The Sheikh Uthman dan Fodio (1754_1817 AD), founder of the Sokoto Caliphate (may God Most High admit him into Paradise), left behind the following instruction:
“Every responsible person must learn enough of this science (Sufism-Islamic Mysticism) to enable him acquire praise–worthy qualities and to keep him from blame–worthy qualities.”
(Please see page 33 of Sheykh Uthman Dan Fodio’s book, Al-Kitab ‘Ulum al- Muamala translated by A’isha Abd ar Rahman at-Tarjumana, as Handbook on Islam Iman Ihsan, published by Diwan Press, England.)
Apparently today, many of the Nigerian Muslim elite do not know that the above was the important instruction left behind for them to follow by the Sheikh, Uthman dan Fodio. Consequently, therefore, there is no serious discuss on Sufism(Sufi -Muslim ascetic or self denying mystic), no Sheikhs ( who are the intellectual and spiritual successors of the Sheikh Uthman dan Fodio) to be found to guide the people on Sufism. This situation has serious consequences for society; for the vacuum created is filled by fanatical groups such as Maitatsine and Boko Haram.
He was a Sheikh and a great intellectual
The founder of the Sokoto Caliphate Uthman dan Fodio (1754-1817 AD, may God Most High grant him admission into Paradise) was a Sheikh or Spiritual Guide of the Qadiriyah Order of Sufis (Sufi-Muslim ascetic or self denying mystic).
The Qaddirriyya Order was founded in Baghdad in the 12th Century AD by the Sheikh Abd- al-Qadir al-Jilani (d. 1166 AD). It became the most popular mystic brotherhood in Asia from whence it spread to other parts of the Islamic world, including the western Sudan.
His mystical experience
Related is this passage from Al-Wird (Litany), a work by Uthman dan Fodio: “When I reached the age of forty years, five months and a few nights, God Most High drew me near to Him and I found there, the master of human being and jinn our master Mohammed may the peace and blessings of God Most High be with him, together with his Companions, the Prophets and the Saints; they welcomed me and seated me amongst themselves.
Then the saviour of human being and jinn, my master Abd al Qadir al Jilani came with a green cloth decorated with the inscription: ‘There is no god but God Most High and Mohammed is the Messenger of God Most High’.
In this vision Uthman dan Fodio was decorated with the cloth. The Sheikh Al Jilani to whom Uthman dan Fodio referred died in 1166 AD, some 578 years before Uthman dan Fodio was born.
Thus, in the lives of Mystics such as the Caliph Uthman dan Fodio, Divine guidance was sought and was near; at night by dreams and visions and by day by the means of the ‘Divine Voice’ which a reader
of the works of the Islamic Mystics will so often come across.
Uthman Dan Fodio as a scholar
Uthman dan Fodio was an erudite scholar and a great intellectual, who towered above any of his day. He was a prolific writer and had to his credit over 100 works and 480 poems written over a period of 40 years.
The works of Uthman dan Fodio covered the fields of theology, politics, sociology and economics. (Please see The Intellectual Origin of the Sokoto Jihad by Ahmed Muhammed Kani pages 45-58).
The Shiekh or the spiritual master or guide
The Sheikh is a man of ripe experience who had himself journeyed far in the Mystic Path, the Path of self-denial, the path of prayer and of fasting. He is the man who has succeeded in the mortification of the flesh and also expelled from his heart worldly desire so that the light of Divinity is now resplendent in him. To the Mystics he is the perfect man. He is a saint. He is the great bulwark against the destructive tidal waves of ill-informed fanaticism.(Please see the Mystics of Islam by Professor Reynold Nicholson, pages 28-49).
Why are the Sheikhs so necessary today?
Where there are no true Sheikhs, their very important positions in the Religion of Islam and in society are taken over by fanatical, unnecessarily aggressive and ill formed leaders. Such religious leaders soon gather around them many simple- minded folks who are then imbued with false doctrines and doctrines which preach violence.
In no time such groups inflict themselves on the society as Maitatsine or Boko Haram. The leadership of Islam and the Nigerian Muslim elite have it as a the duty to act on the instruction left behind by the Caliph: to teach Nigerian Muslims about Sufism in order to produce the sheikhs, if God Most High wills, and to ensure that they are right in the centres of where they can influence societal thought , places such as the universities.
Murid Musa Jarikre wrote from Sapele, Delta State.