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JIHAD MOVEMENTS IN THE 19TH CENTURY WEST AFRICA

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JIHAD MOVEMENTS IN THE 19 TH CENTURY WEST AFRICA.The word “jihad” is Arabic meaning “Holy War”. The spread of Islam was mainly through the sword. The 19th century West Africa was characterized by a series of Islamic Jihads led by the (Fulbe) now known as Fulani people. The Fulani were mainly a pastoralist community who had spread across much of the West African savannah by the seventeenth century. They retained their separate identity and usually did not take part in the political life of the states or chiefdoms among whom they had settled. This worked fine at first but with time, they found themselves under increasing pressure from the settled Agricultural population and their rulers. Grievances of the Muslim Fulani Community: i) Forced conscription into the army to fight against brother Muslimsii) Selling Muslims into slaveryiii) Corrupt and over- luxurious lifestyle of the rulers/ government officials.iv) Injustice in the courts of lawv) Heavy taxation on the merchants and nomads.vi) All these things were illegal by Koranic law Islam gave the Fulani an added sense of unity and purpose. And Islamic law, the Sharia, provided an alternative model of government with which to compare and confront their rulers. In the early nineteenth century, a series of jihads were waged within the Hausa states of the Northern regions of modern Nigeria. From these jihads, emerged the Sokoto caliphate/empire – the largest single West African state of the early nineteenth century led by Usman dan Fodio, son of a Fulani Muslim teacher in the northern Hausa state of Gobir.USMAN DAN FODIOAlthough Usman never went to Mecca on pilgrimage, he was widely educated as a Muslim scholar. He completed his schooling at A-grades under the influence of the revolutionary Tuareg holy man Jibril ibn Umar who preached the value and importance of jihad. Usman began his preaching in Gobir as a young man in the 1770s. His two main concerns were the conversion of those Fulani pastoralists who still clung to pagan religious beliefs, and the religious and social reform of the nominally Muslim Hausa rulers. He developed a firm concept of the ideal Muslim society and he judged the rulers of the Hausa by the principles of the shari’a. At first he hoped to achieve his goal by peaceful preaching of reform. Nevertheless, he grew increasingly critical of government corruption and injustice. In this he had the support of the Fulani pastoralists who resented the Hausa taxation of their cattle. Usman’s reputation as a holy man and preacher quickly spread through the Muslim communities of Hausaland. It was even rumoured among some of his more enthusiastic supporters that he was the Mahdi, the prophesied Muslim leader 1who would prepare the faithful for the end of the world and the second coming of Muhammad. By 1790s, Usman had gathered a considerable following at Degel near the border of Gobir and Kebbi. His growing power and influence were resented by the Hausa rulers of Gobir, who tried to restrict his movements and prevent him from making further conversions. A crisis was reachedin the early 1800s when the king, Yunfa, tried to assassinate Usman. In retaliation, Usman and his followers withdrew from Gobir. When Yunfa sent his cavalry against them, he suffered a severe defeat, and the jihad had begun in 1804. This was a series of simultaneous Islamic risings against the rule of the Hausa aristocracy. The capital of Gobir was finally captured in 1808, by which time Kebbi, Zamfara, Zaria, Katsina, and Kano had fallen to the jihadists.The Hausa rulers fell because of the following reasons:a) They failed to gain the support of the oppressed Hausa peasantry.b) They did not act in unison.c) Further, centuries of interstate rivalry had proved their final undoing.Usman retired into religious life and the active leadership of the new Islamic empire was taken over by his son Muhammad Bellow assisted by Dan Fodio’s brother Abdullahi. A new capital was built at Sokoto in Kebbi and the jihad was pursued with vigour, particularly in the South andEast. Western Borno was captured and Adamawa was added to the empire. By the time of Usman’s death, in 1817, the Sokoto Empire stretched from Songhay in the West to the headwaters of the Benue in the East.Bellow’s Reforms a) To win the support of the Hausa, he limited the power of Fulani military chieftains and strengthened his own power so as reassert the intellectual, reforming and Islamic character of the movement. b) He emphasized the importance of the scholar in the administration, regardless of whether he was a Fulani or Hausa.c) He first built Ribats (walled towns or fortresses) on the frontiers for defense and stationedthe army away from the peasant settlements.d) He encouraged the nomadic Fulani to settle around the Ribats, and gave them training in Agriculture and educated their children. e) He also gradually replaced in the peasant areas, the military chiefs in local administrationby Mallams, who were respected and supported by the people.f) All Emirs were urged to encourage education, as this was key to efficient administration as well as conversion to Islam. Sokoto became a widely respected centre of learning and advancement.g) Bellow checked the courts, and frequently overruled decisions which he believed were unfair. Political Organization of the Caliphate2Sokoto was the headquarters of the Caliphate and the sultan of Sokoto was the Caliph. He was the political and spiritual head of the state. The caliphate was made up of Emirates, which were provinces ruled by emirs. All emirs recognized the spiritual and political headship of the caliph, and paid him an annual tribute. Sokoto sent to the emirates officials who carried out periodic inspections to ensure that the government of the emirates remained essentially Muslim in character. In administration, the Emirates remained autonomous. While each emirate chose its emir, the Caliph-Amir al-Muminin (Commander of the faithful) confirmed the appointment ensuring that his favourite candidate was chosen.The Caliph’s court was the Supreme Court for all the emirates. Sokoto received two kinds of tributes from the emirates. i) First, products that included an annual tribute and percentage of booty taken from war and gifts at the great Muslim festivals and from individuals on appointment to office.ii) Second, was that of military levies mainly consisting of slaves.All land belonged to the caliph but the emir was the chief


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