Life of the Late Sheikh Abdullahi dan Fodio
He is Abdullahi ibn Muhammad ibn Uthman ibn Salih ibn Harun ibn Muhammad Ghurdu ibn Muhammad Jabbu ibn Muhammad Thanbu ibn Ayyub ibn Masiran ibn Buba Baba ibn Musa Jakullu.
He was born approximately 1181 AH (1767 CE) in a region of Central West Africa known as Hausaland to two noble parents. He memorized the Quran from his father, Muhammad, who was known as “Fodiyo” which means “the scholar” in the Hausa language.
He was the brother of the great 19th century jihadist, Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio. He was a scholar and writer, and also took part in his brother’s jihad. Abdullahi Fodio founded the Gwandu Empire which he ruled until his death in 1828. His descendants are the present rulers of Gwandu town, Kebbi State. He was buried in Gwandu and his tomb has remained one of Kebbi State’s popular tourist attractions over the years.
He was raised religiously, studying the outward and inward Sacred Sciences and devoted his life to inviting non-Muslims to Islam and Muslims to the Sunnah, studying, teaching, waging jihad, traveling the spiritual path of inner excellence, and establishing Islamic governance.
He learned from and kept the company of his full brother, the Mujaddid Shaykh Uthman ibn Fodiyo, and studied and mastered the sciences of theology, jurisprudence, Arabic, legal philosophy, Quranic exegesis, and many others, especially the Sciences of Intellectual Reasoning (ulum al-aqli).
He studied the science of hadith along with his brother from his maternal uncle, the Traveler, Shaykh Muhammad Raji in 1201AH; and he studied the Quran and ahadith from the outstanding Shaykh Abu Amana Jibril ibn Umar.
He studied logic from his cousin Mustafa and thoroughly researched the science of hadith from al-Farbari and entirely concerned himself with the sciences of the Arabic language. His aptitude for memorization was miraculous and it was said that he had memorized the entire al-Qamus dictionary.
Thus, he acquired Sacred Knowledge from hundreds of learned masters, all of them were top scholars of his region from the tribes of the Fulani, Hausa, and Burnawa, and not one of them was an Arab- this is from the great bounty that Allah has bestowed upon the Ahl as-Sudan (“the People of the Black Lands” of East-West-Central Africa) from the blessings of Sacred Knowledge and Islam.
He ate from the work of his own hands, and was a kind husband and father, well known for his refined disposition, noble character, compassion for all Muslims, and love for the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace). Countless numbers of people came from the East and West to benefit and take Sacred Knowledge from him.
He had a profound knowledge of the sciences of hadith and Quranic exegesis and gave them the utmost attention. He was the main support and chief advisor of his brother, the Light of the Age, Shaykh Uthman ibn Fodiyo, in da’wah, ta’leem, jihad, and governance of the Islamic Caliphate that they established by the grace of Allah, along with being absolutely indifferent to material things and a spiritual master of the Qadiriyya and Khalwatiyya spiritual paths.
He has numerous works, among them are his two commentaries on the Qur’an: Diya at-Ta’wil fi Ma’ani at-Tanzil ,which mentions:
- All the positions of all the greatest scholars of tafsir,
- The four madhahib of fiqh,
- Ten ways of recitation,
- Fine points of Arabic language,
and his second commentary Kifayat ad-Du’afa as-Sudan in which he confined himself to the Warsh recitation and the Maliki Madhhab in jurisprudence; Miftah at-Tafsir in which he versified the essence of the Itqan of Suyuti which consists of over 1,200 verses, that he abridged into a poem entitled Sulalatu at-Tafsir; and in philosophy of law (usul al-fiqh) he versified what is in at-Tilimsani’s Lu’lu al-Maknun fi Qawa’id al-Usul into a poem of approximately 1,000 verses; and in the Arabic Language he composed al-Bahr al-Muheet, a versification of what is in the Jam’ al-Jawami’ wa Ham’ al-Hawami’ of Suyuti and it consists of 4,444 verses;
and Hisn al-Raseen in Arabic morphology which is a versification and delineation of the subject matter of al-Qamus; he wrote Diya’ al-Hukkam, Diya’ as-Siyaasat, and Diya’ al-Khulafa’ concerning the science of just Islamic government; in the science of tasawwuf he wrote Minan al-Mannan at the age of seventeen and wrote a commentary on it titled Shukr al-Ihsan in the last year of his blessed life, in tasawwuf he also abridged the Madkhal of ibn al-Hajj and titled it Lubab al-Madkhal; he authored Sayl al-Ayn Sharh Murshid al-Mu’een which is a commentary on Ibn Ashir’s famous didactic poem; and the Taqreeb ad-Daruri min Ulumid-Deen, an introductory text to the sciences of aqida, fiqh, and tasawwuf;
and he wrote Diya’ as-Sanad in which he mentioned his numerous unbroken chains of learning; and the Daw’ al-Musalli which is a versification of what is in the two chapters of “Performing Missed Prayers” and “Prostations for Forgetfulness” from Mukhtasar Khalil; and wrote Kitab ‘Amal al-Yaum wa ‘l-Layla similar to what is in the Amal al-Yaum wa ‘l-Layla of al-Hafidh ibn Sina; and his poem ad-Durrar which explains the technical terminology of Sahih al-Bukhari; and numerous prose and poetic works other than these.
He was also inspired to compose several devotional litanies (awrad), one of which is a powerful litany (wird) in which a third of the Koranis recited. He passionately and tirelessly devoted himself to Sacred Knowledge and acting in accordance with it until he passed in the year 1246 AH (1829 CE).
It was as if he was the one intended when the poet said:
“It would not be extraordinary for Allah
To gather the entire universe into one person.”