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Islam in Kano

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Introduction, Spread And Development Of Islam In Kano Since 1350 A.D.


Dr. Tahir Abdu Fagge


Previously written also for, which was sponsored by Kano Forum (Inuwar Jama’ar Kano), Kano, Nigeria



This paper shall attempt to discuss the various opinions vis a vis the author’s feeling as regards the period in which Islam was introduced to Kano.  How the religion spread, developed and consequently became the guiding principle of people’s life shall also be addressed.  However, we shall first begin briefly with some preliminary reflection on the primeval history of how Kano emerged as a settlement of various communities and the religious beliefs adhered to, by these communities prior to the introduction of Islam.  The influence of Islam on these beliefs shall also be looked into.  We shall conclude our discussion on the contemporary position of Islam in Kano and the current in the controversy and in the struggle for custordiary claim of representing the true Islam between sufi scholars and the radically obstreperous wing of Izalah group.


Kano as a Settlement of Various Communities


The first Kingdom of Kano came into being probably about four hundred years or there about after the death of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W).  The year 999 A.D. appears to be the unanimously agreed period during which Bagauda Kingdom was established.  However, that is not to say Communities did not co-exist in Kano until the aforementioned date.  Evidence shows that Kano as a settlement of heterogenous communities began to be noticed in the historical records of human existence on earth as far back as the Century in which the last and most beloved Prophet emerged. There is a fable which is commonly read to a circle of children that, Kano could have been the Ka’aba point and the residence of the last Prophet if a black dog had not passed infront of the Prophet at the time he was leading a congregational prayer around Dala hill.  Fresh as this fable still in the memory of adults, we are simply suggested to believe in the importance and religio-spiritual relevance of Kano as far back as medieval era or assume that its evolution was as early as the antecedent in the establishment of Ka’aba or at least the appearance of the Prophet. Further analysis besides this may not concur even with the slightest universal truth in the records of the spiritual history of Ka’aba, the origin, the birth and the family of the Prophet.  The obvious truth which is discernibly reported in the existing records on the evolutionary history of Kano is that, the latter was first settled by many heterogenous communities coming from different parts of Africa.  Although Abagayawa, a black smith clan from Gaya were often reported as the first notable settlers and acclaimed founders of Kano, there ought have been other communities, for example, of potters, farmers and hunters to which Dala (elephant hunter) belonged settling  before their arrival.


The fertile land of Kano developed to the point of attracting outsiders as a result of the collective efforts of the various heterogenous groups.  The groups co-existed with, and interdepended on one another1. They developed various occupations and trades which were run on daily basis or at intervals in a weekly run market.  Each of the groups had its native language, probably similar to one another since they belonged to chadic language grouping. The various languages of the heterogenous groups had gradually been collapsed into what is latter known as Hausa language.  A dominant culture commonly shared by all the groups had also evolved with time. However some of these groups for example the debris of Warjawa located around Birnin Kudu are reported yet able to communicate in their original langauage2.   Although each of the families of the groups had its individual belief system, they collectively possessed a symbol of religious unity in the person of Barbushe, the spiritual agent of Tsumburbura, the unseen religio-spiritual head of the entire land.  Thus how the various heterogenous communities lived in a somewhat decentralised form devoid of any Central political body.  Barbushe’s function was nevertheless religio-spiritual.  He seems to have lacked mutually agreeable political mandate to overrule the affairs of the groups.  His identity and the group to which he belonged still remain a speculative venture.


The conquest of these communities by Bagauda in 999 AD brought about a centralised political authority headed by the conquerer, hence the beginning of the first kingdom in Kano. Bagauda family ruled Kano up to the period of Jihad in 1804.


Introduction of Islam


Individual traditional scholars have, at various preaching or public lecture sessions, expressed opinion as regards the period in which Islam was first noticed in Kano.  A number of traditional scholars (‘Ulama) believe that Islam was as present in Kano as it was in the arabs land during the period of first four Sahabah of the  Prophet.  It  is specifically reported that Islam was introduced in the reign of Sayyidina ‘Utman bn Affan (644-656A.D) when the latter’s commanding force under Abdallah bn Sa’ad bn Abi Sarha had extended the expansionist policy of Islam to Africa.  According to the report, Hausa region was at the time referred to as Namazay - meaning turning a way from enemies after victory3.  Another scholar went further to believe that Islam came to Kano during the era of the Prophet in Madinah4.  However, both the two similar opinions are really faced with the difficulty of providing evidence of contact between Kano in particular and West African region in general and arab land during the era of the Prophet or his Sahabah. There seems to be no dispute in the fact that, Kano participated in the Carthagian trade developed by Romans as far back as the era of Prophet Isa (As) and arabs were the principal partners in the trade.  Kano’s participation, nevertheless, must have been at much later stage along with other African regions, when the trade was in the future renamed as trans-Saharan and certainly after camels were introduced to the region in the early 14th Century5.  So the assertion inherent in the latter’s opinion that some one at the prophetic era Migrated from Madinah to settle in Kano and spread Islam is highly doubtful because of many obvious reasons.  It is therefore very unlikely that, the religion which was not even well spread in its cradle home at the prophetic era could have found its way to Kano through whatever human means.  Such kinds of conclusive views cravingly aim at depicting how early has Islam been in Kano or promote the latter’s image as the first antiquity of Islamic culture in the Central Sudan which may not necessarily be the case.


Modern historians also express and differ in their opinions about the period in which Islam was introduced to Kano.  Some of them are of the view that Islam has been in Kano since the reign of Bagauda who was perhaps the first Muslim ruler of Kano6.  The common assumption that Bagauda was a Muslim ruler is based on the real name (Daud) borne by him and some of his men also bore names like Isa and Abubakar which are commonly believed to be Muslim names.  While Gilliland is reported to have presented contradictory opinion on the issue7, others are very clear in their opinion which suggests that Islam   was introduced in the 15th Century by the Wangara immigrants and Shaykh al-Maghili respectively8.  According to one of these scholars, al-Maghili and Shaykh Abdurrahaman al-Zagayte, the leader of Wangarawa immigrant community met at kabuga gate when each one of them was trying to enter the city of Kano to propagate Islam9.   Each of these opinions is defective in one sense or another.  While it is difficult to establish the truth of the report on Bagauda and some of his men bearing Muslim names, the issue of bearing Muslim name itself is not enough to suggest some one is a Muslim or presence of Islam in the society he arrives or lives.


There were and are still many people who bore or bear the so called Muslim names but yet they were/are not Muslims.  For example Abdul-Mutallib, the grandfather of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) was not a Muslim.  There are also many Christains for instance in Nigeria bearing prominent names like Muhammad, Ibrahim, Musa, Aisha and Fatima.  There are equally so many prophets and pious men of lslam who bear names which are not familiar and do not sound like the so called Muslim names for example Prophet Jarjisu of Misra10 , Shamwil and Handhillah bn Safwran11 and pious men like Aysha , the father of Prophet Dawud12, Khadir13 Dana and Hadha among the sons of Prophet Yaqub14 (As). There are also prophets whose names are derived from the local language rather than rooted in the language of the Qur’an, for example prophets Ibrahim and Musa.  The original name for Musa was Mushe, Mu for water she for tree in the Ibraniyah language15.  He was later called Musa for short.  Some prophets are not even called by their names in the  Qur’an for example, Nuh whose real name is reported as Abd al-ghaffar16 and Adam whose real name is reported as Abu Muhammad17. Prophet Lut is even called by the obnoxious practice of his people.  His real name is neither provided in the text of the Qur’an nor in the prophetic traditions. So what we are saying in a nut shell is that bearing a particular name may not be suggestive enough to some one’s real belief or faith or presence of a particular religious faith in the society he comes to live.  Again there are no particular names specifically assigned to, or reserved for Muslims or those who convert to Islam both by the text of the Qur’an and prophetic traditions.  Muslims are nevertheless admonished to choose bearing names of the people Islam considers to be righteous servants of God.


The defect of the second view which suggests the introduction of Islam in the 15th Century is the irreconcilable report on the simultaneous meeting of the two Shaykhs; Abdurrahman and al-Maghili who are portrayed in a number of sources to have lived in different times.  Many sources report Abdurrahman, the leader of Wangara immigrant scholars to have arrived Kano in the 14th Century while al-Maghili in the 15th Century during the era of Muhammad Rumfa18.  Maghili’s works suggest his living in Kano during the period in question so also the case with the missionary activities of Abdurrahman and his men as we shall see later.  However  if some aspect of written sources are examined on the route through which Islam came to Kano, we may locate, but with extreme caution, the presence of Islam in Kano between the 12th and 14th Centuries.  Some of the written documents express the view that those who introduced Islam to Kano came from Egypt or Maghrib19.  Maghrib had, by the 9th Century several Muslim groups notably Berbers.  These Berbers appear to have taken the responsibility of propagating Islam between 9th and 11th Centuries in the savanah and sahel lands of Western Sudan20. 


Kanem-Borno was believed to be in touch with Islam either through the Umayyad refuges after the over throw of their dynasty21 or through their contact with  these Berbers between 10th and 11th Centuries22.   Merchant scholar community of  that region is, by the 12th Century, reported to have begun travel out to some parts of Central Sudan23.    This community may have been in Kano during the Century due to the development of some attractive occupations, trades and fertility of the land for scholarship as well.  Merchant - scholar community anywhere is known to be involved not only in commerce but also in spread of their faith.  It is therefore suggested that even if they had been in Kano during the Century, they were insignificant number among the preponderant majority of the pagan population of Kano who  might  not  be easily  susceptible to  their persuasive  invitation to the new faith24 Islam was, however, visibly  practised and preached only  when the


presence of such an immigrant community from lack Chad region, of the Egyptian Shaykh al-Mansur who is reported to have brought al-Risalah of Abu Muhammad and of Shaykh Abdurrahman al-Zagayte and his team was availably reported both in the oral and written accounts25.  Wangarawa appeared to be more prominent and frequently mentioned in the spread of Islam in the 14th Century in Kano.  It was this immigrant community reported to have first sold the idea of Islam to Sarkin Kano Yaji (A.D. 1349 - 1385) and his palace officials.  How the idea of Islam was presented to  the ruler has not been explained by sources.


The Role of Wangara and other immigrant scholars in the spread of Islam in Kano


It is probably relevant to examine, in the first place the reasons why Wangarawa left Mali, their home for Gobir, Kano and Katsina in Hausa land.  The people referred to as Wangarawa are said to be a collection of tribal groups namely Bambuk, Baure.  Sieka, Malinke, Mande and Soninke26.  They lived in the same geographical locations of the upper basins of the Senegal and Niger.  Soninke appeared to be the most outstanding merchants who were later to be reckoned agents of Islamisation in the West Central Sudan as well27. 


Soninke were however, identified more with Ghana than with any other place in the Savannah region mainly because of their long stay and historical role in the establishment of Ghana empire.  It is perhaps the people of Soninke origin that settled between the geographical location of Senegal and Niger who, due to their  early contact with North Africans as business agents of the trans-Saharan trade, accepted Islam earlier than their counterparts in Ghana.  It is therefore no wonder, if it was these people together with Muslim Berbers and North African traders who, as a result of their settlement in Ghana, happened to Islamise the predominantly pagan population of Soninke.


Soninke and Mande who are assumed to have been part of the Wangara merchant-scholar Communities of Western Sudan played a principal role in the political establishment and Islamisation of the Western and Central Sudan28.  Although the invasion of the Murabits and subsequent collapse of Ghana polity in the 11th Century had marginalised the role and eclipsed the influence of Soninke in the political scene of the Western Sudan, the scholar-merchant community of the tribe is likely to have been prominent within the circle of the agents of spreading Islam.  The juristic influence of their scholars was probably also felt within the ruling families of the succeeding empires of Mali and Shanghai.


Mande did not only rise from their politically marginalised position in the defunct Ghana empire to the position of political authority in Mali but also had, by this time a lot of scholars who became active in the spread of Islam29.  It is therefore very likely that Soninke and Mande were the Wangara faction that took Islam to or strengthened it in Hausa land particularly Kano and Katsina.  The first formal arrival of the Wangara in Hausa land and Kano in particular was dated 14th Century. But this is not to say the first arrival of Islam in Kano. It is often suggested that they left Mali for Hausa land at the time of political turmoil in the Country following dynastic power tussle between members of the same ruling family of Mansa Musa30.


The leader of the group of the Wangarawa that came to Kano was Shaykh. “Abd al-Rahman al-Zagayti, a descendant of one Shaykh Abd al-Rahaman Muhammad bn Ibrahim bn Muhammad Qithima al-Wangari” who emigrated to Mali where Shaykh al-Zagayti was born31. Al-Zagayti is said to have come to Kano with a fairly large followers.  There were, in his group, other leading scholars notably Shaykh mandawari who was later to become the first Imam of Kano Mosque, the Imam of Madatai, Shaykh yaqub, Shaykh Isa Maigashi, and Shaykh Ghudamus32.  There are two versions of oral tradition as to their reasons for coming.  The first version speculates that their intention was to stay briefly in Kano before they proceeded on their journey to Makkah.  The second version says that their intention was to trade and preach Islam.  This latter version was justified as the most likely reason by the events that followed their stay33.


Sarki Yaji accepted Islam and at the request of the Wangara ‘ulama’ instructed  his palace officials to do the same34.   Among the palace officials representing the  various tribal groups of the state, there were some who refused to accept Islam and as a result vacated the palace in protest against the decision of Sarki Yaji to accept new religion and his attempt to enforce the same on them. Magu, Gwandara and Gazarzawa were examples of those clans represented in the palace and the first reported to have refused to accept Islam in place of their ancestral religion and culture35.  Magu and Gwandara left Kano. The follower of Magu who were later alleged to be called (Maguzawa) settled in the North-Western villages of Kano.  Gwandara first settled in Karshi, a village in Keffi and later left for Southern Zaria and part of former Benue Plateau36. Gazarzawa remained in their abides at Dala and Jakara ‘wards.  They constituted a nuisance to Muslims.  They used to defile the mosque which was built at a cite they revered.  It was believed that a spell was cast on them by the ‘ulama’ as a result of which they lost their eye sights37.  Their descendants who had embraced Islam now inhabit makafin Dala quarters and hold the title of Sarkin Makafi (Chief of the blinds) in the Kano Sarauta system38.


Islam continued to win converts after the victory of Yaji over the Santolo Community who were brought under control with the assistance of the Wangarawa39.  Impressed upon by his success, Yaji now recognised Islam as a political force. He saw it as a solid basis to project the image of his leadership and expand his power.


Islam began to influence some of the major state policies.  The Wangara ‘ulama’ became the Sarki’s legal advisers.  Literacy in Arabic was introduced for liturgical purposes40.  They brought to Kano some Islamic texts such as al-mudawwana of Abd salam bn suhunun, a compedium of Malikite legal thoughts and muwatta of Malik, the founder of Maliki school of law. 


Literacy classes were organised in residences of the wangarawa at the wards named after some of them for example, Sheshe, Jujin ‘Yanlabu, Dukurawa, Madatai, and Mandawari.  Muslim form of morality and simple belief system were taught to the converts at an assembly organised in the evening of every Friday41. Some of them  are said to have afforded moving from one village to another in their attempt to carry out this mission to the far distant pagan Communities42.   The Wangara village, east of Kano, in the Gezawa local government is assumed to have been founded by these scholars, a few of whom had settled there to establish the tradition of Islam43. No wonder, the credit of wide spread of Islam in the early Kano and of laying the foundation stone for the subsequent development of Muslim scholarship was accorded to the Wangarawa.  While Islam gradually influenced changes in the superstitious and cultural beliefs of the converts, such as Uwar Gona and Kangida44,  some of the local traditions which do not sharply contradict the faith are accommodated in the latter.


For example bearing local names and dresses, alm giving on specific days on behalf of dead and family extended system, polygamous and inter-family marriages etc.


As Kano expanded in the 15th Century due to the rapidly developing commercial activities which linked it, through various trade routes, with more other regions in Africa, Islam had also well expanded due to the settlement of many more immigrant communities such as Bornoans, Fulani and North Africans.  It appears that the 15th Century Borno immigrants were more concerned with Scholarly activities than commerce.  This is because the majority of those who came under the Dagaci, and other individual leading ‘ulama’ such s Karshi, Magumi, Kabi, Sharif, Tamma and Gesu were ‘ulama’. Except the Dagaci and perhaps a few others who might have had political motive, the rest were identified with the establishment of Schools and the Islamisation of the inhabitants of the areas where they settled45. Apart from Dorayi, some of them are reported to have settled in Fage which they founded46, Tsakuwa, Majeri, a town in the present Kafin Hausa Local Government, Bunkure, a village in Rano, Satatima, a ward in Kano city and Tofa47.  It is probably safe to assume that the towns were not Islamised until the settlement of Bornoans.


The Fulani immigrants to Kano in the 15th Century were a faction of the ancestors of Shaykh ‘Uthman bn Fudi who emigrated between the 15th and 16th



Centuries from their home in Futo Toro to Gobir where they first settled in Hausa land.   The Fulani immigrants that came to Kano are said to have settled in and around the city, Bebeji, Shanono, Kiru, Sankara and Gwadabawa48. The inhabitants of these towns were probably converted to Islam by them.  They were associated  with the introduction of some Islamic theological text books to Kano and teaching the elementary form of ash’arite theological thoughts which were later popularised by the local ‘Ulama’ to be the predominant theological precept of the society49.


Unlike other immigrants, Fulani scholars were neither attached to the ruling class nor were they employed to serve the state in religious capacity50.  They appeared to be an isolated community which relied on cattle rearing for their means of livelihood.  Their approach to proselytisation was comparatively and strictly appelative and occasionally so limited within their settlements51.  They preached mostly during market days when they happened to come in contact with the local people of neighbouring towns52.


The arrival of Maghrib scholars in groups also started from the 15th Century onward.  Some of them were mainly traders who came to act as the liaison agents of the trans-Saharan trade53.  They brought to Kano Arabian good and taking from  Kano the Hausa goods to the Sahara and Arab land54.  Others were scholars who came with the intention of promoting Islam and scholarship. The Maghrib immigrants came in small groups at different times.  There was the group for example led by the Shaykh Abd al-Karim al-maghili whose arrival was the most popularly noticed.  There were also groups of Shaykh Tunis and Shaykh Dan Goron Duma and of Shaykh Fathullah Buras known as Babura’as from Qayrawan Abdurrahamn Ibn Ali Ibn Ahmad al-kasri, and Makhlub Ibn Ali Ibn Salih al-balbali who arrived in 1530 (A.D)55.  They settled at different places in the city such as Darma, Chirmawa, Zaitawa, Chedi, Bakin, Zuwo, Dala and Alfindiki wards56.  Among these scholars al-maghili was the one attached to the palace as a legal advisor.  Leaders of other groups played the role of preachers and teachers in the wards they settled only57.  For example Shaykh falthullah was reportedly a saint based around Dala Quarters, concerned only with preaching, teaching and giving fatwa on the primary issues of Ibadah (worship).


It is reported that the people living outside the walled city got converted to Islam mainly through their interaction in the markets with the Maghrib merchants.  The interaction did not only avail them the opportunity for conversion but also for cultural exchanges as well58.  Al-maghili is reported to have written two works in Kano which he presented to Sarkin Kano Muhammad Rumfa (1463 - 1499) as working documents to guide his rulership on the platter of Islam and interaction with his


subjects.  The works include, Musbahul arwah fi ‘usul al-fatah and Taj al-muluk fima Yajub ‘ala muluk59.   Rumfa is also reported to have studied some jurisprudential texts under al-maghili just like his predecessors and successors did under the scholars of their periods.  For example, Sarkin Kano Umar (1410 – 1421) learned fiqh with al-shaykh Dan Gurdum who initiated him into the doctrine of Zuhd (ascerticism), a doctrine that was strongly reinforced in him by a close friend, Mallam Abubakar. The influence of this doctrine made the Sarki to leave his throne in the care of a trusted Galadima to assume mystic life in the country side.60 Sarki Abdulahi (1499 – 1509) studied Fiqh with Shaykh Ahmed Al-Timbuctu, the contemporary Chief Imam and Sarki Abubakar Kado (1565 – 73) read al-shifa’i with the Shaykh Abdul ’aziz al-qayrawani, a reputable maghrib scholar who arrived in the ruler’s reign. The growth of Islam gave rise to the establishment of both Qur’anic and ilm schools. The period of Sarki Dauda (1421 – 1438) was noted with development of the Qur’anic studies. Many centres for the study of the Book came into being with the arrival of Bornoans in his time. Dorayi seemed to be the centre especially for the princes. The sons of Sarki Dauda are said to have studied the Qur’an in this centre. For the other sciences they studied at Madabo quarters or were simply taught by the scholars attached to the palace.61 Sarki Kado was counted among the Sarakuna who were interested in the Qur’anic studies. He built a centre for the Qur’anic studies at a place called Gwauram Fagaci.62 Sarki Bawo (1660-70) did similar thing at Fagacin Kisu after having renovated the one built by Sarki Kado.63 It was in his time that are al-Shaykh ‘Abd Allah, a Qur’anic reciter came to Kano during the month of Ramadan. The shaykh’s school consisted of his desciples and interested members of the local communities.


Local efforts in promoting Islam prior to Jihad


Islam has produced local scholars in the persons of ‘alim Umar, alim, Ahmad (Wali mai Bauna) ‘alim’ Sulayman (Wali Mai Sittin, named for the sixty hizb of the Qur’an) ‘alim’ Yaqub (wali mai kwagiri) and ‘alim’ Ahmad Ibn Musa popularly known as Gwankin Darma, a contemporary of Shaykh Kisco, the last scholar with whom Shaykh ‘Uthman Ibn Fudi Studied. The Shaykh is reported to have stayed in Gambarawa ward in Katsina64. Other local scholars include, ‘alim Ahmad Ibn Abdullahi who was the first to build a house in Koki ward named after his bird65 (al-tayr). The alim was a Qur’anic reciter, knowledgeable in jurisprudence, Shaykh Abdullahi Thiga, the author of al-atiyah al-mu’uti, alim Muhammad Na Jarkasa, ‘alim Muhammad Na Bakin Ruwa and ‘alim Yunus Zawai who flourished in the reign of Muhammad Shashiri (1573 – 82) and that of Muhammad Zaki (1582 – 1618) when Dirki was introduced.66 All these scholars had promoted Islam in their own ways. While some of them took a simple approach of appeal in their preaching, others were  critical of syncretist regime of their rulers. For example ‘alim’ Umar who appeared to be the most popularly known scholar after the departure of al-maghili was reportedly critical of the injustices and religious corruption particularly the anti-Shariah policies of Sarki Rumfa.67 He openly and vehemently castigated Rumfa’s policy of enslaving virgin girls, instructing people to prostrate when saluting him, marrying more than the number of wives allowed for a Muslim to marry and forbidding talakawa to use their parental names as surnames.68 Umar was waylaid by Rumfa. Muhammad Zari, who was associated with the introduction of Sitta Sahihah to Kano had reportedly mobilized for support of his disciples and the local populace to propagate against the official attempt to pollute and descrate Islam.69 Shortly after the futile attempt by the ruling class to intimidate the ‘alim and his group, Kwararrafa launched their attack on Kano. The sporadic attack forced the Sarki and his officials to flee the city and led to the killing of ‘alim Zari and some members of his group who refused to flee. ‘Alim Zari is reported to have predicted his death which he earlier linked it with Kwararrafa attack on Kano.70


There were yet a few mystic scholars in the early 18th century for example ‘alim Ibrahim Na Mallam na Kudu who produced a work titled al-farq bayn tariqa al-sunniyah Wa’l shaytaniyah to intellectually protest against the degenerated condition  of Islam and the flagrant syncretist order of the day as promoted by the rulers of the century71. A few years later a similar protest from the fulani scholars culminated into Jihad which spilled over to the entire Hausa land and beyond.


Postion of Islam in Kano during the Jihad period


Purged through intellectual mysticism, the Jihad scholars in the persons of Shaykh ‘Uthman bn Fudi, his son Muhammad Bello, his brother Abdullah and other eminent scholars in their fold undertook Jihad to liberate or purge Islam from the general decay and breakdown of the social system noticed over the years in Hausa land. The Jihad had not only swept a way the syncretist rulers and their rapacious scholars but it also established a reformed Islam in line with prophetic Sunna and Qur’anic injunctions and strengthened the malikite legal path Kano has been following ever since the introduction of Islam. Kano had, as a result, uplifted its religious standard and become dar al-Islam which was hardly the case before the Jihad.72 The Kano’s narrow form of scholarship also expanded to incorporate more disciplines than before. Before the Jihad Kano scholarship was limited to fiqh (Jurisprudence) hadith (traditions) tafsir (translation and commentary) but after the Jihad other sciences like Nahw (Arabic grammer) tasrif (syntax) Balaghah (rhetorics or philology) Mantiq (logic) and arud, (prosody) were pursued as indispensable pre-requisites for a better understanding of the Qur’anic Science or Tafsir. The Jihad scholars influenced Kano scholars to develop interest in revolutionary tradition of scholarship. The works authored by the Jihad scholars had impressed the Kano scholars to the extent of requesting Abdullah Ibn Fudi to write for them a book dealing with the problems of Sahw (forgetfulness) in prayers and their solutions.73 He wrote Dau al-musalli, (light of prayee) in response to the request.74


The Jihad had again paved way for settlement of another wave of immigrant scholars in Kano due to the urbanisation policy of Sultan Bello. The improved scholarship scope gave rise to a variety of speciality areas in which various scholarly families and wards took a lead. For example, the families of ‘alim Bako in Chiromawa ward specialised in the science of hadith, of ‘alim Shamsu Kabara specialised in the science of Qur’an, of ‘alim Suhunu and ‘Umar Ba Ajumi in Madabo specialised in fiqh and were dexterous in the teaching of Mukhtasar of Khalil Ibn Ishaq by which the ward, as a centre of legal studies, became very famous. There are also families with combined specialities such as the families of ‘alim Muhammad Salga, of ‘alim Mijinyawa Bakin Ruwa, and of ‘alim Uthman Dan Afan in Dala quarters. The availability of the hitherto non-existent or previously dispursued sciences had therefore projected the image of Islam in Kano as an emerging centre of learning and marked the end of intellectual docility which was characterised by the form of scholarship persuit especially in the syncretist era of Habe rulers.


Islam in the colonial and post colonial era


Although the British colonial government pledged not meddle with the local religious faith, the oppressive tactics which were used in chameleonic manners raised alarm as to whether or not the difficult social condition deliberately created by the colonial regime permitted the scholars as agents of promoting Islam to carry out their social functions and obligatory role in Islam. While the colonial policy of freedom to choose the religious faith of one’s interest without necessary persuasion or appeal was a set back in the bid and people’s vigour to propagate and promote their religion, the recurrent pressures and subversive resistance to the colonial policies which were perceived to be antithetic to Islam steered, inter alia a legal reform which partly resulted in the establishment of Arabic schools where Islam and Islamic form of education and morality had to be enhanced. The first type of such schools was Shahuci law school established in July 1934 to produce both Arabic teachers and judges to man the lower Arabic classes and native courts respectively. Although the products of such schools were expectedly responsive to colonial instructions on education matters, they nevertheless utilized part of their training in defending Islamic course.75 The Shahuci law school metamophosed into school for Arabic Studies (SAS) in 1966.76 Another Arabic institution was also established in the late 1960s as Arabic teachers’ college, Gwale. The two Arabic institutions were designed to train teachers and legal scribes under the platter of western education system. They draw their students both from within and outside Kano. Kano witnessed a proliferation of Arabic School in the 1970s when Aliya high Islamic studies (HIS) and other private Arabic schools came into being. Islamiyya primary and secondary schools for girls, boys or mixed either run by private individuals or government are too numerous to mention. They are over five thousands within the Kano metropoli alone77.


The multiplying affect of such schools is indicative to the numerical strength and influence of Islam in Kano. The agents of Islam have now gone beyond spreading Islamic education as necessary tool for understanding the faith to entice the reminants of pagan communities scattered around Gwarzo, Bebeji and Rano local governments to convert to Islam. Mallam Hussain Sufi is currently the leading figure in the missionary group concerned with prostylising Islam among such pagan communities. The glaring effort of this group tremendously helps to minimize the number of pagan communities in the midth of the predominant Muslim population of Kano.




Our paper concludes with re-examining Izalah versus Sufi in the trend of Islamic development.  The evolution of Izalah and modern Sufi scholars resulted from the general awareness of Islam and its value system in the society, contact with visiting scholars and influence of the various literary works of the maghribian scholars with divergent doctrinal and intellectual disposition over matters of Islamic tenets and philosophy.


Izalah and Sufi scholars have both contributed to the development of religious  awareness among youth in Kano. Without them, many youth would not have awaken to bearing the responsibilities expected of them by Islam. Many youth are stimulated to the pursuit of education for better understanding of Islam by the two groups. The two groups however differ in ideological framework, methodological approach, philosophy and conception of what youth should focus on, both in the pursuit of knowledge and value worth - disseminating at a reasonable period of being eligible to teach or preach Islam, its values and fundamental principles.  While Izalah group pays more attention to the Qur’an and tradition and emphasises disregard for other sources of knowledge besides the two, Sufi exhorts youth to embrace knowledge from both primary and secondary sources as well as having  reverence for Sufi Shaykhs.  Such kind of differences in the approach and conceptualisation of knowledge values drag the two groups into controversy.


The intellectual and literary controversy between the two groups began in the colonial era.  The controversy was then mainly centred around the legitimised values and relevance of Sufi Turuq (orders) in Islam by the Sufi scholars whose position has been contended by their counterparts.  So many literary works on their sharp differences on the matter have been produced.78   Nevertheless, the trend nowadays


seems to change its focus a little.  It is rather a display of cumulative knowledge and mastery over legal and doctrinal issues as well as a manipulation of logistic philosophy between especially the Izalah wing represented by Mallam Ja’afar, the Imam of Durayi’s Juma’a mosque and the Sufi group represented by Mallam Qasiyuni, the caliph of the late Shaykh Nasir Kabara.


Izalah’s position is very clear, open and non-contradictory.  They spare no scholar either past or present on matters they mutually differ in understanding and interpretation.  For example, Imam Malik bn ‘Anas enjoys no leverage of exoneration from their intellectual castigation as long as his interpretation of prophetic traditions is contrary to their understanding of same.  Sufi scholars, their deeper and technical interpretation of the Qur’an and of legal issues as well as their annihilative (fana) and supposedly “confused” philosophical utterances are severelly subjected to criticism and venomous attack by the Izalah group.  Such kind of intellectual arrogance, incivility and impudence renewed the academic hurricane, which was once terminated in the early post colonial days between the new generation of Izalah and Sufi groups.


Sufi’s reaction to what they consider implausible thesis and critique of the Izalah group is often in a violent academic manner.  The Izalah’s counter reaction explains their deep concern for pragmatic approach to issues which are conceptualised by Sufi in a blend of pragmatism and much of idealism.  The sharp ideological differences between the two groups have a cause to confuse ordinary Muslims who are seemingly torn in hypnotistic fashion. The position of true Islam in  Kano now is therefore left to be determined by the two groups.  Sufi scholars see themselves as repository of knowledge of the Islamic sciences and they feel more competent to lead Muslim Umma in the right direction.  This was made very succinct in their Maulud 79.  They constitute themselves into a council of the ulama, more eligible for contact on fatwa.  The declaration was in total disregard for the existing council of ‘ulama.  Izalah group does not seem to see Sufi scholars beyond syncretists to whom they are hardly ready to captualate their religious, doctrinal and ideational values. The seemingly endless conflict and differences between the two groups will have to be resolved before Islamic unity, growth and further development are fully  achieved in Kano and in the other Muslim communities in Nigeria. 





1.    See Fagge, T. A. “The literary life in the intellectual tradition of the Ulama in Kano” Ph.D. BUK, 1997.

2.    Danjuma Gako, a herbalist based in Majeri, 19th June, 2002.  However this tradition may not be accepted at its face value without further research into the enclaves (if any) of such groups which are reported to have scattered between some areas in Jigawa State and in some villages, South-West of Kano.

3.    Nasiru, M.Q.K. al-risalah al-Jaliyah lima Kanah Nijiriya ‘al alamiyah Qabl Kiyan Daulah Sokoto al’ ‘asimah al-’aliyah.

4.    Kano, 1993, p. 30.  The author is of the view that the word Namazay is still in use in the Gobir vocabularies.

5.    4.   Shaykh Jibril bn Harun, his Tafsir session, 14th Dec. 2001.  He is a scholar based in Gwammaja,    Quarters, Kano.

6.    Palmer, H.R. Kano  Chronicle in the Sudanese memories Vol. III.

7.    Ado, I Shariah and the press in Nigeria: Islam versus Western Christian Civilization,

8.    Kurawa Holdings Limited 2000. p. 215.  Kano.

9.    Ibid, p. 215 for details

10. See al-Hajj, M.A. “A seventeenth Century Activity of the Wangarawa” in Kano studies Vol. No. 4, 1968, Lovejoy, P.E. “Notes on al-wangariyin in Kano studies, Vol 3, 1978 & Sa’ad, E.N. “Islamisation in Kano sequence of technology in Kano Studies.

11. Al-Hajj, M.A. “Mahadist Tradition in Northern Nigeria” PhD Thesis p. 11 - 12.

12. See Umar al-futi RiMahu (spears) printed on the margin of Ali Harazim, Jawahir al-Ma’ani wa buluq al-amani, 2nd edition 1911 Misra, p. 47. For details on the Prophet.

13. See Ibn Kathir, Qisas al-anbiya’u 1997 p. 247 - 8 for details on the prophet.

14. Aysha fought on the side of Taluta in the latter’s battle with Jaluta (See Abi Ishaq, Qisas al-anbiya’u - (La’arani) 2000 p. 272 - 275.

15. He is named so because of the grass that grew up to make where prophet Musa found him sitting greeny (See Ibn Kathir Qisas. P.461.

16. See Ibn Kathir, Qisas p.239.

17. The Prophet began to bear the name Mushe soon after his birth and being found by the domestic servants of Hasiya (wife of firaun) in a locked up box rolling between water and tree. (See Sawi, Tafsir, volume I p.29 for details)

18. Ibid p. 149.

19. He is called Adam due to the way he was created from a mixture of different kinds of earth layers

20. (See Ibn Kathir, Qisas p.59 for details.

21. For example, Nama’aji A. Al-ilan bi Tarikh Kano, Palmer, H.R. , Kano Chronicle, and Chamberline J. “The development of Islamic Education in Kano with emphasis on legal education in the 19th and 20th Centuries” Ph.D Thesis, Columbia University, 1975.

22. 19.  Abdul, M.O.A    The historical origin of Islam, Islamic publications Bureau, Lagos, 1982 p. 103 - 105.

23. Ibid, p.105.

24. 21.  Trimingham, J.S.            History of Islam in West Africa 1962 p.114.

25. 22.  Nassar, K.N.     Islam in the Traditional Societies of Africa, 1971, p.81.

26. Ibid p. 122.

27. 24.  Fagge, T. A.      Literary life...  Ph.D p.37.

28. Ibid. P. 37.

29. M.A. Al-Hajj opcit and P.E. Lovejoy: :”The Role of the Wangara in the Economic Transformation of the Central Sudan in the 15th and 16th Centuries”.  Journal of African History Vol. 1978 p. 175.

30. P.E. Lovejoy: “The Role of the Wangara ...” p. 175 - 6

31. For example, the ruling family of Mansa Musa, the most famous ruler of Mali Empire belongs to the Mande tribe.  The Family rose to power after the decline of Ghana empire and promoted the course of Islam during its tenure.  See Abdul, M.O.A. p. 110 - 111.

32. M.O.A. Abdul: Historical Origin of Islam; p.111.

33. Al-Hajji, M.A. “A Seventeenth Century chronicle  ........ p.8

34. Al-Hajji, M.A. “A Seventeenth Century chronicle ........ p.9

35. Loverjoy, “The Role of the Wangara .............   P.46

36. See Fagge, T.,. Literary Life ...... Ph.D Thesis p.40

37. Ibid p.40.

38. Husain, M.M. Hayat al-abrar bi Tarikh ‘ulama al-madabawin” in author’s possession.

39. Adamu, M. Hausa factor in West Aftrican History, ABU, Zaria Press, 1979, p.28.

40. 37.  Hodgkin, T.        Nigerian perspectives (2nd ed) O.U.P. London. 1975, p.100.

41. Hausawa Da makwabtansu p.13.

42. Hausawa Da makwabtansu p.13.

43. Fagge, T. A. Literary Life ...........   p.41.

44. Ibid p.40.

45. Ibid p. 40.

46. Musa Husaini Madabo, a scholar and a proprietor of Khayril bariya Islamiya Schools, Rijiyar Lemo, 2nd August, 2002.

47. Uwar gona is a mother of farm which is believed to protect and decide for good or bad of any farmer. Kangida is a belief in an object a family considers to be its god.

48. Mahadi, A. “The Sarauta system ... Vol. I p. 17 & 19.

49. Fagge, T.A.  History of Fage Town, Triumph publishing company, Kano. 1994, p.14

50. Ibid, p. 15.

51. 48.. Fagge, T. A. “Literacy Life ..... Ph.D Thesis p. 49.

52. Ibid p.44.

53. Kami, A.M. “The rise and influence of scholars in Hausa land 1804" in Kano Studies

54. No. 2 Vol. 2 1981 p.11.

55. Fagge, T.A.  Literacy life .... p. 44.

56. Ibid p.44

57. Ibid p. 44

58. Ibid p. 44.

59. Ibid p.44. and The Encyclopedia of Islam, New edition, Vol. 5 1978 P. 550

60. Fagge, T.A. Literacy Life .... Ph.D p.45.

61. Ibid p. 44.

62. Ibid p.44.

63. Nasir, M.Q.K Opcit. 39

64. Tahir I, “Scholars Sufi and capitalists in Kano” 1904 – 74. “The patterns of Bourgoeis revolution in an Islamic Society” Phd thesis camb univ 1975 p. 192

65. Fagge, T.A. Opcit 58 

66. Palmer H. Kano chronicle PVS. 

67. Ibod p 121

68. Fagge, T.A. literary life ……………………. P72

69. Ahmad, F. Kana’iz at-asrar Cairo 1902 p15 and Fagge Opcit

70. Darki is a copy of the Qur’an wrapped in hide and used as a talisman for the safety of the rulers and the state see Said, H.I. “Revolution and Reaction…….. Phd thesis.

71. Mahadi, A. “The State and economy…….Phd Vol. 1 p183- 184

72. Ibid P. 184.

73. Fagge, T.A. Litrary Life…… P. 66

74. Ibid P. 67.

75. Ibid, P. 71

76. Yahya, D. “Kano intellectual History ……”  P. 7.

77. Fagge, T.A. “literary life…… “ P. 104

78. Ibid P. 104.

79. Sulayman, B. The role of Shahuci and school for Arabic schools Kano in the development of legal education in northern Nigeria, to 1967. M.A. thesis, BUK.  1990 P. 155.

80. Ibid, P. 156.

81. Mallam Fadlu Adhama, Director, Mukhtariya Islamiya Primary School, 9th August, 2002.

82. See Fagge T.A. Literary life ................... PhD Thesis 1997 p. For details.

83. The Maulud was held on 15th June 2002 at Maulana Shaykh Tijani Juma’a mosque.








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