of the Murabitun in the 11th century. Though this traditional was undoubtedly enriched by other traditions from Andalusia (Muslim Spain), Fatimid North Africa, Hijaz and even Asia in course of the seven or eight centuries, it has retained some of its unique characteristics; particularly the taste for thoroughness, courage, steadfastness, asceticism and humility. It may be useful to look at, even if briefly, the general characteristics of the Islamic tradition of learning. In other words, we should look at the genus of which this is only specie.

It is significant that the first word of the Qur’an was the command to read! The Qur’an is replete with passages which exalt learning and extol the search for knowledge. The sayings of the Prophet of Islam, the second most important source after the Qur’an, have continued to place learning on an unmistakably eminent pedestal, equating the path of knowledge with the path of paradise. Islam has clearly placed the highest premium on learning. “The Islamic idea of knowledge” as Abdullahi Smith rightly observed, “is universalist in nature – embracing the knowledge of God and His creation including the knowledge of anything to be found in the universe.” (9) Science and technology was not neglected but its significance was subservient to the ultimate purpose of life which learning itself sought to understand. “Traditions of learning such as these in which the primacy is given to the study of religious and moral issues, which defines science as the knowledge of God’s law, and truth as the unalterable content of that law” (10) is familiar to many. Indeed this tradition where God occupies the centre and purpose permeates learning predates the  Islamic era by several millennia and dominated the world view of the learned men of ancient Jewry and Christendom and informed the establishment of their universities down to Azhar (Cairo) and Cordova (Spain) in the 10th century and Oxford and Cambridge in the 13th century. What may not be familiar to many, but important to note, is the point in time and circumstances under which the departure from this tradition began and gave birth to a new tradition as today symbolised by our modern universities, epitomised by the London University. “London University”, as Abdullahi Smith had occasion to explain, “which received statutory recognition in the U.K. in 1820’s and began to be influential some 50years later, did not originate in the 19th century world of learning at all; but in the mercantile world of the industrial revolution which was then transforming human society in the countries of Western Europe and North America. Those who secured its foundation were not scholars in search for universal truth for the benefit of mankind, but businessmen in search of greater profits for their own benefit. The primary object of the university was to provide training in science and technology for the British industrial establishment to assist the latter in the competition in the foreign business interests (particularly Germany) … This industrial establishment was not in addition in need of theological and moral training as something separate, because, … they held the peculiar (and certainly erroneous) belief that the possession of wealth was itself a sign of God’s favour and that therefore, the way to walk in the way God had laid for them and increase his favour was to increase their wealth by hard work and improved technology.” (11)

Because of this strong moral content and the all pervading purposefulness, learning in Islam is not pursued for its own sake nor is it left to the student to take from pages of books, the presence and influence of the teacher is believed to be critical. This, in a way, is an extension of the influence of the Prophets who not only conveyed the divine message but lived it in their lives and therefore act as models of behaviour for the faithful. Character and learning were inextricably linked in this tradition of learning. For one to teach any subject matter, he must have had the leaf (ijaza) of another teacher who had himself been certified to teach same but another teacher. So the ijaza or certificate must necessarily contain the names of the chain of scholars who have taught (isnad). Essentially it is the isnad which validates the ijaza. Isnad is a kind of academic pedigree, enhanced by the presence in the chain of some prominent scholars, because of the value attached to the role of the teacher and the student-teacher relationship. It should perhaps be added here that teachers are usually living libraries in this tradition of learning.

Learning in Western Sudan, where Sokoto Caliphate is located, is pursued with a total dedication. The scholar is more than just a teacher, he is also a mentor, a role model, a father figure and community leader, whose concern goes beyond just educational issues but tackles social, medical and marital problems of the community. A description of one of the great scholars of the region, Ahmad Baba of Timbuktu of his teacher, Muhammad Baghayogho (d.1594) gives us a glimpse of the scholar in this milieu.

“Our shaykh and our blessing, the jurist, the accomplished scholar, the pious and ascetic man of God  (al-abid), the mufti, a man among the finest of God’s upright servants and practising scholars,  … he was constantly busying himself in seeing to people’s need, even at the cost to himself, becoming distressed if they fell into adversity, settling disputes among them and giving good advise. Add to this his love of learning and his devotion to teaching and study, his love for men of learning and his own total humility, the aid he gave to scholars and the trouble he took for them, giving out the rarest  and most precious of his books … He had enormous patience for teaching throughout the whole day and was able to get his point across  even to the dull-witted never feeling bored or tired.” (12)

Here then is a scholar who lives not in the ivory tower but in the midst of the people and who seeks to serve them in so many facets earning thereby their confidence and reverence and easily the spokesman of the community. This moral capital which scholars build over time earns the scholar such powers that are out of tune with his or her rather meagre material resources. The powers of the scholar contrasts sharply with the social distance between the people and their rulers. The scholar carried on his shoulders the heavy burden of his students and the wider society, always concerned with their individual and collective welfare, ready and willing to give a helping hand. It is easy to understand  what Shehu Usman did at Magami when Bawa Jan Gwarzo, the dreaded king of Gobir, assembled the cream de la cream of Gobir and showered gifts on selected dignitaries on the occasion of the eid al-Kabir. Shehu not only declined to accept the lavish gifts but requested that, in its place, he is granted five prayers which included the release of political prisoners and the lightening of the taxation of the ordinary people.

This relation between the scholar and the people contrasts sharply with that between the scholar and the bureaucracy. First the scholar is financially independent of the state, the further away he is from the bureaucracy the more the respect he is accorded. The scholar is normally supported by the community through their zakat and sadaqat. It did not appear to be particularly difficult for the scholar to live on these scanty resources of the community, because the scholar is by definition an ascetic and in any case his life a hallmark of simplicity and humility. It was feared that once he is sponsored by the state he looses his independence and thereby sway in the event of any injustice and oppression. This is even when the rulers are deemed to be good Muslims, the assumption is that power corrupts. In some particular context relationship with bureaucracy could be seen to be reproachable. This was the case on the eve of the Jihad when there was clear tension between the Jama’a on one hand and Sarakuna (rulers of Hausaland) on the other and it was important that as lines are being drawn the jama’a knows where their leaders stand. Taking a stand and reinforcing his position by quoting strong authorities, Shehu wrote:

“Ibn al-Hajj has stated in his book al-Madkhal: ‘Let (the scholar) guard strictly against frequenting anyone belonging to the group of worldly men (abna al-dunya) … since the learned man should be the person to whom people come, not the other way round. It is no excuse for a learned man to frequent other people’s houses on the pretext of securing advantages for the masses of the people and the warding off harm … securing the need of the Muslims lies in total abstention from visiting worldly men, and in reliance upon Allah and recourse to him. (13)

We must not forget that Islam spread into the 12th century Ghana through the scholars of the southern wing of the Murabitun. The Qadi of Azzugi who was one of if not the first local author, was a prominent Murabit scholar. That Murabitun streak appeared to have remained a permanent feature of scholarship in the western Bilad al-Sudan of which Sokoto is an integral part. The exacting standards of Abdullahi b. Yasin, the tenacity of Abubakar b. Umar and the conviction and self-confidence of scholars, the likes of Imam al-Hadrami continued to cast their spell on scholarship in the region.

The absence of any social distance between the ordinary people and scholars; the distance scholars maintained between themselves and the temporal authorities and its bureaucracy; the Murabitun streak which emphasised compliance and sought thoroughness, combined to make the scholar in the western Bilad al-Sudan a potential revolutionary waiting for a cause. These three features help us to appreciate why scholars are revolutionaries. And this tradition has had an unmistakable impact on the perception of the role of scholars by the Sokoto Caliphal leaders.

Now, as to when scholars become revolutionary, this is less easy to determine. We can, however, examine the elements which play the key role in determining when scholars opt for or out of a revolution.  Ordinarily it should be the magnitude of the challenge or stimulus. But it is not so much the level of threat to the faith and its values or the magnitude of oppression or injustice meted on the society like the scholar’s interpretation of his ability (istita’a) to respond successfully. The operational tool here is provided by the famous hadith of the Prophet on amr bi’l-maáruf wa’l-nahy an’l-munkar, which says, in effect, ‘Whoever amongst you sees anything wrong (munkar) he/she should set it right with his/her hands; if he/she hasn’t the ability to do it then he/she should set it right by raising his/her voice, if he/she hasn’t the ability to do as much, he/she should then register his/her disgust and abstain from it.’ The key word here is the ability, istita’a of the community concerned as understood by their leading scholars.

The different reactions we find in different settings and with different scholars all hinged around the respective scholar’s interpretations of what in his circumstances constitutes ability. The different schools of tajdid in western Bilad al-Sudan are largely the results of the different interpretations of the different scholars. To be sure this interpretation is not some theoretical exercise. It is a complex exercise which is both theoretical and practical, the more so for it often involves social consequences.  The scholars often examines the balance of forces on the ground, gauges the moral tone of society as well as the political mood before deciding on the ability or otherwise of the their community to choose a revolutionary path. Thus Shehu Usman Dan Fodio resisted confrontation with the Hausa establishment for several years despite the urging of members of his growing community, who thought that they were ready for confrontation. He may have thought that his job was essentially to educate the society and confrontation was not on the agenda. Even when the indications showed confrontation was likely, the shaykh may have thought that his community, the Jama’a was not quite ready to go through the rigour and deprivation a confrontation entails. He may have also realised that confrontation requires a much higher level of organisation and discipline than was available in the Jama’a at the time – a point vindicated by Abdullahi’s desertion of the army at the middle of the Jihad on account of the absence of discipline. Similarly Umar al-Futi insisted that the Talaba must master the Qur’an and imbibe the deeper aspect of sufi tarbiyya before venturing into armed struggle. Many such scholars who led armed struggles feared that pure political action which is not motivated by the desire to please God, is misguided and unworthy in the final analysis even if it may lead to spectacular material success. In fact, as one can glean from their writings, they must have felt that material success not back with adequate moral development, could lead to a disaster much worse than the one they wanted to flee from.

Admittedly there was a considerably measure of subjectivity in some of the decisions taken especially in the interpretations of istita’a. Thus two scholars given the same situation could arrive at two different, even opposing views. The practices in Borno for example, while admittedly wrong, did not, as far as al-Kanemi’s interpretation goes, warrant a jihad. But the sokoto Caliphal leaders, in their own interpretation, believed it did and hence the conflict. Similarly the case of Ahmad Labbo’s Masina and Umar al-Futi’s Segu, here one state took over the other.

This paper has set out to examine the relationship between scholarship and revolution in Western Bilad al-Sudan. Within the prevailing constraints, the paper has shown that the Link between scholarship and revolution in this region is an enduring one. It has also shown that this link has informed the minds of the leaders of, not only, Sokoto Jihad but those of similar jihads in the 19th century West Africa. While this supports the assertion that the history of the region, as indeed the history of the rest of Africa, had a momentum of its own, it also obliges the policy makers of the contemporary West African states to resist the simplistic Eurocentric understanding of their own societies. It is time they understand their own society for what they really are not what European scholars and their protégés claim they are. This gap between what our societies are and what our leaders think they are has often worsened the social distance that exists between citizens and their rulers, frustrated genuine human development and thrown our societies into deeper social and political crisis from which we seem never able to recover.

Shaykh Uthman Ibn Fodio and the Revival of Islam In Hausaland

SHAYKH UTHMAN IBN FODIO AND THE REVIVAL
OF ISLAM IN HAUSALAND

by

Dr. Usman Bugaje

Perhaps no Muslim needs to be told about the importance of history if only because the Qur’an is full of it. And how assuring were these stories of the prophets as well as the tyrants of old. They assured the Prophet Muhammad as well as his companions that they were treading a well trodden path and gave them both the strength to bear the hardship and the insight to understand the nature of the encounter they were engaged in. Ironically no one seems more ignorant of his history today as the Muslim. Muslims, like others, certainly know that whoever controls the past controls the future. But what they don’t seem to wake up to is the corollary, whoever controls the present, too often, controls the past. This is not simply to explain why they remain ignorant of their past but to make them appreciate the fact that those who control their present will not easily give up their past. As Muslims did (or are still doing) with their freedom and independence, they may have to do with their past, indeed their past is an important component of that freedom, for it gives them their identity and therefore the freedom to be what they are. For, as history itself testifies, freedom is never given on the platter of gold. But without it no nation, or indeed individual, makes any meaningful progress. Our past gives us not only our identity and our worth, but also our bearings and our goals. It presents to us our role models and show us the things worth fighting for. Our future therefore is in discovering our past. This journey of discovery is taking us to some of the forgotten lands of Islam, the region of West Africa which had been an integral part of the Muslim world for over a millennium and which today holds over half of Africa’s Muslim population. We are visiting one of the greatest Muslim figures of this region, Shaykh Uthman b. Fodio.

The Tradition of Tajdeed In West Africa: An Overview

THE TRADITION OF TAJDEED IN WEST AFRICA:  AN OVERVIEW

byDr. Usman Bugaje

 

INTRODUCTION

From the ninth century to date, Islam has been spreading in the West African region.  Even western scholarship (1) has had to concede the fact that in course of these twelve centuries Islam had brought literacy, integrated various ethnic groups, boosted trade and commerce, built states of varying complexities and developed such centers of learning that produced scholars (2) of international repute.  At the time of the European invasion in the late 19th and  early 20th century it was Islam that put up the greatest resistance to imperialism and what remains of the indigenous features of the region owes more to Islam’s cultural and ideological resistance than to anything else.

Thus the history of West Africa is largely the history of Islam in West Africa.  For not only did Islam launch the region into history but it directed and shaped events in the region since the last twelve centuries.  And today t remains the only hope the for region against the onslaught of imperialism with its army of Christian missionaries, secular elites and the I.M.F’s and its multi-national fronts.

Of course Islam did not accomplish these achievements and attained position of prominence instantly.  Rather, this was a very gradual, if persistent, process made up of distinct phases one leading inevitably to the other.  Five such phases (3) are easily discernible:-

First Phase: This covers the period from the ninth to the thirteenth century.  During this period Islam spread gradually and for the most part peacefully.  The main agents of Islamisation during this period appear to be itinerant traders, a few scholars (mostly Berbers) and equally effective ardent indigenous converts.  As the educational institutions had not then take concrete shape, systematic learning as such did not obtain on a general level.  Indeed it was during this period the first Islamic State of Takur was formed, it was during the same period the Al-Murabit movement emerged.  But these were exceptions to the general role and the latter in particular points to the dearth of knowledge of Islam among the Muslims of the period for it was this dearth which primarily occasioned its emergence.

Second Phase: This covers the period from the Fourteenth to the Sixteenth century.  This is the phase in which the Muslim states of Mali and Songhay emerged and developed, Borno which had emerged much earlier reached maturation under Idris Aloma while many Hausa States notably Kano and Katsina became Islamized.  More importantly this was the period during which educational centers developed  and produced a multitude of indigenous scholars like Abdur-Rahman al-Sa’adi, Mahmud al-ka’ati, Ahmad Baba and his Shaykh Ahmad Baghouyogho, al-Barnawi, Muhammad al-kashnawi and a host  of others.  It was also the period when the region received visiting scholars such as Muhammad al-maghili who were to sharpen the taste of scholarship and hasten the process of Islamisation.

Third Phase: This covers the period from the 17th century to eighteenth century.  This was a phase which started with the Moroccan invasion of Songhay during which Timbuktu, which had become the intellectual center of the region, was sacked.  The destruction of the state of Songhay and the sacking of Timbuktu with the consequent dispersal of scholars combined to rob the region its political stability and intellectual stamina.  While the political vacuum plunged Hausa States into inter-state destructive warfare, the dearth of scholarship gave pagan beliefs a chance to resurface.  Thus plunging the greater part of the region into ignorance, injustice and oppression often under the patronage of venal scholars (ulama al-su).  These were the very conditions which occasioned the next phase.

Fourth Phase: This was the phase of the Jihad elements which though began in the 18th century (Karamako Alfa in Futa Toro 1720’s, Sulayman Ba’alin Futa Jallon 1170’s) were in the main concentrated in the 19th century.  In fact a few skirmishes continued well unto the 20th century in the Sene-gambia region.  This was a phase during which Muslim scholars took up their responsibly of education Muslims ad mobilizing them against the inequities, moral laxities and the excess of rulers (or more properly the oppressors) of their land.

The leading figures were Shaykh Dan Fodio in early 19th century Hausaland, Ahmad Labbo a little later in 1818 and  Shaykh Umar al-Futi in mid 19th century Sene-gambia and Bambara region.  In each case these Mujahiddeen established Islamic States which held their bounds until yet another invasions this time by European Imperialism.  This invasion very much like the Moroccan one marked the beginning of another phase.

Fifth Phase: This was a phase which began in earnest at the beginning of this twentieth century to this day.  It is a phase in which European imperialism, in their bid to control the human and material resource of the region, invaded and destroyed the politics in the region and instituted such arrangements as would ensure maximum plunder and exploitation of the material and human resource of the region.  This was also a phase  in which Islam became the target of a vicious and desperate attack by western imperialism and its agencies.  The physical attack by the colonizing army was immediately followed with a psychological warfare.  The sharia was replaced by English or French law and any demand for the Sharia was treated as a treasonable offense.  The whole Government machinery  was operated as if Muslims never existed at all.  Educational institutions were opened with courses clearly designed to produce an army of secular elite eager to be employed to protect the status quo.  The institutions of defense and security were designed to attack and the slightest move by Muslims to bring Islam again.  Meanwhile the mass media is busy dissuading them from the idea of any Islam beyond the mosque and persuading them to give their total loyalty to a government which has blatantly refused them their freedom to live as Muslims all in the name of peace.  With the glaring failure of these neocolonial Governments to deliver any goods even its greatest promise of material progress, the future of this arrangement is now being questioned.  Islam is once again emerging as a viable alternative to take its rightful place in the sheme of things.

From the foregoing short and sketchy account three points become very clear.  That Islam has immense capacity for integrating groups and building great and powerful states.  Kanem-Bornu, Mansa Musa’s Mali, Askia’s Songhay, the Sokoto caliphate remain to be the most complex and powerful states that Africa has seen.  Their territorial spread, political complexity and military power was unprecedented throughout Africa’s history.  That Islam was able to sustain these development over such  a long period of time, consistently maintaining its position of prominence points to Islam’s resourcefulness, and capacity to meet challenges.  By reasserting itself once again after periods of lapse, Islam exhibits such resilience as not other system known to Mankind.  This unique feature of Islam in particular has understandably been a great source of worry to its enemies, European Imperialism in particular.

Islam owes a lot of this power resourcefulness and resilience to knowledge.  For Islam has placed its highest premium on knowledge.  By making the search for knowledge an obligation on each of its adherents (male and female, young and old), by making the pursuit of knowledge as the most rewarding of endeavour and  by making knowledge as the basis of both individual as well as collective action, Islam secured for itself the most formidable weapon humanity has ever known.  Subsisting wholly on, anchored securely in scholarship Islam moved gradually but confidently and  persistently, eroding the basis of local Jahiliyya and imparting its universal culture and establishing its own society which was always better than the one it found.   Knowledge and scholarship, remained the life vein of this transformation.

But human being as indeed human society, is subject to lapses and often the pursuit of knowledge is slackened and scholarship falls to a level where society stagnates or even retrogresses.  In such circumstances, the ultimate hope for the Muslim society is a process of rejuvenation which necessarily begins with a regeneration of knowledge and scholarship, the spread of this knowledge to the wider society  and ends up with the application of such knowledge in society with all the transformation that has to go with it.  This process of rejuvenation and revitalization of society is what in Islam in known as Tajdeed,  and those that initiate this process  or see it through to its logical conclusion are calledMujahiddun, (sing, Mujaddid).  fully aware of human limitations and failure, Allah the Most High, out of His mercy for mankind, promised to raise individual (s) who will undertake the task of Tajdeed at the head of each century.  As Abu Dawud narrated in an authentic hadith “From Abu Huraira, may Allah be pleased with him, the Prophet (S.A.W.) said: Verily Allah will raise for this Ummah at the head of every hundred years one (s) who will renew for her, her Deen (way of life).”

Muslim scholars have made extensive commentary on this Hadith in an effort to further clarify the text and expound on the concept of Tajdeed.  Suyudi’s work (4)  on Tajdeed, Al Maghili’s Ajwibat, (5) Bustani’s work (6)  on the concept ofTajdeed provide a rich sources of such commentaries.  We need not detain ourselves with such details here.  For the purpose of this paper it may suffice us to note that many scholars have agreed that the Mujaddid need not be one given century.  They could be, as indeed there were, several Majaddidun each undertaking Tajdeed in his own domain.  there could even be more than one at a time for a given areas.  One may even add that the reference to one hundred years not be literal.  It may simply refer to such intervals as may be there between oneMujaddid to the other.

It is important to note that Tajdeed (renewing) of the Deen (way of life)’ of the Muslim Ummah is a technical expression connoting a total societal change.  It is a profound and comprehensive change which seeks to return the Muslim society to its purity free from he decadence and lethargy that had crept in over a period of time.  This change to be sure must necessarily start with pursuit and spread of knowledge which leads to the erosion of the intellectual and cultural basis of the decadent order and ultimately end up with a total societal change – a revolution.

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