Nigeria: The Sokoto Caliphate – Book Helps Correct Historical Errors Around Jihad of Dan Fodio – Emir of Zazzau

First published 54 years ago by Longmans, Green Co in 1967, The Sokoto Caliphate is the product of groundbreaking research.
The Emir of Zazzau, Ahmed Bamalli, has praised the Nigerian edition of The Sokoto Caliphate authored by Murray Last and published by Premium Times Books, saying the book helps correct some errors by previous writers.
For being arguably the first book written on Sokoto Caliphate by a scholar “whose sources are mainly written Arabic manuscripts,” Mr Bamalli said at the book launch in Abuja Tuesday that it represents an “essential milestone in the inquiry into the history of nineteenth-century Hausaland.”
Quoting Thomas Hodgkin, the emir noted that the historical account given in the book “supersedes all that was written on the subject and it corrects innumerable errors and misinterpretations of previous writers.”
He further explained that some of these “uninformed” account included referring to the Jihad that enthroned the Caliphate — which covered a large swathe of present-day West Africa — as ‘Fulani Jihad’ or ‘Fulani War.’
“This has numerous consequences among which is that it gave the Jihad an ethnic colouration divested from the educational and reformatory objective of Shehu Dan Fodio.
“It has also served to create Fulani phobia which is further accentuated by the prevailing security challenges currently experienced in the country. Thus one hears of terms such as ‘Fulanization Agender’ and it is not difficult to understand that the foundation of this phobia was partly laid by the misnomer of calling the jihad of Shaykh Dan Fodio, the ‘Fulani Jihad.'”
First published 54 years ago by Longmans, Green Co in 1967, The Sokoto Caliphate is the product of groundbreaking research which had Professor Murray Last, while he was a PhD student at the University of Ibadan, learn Arabic, live among the descendants of the caliphate and travel across territories formerly under the Caliphate.
He took a historical dive into the 19th-century emirate which evolved out of the jihad led by Uthman dan Fodio, a 19th-century Islamic cleric. It exhumed and assembled manuscripts, letters and pamphlets, many of which were written in Arabic and its transliteration and scattered all over.
Before the invasion by the Europeans, especially the British and French, the empire had a east-west reach extending from present-day Cameroon into Burkina Faso, and a north-south stretch from Agadez to Ilorin.
Read the Emir of Zazzau’s full speech below:
THE RELEVANCE OF THE HISTORY OF SOKOTO CALIPHATE TO THE – PRESENT DAY NIGERIA
A remark made by his Royal Highness, Ambassador Ahmed Nuhu Bamalli, the Emir of Zazzau on the occasion of public presentation of “The Sokoto Caliphate” (The Nigerian Edition)
This book is one of the invaluable works written on the history of the Sokoto Caliphate. It is perhaps the first book written on this subject matter by a scholar whose sources are mainly written Arabic manuscripts. It can thus be said to represent an essential milestone in the inquiry into the history of nineteenth-century Hausaland,. particularly the Jihad of Shaykh Usman Dan Fodio and the establishment of the Sokoto Caliphate.
The book is divided into three parts: the growth of the Muslim Community and the course of the jihad; the history of the nineteenth-century Caliphs, concentrating on their activities within metropolitan Sokoto; and a study of the Vizierate, the office of second highest rank in the Caliphate. This work is distinguished by Dr. Murray Last’s heavy reliance on written Arabic sources and the fact that in the words of Hodgkin: “it supersedes all that was written on the subject and it corrects innumerable errors and misinterpretations of previous writers”. A critical reading of this book reveals quite a number of critical points which are very crucial to the discourse on the relevance of the history of the Sokoto Caliphate to present day Nigeria. These are:
I. Contrary to the attitude of some western and later Nigerian writers, Murray Last never called the Jihad that birthed the Sokoto Caliphate a ‘Fulani Jihad’. This is because as he explained, the jihad was essentially the jihad of Shaykh Usman Dan Fodio. From the time this book was written till date, it has become commonplace among scholars and the uninformed to refer to the Jihad as ‘Fulani Jihad’ or ‘Fulani War’. This has numerous consequences among which is that it gave the Jihad an ethnic coloration divested from the educational and reformatory objective of Shehu Dan Fodio. It has also served to create Fulani phobia which is further accentuated by the prevailing security challenges currently experienced in the country. Thus one hears of terms such as ‘Fulanization Agender’ and it is not difficult to understand that the foundation of this phobia was partly laid by the misnomer of calling the jihad of Shaykh Dan Fodio, the ‘Fulani Jihad’.
II. Contrary to the contention that the Jihad was a class struggle, or: that it was waged for tribal, economic or political reasons, this book supports the argument that the Jihad was essentially an intellectual movement. The book reveals that Shehu Danfodio preoccupied himself with teaching and preaching, moving from one place to another. He spent many years travelling, teaching, preaching, converting and writing along with his expanding team of disciples. The shaykh we are told taught tirelessly, admonishing against oppression, extortion from the poor, robbing of markets or mosques among other vices. This therefore helped tremendously to get educated people who afterwards helped in the running of the administration of the Caliphate.
Part of the intellectual legacy left by the Jihadist was the development of Historiography. The Jihad leaders wrote extensively on variety of subjects, including History. This is evidenced in the fact the author relied on mostly written sources authored by the Shehu such as kitab al-farq, wathiqat ahl sudan and ihyau sunnah; Sheikh Abdullahi Gwandu who wrote Tazyin waragat and tanbih al-ikhwan; Sheikh Muhammad Bello who wrote infaq al maysur which according to Murray Last is the most detailed and factual account of the jihad. The triumvirate generally wrote various literatures consisting of poetry, prose, fiction, true story, parables, as well as the matters that pertain to faith, State, Medicine, Mathematics, Astronomy and Geography.
III. Contrary to the writings of some western scholars, the history of Sub-Saharan Africa in the pre-colonial period are not only accounts of conflicts and wars, which had virtually nothing to contribute to the modern day. The Sokoto Caliphate bequeathed an enduring legacy of the use of dialogue and application of intellectual debate in resolving intra and inter-State conflict. This is a praiseworthy historical precedent deserving commendation and emulation even by the civilized countries of today.
This African Islamic diplomatic history is typified in the discourse of the triumvirate founding scholars of the Sokoto Caliphate; Shehu Dan. fodio, his brother Abdullahi and son, Muhammad Bello. The differences in their advice and policies demonstrate not only a lively intellectual discourse and debate but also the dynamism and responsiveness of the Sokoto leadership to the challenges of governing a new multicultural state. The difference of opinion between Abdullahi and Bello for example on the ransoming of war prisoners held by Sokoto forces is an example of the role of intellectual dialogue in the formulation of Government policies. The possibility of African states to resolve their inter-state differences through dialogue and recourse to intellectual discourse is exemplified by the dialogue that took place between the Sokoto and the Borno Caliphates. This dialogue provides us with a window through which to examine the flexibility and responsiveness of Sokoto Caliphate to issues such as religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence.
The following are the salient lessons to be learnt from the history of the Sokoto Caliphate:
i. Commitment to education is the key to reforming the society
ii. Inter and intra State conflicts can and should be resolved through continuous Dialogue
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By and large, man is supposed to learn from history in order to through past events, understand and provide solutions to problems: and challenges of the present. We must accept that the future of this country is dependent on our collective ability at reformation. Reformation on the other hand cannot be realized without mass education. We must therefore make concerted effort at educating our teeming population as no meaningful development can take place in an atmosphere pervaded by ignorance and iniquity. Our educational system must also be reformed to cater for the needs of the 21st century global community. To do this, our governments at all levels must demonstrate sufficient political will towards reforming the educational sector.
Premium Times Books launches ‘The Sokoto Caliphate’ (LIVE UPDATES)
In addition, we must, irrespective of our religious inclinations, tribal leanings and political affiliations continue to engage ourselves in progressive and meaningful dialogue. This is the panacea to the myriads of challenges confronting us as a people. We must continue to make efforts to understand and tolerate our differences as well as advance our individual and collective aspirations through peaceful dialogue. Nothing else can salvage our dear nation. A home grown problem requires a home grown solution. The problems of Nigeria can only be solved by Nigerians. We must continue to think-through and proffer solutions to our challenges by ourselves as exemplified by the Sokoto Caliphate. This is a duty we owe ourselves and our generations yet unborn.
In conclusion, this book by reason of its rich content which has been adjudged to be objective and historical, is an indispensable tool to scholars and students in this field of research. It is also a book to be read by anyone interested in understanding the history of the Jihad of Shehu Dan Fodio and the Sokoto Caliphate. I therefore commend Premium Times Books for publishing for the first time this Nigerian Edition of the Book. I urge them not to rest on their oars in this onerous but rewarding task of “bringing home books published about Nigeria elsewhere”. I wish you all fruitful deliberations.
Read the original article on Premium Times.
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