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IN REMEMBRANCE OF SHEIKH USMAN DANFODIO (RA) PDF Print E-mail
Written by freezak   
Wednesday, 05 December 2018 16:07

By Yusuf AbdulLahi
In the name of Allah who states “On those who believe and work deeds of righteousness, will the Most Gracious bestow love” Q19:96 May peace and blessings of Allah be upon our noble master Muhammad and his purified progeny.
In a famous hadith narrated by Abu Da’ud, the prophet (S) said “Allah will always raise for the Muslims at the beginning of every century - the Muslim era, a mujaddid (reformer) who will renew their religion, Islam for them". 

Commemoration of Sheikh Usman Danfodio's birthday is the piece for this week. The Sheikh's birthday that occurred on the last day of Safar, the second month of Islamic calendar is annually remembered at various capacities. In one of his speeches referring to Sheikh Usman Danfodio, Sheikh el-Zakzaky (H) said "to the best of our belief and knowledge, Shehu was the greatest righteous servant of Allah that ever lived in this region". This is very obvious. But for the Islamic revival he led, no one could tell the destiny of Hausa land in terms of religious inclination today. At the same time, he was the greatest inevitable historic figure whose life and works were unavoidably studied by all historians in the pre-colonial Nigeria. The idea behind the piece is to share with our esteemed readers the memories of great Islamic revivalism and socio-economic reform led by him in then Hausa land (presumably Northern Nigeria) which destroyed tyranny perpetrated by the Sarakai -kings- who subjected masses to all forms of oppression and enslavement. It is a singular opportunity for Muslims to analyze the success of Islamic revival which roughly lasted for hundred years before the advent of Europeans who destroyed the system and substituted it with British colonial legacy.
According to Lady Lugard, page 238 and H. A. S. Johnson, xiii, the Hausa land occupies an area roughly from latitude 90 to 140N and longitude 40 to 110E. It is part of West African savannah and is bounded to the North by Sahara and to the South by the rain forests. It constitutes the largest single bulk, among linguistic groups that occupy the sector between Lake Chad to the East and the middle Niger to the West. The Hausa land was a very wide plain with a lot of myth and legends. It was simply related to the widespread story of Abu Yazid, otherwise known as Bayajidda, an Arab that came to Daura and audaciously killed a big serpent which was referred to as Sarki in the only well of the town deterring people from drinking water at will. For that the Queen agreed to marry him and gifted him another lady and both gave birth to male children one after the other whose sons were later known as Hausa and Banza bakwai respectively. These children were the first kings of the various towns in the land.
Apart from the Hausas who were the majority inhabitants of the area, Fulanis were greatly noticed not only in the Hausa land but in the entire West African sub-region from which Shehu descended. The tribe, believed to have migrated initially from Futa-Toro in Senegal, settled in Kwoni in the Hausa city state of Gobir. Shehu was born to a refuted home of letters at Marata in December, 1754. His father, Muhammad Fodio was a widely recognized Islamic scholar as the word Fodio meant scholar in Fulfulde. Beside coming from a renown home, the Shehu had a very wide history of scholarship beginning from his father, grandmother and his most popular teacher and mentor Sheikh Jibreel. It is very interesting to note the latter’s full allegiance to former in the great Islamic revolutionary process.
Islam has come to the region long ago, thus the Jihad was not on the advent of Islam but the way it was sadly abused and misrepresented. The Jihad was Islamic not Fulani as usually portrayed by most historians.
The Hausa land, then was not a united political entity but comprised of different states under various kings who were bent on amassing wealth and expanding their territorial powers. Sarki, those days was considered like the creator for the unquestionable powers he possessed. He could kill, usurp people’s properties/belongings including wives and children. It was in a clear confrontation of his unconditional authority Shehu interpreted the Islamic testimony of faith as “Babu Sarki sai Allah” meaning there is no king as Allah” an expression considered by then Sarakai as insolence and threat to their unchallenged authority. The Sarakai were rooted in cultism, corruption and selfish military campaigns for territorial expansion undermining Islam they claimed to practice. It was against these and other abuses Shehu fought to cleanse the religion totally opposed to tyranny and injustice at all times. Jihad, though commonly misinterpreted and misused, is a revival movement for the reform of society. It is not an outright war against non Muslims to force them accept Islam. Never, as according to Islamic principles no compulsion in religion! In fact, Shehu fought on defensive ground and against Hausa kings who were Muslims but deeply engaged in dirty innovations unacceptable in Islam, in addition to the tyranny meted against the poor in the society.
Allah has promised to safeguard Islam at all cost through His divine intervention. As such reformers sprang for revival from time to time. Abu Daud, reported that the prophet (S) has said ”Allah will always raise for the Muslims at the beginning of every century -the Muslim era, a mujaddid (reformer) who will renew their religion, Islam for them. Based on this, recognized reformers like Usman Danfodio periodically arose. In relation to that, some saints were blessed with some sort of inspired foresight. For example, it was recorded in Infaq al-maisur, by Muhammad Bello; C.E.J. London, 1957 pages 29 and 30 that Sheikh Usman’s advent was foretold by a woman saint, Ummu Hani who prophesized “appearance of a saint who will reform religion, revive the Sunna and establish a community. He will be followed by those who agree with him, and will be renowned far and wide. Both the common people and the nobles will adhere to his command, and those connected with him will be known as Jama’a. Their sign is that they will not tend cattle as is customary with the Fulani. Whoever witnesses that time should follow him”
Shehu was a Maliki in jurisprudence, and a Qadiri in the Sufi orders. His home Degel, become a great centre of scholarship all over Sudan. Shehu’s methodology of call to the noble cause of holy prophet (S) ran for over thirty years, 1774-1804) mostly teaching and calling. He always spoke and called to truth without any fear. Dhiya’ul hukkam, page 13 ”The caliph is appointed to safeguard the rule of law, to ensure justice and equality in such a way that the citizen gets his entitlements and the property and well being of orphans, the infirm, the insane and so on are safeguarded”. And in Nurul Ahbab - on teaching of women he said “The caliph must ensure justice and equality in such a way that the citizen gets his entitlements and the property and well being of orphans, the infirm, insane and so on are safeguarded. ….. the teacher must not discriminate between the children of the rich and the poor parents ….. the teaching of women daughters and slaves is obligatory”. Because of the Shehu’s indefatigable effort, scholarship was measurably boosted in the land irrespective of sex and status and people were generally encouraged to move far and near in search of knowledge. Sufism considered as divorcing oneself from materialism, worldliness, and self esteem was also encouraged making people more anxious to draw closer to Allah.
Consequent to this, many adults maintained considerable period of meditation. In a Fulfulde poem dated 1837 verses 2-3, Nana Asma’u daughter of the Sheikh expressed that Inna Garka-the Shehu’s wife and mother of Sultan Muhammad Bello spent much of her time in meditation; at such times she did not speak and indicated replies by moving her head or hands. She left her room only for communal prayers. She owned nothing at all except those things necessary to life itself, like the clothes she wore and the utensils in her room. In another Fulfulde poem verse 12, dated 1837 by her, Aminatu Lubal and Muhammad Sa’ad older son of Shehu were greatly noted in Sufism.
On the socio- economic aspect, people were encouraged to avoid idleness but engage in all sorts of lawful businesses and occupations to sustain their living. That was why the society was self reliant. Farming, trading, rearing, black smithing, pottery and sculpturing were among other means engaged by the people. However, Shehu taught people not to be greedy for worldly possessions setting good example despite his spread fame.
Evidently, Shehu and his followers made greater impact in Hausa land especially as it related to:
1. Politico - religious perspective
2. General scholarship
3. Unity
4. Economic empowerment
5. General religious propagation
With the tremendous help of Allah, Shehu’s strong reasoning, persuasion, exceptional sincerity and piety succeeded triumphantly. The level of acceptance he enjoyed paved way for the large followership he made. The Sarakai became openly jealous and considered him a threat that must be got rid of. Thus, the Sarki of Gobir began to harass his followers and attempted to assassinate him, a situation that changed the minds of his followers to defend their principles at all cost.
To be continued.