A second rallying cry – By:.
“A society can prosper and prosper overwhelmed by unbelief… but will go nowhere under the yoke of injustice, even in the light of [Islamic] belief.”
Shehu Usumanu Danfodio
When Shehu Usumanu Danfodio first took up arms against Gobir, it was in defiance of the prospects of a futile death. He had been plucked to his bare bones and like Horatius Cocles, he held firm against all odds to die with dignity while fighting. But when he raised his banner against the leaders of the Hausa country announcing the jihad of Sokoto, it was to establish a new order under the supremacy of justice. It was surreal that a motley band of indescribable scholarly types could withstand and even better resist the army of a kingdom so powerful it was known in both the eastern and western hemispheres of the 18th century globe.
Danfodio did not take up arms to impose Islam or the diktats of the Islamic theocracy on Hausaland. Apparently, he didn’t even believe that political Islam was the answer to the prosperity of society. He took up arms as a last resort, after being pushed against the wall and there was no room to retreat. He had two choices and both ended in his death – either turning around and dying or dying while fighting. He had nothing more to lose, and as his last act of defiance, he chose the latter – death.
He is reborn as the saint and messiah of the Hausa country after having achieved the miracle of repelling the Gobir expeditionary force sent against him, then mustering his forces to march on Alkalawa, the capital of Gobir, and finally tear it to pieces.
In Islam, protecting oneself from humiliation is another form of jihad like all other jihads, so it was jihad from the start. But the objectives of the jihad changed, however, after this resounding victory over Gobir as his ranks were overwhelmed by masses of volunteers from across the Hausa country, as people heard about the sun rising in the west after a long night of intense darkness.
With the momentum he had garnered, he now had a moral duty to free the hardened commoners who saw him as a messiah and had rallied behind him against their kings. Therefore, the kinetic “Jihad” was underway. He was a cleric, and the best way he had to ensure just order and social development was deference to the Quran and Sunnah and these were established as the foundations of the New Sokoto Empire, which for the first time in history united the Hausa. States under a single political authority.
Jihad had been sold to the Hausa masses all at once by its central message of social salvation – the supremacy of the faith of Islam was a secondary element. The very ethics, and indeed the fulcrum on which Jihad itself was based, was the idea that society can and will prosper outside of Islam, but cannot and never will make an inch of progress under it. the yoke of injustice. This happens to be a deeply fitting summary of what we see today in the Hausa country and Nigeria as a whole. Islam, or at least pseudo-Islam, has penetrated every nook and cranny of this land … but there remains a cesspool of misery and acute deprivation. I wonder why.
The popular belief in some quarters – that the Sokoto Jihad brought Islam to Nigeria, and by the sword, is an unforgivable ignorance in our time. Islam had already taken root in the Hausa kingdoms as early as the 14th century and its practice was firmly established in the 15th century. It should also be noted that Jihad was also not responsible for the spread of Islam across Niger – Islam was already a reality in Yoruba country long before Jihad as well.
Hausaland was not impressed with the newness of Islam, even in its non-syncretic form before the Jihad. This was not why its inhabitants willingly submitted to the Shehu. The Shehu would probably have been perfectly content to have lived an ordinary life as a subject of Gobir had he not been singled out by the circumstances. It has been hosted by the kings of Gobir on numerous occasions, and lived in peace alongside its Hausa neighbors who were animists or practiced syncretic Islam.
The Sokoto Jihad has therefore clearly never been about the propagation or even the revival of Islam as a faith. It was about the banishment of darkness and the wickedness of tyranny and corruption. Today, oppression, cruelty, and sadistic wickedness are on a scale that would have eclipsed what Shehu Usumanu Danfodio and his contemporaries faced.
Today, not tomorrow, a second rallying cry is heard and it is a matter of collective responsibility that it is heard by men of conscience everywhere, Muslims and non-Muslims – especially those who profess membership in the legacy of Danfodio. And we must all remember as he said, “A conscience is an open wound. Only the truth can heal him.
Huzaifa Jega is a management consultant and lives in Abuja