The Prayer of the Oppressed (ad-Du’āh an-Nāsirī)

 بسم الله الرّحمن الرحيم

About The Prayer of the Oppressed:

The power of this prayer of Imam Muhammad al-Dar’i lies in its simplicity, its purity, and its sincere supplication. It is essentially a plea to God that our transgressions be overlooked, that divine mercy be bestowed upon us, that social justice be restored in spite of us, that wrongs be righted, and that righteousness reign once again in our lands, so that the destitute may no longer be in need, the young may be educated, the animals’ purpose fulfilled, rain restored, and bounties poured forth. It is a plea to be freed from the aggression of foreigners in lands over which they have no right – a plea much needed in our modern world, rampant as it is with invasions and territorial occupations. Ultimately, it asks not that our enemies be destroyed, but simply that their plots, and the harm they cause, be halted. Its essence is mercy, which in turn is the essence of the Messenger of God, Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him: “And We have only sent you as a mercy to all the worlds.”

The Prayer of the Oppressed (al-Du’a al-Nasiri)

 

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Published in: on November 13, 2011 at 00:25  Leave a Comment  

Building the Community chapter 4 from the book titled: The African Caliphate: The Life, Work and Teachings of Shaykh Usman dan Fodio

by Ibraheem Sulaiman

Building the Community

Having seen the sort of intellectual and spiritual training given to those men and women who clustered around the Shehu, we shall now look at the shaping of the nucleus of the Shehu’s followers in the emerging new order – the Jama‘a. Here we shall be concentrating on three areas as the basis of their identity and solidarity: the molding of the character, the building of the communal spirit and the development of a “new culture”.

For any movement with the goal of bringing about a society superior to the one it abhors and is challenging, the test of its sincerity lies in its ability to develop individuals who are the very embodiment of its message and vision. No movement can be taken seriously if the character and behavior of the core members do not set them clearly above others. That was precisely the challenge before the Shehu. His responsibility was not only to preach the truth and attack evil but also, and more fundamentally, to produce men and women who believed in that truth and whose general disposition was a clear testimony to their faith in it.

Moral Ideals

Our concern now is to look at those qualities which the movement regarded as being vital for its members– especially those involved in the dissemination of its message – to acquire and practice in everyday life. There is nothing new in these qualities, for they were derived from the teachings and practice of the Prophet @, his Companions % and the early generations of Islam. They were, however, new to Hausaland where they had been all but abandoned and where, if they were still regarded as ideals at all, they were certainly not translated into action or expressed socially.

The most important work for the understanding of the moral training of Shehu’s lieutenants and students is his Ṭarīq al-Jannah but the moral ideals imparted in those men and women were best articulated by Muhammad Bello in Ṭā‘āt al-Khallāq bi-Makārīm al-Akhlāq. Other sources are ‘Abdullahi’s Sabīl an-Najāt and Minan al-Minan and Bello’s Jalā’ aṣ-Ṣuḍūr.

Knowledge

The first and perhaps the most important of the qualities the movement considered vital for every person in the forefront of the struggle was knowledge (‘ilm). This involved the learning of those aspects necessary for the realization of the objectives of tajdīd, including the understanding of the Qur’an, Sunnah, uṣūl, fiqh and taṣawwuf, the acquisition of the necessary skills in such sciences as medicine, and a full understanding of the means and method of government and administration.

Since knowledge was conceived as an instrument of tajdīd, a considerable stress was laid on its application in everyday life. Knowledge which was not put to use was not considered relevant. Thus, while ‘Abdullahi in Minan stressed that knowledge was the “root of our work, to the extent that the work we do in ignorance is of no merit,” he added that acquired knowledge must produce its results in practical life, otherwise it is meaningless. And Bello, in Jalā’, after quoting the ḥadīths of the Prophet @: “Woe to the one who does not learn!” and “Woe to the learned who does not put his knowledge to use,” likened such a learned man to a lamp which, while providing light to others, burns itself out.

Cognition

Associated with knowledge was the quality which Bello in Ṭā‘āt called ‘aql (cognition). Essentially it means the full cognition of the aims, purposes and significance of the commands and prohibitions of Islam. “‘Aql is what leads you to the consciousness of Allah, and saves you from passion,” because the cognition of evil and its ultimate consequences is the thing most likely to help someone avoid it. Bello said that the truly cognizant is he whose words are few but whose actions are many.

The importance of cognition is twofold. First of all it gives every action not only a social or spiritual meaning but an intellectual significance as well. The man of cognition does or avoids things in the full appreciation of what they mean to him personally, what they contribute to his relationship with Allah, and what their consequences might be on the Day of Judgment. There is a qualitative difference between deeds performed with intellectual awareness and those performed merely in compliance with the letter of the law.

There is, for instance, a world of difference between a ruler who is just out of mere obedience to the law and another who is just because he is aware that it is justice that sustains a nation or because, as a leader, he will appear before Allah on the Day of Judgment in chains and it is only his justice that can release him from them. And there is there a similar difference between someone who performs the four rak‘āts before Dhuhr because the Sunnah requires him to do so and someone who does the same with the understanding that that is the very hour in which his deeds are being presented to Allah. This quality imposes on an individual the duty to probe deeply into the meaning of the injunctions and prohibitions of Islam and to devote time to pondering them.

Secondly, the importance of this quality is that it furnishes individuals with the necessary instruments for calling people towards religion. Questions as to why Islam has enjoined certain things and prohibited others are bound to be raised by people, some with a sincere aim to learn and obey and others with a mischievous intention. If cogent answers are given, Islam will thus be exalted; otherwise serious damage may result.

Repentance

In Sabīl, ‘Abdullahi said of the importance of repentance (tawbah): “Know that Allah has made tawbah a covering for the nakedness of work, a cleansing of the impurities arising from error, and a means by which the sins of the past are wiped out and the deeds of the future are perfected.”

We may look at tawbah from two angles: firstly that of a person’s individual recognition of their own innate imperfection as a human being, which impels them constantly to seek to make up their deficiencies by recourse to the act of repentance; and secondly, that of repentance as a vital social imperative for a nation in a period of decline.

In its latter, wider context tawbah means the progressive abandonment of the path that is leading to social and political disintegration and the ultimate collapse of a the society concerned and turning to the path which leads to regeneration and rectitude. Tawbah thus embraces both the spiritual and socio-moral behavior of people and societies. In a yet more profound sense, on an individual level, tawbah means a return to the path that leads to Allah, the objective being to escape from perdition on the Day of Judgment and gain admittance into the Garden.

 So for a people striving to regenerate their society, tawbah implies a sustained disengagement from the norms and attitudes of the prevailing order, because it is they that are the symptoms of the diseases that have plagued the society causing its decay, and the adoption of the kind of behavior and attitudes that will lead to its regeneration. Tawbah involves, therefore, a total change in an individual’s conception of, and attitude to, life, as well as the absolute change of course necessitated by the initiation of a processof social transformation.

Zuhd

That new attitude to life is what is called zuhd, which was a fundamental quality of the movement. Zuhd, as explainedby the Prophet صلّى الله عليه وسلّم, has two elements: abstention from the world and keeping away from the possessions of other people. To abstain from the world means, among other things, that a person should live in it on the understanding that it is only a temporary abode, indeed, that it is in fact a place of trial and a place of preparation for the realm of reward and permanence which is the Next World.

Whatever one takes from the world, whether it be in the form of sustenance, power, knowledge or skill, and whatever other pursuits one undertakes in it, should all be seen as a means by which one is being tested by Allah, who will take the final account on the Day of Judgment. Nothing in this world, therefore, is an end in itself. Everything is given or taken by way of trial. The world itself will at some point cease to exist and give way ultimately to the everlasting life of the Hereafter.

Zuhd also involves, however, exerting the effort necessary to secure your own livelihood so as to be self-reliant and free from having to look towards what belongs to other people. Bello stressed in Jalā’ the need for people to preserve their integrity through self- reliance, saying: “The Prophet  صلّى الله عليه وسلّم said, ‘Take to trading, for it secures nine-tenths of wealth’… It is related that [Prophet] Isa met a certain person and asked him, ‘What do you do for a living’? He replied, ‘I engage in worship’. Isa  then asked him, ‘In that case, who takes care of your needs?’ ‘My brother,’ he answered. ‘Then,’ said Isa, ‘your brother is more of a worshipper than you are.’”

In essence, zuhd means that one should ardently seek the realm of the Hereafter by mobilizing and channeling the materials of this world towards the accomplishment of the higher purposes of life and by living one’s life, as far as possible, in accordance with the injunctions of Allah. Equally, it means exerting the efforts necessary to make one self-reliant and self-sufficient, to obviate any need to sell one’s honor, or even as a last resort one’s religion, in order to live.

In its ideological context, zuhd means the mobilization of a movement’s moral and material resources with the purpose of delivering the people from the grip of this world. Moral resources provide the strength to strive against a degenerate social order, while material resources, secured through the members’ extensive and serious engagement in various professions and trades, are advantageous in the struggle for economic and technical supremacy.

Ṣabr

To achieve that moral and economic supremacy another quality is, however, essential: ṣabr. In a narrow sense, ṣabr just means patience, but in a wider sense, it embraces a number of attitudes, including endeavoring to live honestly and honorably in a situation where those qualities are not tolerated by the prevailing system and putting up with the hardships and disadvantages suffered as a result. The purpose of embodying this attitude is that it serves as a shining light in the midst of pervasive darkness. Ṣabr also means overlooking much of the ill-treatment, harm and wrongs which come from others and which are an integral part of human life. Allah has said in this regard that He has made some people a means to test others, in order to see which of them will exercise patience.

The most important form of ṣabr is the endurance of hardships suffered while striving on behalf of one’s religion. In their struggle against a decadent system, some people might lose social or economic privileges, some might lose their freedom, some their means of subsistence and some their very lives. In all these trials the most valuable weapon is ṣabr, because the path of religion is long, the steps hard and the efforts exhausting. Ṣabr means not personalizing any harm or injury suffered in the cause of Allah and not holding personal enmity towards those who inflict such harm, so that hostility will cease as soon as such an adversary opens his heart to the faith. It also entails overlooking temporary inconveniences and viewing such trials as moral training, not as a punishment from Allah.

The fruits of ṣabr are ready forgiveness, the lack of any other than ideological adversaries, the ability to overlook and overcome any obstacles placed in your path, and ultimately the attainment of your goal. Apart from knowledge and piety, there is no greater weapon for an individual striving in the cause of Allah than ṣabr.

Diplomacy, Forgiveness and Ḥilm

For a movement, the relationship of its vanguard with the generality of the people is vital, not only for its image but also, more significantly, for its very survival. In this regard three other qualities, in addition to ṣabr, were given prominence in the Shehu’s movement. One of them was what Bello called mudārah, or diplomacy. It entails showing kindness, generosity and respect to others, even to those who nurse enmity towards religion, in the hope of either winning their hearts to the faith or at least neutralizing their enmity. In short, mudārah is another word for restraint and caution.

Bello was quick, however, to distinguish between this honest effort to safeguard religion and acts of opportunism or ambivalence, whereby a person heaps praises and gifts on a powerful enemy in order to gain the latter’s acceptance or favor. “That,” he said, “is squandering religion to safeguard wealth.” In a wider sense, mudārah embraces those steps a movement takes to disarm its potential enemies by winning their hearts through persuasion, such as showing regard for their feelings and sensitivities and offering them help in a time of need.

The second quality is ‘afw or the spirit of forgiveness. In this respect Bello quoted the verse of the Qur’an: “Repel the bad with what is better and, if there is enmity between you and someone else, he will be like a bosom friend.” (41:33) He also quoted the words of the Prophet @: “A person does not forgive a wrong done to him without Allah exalting him on account of it; therefore, take to forgiveness so that Allah may exalt you.”

The third quality is what Bello called ḥilm, which means to develop and perfect a gentle disposition so that people find comfort and have confidence in you. Even in anger, you should never stray from truth.

Discipline

A further extremely important quality highly prized by the movement is what Bello in Ṭā‘āt called adab, which, for want of an appropriate word, we may term discipline. “The Prophet,” Bello said, “has inculcated discipline in his ummah by instructing them to mention the name of Allah before a meal and to give praise to Him after it; by forbidding them to drink while standing, or directly from buckets; and by forbidding them from eating with the left hand or removing impurities with the right.” That is just one of the several aspects of adab.

In a more comprehensive sense, adab embraces the discipline and control of what Shehu in Ṭarīq and ‘Abdullahi in Sabīl called the five organs – the eye, the ear, the tongue, the heart and the belly. The eye must be controlled, Shehu said, for three main reasons: firstly, because Allah himself has commanded that Muslims should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; secondly, because the Prophet صلّى الله عليه وسلّم warned us that immodest gazing at women is “one of the poisoned arrows of Shaytān” and that anyone who avoids it will be graced with the sweetness of worship; and thirdly, because the eye was created, not to seek out the beauty of women, but to gain the vision of Allah – glorious and great is He! ‘Abdullahi added that controlling and restraining the eyes helps towards the perfection of faith and obedience to Allah.

Similarly, it is part of adab to keep the hearing under control. This is achieved by not listening to irrelevant or offensive things, such as vulgar music or the denigration of others. The tongue, for its part, should be prevented from making any utterances which are likely to involve the body in physical or moral danger or that will be a cause of regret when you stand for judgment before Allah on the Last Day. Such utterances include, for instance, slandering other people, which Allah likens to eating the flesh of your dead brother.

The control of the heart is, as far as both the Shehu and ‘Abdullahi were concerned, the most important challenge people face. The Shehu called attention to five factors which account for this crucial importance. The first is that in all matters Allah looks into the heart, into people’s intentions, as is stressed so often in the Qur’an. The second is the reinforcement of this point by the Prophet صلّى الله عليه وسلّم. The third is the point that the heart is, as it were, the king of the body and all the other organs its subjects, so that if it is corrupted the whole body is likewise corrupted. The fourth is that the heart is the repository of innate human qualities such as intelligence and knowledge. “It is most fitting,” said Shehu, “that such a repository should be preserved against being contaminated or despoiled.” The fifth is that the heart is, as it were, the battleground between good and evil, between angelic and satanic forces.

Controlling the heart means preserving it from inordinate ambition, haste, envy and pride and, conversely, refining it through such attitudes as modesty, where hope or ambition is concerned, deliberation in affairs, entertaining goodwill to people, and humility.

The control of the belly means preserving it from taking in what is either expressly unlawful or of a dubious nature, or taking in even lawful things in excess of one’s needs. Excessive consumption, even of lawful things, has the effect of hardening the heart, causing injury to the other organs of the body, weakening the intellect and the ability to pursue knowledge, reducing one’s desire for worship, increasing the possibility of falling into dubious and prohibited ways and, above all, it may warrant one’s being subjected to serious scrutiny on the Day of Judgment.

Besides this comprehensive discipline, adab also involves, according to Bello, acquainting oneself with the knowledge of good works and endeavoring to perform them; and acquainting oneself with the knowledge of evil deeds and distancing oneself from them. It encompasses the control of the senses, the positive orientation of one’s total disposition, keeping within the legal limits set by Allah, the abandonment of passions and dubious conduct, striving towards good deeds, and keeping the mind engaged in thought and remembrance of Allah.

Another quality related to adab is what Bello called inā or deliberation. This is important for an individual, because it enables him to ponder issues before he undertakes them, thus saving him from rushing into things which he may later regret. Deliberation is essential for a movement that regards its cause as a lifetime undertaking. In this case, inā involves the realization that, in the task of raising people to moral excellence, there is no need for excessive urgency, since there is no shortcut in such matters. “Haste,” said the Prophet صلّى الله عليه وسلّم in a ḥadīth quoted by Bello, “is from Shaytān,” whereas caution and deliberation are from Allah. Bello made, however, six important exceptions where haste is not only allowed but praiseworthy: the payment of debt, offering food to a guest, burying the dead, prayer at the right time, the marriage of a girl who has reached maturity and tawbah (repentance) after doing wrong. Other qualities pertaining to adab were listed by Bello as being a humble disposition, generosity, contentment, truthfulness in speech, strengthening the ties of relationship, honoring trusts, good neighborliness, fulfilling promises and obligations, modesty, keeping appointments, and being merciful to creatures. And he quoted this noble statement of the Prophet صلّى الله عليه وسلّم:

“My Lord has commanded me to do these nine things, and I recommend the same for you. He has commanded me to be sincere in all matters, secret or open; to do justice in all circumstances, in pleasure or anger; to be moderate in all conditions, prosperity or poverty; to forgive thosewho wrong me; to give to those who deprive me; to seek ties with those who break from me; that my silence should be for reflection; that my utterance should be a reminder; and that my seeing should be to gain instruction.”

This emphasis on the qualities we have enumerated implies that the Shehu was determined to create individuals imbued with the qualities of the Prophet @ himself and to evolve, through them, a community that embodied the qualities and characteristics of the community of the Prophet صلّى الله عليه وسلّم. Every mujaddid knows that the course of his movement is determined ultimately by the quality of the

people who champion it and, that it is only when such people are nurtured to moral and intellectual maturity through a long and painstaking process of training and education, that Allah in His wisdom will entrust them with the great task of shouldering the responsibility of forming a new ummah.

The Communal Spirit

We can now look into the nature of the social relationships that were being nurtured in the nascent community and see this as one of the principal means through which the new order was developed. It is natural that a special kind of relationship should exist among members of an ideological group, dictating their interpersonal conduct, establishing the rights and obligations of each member and holding the community together. This relationship is an expression of a profound mutual commitment to a cause, something absent in society as a whole, and a sense of unity, belief, purpose and destiny.

In the case of the Shehu’s community, the question of the rights and obligations of its members was not determined by the development of a new code. These had already been spelled out by Islam itself. If society at large did not implement them, it was not because they were not there, but rather because a sense of unity, a sense of commitment to Islam and a feeling of brotherhood were missing. But a group committed to the regeneration of Muslim society should not only establish these mutual rights and obligations but also give them a new significance within the context of their particular situation. They are not mere rules but constitute the means of maintaining the community spiritually, morally and socially, as well as being the means of self-development and self-expression.

The rules did not only deal with the duties of one member to another but also with the duties of each member to his or her parents, children, and spouse. It was, in effect, the training of an individual in social responsibility. Our main source of information about this is ‘Abdullahi’s Tibyān li-Ḥuqūq al-Ikhwān. This short treatise, we venture to suggest, was only a written testimony of what the movement had in fact put into practice right from its inception.

Brotherhood

The first category of duties and responsibilities is the mutual rights of Muslims that flow from the bond of brotherhood which ties each to the other in this world and the Next. The fulfillment of these mutual responsibilities has the effect of cementing that brotherhood and brings together all members into a single ummah, separate and distinct from the communities of other faiths.

The rights cover the whole spectrum of life. A Muslim should greet a fellow Muslim whenever they meet, an action which, according to the Prophet, increases love among Muslims, mutual love being something which assures admittance to paradise. He should accept the invitation of his Muslim brother. He should visit and care for a fellow Muslim when he falls sick. He should honor his brother’s words and oaths. He should give him good counsel or advice whenever it is sought or whenever he deems it necessary. He should protect his brother’s honor when he is absent. He should attend his funeral. And, above all, he should love for his fellow Muslim what he loves for himself and hate for him what he hates for himself.

These mutual duties are increased when the Muslim brother is also a neighbor. He should be helped whenever necessary. A loan should be extended to him if he is in financial difficulty and if an outright gift is not possible. He should be congratulated when good comes to him and consoled when misfortune afflicts him. He should share a meal with him from time to time. Neither his neighbor nor his neighbor’s children should be made to feel any difference that might exist on an economic level. His neighbor’s privacy must be respected and guarded.

Mutual rights are also increased, both in quality and intimacy, when a Muslim is a fellow traveler in a common cause. As a friend and confidant his rights are that he should be accorded almost the same status as yourself with regard to your property. At the very least, he should be considered as having absolute right to what is in excess of your needs, and at best, you should follow the example of earlier Muslims by preferring him to yourself. You should go to his aid even before he asks for it and support his family if he dies. You should refrain from exposing his weaknesses and secrets and discourage others from doing so.

You should also be silent about his dislikes, except, of course, when it is your duty to prevent evil. You should make him happy through whatever honorable means are available, such as commending his good qualities and those of his children, “without,” added ‘Abdullahi, “having to tell lies.” You should overlook any bad behavior on his part and accept his excuses, whether they are true or not. You should also pray for him from time to time. And, finally, you should avoid putting unnecessary burdens on him, so that the bond of love is preserved and not strained.

Parent-Child Obligations

Rights and obligations flowing from child/parent relationships constitute a further relevant category. A child has a duty to obey his parents. ‘Abdullahi quoted a number of traditions without, however, making any specific recommendations; but Bello might have been expressing ‘Abdullahi’s thoughts in Fawā’id Mujmilah fi-Mā Jā’ fi-l-Birr wa-l Sillah when he commented briefly on Allah’s injunction to be dutiful to one’s parents:

“It is narrated in the Ṣaḥīḥ on the authority of Abū Hurayrah % that a person came to the Messenger of Allah صلّى الله عليه وسلّم and asked, ‘Who is most entitled to my best treatment?’ to which the Messenger of Allah replied, ‘Your mother’. The man asked, ‘Who next?’ He replied, ‘Your mother.’ The man asked, ‘Who next?’ He replied, ‘Your mother.’ He asked further, ‘Who next?’ And the Messenger of Allah replied, ‘Your father.’”

The implication of this – that someone’s affection for a mother should be three times that given to their father – is supported by what we see in life, since a mother bears the burden of conception, the burden of childbirth and the burden of nursing.

“Five duties,” Bello wrote further, “devolve on a responsible person in respect of his parents. Firstly, that he should not be arrogant towards them; secondly, that he should avoid rebuking them even when they confront him with something he dislikes; thirdly, that he should address them in a pleasing, respectful manner… as a humble servant addresses his noble master; fourthly, that he should show great affection to them, not raising his voice in their presence or walking in front of them, and should do what they want, without of course disobeying the law, showing them love, compassion, reverence, and serving them in an excellent way; and fifthly, that he should always pray for Allah’s mercy on them provided they are Muslims, and offer ṣadaqah on their behalf after they are dead.”

Regarding the children’s rights, ‘Abdullahi emphasized that a child is a trust (amānah) in the hands of his parents, endowed with a pure, innocent heart, free from guilt. At the same time, a child’s heart is impressionable so that it can be steered towards either good or evil. If a child is introduced from the beginning to goodness he will grow in that direction and will be a success in this world and in the Hereafter, and everyone who has contributed to that moral success will share in the reward. If, however, he is introduced to evil, he will grow in that direction and the burden of misguidance will be on those who are responsible for it.

A child should be suckled, ‘Abdullahi insisted, by a woman who lives on lawful food and is herself upright because “unlawful milk corrupts the child, as there is no blessing in it at all.” A child’s correct upbringing in the home is a duty owed to it by its father. ‘Abdullahi suggested that children should be inculcated with Islamic discipline in matters such as eating, dressing and sleeping.

Concerning his education, he should first be introduced to the Qur’an and entrusted to an upright teacher. Throughout his early education, the child should be guided towards developing strength of character. He should be taught not to cry loudly if beaten at school, nor to seek the intervention of anyone against his punishment by his teacher, but rather to endure the punishment patiently. He should be allowed sports and playtime after school to prevent depression, blunting of the intelligence and loss of interest in schooling altogether.

Regarding general behavior, ‘Abdullahi suggested that children should be taught to hate pride and love humility. They should not be allowed to brag about their parents’ wealth, possessions or livelihood. They should be taught to respect those who associate with them, to be soft in speech, to talk little, and avoid unnecessary questions. They should be taught that gentlemanly behavior lies in giving, not in taking, and that greed is degrading. They should not spit when in company. They should be attentive when spoken to by older people and offer them a place to sit. At the same time they should avoid people who use obscene speech, curse or insult others.

Mothers have a duty to teach their children to respect their fathers and to give due regard to their teachers and superiors. Children should be taught their duties as Muslims and be told stories of upright men and women. They should be warned against stealing, cheating and lying and be inspired to perform and love good deeds. If they make mistakes they should be corrected and if they repeat them they should be rebuked in secret and made to appreciate the gravity of what they have done. They should conversely be rewarded for displaying good qualities.

As children grow older, they should be made to appreciate that the purpose of eating is to enable them to be strong enough to carry out the injunctions of Allah, and that this world is ephemeral and so a sensible person will only take from it those provisions necessary for the Next. The ephemeral nature of this world and the reality and permanence of the Hereafter should be so inculcated into a child’s consciousness that it becomes ingrained permanently in their character. When maturity is reached, marriage should be arranged. ‘Abdullahi repeated the Prophet’s teaching that every child is born with a pure natural disposition. It is up to the parents to keep their children on this natural form and not allow it to become corrupted.

Family Obligations

A husband, ‘Abdullahi wrote in Tibyān, has approximately eleven obligations towards his wife. The first, which arises from the marriage bond itself, is the payment of sadāqi or dowry and also the costs of the marriage celebration, provided that it is done as the Prophet صلّى الله عليه وسلّم specified. The second obligation is that a husband should tolerate annoyance and endure injury from his wife and, more importantly, “he should be forbearing, indulgent and understanding when she gets angry following the example of the Messenger of Allah صلّى الله عليه وسلّم.” Thirdly, he should stimulate her mind by engaging in lawful fun and games with her but, fourthly, he should be moderate in this regard so as not to lose her esteem or lose the ability to correct her if she violates the Sharī‘ah.

Fifthly, he is obliged to correct her but is not entitled in the course of this to subject her integrity to suspicion or to change her attitudes or to neglect her or be indifferent towards her. His sixth responsibility is to maintain his wife fairly though moderately. His seventh obligation is to educate her “in the tenets of the people of the Sunnah and in the injunctions and prohibitions of the law”, instruct her in her religious duties and instill the fear of Allah into her if she shows slackness in the practice of her dīn. The eighth duty applies to a man who has more than one wife, in which case he has to maintain justice between his wives. The ninth thing is that, if ever she exceeds the limits of tolerable companionship, he should discipline her in the way the Qur’an prescribes, “without violence”. The tenth duty is to take pleasure in her children – male and female. Finally, if a divorce does occur, he should continue to please her heart with gifts, guard her secrets and respect her privacy.

As for the rights of a husband, ‘Abdullahi explained, “they are many: for instance, a wife should obey her husband in all matters so long as they do not amount to sin, and pursue those things that give him happiness. He quotes the words of the Prophet  صلّى الله عليه وسلّم: “Any woman who meets her death while her husband is happy with her will go to paradise.”

Finally, servants have legal rights, too. They should be fed with the same food their master eats and be clothed in the same decent and dignified way as their master. They should not be burdened with work that is beyond their capability. Servants should not be subjected to humiliation or blackmail by their employers.

To reiterate, there is nothing radically new in this code of social behavior but it gains special significance when placed in the context of Hausaland at that time and when it becomes an integral part of the growth of a new social movement. The intention behind the code was, no doubt, to create a fellowship of the people who shared a common cause; to establish good and virtuous neighborliness; to build loving and upright homes; and to raise the dignity of even the lowliest of people within the community. On deeper reflection, it would appear that what ‘Abdullahi was in fact advocating in Tibyān was the transformation of the community into what amounted to a single large family, sharing a single set of values and pursuing a single cause.

The New Culture

In addition to the spirit of fellowship and mutual obligation that was fostered in the Jama‘a, there was the simultaneous development of a new social attitude, a kind of counterculture, in the movement. In fact, the cultivation of this particular kind of behavior was an extension of the mutual obligations we have mentioned, which served to strengthen the solidarity of the Jama‘a, but it was also essential in giving the new movement a sense of identity, a superior spiritual and cultural attitude, that distinguished it from the rest of the community and helped to draw other fairminded and cultured people towards it. This is the subject matter of Shehu Usman’s Kitāb al-Adab.

The acquisition of knowledge was the most fundamental characteristic of Shehu Usman’s Jama‘a. Indeed, the emerging ethos and values that were molding the Jama‘a revolved entirely around knowledge and scholarship. The fact that the eight-page Kitāb al-Adab, which dealt with more than fifteen issues, devoted almost half its space to matters relating to knowledge indicates the paramount importance of this matter.

Education, like any other sphere of human activity, should be governed by certain values and ethical principles, all the more so in a society where knowledge is sought primarily as a means to gain wealth or social prestige. For, if knowledge is vulgarized or commercialized, as indeed it was in Hausaland, it will no longer be possible for scholars to raise the moral tone of society or influence it in any positive manner. The reiteration of the ethics of education was therefore imperative, if only to provide the new movement with a distinct sense of direction and purpose.

This meant that the new generation of scholars – the vanguard for the revival of Islam in Hausaland – had to display qualities and attitudes consistent with their role as teachers, guardians of societal values and as the conscience of the ummah. So, while remaining humble, they had also to behave in a dignified manner that commanded respect from all. And, while it was essential that they show respect to people in general, it was not expected of them to accord honor to oppressors, if only as a mark of their disapproval of criminal, un-Islamic acts. They were to endeavor to be “scholars of the Hereafter” and not scholars of this world. Consequently, they had to seek knowledge that was useful in the Hereafter, knowledge that would facilitate and encourage obedience to Allah.

They were not to be materialistic in matters of food, clothing or accommodation. They were to endeavor to acquire sound spiritual knowledge, strive to combat undesirable innovations in society, and gain insight into the causes of corruption and confusion. In addition, they were required to keep their distance from kings. This, we may add, was essential if these scholars were to serve as the focus of social mobilization and as the symbols of people’s aspirations. Indeed, the fundamental distinguishing factor between the generation of ‘ulamā’ raised by the Shehu and the rest of the scholars, was that the former saw itself as a distinct body independent of the existing political order and committed to its overthrow. Such scholars could not fraternize with those they regarded as oppressive rulers, let alone serve them.

The responsibility of the scholars was to their students: to impart useful sciences to them; to urge them to pursue knowledge purely for the sake of Allah; to urge them to learn about their individual religious obligations before embarking on other subjects; and to discourage them from associating with men of evil character. In addition, the scholars had to show kindness to their students, mould their characters and give them good advice at all times. They were not to belittle subjects not taught by them and were to deal with each student according to his intelligence.

The students, on their part, had to pay due respect to their teachers, give the school the same veneration due to the mosque, and accord to the acquisition of knowledge the same reverence the accorded to the prayer. They should not display any materialistic tendencies and should behave in a dignified fashion. They too had to keep their distance from oppressive kings and strive to preserve their dignity. “Do not,” the Shehu advised, “place wealth above honor.” The ultimate objective of each of the sciences had to be considered carefully by the students before they made their choice about which disciplines to pursue, remembering, however, that the purpose of knowledge is to improve the character and seek nearness to Allah.

 In the area of social behavior, several matters were dealt with in Kitāb al-Adab. The Shehu advised his men to display composure, social restraint and common sense in their association with people in general. They should limit their disapproval of the behavior of others but be quick to advise on right and wrong, offering advice, however, only when there was a real hope of it being accepted. They should not plunge into other people’s discussions, nor should they pay attention to rumors and lies peddled in public, listen to obscene language, frequent places of ill repute or seek anything from people of low morals. They should be thoughtful and humble and, in their search for a livelihood, they should put their trust in Allah and be content with what they had lawfully acquired.

While it was essential that members of the Jama‘a should develop maturity by, for example, not eating too much and not tiring themselves unduly during the day, they must at the same time improve their inner disposition, thus strengthening the cohesion of the Jama‘a and raising their status with Allah. Hence, the mind should be freed from nursing any hatred or enmity towards a fellow Muslim and from being unduly anxious over worldly matters.

 The mind should rather be occupied with the thought of the Hereafter, to counterbalance its normal preoccupation with this world. In addition, qiyām al-layl (standing for prayer in the night) should be observed on a daily basis, and the mind should be trained to be conscious of Allah, to fear His punishment, and to be ashamed of its moral failures. Over and above this, constant reading of the Qur’an, observing the respect due to it, and making an effort to understand and contemplate it was desirable.

When starting on a journey, members of the Jama‘a, and in a wider sense Muslims in general, should free themselves first from all moral and economic obligations, so that they could travel with an absolutely free conscience. According to Shehu Usman, they should first amend any wrong they had done, pay their debts, return anything that had been entrusted to them and arrange for the maintenance of those under their care. They should take adequate provision but use only lawful means to acquire it. They should carry items of basic necessity with them. And above all, they should fulfill their spiritual obligations throughout the journey and adhere to the ethics of travel established by the Prophet of Allah صلّى الله عليه وسلّم.

The Kitāb al-Adab also touched on the ethics of sleep. The Shehu advised his people to regard sleep not merely as a physical phenomenon but also as a profound lesson which repeats itself daily. They should see sleep “as a form of death” and their reawakening “as a form of resurrection”. In other words, the thought of the Hereafter should be paramount in their minds when going to bed. It might, in fact, be their last sleep. Therefore, they should go to bed in a state of purity – teeth brushed and wuḍū’ performed. They should ask Allah’s forgiveness for all their sins and offer the supplication (du‘ā’) appropriate for going to bed. Their beds should not be excessively soft – either because that would indicate an inclination to luxury, which is hateful to Islam, or because a soft bed might diminish a person’s ability to wake for Ṣubḥ prayer.

When the Shehu touched on the obligations a man owes to his wife, the wife to her husband and mutual obligations between Muslims, there was no fundamental difference between Kitāb al-Adab and ‘Abdullahi’s Tibyān, although the Shehu added several points not included by ‘Abdullahi. He advised Muslims to honor the aged and show compassion to the young. He said they should meet each other with cheerful faces, be considerate and fair in their dealings with one another, and fulfill one another’s needs on a cooperative basis. He instructed them to protect one another against injustice and come to one another’s defense and, most significantly, he told them to avoid the company of the rich, associate always with the poor and take adequate care of orphans.

On the matter of the ethics of visiting to the sick, the Shehu advised that visitors should exhibit compassion, pray for the sick person as the Prophet has counseled and ask as few questions as possible. The sick person, for his part, should be patient, keep his complaints to a minimum and put his trust for recovery in Allah, while continuing to take the necessary medication. It may be said that, on the whole, there was nothing new, either in Tibyān or Kitāb al-Adab. What was new was that the social and moral rules they contained were being put into practice by a group dedicated to establishing a better and superior social order. The Jama‘a was nurtured on well known principles, values and ethics. When these were actualized in a social setting, they assumed added significance and, in turn, made their mark on the emerging social force. As long as the Jama‘a remained faithful to these values and ethics, there did not exist any force that could weaken them or alter their course towards reviving Islam.

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Published in: on November 4, 2011 at 18:48  Comments (1)  
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