The Jihad and the Consolidation of Sudanic Intellectual Tradition


Ibrahim Ado-Kurawa   

Paper presented at the International Conference on the Bicentenary of the Sokoto Caliphate 1804-2004 from 14th to 16th June 2004

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 modern Algeria 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 – 8) 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 Kano is 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 of Arabia 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 of Dan 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 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[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 the Ulama 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 of Qawa’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 (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.

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 a University 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 in Kano [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 19th century 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 their tariqa 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 study Tuhfat 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 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 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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[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.