Chapter Four of the African Caliphate – Building the Community 

Chapter Four of the African Caliphate

Building the Community  

 By: Ibraheem Sulaiman 

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 emerging new order of the Shehu’s followers – the Jamaaʿah. Here we shall be concentrating on three areas as the basis of 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 to bring about a society superior to the one it abhors and challenges, 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 to attack evil, but more fundamentally, to produce men and women who believed in that truth and whose general disposition was a clear testimony to their faith in that truth.

Moral Ideals 

Our concern now is to look at those qualities which the movement regarded as vital for its members – especially for 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 practices of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), his companions and the early generations of Islam, but they were new to Hausaland, where they had been abandoned, and if they were still regarded as ideals at all, they were 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 Ṭariiq al-Jannah, but the moral ideals imparted in those men and women were best articulated by Muhammad Bello in Ṭaaʿaat al-Khallaaq bi-Makaariim al-Akhlaaq. Other sources are ʿAbdullahi’s Sabiil an-Najaat and Minan al-Minan and Bello’s Jalaa’ aṣ-Ṣuḍuur.


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 (ʿilm), which meant the comprehension of those aspects necessary for the realization of the objectives of tajdiid; the understanding of the Qur’an, Sunnah, uṣuul, fiqh and taṣawwuf; the acquisition of the necessary skills in such sciences as medicine, and the full understanding of the means and method of government and administration. And since knowledge was conceived as an instrument of tajdiid, a considerable stress was laid on its application to the general scheme of life. Knowledge which was not put to use was not considered as relevant in those circumstances. Thus while ʿAbdullahi in Minan stressed that knowledge was the ‘root of work so much that of no merit is the work we do in ignorance’, he added that acquired knowledge must produce its results in practical life, otherwise it is meaningless. And Bello, in Jalaa’, after quoting the ḥadiith of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم): “Woe to the one who does not learn!” “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.


Associated with knowledge was the quality which Bello in Ṭaaʿaat called “ʿaql. Essentially it means the full cognition of the aims, purposes and significance of commands and prohibitions of Islam. “ʿAql is what leads you to the consciousness of Allah, and saves you from passion”, because the cognition of evil and its ultimate consequences is most likely to help one avoid it. Bello said that the cognizant is he whose words are few, but whose works are plenty.

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, in that one does or avoids things in the full appreciation of what they mean to one personally, what they contribute to one’s 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 a world of difference between a ruler who is just in mere obedience to the law and another who is just because he is aware that it is justice that sustains a nation, or that as a leader he will appear before Allah on the Day of Judgment in chains from which he can be released only by his justice. So too is there a difference between one who performs the four rakʿaat before dhuhr because the Sunnah requires him to do so, and the one 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 much of his time to pondering them.

Secondly, the importance of this quality is that it arms 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 various people, some with a sincere aim to learn and obey and others with mischievous intention. If cogent answers are given, Islam will thus be exalted, otherwise serious damage could result.


In Sabiil, ʿAbdullahi said of the importance of repentance (tawbah):

“Know that Allah has made tawbah as a covering for the nakedness of work, a cleansing of the impurities arising from error, 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: first, from man’s recognition of his innate imperfection as a human being which impels him constantly to seek to make up those deficiencies by recourse to the act of repentance; second, from the angle of repentance being a social imperative in a period of decline.

In its wider context tawbah means the progressive abandonment of that path that leads to social and political disintegration and ultimate collapse of a given society and recourse to the ways of regeneration and rectitude. Tawbah thus embraces both the spiritual and socio-moral behavior of people and societies. In a yet more profound sense, tawbah incorporates 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. Thus, for a people striving to regenerate their society, a recourse to tawbah as a fundamental aspect of the individual personality means a sustained disengagement from the norms and attitudes of the prevailing order for the simple reason that they are the symptoms of the diseases that have plagued the society causing its decay, and the adoption of the behavior and attitudes that are the ingredients of regeneration. Tawbah is, therefore, a total change of an individual’s conception of, and attitude to life, as well as an absolute change of course implied in the initiation of a process of transformation by an ideological movement.


That new attitude to life is what is called zuhd, which was a fundamental quality in the movement. Zuhd, as explained by the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), has two elements: abstinence from the world and keeping one’s distance from the possessions of others. To abstain from the world means, among other things, that one should live in it and deal with it as a temporary abode, indeed, as a place of trial, a place of preparation for the home of reward and permanence. Whatever one takes from it whether it be in the form of sustenance, power, knowledge or skill and whatever other pursuits one undertakes in it, should be regarded as a means with which one is being tested by Allah who will give the ultimate 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 cease to be and give way ultimately to the enduring life of the hereafter.

Zuhd also involves exerting sufficient effort to secure a livelihood so as to be self-reliant and free from having to cast one’s eyes on what belongs to other people. Bello stressed the need to preserve one’s integrity through self- reliance in Jalaa’:

“The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said, ‘Take to trading, for it secures nine-tenths of wealth’… It is related that [Prophet] Isa (upon him be peace) met a certain person and he asked the latter, ‘What do you do for a living’? He said, ‘I engage in worship’. Isa (upon him be peace) said, ‘Who, then, takes care of your needs’? He said, ‘My brother’. ‘Then’, Isa (upon him be peace) said, ‘your brother is more of a worshipper than yourself’.”

In essence, zuhd means that one should ardently seek the home of the hereafter by mobilizing and channeling the materials of this world for the accomplishment of the higher purposes of life, and living one’s life as far as possible, in accordance with the injunctions of Allah. Equally, it means that one should exert such efforts as would make oneself self-reliant and self sufficient, so that one would not have to sell honor or even religion in order to live.

In its ideological context, zuhd means the mobilization of a movement’s moral and material resources for delivering the people from the world. The moral resources provide the strength to strive against a degenerate social order, while the 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.


Yet, to achieve that moral and economic supremacy, another quality is essential: ṣabr. In its restrictive sense, ṣabr means patience, but in its wider sense, it embraces a number of attitudes. ṣabr implies endeavoring to live honestly and honorably in situations where those qualities are not tolerated by the prevailing system, and enduring the hardships and disadvantages that one suffers as a result. The purpose of this attitude is that it serves as a shining light in the midst of pervasive darkness. ṣabr also means overlooking a good deal 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 that one suffers in striving for religion. In the encounter with a decadent system, some people might lose their 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, for the journey towards religion is long, the steps are hard and the efforts tiring. ṣabr means that one should not personalize whatever harm or injury one suffers in the cause of Allah, and should therefore not hold 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, viewing such trials as a moral training, not as a punishment from Allah.

The result of ṣabr allows one to forgive readily, to have no personal enemy except ideological adversaries to maintain patience in overlooking and overcoming the obstacles placed in the way, until ultimately the goal is reached. Beside knowledge and piety, there is no greater weapon for an individual striving in the cause of Allah than ṣabr.

Diplomacy, Forgiveness and Hilm

For a movement, the relationship of its vanguards with the generality of the people is vital, not only for its image, but also, more significantly, for its 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 mudaarah, or diplomacy. It entails showing kindness, liberality and respect even to those who nurse enmity towards religion with the hope of either winning their hearts to the faith or at least neutralizing their enmity. In short, mudaarah is another word for restraint and caution. Bello was quick, however, to distinguish this honest effort to safeguard religion from the pure act 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 is squandering the religion to safeguard wealth’. In a wider sense, mudaaraah embraces those steps a movement takes to disarm its potential enemies by winning their hearts through persuasion, by showing regard for their feelings and sensitivities and offering them help in the period of need.

The second quality is ʿafw or spirit of forgiveness. Bello quoted the verse of the Qur’an: “Repel evil with what is better than he between whom and you there is enmity becomes as it were your friend and intimate.” He also quoted the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم): “A person does not forgive a wrong done to him, but Allah exalts him on account of it; therefore, take to forgiveness so that Allah may exalt you.”

The third quality is what Bello called ḥilm. It means that one develops and perfects a gentle disposition so that people find comfort and confidence in one; even in anger one does not stray from truth, in the same way as in joy one does not err.


A further extremely important quality which was highly prized by the movement is what Bello in Ṭaaʿaat called adab, which for want of an appropriate word we may term discipline. ‘The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم)’, Bello said, ‘has inculcated discipline in his ummah by asking them to mention the name of Allah before meal and to give praise to Him after meal; and by his forbidding them to drink while standing, or from the buckets, and eating with the left hand or removing impurities with the right hand.” That is but one of the several aspects of adab.

In a more comprehensive sense, adab embraces the discipline and control of what Shehu in Ṭariiq and ʿAbdullahi in Sabiil 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: first, because Allah himself has commanded that Muslims should ‘lower their gaze and guard their modesty’; second, because the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) has warned that immodest gazing at women is ‘one of the poisoned arrows of Shaytaan’, and whoever avoids it would be graced with the sweetness of worship; and third, because the eye is created, not to search for the beauty of women, but ‘purposely to obtain the vision of Allah – glorious and great is He!’ ʿAbdullahi added that controlling and restraining the eye helps towards the perfection of faith and obedience to Allah.

Similarly, it is part of adab that one should keep one’s hearing under control; neither listening to irrelevant and obscene sounds, such as vulgar music, nor listening to the denigration of others. The tongue on its part should be prevented from utterances that are bound to involve the body in physical and moral dangers, or that cause regrets when men stand for judgment before Allah on the ultimate day. Such utterances include, for instance, slandering others which Allah likens to eating the flesh of one’s dead brother.

The control of the heart is, as far as both the Shehu and ʿAbdullahi   were concerned, the most important challenge for people. The Shehu called attention to five factors which account for this crucial importance. First, is that in all matters Allah looks into the heart, into people’s intentions, as stressed so often in the Qur’an. Second, is the reinforcement of this point by the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم). Third, is the point that the heart is, as it were, the king of the body and other organs its subjects, so that if it is corrupted the whole body is tainted. Fourth, the heart is the repository of innate human qualities such as intelligence and knowledge. “It is most fitting,” in Shehu’s words, “that this kind of repository should be preserved against being contaminated or despoiled.” Fifth, the heart is, as it were, the battleground between good and evil, between the angel and the devil. The control of the heart means that it should be preserved from inordinate ambition, haste, envy and pride. Conversely, it should be refined through such attitudes as modest hopes or ambition, deliberation in affairs, entertaining goodwill to people, and humility.

The control of the belly means that it should be preserved from taking what is either expressly unlawful or what is of dubious nature or taking from lawful things in excess of one’s needs. To consume excessively, 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 embraces, in the words of 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 the thought and remembrance of Allah.

Another quality related to adab is what Bello called inaa, or deliberation. It is important for an individual, because it enables him to ponder issues before he undertakes them, thus saving himself 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, inaa would involve the realization that in the task of raising people to moral excellence, there is no need for excessive urgency, since there is no short cut in such matters. ‘Haste’, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said in a ḥadiith quoted by Bello ‘is from Shaytaan’, while caution and deliberation is from Allah. Bello, however, made six important exceptions where haste is not only allowed but praiseworthy: the payment of debt, offering food to one’s guest, burying the dead, prayer at the right time, marriage of a girl who has reached maturity and tawbah, or repentance.

Other qualities pertaining to adab were set out by Bello as humble disposition, generosity, contentment, truthfulness in speech, strengthening the ties of relationship, honoring trusts, good neighborliness, fulfilling promises and obligations, modesty, keeping one’s appointment, and being merciful to creatures. And he quoted this noble statement of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم):

“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 those who wrong me; to give to those who deprive me; to seek ties with those who break from me; and that my silence should be for reflection, my utterance should be a reminder; and that my gaze should be to learn.”

This emphasis on the qualities we have enumerated implies that the Shehu was determined to create individuals imbued with the qualities of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) himself and to evolve, through them, a community that embodied the qualities and characteristics of the community of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم). 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 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 a new ummah.

The Communal Spirit

We can now look into the nature of the social relationship that was being nurtured in the nascent community, which was one of the principal means of the development of the new order. It is natural that a special kind of relationship should exist among members of an ideological group which dictates their interpersonal conduct, establishes rights and obligations of each member and holds the community together. This relationship is an expression of a profound mutual commitment to a cause – absent in outside society – and a sense of unity, belief, purpose and destiny.

In the case of the Shehu’s community, the question of rights and obligations of the members was not determined by a new code. They 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 the sense of oneness, the sense of commitment to Islam and the 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 give them a new significance within their ideological context. They are not mere rules, but the means of maintaining the community ideologically, morally and socially, as well as being the means of self and self-expression.

The rules did not deal only 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 responsibilities. Our main source of information is ʿAbdullahi’s Tibyaan li-Ḥuquuq al-Ikhwaan. The short treatise, we venture to suggest, was only a written testimony of what the movement had put into practice right from its inception.


The first category of duties and responsibilities is the mutual rights of Muslims which flow from the bond of brotherhood that ties each to the other in this world and in the hereafter. The fulfillment of these mutual responsibilities has the effect of cementing that brotherhood and brings together all members into one single ummah, separate and distinct from communities of other faiths. The rights cover the whole spectrum of life. A Muslim should greet a fellow Muslim whenever they meet, which according to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), increases love among Muslims and mutual love is a condition for admittance to paradise; he should accept the invitation of his Muslim brother; a Muslim should visit and tend to his 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 whenever he is in financial difficulty, if an outright grant is not possible; he should be congratulated when good comes to him and be consoled when misfortune touches him; he should share one’s meals from time to time and neither he nor his children should be made to feel the difference that might exist in economic levels. His privacy must be respected and guarded.

Mutual rights are increased both in quality and intimacy when the Muslim is a fellow traveler in a common cause. As a friend and confidante his rights are that he should be accorded almost the same status as oneself in one’s own property; at the very least he should be considered as having absolute right to what is in excess of one’s needs, and at best, he should even have preference over oneself following the example of earlier Muslims. One should go to his aid directly even before he makes his requests and his family should be supported after his death. One should refrain from exposing his weaknesses, and should discourage others from doing so; one should not expose his secrets nor encourage others to do so, and one should be silent about his dislikes, except of course when it is one’s duty to prohibit evil. One should make him happy through whatever honorable means are available, such as commending his good qualities and those of his children, ‘without’, ʿAbdullahi added, ‘having to tell lies’. One should overlook his bad behavior and accept his excuses, whether or not they are true. One should pray for him from time to time, and finally one 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. The child has a duty to obey his parents. ʿAbdullahi quoted a number of traditions without, however, making any specific recommendations, but Bello might have been expressing ʿAbdullahi’s thoughts in Fawaa’id Mujmilah fi-Maa Jaa’ fi-l-Birr wa-l Sillah when he commented briefly on Allah’s injunction:

“It is narrated in the Ṣaḥiiḥ on the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) that a person came to the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) and asked, ‘Who is most entitled to my best treatment?’ to which the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) 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 (صلى الله عليه وسلم) replied, ‘Your father’.”

The interpretation that affection for one’s mother should exceed that given to the father threefold is supported by what we see in real life, since the 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.”

“First, that he should not be arrogant towards them…; two, that he should avoid rebuking them even when they confront him with what he dislikes; three, that he should address them in a pleasing, respectful manner… as a humble servant addresses his auspicious master; four, that he should show great affection to them – for instance, he should neither raise his voice in their presence nor walk in front of them – and he should do what they want, without of course disobeying the law, showing them love, compassion, reverence, and serving them in an excellent manners; five, that he should always pray for Allah’s mercy on them; if they are Muslims, and offer sadaqah on their behalf after they are dead.”

On the rights of the child, ʿAbdullahi emphasized that the child is a trust (amaanah) in the hands of his parents, endowed with a pure, innocent heart, free from stain. At the same time, a child’s heart is impressionable so that it can be bent towards either good or bad. If, therefore, the 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, but if he is introduced to evil, he will grow in that direction and the burden of misguidance will be on those who are responsible for his growth.

The child should be suckled, ʿAbdullahi insisted, by a woman who lives on lawful food and is herself upright for ‘unlawful milk corrupts the child, as there is no blessing in it at all’. The child’s upbringing in the home in the proper manner is a duty which the father owes to the child. ʿAbdullahi suggested that the child should be inculcated with Islamic discipline in matters like 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 when 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 play after school, to prevent depression, blunting of the intelligence and loss of interest in schooling altogether.

On behavior, ʿAbdullahi suggested that the child should be taught to hate pride and love humility, he should not be allowed to brag about his parents’ wealth, possessions or livelihood. He should be taught to respect those who associate with him, to be soft in speech, to talk little, avoid unnecessary questions; he should be taught that gentlemanly behavior lies in giving, not in taking, and that greed is degrading behavior. He should not spit when in the midst of people, he should be attentive when his superior in age speaks and offer him a place to sit. At the same time he should avoid those who use obscene speech, curse or insult others.

The mother has a duty to teach her child to respect the father and venerate him; to give due regard to teachers and superiors. He should be taught his duties as a Muslim and be acquainted with stories of upright men and women. He should be warned against stealing, cheating and lying and be inspired to perform and love good deeds. If he makes mistakes he should be corrected; if he repeats them he should be rebuked in secret and be made to appreciate the gravity of the offense. He should be rewarded for displaying good qualities.

As the child grows older, he should be made to appreciate that the purpose of eating is to enable one to be strong enough to carry out the injunctions of Allah; that the world is ephemeral and the sensible person takes from this world only those provisions necessary for the next. The ephemeral nature of the world, and the reality and permanence of the hereafter should be so indoctrinated that it becomes ingrained permanently in the child’s character. When maturity is reached, marriage should be arranged. ʿAbdullahi repeated the Prophet’s (صلى الله عليه وسلم) belief that every child is born with a natural disposition. It is up to the parents to bring up the child in the natural order and not to corrupt the being.

Family Obligations

The husband, ʿAbdullahi wrote in Tibyaan, has approximately eleven obligations towards his wife. The first, which arises from the marriage bond itself, is the payment of sadaaqi or dowry, including the celebration of the marriage provided that it is done as the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) has specified. The second obligation is that the husband should tolerate annoyance and endure injury from her, and more importantly, ‘he should be forbearing, indulgent and understanding when she gets angry following the example of the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم)’. Third, he should stimulate her mind by engaging her in lawful jokes and sports, but, fourth, he should be moderate in this regard so as not to lose her esteem or lose the ability to correct her when she violates the Shariiʿah. Fifth, he is obliged to correct her, but he is not entitled in the course of this to subject her integrity to suspicion or to change her attitudes or to neglect or be indifferent to her. The sixth responsibility is to maintain his wife fairly, though moderately. Seventh, he must 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 in her when she shows slackness in the practice of religion. Eighth, in case of polygamy he has a duty to maintain justice among his wives. Ninth, whenever she exceeds the limits of tolerable companionship he should discipline her as the Qur’an has shown, ‘without violence’. Tenth, be should take pleasure in her children – male or 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 the husband, ʿAbdullahi explained, ‘they are many: for instance, she should obey him in all matters so long as they do not amount to sin, and pursue those things that give him happiness. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said, “Any woman who meets her death while her husband is happy with her will go to paradise.”

Finally, the servant has legal rights, too. He should be fed with the same food the master takes; he should be clothed in the same decent and dignified style as the master; he should not be burdened with work that is beyond his capability. The servant should not be subjected to humiliation or blackmail by the employer.

To reiterate, there is nothing radically new in this code of social behavior, but it gains special significance when placed in an ideological context and when it becomes an integral part of the growth of a 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, one cannot help believing that what ʿAbdullahi advocated in Tibyaan was the transformation of the community into one big family, sharing one set of values and pursuing one single cause.

The New Culture 

In addition to fostering the spirit of fellowship and mutual obligation in the Jamaaʿah, there was a simultaneous development of a new social attitude, a kind of counter-culture, in the movement. In fact, the cultivation of this social etiquette was an extension of the mutual obligations which served as a means of strengthening the solidarity of the Jamaaʿah, but this social etiquette was essential in giving the new movement a sense of identity, a superior spiritual and cultural attitude that distinguished the corps from the rest of the community, and helped to draw other fair-minded and cultured people towards them. This is the subject matter of Shehu Usman’s Kitaab al-Adab.

The acquisition of knowledge was the most fundamental characteristic of Shehu Usman’s Jamaaʿah; indeed the emerging ethos and values that were molding the Jamaaʿah revolved entirely around knowledge and scholarship. The fact that the eight-page Kitaab al-Adab which dealt with more than fifteen issues devoted almost half the space to matters relating to knowledge indicates the paramount importance of this subject. Education, like any other sphere of human activity, should be governed by certain values and ethics, 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.

Hence, the new generation of scholars – the vanguard for reviving 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 which 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 the world. Consequently, they had to seek knowledge that was useful in the hereafter, which 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 this generation of ʿulamaa’ being 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 scholars owed responsibility 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; 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 in accordance with his intelligence.

The students on their part had to pay due respect to their teachers, give the school the veneration due to a mosque and accord the acquisition of knowledge and the reverence due to 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 your honor.” The ultimate objectives of each of the sciences had to be considered carefully by the students before they made their choice of which disciplines to pursue, remembering, however, that the purpose of knowledge is to improve one’s being and seek nearness to Allah.

In the area of social behavior, several matters were dealt with in Kitaab al-Adab. The Shehu advised his men to display bodily composure, social restraint and common sense in their association with people in general. They should limit their disapproval of behavior, but be quick to advise on right and wrong, offering advice, however, only when there was hope of acceptance. They should not plunge into other people’s discussions, nor 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 Jamaaʿah 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 Jamaaʿah and raising their status with Allah. Hence, the mind should be freed from nursing any hatred or enmity towards a fellow Muslim, or being unduly anxious over worldly matters; the mind should rather be occupied with the thought of the hereafter, to counterbalance preoccupation with the world. In addition, qiyaam al-layl, standing for prayer in the night, should be observed daily and given its due regard, while 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 Jamaaʿah, and in a wider sense Muslims in general, should free themselves from all moral and economic obligations, so that they could travel with an absolutely free conscience. According to Shehu Usman, they should first amend whatever wrong they had done, pay their debts, return whatever was entrusted to them and arrange the maintenance of those under their care. They should make adequate provisions, but using only lawful means. 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 Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم).

The Kitaab al-Adab also touched on the ethics of sleep. The Shehu advised his people to regard sleep not merely as a physical phenomenon, but rather as a profound lesson which repeats itself daily. They should see sleep ‘as a form of death’ and their wakening ‘as a form of resurrection’. In other words, the thought of the hereafter should be paramount in their minds when going to bed. It could, in fact, be their last sleep. Therefore, they should go to bed in a state of purity – teeth brushed, and wuḍuu’ performed; they should ask Allah’s forgiveness for all their sins and offer the supplication (duʿaa’) appropriate for going to bed. The bed should not be excessively soft – either because that would indicate an inclination to luxury which is hateful to Islam or because a soft bed could diminish one’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 Kitaab al-Adab and ʿAbdullahi’s Tibyaan, but the Shehu added several points. 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 the needs of one another on a cooperative basis. He instructed them to protect each other against injustice and come to the defense of each other, 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 matters such as the ethics of visits to a sick person, the Shehu advised that the visitor should exhibit compassion, pray for him as the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) 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 Tibyaan or Kitaab al-Adab. What was new was that the social and moral rules were being put into practice by a group dedicated to establishing a better and superior social order. The Jamaaʿah was nurtured on well-known principles, values and ethics. When these were actualized in an ideological setting, they assumed added significance, and they in turn made their mark on the emerging social force. As long as the Jamaaʿah remained faithful to these values and ethics, there did not exist any force that could weaken them or alter their course towards reviving the Deen.

Published in: Uncategorized on April 7, 2018 at 13:00  Leave a Comment  

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