The Jihad and the Consolidation of Sudanic Intellectual Tradition
presented at the International Conference on the Bicentenary of the
Sokoto Caliphate 1804-2004 from 14th to
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.
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
of Islam in the
of the earliest traces of Islam in 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.
It has been documented that he championed Khalifa Mu`awiyya`s westward
expansion of the Dar-Islam.
He built the fourth most important Islamic city,
in 49 AH (670 CE) and it became the nucleus of Islamic influence in Ifriqiyya.
The legendary General was said to have advanced from his military base
in Qayrawan until he was stopped by the waves of
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
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
are several versions of the exact time of the arrival of Islam in
Hausaland of which
Establishment of Islamic Scholarly Tradition
Wangarawa were the first group of Islamic scholars who revived Islam in
It has been suggested the exodus of the Wangarawa led by Zagaiti from
influence of al-Mukhtasar of Sidi Khalil in the Maliki Law of
Hausaland superseded other sources especially of
books have enjoyed the patronage of the Sarakunan (Kings of)
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 are taqwa,
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.
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
The Jihad Leaders and Islamic Scholarship
Jihad leaders were trained in the
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.
Shehu’s book Hisn
al-Afham min Juyush al-Awham is a confirmation of his adherance to
the Asha’ari (
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.
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. This was generally because the Shehu differentiated between the divine aspects of the Shari’ah and human derivations. In some instances he disagreed with a majority view, which was also a source of disagreement with his brother Abdullahi. 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”, 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.
historians are of the view that the Sokoto Jihad leaders based
their administrative structure on political theories advanced by Abbasid
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.
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
of the debates that, was given prominence by the historians was
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.
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. In his characteristic thoroughness he was very clear in adhering to the Sunnah in Ihya al-Sunnah. 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. Another Sufi scholar whose writings influenced the Shehu and the Jama’ah was Shaykh Abul Abbas Ahmad al-Zaruq (d. 899AH), author of Qawa’idul Tasawwuf the great work on Tasawwuf. The Jihad leaders also had contact with Sidi Mukhtar al-Kunti. 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 (the Qadiriyya 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.
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 a
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
Basic theory of international relations has shown that the survival of
any state no matter how powerful depends on the international system
and at that time it was dominated by the Europeans who shared
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”.
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)
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
first elementary school of most Muslim children is the
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 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. 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.
second stage of learning in 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
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 the death of 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
nucleus of the reform movements is the
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. 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. The reform movement has not succeeded in either literary out put or social transformation where the Shehu and his group were successful.
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
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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 These are after Hilliard 1998: 2
 As shown by Ferguson 1973, Katsina 1984, Kani 1988 Wada 1998 and especially al-Qadiri 1993
 Al-Masri 1963: 496 and Kani 1988: 33
 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.
 See Hunwick 1966: 305n4
 Klein 1968: 66
 Amongst the clans or tribes involved in these migrations were Ba`en, Jallube Yirlaabe, Wolarbe and Ferrobe (see Mohammadou Mal. Idrissou 1979: 340)
 Who was the leading authority of Sokoto history during his lifetime.
 Alhaji Junaid refered to him as Isa, probably because there is no Arabic translation of Esau.
 Except Junaid 1957
 Hitti 1970
 After Makkah, Madinah and Jerusalam. See also Hitti 1970: 979
 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).
 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
 By Ibn Kathir (nd) and others except Junaid (1957)
 Hitti, 1970:213
 Levtzion 1976: 129
 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”
 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).
 Levtzion 1976: 129
 Gilliland 1979: 3-4
 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.
 For an analysis of the Islamization of Kano see Saad 1979
 For more on al-Maghili see Batran 1973 and for a translation of the treatise see Bedri and Starratt 1977
 Al-Hajj 1968: 7-16
 Lovejoy 1978: 184
 Palmer 1929
 Paden 1973: 61 and Oloyede p. 89
 See Watt 1985: 65-66
 Palmer 1929: 113
 Palmer 1929: 114
 Dan Fodio (nd)
 Kani 1988: 52
 Paden 1973:65
 Siddiqi 1989: 176.
 Ibn Fudi 1962: 128
 Sulaiman 1986: 22
 Kani 1988: 94-96
 Sulaiman 1986: 20
 Falola 1991: 44
 Sulaiman 1986: 28-30
 Ibn Fudi 1962: 230-235
 Ibn al-Hajj 1981: 2
 Sulaiman 1986: 11
 Bello 1994: 3
 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.
 Adeleye 1971
 Clapham 1996: 16
 Yahya 1986: 3
 For more information see Abun Nasr 1996: 329-330.
 Reynolds 2001
 Abun-Nasr 1996
 Christelow 1991: 139
 Reynolds 2001
 Adamu 2004 for a detailed account of this strategy
 Hiskett 1994: 124
 Yahya 1993: 192
 Hiskett 1994: 125
 al-Qadir 1993
 Ferguson 1973: 260-261
 Mallam Sanusi of Gidan Shehu Maihula.
 Katsina 1984
 Quadri and Oloyede 1990
 Kenny 1992
 Musdafa 1997
 Al-Kashnawi (nd)
 Hunwick 1995
 Katsina 1984 and Wada 1998 have shown the persistence of this pattern in the traditional schools in Kano.
 Kane 2002: 216 is very revealing of how one of the reform leaders received support from one of the military rulers
 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.
 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)
 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)
 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.