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“Urban by nature”: The Sokoto jihadist approach to urban planning

« Urbain par nature » : l’approche djihadiste de Sokoto en matière d’urbanisme
Stephanie Zehnle

Résumés

Comme d’autres mouvements de réforme islamique et de construction de l’État au Sahel précolonial, le djihad de Sokoto de 1804 entama un véritable processus d’urbanisation avec des références architecturales aux idéaux islamiques de l’espace habité. Mais aux débuts de l’empire de Sokoto, l’urbanisme djihadiste rencontra un environnement haoussa déjà divisé en centres urbains et en zones rurales. Les villes haoussa existantes furent souvent restructurées et agrandies, avec un déplacement de la position centrale des palais vers celle des nouvelles mosquées construites sous l’égide des dirigeants djihadistes. Cet article analyse donc la construction de Sokoto en tant que capitale à partir de la « planche à dessin » comme étude de cas. En outre, il traite de l’emplacement et du style des mosquées djihadistes à Sokoto, Kano et Zaria dans le cadre d’un nouveau concept d’urbanisme islamique. Bien que l’urbanisme à Sokoto n’ait pas été réalisé sous forme de croquis cartographiques, quelques cartes produites dans cet empire seront utilisées pour étudier le concept graphique de l’urbanité djihadiste. Celle-ci s’exprime par des murs rectangulaires et une organisation spéciale mosquée-palais avec un décor très simple et puritain. Malgré des actions privées dans la construction de mosquées parmi l’élite djihadiste masculine, Sokoto n’eut pas de mosquée centrale permanente et appartenant à l’État, les donateurs et leurs descendants durent personnellement prendre soin de l’entretien des bâtiments. Avec le deuxième Sultan de Sokoto, Muhammad Bello, les activités d’urbanisation furent progressivement déplacées des « vieux » centres vers la frontière de l’Empire : des villes frontalières et militarisées (ribāt en arabe) furent érigées comme une protection matérielle et profane contre les ennemis militaires dans la périphérie. Elles servirent de référence dans l’idéologie djihadiste opposant la Terre d’Islam à la Terre de l’Incrédulité. Le ribāt était une ville organisée, attirant principalement des esclaves répondant à la promesse djihadiste que tout habitant de la ville frontière serait finalement libéré et entrerait au paradis. Mais ce n’est que pour une durée limitée qu’ils servirent de melting pot social et ethnique à la frontière, avant que beaucoup d’entre eux ne soient transformés en plantations d’esclaves. Cette phase de fondation intense d’établissements fortifiés doit également être comprise comme un processus de sédentarisation et de vieillissement des premiers soldats du djihad. Dotés de terres, d’épouses et d’esclaves acquis comme butins, de nombreux soldats et commandants s’installèrent dans de nouvelles villes et y vécurent avec leurs familles. Ainsi l’article analysera finalement l’utopie de Sokoto dans un État musulman complètement sédentarisé et urbanisé – une politique propagée à la fois contre les Fulbe pastoraux et les alliés Touaregs nomades. L’article décrit l’urbanisation djihadiste de Sokoto dans ses théories et ses pratiques, dans la première moitié du XIXe siècle, et explique pourquoi les Djihadistes prétendirent être « urbains par nature ».

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  • 1 For the translation as “town” see G.P. Bargery, 1934, p. 367; R.C. Abraham, M.M. Kano, 1949, p. 305 (...)
  • 2 A.B. Yusuf, 1974, p. 209. Yusuf offers a detailed lexical list of Hausa terms for describing and di (...)

1Islamic movements of the 18th and 19th centuries have led to very unique urbanization processes across West Africa: cities were founded, walled or expanded at fast speed with architectural references and programs adopted from religious spheres. In the Sokoto Empire, urban planning was devoted to the materialization of a spiritual ideology in an environment already divided into urban centers and rural areas before the Sokoto Jihad of 1804. These Hausa gari (“towns”)1 counted about 20,000 inhabitants and were ethnic melting pots due to intensive “immigration, conquest, trade, assimilation, and Islamization.”2 Hausa townspeople often gave up their lineage identity and practiced social mobility to a large degree, although many urban quarters were organized by profession and guild.

  • 3 Another semiotic use of ribāt is to address Sufi residences, from which the term “Marabout” has der (...)
  • 4 J. Chabbi, N. Rabbat, 1995, p. 493.
  • 5 For evidence see for example Abdullah dan Fodio, Ida’ al-nusukh, Northwestern University, Africana (...)
  • 6 Jihad warfare was described in a variety of genres, ranging from jurisprudence to political treatis (...)

2Based on this tradition of Hausa urbanism, the Jihadist urbanization policy introduced a new Muslim category of city to the region by the Arabic loanword ribāt (“frontier town”). In the central Sahel, these fortifications were mostly developed from already established temporary war camps, but their linguistic, cultural and architectural references directly linked them to the ribāt cities of the early Islamic expansion in Arabia and Persia. Originally, ribāt designated the gathering of horses for war among pre-Islamic Arabic clans. But only from the 17th and 18th centuries onwards did the term denote very diverse Muslim fortified edifices in dangerous frontier regions.3 Their heterogeneous architecture “developed from notions of preparedness and defensibility and from models in conquered lands that could be appropriated for these purposes.”4 In North Africa, ribāt were built in the wars against Byzantium, and the Jihadists of Sokoto eagerly studied literature referring to this Muslim–Christian conflict.5 So in Sokoto, the scholars in turn learned about the military and theological relevance of a ribāt from medieval and early modern books, from which they drew many conceptual role models for Muslim warfare and statehood,6 whereas existing Hausa gari architecture often formed the material and cultural basis for them.

  • 7 The Hausa term gari was applied only to un-walled towns or settlements. See G.P. Bargery, 1934, p.  (...)
  • 8 J. Boyd, B.B. Mack (eds.), 1997, p. 453. Here, “janibai” is translated as “ribaɗi”, but I suggest t (...)
  • 9 Manuscript held at Department of History, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (Nigeria) 12/2–3–4. The te (...)
  • 10 Muhammad Bello, Risālat ila Muḥammad Al-ǧaylāni, Institut de Recherches en Sciences Humaines, Niame (...)
  • 11 J.E. Philips, 2004, p. 111.

3The first of these fortified towns were built during the lifetime of Uthman dan Fodio (1754–1817)—Sokoto’s first Sultan—while his successor and son Muhammad Bello (1817–1837) intensified this effort. Bello’s prospering ribāt became landmark architecture for other rulers: armies were systematically moved from the centers to the peripheries of the Emirates within the frontier zones, where the settlements in turn became walled towns, or birane in Hausa.7 As Bello’s sister Nana Asmau described this empowerment of the frontiers in a poem: “Then, he stationed all [soldiers] far away in the bushes. […] He stationed men in all ribāt towns. So understand this foresight.”8 On the one hand, this political agenda was motivated by military tactics, but on the other hand, Muhammad Bello explicitly referred to a moral and sacred architecture. In his treatise Kitāb al-ribāt wa al-hirāsa,9 for example, he outlines the ribāt euphorically as the model city of the future Sultanate. Bello claimed that “humans are urban by nature”10 and that there was only human progress in religious urbanization. For example, Bello’s new cities, ribāt walls and gates were arranged rectangularly and aligned with the qibla direction towards Mecca so as to reflect the mosque sites at large.11 This is also exemplified by cartographies from the Central Sahel, depicting mosques, palaces and cities as rectangular fields in a sacred geography. In many regions of the Sokoto Empire, this rectangular model challenged existing round houses, compounds and cities.

  • 12 M. Last, 2013, p. 4.

4Although libraries and archives record dozens of dissertations on the Sokoto Caliphate and several among them highlight the new cities and frontier towns, those studies have been dedicated to the military and strategic relevance rather that to the “technologies and aesthetics of the past.”12 This article responds to this academic void by analyzing Sokoto’s early politico-religious scenography with reference to concepts of Islamic urbanism discussed among Sokoto scholars. The sections address the construction of Sokoto as a capital city (1), the location and style of urban mosques (2), the ribāt concept of urbanism (3), and the Sokoto utopia of an urban Muslim state (4). In doing so, maps and geographical representations of Sokoto as well as travel journals of European “explorers” are compared with Arabic and Hausa Ajami texts from the early 19th century. This study engages with Jihadist ideas and practices of urbanization, of which some have been realized and others have not been followed.

Making Sokoto the Muslim capital city

  • 13 J. Picton, 2006, p. 194.
  • 14 B. Hakim, Z. Ahmed, 2008, p. 676.

5Islamization movements have often focused on urban planning projects, concentrating on the reconstruction and modification of conquered cities as well as on the construction of new model cities. In an African jihadist context, Islamic architecture has been held to be ambiguous, because “it can as much be seen as (local) African as (transnational) Islamic.”13 But historians must add here that, long before the jihads in the 18th and 19th centuries, West African architecture and urban planning had evolved along regional and global religious processes coevally. Other scholars have rejected this idea of architectural amalgamation in West African cities and have overemphasized the Islamic factor in declaring it independent from local contexts. Hakim and Ahmed, to mention two of these scholars, claimed that the Quran and hadith traditions were “followed in the processes of urbanization, regardless of architectural typology and urban morphology of a particular region.”14 If this assumption were correct, Muslim cities in Senegal, Mali and Nigeria would look alike, which they do not. Instead, a creative process of contact between Islamic architectural theory and local urban practices usually followed Islamic movements.

  • 15 E. Ross, 2006, p. 25.
  • 16 M.D. DeLancey, 2005, p. 4.
  • 17 M.D. DeLancey, 2005, p. 8. See also DeLancey, 2014.
  • 18 J.C. Moughtin, 1985, p. 35-36.

6Certainly, under strong Islamic influence urban design in Muslim West Africa became part of the divine reality, and many new cities were in fact “religiously inspired.”15 The historian of Islamic architecture in Africa, Mark Dike DeLancey, came to the same conclusion in his study of the Cameroonian Ngaundéré when it was turned into an Emirate capital of the Sokoto Empire. While the Sokoto Jihadists clearly introduced or fostered Muslim concepts of urbanism in the Central Sahel, they also introduced another understanding “of conceptual space”16 to the region: by their process of sedentarization, pastoral Fulbe imported their ideas about the wuro (“cattle camp”) to Hausa. However, both new perspectives draw the major outline of the ideal city from its location according to the cardinal directions. Among pastoral Fulbe, each direction was linked with a certain color of cattle, with special ecological environments and certain gender. When many Fulbe pastoralists started to live and rule in permanent settlements, wuro became associated with “town” instead of with “camp.”17 Together with the people, the wuro became immobile. Likewise, gendered directions were transferred from camps to towns, so that the west was still considered the origin of power and masculinity. But slight modifications were also made with reference to Islamization: the east, formerly the direction of femininity, had to be sacrificed and was replaced by the direction of Islam (i.e. Mecca) from a Sahelian standpoint. Islamic factors became more relevant than gender spaces in the era of Sokoto Jihadist urbanization. But otherwise, pastoral Sahelian and Islamic concepts of space were quite congruent: north and south were dangerous in two ways: firstly they lacked proper Islamization (or statehood), and secondly they were ecologically dangerous to cattle (Tsetse fly in the forests and scarcity of water in the desert). Long before the Sokoto Jihadist movements, the eastern direction was also associated with the supreme deity and spirits in Hausa towns. Thus, Hausa communities faced the east when praying or sacrificing an animal to a spiritual being. In contrast to Fulbe concepts, the Hausa religious landscape deemed the east the powerful “male” direction, whereas the west was perceived as “female.” The architecture of the Hausa farming compound itself and the farming practices were then organized in accordance with these gendered and religious directions.18

  • 19 M.D. DeLancey, 2005, p. 11.
  • 20 M.D. DeLancey, 2005, p. 13.

7But in the pre-Jihad Hausa cities the spatial order was at first rather mercantile and political than religious or spiritual. Therefore, markets and palaces formed the very centers of cities such as Kano and Zaria. But whenever a Hausa ruler styled himself as a Muslim publicly, new mosques were moved from the outskirts into the palace neighborhood: “The central mosque was a later institution [in Hausa history] which appeared only with the conversion of the ruler, and was subsequently placed in the direct vicinity of the palace, often with an open space between the two.”19 Post-Jihad cities in the Hausa region differed fundamentally from such logics, because they focused on the place of the mosque as the legitimate center of power, and not on the palace that was usually built towards the east: “That is, the centrality of God is stressed under the Sokoto Empire, rather than the centrality of the ruler.”20

  • 21 See the map in M. Last, 1967, p. 67.
  • 22 M. Last, 2013, p. 11.
  • 23 M. Last, 2013, p. 12.
  • 24 M. Last, 2013, p. 13

8The new capital Sokoto itself was enlarged around 1818, so that the new town walls also included the new quarters (Sabon Birni).21 The mosque formed the original center, Bello’s palace was located to its east (with an entrance to the west and private rooms in the east), and the new walls were ordered almost rectangularly. This new order became the Sokoto standard (central mosque and eastern palace opening to the qibla wall) by integrating both the Islamic sacred geography and Fulbe/Hausa traditions to some extent. “In this Sokoto was very different from the situation in Kano, Katsina, or Zaria where the capital city existed with well-built houses and a ‘palace,’ great long walls and political institutions.”22 The city of Sokoto therefore also lacked the typical ethnic names for the quarters like in Timbuktu or Kano, and instead labeled the quarters with regard to honorable officials who resided there. Moreover, Sokoto “lacked monuments or monumental architecture, and it was short of ceremonial space.”23 Therefore, Last concludes, “Sokoto city was not established with grandiose ideas of a metropolis in the founders’ minds.”24 I do, on the other hand, suggest that this idea of the simple and puritan concept of Sokoto urban planning needs some amendment. While bombastic architecture was certainly not applied in the capital city, mathematics and the symbolic notion of cardinal directions were eagerly acknowledged. So when Sultan Muhammad Bello had started his extensive urban planning project in Sokoto right after Uthman dan Fodio’s death in 1817, the new walls and streets were all built in a rectangular arrangement according to the qibla, but often referred to as the four cardinal directions.

  • 25 H.T. Sa’ad, 1985, p. 7.

9From the 1820s up to the 1860s the Sokoto Emirates faced “a period of boom in the building industry since the new emirs that came to power felt obliged to build new mosques and, in some cases new palaces and audience chambers. In addition, there was abundance in the supply of slave labour resulting from the wars.”25 Both a general will to political reformation and the influx of slaves led to architectural activities in the whole region. Thus, the structure of the Jihadist cities more and more reflected the mosque architecture:

  • 26 M.D. DeLancey, 2012, ch. 18.

From the few photographs taken of nineteenth century mosques of the Sokoto Caliphate, we can assume that it originally appeared as a heavy rectilinear earthen structure surrounded by a low earthen wall. From the exterior, the mosque structure would loom over the low earthen walls, themselves broken only by the 3 or 4 entrance gates facing vaguely in the cardinal directions.26

  • 27 S. Zehnle, 2018.
  • 28 This has been demonstrated convincingly by I. Surun, C. Lefebvre, 2008.

10This order is also pictured on maps of West African origin depicting the Sokoto capital. Apart from only rare exceptions, graphic devices were not applied by Sokoto scholars to describe and discuss space. Before the modern age it was more common among Muslim (and other) geographers to narrate and present territory by written and spoken text.27 Instead of a birds-eye view, audiences then experienced these mental maps from a traveler’s perspective moving through the landscape. Those scholars from Sokoto who drew their maps as a response to the repeated requests of European travelers were in fact not familiar with cartographic media, while they were used to written Arabic geographies. The Sokoto maps studied here must thus be grasped as very extraordinary African–European co-products.28

  • 29 M. Last, 2013, p. 14.

11The first map of Sokoto was drawn by a certain Mallam Musa, an unknown Sokoto court scholar, for the British traveler Hugh Clapperton (1788–1827) when the latter was residing in Sokoto in April 1824. Clapperton only briefly described him as a scholar “of the Felatah [Fulbe] Nation.” In 1824, this cartographic sketch was already an act of commemoration of the past settlements of Uthman dan Fodio, the first Sokoto ruler. The map of course shows Emirate capitals such as Zaria (“Zekzek”) and Kano, as well as important enemies such as Gobir as encircled names. But in addition, the map depicted in the same manner Uthman dan Fodio’s rather small pre-Jihad settlement Degel and the new refuge in Gudu after his and his followers’ hijra emigration in 1804. The emigrants called this escape by the Arabic term hijra with reference to the famous emigration of Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina in 622. Both hijras (emigrations) were in fact the starting points of Muhammad’s and Uthman’s jihads. But Degel and Gudu were not cities like Mecca and Medina, but small pastoral settlements. These localities were rather of historical than contemporary relevance at the time of drawing. Moreover, in the very center of the map appears Sokoto with Uthman dan Fodio’s palace compound in an inner circle and his mosque referred to as “the Sheikh’s [Uthman dan Fodio’s] tomb” in a rectangular space to the west. His tomb was indeed close to his mosque, and this marking of his grave as a major site in Sokoto serves as evidence for the tremendous role it had for pilgrims visiting the tomb of this spiritual leader and Sufi “saint.”29 This example pictures the two buildings or yards—Uthman’s main mosque and palace—together as an interlinked twin feature of architecture. However, this example directly draws our attention towards the use of rectangles and circles to describe Sokoto urbanism, since the palace appears round and only the mosque as a rectangular building. Leaving actual construction practices aside and comparing the graphic representations of Sokoto, it becomes obvious that mosques were the ideal rectangular buildings due to their orientation towards the east and their eastern qibla walls.

Figure 1: A map of the Caliphate drawn by Mallam Musa for Hugh Clapperton (Sokoto, April 1824)

Figure 1: A map of the Caliphate drawn by Mallam Musa for Hugh Clapperton (Sokoto, April 1824)

Held at Royal Geographical Society Archives, Mr Nigeria S/S 39, A collection of Route Maps of the Niger River, together with original letters from Clapperton and others. Published in J.B. Lockhart, P. Lovejoy (eds.), 2005, p. 490.

Mallam Musa

Figure 2: Sultan Bello’s Map of Sokoto and Central Africa

Figure 2: Sultan Bello’s Map of Sokoto and Central Africa

In H. Clapperton, D. Denham, W. Oudney, 1826, vol. 2, facing p. 109.

  • 30 I. Surun, C. Lefebvre, 2008, p. 14.

12Another map from the Sokoto court, which Clapperton obtained in 1824, can today only be accessed as an edited version from among the traveler’s papers and reports. This map no longer pictures “historical” settlements, but includes foreign towns of Yoruba, Tuareg and other regions. The Sokoto capital still forms the very center of this map and includes the second Sultan Muhammad Bello’s compound with his mosque and a palace to the east. His father and predecessor Uthman only settled in Sokoto late in his life, when he was sick and hosted by Bello in 1815–1817. For that reason, Bello had enlarged Sokoto in order to offer his father his own appropriate palace (east) and mosque (west). This act of presenting only the—rather new—mosques of Sokoto and ignoring the mosques of Kano, Gwandu and Zaria, has already been interpreted as a method of empowerment and legitimation of Sokoto religious and political overrule: “Sokoto apparaît comme un lieu saint, hégémonique sur l’islam de la région et Mohamed Bello est désigné comme le prince des croyants, c’est-à-dire comme le souverain de tous les musulmans.”30 From the two maps we can conclude that each political leader had his own mosque and palace built as a general feature of representation of power by architecture.

Figure 3: Clapperton’s map of the “Qwarra” (1827)

Figure 3: Clapperton’s map of the “Qwarra” (1827)

H. Clapperton, 1829, p. 60b.

  • 31 For an introduction see D. Robinson, 2000.
  • 32 An up-to-date discussion of this relationship is given by M. Nobili, 2016.
  • 33 H. Clapperton, 1829, p. 329, 331.

13The third example taken from Clapperton’s Sokoto papers is his map based on an Arabic version acquired during his second journey to West Africa in 1827. Clapperton referred to the original and lost map as “Arabic chart.” This “chart” had been translated into English and European cartographic language (e.g. north-bound) before being published in 1829. The Arabic text was written by a certain “Mohammed, son of Ahmad Masané” on 31 January 1827 at the Sokoto Court on request and in return for payment by Hugh Clapperton. Interpreting the name of this scholar, he must have immigrated to the Caliphate of Sokoto from Massina. Inspired by the Sokoto Jihad of 1804, the Fulbe leader Sékou Amadou started his Islamic movement in 1810 in today’s Mali. He founded an Islamic state in Massina, which was ruled by his dynasty until 1864. In 18th- and 19th-century West Africa, the Sokoto Jihad was by no means a singular event. Organized political and military protests as well as state-building activities were widely propagated as Muslim jihadist ventures from Senegal in the west to the Nile River in the east.31 Although Sokoto–Massina relations fluctuated over time,32 both regions remained well-connected throughout the 19th century due to the active pilgrimage route from Senegal and Mali via Sokoto, Bornu and the Red Sea to Mecca. Mohammad’s Massina background, however, explains his knowledge of Massina places and the Niger River. As a result, Sokoto (A on Fig. 3) is not positioned in the geographical center by Mohammed, but highlighted with a rectangular outer and inner wall, and with six (north, west and south) decorated gates out of Sokoto’s original twelve city gates. As on the first map (Fig. 1), the inner space must be read as the palace and mosque in a continuum and thus claims the theocratic role of the city: the capital is where the Muslim ruler has his residence and his main mosque. Only Timbuktu (L on Fig. 3) is portrayed in a similar way as a walled city, but Timbuktu lacks a reference for a palace/mosque, and only Sokoto is called—in Mohammed’s legend added to his map—the “metropolis of the Prince of the Believers (Sultan Bello)” who fights all “infidels.”33

  • 34 For an elaborate discussion see S. Zehnle, 2018.

14The dominant position of Sokoto as an urban religious center is obviously claimed on maps and in texts alike. And yet the maps allow for a more graphical understanding of Sokoto Jihadist urbanism expressed by rectangular walls and a special mosque-palace order. This rectangular order of Sokoto territory has also been displayed in the—up to this date—only Sokoto map produced without European interaction. But we have to admit that this was sent to Sokoto by a rebellious leader who criticized Sokoto for its unfair distribution of Emirate land and hence did not attempt to portray its capital as the dominant city at all.34 But the concrete urban planning in Sokoto was not carried out by map sketches at all—and if so, those were not archived or referred to in the ruling elite’s texts. Discourses of urban architecture were held orally and via texts. In the Sokoto Empire, the cartographic representations of the capital were marked by three main features: they were walled, they contained a palace (which was equally fortified), and they were equipped with at least one mosque. While I will deal with the urban ideal of Islamized fortification in Sokoto texts in Section 3, the next section contributes to the role of the mosque in Sokoto concepts of urbanism.

Figure 4: Reference map of West Africa showing the towns discussed in the article.

Figure 4: Reference map of West Africa showing the towns discussed in the article.

Map produced by Stephanie Zehnle.

Building a mosque in Sokoto

  • 35 U. Rebstock, 1985, p. 99.
  • 36 See the edited text in U. Rebstock, p. ٤.

15The construction of new mosques was ranked amongst the highest duties of a legitimate Muslim ruler by Uthman dan Fodio.35 When construction works for a mosque began, the definition of the qibla direction was celebrated and commemorated as the mystical first step. For the Sokoto Jihadists, the qibla was the direction of identification in both a practical and a theoretical sense. Firstly, their daily prayers were oriented to the east-northeast in the Central Sahel. And secondly, the metaphor of this direction was used as a general term for Muslims, whom Uthman dan Fodio called the “people of the qibla.”36 This ceremonial determination was usually performed by respected members of the state elite. In the Kano Emirate capital, for example, the chronicler Muhammad Zangi Ibn Salih (1806–1869) recounted that Abdullah dan Fodio (ca. 1767–1829) had come to Kano to determine the qibla for the first post-Jihad mosque of the city:

  • 37 See the translation by I. Ado-Kurawa, 1989, p. 46.

Skaykh Abdullah Ibn Fodio visited Kano during the period of Amir Sulaiman in the year of the sun eclipse [1807], he led the eclipse prayer on Friday in the middle of Ramadan [probably 13 November 1807]. Shaykh Abdullahi Ibn Fodio established the position of the qiblah for the Kano Mosque.37

16In this case, Abdullah dan Fodio was invited mainly as a celebrated scholar to Kano so that on the occasion of his trip there from his residence in Gwandu, he also instructed the new Jihadist Ulama of Kano about the general Islamic principles of government, with his political reference book Ḍiyaʿ al-ḥukkām. But the above-quoted Kano historian Muhammad Zangi Ibn Salih honored Abdullah less for his intellectual work and more for his Islamic “foundation stone ceremony,” which he compared to that of the Muslim jurist Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Idris Al-Shafi’i (767–820), who was held in high esteem for having defined the qibla direction for the famous Al-Azhar Mosque of Cairo almost a thousand years before Abdullah dan Fodio’s visit in Kano. However, Al-Azhar was built only around the year 970, long after Al-Shafi’i’s death, so this legend did not provide the historical facts. Rather, the legend’s core narrative refers to the conversion of Al-Azhar from an Isma’ili Shi’a to a Shafi’ite Sunni institution in the 12th century.

17The process of mosque construction was, unfortunately, not documented by the Jihadists themselves. But Hugh Clapperton, the curious British traveler, reported on the construction of a new Sokoto mosque which he witnessed during his first African journey. Moreover, Clapperton spoke to the most influential architect of Sokoto Jihadist mosques, the so-called Mallam Mikhaila. They allegedly met in 1824, when Clapperton visited the construction site of this mosque together with its well-known financier, Sokoto’s first Grand Vizier Gidado Ibn Laima (1776–1851). His mosque was Sokoto’s third main mosque, located to the west of the Uthman dan Fodio mosque and palace—and yet again west of his own residence. Clapperton described the preliminary building works:

  • 38 H. Clapperton, D. Denham, W. Oudney, 1826, vol. 2, p. 322-323.

Like all mosques, it was of a quadrangular form, the sides facing the four cardinal points, and about 800 feet in length. On the eastern side [qibla wall] there were two doors. The western entrance had a small square apartment on the right hand in entering, where the people perform their ablutions before prayers.38

18The yard and building were arranged according to the cardinal directions: the public entrance and lavatory were in the west, and the qibla wall was east-oriented. While the elite’s residences were of the same quadrangular order, the Islamic ornamentation on the clay pillars obviously marked a difference compared with profane architecture which was undecorated:

  • 39 H. Clapperton, D. Denham, W. Oudney, 1826, vol. 2, p. 323.

The roof of the mosque was perfectly flat, and formed of joists laid from wall to wall, the interstices being filled up with slender spars placed obliquely from joist to joist, and the whole covered outside with a thick stratum of indurated clay. The roof rested on arches, which were supported by seven rows of pillars, seven in each row. The pillars were of wood, plastered over with clay, and highly ornamented.39

  • 40 E. Huysecom, 1991, p. 24.
  • 41 L. Prussin, 1986, p. 215.

19The construction was made with wood and clay only. In contrast to these simple materials, the Bornu capital prior to its destruction in 1812 had a palace made from baked brick, while every other building was simple clay. And the Hamdallahi Jihadist capital in Mali used clay bricks generally, but stones only for the palace.40 But despite pious Sokoto Jihadist trends to keep materials and decoration simple and puritanical, Clapperton considered the Vizier Mosque style “highly ornamented.” The British traveler witnessed part of this process of decoration without documenting it graphically. After the Sokoto Jihad, construction sites were Islamized, such that male builders replaced urban Hausa women, who lost their traditional duty to decorate the exterior house walls and public buildings and whose activity was then limited to the interior ornamentation of female private rooms.41 Clapperton did not engage with such debates, but rather with the techniques and style of the ornaments:

  • 42 L. Prussin, 1986, p. 215.

Some workmen were employed in ornamenting the pillars, others in completing the roof; and all appeared particularly busy, from the circumstance of the gadado [the Vizier Gidado Ibn Laima] himself being here to receive me. The gadado was very inquisitive to know my opinion, every two or three minutes asking me what I thought of the building.42

  • 43 J. Picton, 2006, p. 202.
  • 44 J. Picton, 2006, p. 202.
  • 45 See for example J. Picton, 2006, p. 219-220.
  • 46 H. Clapperton, D. Denham, W. Oudney, 1826, vol. 2, p. 294.

20Although there is no detailed picture of this décor, the Friday Mosque of Zaria may have been styled quite similarly because it was built after the Sokoto model: “For the white-painted interior was enhanced by also applying a solution of mica, which occurs naturally in many parts of Nigeria, to give a glittery surface.”43 This silvery glimmer and the fact that a visitor was never able to see the whole interior from one standpoint, Picton argues, “created a work of imagination in which the surface ornament enhanced the structural aesthetic,” while “there was a gradual revelation of space and pattern as one moved from one part to another.”44 Today, Dmochowski’s photographs of the old Zaria mosque from the 1950s can give only a rough idea of this visual and spatial impression.45 The Zaria and the Vizier Mosque of Sokoto may or may not have looked similar, but what was evidently held in common was the plain and simple outward appearance of all Jihadist mosques. Of Bello’s palace décor we are better informed, because Clapperton described the blue and white walls and pillars as “Moorish taste.”46

  • 47 L. Prussin, 1986, p. 215.
  • 48 J.C. Moughtin, 1964, p. 29.
  • 49 J. Picton, 2006, p. 201.

21Although the Vizier was the main donor of this mosque, the building included a special place to welcome his sultan and brother-in-law Muhammad Bello: “On the south side of the body of the building there was a small recess appropriated solely to the sultan’s use.”47 Being Bello’s closest consultant, he abstained from challenging the sultan’s mosque by including his ruler materially in the mosque walls. Nevertheless, adding his own capital mosque to the existing mosques of Muhammad Bello and Uthman dan Fodio must have been an honorable option for a vizier. For this important task the vizier had called the architect Mallam Mikhaila to supervise the construction. Mikhaila later became the celebrated designer of the main Friday Mosque of the Emirate capital Zaria—his home town—during the reign of the Emir Abd Al-Karim Ibn Abbas (1835–1847) and more precisely sometime between 1834 and 1837.48 Sultan Bello is remembered as having supported this mosque in Zaria by deliberately sending his architect Mikhaila and one hundred slaves as his building laborers.49 When back in Zaria, the architect settled next to the mosque and became—together with his family and slaves—the keeper of the building.

  • 50 See for example Z.R. Dmochowski, 1990, p. 216.

22While art historians praise Mikhaila for his ability to mix Fulbe architecture after Sokoto models with traditional Hausa styles from his own cultural background,50 I want to draw attention to another source of architectural knowledge, which Sokoto’s “master builder” revealed to Hugh Clapperton:

  • 51 H. Clapperton, D. Denham, W. Oudney, 1826, vol. 2, p. 324.

The master builder, a shrewd looking little man, continually laughing, was seated in a position from whence he could conveniently overlook all the workmen. He informed me he was a native of Zeg Zeg [Zaria], and that his father having been in Egypt, had there acquired a smattering of Moorish architecture, and had left him after his death all his papers, from which he derived his only architectural knowledge. He was particularly solicitous to possess a Gunter’s scale, which I afterwards sent to the sultan.51

  • 52 H. Clapperton, D. Denham, W. Oudney, 1826, vol. 2, p. 325.

23It is an enlightening anecdote, that an English Gunter was used for the construction of the later Zaria Mosque by Mikhaila. But the actual highlight of this section in Clapperton’s journal is Mallam Mikhaila’s study of Arabian architecture in his father’s book collection. Art historians have not yet discovered similarities between Egyptian and post-Jihad Hausa mosques, and maybe—especially due to the different materials, including clay vs. stone—both styles were totally different. But Mikhaila at least seemed to abstract his professional legitimacy as a Jihadist architect from his father’s experiences (dynasty) and theoretical literature (Islamic science). The construction of the mosque was given top priority by the vizier, as he intended to have its decoration finalized and the building opened before the start of Ramadan—only ca. twenty days ahead. The vizier was worried as “the sultan was going on another expedition, and wished him to join it, but […] he preferred remaining, in order to have the mosque finished before the Ramadan, lest the workmen should idle away their time in his absence.”52 Obviously, the mosque was not Bello’s primary project and he was busy with the annual pre-Ramadan military campaigns in the meantime.

  • 53 F.W. Schwerdtfeger, 2007, p. 111.
  • 54 H. Barth, 1858, vol. 4, p. 179.
  • 55 S.A. Balogun, 1973, p. 26.

24Although Clapperton has been famous for his non-speculative approach to West African informants and usually gave quite literal reports of his meetings, often lacking further reflection, Africanists have recently started to doubt that Mikhaila had actually designed the Gidado mosque or even met Clapperton.53 I would, on the other hand, argue that it is all the more unlikely that the vizier lied to Clapperton when introducing him to his mosque project. And in addition to that, Clapperton himself was simply not informed enough about regional architects to make up such a story on his own. Moreover, critics argue that the father of the architect at the Gidado Mosque construction site may actually not have travelled to Egypt personally. This may be true, but we must still account for the importance of a Sokoto architect to create a connection with Arabic literature on architecture from the Egypt. However, the mosque itself was rather short-lived and another explorer sent by Britain, the German Heinrich Barth (1821–1865), reported about the building in April 1853 that “the fine mosque, built by the (Vizier) Gedádu during Clapperton’s stay here, had fallen entirely to ruins.”54 One reason for this may have been ongoing tensions between the vizier and Bello’s successor Sultan Abu Bakr Atiku (1782–1842) after 1837.55 During Atiku’s short reign, Gidado Ibn Laima gradually retired and his mosque was probably not supported by the new sultan. But yet, it is not that obvious why Gidado Ibn Laima’s son and successor Abd al-Qadir was either not willing or not permitted to take care of his old father’s mosque.

  • 56 M. Last, 2013, p. 9.
  • 57 M. Last, 2013, p. 9.

25The Sokoto Empire did not establish one unique and constant capital mosque. The federalism of the emerging Sokoto Empire can be recorded as one major reason for this lack of a central mosque because the state had long even lacked an “immediate ‘capital’”.56 As the first map depicts (Fig. 1), there were at least three major residences in 1814: Abdullah dan Fodio was installed in the western Gwandu (Bodinga), Uthman dan Fodio resided in Sifawa and at first only Muhammad Bello established and resided in Sokoto: “Indeed, it seems that jihadi leaders actively preferred not to live in a city or a crowded settlement […] Thus a dispersed settlement pattern ruled out a large-scale military machine.”57 Muhammad Bello, however, marked the difference here and established his own modernist idea of urbanity with regard to Sokoto and ribāt warfare. Therefore it does not come as a surprise that is was Muhammad Bello who propagated the foundation of new frontier cities instead of living in established towns, camps and villages.

The arbita as planned cities

  • 58 On the Sokoto concept of wilderness see S. Zehnle, 2016.
  • 59 Muhammad Bello, Risālat ila Muḥammad Al-ǧaylāni, f. 6.
  • 60 A.J. Silverstein, 2012, p. 23.

26The Sokoto Jihadists—and among them first and foremost the second Sokoto ruler Muhammad Bello—called for the urbanization of the so-called wilderness (daji in Hausa and laddi in Fulfulde).58 And in particular, they propagated the setting up of forts in the frontier regions of the Emirates. Bello hence claimed that “in fortification lies the peace of the kingdom.”59 The Sokoto ruler borrowed his concept of the “Islamic frontier town” ribāt from the early Muslim empires and their expansionism in the Middle Ages. Sokoto’s role models had built their garrisons right after the conquest of a new territory.60 The Muslim idea of a state border was consequently that of a line of fortified ribāt towns and not that of a continuous wall. Although the fortification of even very small settlements in defense against raids was a common feature in the pre-colonial Sahel already, the nexus of Islamization, urbanization and militarization was a novelty introduced mainly by Bello and his followers.

  • 61 Nana Asmau, Begore, School for Oriental and African Studies (London), Jean Boyd PP MS 36, A70–A72, (...)
  • 62 E. Tyan, 1965, p. 539.
  • 63 See for example M. Hiskett (ed.), 1960, p. 570.

27As Murray Last has emphasized, the Sokoto Jihad was a movement from the periphery. However, after a certain interim phase in the Gudu encampment, the movement was soon aimed at the conquest and control of pre-existing urban spaces. For this project the second Sokoto generation around Muhammad Bello studied and glorified the fortification policy of Prophet Muhammad. In a Jihadist Fulbe poem from the collection of Muhammad Bello’s sister Nana Asmau, it is stated that the Prophet especially conquered the garrisons successfully: “All [the enemy’s] fortified towns then were the towns of Muhammad.”61 In the Islamic literature the Sokoto Jihadist consulted, the establishment of a ribāt on the frontiers of any Islamic state is portrayed as the most appreciated action of a community in a situation of war and threat.62 While the building of mosques was the most celebrated action in peace time, the building of arbita was of importance during wars. This duty of every Muslim ruler was repeated in numerous texts by the Sokoto Jihadists. And since it was impossible to control the establishment of frontier towns in all the vast Emirates from the Sokoto residence in the north, many calls for fortification and urbanization were directed to the emirs in their various provinces.63

  • 64 Jean Boyd, “Mission Tilho”, SOAS, Jean Boyd PP MS 36, G25, p. 13–17. Boyd refers to extracts from t (...)
  • 65 J.E. Philips, 2017, p. 49.
  • 66 J.E. Philips, 2004, p. 111.

28However, the call for fortification was also applied for the urbanization, enlargement and militarization of pre-existing settlements. In the early phase of the Jihad, both the Gobir enemies and the Jihadists fortified the villages and war camps at once, which then quite often turned into proper towns. On the other hand, the military were forced to build up new fortified settlements along their routes at frequent intervals due to the mobility of their armies. And thirdly, new towns emerged when the Jihad wars (or raids by marauders often following wars) forced inhabitants of former settlements to escape attacks and found new residences themselves. The Gobir rulers were, for example, driven out of their residences by Bello three times.64 At the time Sokoto was founded, Fulbe residential towns were extremely mobile and influenced by pastoral lifestyles, whereas the pre-colonial Hausa city states were of an extraordinarily permanent nature. This has led Philips to claim that the erection of arbita ultimately aimed to “settle and Hausacize the Fulani nomads”65 and to eventually create a “hybrid Hausa–Fulani Islamic culture.”66

  • 67 A.B. Yusuf, 1974, p. 210, 206.
  • 68 M. Last, 2013, p. 10.
  • 69 D. Dalby, 1964, p. 280, 295.
  • 70 D. Dalby, 1964, p. 298.

29For most Hausa rulers, urbanism was already linked with power over a territory and with Muslim learning, such that Hausa societies had distinguished urban dwellers [yan/dan birni] from villagers [yan/dan kauye] for centuries. Even in pre-Jihad times, most Hausa capitals counted more than 20,000 inhabitants.67 And with this number in mind it is all the more astonishing that Sokoto reached 100,000 residents within only ten years.68 Hausa town authorities had basically organized trade, taxation and warfare. But the towns also preserved a very rural character since farms for domestic animals, such as chickens and goats, were often located inside the walls. Nevertheless, towns were dependent from the import of food. Even small towns had cyclical markets, usually on a weekly basis, so that each place had a fixed market day, while only capital towns maintained daily markets. The Sokoto Jihad led to the fortification of even smaller Hausa towns and war camps, such that the number of these birane increased. The term gari town, on the other hand, came to be used in Hausa language to describe non-fortified or less barricaded settlements. In its broader meaning, gari even stands for “country,” “a people” or any “inhabited place.”69 While statements speaking of “inside the gari” (cikin gari) denote the houses themselves, and “outside the gari” (wajen gari) denotes farmland, “beyond the gari” (bayan gari) refers to unsettled land or bush, including the locations of latrines and dumps.70

  • 71 S.J. Hogben, A.H.M. Kirk-Greene,1966, p. 197.
  • 72 Translated and published in I. Ado-Kurawa, 1989, p. 51.
  • 73 See for example in I. Ado-Kurawa, 1989, p. 62, 64.
  • 74 J. Boyd, B.B. Mack (eds.), 1997, p. 32. See also the 19th-century dictionary of C.H. Robinson, 1899 (...)

30Most arbita were developed from already established temporary war camps and other settlements. In Kano, the fortification of frontier towns had already begun in Uthman dan Fodio’s lifetime, while his successor Muhammad Bello clearly intensified this effort and became a role model for other rulers. Uthman dan Fodio has legitimated the Fulbe scholar Mallam Danzabuwa to lead the Kano Jihad. This scholar started the Jihad by a conquest of the town Karaye, which was in turn was fortified to serve the needs of a community at war.71 Under the aegis of Muhammad Bello, the Kano Emir Ibrahim Dabo (reigned 1819–1846) then accelerated ribāt-founding. Kano’s annalist Muhammad Zangi Ibn Salih also provides evidence for the role of the neighboring villages during this fundamental process of urbanization, because they were expected to supply the ribāt dwellers with firewood and agricultural products. They were obliged to use the outskirts of the towns as farmland and work in a rather dangerous buffer zone.72 From the Kano region the Jihad then moved into the southeastern Bauchi region, where numerous frontier towns were erected. Rebellious groups withdrew into the hills and were uniformly perceived as “unbelievers of the mountains,” which became a common stereotype in war prose texts during the process of fortification.73 For example, the Hausa term bauchi—which today still is the name of the Nigerian Bauchi State—meant “wilderness beyond Hausa borders.”74 Instead of naming the Bauchi Emirate “Yacoba” after its first capital ribāt, the name Bauchi was preserved and expressed the frontier position of Bauchi next to the wilderness.

  • 75 N.I. Dantiye, 1985, p. 31.
  • 76 J. Boyd, B.B. Mack (eds.), 1997, p. 452.
  • 77 Nana Asmau, Tabshir al-ikhwan, in I.A. Ogunbiyi (ed.), 1993, p. 91.
  • 78 J. Boyd, B.B. Mack (eds.), 1997, p. 453.

31Further north, Sultan Bello himself was more directly threatened by states like the Ningi, Maradi and Damagaram, and it was he who fortified the frontier towns in these areas. According to local tradition, his father Uthman built only the two arbita Yamulu and Salah during his lifetime. However, even those two were in fact guarded and run by Muhammad Bello.75 Sokoto (and later the ribāt in Wurno) became Bello’s residence but had already been enlarged in 1815 in order to host Uthman dan Fodio and his followers. He had spent some years in Gwandu after his active Jihad; in 1810 he retreated to Sifawa, and then he finally spent his last two years of life in Sokoto. Nana Asmau emphasized in a Hausa poem that this final migration was prepared properly, since her father was more than 60 years old by that time: “He made preparation for his arrival in the town Sokoto. He set out, came, and his house was repaired.”76 In another poem, written two years after Bello’s death, Nana Asmau called her Sokoto home the “fortress of my Sheikh called Bello.”77 All over the Sokoto Emirates the Sokoto fortress was remembered and praised as Bello’s work. Nana Asmau, who was an expert in Sokoto praise poetry, celebrated her brother Bello for waging wars and erecting walled towns. In one and the same poem, he was honored for the construction of mosques in Sokoto and as the founder of the arbita in the “bush” (janibai, an Arabic loanword in Hausa) of the Sokoto periphery: “Some were stationed at Gandi and some were sent to Burmi. Fodiyo [Hoduwe], his son, went to Gobir.”78 With Muhammad Bello, urbanization and military politics in the State turned to the peripheries. And from a Sokoto perspective, this wilderness was located on the Sokoto–Zamfara border including Gandi and Burmi. Nana Asmau also expressed appreciation for her brother for offering his son to be sent to the dangerous military frontier.

  • 79 N.I. Dantiye, 1985, p. 95-96.
  • 80 J.E. Philips, 2000, p. 226.
  • 81 J.E. Philips, 2004, p. 113.
  • 82 J.E. Philips, 2004, p. 119.

32During Ahmad Atiku’s sultanate in Sokoto (1859–1866) the ribāt policy lost its prestige in the eyes of the Sokoto rulers and emirs. Their appearance and relevance were therefore phenomena of the first Jihad decades and its expansionist wars. This phase of intense foundation of fortified settlements must also be understood as a process of sedentarization and aging of the first Jihad soldiers. Equipped with land, a house and slaves from the booty, many soldiers and commanders settled in new towns and established a living there with their families. In Kano, the former Jihad leader Babi, for example, is deemed the founder of the Gwarzo ribāt west of Kano during the 1820s. Babi came from a pastoral Fulbe clan in Yola, fought as a commander in the Sokoto and Kano Jihads, and then fortified an area in which three separate villages had formerly been located. This way, he enabled his (veteran) soldiers to switch from a mobile military life to a settled family life—though still working as stationed soldiers permanently.79 The emirs and sultans further populated their frontier settlements by implementing the enslaved there, who would work as farmers in the rainy season, and as part-time soldiers in the dry season so as to enslave even more people for the towns: “Ribats gradually became more and more the abode of slaves, and thus the military based in them also came to be dominated by slaves,”80 as Philips explained the origin of slave elites there. Foreign elite slaves (called wambai) in these towns were often ordered to collect more slaves from their home regions, such as from Adamawa or Ningi.81 From the arbita, they were then divided and groups sent to the emirs or sultans, or resettled at the frontier.82

Promoting a life as murābiṭūn

  • 83 From this Arabic word the West African term “marabout” (scholar) is derived. In the Quran, the verb (...)
  • 84 J.E. Philips, 2000, p. 225-226.
  • 85 See Uthman dan Fodio’s text Masa’il muhimma translated by A. Abdarrahman Bewley (ed.), 2004, p. 88- (...)
  • 86 N.I. Dantiye, 1985, p. 100-101.
  • 87 A Kano trader remembered that Sokoto regularly undertook such expeditions against Kebbi. After defe (...)
  • 88 A. Abdarrahman Bewley (ed.), 2004, p. 103-106.
  • 89 A. Abdarrahman Bewley (ed.), 2004, p. 106-107.

33In accordance with the interpretations of traditional Quran and hadith exegesis, the murābiṭūn, the settlers in the arbita, had a privileged religious status.83 For example, every murābiṭ died as a Muslim martyr because of his will to defend the frontier of Islam and risk his life for that aim. While it was relatively easy to motivate former Jihadist soldiers and slaves to become murābiṭūn, it must have been a particularly complicated task to motivate free civilians or political leaders to move into the new towns. Concerning members of the Jihadist elite, the Sokoto sultans had to force them to resettle at the frontier, because being stationed in a ribāt was considered almost a punishment.84 The repeated mention in Jihadist literature of heavenly reward for such a step provides some more evidence for this. The Jihadists recognized Jihad warfare at the frontier as a major Islamic duty. Even before initiating the Jihad in 1804, Uthman dan Fodio had promoted these Jihad obligations in a short guideline.85 His very first argument stressed the distinctive role of the Jihad at the frontier: War expeditions into the frontier peripheries should at least take place annually and at the most insecure border section, Uthman dan Fodio explained, so that rebels were stopped effectively. Every Muslim was obliged to take part in those wars and dan Fodio even compared its importance to that of the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.86 This habitual undertaking of war every year was practiced strictly by his son Muhammad Bello—very regularly in the weeks before the start of the Ramadan month.87 Every place inhabited by people considered “rebels”—a term which in fact included all enemies of Sokoto organized on a local level—was called an Islamic frontier in Sokoto, and anyone being killed in such an area by an aggressor to the Caliphate was declared a martyr immediately. In such cases, dan Fodio even permitted the killing of Muslims and the enslaving of their families if they stayed voluntarily with the alleged criminals. But while actual rebels were also to be pursued if they retreated, less dangerous frontier brigands should only be driven beyond the borders.88 Whenever a fortified Muslim city was attacked, everyone was obliged to defend it. Even women, children and slaves were allowed to fight in this situation without any official legitimation by their male legal guardians or owners. Moreover, even neighbors of an attacked city were expected to assist against and fight the aggressor. Fleeing from an attacked town was permitted only if the number of murābiṭūn was only half the number of aggressors or less.89

  • 90 Dantiye had intended to base his study mainly upon this manuscript text by researching on a copy lo (...)
  • 91 Hakim and Zubair follow Hunwick in this argumentation. See B.S. Hakim, Z. Ahmed, 2006. The two arch (...)
  • 92 In the end, Dantiye relied on sources besides Arabic manuscripts for his four case studies on Sokot (...)
  • 93 See also on these intertextual references J.E. Philips’ Hausa online essay of 1994: “Muhammad Bello (...)
  • 94 See J.O. Hunwick (ed.), 1995, p. 123. For Ibn Nuḥās’ biography and general influence on jihad disco (...)

34Although we must be aware of the growing status of ribāt policies and practices before Muhamad Bello’s twenty-year rule in Sokoto (1817–1837)—including Uthman dan Fodio’s comments on that aspect of urbanization—it was Bello who enforced a strict urbanization process in these border regions. From this starting point the second-generation Jihadists intensified urbanization of the frontier more systematically and more religiously than their predecessors. Muhammad Bello formulated his main ideas on the building of fortified towns in his text Kitāb al-ribāt wa al-hirāsa. Although Dantiye argued strongly that this text is a fake because the literary style did not resemble any of Muhammad Bello’s authentic books,90 current historians seem to suggest Bello’s authorship and I will follow their opinion for a simple reason:91 even if Muhammad Bello has not authored the Kitāb al-ribāt wa al-hirāsa, it was probably written by someone from the scholarly circle of his court and therefore still an authentic piece by a Jihadist thinker from the Bello era of Sokoto.92 However, the text does at least reveal some of the literary sources used by Sokoto scholars when interpreting Jihad practices, because Bello’s alleged comment on fortification of frontier towns is in large parts a summary of the so-called Book of Jihad by Ibn Nuḥās.93 The correct title of this model text is Mašāriʿ al-ašwāq ilā maṣāriʾ al-ʿušāq, and it was composed by the Egyptian jihadist and scholar Ahmad Ibrahim Muhammad Al-Dimashqi Al-Dumyati—who was nicknamed Ibn Nuḥās.94 Born in Damascus in the 14th century, Ibn Nuḥās moved to Egypt and settled in the ribāt of Dimyat where he served as a volunteer soldier and where he was finally martyred when killed in a frontier zone by Genoese military in 1411. Although the reported author Muhammad Bello reveals to the readership that he used Ibn Nuḥās’ text and even mentions the title of it, we still do not learn whether or not Bello was aware of this personal martyrdom story of its famous author at the medieval Islamic–Byzantine frontier.

  • 95 From Quran 3:200. Quotation from S.A. Al-Fatah Al-Khalidi, n.d., p. 118.
  • 96 S.A. Al-Fatah Al-Khalidi, n.d., p. 119.

35In the original text by Ibn Nuḥās, the main chapter about the ribāt (no. 4) forms only one part among several sections dealing with the duty and legitimacy of jihad more broadly. It is therefore significant to realize that Bello either deliberately chose to summarize this topic, or that this section was the only extract he could access, since books were often only transported from North Africa to the Sahel as excerpts and summaries. Ibn Nuḥās’ treatise begins with a Quran surah using the term ribāt as a verb: “You who have believed, persevere and endure and remain stationed [Arab. rabitu] and fear Allah that you may be successful.”95 Following this surah, Ibn Nuḥās applied hadith traditions to persuade the audience that living in a ribāt was even better than fasting for a whole month and praying through all its nights. All murābiṭūn would enter into Heaven automatically without passing the Judgment Trial, when they died a natural or military death. Each and every inhabitant of a frontier town counted as a Jihad fighter and, even better, maybe without ever having been a soldier. One hadith claims that “being an inhabitant of the ribāt for a day is better than 1,000 days anywhere else.”96 Every Islamic territory had to be protected by Jihadist soldiers stationed at the frontier forts, a role which made such persons superior Muslims. Ibn Nuḥās stressed that staying as a frontier soldier in the “Land of War” (dār al-ḥarb) for one day was better than staying in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, but he also mentioned the political dangers of this ribāt propaganda: young men would often leave their families behind for the frontier glory and could not be replaced at home.

  • 97 Muhammad Bello, Kitāb al-ribāt wa al-hirāsa, Zaria 12/2–3–4, p. 30, 45-46.
  • 98 S.A. Al-Fatah Al-Khalidi, n.d., p. 124.
  • 99 S.A. Al-Fatah Al-Khalidi, n.d., p. 125.

36When engaging with this text section, Muhammad Bello quoted only the lines about the positive effects for the ribāt settlers: living in a ribāt was even better than fighting in a jihad, and whoever died in a fortress would never burn in Hell.97 Ibn Nuḥās mentioned the cases of several pious fighters that left Mecca or Medina for the Mediterranean coast, where they died as Muslim martyrs in wars or a natural death. Some of them were accompanied by large groups of followers, although their families begged them to stay.98 Others were praised for deliberately choosing a warrior’s life in Alexandria when it was located at the Islamic frontier and close to a dangerous battlefield with the Byzantines.99 So in Ibn Nuḥās’ book, it is clearly not the architecture or style of a town which turned it into the almost sacred ribāt, but the location of enemies, battlefields and frontier lines. The ribāt was by definition a dangerous town where the enemies could attack at any time. Islamic principles actively induced young Muslim men to settle at the frontier and foster Islamic expansion. But the ribāt towns were also described in terms of topography in the quotations of hadith sources: they were located either at the coast with reference to the Byzantine borders or in the mountains and valleys, where anti-Muslim rebels were always expected to hide.

  • 100 S.A. Al-Fatah Al-Khalidi, n.d., p. 124.
  • 101 S.A. Al-Fatah Al-Khalidi, n.d., p. 127-128.

37Ibn Nuḥās recommended staying in a ribāt for at least forty days so that all the reward of Heaven would be guaranteed to the migrant.100 But while the status of the ribāt warriors was undeniable, the status of the families living there was a controversial issue among Islamic scholars. Some of them did not consider them martyrs in the same manner as their male family guardians, because becoming a ribāt inhabitant required the voluntary decision to leave home—and this decision was not considered possible for ‘minor’ subjects. Likewise, Ibn Nuḥās also drew a distinction between Muslims born in a frontier town and Muslims who moved there voluntarily to become murābiṭūn. Only the latter could expect an extraordinary reward in accordance with their individual decision and free will. The murābiṭūn had to seek danger and threat deliberately, and if either the murābiṭ or the enemy left the frontier, a ribāt became a normal town again and its Muslim inhabitants were turned into average civilians again. In the same manner, it was considered the most severe sin for a murābiṭ if he left the town when it was being attacked by the enemy. Deserters would not enter Heaven, Ibn Nuḥās argued.101

  • 102 The first pages of the Zaria manuscript could not be located by the librarian and I must therefore (...)
  • 103 Muhammad Bello, Kitāb al-ribāt wa al-hirāsa, p. 18, 31.
  • 104 Muhammad Bello, Kitāb al-ribāt wa al-hirāsa, p. 41.
  • 105 N.I. Dantiye, 1985, p. 254.

38Yet again, Bello quoted only Ibn Nuḥās’ positive promises to a murābiṭ. The Sokoto ruler explained that living in a frontier town for only one day was more rewarding and beneficial than fasting for a month or even a decade.102 Only one person’s protection of a ribāt was equivalent to the religious worship of 1,000 normal Muslims over 1,000 years. And a person that was killed while living in a ribāt could save the lives of 70 people on Judgment Day.103 Unlike the martyr Ibn Nuḥās, Muhammad Bello also spoke as a statesman and entangled his concepts of urban planning with ribāt propaganda: Bello asked the emirs to build frontier towns wherever Muslims lived in fear.104 He applied this pressure to build up fortresses very successfully on his emirs. When the Kano ruler Ibrahim Dabo and other emirs visited Sokoto and other fortified towns under Bello’s rule, they took them as role models to build their own forts.105

39Muhammad Bello ordered every ruler or emir to build arbita within their domains and guarantee the supply and storage of enough water and food at the markets. These fortifications were in turn supposed to be the ruler’s residence as well as a secure place of retreat for inhabitants of the town itself and the surrounding settlements. Bello’s Kitāb al-ribāt wa al-hirāsa is unfortunately undated, but at the time when the Sokoto Jihadists formulated the calls for ribāt building and immigration with most effort, the era of hijra emigrations and Jihad mobilization slowly came to an end. Muhammad Bello wanted to have permanent towns established at the frontiers instead of the formerly provisional war camps. From the 1820s onwards, this urbanization of the frontiers led to a more stable concept of border lines. Territories had already been conquered successfully, but if no Jihadist settlements were built to attract civilians to settle, the new territory would be deserted, and reconquered by enemies very soon. Formerly mobile soldiers and troops were stationed permanently in the arbita in order to protect the Emirate capitals and cohabitants.

Living with wars and walls

  • 106 See the Latin transcription by S. Piłaszewicz, 1981, p. 55, 65.

40By the mid-19th century many towns were established or walled, and around the walls shrubs served as an additional barrier against attackers. The trader and imam Alhaji Umaru described the Kano city wall and its surroundings when remembering his Kano childhood in his Hausa Ajami autobiography: “There was a thickly wooded area which surrounded the walled town of Kano with shrubs and dense thicket. We used to play in it and we were not afraid.”106 From various directions the roads led through one or several gates to enter a fortified town. As from the direction of Sokoto troops were sent to the Emirate capitals and arbita, the city wall gate leading to Sokoto was consequently called ƙofar kansakali (“Gate of Sword” in Hausa).

  • 107 S.W. Koelle, 1854, p. 213.
  • 108 See also M. Last, 2013, p. 4.
  • 109 S.W. Koelle, 1854, p. 238.
  • 110 H. Clapperton, D. Denham, W. Oudney, vol. 1, 1826, p. 272-273.

41The massive walls themselves discouraged attackers as material obstacles, but the walls were often used to further frighten enemies by nailing dead enemies of high military rank to the wall and thereby communicating to invaders not to enter this ribāt.107 Excesses of violence are reported especially at the town walls: “Similarly, people might be walled up alive by a city gate or in a stretch of town wall, initially exposed to public sight for a few days before being suffocated by more mud.”108 For war expeditions, the military usually gathered on a battlefield outside of the gates, and only if the urban warring party was close to losing the battle did they withdraw into the town and close the gates behind them.109 When there was no attack, the ribāt settlements became important markets for war equipment such as horses and weapons, because soldiers and military officials were regularly stationed there.110

42The town walls of the Hausa city states predate the Jihad by far, but with Muhammad Bello’s rule new ribāt towns emerged. Their status as arbita was often valid only for a short period, such that when a town was considered safe again and the frontier shifted away, it became a civil town again. This was also true for Sokoto, which was less often attacked in the 1820s, such that Bello looked for new arbita to be built. In 1827, just after Clapperton’s second stay in Sokoto, Muhammad Bello built and fortified Wurno, some forty miles northeast of Sokoto. In a Fulfulde poem, Bello’s sister Nana Asmau traced back the decision to build this ribāt to a vision of Uthman dan Fodio. According to a conversation between Uthman and Bello in ca. 1803, the father had instructed his son that a new and huge fortified town would be built east of Sokoto:

  • 111 Asmau, Yonde Wurno. For an English translation see J. Boyd, B.B. Mack (eds.), 1997, p. 205. The Ful (...)

At Degel the Shehu said that Wurno would be inhabited. It was a mystery he revealed to Bello. […] Then the Shehu pointed eastwards from where they were and said, ‘There is your town. Everything about it has been revealed’. […] In due course we realized it was Wurno that he had meant.111

  • 112 Ibid.
  • 113 Ibid., p. 69.
  • 114 Nana Asmau, Gawakuke maunde, SOAS, Jean Boyd PP MS 36, A70–A72, vol. 2, p. 132-133.

43This gesture of pointing to the east from Degel, the direction of Mecca and prayer, is of course a symbolic act. Nana Asmau quoted her father Uthman dan Fodio as the original authority in support of Wurno’s role on the predicted road to salvation, at a time when her father had long been dead. She described Wurno as the ultimate religious center and a “lamp giving out light to Sokoto and the cities of the Sudan.”112 Nana Asmau may have chosen to promote the divine status of the ribāt Wurno in the mid-19th century, because it may have faced dramatic depopulation. As a result, Nana Asmau mentioned the benefits for all Muslims emigrating to a “ribat.”113 In her poetry, she used the Arabic term ribāt in both Hausa and Fulfulde language to highlight the status of these towns as opposed to various regional terms for a city. She asserted that her brother Bello himself gave proof of Wurno’s status as a frontier fortress. Muhammad Bello had spent most of his time in Wurno, and whenever the army was gathered for any expedition northwards, “the army of the Caliph assembled at Wurno.”114

  • 115 H. Clapperton, 1829, p. 225
  • 116 M.B. Salau, 2011.
  • 117 P.E. Lovejoy, 1979, p. 1285.
  • 118 H. Clapperton, 1829, p. 192.

44In December 1826, when Hugh Clapperton was still in Sokoto, Muhammad Bello made plans for the construction of Wurno. He announced an expedition to the building ground two days ahead. On that trip Muhammad Bello was accompanied by only a few servants, Vizier Gidado, and Clapperton. The small group assembled south of the Sokoto city wall and held a feast together, and the next morning Clapperton “rode out with the sultan and Gadado to mark out the site of the new town.”115 Clapperton was told by the rulers that the small Gagere River and the bushes of that area were spaces of withdrawal for plundering rebel groups, who reportedly stole cattle and set settlements on fire at night. Urbanization and installation of arbita were therefore presented as the key method to fight cattle raids. The systematic location of loyal Sokoto families in fortified frontier towns was an important element of Bello’s policy. The Jihadist ideology aimed at abolishing these “neutral” buffer zones between Emirate capitals by turning them into tributary fortifications or assemblages of dependent slave farms.116 Most of the slaves who ended up on these plantations had been trafficked there from other frontier regions, such that escaping home was very unlikely. Slave villages became the new buffer zones, since they were unlikely to rebel and supplied both themselves and the new ribāt towns with grain, vegetables and other food. The ribāt elite often ran its own farms outside the walls using their enslaved peasants. When there was enough food and peace, many farms started to grow indigo and cotton for export trade as well. At times, the two forms of settlement ribāt and rinji (slave plantation village) were not only linked, but coincided. Yet, at other times, the rinji became a proper town over the 19th century.117 North of Sokoto, Muhammad Bello established Magaria as both a frontier fortress and a town of enslaved peasants. It served as a sansani (permanent war camp) and as a “gathering place for their armies, and is mostly inhabited by the slaves of the great in Soccatoo, who have all houses here, and their slaves, who are employed in raising grain, and tending the cattle, mostly reside here, and in the villages around.”118 Over time, towns such as Sokoto had to enlarge their radius and construct new town walls to integrate emerging suburban neighborhoods into the city. Increasing urban populations led to large-scale bush clearance (saran daji) by slaves to build a new quarter. Once the slave families grew, new farmland had to be claimed for them to support them. The Sokoto Jihad initiated land clearance for cultivation, urbanization and fortification over several decades.

  • 119 J.A.M. Tilho (ed.), 1926 [1910], p. 527.
  • 120 H. Clapperton, 1829, p. 181.

45Provisional military camps had formerly been set up outside of the city walls, since no ruler and no dwellers would let reside masses of soldiers inside the wall and as a result their camps were located in the environs. The military camps were organized with regard to the four directions. The military leader camped towards the west, while his mounted soldiers had their tents eastward behind him. And the closer the relationship between soldiers and the military leader was, the closer their tents were located to his.119 Clapperton witnessed this camp organization of Sultan Muhammad Bello’s armies: “The man next in rank to the governor of each province has his tent placed nearest to him, and so on.”120 These camps were also set up towards the direction of the enemy. To some extent, the ribāt towns replaced these temporary war camps. When Hugh Clapperton visited Magaria, a new fencing technique was applied for the wall,

  • 121 H. Clapperton, 1829, p. 200.

which is, to build a low wall, with a deep ditch outside, and to erect on the wall a stockade of rough stakes, firmly fixed in an upright posture, through the openings of which the people inside are enabled to shoot their arrows and fire muskets, when they have any.121

  • 122 H. Clapperton, 1829, p. 203.

46New military techniques initiated new building techniques of ribāt walls. Clapperton was instructed that all house owners of the ribāt had to send some slaves to perform construction work at the walls. Corresponding with the effort to promote urbanization in the 1820s, the British traveler was given an interpretation of the Jihad of Uthman dan Fodio with emphasis on his role as a founder of towns. Uthman dan Fodio allegedly “came out of the woods of Ader” and settled in Gobir. War then expelled him and his followers, and together they settled in Ader again, though “not in the woods, as formerly, but [they] built a town.”122

  • 123 See for example the case of the Kano frontier town Fanisau, some ten miles northeast of Kano, expla (...)
  • 124 M. Last, 2013, p. 2.
  • 125 G.A. Krause (ed.), 1895, p. 2.
  • 126 H. Clapperton, D. Denham, W. Oudney, vol. 2, 1826, p. 335.
  • 127 The founder of that town also renamed himself from Mikhail to Abdassalaam. See for example M. Last, (...)
  • 128 E.g. “Hamdallahi.”

47In fact, the ribāt towns were often built in places already inhabited, but the Sokoto Jihadists promoted their process of fortification as a new beginning and a clear caesura. As a result, the war camps (sansanis) often received new names.123 Even the Sokoto capital may not have been founded on a “green-field” and “open-bush site.”124 At least in the 19th century, Hausa oral history had it that the very name Sokoto was derived from a famous pre-Jihad hunter who had once founded a village at this place.125 Hugh Clapperton, on the other hand, was told that Sokoto “in their language signifies ‘a halting place,’”126 so that it may have been a lodge for traders at the river before becoming a capital. The Sokoto Jihadists were more than willing to erase the indigenous pre-history of their ribāt, although Islamic names for “new” towns like “Daressalaam”127 were applied rarely compared with Senegambian Islamic cities or Massina.128

  • 129 The German linguist Prietze collected this Hausa poem in Tunis. See R. Prietze, 1916, p. 592.
  • 130 M. Last, 2013, p. 4.

48When the Sokoto Emirate ribāt capitals reached some stability in the second half of the 19th century, rulers were often ridiculed for spending their time in their “holiday residences” of former frontier towns. People laughed at the Kano Emir Bello (reigned 1882–1893) because he would hide in his frontier town Fanisau instead of waging jihad: “The children sing songs about him: Rumor says he is a lazy person, he is the ruler of Fanisau. He can’t engage in warfare, but goes to Fanisau.”129 While the northern Sokoto arbita were considered relatively safe by 1850, the southern frontier towns were deemed the most dangerous ones across the Emirates. The southeast was believed to be an area of danger and luxury, such that many Fulfulde and Hausa traders migrated to the recent arbita in the south. Last explained that “there was a military subculture in these emirates, with young men who were too ‘rough’ for a scholarly life at the caliphate’s center being sent off to a border ribat, or stronghold.”130 New arbita always promised a fast economic boom for traders. But the southeastern Emirates were not a no-man’s-land, and the establishment of walled frontier towns there meant the expulsion of indigenous populations further south and east.

Propagating sedentarization as Islamization

  • 131 B.S. Hakim, Z. Ahmed, 2008, p. 669.
  • 132 See the Arabic edited text in M.S. Zahradeen, 1976, p. 319.
  • 133 Hakim and Ahmed have recently studied this notion of harīm and explain it as follows: “The third me (...)
  • 134 B.S. Hakim, Z. Ahmed, 2008, p. 665.

49Abdallah dan Fodio was less active in building fortifications and more engaged with the practical norms of Muslim urbanism. He did not dedicate his books to the military role of towns, but to Muslim concepts of peaceful neighborship. He defined and punished annoyances among urban neighbors, such as stinking wastewater or smoke from bakeries. And moreover, he asked for the strict architectural separation of women and men in towns; therefore, windows were not permitted if they offered a view into a neighbor’s compound, and doors to access public streets were never permitted directly opposite one another, so that strange men and women would not see each other’s private rooms.131 Abdallah emphasized that non-Muslims were not permitted to own land in towns and urban hinterlands. This “forbidden” (Arab. harīm) hinterland received a special status in this territorial concept, defined as “the space from which wood is taken for the benefit of the inhabitants and where they graze their cattle and which could be reached back and forth [within one day].”132 Abdallah legally defined the urban space as the radius from which walking back and forth was possible in a daily manner.133 The Jihadists had in mind an Islamic state with clustered towns and harīm environs with a 10 km-radius for fetching firewood, for cultivation and for grazing pasture.134 And Abdullah dan Fodio declared this space a Muslim territory.

  • 135 Uthman dan Fodio, Sirāj al-ikhwān, at Bibliothèque nationale de France, Manuscrits arabes 5528, f.  (...)
  • 136 M. Last, 1967, p. 231. Today we can access only Al-Jaylani’s answers from Bellos quotations.
  • 137 Muhammad Bello, Risālat ila Muḥammad Al-ǧaylāni, f. 1.
  • 138 Muhammad Bello, Risālat ila Muḥammad Al-ǧaylāni, p. 2.
  • 139 Muhammad Bello, Risālat ila Muḥammad Al-ǧaylāni, p. 5.

50For his nephew Muhammad Bello this was not enough effort: he intended to even Islamize spaces beyond the harīm. Acknowledging the persistent pastoral nomadism of some Fulbe groups and the mobile lifestyle of many Tuareg clans, the Sokoto Jihadists strictly interpreted Islamic progress as a path to urbanization. Along with medieval North African perspectives on Tuaregs, which the Jihadist scholar found in their libraries, Tuaregs were declared warlike and stateless brigands.135 Muslim Tuareg leaders themselves brought up this topic reflecting on Tuareg Islamization. The reformist Muslim leader Muhammad Al-Jaylani (ca. 1777–ca. 1840), himself a Tuareg scholar, contacted Muhammad Bello in ca. 1815 about this issue and asked for Muslim advice and clarification: Do true Muslims have to live a sedentary and urban life?136 Is the Bedouin lifestyle “the ruin of religion, the weakness of Islam and its negation?”,137 Al-Jaylani asked Bello. Before writing his letter, the Tuareg leader had tried to make his followers sedentary by building a wooden ribāt, but the constant traveling activities of the inhabitants departed the Muslim group all the time, he complained. Answering Al-Jaylani’s question, the Sokoto Sultan denied any forced sedentarization for Muslim groups but admitted that “settling in villages and towns is preferable to residing in the desert except during wartime.”138 Only military mobility made temporary settlements legitimate, Bello claimed. And besides, the Prophet and his closest followers were all townsmen. And the Prophet himself, Bello continued, had predicted the process of urbanization for all Muslims, which was realized in early Islamic statehood with the towns Basra, Kufa, Fustat and Damascus in the Middle East. Most of these towns were founded as a ribāt on the Islamic frontiers: Basra was located on the frontier to India, Pakistan and China; Al-Kufa blocked the Persian, Kurdish, Daylamite and Turkish borders; Al-Fustat (ancient Cairo) was built against the Byzantine Empire, the Copts and Nubia; Damascus protected the Muslims against Byzantine Syria. God had revealed to the Prophet to build town walls, so claimed Bello, so that the fortified Medina would never be conquered by the enemies of Islam.139

  • 140 Muhammad Bello, Risālat ila Muḥammad Al-ǧaylāni, p. 4.
  • 141 Muhammad Bello, Risālat ila Muḥammad Al-ǧaylāni, p. 4.

51As a consequence of these religious arguments, Bello requested all rural people to leave the desert or village and settle in a town if they had this option. Bello considered non-urban places a danger to Muslim communities mainly because of the lack of social and religious control over people in a deserted landscape. Therefore, Islam demanded that Muslims in villages unite every day for their prayers, while for townspeople the Friday prayer once every week was sufficient. However, the “secluded people”140 in the deserts would meet other Muslims only at the Feast of Breaking the Fast at the end of the month of Ramadan once in a year, or when undertaking the pilgrimage once in a lifetime. And for this reason, Bello explained to Al-Jaylani, people must be motivated to move from the desert to the village or from the village to a town, whereas the reverse migration was illegal in Sharia Law. Muhammad Bello believed in voluntary successive urbanization along with a general Islamization of the Sahel and Saharan societies. He even claimed that “humans are urban by nature,”141 such that there was human progress and an adequate human lifestyle only in urbanization. But despite this notion of the human urban character, long isolation in the desert could eventually turn every individual into a Bedouin. After a two-month stay, a person becomes a Bedouin, so pastoralists should leave settlements only for short trips.

  • 142 Muhammad Bello, Risālat ila Muḥammad Al-ǧaylāni, p. 5.
  • 143 M. Last, 1967, p. 80.

52Urbanization was essential for effective warfare, so that Jihadists can easily gather “for repelling and fighting against the enemy”142 and people can seek refuge in a fortress. Muhammad Bello propagated his urbanization policy in theory and practice. He erected several ribāt towns and asked his Emirate leaders to do the same. They were to at least fortify the capital town and to store enough food and war equipment inside the walls. In his letter, Muhammad Bello repeated some of his major ribāt ideas: it was an approved Islamic duty to build fortresses for the Muslim population; the surrounding villages were then obliged to support the construction of the Islamic fortress with money, goods or labor; and a Muslim town needs fortification and mosques. If pastoralists stay outside of towns with their cattle and horses, Bello ordered, they at least had to feed the townspeople and supply the military with their breeds regularly. But in the long run only sedentarization and urbanization would lead to the Islamization of the Bedouin society. This letter to Al-Jaylani, in which Bello formulated his utopian rationale of urbanization, has often been read as facts, such that the Sultan was acknowledged for having “balanced the economy of Sokoto, and the two groups, nomad and peasant, were able to live side by side to mutual advantage.”143 But Bello’s calls for sedentarization and ribāt-ization were more forward-looking and less based in his present. These calls reveal that Jihadist leaders considered the coexistence of urban and mobile societies—which had been so for the past centuries—a problem to be solved by abolishing “Bedouin” lifestyle.

Conclusion

  • 144 H. Clapperton, D. Denham, W. Oudney, 1826, vol. 2, p. 335.

53For visitors to the early-19th-century Sokoto Empire, the difference between pre- and post-Jihad towns was obvious and the Sokoto capital was noticed as a new urban space compared with the Hausa cities. Hugh Clapperton described in his travel journal that Sokoto “appeared to me as the most populous town I had visited in the interior of Africa; for, unlike most other towns in Hausa, where the houses are thinly scattered, it is laid out in regular well-built streets.”144 Sokoto was planned and built to serve as a role model of Muslim cities. And in turn, mosque architecture and eastward orientation served as a prototype of the town at large: urban spaces were arranged rectangularly and with regard to the qibla direction of Mecca. Although mosque and palace decoration was rather simple and not colorful, the strict order of mosques, palaces and town walls represented the centrality of religion on the level of physical arrangements of buildings. Early Sokoto derived its status as a capital town rather from its role as an architectural archetype than from its urban uniqueness, a uniqueness which was not claimed by the Jihadists at all.

  • 145 M. Last, 2013, p. 3.

54Mosques, walls and whole fortified ribāt towns were imitated by Sokoto emirs in other regions. And imitation was explicitly asked for by Sokoto Jihadists. They did not demand architectural “innovation” but for a recurrence to urbanism in the sense of the Prophet Muhammad and the early Caliphate. In the short term, Muhammad Bello regarded the building of frontier towns a necessity for military strategy of expansion of frontiers, but in the long run it was his aim to urbanize the whole state on a more sustained basis. The buildings themselves—as it became clear for Sokoto’s Vizier mosque—were never claimed to be eternal by the Sokoto writers, and today “there is scarcely a single ordinary mosque dating back to precolonial times now standing in northern Nigeria.”145 But the urban lifestyle as a Muslim existence prevailed: the non-urban has been considered non-Muslim and non-modern.

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Robinson, D., 2000, “Revolutions in the Western Sudan”, in N. Levtzion, R. Pouwels (eds.), The history of Islam in Africa, Athens, Ohio University Press, p. 131-152.

Ross, E., 2006, Sufi city. Urban design and archetypes in Touba, Rochester, University of Rochester Press.

Sa’ad, H.T., 1985, “The role of individual creativity in traditional African art. The Gwani (genius) amongst master builders of Hausaland”, Nigeria Magazine 54 (4), p. 3-16.

Salau, M.B., 2011, The West African slave plantation. A case study, New York, Palgrave Macmillan.

Schwerdtfeger, F.W., 2007, Hausa urban art and its social background. External house decorations in a Northern Nigerian City, Berlin, Lit.

Silverstein, A.J., 2012, Islamische Geschichte, Stuttgart, Reclam.

Surun, I., Lefebvre, C., 2008, “Exploration et transferts de savoir. Deux cartes produites par des Africains au début du xixe siècle”, Mappemonde, 92, p. 1-24.

Tyan, E., 1965, “Djihad”, in B. Lewis et al. (eds.), Encyclopaedia of Islam. New edition, vol. 2, C–G, Leiden, Brill, p. 538-540.

Yusuf, A.B., 1974, “A reconsideration of urban conceptions. Hausa urbanization and the Hausa rural-urban continuum”, Urban Anthropology, 3(2), p. 200-221.

Zahradeen, M.S., 1976, Abd Allah ibn Fodio’s contributions to the Fulani Jihad in nineteenth century Hausaland, PhD dissertation, Montreal, McGill University.

Zehnle, S., 2016, “War and wilderness. The Sokoto Jihad and its animal discourse”, Critical African Studies, 8 (2), p. 216-237.

Zehnle, S., 2018. “‘Where is my region?’ Geographical representation and textuality in Sokoto”, Islamic Africa, 9 (1), p. 10-33.

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Notes

1 For the translation as “town” see G.P. Bargery, 1934, p. 367; R.C. Abraham, M.M. Kano, 1949, p. 305; and P. Newman, 2007, p. 71. For the meaning as “city” see D. Dalby, 1964, p. 295.

2 A.B. Yusuf, 1974, p. 209. Yusuf offers a detailed lexical list of Hausa terms for describing and differentiating within the rural–urban continuum.

3 Another semiotic use of ribāt is to address Sufi residences, from which the term “Marabout” has derived. But this meaning was not picked up by the Sokoto Jihadists.

4 J. Chabbi, N. Rabbat, 1995, p. 493.

5 For evidence see for example Abdullah dan Fodio, Ida’ al-nusukh, Northwestern University, Africana Collection, Paden Papers 241, f. 2; for an Arabic edition see M. Hiskett, 1957. See also Uthman dan Fodio quoting from Al-Kastellani’s commentary on the Sahih al-Bukhari with reference to Byzantium in his Tanbih al-ikhwan, Institut de France, 2415/208, f. 2.

6 Jihad warfare was described in a variety of genres, ranging from jurisprudence to political treatises. See for example Al-Maghili’s Obligations of the Princes in T.H. Baldwin, 1932.

7 The Hausa term gari was applied only to un-walled towns or settlements. See G.P. Bargery, 1934, p. 367.

8 J. Boyd, B.B. Mack (eds.), 1997, p. 453. Here, “janibai” is translated as “ribaɗi”, but I suggest that it is an Arabic loanword derived from ǧanba (“bush”).

9 Manuscript held at Department of History, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (Nigeria) 12/2–3–4. The text is considered a Sokoto authentic book, but many scholars doubt Bello’s authorship; cf. N.I. Dantiye, 1985, p. x–xi. See also the unpublished dissertation J.E. Philips, 1992. Only a brief version has recently been published in J.E. Philips, 2016. Hunwick, on the other hand, argues in favor of Bello as the author; see J.O. Hunwick (ed.), 1995, p. 123.

10 Muhammad Bello, Risālat ila Muḥammad Al-ǧaylāni, Institut de Recherches en Sciences Humaines, Niamey/Niger, No. 3046 (former catalogue reference number 1744), p. 4.

11 J.E. Philips, 2004, p. 111.

12 M. Last, 2013, p. 4.

13 J. Picton, 2006, p. 194.

14 B. Hakim, Z. Ahmed, 2008, p. 676.

15 E. Ross, 2006, p. 25.

16 M.D. DeLancey, 2005, p. 4.

17 M.D. DeLancey, 2005, p. 8. See also DeLancey, 2014.

18 J.C. Moughtin, 1985, p. 35-36.

19 M.D. DeLancey, 2005, p. 11.

20 M.D. DeLancey, 2005, p. 13.

21 See the map in M. Last, 1967, p. 67.

22 M. Last, 2013, p. 11.

23 M. Last, 2013, p. 12.

24 M. Last, 2013, p. 13

25 H.T. Sa’ad, 1985, p. 7.

26 M.D. DeLancey, 2012, ch. 18.

27 S. Zehnle, 2018.

28 This has been demonstrated convincingly by I. Surun, C. Lefebvre, 2008.

29 M. Last, 2013, p. 14.

30 I. Surun, C. Lefebvre, 2008, p. 14.

31 For an introduction see D. Robinson, 2000.

32 An up-to-date discussion of this relationship is given by M. Nobili, 2016.

33 H. Clapperton, 1829, p. 329, 331.

34 For an elaborate discussion see S. Zehnle, 2018.

35 U. Rebstock, 1985, p. 99.

36 See the edited text in U. Rebstock, p. ٤.

37 See the translation by I. Ado-Kurawa, 1989, p. 46.

38 H. Clapperton, D. Denham, W. Oudney, 1826, vol. 2, p. 322-323.

39 H. Clapperton, D. Denham, W. Oudney, 1826, vol. 2, p. 323.

40 E. Huysecom, 1991, p. 24.

41 L. Prussin, 1986, p. 215.

42 L. Prussin, 1986, p. 215.

43 J. Picton, 2006, p. 202.

44 J. Picton, 2006, p. 202.

45 See for example J. Picton, 2006, p. 219-220.

46 H. Clapperton, D. Denham, W. Oudney, 1826, vol. 2, p. 294.

47 L. Prussin, 1986, p. 215.

48 J.C. Moughtin, 1964, p. 29.

49 J. Picton, 2006, p. 201.

50 See for example Z.R. Dmochowski, 1990, p. 216.

51 H. Clapperton, D. Denham, W. Oudney, 1826, vol. 2, p. 324.

52 H. Clapperton, D. Denham, W. Oudney, 1826, vol. 2, p. 325.

53 F.W. Schwerdtfeger, 2007, p. 111.

54 H. Barth, 1858, vol. 4, p. 179.

55 S.A. Balogun, 1973, p. 26.

56 M. Last, 2013, p. 9.

57 M. Last, 2013, p. 9.

58 On the Sokoto concept of wilderness see S. Zehnle, 2016.

59 Muhammad Bello, Risālat ila Muḥammad Al-ǧaylāni, f. 6.

60 A.J. Silverstein, 2012, p. 23.

61 Nana Asmau, Begore, School for Oriental and African Studies (London), Jean Boyd PP MS 36, A70–A72, vol. 3, p. 120 (p. 93–135).

62 E. Tyan, 1965, p. 539.

63 See for example M. Hiskett (ed.), 1960, p. 570.

64 Jean Boyd, “Mission Tilho”, SOAS, Jean Boyd PP MS 36, G25, p. 13–17. Boyd refers to extracts from the French Tilho Missions, as well as to oral accounts.

65 J.E. Philips, 2017, p. 49.

66 J.E. Philips, 2004, p. 111.

67 A.B. Yusuf, 1974, p. 210, 206.

68 M. Last, 2013, p. 10.

69 D. Dalby, 1964, p. 280, 295.

70 D. Dalby, 1964, p. 298.

71 S.J. Hogben, A.H.M. Kirk-Greene,1966, p. 197.

72 Translated and published in I. Ado-Kurawa, 1989, p. 51.

73 See for example in I. Ado-Kurawa, 1989, p. 62, 64.

74 J. Boyd, B.B. Mack (eds.), 1997, p. 32. See also the 19th-century dictionary of C.H. Robinson, 1899, p. 38.

75 N.I. Dantiye, 1985, p. 31.

76 J. Boyd, B.B. Mack (eds.), 1997, p. 452.

77 Nana Asmau, Tabshir al-ikhwan, in I.A. Ogunbiyi (ed.), 1993, p. 91.

78 J. Boyd, B.B. Mack (eds.), 1997, p. 453.

79 N.I. Dantiye, 1985, p. 95-96.

80 J.E. Philips, 2000, p. 226.

81 J.E. Philips, 2004, p. 113.

82 J.E. Philips, 2004, p. 119.

83 From this Arabic word the West African term “marabout” (scholar) is derived. In the Quran, the verb means to “be stationed in a place,” and the noun still refers to the Arabic tribal concept of “a gathered herd of military horses” (Quran 8:60). During Abbasid rule the ribāt came to be known as (a) any fortification and later also as (b) the residences of spiritual Sufi practitioners. Hence both usages refer to jihad—a military or spiritual effort in support of Islam. For an overview see J. Chabbi, N. Rabbat, 1995.

84 J.E. Philips, 2000, p. 225-226.

85 See Uthman dan Fodio’s text Masa’il muhimma translated by A. Abdarrahman Bewley (ed.), 2004, p. 88-112. In Hausa language, the term masu zaman ribatsi (“people of the ribāt”) is usually applied. Cf. N.I. Dantiye, 1985, p. 3.

86 N.I. Dantiye, 1985, p. 100-101.

87 A Kano trader remembered that Sokoto regularly undertook such expeditions against Kebbi. After defeating Kebbi, Bello returned home and announced: “I will prepare for next year. I tell you, I will return.” Cf. Alhaji Umaru, Sokoto-Kebbi Wars, Staatbibliothek zu Berlin, Krause Collection, Ms. 844, text 29, f. 43. See also the Latin edition in D.A. Olderogge (ed.), 1960, p. 151. See also the German translation in paraphrase by G.A. Krause, 1897, p. 1.

88 A. Abdarrahman Bewley (ed.), 2004, p. 103-106.

89 A. Abdarrahman Bewley (ed.), 2004, p. 106-107.

90 Dantiye had intended to base his study mainly upon this manuscript text by researching on a copy located in Kaduna (AH, 1/15/74), when he reportedly discovered it was not authored by Bello. See N.I. Dantiye, 1985, p. x–xi.

91 Hakim and Zubair follow Hunwick in this argumentation. See B.S. Hakim, Z. Ahmed, 2006. The two architects published a helpful and substantial list of all Sokoto manuscripts in Arabic on urban management topics (p. 6-7).

92 In the end, Dantiye relied on sources besides Arabic manuscripts for his four case studies on Sokoto frontier towns, including colonial sources as well as some interviews of the early 1980s. As a result, his study analyzes a later period after Muhammad Bello’s death in 1837: from the 1840s to the 1890s. Dantiye argued for the strategic contribution of the forts to the defense of the Kano Emirate. He studied primarily Rano, Karaye, Gwarzo and Babura, which were established only in the mid-19th century. See N.I. Dantiye, 1985, p. 148.

93 See also on these intertextual references J.E. Philips’ Hausa online essay of 1994: “Muhammad Bello ya fi sanin tarihin Musulunci ya karanta littattaffai da yawa har ya fahimci irin ribad’in gargajiya a k’asashen Larabawa. Littafin da ya fi so a kan batun ribad’i, shi ne Masharic al-Ashwaq na Ibrahim al-Dimashqi. Bello ya tsakuro littafin a littafinsa mai suna ‘Al-Ribat wa’l-Hirasa’. Za a ga littafin Bello a Jami’ar Ibadan da Jami’ar Ahmadu Bello, Zariya inda aka ajiye littattafan tarihi.” Cf. http://human.cc.hirosaki-u.ac.jp/philips/Ribats.htm. See also B.S. Hakim, Z. Ahmed, 2006, p. 21.

94 See J.O. Hunwick (ed.), 1995, p. 123. For Ibn Nuḥās’ biography and general influence on jihad discourses of the 20th and 21st centuries, see R. Lohlker, 2009, p. 21-22, and D. Holbrook, 2010.

95 From Quran 3:200. Quotation from S.A. Al-Fatah Al-Khalidi, n.d., p. 118.

96 S.A. Al-Fatah Al-Khalidi, n.d., p. 119.

97 Muhammad Bello, Kitāb al-ribāt wa al-hirāsa, Zaria 12/2–3–4, p. 30, 45-46.

98 S.A. Al-Fatah Al-Khalidi, n.d., p. 124.

99 S.A. Al-Fatah Al-Khalidi, n.d., p. 125.

100 S.A. Al-Fatah Al-Khalidi, n.d., p. 124.

101 S.A. Al-Fatah Al-Khalidi, n.d., p. 127-128.

102 The first pages of the Zaria manuscript could not be located by the librarian and I must therefore refer to the quotation in N.I. Dantiye, 1985, p. 16.

103 Muhammad Bello, Kitāb al-ribāt wa al-hirāsa, p. 18, 31.

104 Muhammad Bello, Kitāb al-ribāt wa al-hirāsa, p. 41.

105 N.I. Dantiye, 1985, p. 254.

106 See the Latin transcription by S. Piłaszewicz, 1981, p. 55, 65.

107 S.W. Koelle, 1854, p. 213.

108 See also M. Last, 2013, p. 4.

109 S.W. Koelle, 1854, p. 238.

110 H. Clapperton, D. Denham, W. Oudney, vol. 1, 1826, p. 272-273.

111 Asmau, Yonde Wurno. For an English translation see J. Boyd, B.B. Mack (eds.), 1997, p. 205. The Fulfulde Ajami version is archived at SOAS, Jean Boyd PP MS 36, A70–A72, vol. 2, p. 69, 71.

112 Ibid.

113 Ibid., p. 69.

114 Nana Asmau, Gawakuke maunde, SOAS, Jean Boyd PP MS 36, A70–A72, vol. 2, p. 132-133.

115 H. Clapperton, 1829, p. 225

116 M.B. Salau, 2011.

117 P.E. Lovejoy, 1979, p. 1285.

118 H. Clapperton, 1829, p. 192.

119 J.A.M. Tilho (ed.), 1926 [1910], p. 527.

120 H. Clapperton, 1829, p. 181.

121 H. Clapperton, 1829, p. 200.

122 H. Clapperton, 1829, p. 203.

123 See for example the case of the Kano frontier town Fanisau, some ten miles northeast of Kano, explained by M.B. Salau, 2011, p. 41.

124 M. Last, 2013, p. 2.

125 G.A. Krause (ed.), 1895, p. 2.

126 H. Clapperton, D. Denham, W. Oudney, vol. 2, 1826, p. 335.

127 The founder of that town also renamed himself from Mikhail to Abdassalaam. See for example M. Last, 2013, p. 9, and R. Osswald, 1986, p. 53.

128 E.g. “Hamdallahi.”

129 The German linguist Prietze collected this Hausa poem in Tunis. See R. Prietze, 1916, p. 592.

130 M. Last, 2013, p. 4.

131 B.S. Hakim, Z. Ahmed, 2008, p. 669.

132 See the Arabic edited text in M.S. Zahradeen, 1976, p. 319.

133 Hakim and Ahmed have recently studied this notion of harīm and explain it as follows: “The third mechanism is harim (the zone surrounding a property or structure), which is necessary for its function, such as pathways and roads, so that other people are prohibited from obstructing or building upon it. The harim also refers to a space surrounding a well that protects it from damage, maintains the well’s integrity, and prevents the pollution of its water. Harim is effective at various levels of the built and natural environments, such as the village or city as a whole, alignment on both sides of rivers, and forests. At the neighborhood level, the term harim signifies the area surrounding clusters of compounds, roads and pathways between them, and access to neighborhood farms.” B.S. Hakim, Z. Ahmed, 2006, p. 4.

134 B.S. Hakim, Z. Ahmed, 2008, p. 665.

135 Uthman dan Fodio, Sirāj al-ikhwān, at Bibliothèque nationale de France, Manuscrits arabes 5528, f. 233b (ff. 255-238).

136 M. Last, 1967, p. 231. Today we can access only Al-Jaylani’s answers from Bellos quotations.

137 Muhammad Bello, Risālat ila Muḥammad Al-ǧaylāni, f. 1.

138 Muhammad Bello, Risālat ila Muḥammad Al-ǧaylāni, p. 2.

139 Muhammad Bello, Risālat ila Muḥammad Al-ǧaylāni, p. 5.

140 Muhammad Bello, Risālat ila Muḥammad Al-ǧaylāni, p. 4.

141 Muhammad Bello, Risālat ila Muḥammad Al-ǧaylāni, p. 4.

142 Muhammad Bello, Risālat ila Muḥammad Al-ǧaylāni, p. 5.

143 M. Last, 1967, p. 80.

144 H. Clapperton, D. Denham, W. Oudney, 1826, vol. 2, p. 335.

145 M. Last, 2013, p. 3.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: A map of the Caliphate drawn by Mallam Musa for Hugh Clapperton (Sokoto, April 1824)
Légende Held at Royal Geographical Society Archives, Mr Nigeria S/S 39, A collection of Route Maps of the Niger River, together with original letters from Clapperton and others. Published in J.B. Lockhart, P. Lovejoy (eds.), 2005, p. 490.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/afriques/docannexe/image/2993/img-1.png
Fichier image/png, 1,1M
Titre Figure 2: Sultan Bello’s Map of Sokoto and Central Africa
Crédits In H. Clapperton, D. Denham, W. Oudney, 1826, vol. 2, facing p. 109.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/afriques/docannexe/image/2993/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 215k
Titre Figure 3: Clapperton’s map of the “Qwarra” (1827)
Crédits H. Clapperton, 1829, p. 60b.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/afriques/docannexe/image/2993/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 224k
Titre Figure 4: Reference map of West Africa showing the towns discussed in the article.
Crédits Map produced by Stephanie Zehnle.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/afriques/docannexe/image/2993/img-4.png
Fichier image/png, 320k
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Stephanie Zehnle, « “Urban by nature”: The Sokoto jihadist approach to urban planning »Afriques [En ligne], 11 | 2020, mis en ligne le 15 décembre 2020, consulté le 26 janvier 2021. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/afriques/2993 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/afriques.2993

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Auteur

Stephanie Zehnle

Assistant Professor (Junior Professor) of Extra-European History, University of Kiel, Germany

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