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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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)  

Clarification About the Obligation of Hijrah Which is Placed Upon the Slaves of Allah

10628589_1480732885508215_4636547380070369050_nAt this time in history, a large number of people are accepting Islam in non-Muslim countries. As a result, the question of whether or not it is still compulsory for Muslims to emigrate from daru-l-kufr (the land of disbelief) also referred to as daru-l-harb to daru-l-Islam (the land of Islam) becomes a very important matter. The legal status according to Islamic law of Muslims who continue to reside in non-Muslim lands has been debated for centuries. The sound Sunni scholars have always used the Kitaab (Qur’an), the Sunnah (The precedents established Prophet Muhammad) and Ijmaaʿ (the consensus of the most outstanding and trustworthy scholars). The most pressing questions being asked about the matter are the following:

1) Is this a land of disbelief or a land of peace? That is to say, what is the definition of daru-l-Islam and daru-l-kufr.

2) Is it still compulsory for those who Muslim continue to reside in the countries in rule by non-Muslims to make hijrah to a land of Islam or not?

3) In the case that hijrah is compulsory for the Muslim, and he does not do it, and he prefers to stay and help the forces who are against Islam and Muslims with his person or his wealth, is he committing  a sin when he does this?

We hope that the following discussion will shed more light on this matter and will clarify the position of the traditional Sunni scholars in regards to it.

The following discussion about hijrah is an abridged version of a broader discussion which  has been taken from Shaykh ʿUthmaan Dan Fodio’s book entitled:

بيان وجوب الهجرة على العباد وبيان وجوب نصب الإمام وإقامة الجهاد

Clarification About the Obligation of Hijrah which is Placed Upon the Slaves of Allah and Clarification About the Obligation to Appoint an Imām and to Initiate the Jihād

في‮ ‬وجوب الهجرة من بلاد الكفار

The Chapter: On the Obligation of Hijrah from the Land of the Unbelievers

فأقول بالله التوفيق‭:‬‮ ‬إنَ‮ ‬الهجرة من بلاد الكفّار واجبة كتابا وسنّة وإجماعا

I say, success is from Allah. Emigration from the land of the kuffaar is an obligation according to the Kitaab, the Sunnah and and ʿIjmaa’.

أما الكتاب فقوله تعالى‮ ‬‭:‬‮ ‬إنَّ‮ ‬الّذِينَ‮ ‬تَوَفَّاهُمُ‮ ‬الْـمَلاَئِكَةُ‮ ‬ظَالِـمِي‮ ‬أَنْفُسِهِمْ‮ ‬فِيمَ‮ ‬كُنْتُمْ‮ ‬قَالُواكُنَّا إِنَّ‮ ‬الَّذِينَ‮ ‬تَوَفَّاهُمُ‮ ‬الْمَلَائِكَةُ‮ ‬ظَالِـمِي‮ ‬أَنفُسِهِمْ‮ ‬قَالُوا فِيمَ‮ ‬كُنتُمْ‮ ‬قَالُوا كُنَّا مُسْتَضْعَفِينَ‮ ‬فِي‮ ‬الْأَرْضِ‮ ‬قَالُوا أَلَمْ‮ ‬تَكُنْ‮ ‬أَرْضُ‮ ‬اللَّهِ‮ ‬وَاسِعَةً‮ ‬فَتُهَاجِرُوا فِيهَا فَأُولـاـئِكَ‮ ‬مَأْوَاهُمْ‮ ‬جَهَنَّمُ‮ … ‬النساء‭:‬‮ ‬97‮ ‬قال مفسّرون وفي‮ ‬هذه الآية دليل على‮  ‬وجوب الهجرة من بلاد الكفّار قال الـجلال عبد الرحمن السيوطي‮ ‬في‮ ‬التكملة تفسيره في‮ ‬بيان معنى قوله‮ [‬ظَالِـمِي‮ ‬أَنفُسِهِمْ‮] ‬بالـمُقام مع الكفّار وترك الهجرة انتهَى

As for the Kitaab [the Qur’an], there the Word of Allah, “Surely those whom the angels cause to die while they are wronging themselves, the angels will say, ‘In what circumstance were you?’ They will say. ‘We were weak in the earth.’ The angels will say. ‘Was not Allah’s Earth spacious, so that you might have emigrated in it?’ As for such, their abode will be hell.’” The commentators of the Qur’an have said, “And in this verse is a proof of the obligation of emigrating from the land of the kuffaar.” al-Jalaalu-d-Din Abdur Rahmān As-Suyuutī1 said in [his tafsīr] at-Takmilah2, explaining the meaning of the Words of Allah “wronging themselves,” [to mean], by remaining among the unbelievers and neglecting the command to make hijrah.

وأمّا السنّة فقوله عليه السلام‭:‬‮ ‬إنَّ‮ ‬الله بريء من مسلم ساكن بين الـمشركين وقوله عليه السلام الْـمومن والكفّار لاَ‮ ‬تُرَاءَى نَارُهُمَا أَوردهما سيدنا مختار بن أحمد الكنتي‮ ‬في‮ ‬النصيحة الكافي‮ ‬وقوله عليه الصلاة والسلام من جامع الـمشرك أو سكن معه فإنّه مثله ورواء أبو داود عن سَمُورة

As for the Sunnah, There is the saying of the Prophet عليه السلام, “Allah has nothing to do with the Muslim who lives among the people who commit shirk.” And his saying, “The fires of the of a believer and an unbeliever should not be in sight of one another.” These two hadiths were sited by our master Mukhtār bin Aḥmad al-Kuntī3 in [his book] an-Nasīḥatu-l-Kāfīyyah4. There is also his saying عليه الصلاة والسلام, “He who mixes with the people who commit shirk (associate partners with Allah) is the same as they are.” this has been related by Abu Dawud from Samūrah.

وأمّا الإجماع فقد قال الونشريسي‮ ‬في‮ ‬الـمعيار والإجماع على وجوب الهجرة الإنتهى ولا تكونُ‮ ‬مراعاة حقوق القرابة والزوجية عذرا الأحد في‮ ‬ترك الهجرة فالأموال والـمساكين من باب أحرى قَالَ‮ ‬تعالى‭:‬‮ ‬قُلْ‮ ‬إِن كَانَ‮ ‬آبَاؤُكُمْ‮ ‬وَأَبْنَاؤُكُمْ‮ ‬وَإِخْوَانُكُمْ‮ ‬وَأَزْوَاجُكُمْ‮ ‬وَعَشِيرَتُكُمْ‮ ‬وَأَمْوَالٌ‮ ‬اقْتَرَفْتُمُوهَا وَتِجَارَةٌ‮ ‬تَخْشَوْنَ‮ ‬كَسَادَهَا وَمَسَاكِنُ‮ ‬تَرْضَوْنَهَا أَحَبَّ‮ ‬إِلَيْكُم‮ ‬مِّنَ‮ ‬اللَّهِ‮ ‬وَرَسُولِهِ‮ ‬وَجِهَادٍ‮ ‬فِي‮ ‬سَبِيلِهِ‮ … ‬التوبة‭:‬24‮ ‬فقعدتم لأجله عن الهجرة كما في‮ ‬التكملة تفسير عبد الرّحمن السيوطي‭:‬‮ [‬فَتَرَبَّصُوا حَتَّي‮ ‬يَأْتِيَ‮ ‬اللَّهُ‮ ‬بِأَمْرِهِ‮]‬ وفي‮ ‬تفسير الخازن أن سبب تزول هذه الآية قول الذين أسلموا ولم‮ ‬يهاجروا‮ ‬‭:‬‮ [‬إن نحن هاجرنا ضاعت أموالنا وذهبت تجارتنا وخربت دورنا قَطَعْنَا أرحامنا‮] ‬ثم قال في‮ ‬هذه الآية دليل على أنه إذا وقع تعارض بين مصالح الدين ومصالح الدنيا وجب على الـمسلم ترجيع مصالح الـدين على الدنيا إنتهى‮ ‬

As for Ijmaaʿ, al-Wansharīsī5 has said in [in his book] al-Miʿyaar6, “Ijmaaʿ upholds the obligation of hijrah (emigration).” Consideration of blood relations and marriage should not be an excuse for anyone failing to emigrate, how much less wealth and dwellings. Allah has said, “Say: If your fathers and your sons and your brothers and your wives and your kinsfolk and wealth which you have acquired, and the loss of trade which you fear and dwellings which you like, are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger and striving in His way… 9:24 – so that you fail to emigrate because of it – as as what is found in at-Takmilah, the the tafsīr of as-Suyuutī: “then wait till Allah brings about His command…

According to the tafsīr7 of al-Khaazin8 the reason for the revelation of this verse was the saying of those who accepted Islam, but who didn’t emigrate, “If we had emigrated, our possessions would have been lost, our commerce wasted, and our dwellings ruin, and we would have cut off relations with our kinsfolk.” He [al-Khaazin] then said, “In this verse is proof that whenever there is a conflict between matters  of the Dīn and worldly matters, a Muslim must give preference to the matters of Dīn over the worldly matters.

قلت كما‮ ‬يجب ترجيع حفظه على باقى الكليات الخمس التي‮ ‬هي‮ ‬حفظ النفس والعقل والسب والـمال وألحق بعضهم العِرض قال عبد السلام بن إبرهيم‮ ‬اللَّقاني‮ ‬عند قول الناظم‭:

وحفظ دين نفس مال نسب‮                 ‬ومثلها عقل وعِرض

I [ShaykhʿUthmaan] would add that it is likewise necessary to give preference to its preservation over the rest of the five universal rules which are preservation of the soul. the intellect and lineage and wealth, while some also added honor. Abdus-s-Salaam Al-Laqqaanī9 said in [his book] al-Ithāfu-l-Murīd10 which is the sharḥ for Jawhaaratu-t-Tawhīd, in regards to the words of the poet:

And the preservation of religion, soul, wealth and lineage,

Likewise, of intellect and body is obligatory.

وآكد الـخمسة الدين لأن حفظ‮ ‬غيره وسيلة لحفظه ثم حفظ النفوس ثم العقول ثم الأساب ثم الأموال وفي‮ ‬مرتبتها الأعراض أن لم تؤد الأذية فيها إلى قطع النَّسَب وإلاّ‮ ‬كانت في‮ ‬مرتبة الأنساب ثم قال وجب حفظ الـجميع في‮ ‬جميع الشرا ئع لشرفها إنتهى

The most important of the five is [preservation of] the Dīn, because the preservation of the others is a means of preserving it [the Dīn]. Then comes the preservation of the soul, then of the minds, then of lineage, then of possessions. As important as the latter is the preservation of honor, so long as injury to it does not lead to breaking bonds with kinfolk, otherwise it comes on a level with the preservation of lineage.” Then he [al-Laqqaanī] said, “In all systems of divine law, it is essential to preserve all of them, because of their noble status…”

Shaykh Uthmaan continues saying:

وما ذكرناه من أول هذا الفصل من أن الهجرة من بلاد الكفار واجبة على جميع الـمسلمين لا‮ ‬يختلف فيه اثنان ولا عذر لأحد في‮ ‬تركها إلاَّ‮ ‬الـمستضعفين قال تعالى‭:‬‮[‬إِلاَّ‮ ‬الْـمُسْتَضْعَفِينَ‮ ‬مِنَ‮ ‬الرِّجَالِ‮ ‬وَالنِّسَاءِ‮ ‬وَالْوِلْدَانِ‮ ‬لَا‮ ‬يَسْتَطِيعُونَ‮ ‬حِيلَةً‮ ‬وَلَا‮ ‬يَهْتَدُونَ‮ ‬سَبِيلًا‮] ‬النساء 98 طَرِيقًا إلى أرض الهجرة كما في‮ ‬التكملة تفسير عبد الرحمن السيوطي‮ ‬وفي‮ ‬تفسير الـخازن في‮ ‬بيان معني‮ ‬قوله‮ [‬لَا‮ ‬يَسْتَطِيعُونَ‮ ‬حِيلَةً‮]‬‮ ‬يعني‮ ‬لا‮ ‬يقلرون على حِيلَةً‮ ‬ولا نفقة ولا قوة لهم على الـخروج‮  ‬من مكة وقال تعالى في‮ ‬حق هؤلاء‭:‬‮ [‬فَأُولآئِكَ‮ ‬عَسَى اللَّهُ‮ ‬أَن‮ ‬يَعْفُوَ‮ ‬عَنْهُمْ‮] النساء 89 قال الـمفسيرون ذُكِرَ‮  ‬بكلمة الأطماع ولفظ العفو إيذانا ترك الهجرة أمر خطر حتى أن الـمضطر من حقه أن لا‮ ‬يأمن ويترصد الفرضية ويعلق‮ ‬بها قلبه انتهى

What we have discussed since the beginning of this chapter with regard to the fact that emigration from the lands of the unbelievers is obligatory on all Muslims cannot be disputed, and nobody is excused for neglecting it except the weak. Allah has said, “Except for the weak from among men, women and children who can’t  devise a plan”. They are unable to make hijrah; they don’t have no means of support; “they don’t have a way” to get to the land where they might emigrate,” as was is mentioned in at-Takmilah of ʿAbdur Raḥman as-Suyuutī. In his commentary, explaining the meaning of His [Allah’s] word, “who can’t  devise a plan”,  al-Khaazin said, “It means they are unable to devise a plan, they don’t have the means of support, nor are they able to emigrate from Makkah.” Concerning such people Allah has said, “As for those, it may be that Allah will pardon them.

Those who commentate on the Qur’an have said that the expression indicating hope and the  one indicating pardon were mentioned to warn people that failure to emigrate is a grave matter that even a man in difficult circumstances should not feel at ease, and should continuously look for a way  to obey the divine precept and set his heart upon it…

Shaykh Uthmaan takes the discussion about hijrah further in the next chapter which followed the above-mentioned entitled:

في‮ ‬تأويل قوله عليه الصلاة والسلام‭:‬‮ ‬لا هجوة بعد الفتح

What is Meant by the Prophet’s Saying: No Emigration After the Conquest of Makkah

He begins by saying:

فأقول بالله التوفيق ورد في‮ ‬صحيح البخاري‮ ‬عن ابن عباس قال‭:‬‮ ‬قال النبي‮ ‬صلى الله عليه وسلم‮ ‬يوم فتح مكة لا هجرة بعد الفتح وفي‮ ‬صحيح البخاري‮ ‬أيضا عن مجاشع بن مسعود قال جاء مجاشع بأخيه مجالد بن مسعود إلى النبي‮ ‬صلى الله عليه وسلم فقال هذا مجالد ببايعك على الهجرة‮  ‬فقال لا هجرة بعد فتح مكة‮  ‬وفي‮ ‬صحيح البخاري‮ ‬أيضا قال عمرو بن دينار وابن جريج سمعت عطاء‮ ‬يقول ذهبت مع عبيد بن عمير إلى عائشة وهي‮ ‬مجاورة بثبير فقالت لنا‭:‬‮ ‬انقطعت الهجرة منذ الله على نبيه مكة‮ ‬

I say success is from Allah. It has been mentioned in as-Ṣaḥīh al-Bukhārī from of Ibn ʿAbbās, that the Prophet صَـلّى الله عليه وسلّم said on the day of the conquest of Makkah, “No emigration after the conquest.” It is also related in as-Ṣaḥīh al-Bukhārī on the authority of Mujaashiʿ bin Masʿūd that Mujaashiʿ brought his brother Mujaalid bin Masʿūd to the Prophet صَـلّى الله عليه وسلّم and said, “This is Mujaalid who has come to pledge allegiance to you as well as to emigrate. The Prophet said,‘No hijrah after the conquest of Makkah.’” It is also related in al-Bukhārī Ṣaḥīh that ʿAmar bin Dinār and Ibn Jurayj said that they heard ʿAṭā say, “I went with ʿUbayd bin ʿUmayr to ʿĀishah when she was in the vicinity of Thabir and she said to us, ‘Emigration has ceased since Allah opened up Makkah to His Prophet.’

أما‮  ‬تأويل قوله عليه الصلاة والسلام‭:‬‮ ‬لا هجوة بعد الفتح فقد قال العلماء‭:‬‮ ‬أي‮ ‬لا هجرة من مكة بعد الفتح بعد أن صارت دار الإسلام‮  ‬

As for the interpretation of the Prophets saying عليه الصلاة والسلام, “No emigration after the conquest,” the scholars have said that it means there is no emigration from Makkah after conquest and after it became dar al-Islam.

وفي‮ ‬تفسير الخازن عند قوله تعالى‭:‬‮ [‬إنَّ‮ ‬الّذِينَ‮ ‬تَوَفَّاهُمُ‮ ‬الْـمَلاَئِكَةُ‮ ‬ظَالِـمِي‮ ‬أَنْفُسِهِمْ‮]‬يعني‮ ‬بالشرك وقيل بالمقام في‮ ‬دار الشرك وذلك لأن الله لم‮ ‬يَقْبَل الإسلام من أحد بعد هجرة النبي‮ ‬صلى الله عليه وسلم حتى‮ ‬يهاجر إليه ثم نسخ ذلك بعد فتح مكة بقوله‮ ‬صلى الله عليه وسلم لا هجوة بعد الفتح أخر جاء في‮ ‬الصحيحين‮ ‬

Regarding Allah’s word, “Surely those whom the angels cause to die while they are wronging themselves…,” al-Khaazin said in his commentary, “It means, by practicing shirk (associating partners with Allah) and by remaining in the land of the mushrikīn.” The reason for this was that Allah would not accept the declaration of Islam from anyone after the hijrah of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم until he emigrated to him. Then this was abrogated after the conquest of Makkah by the saying of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, “No emigration after the conquest,” as mentioned in the two Ṣaḥīhs.

وفي‮ ‬تفسير الخازن أيضا في‮ ‬سورة الأنفال عند قوله تعلى‭:‬‮ [‬وَالَّذِينَ‮ ‬آمَنُوا مِن بَعْدُ‮ ‬وَهَاجَرُوا وَجَاهَدُوا مَعَكُمْ‮] ‬اختلافوا‮ ‬في‮ ‬قوله‮ [‬مِن بَعْدُ‮] ‬فقيل من بعد صلح الحدبية وهي‮ ‬الهجرة الثانية وقيل من بعد نزول هذه الآية وقيل بعد‮ ‬غزوة بدر‮ ‬

It’s also found in the commentary of al-Khaazin, in Sūratu-l-Anfāl in the words of the Most High :

And those who afterwards believed and emigrated and strove hard along with you,” ‘scholars have interpreted the meaning of the word ‘afterwards’ in different ways. Some say it meant after the treaty of Ḥudabiyyah which was the second hijrah; some took it to mean after, the revelation of this verse. Others said it meant after battle of Badr.

ثم قال والأصح أن الـمراد به أهل الهجرة الثانية لأنها بعد الهجرة الأولى لأن الهجرة الأولى انقـظعت بعد فتح مكة لأنها صارت دار الإسلام بعد الفتح ويدل عليه قوله صلى الله عليه وسلم لا هجوة بعد الفتح

He (al-Khaazin) then said, “ The most correct interpretation in terms of what is meant by it [مِـن بَـعْدُ],  is that [it is referring to] people of the second hijrah, since it  occurred after first hijrah. This is because the first hijrah ceased after the conquest of Makkah since it became Dār al-l-Islam after the conquest.” This has been proven by the Prophets saying,  “No emigration after the conquest.

وقال الحسن الهجرة‮ ‬غير منقطعة ثم قال ويجاب عن هذا بأن الـمراد من الهجرة من مكة إلى الـمدينة‮ ‬

Al-Ḥasan said, “Emigration has not ceased.” Then he [al-Khaazin] said, “To answer this, what is meant specifically by [the word] hijrah, is the hijrah from Makkah to Madinah.

فأما من كان من الـمؤمنين في‮ ‬بلد‮ ‬يخاف على إظهار دينه من الكفار وجب عليه أن‮ ‬يهاجر إلى بلد لا‮ ‬يخاف فيه على إظهار دينه

As for the believer who is in a place where he is afraid to display his religion because of unbelievers, he has to emigrate to a place where he practice it [his religion] freely.

وقال القسطلاني‮ ‬في‮ ‬الإرشاد شرح البخاري‮ ‬ما دام في‮ ‬الدنيا دار الكفر فالهجرة منها واجبة والحكم‮ ‬يدور مع علته

Al-Qastallaanī11 said in al-Irshaad12, “As long as a land of unbelief exists in the world, emigration from it is obligatory, for the law applies wherever the relevant circumstances exist.

ويدل على ذلك قوله عليه الصلاة والسلام‭:‬‮ ‬لا تنقطع الهجرة حتى تنقطع التوبة ولا تنقطع التوبة حتى تطلع الشمس من الـمغرب وراه أبو داوود عن معاوية وفي‮ ‬ابن عبد السلام‭:‬‮ ‬الهجرة تجب في‮ ‬آخر الزمان كما تجب في‮ ‬أول الإسلام انتهى‮ ‬

That is further proven by the saying of the Prophet صَـلّى الله عليه وسلّم, “Emigration will not stop until repentance ceases and repentance will not cease until the sun rises in the West.” This has been related by Abu Dāwūd on the authority of Muʿāwiyyah. And according to Ibn ʿAbdu-s-Salaam: “Emigration will be obligatory at the end of time just as it was obligatory at the beginning of Islam.

فإن قلت هل‮ ‬يصح الإسلام‮  ‬من أسلم في‮ ‬بلد الكفر ولم‮ ‬يهاجر قلت جوابه كما قال النفراوي‮ ‬في‮ ‬الفواكه الدواني‮ ‬شرح الرسالة لم‮ ‬يبين الـمضف‮ ‬حكم من أسلم من الحربين هل‮ ‬يجوز لهم البقاء في‮ ‬دار الحرب أو‮ ‬يهاجرون منها إلى بلاد الإسلام وبينه‮ ‬غيره بقوله ولو أسلم قوم كفار حيث تنالهم أحكام الكفار وجب عليهم الأرتحال منهم فأن لم‮ ‬يرتحلوا‮ ‬يكونون عاصين لله رسوله وإسلامهم صحيح انتهى‮ ‬

If you said, “Is the Islam of the person who became a Muslim in the land of unbelief valid while he did not emigrate? I would say that the answer is as given by an-Nafraawī13 [in his book] al-Fawaakihu-d-Dawaanī14 a sharḥ for the Risaalah15of Ibn Abī Zayd: The author Ibn Abī Zayd al-Qayrawaanī16 in his book ar-Risaalah did not make clear the law concerning people who live in the abode of war or whether they should emigrate to the land of Islam. However, it has been made clear by another scholar who said, ‘If unbelievers become Muslims, they have to emigrate if they are in a place where they come under the jurisdiction of the unbelievers, for if they do not emigrate, they will be disobedient to Allah and his Messenger although their Islam will still be valid.’”

وكما لا‮ ‬يختلف اثنان أن الـمقيم ببلد الحرب اختيارا عاص لله ورسوله لا‮ ‬يختلقان أيضا أن شهادته لا تجوز وفي‮ ‬الـمعيار لا شهادة الدجن وقضائهم لأنهم رضوا أن‮ ‬يكونوا تحت إبالة النصاري‮ ‬وفيه أيضا سئل الـمازري‮ ‬عن أحكام تأتي‮ ‬من صقلية من عند قاضيها أو شهود عدول هل‮ ‬يقبل ذلك أو لا ولا ندري‮ ‬إقامتهم هناك تحت أهل الكفر هل اضطر ار أو اختيار فأجاب هذا الـمقيم ببلد الحرب إن كان اضطرارا فلا شك أنه لايقدح‮ ‬في‮ ‬عدالة وكذلك إن تاويلة صحيحا مثل إقامة‮ … ‬لرجاء هداية أهل الحرب‮ … ‬وأما لو أقام بحكم الجاهلية والإعراض عن التأويل اختيارا فلا شك‮ ‬أنه‮ ‬يقدح في‮ ‬عدلته‮ … ‬ومن ظهرت عدالته وشك في‮ ‬إقامة على أي‮ ‬وجه فالأصل عذره‮ … ‬إلا أن تكون قرائن تشهد على أن أقامة كانت إختيارا‮ … ‬

Similarly no one disputes that whoever remains, by choice, in dar al-harb is disobedient to Allah and His Messenger, or that such a man’s testimony is invalid. It has been said in al-Miʿyaar, “The testimony of  ad-dajin17is not valid nor is that of their judges, because they are content to remain under the sovereignty of the Christians.” In al-Miʿyaar, “Al-Maazarī18 was asked whether decisions arrived at in Sicily by its qādī or upright witnesses (ʿuḍūl) could be accepted or not, assuming we do not know whether their stay there by choice or out of necessity. He replied, ‘There is no doubt that the testimony of man remaining in dar al-harb out of necessity. Likewise, if his reasons for staying there was sound, for example, if he hoped to guide the people in dar al-harb. However, if he chose to stay there, while living under the rule of jaahiliyyah (rule of those who have no knowledge of Islam) without any sound reason, then there is no doubt that his uprightness comes under question, while he whose uprightness is clear but whose reason for staying there is not clear, then the rule is to give him the benefit of the doubt, unless circumstantial evidence points to to the fact that his stay there was of his own choosing.

وتولية الكفار للقاضي‮ ‬باطبة ومع ذلك لا‮ ‬يقدح في‮ ‬تنفيذ أحكامه إذ حجر الناس بعضهم بعضا واجب

If an unbeliever appoints a man to the position of qādī, that appointment is invalid, nevertheless, the qādī’s decrees are binding because it is essential to protect people from one another.’

قلت هذا كله فيمن لم‮ ‬يقاتل الكفار حتى‮ ‬غلبهم وقدر على إظهار الدين وصار البلد به دار الإسلام إد قال القسطلاّني‮ ‬في‮ ‬الإرشاد شرح البخاري‮ ‬قال الـماوردي‮ ‬إذا قدر على إظهار الذين في‮ ‬بلد من بلاد الكفر قد صارت البلد به دار الإسلام فالإقامة فيها أفضل من الرحلة لـما‮ ‬يرجي‮ ‬من دخول إسلام إنتهى

I (Shaykh ʿUthmaan) have said all of this about those who have fought the unbelievers until they overcame them, and were in a position to render Islam a victory; the place then becomes dar al-Islam.  In this respect, al-Qastallaanī in his book al-Irshaad quotes al-Maawardī19 as saying, “If Islam can be granted victory in a land of unbelief, then it is better to remain there than to leave, since it is expected that others will accept Islam.

For the Shāfī position on Hijrah click the following link: The Abodes of the Earth

For the Hanbalī position on Hijrah click the following link: Mardin Fatwa: Madness And Muffling Falsehood 1

For a further and more extensive study, read the following scholarly text by Sh. Muhammad Shareef: Zaman’ n-Nasaara

Footnotes: (The footnotes are interactive. Click on each footnote number to find its reference point.)

1 He is Jalaalu-d-Dīn Adur Rahmān bin Abi Bakr as-Suyuutī a Shāfī scholar also known as Ibn al-Kutub (the son of books) had a great influence on many West African scholars.  He was an Egyptian writer, religious scholar, juristic expert and teacher whose works deal with a wide variety of subjects in Islamic theology.
2 At-Takmilah is a tafsīr  of as-Suyuutī’s
3 He is al-Mukhtaar bin Ahmad al-Waafi al-Kuntī, a Mālikī scholar from the Kunta tribe found in West Africa, and he is also a shaykh of the Qādirī tarīqah. He was born in Arawan to the North of Timbuktu.
4 Written by al-Mukhtaar al-Kuntī
5 He is Aḥmad bin Yaḥya al-Wansharīsī, Mālikī mufti of Fez (1430-1508) scholar born in Tlemcen (present-day Algeria). Principally known for his compilation of North African and Andalusian legal opinions (fatwas).
6 Its full title name is Al Miʿyaaru-l-Muʿrib Wa-l-Jaamiʿu-l-Mughrib ʿan Fatāwī Ahli-l-Ifriqiyyah, Wa-l-Andalus Wa-l-Maghrib (Click on link to see text). Referred to as a ‘mountain walking on the Earth’, Al-Miʿyaar is a compilation of North African and Andalusian legal opinions (fatwas) which is a source of information on the social, cultural, economic, and juridical practices of medieval al-Andalus and the Maghreb.
7 The tafsīr of al-Khaazin is known as  ’Lubab at-Taʿwīl fi Maʿānī at-Tanzil‘.
8 His name is ʿAlā ad-Dīn ʿAli bin Muḥammad bin Ibrahīm  al-Baghdādī as-Sufī (d 725/1340).
9 He is Abdus-s-Salaam Al-Laqqaanī a Mālikī jurist and scholar of Egypt.
10 Al-Laqqaanī’s sharḥ for Jawhaaratu-t-Tawhīd
11 He is Imām Shihaabu-d-Dīn Abu-l-ʿAbbaas Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad ibn Abu Bakr, al-Qastallaanī al-Qutaybī ash-Shafiʿī (d. 923H)
12 Irshaadu-s-Saari li Sharḥ Saḥīḥ al-Bukhārī by al-Qastallanī. It is one of the most well known commentary on Saḥīḥ al-Bukhārī.
13 He is Ahmad bin Ghunaym an-Nafrāwī,  a Mālikī scholar of Egypt (d. 1713).
14 al-Fawaakihu-d-Dawaanī a sharḥ for the Risaalah
15 Ar-Risaalah is an instructional book devoted to the education of young children which  is a summary of the main aspects of aqīdah (Faith), fiqh (Jurisprudence) and akhlaaq (character).  It is divided into 45 chapters. ibn Abī Zayd wrote this book at the age of seventeen.
16 He is Abū Muhammad Abdullah ibn Abī Zayd al-Qayrawaani who was a Malīkī scholar and teacher from Qayrawaan in Tunisia (922–996).
17 The verb dajana means to become domesticated, tame; to remain; to stay; to get used to; to become habituated; to be accustomed to. Therefore ad-dājin is one who remains or stays behind because he has become accustomed to his current habitat (preferred surroundings) and because of this, he’s afraid of emigrating or refuses to do so.
18 He is Muḥammad bin ʿAlī al-Maazarī of Sicilian origin who settled in Maḥdiyyah, Tunisia (1058-1141)
19 He is ʿAbu al-Hasan Ali Ibn Muhammad Ibn Habib al-Mawardi a Shāfī faqih of Persian origin; qādi of Ustawa near Nīsāpūr. Al-Mawardi’s works on Islamic governance are recognized as classics in the field. He is well remembered for his treatise  Al-Aḥkaam as-Sulṭaniyyah w-a-d-Dīniyyah on ‘The Ordinances of Government‘ which provides a detailed a definition of the functions of the khalifate.

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

‘The African Caliphate’ by Ibrahim Sulaiman


A Book Review 

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

Tajdiid can be translated from Arabic to mean: ‘revival, restoration, resuscitation, regeneration, while jihād can be translated from the Arabic to mean: exertion, striving, going through pain for the sake of something. It can also be a struggle or battle to defend dar al-Islam against its enemy and unbelief or against un-Islamic innovation or rebellion against Allah; it’s a battle to defeat kufr (disbelief / un-Islamic practices) and to establish Islam in its place.

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

Islam is established and revived by a classical pattern of action or behavior which began in the time of the Prophet Muhammad صلّى اللّه عليه وسلّم and the first three generations of Muslims. That pattern is daʿwah for non-Muslims, tajdiid for the Muslims, hijrah, and jihād followed by the establishment of governance over dar al-Islam.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Shehu strove to reestablish the supremacy of the Sunnah by calling the people back to Islam, commanding the good and prohibiting evil. His goal was to bring about a  social transformation by working to destroy the negative affects of the innovation (bidʿah) that had crept into the social fabric of Hausaland.

If after a number of generations there is a decline in the practice of Islam, the Prophet is reported to have said in a sound hadiith, At the beginning of every century, Allah will send a mujaddid (a reviver, regenerator, resuscitator, one who does tajdiid) to regenerate their religion for them.”

As a true mujaddid (reviver of correct Islamic practice), Shehu ʿUthmaan had as his ultimate ambition, the establishment of a society that followed as closely as possible the Madinan society during the time of the Prophet and the first three generations.

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

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

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

It was only after the hijrah to Gudu and the Hausa rulers threatened the Muslims with razi’ah (the infliction of heavy losses or extermination) that the Shehu declared jihād. The jihād would become a struggle to both establish and revive Islam in Hausaland. The jihād was declared against four kinds of kings who who under the Islamic legal ruling were considered to be kuffaar (plural of kaafir): 1. the unbelieving king who never was a Muslim, 2. the unbelieving king who professed Islam for outward show only, 3. an apostate king who abandons Islam and return to unbelief, and 4. the king who outwardly remains Muslim, but mixed the practices of Islam with the practices of unbelief.

The jihād fought by the Shehu and his followers was not a revolution. There is no question that dramatic and wide-reaching changes took place in the people’s actions and ideas, and so under those circumstances, the jihād in Hausaland might be seen as a revolution, however the Shehu’s jihād was fought to overthrow kufr, whereas, if it was a revolution in the sense of insurrection and coup d’état, the battle would have been fought merely to overthrow kings. The kings of Hausaland weren’t fought because they were defenders of corrupt monarchy. They were fought because they were defenders of kufr.

Another reason why the Shehu’s jihād, was not a revolution is because the jihād he fought was a conflict between truth and falsehood and not a confrontation between individuals or economic philosophies or bankrupt political systems.

Jihād is a command from Allah, while revolution is born out of the ambition of men. The Shehu’s jihād was a conflict between two orders, two diins: diinu-l-Islam (life transactions based on belief) and diin-l-kufr (life transactions based on disbelief). Jihād is a conflict between those who want to empower Islam, and its pure practice and method of governance, on the one hand, and those who want kufr to continue to prevail in all aspects of the social and political transaction on the other.

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

“If tajdiid were merely a matter of political revolutions or change of leadership, then there are quicker ways than the recourse to the Qur’an and Sunnah, but tajdiid is the transformation of the heart, of human disposition and of the destiny of man itself which clearly transcends the attainment of political power. To believe that a quick political ascendancy is all that Islam is about, is to cast a vulgar look at a sublime system. What Islam wants is an enduring transformation, which cannot be realized by a social hurricane which brings destruction and consumes even what it claims to rectify.” p. 98.

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

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

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

Click on the link below to read and / or download this important work written by Dr. Ibrahim Sulaiman:

Published in: on January 1, 2011 at 20:44  Leave a Comment  

The Jihad and the Consolidation of Sudanic Intellectual Tradition

The Jihad and the Consolidation of Sudanic Intellectual Tradition


Ibrahim Ado-Kurawa

Traditions are “those works that have proven to be of enduring value” to the Sokoto Caliphate and its successor-section of the Nigerian society. Intellectual in this paper means verbal art in written form especially[1]. They are limited in this paper to Islamic Sciences of Fiqh (Jurisprudence) Tauhid/Ilm Kalam (Theology) and Tasawwuf (Sufism). The Sokoto traditions were a continuation of the Sudanic Islamic tradition[2]. Sudanic Africa stretches from the Red Sea coast of the present day Republic of Sudan to the Atlantic coast of the present Republic of Senegal. It was in Timbuktu of the Songhay Empire that this area reached its peak in scholarly endeavor. The founders of the Sokoto Caliphate were educated in the same system as obtained in Timbuktu [3]. This Caliphate was in the central Sudan in the present Federal Republic of Nigeria and other neighboring states. In terms of scholarly contributions its leaders were worthy successors of the Timbuktu tradition but succeeding generations especially the contemporary generation have not been able to keep the legacy of extensive literary output. It was one of the most literate societies compared to its neighbors when the British imperialist over ran in it at the beginning of the twentieth century[4]. It also was the largest, most complex and most prosperous state of the pre-colonial tropical Africa .

Arrival of Islam in the Sudan

One of the earliest traces of Islam in the Sudan was amongst Takrur, the Toorodbe (singular Tooroodo) in Fulfulde, the Torankawa (singular, Ba toranke) in Hausa[5] and Toorobbe or Toucouleur in French for all the Fulfulde speakers who originated from Futa Toro of Senegal [6]. They belong to different tribes and clans[7]. In fact some of them distinguish themselves as a separate entity distinct from other Fulbe or Fulani thus they became identified as Toronkawa in Nigeria . They claim descent from Esau of the Bible. According to Wazirin Sokoto Alhaji Junaidu[8] the ancestor of the Toronkawa was Rama son of Esau[9] who was the son of the Prophet Ishaq (AS), the son of Prophet Ibrahim (AS).

The Sokoto legend is in line with the conventional legend of ascribing a light skinned ancestor to the Fulbe. Linguistic science has demonstrated that the Fulfulde language is closer to the languages of other Negroid peoples than to Arabic and other Afro-Asiatic languages. And moreover there is hardly any Arabic source which reported the ancestor of the Fulani Uqbah ibn Nafi`s purported sojourn in the Sudan[10]. It has been documented that he championed Khalifa Mu`awiyya`s westward expansion of the Dar-Islam[11]. He built the fourth most important Islamic city,[12] Qayrawan[13], in 49 AH (670 CE) and it became the nucleus of Islamic influence in Ifriqiyya[14]. The legendary General was said to have advanced from his military base in Qayrawan until he was stopped by the waves of Atlantic but his purported encounter with Bajju Manga has not been reported[15]. He died a martyr in Biskar in modernAlgeria in what, may have been an encounter with some Berbers. His grave has become a national monument of Algeria [16].

Another problem for the Sokoto legend is the report of Al-Bakri who was the first to write about Takrur. He has reported that it was “a town on the “ Nile ” (the Senegal ), whose black inhabitants were idol worshippers. War Djabi (or War Ndiyay) son of Rabi was their first Chief who became a Muslim. He enjoined his people to accept Islam and he introduced the Shari’ah. He died in 432 AH (1040 – 1). Thus Takrur became “one of the earliest Sudanese kingdoms to embrace Islam”[17]. Al-Idrisi who wrote one hundred years after Al-Bakri described the contemporary king of Takrur as just and firm ruler[18]. Al-Bakri`s account contradicts Sokoto legend if Uqbah Ibn Nafi one of the earliest Muslim generals[19] who died in 62 AH (684 CE)[20] had ever had any contact with Takrur al-Bakri must report it but he did not. His account may be more authentic than the Sokoto legend since he was a contemporary of War Djabi (or War Ndyay) and he wrote his al-Masalik in 459 AH (1067-1068) twenty-seven years after the later`s conversion to Islam.

Many historians and scholars are of the view that Borno had the earliest contact with Islam when Umayyad refugees settled in Kanem after the overthrow of their dynasty by the Abbasids. It is argued that they might have converted some of the people of Kanem. This was reinforced by the activities of the Ulama and traders from Egypt and North Africa . Islam became a state religion with the conversion of Umme Jilmi, the King of Kanem in the early 12th century (Christian era).

There are several versions of the exact time of the arrival of Islam in Hausaland of which Kanois a typical example. The first Muslim ruler of Kano was perhaps Bagauda who flourished around (999 Christian era). If this is accepted then Kano becomes one of the earliest Muslim polities in the Sudan . But Gilliland implied that “the Bagoda aliens brought no religious system of their own though a number of factors are indicated”. And in the next paragraph of the same paper he contradicted his earlier suggestion by stating that, “while the kind of religion Bagoda brought to Kano is not clearly described, it did bear close relationship to Islam”[21]. The Kano Chronicle consistently reported struggles between the Bagaudawa and the indigenous people it referred to as pagans. If the Bagaudawa were not Muslims why then refer to the indigenous people as pagans? What then was their religion? They had Muslim names such as Daud, Isa and Usman. If they were not Muslims were they Jews or Christians who never bear the name Usman[22]. Another suggestion is that their religion was similar to the Hanif religion ofArabia before Islam. This seems unlikely because that religion was extinct at the time of Bagauda (999 Christian dating). It is quite clear that Sarkin Kano Yaji (750-787AH/1349-1385 Christian dating) was the first to make Islam the state religion[23]. Sarkin Kano Muhammadu Rumfa (867-904AH/1463-1499) revived Islam with the aid of Shaykh al-Maghili who wrote the treatise on government for him[24]. There were similar reforms in other parts of Hausaland and Borno during this period.

Establishment of Islamic Scholarly Tradition

The Wangarawa were the first group of Islamic scholars who revived Islam in Hausaland[25]. It has been suggested the exodus of the Wangarawa led by Zagaiti from Mali to Hausaland might be connected with the notorious actions of Sunni Ali[26]. The Wangarawa were perhaps the first to set scholarship tradition of Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence), Lugha (Arabic language) and Hadith (Traditions of the Prophet SAW) in Hausaland. The Madabo scholars of Kano trace their origin to the Wangarawa. Fulani scholars arrived Kano during the reign of Sarki Yakubu (d.904AH/ 1463), they enriched the scholarship of the area by bringing books on Tauhid (Theology) and Sarf (Etymology). The Kano Chronicle reported that prior to that time, Kano scholars had in addition to the Qur’an, books on law and traditions[27]. Kano also had the privilege of being the first city in Hausaland where al-Mukhtasar of Sidi Khalil the most advanced Maliki Law book was read and taught by Shaykh al-Maghili[28]. Books of al-Ghazali were also brought by al-Maghili.

The influence of al-Mukhtasar of Sidi Khalil in the Maliki Law of Hausaland superseded other sources especially of Andalusia . Hence for example folding of arms in prayer, which is recommended in the Andalusian School , is discouraged by al-Mukhtasar. Most of the scholars of Hausaland belonged to the al-Ash’ari School of Islamic Theology founded by Abu Musa al-Ash’ari, who differed from the school of the Muta’zilite on four issues[29]. The most prominent was that the Qur’an is the word of Allah, therefore, uncreated and eternal. The Almohads who were Ash’aris might have reinforced the al-Ash’arite school in the Sudan . Al-Magili also brought books by al-Gazali, who was a leading Ash’ari scholar, to Kano .

Some books have enjoyed the patronage of the Sarakunan (Kings of) Kano since the pre-Jihad era and up to this day. Amongst them is al-Shifa of Qadi Iyad it was brought to Hausaland and Kano by Shaykh Tunusi[30] during the reign of Sarkin Kano Mohamma Kisoki (914-973 AH/ 1509-1565 CE). While Sarkin Kano Abubakar Kado (973-980 AH/ 1565-1575 CE) was the first to read al-Shifa at the house ofDan Goronduma Kursiya[31] and it is still read in Kano especially at the time of need or catastropes. It is also read every Ramadan in the morning at Gidan Rumfa (Sarki’s palace). Tafsir al-Jalalyn by Jalaludeen al-Mahaly and Jalaludeen al-Suyuti is also read by many Kano scholars and it is traditionally read in the palace some claimed that it was first read there by al-Suyuti himself.

Tasawwuf or Sufism is an Islamic science, which enables a responsible Muslim to acquire praiseworthy qualities and to keep away from blameworthy attributes. The praiseworthy qualities aretaqwa, consciousness of Allah, tawba, turning away from all acts of rebellion, Zuhd, doing without in this world, tawakkul, trust and reliance in Allah, rida, contentment with Allah’s decree and kawf wal raj’a, fear and hope. Responsible Muslims are expected to purify their hearts from blameworthy attributes are purification of the heart from the waswas whispering of shaytan, ujb, conceit, kibr, pride,amal, false hope, ghadab, anger without grounds, hasad, envy and riy’a showing off[32]. Tariqah literarily means path but in Islamic etymology it means the path of achieving the knowledge of tasawwuf.  The Tariqah has made it easy for responsible Muslims to acquire this knowledge.  The person who follows the tariqah may or may not achieve the goal of acquiring the knowledge of tasawwuf.  The founder of the Qadiriyya Tariqah was Shaykh Abd al-Kadir al-Jaylani and according to some sources it was brought to Kano by Shaykh al-Maghili.

The Jihad Leaders and Islamic Scholarship

The Jihad leaders were trained in the Sudan and they were imbibed with the scholarly tradition of the area. They studied the subjects and the books that were common in the area and they also made profound contributions to various fields of Islamic scholarship. Their works were characteristically clear and simple. They were also well documented which showed the availability of major sources in Hausaland. They addressed issues relevant to their situation and Shehu Usman Danfodio (thereafter referred to as the Shehu) once advised:

O Brethren, do read and re-read the books of your contemporary scholars because they were more knowledgeable about the important matters of your time…their writings are elaborations on what the previous scholars had summarized….the writings of each decade is an elaboration on the writings of the previous one, for this reason each scholar compiles for his contemporaries, though he has already found what he needed of religious matters in the writings of his predecessors[33].

Shehu’s book Hisn al-Afham min Juyush al-Awham is a confirmation of his adherance to the Asha’ari (School of Islamic Theology ). The book contains quotations from major Ash’ari scholars such as al-Ghazali and al-Sanusi. Perhaps since before the Jihad systematic theology was not well received by theUlama of Hausaland[34]. The Jihad leaders favoured Ilm Usul al-Din (Knowledge of the fundamentals of the religion) rather than Ilm al-Kalam (Science of Theology). The Shehu gave his opinion thus:

In fact, theology is praise-worthy when assessed for its value according to its benefit.  It is a knowledge through which we can have the thorough knowledge of Monotheism, (Tauh id) and which can protect Tauhid from mis-understanding, disclosure of facts and through it the conception of Tauhid will remain as it is. On the other hand, theology has been disgraced and has come to dishonour for its harmful teachings; like rousing doubtful thoughts, and stirring up doubt in beliefs[35].

The Jihad leaders maintained their allegiance to the Maliki School of Islamic Law. But they were not dogmatic sometimes they even disagreed with major authorities of the Madhhab (Islamic School of Law) as in the case of the Shehu in Ihya al-Sunnah where he disagreed with Imam Ibn Abi Ziad[36]. This was generally because the Shehu differentiated between the divine aspects of the Shari’ah and human derivations[37]. In some instances he disagreed with a majority view, which was also a source of disagreement with his brother Abdullahi[38]. The Shehu believed that all Sunni schools of law are authoritative. The Shehu believed that the scholars of his time knew the law in detail but did not know “the political and social implications”[39], which is strikingly similar to the situation today. As a reformer the Shehu wrote extensively against syncretism or the practice of combining unIslamic customs with rituals. Some people have maintained these practices that have resemblance with the activities of traditional religionists in relation to the rituals of passage such as sadakokin mutuwa (alms for the deceased) after seven days and forty days.

Some historians are of the view that the Sokoto Jihad leaders based their administrative structure on political theories advanced by Abbasid  Scholars and the political patrons of the Abbasid scholars according to these analysts were more tyrannical than the Hausa rulers overthrown by the Jihad leaders. According to one of the leading proponents of this thought many of such Islamic movements like the Sokoto Jihad movement in the past lasted for a short-while[40]. Considering the Shehu’s commitment to interpretations according to contemporary circumstances this suggestion cannot be accepted uncritically. Moreover most of the intellectual development in the Muslim world occurred during the Abbasid period, all the Madhhib (Islamic Schools of Law) were established during that time therefore it is very difficult for any scholar to be devoid of the influence of that period.

One of the debates that, was given prominence by the historians was Bello ’s engagement with Shehu Muhammad Amin al-Kanemi of Borno. It was a lengthy polemic in which Al-Kanemi engaged Sokoto leaders challenging them “over the status of Islam” but he was aware that the state of Islam in Borno was not well and his effort in reviving it there was not successful as observed below:

Although al-Kanemi entered into a lengthy debate with Sokoto leadership, challenging it over the status of Islam in Borno, he was himself aware that all was not well with the state of Islam in the country. Also in the same correspondence with Sokoto, he accused the leadership of the quest for power and worldliness, and although he tried to emphasize his religious inclination, all indications seem to point to the fact that his moves and actions were politically motivated. There is yet no evidence to show that he introduced far reaching Islamic reform in Borno. This is in spite of his alleged claims that his mission to Borno was an Islamic one[41].

The Shehu was committed to Tasawwuf as evidenced in his writing especially Usul al-Wilaya but he also gave options to those who do not have a Shaykh to remain in company of Muslim brothers[42]. In his characteristic thoroughness he was very clear in adhering to the Sunnah in Ihya al-Sunnah[43]. The Jihad leaders remained members of the Qadiriyya whose founder was Shaykh Abd al-Kadir al-Jaylani and according to some sources it was brought to Hausaland by Shaykh Abd al-Karim al-Maghili. Shehu and his followers were deeply influenced by Maliki Sufi scholars such as Imam Abu Abd Allah Muhammad Ibn al-Hajj (d.737AH) author of al-Madkhal, which was often quoted by the Shehu. Ibn Hajar one of the greatest scholars commended Ibn al-Hajj as one of the teachers of Islam who made erudite differentiation between the Sunnah and unworthy innovations[44]. Another Sufi scholar whose writings influenced the Shehu and the Jama’ah was Shaykh Abul Abbas Ahmad al-Zaruq (d. 899AH), author ofQawa’idul Tasawwuf the great work on Tasawwuf. The Jihad leaders also had contact with Sidi Mukhtar al-Kunti[45]. During the Jihad the followers of the Shehu were also known as Jama’ar Kadirawa (the community of the Qadiriyya) and someimes they were also called Kadirawan Shehu Dan Fodio (theQadiriyya followers of Shehu Dan Fodio).

Shaykhs Abdullahi Dan-Fodio, Muhammad Bello and Gidado Dan Laima documented the spiritual affiliation of Shehu to Shaykh Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani.  In Tazyin al-Waraqat (dated 1813 C.E. 1228 A.H.) Shaykh Abdullahi Dan Fodio translated one of the Shaykh’s poems (dated 1797) from Fulfulde to Arabic that illustrated the Sufi background of the Shaykh:

The blessings of Ahmad in the country of Allah have become general and abundant by the presence of Abd al-Qadir.  Our Faith, together with our sunna is in obedience  ‘Abd al-Qadir, and make unbelief together with innovation and disobedience far from me by the greatness of ‘Abd al-Qadir.

The spiritual state of the Shehu and relation with Shaykh Abd al-Qadir Jailani was also described by Sarkin Musulmi Muhammad Bello in Infaq al-Maisur dated 5 Dhil-qa’da 1227 (10 Nov. 1812). Raud al-Jinan of Wazir Gidado Dan Laima, which was written 1254 A.H. (1838) after the death of the Sarkin Musulmi Muhammad Bello, clearly indicated the Sufi traits of the Jama’a particularly the role of Muhammad Kwairanga as an intermediary between the Shehu and Shaykh Abd al-Qadir Jilani.

The pattern of Islamic Education did not change after the Jihad instead the Jihad leaders consolidated and expanded the frontiers of learning. Sarkin Musulmi Muhammad Bello established aUniversity Center at Silame that attracted students from all parts of the Sudan and it achieved great success[46]. It products became leading members of the bureaucracy of their respective domains in the caliphate and beyond. One of its products was the Qadi of Kano who wrote the account of the Jihad inKano [47].

Colonial Rule

Some historians were of the view that the internal contradiction of the Sokoto Caliphate was the cause of its defeat in the hands of the British imperialists, who were unable to defeat a smaller polity such as the Zulu Empire because of its internal cohesion. A major shortcoming of this suggestion is the observation by another historian that the machinery of the machinery of the caliphate’s government was “in good working order”, its defeat was not as a result of internal decay since it was obviously stronger than any of its neighbors. Its collapse was purely due to European imperial expansion a force the caliphate could not resist[48]. Basic theory of international relations has shown that the survival of any state no matter how powerful depends on the international system[49] and at that time it was dominated by the Europeans who shared Africa amongst themselves. The explanation for the surrender of some of the leaders of the Caliphate to the British and their acceptance of colonial over rule could be found in Islamic precept, which gave options to Muslims when faced with annihilation. The three options available to the Muslims of the Caliphate were: Hijrah (exodus) represented by such people as Sarkin Kano Alu, resistance and shahadah (martyrdom) led by Amir al-Muminin Attahiru  Ahmadu and followed by many such as Wazirin Kano Ahmadu  and the third attitude was taqiyyah (prudent consciousness) led by Wazirin Sokoto and followed by others such as Sarkin Kano Abbas. A competent authority has summarized the Islamic basis of these attitudes[50]. Some historians may interpret taqiyyah as cowardice but those who opted for it  preserved Islam by refusing to support the abrogation of the Shari’ah as the British wanted. This was clearly proven in the case of Sarkin Kano Abbas  who was strongly committed to his Islamic faith[51]. Some others who returned after the defeat of Attahiru refused to participate in the affairs of the state because of their belief in the moral aspect of the hijra. One of such was Alkalin Kano Sulaiman  (d. 1943) the paternal grandfather of General Murtala Muhammed . Today Shari’ah has re-emerged because of the refusal of these Muslims to accept Western values as propagated by the colonialists and their successors.

The British tried to encourage the Qadiriyya in preference to the Tijjaniyya this was because they perceived the Tijjaniyya followers as more radical therefore “bad Muslims”[52]. Sarkin Kano Abbas was perhaps the first Emir to accept and encourage the Tijjaniyya. He was also successful in resisting the British attempt to obliterate the Shari’ah. He refused to apply siyasa (politics) in hukm[53] as encouraged by the British who had wanted to abrogate the Shari’ah through that strategy. He also defended the rights of Muslim women and orphans who brought their grievances before his judicial council as observed by Christelow: “The Council’s defense of widow’s property rights was closely connected to its consistent defense of orphans rights”[54]. The Tijjaniyya followers in Kano with the backing of Emir Abbas and his son Abdullahi Bayero who later also became the Emir (1926-1953) were part of the struggle against the colonial rule and were subsequently identified with the opposition Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU). This was the opposite of the establishment brotherhood the Qadiriyya whose members were considered “good Muslims” by the colonialists[55]. This was a paradox the Qadiriyya that was at the forefront of Islamic reforms in the 19th century became the brotherhood of the conservatives in the 20th century.

At the intellectual level the colonialists’ strategy was to gradually obliterate Islamic education and the psyche of the Muslims. The first step was to destroy the literary technology, which was in Arabic form and replacing it with the Latin script[56]. This was because the missionaries advised the colonial government that if Arabic remains the official script, Islam would continue to be promoted. A secular education was designed for the Muslims of northern Nigeria . Hiskett  demonstrated the negative impact of this colonial secular education on Muslims such as the obliteration of Islamic literary tradition[57]. It was designed to produce citizens that would remain subservient to the West even after independence. At Katsina College , which later became Barewa College future northern elites were trained not be intellectual inclined and were encouraged to trust and depend on the British on even matters that affected the Shari’ah[58]. But perhaps the most important negative impact of secular education was “adoption of European ways, however trivial, that added up to the dissolution of Islam” in some sections of the state and the society[59]. These elites who were products of the British colonization became part of the ruling class of Nigeria . They became part or patrons of subsequent religious movements in Nigeria .

The New Reform Movement A Departure from Sokoto Legacy

It would be worthwhile to review the books studied at various levels of Islamic education in the Sokoto Caliphate and its successors. This is done by comparing with the account of Imam Umar who experienced both the 19th and 20th century before concluding with the new approach brought about by recent changes as a result of more contacts with the Arab countries. Most of the books studied were those studied by the Jihad leaders[60].

The first elementary school of most Muslim children is the Quranic School where they are taught reading and writing Quranic text. Imam Umaru has reported that in his time those who send their children to school in Kano were the majority compared to other parts of Hausaland[61]. In the 19thcentury CE when Imam Umaru was a child, children were sent to the Quranic School if they were able to count one to ten even if they were not circumcised (in the case of males). The child was taught to recite and memorize Surat al-Fatiha and from Surat al-Nas to al-Fil. To celebrate the completion of this stage a meal of rice and beans was given as sadaqat (alms) to the Mallam and pupils of the school. Thereafter the child will learn other chapters of the Quran which are divided in sixty hizb (portions) and after each hizb a ram or goat will be slaughtered and served with tuwo (corn meal) and given out as sadaqat to neighbors, the teacher and other pupils. This practice is however now very rare because of the economic situation of this of decade[62]. The celebration for completing the Quran was expensive in the 19th century CE it involved slaughtering an ox and large walima (party) for neighbors, the teacher and other pupils. Sometimes the ceremony was delayed because of the expenses involved.

After completing the Quranic School some pupils continue with their Islamic Education by enrolling at any of the numerous Ilm (literarily science) schools in Kano . Most students choose the school of the Mallam they respect most while those with tariqa affialation choose the school of theirtariqa Shaykh. Learning in these schools is still based on some books, which, shall be stated below and the period of completing each book entirely depends on the ability of the student.

The first book that is studied by most students is Kitab Qawa’id al-Salat by an anonymous author. It is a very short book of about six pages and it contains passages on salat and tawhid (Oneness of Allah). After completing this book the student will study Mukhtasar al-Akhdari by Abdurrhaman Al-Akhadari (n.d). This is an important elementary book of Maliki Fiqh studied by young students all over Hausaland[63] and it deals mainly with tahara (purification) and salat (prayer). The next book though elementary but more advanced than al-Akhdari is Muqiddima Fi-1 Fiqh by al-Aslmawi it covers the two pillars of Islam salat and siyam (fasting). The student may also be introduced to any book on Arabic especially dealing with the praises of the Prophet (SAW). al-Muqadimat al-’Izziyya by by Abul-l-Hassan b. Ali (d.1533) a more advanced Fiqh textbook in terms of volcabulary and topics covered is studied by many students who have studied al-Ashmawi. Apart from the rituals, marriage and divorce, commercial transactions, inheritance, explanations on some prophetic traditions, etiquettes, bribery and corruption are concisely treated by al-’Izziya[64]. Talim al-Muta’allim by an anonymous author a book on ethics of learning is studied by many students while studying Muqiddimat al-Ashmawi or al-Izziyyah, some may add Arbaun Hadith al-Nawawi (Forty Hadiths of al-Nawawi) by Imam Yahya al-Nawawi which is the most basic hadith textbook used by students in Hausaland.

The second stage of learning in the ’ Ilm School may include Bakrut al-Sa’ad wa zubdat al-Madhab (beginning of happiness and cream of the school) popularly known as al-Risalah of Abdallah b. Abi Zayd al-Qayrawan[65]. Some students at this stage may study al-Ishiriniyat of Abu Zaid Abd al-Rahman al-Andalusi al-Fazazi. Other poetry books on the praise of Prophet (SAW) that may be studied by many students before the Ishiriniyat include al-Burda by Sharaf al-Din Abu Abd Allah b. Muhammad b. Ali Al-Busiri, al-Witriyyah by al-Bagdadi al-Witri and Marmuz aI-Tantarani by Ahmad b. Abi Bakr. Most students are introduced to Nahwu (Arabic Grammar) at this stage by studying the elementary al-Ajurumiya by Muhammad b. Muhammad Ibn Dau’ud Ibn Ajurruma al-Sanhaji. The student may also study Riyad al-Salihin of Muhyidin Imam Yahya al-Nawawi or Mukhtar al-Ahadith al-Nabawiyat wa al-Hikma al-Muhammadiyat of al-Sayyid Ahmad al-Hashimi this book has been translated into Hausa by a Kano Scholar[66]. The next book on Fiqh is the more advanced Irshad al-Salik fi Fiqh Imam Malik of Abd al-Rahman Ibn Muhammad Ibn Askar and Nigerian Ulama wrote the two famous commentaries of the book[67].

The last stage in most ’Ilm schools is the stage of studying al-Mukhtasar of Sidi Khalil ibn Ishaq. This is the most advanced textbook of Maliki Fiqh, which, is studied in Hausaland. It takes many students several years before they complete it. Some students study it with several scholars and whoever masters the book automatically becomes a jurist in the Maliki School . Other books, which, may be studied along with Mukhtasar may include Alfiyat of Ibn Malik it is one of the most advanced books of Arabic grammar it also has several commentaries but the most widely read is the commentary of Ibn Aqil. Muqamat of al- Qasim b. Ali b. Muhammad al-Hariri, is the most advanced book of Arabic literature which, is studied in most schools. In the field of Usul al-Fiqh student may study Alfiyat Usul of Shaykh Abdullahi Dan Fodio, although it is not the most elementary book of Usul al-Fiqh many students start studying the subject with it because of their proficiency in Arabic. In field of Theology Nazam al-Kubra is the most advanced book. The stages of study enumerated above are the most basic and conventional especially in Kano but other patterns are also common based on the preference of the teachers and students. For example those students who have interest in becoming judges usually studyTuhfat al-Hukkam of Muhammad b. Muhammad b. Asim before they study al-Mukhtasar of Sidi Khalil. Tafsir is mostly learnt through the annual Ramadan sessions although some scholars teach it throughout the year. These books give students the background and proficiency in Arabic that enables them later to write fluently in the language and many scholars especially those trained in Kano have excelled as testified by their literary output in comparison to their contemporaries[68].

One of the most prominent leaders of the reform movement was Shaykh Abubakar Gumi, the former Grand Kadi of Northern Nigeria. During the first republic he was closely associated with the Premier of Northern Region Sir Ahmadu Bello (Sardaunan Sokoto) who even attempted to revive the Qadiriyya under the banner of the legacy of the Shehu in form of Usmaniyya. After  his death the reform movement became more prominently anti-Sufi and they were justifications from their side claiming that the Shehu abandoned the Tariqa without any evidence. The movement was also Maliki in its Jurisprudence but with the return of the Middle East trained scholars there is now gradual shift to no Madhhab situation or to the teachings of Shaykh Nasirudeen Albani. They are even now becoming more radical than Shaykh Gumi or even Shaykh Nasirudeen Albani who cautioned some of his followers outside Nigeria to stop condemning people like Imam Nawawi and Ibn Hajar as non-Ahl Sunnah. Such a position is now even more popular amongst the Nigerian reformer-returnees from the Middle East who consider themselves more knowledgeable than the Shehu or even these great Imams.

The nucleus of the reform movements is the Islamiyya School a pattern that originated from the days of NEPU the opposition party in northern Nigeria when they first established Islamic schools along the style of Western schools. Most of the reformers also do not follow the style of the Ilm schools that has existed for centuries in which the teacher in most cases teaches an individual separately[69]. Instead they follow the pattern of Middle East whereby the teacher gives a lesson on a particular subject or book to the generality of his students. Many of these reformers have Mosques or schools where they deliver their lessons. Some of them have been associated with radical political tendencies but there is hardly any one that could be compared to the Shehu in terms of commitment or even literary output. The Shehu never accepted material gifts from those in power[70]. He tried to live according to his means. In terms of literary output the contributions of the reform movement is decimal compared to the contributions of the Sokoto Jihad leaders who wrote on many aspects of their time. And even when compared to those of their rivals there was very little to show despite the patronage of the elites and some Middle East governments and organizations[71].


The Shehu was successful in establishing an Islamic society in Hausaland largely through intellectual endeavors. Using all the available intellectual means such as writing books and composing poems in the three main languages of his area at that time, Arabic, Hausa and Fulfulde. Some of his successors and contemporaries continued with these means of mobilization[72]. With the arrival of colonial rule intellectual endeavors sank and this area is yet to recover. It has not yet excelled in the Western tradition and has lost its own therefore it has remained backward in all spheres. Universities even over mimic the West[73]. The reform movement has not succeeded in either literary out put or social transformation where the Shehu and his group were successful.

The contemporary reform movement has gone further from even challenging the Sufi groups that it started with to questioning of the Maliki Madhhab and the Ash’ari School on several issues. This distinguishes it from the movement led by the Shehu, which was home grown and its reform was based on the long established teachings of the Sudan . With external patronage this reform movement has grown even in areas that where some scholars thought there could be insulation[74]. It is possible that the reform movement could experience some set back because of Saudi compliance with American directives against funding of Islamic activities in Muslim countries and sponsoring of students to study in Saudi Arabia.

The challenge before Nigerian Muslims is to learn from the Shehu how he used the available local intellectual resources to reform his society without much external support. This is more relevant now than before because as we can see political leaders at any given time could jeopardize external support.


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Bello , O 1995 (Edited and translated with an introduction) Islamic Education in 18th Century Nigeria : Tarikh Mustapha al-Torodi by Abd Allah b, Al-Qadi Al-Hajj. Sokoto.

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[1] These are after Hilliard 1998: 2

[2] As shown by Ferguson 1973, Katsina 1984, Kani 1988 Wada 1998 and especially al-Qadiri 1993

[3] Al-Masri 1963: 496 and Kani 1988: 33

[4] Professor Musa Abdullahi Vice Chancellor of Bayero University made a similar observation at the inaugural lecture of Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu on April 24, 2004.

[5] See Hunwick 1966: 305n4

[6] Klein 1968: 66

[7] Amongst the clans or tribes involved in these migrations were Ba`en, Jallube Yirlaabe, Wolarbe and Ferrobe (see Mohammadou Mal. Idrissou 1979: 340)

[8] Who was the leading authority of Sokoto history during his lifetime.

[9] Alhaji Junaid refered to him as Isa, probably because there is no Arabic translation of Esau.

[10] Except Junaid 1957

[11] Hitti 1970

[12] After Makkah, Madinah and Jerusalam. See also Hitti 1970: 979

[13] The area was a single forest before he cleared it (see Ibn Kathir (nd)). The mosque and the government house built by him served as the nucleus of the city that grew around them (see Hitti, 1970:261).

[14] A name borrowed by Arabs from the Romans. It was initially the name given to the eastern Berbery while the western part was known as the Maghrib. Later it became the Arabic word for the whole of Africa. See Hitti, 1970:213

[15] By Ibn Kathir (nd) and others except Junaid (1957)

[16] Hitti, 1970:213

[17] Levtzion 1976: 129

[18] Levtzion 1976: 129 and also Newman 1995: 112-113 where it is also stated that Takrur was “The first African polity south of the Sahara to embrace Islam”

[19] Some oral traditionists have reported that he was a companion but Ibn Hajar 1989: 492 documented Uqbah Ibn Nafi al-Quraisyy as a companion and that Urwa narrated from him. He died in 27 AH. While Uqbah Ibn Nafi the general was al-Fahiry and not al-Qurashy  (Ibn Kathir nd p.47).

[20] Levtzion 1976: 129

[21] Gilliland 1979: 3-4

[22] Palmer 1929: 104 as well as Ubah 1977: 110 where it was suggested that: “there is a possibility that Usman accepted Islam as a personal religion from sources we do not presently know”. Usman (743-750AH/ 1343-1349) ruled Kano before Sarkin Kano Yaji who made Islam the official religion. This shows that even if Islam was not the official religion it was still present in the palace before Sarkin Yaji whom some scholars refer to as the one who brought Islam.

[23] For an analysis of the Islamization of Kano see Saad 1979

[24] For more on al-Maghili see Batran 1973 and for a translation of the treatise see Bedri and Starratt 1977

[25] Al-Hajj 1968: 7-16

[26] Lovejoy 1978: 184

[27] Palmer 1929

[28] Paden 1973: 61 and Oloyede p. 89

[29] See Watt 1985: 65-66

[30] Palmer 1929: 113

[31] Palmer 1929: 114

[32] Dan Fodio (nd)

[33] Kani 1988: 52

[34] Paden 1973:65

[35] Siddiqi 1989: 176.

[36] Ibn Fudi 1962: 128

[37] Sulaiman 1986: 22

[38] Kani 1988: 94-96

[39] Sulaiman 1986: 20

[40] Mahadi, 1985

[41] Falola 1991: 44

[42] Sulaiman 1986: 28-30

[43] Ibn Fudi 1962: 230-235

[44] Ibn al-Hajj 1981: 2

[45] Sulaiman 1986: 11

[46] Bello 1994: 3

[47] Bello 1994 22 where it was stated that Zangi was one of the students of the school, he was the Qadi of Kano who wrote Taqyid al-Akhbar (Ado-Kurawa 1989), Smith 1997: 189 who wrote that: “Zangi’s history of the struggle in Kano is perhaps the most detailed and convincing available for a Hausa state” see also (Ajayi and Gbadomosi 1980: 365) where Zangi’s book is listed amongst scholarly contributions of pre-colonial scholars to the history of their societies.

[48] Adeleye  1971

[49] Clapham 1996: 16

[50] Yahya 1986: 3

[51] For more information see Abun Nasr 1996: 329-330.

[52] Reynolds 2001

[53] Abun-Nasr 1996

[54] Christelow 1991: 139

[55] Reynolds 2001

[56] Adamu 2004 for a detailed account of this strategy

[57] Hiskett  1994: 124

[58] Yahya 1993: 192

[59] Hiskett  1994: 125

[60] al-Qadir 1993

[61] Ferguson 1973: 260-261

[62] Mallam Sanusi of Gidan Shehu Maihula.

[63] Katsina 1984

[64] Quadri and Oloyede 1990

[65] Kenny 1992

[66] Musdafa 1997

[67] Al-Kashnawi (nd)

[68] Hunwick 1995

[69] Katsina 1984 and Wada 1998 have shown the persistence of this pattern in the traditional schools in Kano.

[70] Kane 2002: 216 is very revealing of how one of the reform leaders received support from one of the military rulers

[71] Past tense is used because they could improve or have even improved since the publication of Hunwick 1995 where there are chapters on Tijjaniyya and Qadiriyya writers of Kano and a chapter on the polemical literature for and against Sufism the reform movements contribution where decimal when this book was compiled.

[72] For example Saidu 1979: 210 where one of them made a poem on the coming of the Mahdi and Shehu’s poems translated by his son, Isa into Hausa served to counter missionary propaganda during the colonial rule (Hiskett 1984-221-222)

[73] For example in some Western universities some intellectuals without academic degrees have been appointed professors (see Ringer 1987: 687-688, Thody 1987: 28-29 and Carnegie 1987: 64) but in Nigeria universities have refused to recognize contributions of outstanding intellectuals who excelled in Islamic traditions such as Nasiru Kabara (see his contributions in Loimeier, R. 1991: 165-174)

[74] Yahya 1989 suggestion that Kano society is insulated from this current cannot withstand the test of time, as the reformers are waxing stronger because of patronage of western educated elites and external organizations.

IBRAHIM ADO-KURAWA is the Acting Director, Research, Institute for Contemporary Research (ICR), Principal Partner, Pilot Projects Services (Rural Development Consultants) and General Editor,Weekly PYRAMID – The Magazine. He earned his B.Sc (Hons) Applied Biology and M. Sc Zoology (Applied Entomology) from Bayero University Kano, Nigeria.

Published in: on December 21, 2010 at 00:24  Leave a Comment  

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. 

Published in: on December 19, 2010 at 04:18  Comments (7)  

The Tradition of Tajdid in Western Bilad Al-Sudan






900 -1900




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

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

By Dr. Usman Bugaje


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Zuhd (Abstention From the World) and Ṣabr (Putting Up With Hardships and Overlooking the Ill-Treatment, Harm and Wrongs Which Come From Others)

A Discussion About Zuhd and Sabr from the book ‘The African Caliphate’

Author: Ibrahim Sulaiman


… Zuhd, as explained by the Prophet صلّى اللّه 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 اللّه عليه وسلّم said, ‘Take to trading, for it secures nine-tenths of wealth’… It is related that [Prophet] Isa عليه السلام met a certain person and asked him, ‘What do you do for a living’? He replied, ‘I engage in worship’. Isa عليه السلام 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.


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.

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Shaykh Uthmaan Dan Fodio’s Position on Tasawwuf – From the book ‘ The African Caliphate’ by Ibrahim Sulaiman

Tasawwuf 1

Shaykh Uthmaan Dan Fodio’s Position on Tasawwuf

From the book ‘ The African Caliphate’ by Ibrahim Sulaiman

In addition to the general education that the Shehu imparted to his students and companions, there was also a more intensive and systematized spiritual training in taṣawwuf. The Shehu had a group of people – men and women – whom he brought up in the ways of sufism. His main aim, no doubt, was to create a core of saints whose inward temperament was harmonized with their outward disposition in such a way that their utterances, behavior and characteristics mirrored their inner beings. This nucleus of people eventually formed the inner core of the Jama‘a. It was to them that mightier affairs were entrusted.

If the Shehu were asked if taṣawwuf was necessary, he would reply in the affirmative. In his Uṣūl al-Wilāyah he said that in the early days of Islam there was no need for taṣawwuf as such, because the Companions of the Prophet had among them those from whom the rest could draw inspiration and who could serve as models for them. The proper Islamic attitudes to life were preserved and transferred from one generation to another until the time came when the moral tone of society changed and people sank into moral decadence. Then a systematized form of spiritual training (tarbiyah) was needed, to give individuals guidance toward intellectual and moral elevation in order to overcome the diseases of the soul that prevented spiritual development.

This kind of concentrated spiritual cultivation of individuals, the Shehu maintained, is traceable to the Prophet himself صلّى اللّه عَلَيْهِ وسلّم, who trained his Companions  in accordance with the disposition of each. He would say to one, “Avoid anger,” and to another, “Let not your tongue ever rest from mentioning Allah’s names.”

The Shehu elaborated that taṣawwuf entails securing from people a pledge, which has to be continually reaffirmed, that they devote themselves to moral rectitude and the search for knowledge following the example of the Prophet صلّى اللّه عَلَيْهِ وسلّم. In this desire to inculcate in people knowledge (‘ilm) and spiritual experience (ḥaqīqah), the ṣufis have added nothing to the general practice of Islam. They simply reinforce its demand for the performance of obligatory duties and avoidance of prohibited things.

The essence of taṣawwuf, as expounded in Uṣūl al-Wilāyah, is five-fold. It is to seek to attain that superior moral consciousness (taqwā) as a result of which a person behaves as if he is in the presence of Allah, so that, whether alone or with others, obligatory duties are always upheld and forbidden things avoided. The Sunnah should be followed in all its ramifications, manifested by good character and being a source of happiness and comfort to others.

You should not harm people or cause them unnecessary discomfort, while at the same time exercising patience and trust in Allah if they cause you harm. You should cheerfully accept Allah’s overriding will in all matters concerning your life, whether that entails prosperity or poverty. You should perfect the attitude of submission whereby, even in the most trying circumstances, you offer thanks to Allah, appreciate the perfect nature of His will and, in the hope of His mercy and succor, flee from the imperfect state of this world to seek refuge in Him.

Those goals are to be reached by taking the following steps: exercising zeal in seeking the highest of aims of worship; revering the sanctity of Allah by following His injunctions and avoiding His prohibitions; striving to perform your professional work correctly and skillfully in accordance with the Sunnah; carrying out your resolution about religion regardless of opposition; and finally acknowledging Allah’s favors by being thankful to Him so as to be graced with an increase in such favors.

Shehu listed, in this order, number of ultimate qualities that should be inculcated: basic knowledge in the fundamentals of religion, jurisprudence and taṣawwuf; repentance (tawbah) from all sins, both spiritual and social; keeping aloof from people except for spiritual, educational or other positive purposes; waging war against Shaytān; striving against lower desires and restraining the self through taqwā; reliance on Allah in matters of provision and livelihood, that is, self-reliance; committing affairs in their entirety to Allah; cheerful acceptance of Allah’s judgment; patience (ṣabr), especially in times of trial; fear of Allah’s retribution at all times; love of Allah in all conditions and at all times; avoidance of eye contact at work; avoidance of conceit by calling to mind Allah’s unbounded favors; and constant praise and thanks to Allah.

Shehu described the nature of the training as the gradual cultivation of a person’s character through a systematic process supervised by a Shaykh until the whole being is positively changed by the good qualities being totally inculcated into the personality. This process is called riyāḍah. Shehu offered an insight into this method by saying, for instance, that if the student (murīd) were ignorant of the Sharī‘ah, the starting point in his training would in that case be his instruction in law and jurisprudence; if he were preoccupied with unlawful enrichment or was in a sinful political or social position, he should first be made to rectify that situation; even if he were sound in outward appearance, the diseases of the inward would have to be cured; if he were obsessed with personal appearance, he should be assigned such lowly chores as cooking until that obsession had been removed; if he were obsessed with food, he should be introduced to constant fasting until that obsession had been overcome; if he were in a hurry for marriage, in spite of being unable to  shoulder its responsibilities, that desire should be curbed with fasting and other exercises. Thus, the training would be in accordance with the intellectual and moral level of the individual concerned.

What differentiates this system of training from informal, personal education is that it is under the guidance of a realised shaykh. This raises the fundamental question of how one can distinguish a true shaykh from a false one. The Shehu offered the following guidelines in identifying a fraud: if he engages under any pretext in disobedience to Allah; if he is hypocritical and pretentious in exhibiting obedience to Allah; if he is greedy for wealth and worldly status and cultivates rich people; if he sows discord among Muslims and is disrespectful to Muslims in general. All these are signs that he is not genuine. A true shaykh is known by the soundness of his knowledge derived fundamentally from the Qur’an and Sunnah, by the nobility of his character, by his spiritual soundness, by a pleasing and easy disposition, and finally by his display of pure insight through interpreting the issues confronting him clearly.

Finally, there is the question of whether a shaykh is essential for the attainment of spiritual wellbeing. Not necessarily, the Shehu stated in Uṣūl al-Wilāyah. The collective spirit of an Islamic group – Ikhwān, as he called them – could take the place of a shaykh and, in any case, the ultimate purpose of taṣawwuf is that an individual should reach a stage in his “direct experience” of Allah in which he dispenses with the guidance of anyone else. Taṣawwuf is the process of training by which an individual is brought to spiritual maturity and then freed to seek his way to his Lord.

For Shehu Usman, taṣawwuf, as an integral part of Islam, is derived from two verses of the Qur’an: “But as for him who feared the Station of his Lord and forbade the lower self its appetites, the Garden will be his refuge.” (79:39-40)

Shaykh ʿUthmaan Dan Fodio’s Views on Educating Women from ‘The African Caliphate’ by Ibrahim Sulaiman

Shaykh ʿUthmaan Dan Fodio’s Views on Women’s Education from ‘The African Caliphate’ by Ibrahim Sulaiman

The Shehu had to reply several times to the objections and legal issues raised by his contemporaries among the ʿulamaa’. The debate moved from the narrow confines of women’s attendance of lectures to the wider issues of their education in general, their involvement in trade and professions and their going out of the house for their needs.

In taking a closer look at the Shehu’s replies and examining his views, we shall use three of his works: Nuur al-Albaab and Tanbiih al-Ikhwaan and Irshaad al-Ikhwaan ilaa Ahkaam Khuruuj an-Niswaan.

In Tanbiih the Shehu defended his allowing women to attend his lectures, saying it was justifiable and, indeed, sanctioned by law:

“I used to teach the men their individual obligations, and the women used to attend, staying behind the ḥijaab, and I used to prevent them from mixing (indiscriminately) with men. I kept on emphasizing in the assemblies my statement that such mixing of male and female is unlawful, so much that it necessarily became a matter of common knowledge. Then later, I assigned a specific day for the men, and a specific day for the women since this is better and safer. It is related in Ṣaḥiiḥ al-Bukhaari… that the women said to the Prophet,, “Men have gained an advantage over us in respect to access to you, therefore fix for us a day.” So he fixed a day for them in which they used to meet him, and he would exhort and instruct them.”

Women’s attendance of open-air lectures, he seemed to say in the Tanbiih, was not his own innovation. Other great scholars, who faced similar circumstances of prevailing ignorance, had either allowed it or expressly recommended it. Among them, he said, were the shaykh, the Imam, the learned Sidi Aḥmad ibn Sulaiman who was ‘a great saint’ and regarded as a Junayd of his generation. And no less an authority than al-Ghazali recommended the same. Even those – like Ibn Arafa – who were of the opinion that women should not go to lectures if it involved mixing with men, were referring to lectures dealing with knowledge that is not obligatory. In any case, by ‘mixing’ they meant actual bodily contact between men and women, and not occasions when they sit separately or when women sit in a separate apartment.

It is obligatory on a woman, he said in Tanbiih and Irshaad, to acquire a full knowledge of her religious obligations such as prayer, fasting, zakaat, ḥajj, as well as the more mundane matters such as trade and transactions. If the husband is not able to supply this knowledge, she is under an Islamic obligation to go out in search of it. “If he refuses her the permission,” the Shehu stated categorically in Irshaad, “she should go out without his permission, and no blame is attached to her nor does she incur any sin thereby.”

The ruler should compel the husband to get his wife educated as he should compel him to give her adequate maintenance; nay, knowledge is superior (to maintenance).”

But in spite of this sound Islamic position, ‘the devils among men’ still believed that women should remain at home in ignorance, knowing very well that ignorance could lead women to hell. In addition, such devilish scholars had remained silent in situations of moral and social decadence in which women freely engaged with men in drumming and dancing, and in which they displayed their beauty on festive days. If a woman could go as far as to ḥajj, why should she not go out to learn about her faith, which indeed, is a greater obligation than ḥajj, the Shehu asked.

The scholars who opposed women’s education, the Shehu postulated in Nuur al-Albaab, were merely hypocrites. They abandoned their wives, daughters and servants to ignorance, while they gave knowledge to other people. “How they could leave their wives, daughters and servants in the darkness of ignorance and error while they teach their students day and night! This is nothing but the pursuit of their selfish ends, because they teach their students only for show and out of pride. This is a great error.” The education of wives, children and dependents, he said, is an obligation while the teaching of students is voluntary. It becomes an obligation only when there is no one else to do it, and even then it is an obligation that is preceded by the obligation to educate one’s family and dependents.

Then the Shehu carried his argument straight to the women themselves. “Oh! Muslim women!” he exclaimed in Nuur al-Albaab:

“Do not listen to those who are themselves misguided and who misguide others, those who seek to deceive you by asking you to obey your husbands without asking you (first) to obey Allah and His Messenger. They say that a woman’s felicity lies in her obedience to her husband. They say so only to fulfill their selfish ends and fulfill their wishes through you. They compel you to do things which neither Allah nor His Messenger has originally imposed on you, like cooking, washing of clothes and similar things, which are among their numerous wishes, while they do not in the least demand of you to perform the real duties imposed on you by Allah and His Messenger. Yea! A woman is obliged by the consensus of the jurists, to heed her husband, in open and in secret, even if he is of very low social status, or even a slave, and she is prohibited by consensus to disobey him outrightly, except if he orders her to do an act which amounts to disobedience of Allah, in which case she must refrain from obeying him, as of necessity, because there should be no obedience to a creature in disobedience to the Creator. In addition, a woman is rewarded twofold for heeding her husband, yet, that is conditional upon her obedience to Allah and His Messenger.”

He lamented in Irshaad the failure of women to demand their rights to education in the same way that they would demand their right to maintenance and other basic needs. Women, like men, have been created for the sole purpose of serving Allah, which is not properly attainable without true education. The right to education, he seemed to be saying, has absolute preference over other rights. ‘Had the woman demanded her right from her husband in the affairs of her religion and taken her case to the ruler, and demanded that either he educates her in the affairs of her religion or extends his permission to her to go out to learn, it would have been obligatory (by law) on the ruler to compel the husband to do so as he would compel him to give his wife her worldly rights, since religious rights are superior and preferred.’

The Shehu’s uncompromising stand on women’s education, as opposed to the stand of some of his contemporaries whom he criticized in Irshaad for their lack of foresight (baṣiirah), stemmed from his role as a mujaddid. The Shehu’s moral and social transformation of society relied heavily on education. To neglect the education of women would have defeated the cause in two ways. Women formed not only an integral part of society, but also constituted its larger, more basic and more solid part. As the custodians of the home, which is the foundation of society, they are the most important factors in the stabilization of society. Secondly, women’s role in bringing up children imbued with the spirit and orientation of the emerging order, which would need at least one generation to take root, could not be over-emphasized.

The youth are the pillar of any process of Islamic revival, in so far as it is their energy and zeal that give it the requisite strength and vitality to challenge the prevailing order to the end. And the youth are principally formed by women.

We may also view the Shehu’s insistence on women’s education from another angle: as a restatement of the principle that education in Islam is not only a right, but also a duty. Every human being has been commanded by Allah to get education. Knowledge is the key to the understanding of Allah and the forging of the proper relationship with Him. It is the key to the understanding of Islam in its true perspective and in the understanding of the nature of life, of human relations and of existence as a whole. It is the key to the development of an individual as a complete personality. In this regard, there is no difference between man and woman. If a woman’s spiritual and moral development is in danger of being frustrated by her husband’s unjustifiable demands – which obviously stem from selfishness and high-handedness – Islam requires that she assert her rights and take whatever steps she deems necessary to safeguard her moral and spiritual well-being. If that puts her marriage at risk, so be it. For her success in the hereafter, which is greater and more enduring than the material things she could ever get from the world, should at all times be her priority.

There is yet another way of looking at this matter. The Shehu was aware that the cause he was advocating could well lead to future hardships for both men and women. Indeed, the hardships could lead to exile and loss of life for those who accepted his leadership. Yet, it was a cause that rested squarely on conviction, since nobody is deemed to have suffered or died in the cause of Allah who has no absolute faith in Allah and in the hereafter. It is only fair then that all those who would have to suffer in the cause of Allah should first be inculcated with the right faith and convictions and with the proper Islamic attitudes in order to enable them to have full benefit of their sufferings and hardships. This was perhaps one reason why the Shehu was absolutely insistent in his demand that both men and women should be properly educated about their beliefs and obligations.

He posed a question in Irshaad which runs thus: according to the law, women have to go out in search of knowledge which husbands cannot provide, should the scholar who cannot secure separate seating arrangements go into public to teach Islam, knowing very well that those women are bound to attend his lectures?; or should he do so, if he is well aware of the possibility of objectionable things being perpetrated as a result of women’s attendance? The Shehu answered in the affirmative, because those issues do not constitute a valid excuse to leave people in ignorance:

“Nay, he should go out, but he should prevent intermixing of the men and women, if such happens in his presence, and he should put men on one side and women on another side, and he should let them all know that inter-mixing of men and women is prohibited according to consensus… Indeed, the majority of the people are ignorant of the law, and if he goes out in order to change what he can of the social evils, his witnessing of other evils which he cannot change would not harm him.”

The logic seems to be that if people are not made conscious of the social evils which they are required to abandon, by not being given the opportunity to commit some of them in the presence of the teacher, how can they ever learn to abandon them? They need education precisely, because they do not know that such things are evil, or if they know, they lack the necessary moral and social consciousness to appreciate the magnitude of the danger such evils pose to the fabric of society.

Though education was the main theme of Shehu’s writings on women, he dealt with other matters too in his prolonged debate. For instance, should women engage in trade and the like? Ideally, he said, a woman’s needs should be provided for either by her husband or by other relations, so there would be no need to go out to the markets or sit in shops or similar places, but if there was no one to undertake ‘buying and selling’ on her behalf, she would be permitted by law to undertake it herself, but ‘she should do so without ornamentation (that is, she should observe moral and social restraint when she deals with men), for that is better for her in the eyes of her Lord and is more rewarding.’

We can look at this rule from two angles. First, women, like men, are entitled to a decent and dignified life, free from the humiliation of begging and dependence. Indeed, a woman is in greater need of economic protection since economic insecurity could lead her to the kind of life which undermines not only her own integrity but the very foundations of society. If such a possibility exists, then it becomes obligatory on her to seek the economic means she needs to preserve her integrity. Indeed, the insistence of Islam that women should have knowledge of some trade is meant to prepare them against such an eventuality.

Secondly, the Prophet stated that Allah permits women to go out for their needs. What constitutes these needs are not, however, specified, so it is left to those who represent the conscience of society to determine them, from time to time, as occasion demands, but of course, some needs, such as education, health and honorable livelihood, are basic and cannot be nullified by anyone.

Another important matter addressed by the Shehu was that of women going out in general. In fact, the Shehu stated in his introduction in Irshaad that he wrote the book in order to bring the two extreme groups – those who say that women are free to go out at all times like men, and those who say they should not go out at all – to the correct and middle course, and acquaint them with the rules formulated by upright scholars. This middle course, he said, implies that it is lawful for women to go out for their needs when it is legally necessary. At times this necessity will be of a worldly nature such as seeking a livelihood; and at other times the necessity will be of a religious nature such as going out in search of knowledge of their fundamental duties.

There are a host of issues dealt with in the Irshaad, such as women going out to attend the daily prayers, the Friday prayer and for ḥajj, funerals, visits and so on; and to each of these the Shehu gave a qualified approval in line with his balanced view. We would like to concentrate on his debate about women’s attendance at the mosque for daily prayers, for it demonstrates the way he handled the conflicting opinions of Muslim jurists.

Al-Ghazali says in al-Iḥyaa’: ‘It is necessary to prevent women from attending the mosques for the prayer if it is feared that men would be tempted by them. In fact ʿAishah, may Allah be pleased with her, did prevent them, and it was said to her that (her husband) the Messenger of Allah had not prevented them from attending the congregation. She said, ‘Had the Messenger of Allah known what the women would do after him he would have prevented them’.”

Some (jurists) conclude from this statement, as al-Qastalaani has said in al-Irshaad, that women should be prevented outrightly, but (others) have replied that ʿAishah, may Allah be pleased with her, was not in fact explicitly categorical on their being prevented, even if her statement indicates her preference for prevention. (It is argued) also that Allah knows absolutely well what women would do, yet He did not send any revelation to His Prophet to prevent them (from going to the mosque). If their behavior necessitated their being prevented from the mosques, it would also have necessitated their being prevented from going to other places, such as the markets as well. In addition, the offending behavior is found among some of them only, not in all of them. If prevention is necessary it should be confined to those who perpetrate offensive actions. Nonetheless, a woman’s prayer at home carries greater merit than her prayer in the mosque.

The Shehu scarcely came to a conclusion. he left his readers to make up their own minds. We should however remember his opinion that whenever jurists have made divergent rulings on an issue, then a person is free to take which ever of the rulings is agreeable to him, since religion should be easy.

We may at this stage consider some of the issues raised in this debate on women. The question of education raised by the Shehu relates mainly to women who did not receive education in their childhood. It is they who are asked to demand their rights, to education and to gain it by all possible means. The debate is applicable to young girls, for in a proper Islamic order, their education, like that of boys, is absolutely obligatory. Indeed, it is unthinkable that a Muslim society should allow a girl to grow to maturity without having been educated. Universal education for girls, as well as for boys, is the clear rule of Islam, and should be known to those with even the most elementary acquaintance with Islam.

The qualified permission for a woman to go out is based on three considerations. In the first place, she is basically responsible for the home and the upbringing of children. Whatever else she does outside is subordinate to this fundamental role. Indeed, she herself derives greater happiness and fulfillment from a stable and successful home than from anything else. Therefore, anything that might distract her from giving her full attention to the family is discouraged, except where it becomes absolutely necessary. In the second place, her own safety has been considered by Islam, since Islam regards the physical, moral and psychological security of women as the responsibility of society as a whole, of which her husband and her immediate relations take a significant share. In the third place, the qualified permission is made with due considerations to public morality. Since women evoke strong emotions in men, the interaction between the two must always be regulated. For example, the intimacy that exists between a husband and a wife necessitates a considerable display of social, moral and emotional restraint when they deal with other people. If they did not show restraint, discord and malice would result in society; and to the extent that man is almost always the aggressor, the woman carries a responsibility to minimize the possibility of that aggression. Yet, the same public morality which necessitates greater restraint from a woman may also require her to go out to assist in society. Who is better than a woman in teaching another woman, or in treating her ailment, or in solving her emotional and psychological problems?

Book Review of  ‘The African Caliphate

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