The Administration of Zakat in Colonial and Post Colonial Nigeria



Dr. Usman Bugage


Zakat as a due from the wealth of the Muslim rich meant for the poor, irrespective of their colour, ethnicity or religion, is too well known to warrant a definition. But Zakat as an Islamic institution, anchored within the Islamic world-view and designed to fulfill definite objectives, may not be as well known and may therefore deserve a few words. Islam, to be sure, is not just about the salvation in the hereafter, it is first about salvation in this world, for only then can one work towards his salvation in the next world. To survive in this world, man needs certain requirements.

Muslim jurists have classified these requirements into three: Daruriyyat (necessitates), Hajiyyat (conveniences) and Tahsiniyyat (refinements). Necessities are held to include the protection of Nafs , man’s physical existence, the provision of things like food, clothing and shelter; protection of Din , religion; Aql , mind;Nasl , progeny or pedigree; and Mal , property.[1] Conveniences include things which improve on the quality of life and remove bearable hardship and difficulties. Refinements, on the other hand, add beauty and elegance to life without transgressing the limits of moderation as defined by the Sharia. The Jurists are all agreed that, it is the collective responsibility of the society to ensure and guarantee the necessities of man in whatever circumstances and provide for conveniences where the resources of the community permit.[2]

Goals and Objectives of Zakat

Islam as law (i.e. the Sharia) seeks to protect man’s basic needs without which he cannot perform basic acts of worship and work towards his salvation. These, as we have just seen, are his life, his religion, his mind, his progeny and his property. But it is the Zakat as an institution which guarantees him these basic needs. Being the practical religion it is, Islam is not content to simply provide the legal protection, but proceeds to create the provision through which this legal requirements are satisfied. Islam places this responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the Muslim community especially its leadership.

The Prophet of Islam (SAW) has informed us in several ahadith that the position of rulers in the next world will be directly related to how happy and prosperous their followers have been here.[3] Similarly the Prophet informed us that Allah will not be happy with a community in which one of its members slept on an empty stomach. Umar b. Khattab (R.A) took this further and holds any community in which its member starves to death, responsible for murder.[4]

Islam as a message seeks to answer the three basic questions that have confronted mankind from the dawn of time; the origin of man, the meaning and purpose of human life on earth and the ultimate destiny of man. In answering these questions, Islam informs man that he is not a result of some cosmic accident but a deliberate creation of his Lord, Who has created him with a clear mission on this planet and to Whom is his ultimate return to render full accounts of his stewardship on earth. [5] Qur’an, which, as the name suggests, is to be read constantly, reminds man consistently about the transient nature of life on earth, lest the lure of the world blinds him from his mission and ultimate return.[6] But it is Zakat which actually purifies him from selfishness and greed, so that his heart is cleansed of the lure of this world and is prepared to make the necessary sacrifices to achieve his ultimate mission on earth.

Islam as a system seeks to establish and maintain Justice, Adl on earth and build a humane and cohesive society. Protecting people form hunger, ensuring social security and preserving human honour and dignity are essential elements of a strong and humane social order. Hunger, the Prophet of Islam is reported to have said, is the worst of deprivations. Zakat is that institution which saves man from starvation, guarantees socio-economic justice in society, and procures for man the environment that allows him to preserve his dignity and pursue the purpose for which his Lord created him. By increasing the productivity of the community, Zakat also discourages envy among its members and promotes peace and social cohesion, making the Ummah a model for mankind.[7]


Thus Zakat has been designed to serve definite goals in society. The first of these is the elimination of poverty. This saves and preserves not only human life but also human dignity and in doing so facilitates the worship of Allah and fulfilment of man’s mission on earth.[8] Secondly Zakat reconciles the heart of the poor from envy and ill-feeling towards the rich. For they know that they have a definite share in every wealth in the community. Zakat makes the poor share holders in the wealth of the rich whose dividends depends on the safety and growth of that wealth. It therefore generates understanding, peace and love between the haves and the have-nots, making it absolutely unnecessary for the proletariat to take arms against the bourgeoisie. Thirdly Zakat purifies the heart of the rich from greed and selfishness making it easier for man to play a greater role in the development of his community and to make his wealth available for the cause of Islam, the cause of justice. Fourthly by institutionalising social security and eliminating strife and social tension, Zakat strengthens the moral fibre of society, promotes social cohesion and engenders political stability in society. Fifthly, by bringing about redistribution of wealth, the institution of Zakat not only ensures social justice in society but it mobilises resources making it available to the poor and thus improving the productive capacity of the community. By increasing the productive capacity of the community it enhances the overall economic growth of the Ummah, eventually empowering it to fulfil its ultimate mission of leading the world community.[9]

Perhaps we can now understand the distinguished position accorded to Zakat in Islam. The Qur’an mentions it almost every time Salat (prayers) is mentioned. The Qur’an equates failure to meet the needs of the poor and orphans, which Zakat represents, to denial of religion. [10] The hadith made it the central of the five pillars of Islam, coming immediately after Salat. Abubakar al-Siddiq, the first of the rightly guided Caliph, considered those who refused to pay Zakat as having left Islam and went to war to bring them back to Islam and collect Zakat, on behalf of the poor. Since then the institution of Zakat has been a prominent feature of the Muslim community. During the time of Umar b. Khattab, the second Caliph some states like Yemen did succeed in eliminating poverty through Zakat, and proceeds had to be brought back to Madina as there was no one in Yemen to receive it. This situation appeared to have continued for the most of the early history of Islam, for at the turn of the first century of the Hijra, Egypt under Umar b. Abdulazziz could not expend its Zakat as there were no poor people to receive it. Zakat, just like Salat, has remained a feature of Muslim communities of every time and clime. Our part of the world was not an exception, as the historical records of the pre-jihad Borno and Hausaland have shown.[11] When the Sokoto Caliphate came into existence following the Jihad of Usman Dan Fodio, the institution of Zakat, expectedly, took a distinguished position in the socio-economy of the state.

Zakat in the Sokoto and Borno Caliphates

The Sokoto Jihad was motivated by the gross ignorance of the populace about Islam and the tyranny and oppression, particularly in respect of excessive taxation, confiscation of property and wanton attacks and arrests of subjects by the Hausa rulers.[12] Having campaigned vigorously against these inequities and inspired by the ideals of the Khilafa Rashida, the architects of the Sokoto Caliphate, took great care to ensure that the state was founded on very firm foundations of justice and equity. [13] Even before the jihad Shehu Usman had made a formidable critique of the decadent and unjust order in Hausaland and drawing on the works of some of the prominent scholar of the region, like Shurb al-Zulal of al-Barnawi, he had articulated the Islamic alternative in his Kitab al-Farq. By 1806, barely two years after the jihad had began, Shehu Usman, working in between battles, completed the Bayan Wujub al-Hijra ala al-Ibad in which he spelt out the policies as well as the structures of the new Islamic state emerging on the ruins of the Hausa States. Later his brother, the jurist and conscience of the revolution, Shehu Abdullahi Dan Fodio, wrote his Diya’ ulu-l-Amr wa-l-Mujahidin, reinforcing the Bayan of Shehu and spelling out details with his characteristic meticulousness. [14] Abullahi’s Diya’ al Hukkam, written in Kano, has particular details on the collection and administration of Zakat. Much later Muhammad Bello, on whose shoulders the responsibility of implementation of these policies actually fell, joined in with works like Tanbih al-Sahib ala Ahkam al-Makasib, Usul al-Siyasa and several others.[15]

By the time the jihad was over, some parts of Borno had been annexed to Sokoto Caliphate and what had remained of Borno had become revitalised under a new leadership that was eager to meet the new Islamic expectations. Among the new offices created in the Sokoto Caliphate was the post of the Sa’i whose main responsibility was to collect the Zakat.[16] It is significant to note that the role of Sa’i was not limited to the collection of Zakat, but often included the administration of nomads and the settling of their disputes.[17] This makes the Sa’ino ordinary tax collector, for not only is he familiar with the terrain and the people but as a settler of disputes he needed to display fairness and command respect. TheSa’i had a whole team of other officials, the jakada and the village heads, working with him who were given clear guidelines of what to collect, when to collect it and how to collect it. [18] Care was taken to see that wealth and zakatable items were not taxed twice or taken in a manner which ignores fairness to the giver of Zakat. Abdullahi Dan Fodio in particular emphasised the well-known stipulation of the Sharia that “when assessing the Zakat, people’s houses and property should not be investigated, but the tax collector will relay on the taxpayers word, unless the person in question was known to be untrustworthy”.[19] Wealth from Zakat was kept separate from other revenues accruing to the state since the Zakat was bound to be expended strictly along the lines specified by the Qur’an.[20]

The administration of Zakat itself did not appear to have posed any particular difficulty in Both Sokoto and Borno Caliphate. If anything European explorers like Clapperton who were in the Caliphates were as astonished as their later day colonial officers were embarrassed by the way citizens of these states insisted in paying up their zakat as and when due.[21] Fascinated by the zeal at which the zakat was paid and the simplicity with which it was collected, many scholars have been keen to unravel what in our contemporary world would look puzzling. Some scholars have suggested that over and above the religious reasons, Zakat is a tax which leaves no room for argument in assessment. Its simplicity and proportionality invited no disaffection. Furthermore the social and economic significance of the Zakat is fully appreciated by both the payer and receiver.[23] Village granaries from zakat proceeds for example acted as security against crop failure which in places like Maradi and Kano appeared often either from drought or pests. In Kano, to the astonishment of Clapperton, the blind were settled in one quarter, Unguwar Makafi, and their needs were met from the zakat funds, so they never had to roam the streets as is our lot today. [24] All these must have helped to bring the message of the institution of zakat for all and sundry, including intruders such as Clapperton. This appeared to have been the arrangement throughout the two Caliphates. As the tempo of the jihad waned with time, however, the high standards set by the architects of the Caliphate may not have been maintained. But, in the main, the Zakat as a prominent institution remained part of the two Caliphates until the arrival of the British colonial army.[25]

British Colonisation

The story of British colonisation of Nigeria is too familiar to warrant recounting here. The naked force used and the barbarism displayed has long destroyed the myth that they were on a civilising mission. The way the invading army went about imposing all manners of taxes and plundering anything of value that their covetous eyes sight, betrayed their real mission – plunder. After labouring in vain in his Dual Mandate, Lord Lugard, the British colonial governor, had to concede, though not in so many words, that Britain was not in Africa for reasons of pure philanthropy. [26] That they were prepared to go to any length to realise their mission is clearly echoed by the words of Joseph Chamberlain, the British colonial secretary. Writing in 1897, Chamberlain said, “We ought – even at the cost of war – to keep the hinterland of the Gold Coast, Lagos and the Niger territories… I do not think we ought to yield a jot of threat.”[27]

As soon as the British established full control they went about combing the whole area for anything of immediate or potential value and imposing as many taxes as they could possibly levy. They introduced several new taxes, some of which had been previously abolished by the Sokoto Caliphate. Some of these taxes include,Kudin kasa, Jangali, Custom duties, Caravan Tolls, Hawkers Licences, Kudin Suand Native Liquor Licences (in non-Muslim areas). [28] Apparently dazzled by the abundant wealth in the hinterland, the various British Residents sent to head the provinces were urging Lord Lugard to hasten the imposition and collection of taxes. G.N. Barclay, the Resident of Yola, wrote, apparently soon after taking up his appointment, in a dispatch to Lugard, that, “In farm produce and cattle Yola is rich and will prove a valuable acquisition in the near future.” [29] He therefore urged Lugard to begin the imposition of taxation, arguing that it was easier to strike when the iron was still hot, adding: “That taxes should be imposed immediately a race is conquered”, for “in the face of defeat people will gladly acquiesce to any reasonable terms from the conqueror which if imposed after a long period of immunity they may be disposed to grumble at or even rise against, …..To put it vulgarly”, Barclay continued, “they do not know what game we are playing. They are therefore awaiting with curiosity and a good deal of anxiety a declaration of the government policy and intentions.” [30] Or so Barclay thought!

C. L. Temple the Resident in Kano made a similar appeal to Lugard. Arguing his case with a touch of imperial philosophy, Temple wrote: “All authority of native over native and all recognition of authority by natives was based on collection and payment of some kind of material tribute, i.e. rents, taxes, presents” hence authority can only be established if “taxes were regularly collected, paid and accounted for”[31]

The case of Yola and Kano appear to have been typical of the rest of the Sokoto Caliphate and Borno. After initial hesitation, Lugard granted the Residents the permission to begin to collect taxes. As the grip of British occupation army grew firmer with time, these taxes were increased both in their number as well their burden. In course of colonisation, this plunder had the effect of not only depleting the resources of the natives but also undermining the authority of the native rulers and stifling the economic independence and creativity of the native, as all activities are now marshalled towards the satisfaction of the insatiable British imperial desires. Putting it in other words Tukur concludes that: “the taxes imposed by the British, far from being fewer, more rational and lighter than the pre-colonial taxes as was claimed by the British, were in fact more in number and heavier in incidence than the pre-colonial taxes, that many of them were baseless and arbitrary, some of them having as their primary purpose not the provision of revenue to the Colonial Administration and the Native Authorities, but the creation of a colonial economy devoid of an indigenous industrial base and geared towards the production and export of unprocessed raw materials. We have also seen” Tukur adds, “that throughout our period British Residents and Assistant Residents were very much involved in the assessment and collection of these taxes than people are led to believe by the theoreticians of “Indirect Rule”.” [32]

The Fate of Zakat in the Colonial Period

In imposing these heavy and ever increasing taxes on the natives, the British, it would appear, must have hoped that the Muslim subjects would find it impossible to pay Zakat. This then would have starved the religious rulers and scholars of funds and all the religious institutions like schools that were relying on this source would have collapsed and died a natural death. Things did not quite worked out that way as Muslim subjects continued to pay Zakat and the Emirs continued to collect it. Having under taken not to interfere with religion, the British were keen to show that they would abide by their words and would not want to come out categorically to stop the payment of Zakat. But when what appeared to be their first strategy did not work, they found it expedient to come out, if indirectly, to stop the payment and collection of Zakat. They issued a directive that apart form the taxes imposed by the colonial government no other ones were to be collected.

The Emirs predictably protested. “The Shehu of Borno, for example, argued that stopping him from collecting the Zakka would amount to a departure by the British from their undertaking not to interfere with religious matters, adding that at any rate the peasants themselves would object to being relieved from paying it.” When the news reached the Sultan of Sokoto that the British were intending to make the collection of Zakat “illegal”, the Sultan asked J.A. Burdon, the British resident in Sokoto to write to Lugard and appeal to him not to interfere with Zakat. [35] Other emirs presumably protested and eventually the British relented but under two conditions: “That its payment on the part of the peasants and cattle owners should be voluntary and that the British would be given a quarter of the Proceeds.”[36] The emirs acceded to these conditions and the collection of Zakat continued, but not for long.

To the British, the payment of Zakat by the Muslim subjects was more than a matter of economics. Their wish to abolish it appear to go beyond the need to starve the emirs of such material resources that could confer on them some financial independence and therefore some measure of autonomy. The Payment of Zakat was seen as compliance to the dictates of Islam and its collection by the Emirs and their agents was seen as a recognition of the Emirs religious and moral leadership. Both of these tend to delay and eventually subvert loyalty to the British, and at a time when they were trying to find a foothold in the colony this must have been perceived by the British to be a risky business. Thus they continued to find ways they could discourage and eventually abolish Zakat.

In 1907, the British decided to increase the general tax, but informed “clearly” the Emirs and District Heads, “that the [increased] General Tax includes the Zakka and is not in addition to it” [37] Thus trying to incorporate what ever zakat may be given into the coffers of the British and at the same time stop any ruler from collecting any Zakat, creating a de-facto abolishment of Zakat. Expectedly this order was not obeyed, “two District Heads in Sokoto were caught collecting it and the Sultan was promptly ordered to depose them on that account, an order which he obeyed. The two District Heads were the Sarkin Burmi of Bakura and the Ardon Dingyadi.” [38] From Yola, the Resident, G. W. Webster, reported that “corn Zakka is paid by a large percentage of the population over and above the regular taxation.”[39] Webster was keen to clarify, in his report to the Governor General, that people have been sufficiently informed of the abolition of Zakat, yet after paying the General Tax, “several people anxiously enquired if they might also pay the Zakka to the District Head, what became of it, was not their affair, but pay they must as a matter of religion.” “I do not pretend”, Webster added with a tinge of worry, “that this feeling is the universal spirit but I think there is a strong local feeling of the religious importance of the payment of zakka.”[40]

Seeing this tenacity of the Muslim subjects to continue to pay Zakat, G. W. Webster urged the British to “recognise its payment [once more] and take our share.” Having began to appreciate the role of Zakat, Webster was kind enough to suggest that in “this case a percentage of the total tax should be laid aside for charity act.” [41] The Governor General did not, however, buy Webster’s suggestion. He may have felt that whatever gain they may make by taking “their” share could not contain the danger posed to their rule by this rather tenacious religious feelings. The Governor finally moved to make the collection of Zakat “illegal and those chiefs caught demanding or accepting it were liable to being accused of extortion and punished accordingly.” [42] This finally sealed the fate of the Zakat under the British colonial government.

Though the faithful continued to find ways of paying Zakat and the Emirs and District Heads continued to receive it throughout the colonial period, [43] the whole exercise remained hazardous. No demand can be made of it, since any individual or community not prepared to pay could report the person making the demand to the British and the person could then be tried for extortion. In this way the British succeeded in not only abolition Zakat, but more importantly in abolishing or at least discouraging, the expression and fulfilment of religious obligations, of which Zakat is only one. In this and several other ways, some to subtle to discern, the British supplanted the practice of Islam, subverted Islamic values and paved the way for the entrenchment of secularism, which was to disengage State from religion and to confine Islam to a private affair. This gave them sufficient freedom to restructure the Nigerian economy, education, law and administration along European lines, making us forever dependent and never free to be ourselves again, or so they wished and planned for.

The Fate of Zakat in the Post-colonial Period

Under such circumstances one can imagine what the fate of Zakat would be. There may have been no particular law which made Zakat illegal, but there was perhaps no need for one, since enough measures had been taken to preclude even the thoughts of it. Even when poverty and destitution grew to levels previously inconceivable, problems which the Zakat has been specifically designed to solve, one state government after another went about groping for solutions. Even in overwhelmingly Muslim states, like Kano, where the bureaucrats and the society are Muslims, no one had the courage (or is it the audacity) to propose Zakat as the solution and to proceed to organise its collection and distribution. These experts many of them academicians from our universities were groping for solutions and true to their training they propped up the familiar Western solution. Some of them, one would like to think, as Muslims believe that such Islamic solutions as the Zakat may be most appropriate, but the inferiority complex on the one hand and the secular nature of government may have prevailed upon them to suggest something else. “It is this widespread acceptance of this myth of the essential superiority of secularised European thought and practice in the field of human affairs” as Abdullahi Smith rightly observed, “which constitute the most formidable obstacles in the way of extricating the contemporary world from the corruption into which it is plunged” [46]

Meanwhile the ordinary Muslims continue to take out Zakat from their wealth, amounts or quantities they think fit, when they think fit and distribute it as they think fit. Many are not quite sure how to take out Zakat from modern financial transactions and instruments. The Ulama’ have not been very helpful in satisfying the inquires of many of the faithful eager to discharge their obligations. And all this time no one has deemed it necessary to create a competent institution that can advise Muslims on Nisab of Zakatable items and the appropriate amounts and quantities to be taken out in the variety of forms that wealth exist today. We deemed it fit to have Pilgrim Welfare Boards, even if we can not run them properly, but for some curious reasons, we never saw the need to have their equivalents in the case of Zakat, which is the third of the five pillars of Islam. It will be interesting to find out why was there silence over such an important matter. Could it be that the Ulama’, who are clearly the greatest beneficiaries of this Zakat anarchy, are enjoying it? Or are the Ulama’ out of their depth in modern business transactions and would rather allow this disorganised fashion of payment of Zakat then wake up to the challenge? Or is it part of the symptoms of the secular disease that has afflicted the Muslim Ummah and eaten deep into its fabric? It is not for me to determine this, but we certainly need to find out why.

Many Muslims have been worried over this important issue and during the last three decades or so have made efforts here and there to address the issue, especially as the number of beggars keep rising and the quality of life keep deteriorating and otherwise well to do are finding themselves increasingly pauperised by the day. But like most of the responses of Muslims to challenges during this period, these have been feverish, to say the least. Two such efforts however appear to have the potential to address the problem adequately. One of this was the National Conference on Zakat held in December 1981 in Kano. The idea of this conference started in the circles of members of the Bayero University Muslim community, but it was soon taken over by the Ulama’ and by the time the conference was over there were already three hundred people in the committee formed to collect and distribute the Zakat. This, naturally, did not inspire the rich who were to give their Zakat to such a committee. Since then this effort seems to have gone into oblivion. Some of the papers presented at the conference[47] were very good and deserved to be published and circulated widely, so that some of the issues raised could be shared and pursued further, but this did not appear to be the priority of the committee that inherited the conference.

The other worthy effort was a special session of Fatwa Commission of the Centre of Islamic Legal Studies, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria which took place in November 1990 at Bagauda Lake Hotel, Kano. The Fatwa commission gathered prominent scholars to address the seemingly simple issue of whether Zakat is compulsory for tubers like Yams and Cassava. Though the fatwa appear specific but it touches on a very important issue, updating our fiqh (jurisprudence) on Zakat. The fatwa was actually a test case on the readiness of our scholars to appreciate the dynamic nature of fiqh as contrasted with the Sharia which enshrines the immutable principles. About a dozen scholars made submissions [48] and majority of them took the view that there was no Zakat for these tubers. Many of them based their views on Maliki texts written some centuries ago by authors who lived their lives either in desert or temperate zones where these tubers don’t grow. The fatwa says more about the preparedness of our Ulama’ to appreciate the dynamic nature of fiqh than about these tubers.

The Future of Zakat

From the efforts so far, it would appear that the future of Zakat in Nigeria will hinge around three major factors. The competence and credibility of our Ulama’, the courage of our leadership and the enlightenment of the wider Muslim society. One is not sure about what can be done about the competence and credibility of our Ulama’ or even the courage of our leadership, but the two incidences above do not give one much hope. But perhaps something can be done about the enlightenment of the wider Muslim society. While conferences like this one, is one way of creating enlightenment, it is certainly not enough. Publication of relevant literature is an absolute necessity. Research should particularly be intensified to sustain the supply of literature and update ourselves with developments in other Muslim countries particularly Sudan and Malaysia where so much has been achieved in this regard.

Some Challenges

If and when we come to organise further conferences or undertake research to address the issue of Zakat, there are certain areas we may need to pay particular attention to. These include:

  • List of Zakatable items – At the time of the Prophet (S. A. W.) the list of Zakatable items may have been just about a dozen. But as Islam spread to incorporate other lands and climes, as society developed and became complex and as Allah’s wealth for mankind continues to unfold, this list naturally grew into dozens. There is nothing to suggest that this list should stop growing and remain stagnant, if only because Islam is still spreading, society is developing and becoming complex, especially in this computer age, and Allah’s wealth is still unfolding. We therefore need to review the list in our fiqh texts in the light of the key aya (verse) of the Qur’an, “O ye who believe! give of the good things which you have (honourably) earned, and of the fruits of the earth which we have produced for you, and do not even aim at getting anything which is bad, in order that out of it you may give away something, when ye yourselves would not receive it except with closed eyes. And know that God is free of all wants and Worthy of all praise.”[49]
  • Prioritisation in Distribution – The key aya (verse) of the Qur’an (9:60) which spells out the eight recipient of Zakat is very clear. But neither the Qur’an nor the Sunnah deemed it necessary to specify what proportion each category of recipient will receive. This has apparently been left for every community to determine. Some Ulama’ have made efforts to prioritise the distribution but it appears to be a matter for every community to address its peculiar circumstances in such a way that the overall objectives of Zakat, especially the eradication of poverty, are achieved. In the Sudan, for example, the technical committee of their Diwan al-Zakah (Zakat Board), has suggested, 25% for Fuqara’, 25% for Masakin, 10% for Employees, 5% for Converts, 5% for debtors, 20% for the way of Allah, and 10% for the wayfarer.[50] One of the categories, ‘those in bondage’, has been completely ignored. Some would, however, argue that this category is still valid today since people in Palestine (especially members of the Intifada) or Kashmir or Moros in Southern Philippines will easily qualify for ‘those in bondage’.[51] The issue here is that we need to develop a prioritisation that will allow us to address our peculiar needs.
  • Distribution and Productive Capacity – In distributing Zakat we need to appreciate the need not only to eliminate poverty but also to raise the productive capacity of individuals as well as to boost the wealth of the community. We may need to find ways of ensuring that we do not keep a large body of destitute who are permanently dependant on the Zakat for the rest of their lives. Rather we should aim at providing the poor with such resources as will make him not only independent of Zakat but transforming him from a receiver of Zakat to a giver of Zakat. This has been done successfully in the Sudan today. The very process of boosting this productivity itself may need to be engineered to meet the basic needs of the community such as food security, appropriate technology etc.

Concluding Remarks

We have first attempted to establish the significance as well the goals and objectives of the institution of Zakat. We then saw how the institution of Zakat became suffocated by the British colonial government. This was not only to maximise their plunder of the native resources but also to discourage and supplant the practice of Islam and eventually pave the way for the entrenchment of neo-colonial structures that were to give permanence to their mission. During the post-colonial period, the institution of Zakat did not fare any better. The prevailing secular atmosphere did not only discourage the revival of the institution but in fact eroded and subverted Islamic values plunging the Nigerian society into deeper troubles. There is clearly both the necessity as well as the urgency to develop an effective mechanism for the collection and distribution of Zakat. We can and indeed ought to organise a kind of Zakat Board at various levels of our society. But knowing the quality of our leadership, and the competence and credibility of our Ulama’ or lack of it as it were, we should know where to pin our hopes. Such efforts as this seminar may well be the beginning of the revival this all important institution. But for these efforts to bear fruits we must overcome our apathy, complacency and mental lethargy.




[1]The primary objective of the Sharia is to guarantee man these basic necessities without which life on earth will be impossible. This precisely why the violation of any of these needs attract ahadd , capital punishment. Thus murder, whether through violence, poisoning or starvation; apostasy, which terminates religion; taking alcohol or psychotropic drugs, which deprives man of his mind and senses; adultery or fornication, which undermines marriage, and mixes and confuse progeny; theft or robbery, all attract capital punishment.

[2]Dr. Ziauddin Ahmad has delineated these arguments with admirable brevity and clarity. See his Islam, Poverty and Income Distribution, Leicester, The Islamic Foundation, 1991. P. 19-20.

[3] “Abu Sai’d reported the Prophet of Allah (P.B.U.H.) as saying: The most beloved of men to me, the nearest of them with me in the assembly on the Day of Resurrection would be a just ruler and the most hated of men to me on the Day of Resurrection and the severest of them in punishment will be quite an unjust ruler.” in another hadith he was reported to have said, among other things, “Beware, whoever has been made a guardian of the affairs of my Ummah and he is kind to them in their needs, Allah would be kind to him for this on the Day when he will be in need. And whoever hides himself from them in view of their needs, Allah would hide Himself from him ignoring his need.” See Abu Yusuf Kitab-ul-Kharaj, Abid Ahmad Ali (trans.), Lahore, Islamic Book Centre, 1979. P. 12-13.

[4] On the responsibility of leaders, “Abu Burdah reported that ‘Umar b. Khattab wrote to Abu Musa: The most virtuous of the rulers in the sight of Allah is one through whom his people prosper and the most wretched of the rulers is one through whom his subject become destitute. Guard yourself that you should deviate, then your governors too will deviate, and you will become in the sight of Allah like the beasts which always fix their gaze in it seeking thereby fatness and in their fatness lies their death.” Ibid. P. 23.

[5] See for example, Q. 2:30 and particularly the commentary of Sayyid Qutb in his Fi Zilal al-Qur’an and Maulana Maududi in his The Meaning of the Qur’an. See also Q. 3:185, 20:15, 53:39

[6] See for example, Q. 7:51, 3:196, 6:32, 29:64 and 63:9-11.

[7] Q. 2:143.

[8] The Prophet is reported to have said that faqr, poverty, is the closest to Kufr, unbelief. He is also reported to have prayed , “Oh Lord! I seek Thy refuge from Kufr (unbelief and infidelity) and from Faqr (poverty and destitution) …. and seek Thy refuge from qillah (paucity) and dhillah (humiliation).”

[9] Studies conducted in Syria and Sudan a few years back, when payment of Zakat was voluntary and distribution skeletal, has shown that up to 3-4 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was transferred to the poor every year. See Ziauddin Ahmad, Islam, Poverty and Income Distribution., Op. Cit. P. 52. For details see M. Anas Zarqa, ‘Islamic Distributive Scheme’ in Munawar Iqbal (ed.) Distributive Justice and Need Fulfilment in An Islamic Economy, Islamabad, International Institute of Islamic Economics; Leicester, The Islamic Foundation, 1988 Pp. 163-216.

[10] “Have you seen him who denies the Religion? It is he who harshly repels the orphan and does not urge others to feed the needy.” Q. 107:1-2.

[11] For details see Tijani Garba, ‘Taxation in some Hausa Emirate’, Unpublished Ph D. thesis submitted to the Centre of West African Studies, University of Birmingham, 1986.

[12] Shehu Usman has made an extensive criticism of these inequities in many of his works, particularly in his Kitab al-Farq Bayna Wilayat al-Muslimeen wa Wilayat al-Kafirun. One of the first things the Shehu did after the Jihad was the abolishing of these unjust taxes, such as Jangali, Gaisuwa, Rinsuwa, etc.

[13] As they abolished these unjust taxes, the leadership of the Sokoto Caliphate reorganised the taxation system to conform with the Sharia and the ideals they had been fighting for. Some of these ideas are to found in such works as the Bayan by Shehu Usman, Diya’ ulu-l-Amr of Abdullahi and Usul al-Siyasa of Muhammad Bello.

[14] Other works of Abdullahi Dan Fodio which discussed these ideas at greater length and detail include the Diya’ al-Sultan and Diya’ al-Hukkam. For an exposition on some of these works see Ishaku Aliyu ‘Aspect of Political Administration in Sokoto Caliphate with Special Reference to Diya’ al-Sultan of Abdullah ibn Fodiyo’ and Abubakar A. Gwandu ‘Legal Aspects of the Sokoto Caliphate’, both in Ahmad Kani and Kabir Gandi (eds.) State and Society in the Sokoto Caliphate, Sokoto, Usmanu Dan Fodio University, 1990.

[15] The Tanbih is a work on political economy, while the Usul al-Siyasa, as the name suggests is a work on politics in which the author articulated the Islamic political philosophy and Institutions. Other works in which Muhammad Bello took up these issues in greater detail include his Ghayth al-Wabl and Kitab al-Tahrir. Both have been edited and translated into English, the latter is currently under publication in the UK.

[16] Several scholars have reported that the Sa’i was one of the earliest officials appointed by Shehu Usman. See M. Last, Sokoto Caliphate, London, Longman, 1976 P. 143-7. See also M.G. Smith, Government in Zazzau 1800-1950, Oxford, O.U.P. 1960. Pp. 51, 103.

[17] Tijani Garba reported that “One of the first appointments made by the first Emir (Zaria) Mallam Musa (1808-1821) was Sa’i who was to administer the nomads, settle their disputes and collect the cattle tax which was the Zakat ……….”. See Tijjani Garba, ‘Taxation in Some Hausa Emirates” P. 115.

[18] For details see Tijjani Garba, Ibid. P. 71.

[19] Abdullahi b. Fodio, Diya’ al-Hukkam (trans.), Pp. 14-19. Paraphrased in Ibid. P. 51

[20] For details see Ibraheem Sulaiman, The Islamic State and the Challenge of History, London, Mansell Pub. Ltd. 1987. P. 50-55. See also Sule A. Gusau, ‘Aspects of Islamic Economy in the Sokoto Caliphate’ in Ahmad Kani and Kabir Gandi (eds.), State and Society in the Sokoto Caliphate, op. cit. Pp 171-192.

[21] See Tijjani Garba, ‘Taxation in Some Hausa Emirate’, P. 113.

[ 22] See Ibid. P. 114.

[23] See Ibid. P. 175, quoting Palmer in Kano Annual Report for 1910.

[24] See Ibid. P. 175, quoting Clapperton in Bovill (ed.) Mission to the Niger, P. 661.

[25] See M. M. Tukur, ‘The Imposition of British Colonial Domination on the Sokoto Caliphate, Borno and Neighbouring States: 1897-1914: A Reinterpretation of Colonial Sources.’ Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, Submitted to the Department of History, A,B.U. Zaria. July 1979.

[26] “Let it be admitted from the outset that European brains, capital and energy have not been, and never will be, expended in developing the resources of Africa from motives of pure philanthropy; that Europe is in Africa for the mutual benefit of her own industrial classes, and of the native races in their progress to a higher plane; that the benefit can be made reciprocal, and that it is the aim and desire of civilised administration to fulfil this dual mandate.” Lord Lugard, The Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa, Frank Cass & Co. Ltd. London, 1965. P. 617.

[27] Quoted in Thomas Pakenham, The Scramble for Africa: the White Man’s Conquest of the Dark Continent, from 1876-1912. Random House, New York, 1991. P. 504

See M. M. Tukur, ‘The Imposition of British Colonial Domination …… ’, op. cit. P. 531.

[28] “Yola Provincial Report No. 8 for June 1902” Yola Prof A1. NAK cited in ibid. P. 535.

[29] Ibid.

[30] “Kano Provincial Report for the Half Year ended 30th June 1909”, SNP 7/10 No. 3635, NAK, cited in ibid.

[31] M.M. Tukur, op cit. P. 627-8.

[32] Ibid. P. 579.

[33] W.P. Hewby, “Bornu Provincial Monthly Report for September 1903.” Cited in ibid.

[34] J.A. Burdon, “Sokoto Report for July and August , 1905” Sokprof No. 575/1905. NAK. Cited in ibid.

[35] Ibid. P. 580.

[36] C. L. Temple, “Sokoto Provincial Report for Quarter Ended December 31st, 1907” Sokprof No. 1453/1908, NAK. Cited in Ibid. P. 580.

[37] Ibid. P. 581.

[38] G. W. Webster, Quarterly Report for June 1911″, Yolaprof Vol. 10, NAK. Cited in Ibid. P. 582.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid. 583.

[42] Ibid.

[43] AMD, Kano, 26/5/74. Cited in ibid.

[44] M.M. Tukur, ‘Values and Public Affairs: The Relevance of the Sokoto Caliphal Experience to the Transformation of the Nigerian Polity’, Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. 1977. P. 574-5.

[45] Abdullahi Smith, ‘Report to the Senate of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Nigeria.’ Unpublished Report, 1983. Cited in Ibarheem Sulaiman, ‘Education as Imperialism’, in Z. Sardar (ed.) How we Know: Ilm and the Revival of Knowledge, London, Grey Seal Books, 1991. P. 59.

[46] Ibid. P. 60.

[47] These papers are in private hands, but should be available at the Research Data Centre, Bayero University, Kano.

[48] These unpublished submissions are available at the library of the Centre for Islamic Legal Studies, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

[49] Qur’an 2:267.

[50] Muhammad Bashir Abdulqadir, Nizam al-Zakah fi al-Sudan, Omdurman, Omdurman Islamic University Printing & Publishing, 1992. P. 192.

[51] M. A. Zaki Badawi, ‘Zakat and Social Justice’, in …….. P. 117.

Dr. Usman Bugaje prolific writer of on Nigerian and international issues. He has academic and non-academic published works as well as book reviews to his credit – some of which are to be found on website:

Published in: on December 19, 2010 at 04:18  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. An excellent read. May Allah help us to raise this fallen pillar, amin.

  2. Assalamu Alaikum
    I had the pleasure of meeting Shehu Dr. Usman Bugaje some years back at ABU when I first visited Nigeria. He was with Ibrahim Sulaiman and I was accompanied by Mallam Hayatuudin Ibrahim of Zaria.
    Both came me complimentary copies of their books about the rise and subsequent decline of the Sokoto Caliphate. may Allah reward them greatly for their efforts

  3. Assalamu Alaikum
    this is a very good write off, my Allah reward u and keep on enriching us people like you.

    Masha Allah

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