A CONCISE BIOGRAPHY OF SHAIK ABDULLAHI FODIO (MAI BODINGA )
SHAYKH ABDULLAHI DAN FODIO
A CONCISE BIOGRAPHY OF MAI BODINGA
(the Spiritual Master of Bodinga):
by Shaykh Muhammad Shareef bin Farid
This is a concise biography of the realized professor, the master linguist, the military stratigist the freedom fighter, the governor Shaykh Abu Muhammad Abdullahi Dan Fodio Muhammad ibn Uthman ibn Saalih ibn Harun ibn Muhammad Ghurtu ibn Muhammad Jubba ibn Muhammad Sanbu ibn Ayyub ibn Maysiraan ibn Buba Baba ibn Abu Bakr ibn Imam Musa Jokolli ibn Imam Dambuba at-Turuudi.
Shaykh Abdullahi Dan Fodio, may Allah ta`ala be pleased with him was born in the year 1180 A.H. (1766 C.E.) in a town called Maghanimi. He was the blood brother to the Light of the age, the reformer of the religion, the Sword of Truth, the Imam of the Awliyya, Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio through their mother.
She was Hawwa bint Muhammad ibn Uthman ibn Hamm ibn `Aal ibn Muhammad Jubba ibn Muhammad Sanbu ibn Ayyub ibn Maysiraan with the aforementioned lineage. As for his maternal grandmother, she was Sayyida Fatima bint Muhammad as-Shareef ibn Abd’s-Samad ibn Ahmad as-Shareef ibn Ali al-Yanbu`iy ibn Abd’r-Razaaq ibn Hammam ibn as-Saalih ibn al-Mubaarak ibn Ahmad ibn Abi ‘l-Hassan Ali as-Shadhili ibn Abdallah ibn Abd’l-Jabbar ibn Tamim ibn Hurmuz ibn Hatim ibn Qusay ibn Yusef ibn Yushu`a ibn Wardi ibn Bataal ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn `Isa ibn Muhammad ibn al-Hassan as-Sabt ibn Ali ibn Abi Talib and Fatima az-Zahra, the daughter of the Messenger of Allah, صلى الله عليه وسلم, and upon his pure family and contented Companions.
From his mother, Shaykh Abdullahi had five immediate brothers and sisters. Among them were: the Imam and Shaykh Ali, who was nicknamed `Aal Dan Fodio. He was the eldest of his siblings from his mother. There was his spiritual master and lamp, the famous Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio. There was the jurists A`isha bint Fodio. There was the learned Fatima Kimbu bint Fodio, and Fatima Yaghughu bint Fodio.
Shaykh Abdullahi Dan Fodio was reared in a house of learning, righteousness, fearful awareness, gnosis of Allah and saintliness. He began his education with the recitation of the Qur’an with his father, Fodio Muhammad. Then he was handed over to his brother, the reformer Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio, who had already attained some semblance of distinction.
His father left him in the hands of his brother after he had completed the recitation of the Qur’an. At that time, Abdullahi was thirteen years old, and the age of Shehu Uthman, then was twenty-five. He took from him the science of Qur’anic exegesis repeatedly from the beginning of al-Faatiha until the end of the scripture. He studied with him the al-Ishriniyaat, the al-Witriyaat, and the six poets. He studied with him the science of Divine Unity from the books of as-Sanusi as well as their commentaries. In the linguistic sciences he studied with his brother syntax and inflexion from the al-Ajurumiyya, the al-Mulha, and the al-Qatr along with their commentaries.
In the area of branches of the religion, Shaykh Abdullahi Dan Fodio took from the Shehu, all the major books of jurisprudence by which he mastered the individual obligations (fard’l-ayn), such as the al-Akhdariyya, the al-Ashmawiyya, the ar-Risaala of Ibn Abi Zayd, the al-Mukhtasar of Khalil ibn Ishaq and other works along with their commentaries.
In addition, Shaykh Abdullahi Dan Fodio took from the Shehu the sciences of prophetic tradition, the science of the men of narration, and other sciences which are connected to the science of prophetic traditions; such as the works of al-Qiraafi, the narrations of al-Bukhari, and others.
Along with these from the inward branch of the religion, Shaykh Abdullahi was able to complete the spiritual journey to his Lord, at the hands of his brother, Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio, in the realm of the sciences of spiritual purification through the transformation of character and Divine realization. His brother guided him until he attained direct knowledge of Allah, ta`ala. By means of the baraka of his blood brother, he became a person with piercing insight into the mysteries of the religion.
No doubt Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio was the key spiritual guide to Shaykh Abdullahi, because for more than fifty years he never left his big brother’s side. He also accompanied the Shehu when he would receive instructions, as he mentioned in his I`ida’n-Nusuukh that both the Shehu and he studied with more than twenty scholars together.
Among them were: the learned al-Hajj Muhammad ibn Raj ibn Modibo ibn Hamm ibn `Aal; Shaykh Muhammad ibn Muhammad; the learned Abdallah ibn al-Hajj al-Hassan ibn Hamm ibn `Aal; Shaykh Ibrahim al-Barnawi; the learned Muhammad Muji ibn Abd’r-Rahman; the learned Muhammad Sanbu ibn Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Ahmad ibn Hamm ibn `Aal; Shaykh Ibrahim al-Mandaari; the renown erudite Muhammad al-Farabri ibn Muhammad ibn Hamel ibn Ahmad ibn Hamm ibn `Aal; the learned Shaykh Ahmad ibn Abi Bakr ibn Ghiru; the lordly scholar Shaykh Abu Umar Jibril ibn Umar; the learned Imam Mustafa ibn al-Hajj Uthman ibn Muhammad; the learned Muhammad Bu`tughu ibn Muhammad ibn al-Hajj Abdr’-Rahman ibn Ghari ibn Muhammad Sanbu; the immense Shaykh Muhammad al-Mughaari; the Imam and Khateeb Muhammad Sanbu ibn Abd’r-Rahman; the well versed Shaykh Mahmud az-Zamfari at-Tuuri; the learned Abd’r-Rahman ibn Muhammad, and many others from the well established scholars of the Bilad ‘s-Sudan.
As a result of the baraka of these learned scholars, Shaykh Abdullahi Dan Fodio became an erudite savant of knowledge, speculative and comprehensive; the teacher of all the teachers, a prolific author, an exegesis, master of prophetic traditions, a diligent narrator, a master of Qur’anic recitation, an annotator, grammarian, linguists, a master of eloquence; and in all the sciences related to language he was an absolute mujtahid.
In the year 1209 A.H. (1794-5 C.E.), Shaykh Abdullahi Dan Fodio composed an extensive poem named al-Miftah Li’t-Tafsir, which was a commentary upon the an-Niqaaya and the al-Itqaan of as-Suyuti. At that time he was still residing in Degel with Shehu Uthman. After a year he composed a commentary upon this poem called Sulaalat’l-Miftaah as a form of abridgement.
Shaykh Abdullahi stood with his brother, Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio, may Allah ta`ala be merciful to both of them; as a chief administrator (wazir akbar) and a fortifying support (rukun abhar) in delivering and transmitting the religion in an easy manner in the lands of the east and west; calling people to the religion of Allah ta`ala until people entered into His religion in large numbers. This included many followers from among the scholars, as well as the common people; and creatures came like the winds in order to adhere to and follow them.
Then the people of worldly affairs from among the rulers of the lands of Hausa aroused themselves against them with enmity. This was after they had first taken them as immense exemplars, and after taking blessings from their supplications. This enmity ensued from the fact that the government of the land of Hausa was built upon principles which contradicted the shari`a. The majority of their political system was estranged to the true path.
So, when Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio began to clarify the path of Truth, the people of success were guided to him and permitted the spiritual wayfarers to reach their goals; then the people of worldly affairs from the venial scholars and rulers rose up in their tyranny and error. They feared the breaking of their system, the loss of their markets and their fall in the eyesight of those who were guided.
Thus, these rulers and scholars began to harm the community of Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio; and to bring sanctions against everyone connected to the Shehu. They plotted against them using murder, injustice and oppression. It was then that the Jama`at of Shehu Uthman began to establish a clear distinction between themselves and the disbelievers, and separated themselves from their blameworthy customs.
The Shehu then made the hijra, along with his jama`at to a land called Gudu, on Wednesday, the 3rd of Dhu’l-Qa`ida in the year 1218 A.H. (circa 1803-4 C.E.). When they reached the land of their hijra; they established a consultative assembly and agreed to appoint an Imam. They unanimously agreed to appoint Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio as their ruler.
The first person to give the oath of allegiance in accordance with the Book and the Sunna was his intimate brother, Shaykh Abdullahi Dan Fodio. As a result of this new dispensation, Shaykh Abdullahi Dan Fodio became the pivot of the banners of jihad of Shehu Uthman; the general of the armies, the teacher of the schools, the Imam of the places of worship, the chief wazir to his brother, the Amir’l-Mu’mineen, as well as the manager and formulator of the political affairs, and the arbiter and designer of justice.
Shaykh Abdullahi did all this while continuing to act as secretary, scribe, the composer of books, annotations, poems, and scholarly verses in every science and discipline. In this regard, he composed a comprehensive book in every single discipline and science.
Shaykh Abd’l-Qaadir ibn Mustafa said in his Rawdat ‘l-Afkaar that in the year 1223 A.H. (circa 1807-8 C.E.), the Muslims conquered the capital of the land of Gobir, named Alkalawa. Thus, by means of this, Allah ta`ala completed His opening, victory and prominence for the Muslims; and removed the thorn of disbelief from the remainder of the lands of Hausa. As a result, some of them repented and others began to follow the Shehu. Eventually, the affairs of the land became firmly established on an upright keel and the surrounding regions were made tranquil. All praises are due to Allah for that.
In giving assistance to Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio, Shaykh Abdullahi was like an unsheathed sword or like a strong impregnable fortress. He was to him, the way Ali ibn Abi Talib was in giving assistance to the Messenger of Allah, صلى الله عليه وسلم. Shaykh Abd’l-Qaadir ibn Mustafa said in poetic verse regarding this:
“He was the best of wazirs, Shaykh Abdullahi
In following the Chosen One he was unrivaled
He was seen standing firm in every situation
Guiding the people of consciousness uninterruptedly
He stood firm to assist the Shehu in his objectives
Likewise his close friends and close relatives
And our Shehu was like a defensive fortress
Against the enemies and against every encounter
During the occasions of evil and deviations
From true guidance, envy and antagonism
May Allah be merciful to him and reward him with good
For his brother, how many times did he suffice him against harm?”
With the praise of Allah, Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio conquered the major metropolis of the lands of Hausa, by the hand of his blood brother Abdullahi and his son Muhammad Bello. In the year 1227 A.H. (circa 1815 C.E.), the Shehu removed himself from in-time authority and temporal governance; and remained over the spiritual sovereignty of the entire region of central Bilad as-Sudan.
The Shehu then divided the Sokoto government into two divisions: an eastern division whose capital was Sokoto under the charge of Muhammad Bello; and a western division whose capital was Gwandu under the leadership of his brother Abdullahi. Thus, Gwandu became a place of the renewal of the religion, and the revival of the Sunna.
During his reign over Gwandu, he dispatched his son Shaykh Muhammad ibn Abdullahi to the lands of Borghu who conquered them; and he sent his nephew Shaykh Muhammad al-Bukhari ibn Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio into the lands of Nupe, which he conquered. These two knights were the most important disciples of Shaykh Abdullahi, and accompanied him throughout his campaigns; just as Muhammad Bello accompanied the Shehu in his.
The Amir’l-Mu’mineen Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio died on a Monday, the 3rd of Jumad’l-Akhir in the year 1234 A.H. (April 20, 1817 C.E.), may Allah ta`ala be merciful to him and illuminate his burial place. As a result, the oath of allegiance was given to his son the Amir Muhammad Bello on that same day.
Shaykh Abdullahi Dan Fodio possessed many miracles. Among them was the profusion of his knowledge evidenced by the many scholarly works he composed, which were no less than one hundred books. He produced these beneficial works while being preoccupied with demanding duties, during times of immense turmoil and little time for relaxation.
During the rule of his brother, he was the pivot of jihad, the chief general of the armies; one of the key teachers of instruction, the Imam of the masjid, the wazir to the Amir’l-Mu’mineen, the one responsible for managing the political affairs and their foundations, and establishing and formulating equity and justice.
More importantly Shaykh Abdullahi composed innumerous texts in every discipline among the Islamic sciences which became well known throughout the lands; and were accepted by the scholars and learned in the east and the west. These works brought advantage to the common and elite alike. This is especially so with his renown exegesis of the Qur’an called Diya ‘t-Ta’wil Fi Ma`ana at-Tanzil; a text unlike any composed in its time. Many of the scholars of tafsir in these times rely upon it.
He also composed his al-Hissen ‘r-Raseen regarding the science of verbal conjugation, as well as his al-Bahr‘l-Muheet, which is a versification of the Jam`a al-Jawaami` of as-Suyuti regarding the science of grammar. It was these two works which established the proof that he had reached the highest learned rank of mujtahid mutlaq in the linguistic sciences.
Muhammad Bello ibn Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio said when citing the merits and virtues of Shaykh Abdullahi:
“The learned scholar and person of matchless intelligence. He is our shaykh and our baraka, a prolific writer, master of Qur’anic exegesis, traditionist, verified narrator and preserver by memory of prophetic traditions. He is a master of the variant Qur’anic recitations, an expert authority in the linguistic sciences, a master of the science of eloquence, and versatile being well versed in a multitude of disciplines. He has taken a colossal share from almost every intellectual discipline, his mind is dynamically fertile in every religious science and the pastures of his scholarly production are abundant.
He is famous in his time and a goal for those on the journey for knowledge. He is one of the last of the great masters of knowledge and one of the last seals on comprehension. He possesses spiritual realities that are simply unprecedented and he is involved in researches that are meticulous and extraordinary. There is unanimous agreement that there is simply no one like him in these times regarding his knowledge and guidance.
He is among the unique and sublime miracles of this age in the sciences and disciplines of the Divine Law (shari`a). Wherever there are problematical and challenging issues, he gives the established precedence and the most forward-thinking view. His is the Sword of Allah against the possessors of heretical innovation, a virtual mine of desirable qualities and knowledge, and the flint that ignites comprehension and understanding.
He is one of Allah’s signs regarding the verification of the sciences, excessive in his study of the transmitted disciplines and has gathered in himself diverse and variant fields of knowledge. With regard to knowledge he is the bounty of this time and one of the most amazing beings of this age. He has authored many works, among them being his versification of the an-Niqaaya; his versification of the Miftaah al-Usuul and his Sulaalat’l-Miftaah.
The bottom line is Shaykh Abdullahi has shot his arrows into every intellectual discipline and they have found their mark, for in that he is truly remarkable and astonishing.”
Shaykh Abdullahi had many sons and daughters. Among them were the Amir Muhammad, the professor Ibrahim al-Khalil, Shaykh Ali and many others whose numbers reached forty five. After 1244 A.H. (1826-7 C.E.), Shaykh Abdullahi Dan Fodio resigned himself from worldly sovereignty, just as Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio had done, and continued in the spiritual sovereignty over the sages.
About that Shaykh Sa`d ibn Abd’r-Rahman said:
“Realize brother that Shaykh Abdullahi Dan Fodio remained in the government for twelve years. It is said that he governed for fourteen years. Then his son, Muhammad inherited the authority from him and governed for five years. Then his brother al-Khalil inherited the government from him, and this now is the time of al-Khalil. Only Allah knows how long he will rule. May Allah assist him, Amen.
The reason for the discrepancy regarding the numbers of years he governed was that when Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio died, may Allah engulf him in his mercy Amen, and what occurred between brothers had transpired; Shaykh Abdullahi remained behind in a place called Bodinga, for close to eight months awaiting permission in the form of a spiritual presence from Shaykh Abd’l-Qaadir al-Jaylani, may Allah be pleased with him, regarding relocating to wherever he commanded.
Then after eight months, Shaykh Abd’l-Qaadir al-Jaylani appeared to him in the waking state and clarified to him to relocate back to Gwandu. It was there that he remained for twelve years and some months until he died.”
May Allah ta`ala be pleased with him, increase the remembrance of his history throughout time and provide us with the shade of his baraka and advantage Amen.
Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio said in one of his non Arabic poems that his blood brother Abdullahi was among the perfected awliyya of the time; and that he had achieved the station of one of the two Imams in the circle of the spiritual government of the sages.
The Shehu said that his brother’s name with Allah in the realm of: “Am I not your Lord”; was ‘Abd’l-`Aziz’, and his name with the Angelic and disembodied spirits was ‘`Izz’d-Deen’ (the glorious might of the religion). This was due to the fact that Allah gave honor to the religion of Islam and its sciences by means of him.
Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio also said in his Najm’l-Ikhwaan: “Be preoccupied with the study of the scholarly works of my brother Abdullahi, because he is mainly concerned with precisely preserving the apparent letter of the shari`a.”
Shaykh Abdullahi Dan Fodio died on a Wednesday, the 1st of Muharram in the year 1245 A.H. (August 2, 1829 C.E.) at the age of sixty-six. Shaykh Abdullahi ibn al-Qadi al-Hajj said in his at-Ta`reef:
“Many of the poets and literary men of the time eulogized him with many eloquent songs. This man of erudition performed many glorious deeds and was well known for his frequent jihad against disbelievers and his strenuous effort in defense of Islam and its people against the people of heresies and corruption. He was a stalwart supporter of the religion of Muhammad and the true and upright Sunna by means of his sword and tongue.
He was steadfast and tranquil of heart at times when courageous and brave men would flee. He was strong in the religion of Allah and did not fear the criticism of the criticizer. He was a natural lover of students and the people of righteousness and vehement against the people of evil and apostasy. He was thoroughly dedicated at all times to teaching knowledge and composing scholarly works. That was his pastime and fixation from the time he was a child until the time he went to his Lord, may He be pleased with him and make the highest stations of al-Firdaws his final destiny, by means of His universal baraka and His sublime and blessed favor.”
Sultan Muhammad Bello said about him in poetic eulogy:
“A majestic misfortune was unleashed with the loss of one who
in knowledge there was no companion that could compare with him
The schools of sciences have become effaced and abandoned
are their pillars from the loss of this judge whom we all loved
The disciplines of the divine law now weep because of his loss
not to speak of Qur’anic exegesis which he poured out generously
The science of prophetic traditions, jurisprudence, and legal decisions
grammar, and verbal conjugation were all pliant when next to him
The science of eloquence, and likewise the linguistic sciences weep for him
Knowledge itself has died due to the loss which came from his direction.”
The most important disciple of the professor, Shaykh Mustafa ibn Muhammad at-Turuudi said in poetic eulogy of him:
“He was the helper of the religion, the upholder of the banner of knowledge
of his time, he was an adept erudite and a proficient scholar
When he moved about he walked with honor in the garment
of knowledge majestically, and his crown was Qur’anic exegesis
He shamed the sun as well as the full moon, and surpassed,
as a result of his embossing of knowledge, silk and embellishment
If a young knight due to the bounty of his virtue could have attained
the very heavens, then this proficient scholar would have attained it
Rather, he surmounted above it and became momentous therein
since there his spirit already existed as an illumination and light.”