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Uthman Dan Fodio

Birth and Early Life

  • Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio was born on 29th Safar 1168 A.H or 15 December 1754 C.E at Marata, a town in the Hausa state of Gobir.
  • His full name is Uthman bin Muhammad bin Uthman bin Salih.
  • Shehu Uthman was from the Fulani ethnic community of West Africa.
  • He belonged to a family that had strong Islamic foundation which prompted him to learn the Holy Qur’an at an early age.
  • He also studied Fiqh (Islamic Law) and mastered the Arabic language.

Educational Background

  • Uthman Dan Fodio began his early education from his father who was a scholar in Gobir.
  • Since he came from a family with a strong Islamic background, he went through the traditional Muslim system of education.
  • He learnt from different teachers including his uncle Uthman Binduri, also known as Biddrui, who taught him Al Mukhtasar of Imam Malik.
  • He also learnt Theology from his maternal Uncle, Jibril bin Umar.
  • He then undertook advanced studies in Fiqh, Hadith, Tafseer, Mathematics, Astronomy and Arabic language from when known scholars.
  • He was a simple man, pious and intelligent.
  • This earned him alot of respect from his people and attracted many followers.

Works and Contributions

  • Dan Fodio lived a life that can be described as of two parts.
  • The first part which falls in the 18th century was a period where he concentrated on writing, teaching, preaching and reforming.
  • He was disturbed by the social problems affecting his society.
  • These social problems included the following;
    • High level of ignorance especially among the Muslim Women.The social system was terrible in that women were oppressed, neglected and mistreated. Women were locked into their houses against their will. The mode of dressing was that of women walking around in nothing but waist- cloth while exposing their upper part of the body. The society also practiced female circumcision.
    • The increasing rate of bid’aa (innovation) in Islam. Shehu was strongly opposed to any innovation that disagreed with the Holy Qur’an or the Sunnah.
    • The wide spread unislamic practices.The society used to engage in practices that did not have its roots or origin from the Qur’an and the prophet’s traditions such as shirk. There was a class of sheikhs who posed as spiritual leaders and earned their living through false prophecy and fortune telling.They swindled their followers by pretending to have supernatural powers. Most people also engaged in haram businesses while others practiced kufr (things that are unacceptable and offensive to Allah).
    • The violation of the Sharia and neglect of the Sunnah. Most teachers were hypocrites. They took advantage of the people’s ignorance and collected their wealth and property under several pretexts. They misguided the rulers in several matters and made them perpetuate all manners that defied the Islamic religious law. The results of this was a decay in the the society’s social and moral life.
  • Due to these challenges, he decided to devote his whole life in educating the public on the fundamentals of the Islamic religion.
  • In order to achieve this; he wrote books in Arabic and a poem praising the Prophet (PBUH).
  • He also gave lectures during Friday prayers and public seminars.
  • His teachings were focused on Fiqh, Tawheed and basic Islamic teachings on acts of Ibada.
  • Since he was well versed in classical Arabic, Huasa, Fulani and Tawadil language he attracted masses of people during his da’wa activities.
  • He was involved in daawa for 30 years in different areas in Hausa land.
  • He would pay special attention to the spiritual development of his students through tasawwuf.
  • He criticized the Ulamas who supported the authorities to protect their vested interests and those who performed all kinds of corruption.
  • One of his biggest tasks was to create high standard of morality within the society.
  • Once the sultan of Gobir invited all ulama including Uthman to his palace and presented gifts to them.
  • The Ulamas made their requests to the Sultan.
  • Uthman requested for some major changes in the administration.
  • These included; freedom of participation in daw’a activities, removal of restrictions in practicing the religion, respect to religious people and reduction of the taxes.
  • The Sultan conceded to his request.
  • This encouraged Uthman to keep up with the spirit of re-establishing the Islamic teachings within the society.
  • The second part of his life which began in 1802 witnessed his migration and struggle against the unjust and tyrant regimes of North Africa.
  • Hausa land was at a critical stage in its history characterized by unbelief, inequity and open defiance to the laws of Allah (SWT).
  • The social system was immoral and oppression was the order of the day.
  • This prompted Uthman to raise against the Hausa rulers and establish his own caliphate which he called ‘the Sokoto caliphate.’
  • He strongly criticized the Hausa ruling class for the following:
    • Their heavy taxation and violation of the Muslim Law.
    • Their oppression and unfairness.
    • The giving and acceptance of bribes.
    • The imposition of unfair taxes to their subjects.
    • Forceful seizing of land from its owners.
    • Unauthorized grazing of animals on other people’s crops.
    • Extorting money from the poor.
    • Imprisonment of his subjects on false charges.

Establishment of the Sokoto Caliphate

  • We have earlier learnt that Shehu Uthman had gained great popularity among his people due to his general concern for the interest of the people.
  • His reformist process inspired many people including the rulers of Sarakuwa.
  • The people then started opposing and revolting against their rulers.
  • Due to his popularity among the people, the Hausa rulers became afraid of him and thus began harassing him.
  • They even attempted to assassinate him but he escaped.
  • This forced him to organize an army that would defend him against his enemies.
  • In 1812 C.E Uthman’s army emerged victorious over the Hausa States.
  • He thus established his empire based on the Islamic Sharia.
  • The caliphate had its capital in Sokoto which is today’s Northern Nigeria and the surrounding areas.
  • Uthman died in 1817 C.E and was succeded by his son Muhammad Bello.

Reforms brought by the Sokoto Caliphate under Uthman

  • He challenged the scholars of the time over extremism by writing a book showing that extremism was a wrong concept.
  • He taught that all Madhhabs are correct and should be respected.
  • He reconciled Islamic scholarship with Sufism and emphasized that Tassawuf should be for the knowledge of the heart.
  • He declared custom duties as a source of public revenue.
  • He forbade revenue officers from accepting gifts from their subjects.
  • He fought against the cultures that were undermining the rights of women e.g. denial of education, restriction from movement, female circumcision, among others.
  • He warned the society against Bid’aa (inventing things which are contrary to Islamic belief).
  • The government should establish roads, bridges, mosques, city walls to ensure comfort for the citizens.
  • He emphasized revival of the Hisbah institutions whose functions included checking the prices, quality of goods, correct weights and measures, prevention of fraud and earning interest.
  • Zakat should be administered according to the Sharia and be spent in the same region from where it is collected.
  • He fought against the corrupt Hausa kings and advocated for the removal of oppressive rules on the defeated lot and the powerless people.
  • He wrote a book called (Nurul Al Baab) ‘The light of men of understanding.’
  • He was the founder of the Sokoto Caliphate which secured firm roots for the spread of Islam in Hausa Land.

Literary works

  • Nurul Al Baab (the light for men of understanding)
  • Tanbih al-Ikhwan ‘ala ahwa al Sudan (concerning the government of our country and the neighbouring country of Sudan.)
  • Wathiqa al Ikhwan
  • Kitab al Farq (Book of differences)
  • Najma al Ikhwan (star of the brothers)
  • Siraj al Ikhwan (lamp of brothers)
  • Bayan Wajiib al Hijra (description of the obligation of migration)

Imam Ghazali

His Early Life

  • Al-Ghazali is one of the greatest Islamic Jurists, theologians and mystical thinkers from Persia.
  • His full name is Abu Hamid Muhammad Al Ghazali al-Tusi.
  • He was born in 450 AH (1058 C.E) in a town called Tus, in North Eastern Persia.
  • His father was a craftsman who used to make clothes from sheep skin.
  • His father often used to sit in the company of learned theologians and would pray for a son who would be a Faqih (Muslim Jurist) and whose sermons would be listened to by many.
  • His father died when he was still young.
  • Al ahazali was then entrusted under the care of his father’s friend who became his first teacher.
  • Later, in the year 1070 C.E, Al- Ghazali and his brother enrolled in a Madrassa in Gurgan town.
  • There, he studied fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) from Abu'l Qasim Jurjani and Ahmad ibn Muhammad Razkhani for a period of seven years.
  • He attended the village madrassa and then joined Nizamia Madrassa, which was a very famous educational institution in Nishapur.
  • He was an intelligent and keen student who took interest in all subjects.
  • After the death of his teachers, he travelled to Baghdad where he learnt Sahih Bukhari from Abu Sahal bin Mohammad ibn Ahmed al Hafsi.

Educational Background

  • We have earlier seen that Imam al-Ghazali started his basic education at a tender age.
  • He started schooling at his own town and mastered the shafii system of teaching from Sheikh Ahmad Al Razkhani.
  • He first took interest in understanding Fiqh (the Islamic law).
  • He then went to Jurjan to learn science from Imam Abu Nasr al Isma'ili.
  • Thereafter he went to Nishapur where he joined Nizamiya Academy and became a student of Abu'l Ma'ali Juwayni also known as Imam Haramain for eight years.
  • He earned the title ‘ocean of knowledge’ from Imam Haramayn because of his excellent academic performance in a variety of fields like Fiqh, Theology, Natural Science, Logic and Philosophy.
  • He undertook his studies with seriousness and graduated with a distinction as a teacher.
  • He frequently criticized the works of the Greek Philosophers like the concept of Meta Physics in the study of Theology.
  • He also further criticized the works of other Muslim philosophers like Ibn Sina and Al Farabi.
  • He then began his career of teaching, giving fatwa, and authoring books in nearly all the Islamic Sciences.
  • After the death of Imam Haramayn in 1085 C.E, Al-Ghazali was invited together with other scholars to go to the court of Nizamul Mulk Tusi, the powerful Minister of the Seljuq Sultans.
  • The Minister was so impressed by Al-Ghazali's scholarship and participation and in 1091 C.E, he appointed him as the chief professor in the Nizamiyya Academy.
  • He became a great advisor in religious and political matters to several ministers of the state.
  • He would participate in Islamic debates and discussions and give lecture to more than 300 students.
  • This made him earn popularity all over the Muslim world.
  • By 1095 C.E, Imam al Ghazali had made great advance in his career.
  • He then had an internal call and felt that he had neglected the Creator and his whole life was attached to the world.
  • He passed through a spiritual crisis and abandoned his teaching career.
  • He disposed off his wealth and adopted the life of Sufism.
  • He spent some time in Damascus and Jerusalem then visited Madina and Makkah in 1096 C.E.
  • Finally he settled in a village called Tus where he spent the next several years in seclusion until his death in December, 1111 C.E.

Imam al Ghazali's Life in Seclusion

  • We earlier learnt that the second period of al-Ghazali’s life was characterized by his brilliant career.
  • During this time was not only lecturing on Islamic Fiqh, but was also refuting heresies and responding to questions from all segments of the community.
  • There was too much political tension resulting in the assassination of Nizam al-Mulk and Sultan Malik Shah.
  • Due to this, Al-Ghazali himself fell into a serious spiritual crisis.
  • He found it is necessary to renounce the world and to devote oneself to mystical practice.
  • He finally left Baghdad, renouncing his career and the world.

Reasons that made Imam Al Ghazali renounce the world and live in seclusion:

  • He was not satisfied with the success of the world i.e. his high position as a Professor and the brilliant teaching career.
  • He wanted to concentrate on studying the doctrines that were against the Islam and try to find solutions.
  • He realized that Science and Philosophy will be of no help to him in the hereafter.
  • He wanted to strengthen the societal laws by removing the social vices like corruption and injustice.
  • He wanted to meditate in order to give up all tempetations in the world.
  • He wanted to understand philosophy and then criticized it in order to give it an Islamic perspective.

Ten rules of conduct by Imam Ghazali

  • Good intention is most essential in Muslim deeds and action. It should remain unchanged under all circumstances.
  • Muslims should have a unity of purpose in the service of Allah (SWT), the Creator of this universe.
  • Muslims should conform to truth and have the courage to fight against their own inclination by forsaking pleasure and enduring pain by exercising self discipline.
  • Muslims should avoid bid’a (all innovations in matters of religion) and conform to life established practice, for authority is always better than anarchy.
  • They should be alive to the evils of procastination and show steadfast zeal and determination in their work.
  • As human beings, we should acknowledge our inability to accomplish anything without the help of Allah, but we should not use it as a pretext to laziness.
  • The doctrine for salvation by faith with ‘Al ahazali’ for the ‘fear and hope’ (Khawf wa Raj’a) means that muslims should not feel secure (with Allah’s punishment) and satisfied merely with their good conduct in life, but should also place their hope (Raja) in Allah who is all Merciful.
  • Muslims should lead a life of devotion and prayers.
  • Muslims should continuously observe and watch over their hearts (Muraqabah). He who persists in watching and observing his own heart and banishes there from everything will find Allah and His grace.
  • A consecration to the knowledge of Allah brings us closer to Him.

Contributions of Imam Ghazali

Contributions on Theology

  • He was a professor of Islamic theology in Nishapur, Nizamia Academy.
  • People came to him to for advice on Islamic theology.
  • He discussed and held debates on various issues related to Islam Theology.
  • He travelled widely in the Middle East in order to teach theology and rid the society from evils.
  • He established a madrassa in his home town and taught Fiqh, Qur’an, Hadith and Sufism.
  • He authored several books on theology. For example, al Munqidh Minal Dhalal (deliverance from error)
  • He became a Sufi and contributed to Sufism by establishing a ministry of Sufism. Thus he contributed to the monastic life in Islam.

Contributions to children’s education

  • Children should be given knowledge in order to actualize their potential.
  • Children should be taught Qur’an and Hadith at the elementary stage of education.
  • Parents and teachers should give their children a good impression and be role models to their children, since they are a trust from Allah (SWT).
  • Children should be taught not to love money.
  • Education for the boys should start early enough because boys mature earlier than girls.
  • Education should be aware of the changing interest caused by growth and development.
  • A child must observe cleanliness, fast for a few days and avoid wearing silk, gold and silver.
  • Children must learn to respect and obey the parents, teachers and elders and behave well towards other students.

Contributions to teacher’s education

  • He stated that teaching is a great responsibility and he who undertakes it performs a noble task which is rewarded by Allah (SWT).
  • The teacher should not overburden the child but perform his duties as required by his profession.
  • The teacher should not criticize the subjects taught by other teachers but should teach the learners the inter relationship between the subjects.
  • Teaching should be linked to concrete situations to facilitate easy understanding.
  • After the lesson, the teachershould allow the learners to have reactions to the lesson by asking questions.
  • Students should be taught various skills in order to be functional in the day to day life.
  • He explained that education should cultivate in man obedience to the teachings of religion in order to attain salvation in the hereafter.
  • The teacher should not criticize the less gifted children but should respect and help.
  • The teacher must be very tender to his pupils and treat them like his own children.
  • Teachers should introduce concepts in bits and ensure the students have mastered the previously taught concepts.
  • Memorization, repetition and inculcation should be at an early stage but incorporated with understanding.

Contributions to the development of Islam

  • He advocated for the removal of all unislamic practices and customs in the society.
  • He curved out a detailed analysis of moral and spiritual growth, that is, the fulfilment of a Muslim.
  • He wrote his famous book, ‘The Revival of Religious Sciences.’
  • He suggested for reformation of the society from its deep malice, he criticized the Ulama (scholars) for debating on insignificant issues and called them to devote their energy to duties.
  • He stressed on the study of Sunnah of the Prophet and modelling the Muslims according to his life.
  • He led the foundation of scientific and scholastic systems which is emulated in the Muslim world today.
  • He taught that a believer must be free minded and avoid imitations but have a sincere belief in Allah (SWT).
  • He came up with moral conduct that could guide Muslims to be good believers. He taught that moral teaching helps in curbing evils, just like medicine helps in controlling and curing diseases.

Al Ghazali’s economic contributions

  • He emphasized that subsistence living is adequate but warned against its dangers.
  • He condemned hoarding, riba and other malpractices in trade.
  • Ethical behaviour should be upheld in market places.
  • He advised Muslims to avoid extravagance and miserliness.
  • He declared production and supply of necessities to be an obligatory duty.
  •  He taught that any economic system of a government should consider: individual and social life, religion, family life property and intellect.
  • He cited the differences between necessities, comfort and luxury.
  • He identified justice, peace and stability as pre conditions of any economic progress.

Books of Imam al Ghazali

Books on Philosophy

  • Maqasid al falasifa (Aims of Philosophers)
  • Tahafut al-Falasifa (The Incoherence of the Philosophers)
  • Miyar al-Ilm fi fan al- Mantiq (Criterion of Knowledge in the Art of Logic)
  • Mihak al-Nazar fi almantiq (Touchstone of Reasoning in Logic)
  • al-Qistas al-mustaqim (The Correct Balance)

Books on Theology

  • al-Munqidh min al-dalal (Rescuer from Error)
  • Hujjat al-Haq (Proof of the Truth)
  • al-Iqtisad fil-i`tiqad (Median in Belief)
  • al-maqsad al-asna fi sharah asma' Allahu al-husna (The best means in explaining Allah's Beautiful Names)
  • Jawahir al-Qur'an wa duraruh (Jewels of the Qur'an and its Pearls)
  • Fayasl al-tafriqa bayn al-Islam wa-l-zandaqa (The Criterion of Distinction between Islam and Clandestine Unbelief)
  • Mishkat al-Anwar (The Niche of Lights)

Books on Sufism

  • Mizan al-'amal (Criterion of Action)
  • Ihya'ul ulum al-din, ("Revival of Religious Sciences",)
  • Bidayat al-hidayah (Beginning of Guidance)
  • Kimiya-yi sa'adat (The Alchemy of Happiness)
  • Nasihat al-muluk (Counseling Kings)
  • al-Munqidh min aldalal (Rescuer from Error)
  • Minhaj al-'Abidin(Methodology for the Worshipers)

Books on Fiqh

  • Fatawy al-Ghazali (Verdicts of al-Ghazali)
  • Al-wasit fi al-mathab (The medium [digest] in the Jurisprudential school)
  • Kitab tahzib al-Isul (Pruning on Legal Theory)
  • al-Mustasfa fi 'ilm al-isul (The Clarified in Legal Theory)
  • Asas al-Qiyas (Foundation of Analogical reasoning)

Death of Imam al Ghazali

  • Imam al ahazali spent his last days in devotion, Qur’an recitations, prayer and fasting, and the company of Sufis.
  • He died at Tabran in 1111C.E at the age of 55 years.
  • Ibn al Jawzee narrated in his book, Al-Thabat‘Inda al-Mamat (Firmness at the Time of Death) from al-ahazali’s brother Ahmad:
    On Monday [11th Jumadul-Akhira] at the time of the dawn prayer my brother Abu Hamid made his ablution, prayed, then said: ‘Bring me my shroud.’ He took it, kissed it and put it on his eyes, saying:
    ‘We hear and obey in readiness to enter the King’s presence.’ Then he stretched his legs, facing the Qibla, and died before sunrise.” – may Allah sanctify his soul!
  • Imam al-Ghazzali's life was spent in self-sacrificing service to Allah (SWT) and humankind.
  • He left behind him a fine example for all Muslims to follow.
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Read 1545 times Last modified on Monday, 17 January 2022 12:42
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