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Contributions of Tijjaniyyah to Peace and Scholarship in Borno














Tjjaniyya Sufi Order and its Zawiyyahs, centres of complex religious functions and purposes, have been over a long period, the citadel of learning scholarship, peace building and spiritual training in Borno, and indeed wherever founded. Tijjaniyyah has been a very important factor in the spread of Islam and scholarship in West Africa. Zawiyyahs in Borno are the centres of attraction for scholars,  students  and  disciples  who  are  being  spiritually  trained  to  be absolutelysubmissivetoAllahandtheirleadersaswellastobekindtoall people and societies. The paper intends to examine the role and contributions of Tijjaniyyah Zawiyyahs in the expansion and development of scholarship and promotion of peace in Borno. For better understanding of the contribution of Zawiyyah in Borno, the Sheikh Abulfathi Zawiyyah, the great Zawiyyah in Borno is discussed at some length for elaboration.




Sincethemiddleofthenineteenthcentury,TijjaniyyahSufiOrderhas beenincreasinglybecomingpopularandacceptabletopeopleofWestAfrica and the order has a very good system and organisation through which it attract followers who live as one community and this provided a common ground for mobilizing,  training,  educating  and  spiritually  guiding  the  disciples  of  the Tariqa.ThiscommunityisknownasZawiyyah,aMosquebutofcomplex



ThebestwellknownZawiyyahis that of Sheikh Abulfathi which is the greater or mother of most the Zawiyyahs existalloverthestate.Currentlyitisdifficulttopreciselyestablishthenumber of Zawiyyahs in the State. These Zawiyyahs were, and still are, the vehicles by which a great number of Scholars were trained and both traditional and modern scholarships are expanded. Because of good education the Zawiyyahs, throughout Borno, were evidently exonerated from any religious crisis. The current experience of insurgency and insecurity in Borno promoted by some religious groupshasneverbeenlink,inanyway,toanyofthenumerousZawiyyahsin the state. This is clear evidence that Tijjaniyya Zawiyyahs are not only leading in Scholarship but also in peace building inBorno state. The paper examines the role played by the Zawiyyah of Tijjaniyya in Borno in training, promoting not only Scholars and Scholarship but also peace and peaceful co-existence among the people of Borno.


TijjaniyyahZawiyyah in Borno: Function and Purpose


ZawiyyahisatermcommonlyassociatedwithTijjaniyyah morethananyotherSufiorder.TijjaniyyahZawiyyahsimplysuggestsaplace for worship, or Mosque, a canter for spiritual training, teaching and learning as well as congregational Dhikr or litanies. Zawiyyah is also a meeting point for thefollowersofTijjaniyyahintimeofceremoniesandmoaning.Itistherefore a complex religious centre generally located close to the house of the spiritual leader or Muqaddam of the Zawiyyah. Each Zawiyyah has its leader who represents the Khalifa of Tijjaniyya or the founder of the Tariqah (Sheikh Tijjani (R.A) to initiate people into the Tariqahal-Tijjaniyyah, who wish to join the Tariqah voluntarily and make promise to Allah to perform the daily litanies or Awrad of Tijjaniyyah throughout their lives times.


Tijjaniyyah  sufi  order  was  founded  by Sheikh Ahmad Ibn Muhammad al-Tijjani (1737-1815). It was first introduced in Northern Nigeria in the 1830s by Alhaji Umar al-Futi (1794-1864) and popularised by different scholars. The order appeared to have witnessed some reforms under the leadership of Sheikh Ibrahim Inyass who was regarded as the reformer of the twentieth century and the Khalifah of the order. Inyass Tijjaniyya began to spread in 1937 when Sheikh Ibrahim Inyass met the Emir of Kano,AlhajiAbdullahiBayeroatMecca.AlthoughtheacceptanceoftheEmir of Kano of the Sheikh must have contributed to the spread of the Niass Tijjaniyyahbutthemostimportantreasonforitsacceptancewasthegreat emphasis of the order on helping one another and performing Dikr collectively andinpublic.Thisattractedmanypeopletotheorderontheonehand,andon the other, made its group a target for attack and opposition by some people and some traditional authority because of the accusation labeled against them of disrespect of the authorities and giving absolute loyalty to their leaders or Sheikhs. The Sheikh is the leader of his Zawiyyah  in  which  almost  every activity of the disciple of Tijjaniyya usually takes place.


InBornothefirstofsuchZawiyyahwasestablishedinabout1954/1374 AH. It was founded by the well-known spiritual leader and educationist Sheikh Ahmad Abulfathi (d.2007) initially located in Hausari ward in Maiduguri. With the establishment of the Zawiyyah he has founded a community of Tijjaniyyah followers, but at the time very few of them. The small group of people gradually and peacefully continued to increase in number.


The growing number of theSheikh disciples put more pressure on the limited space given to him by Alhaji Jibrin, a successful trader and business man, the Sheikh had to look for another place where to establish his Zawiyyah and hishouse enough to accommodate the increasing number of his followers. By the grace of Allah and his bounties he found a place at Lamisula ward where he built his Mosque or Zawiyyah and his house. But again, in the early 1990s the place became over stretched and therefore had to migrate to the current place known as al-Madinatu Maiduguri where, as usual, a kind of central Mosque for Tijjaniyyah disciples in Borno was built.


Again, there are manysimilar Zawiyyahs in Borno and most of them had their origins from the great Zawiyyah of Sheikh Abulfthi. For example in Maiduguri among the prominent Zawiyyahs are that of Sheikh Ibrahim Saleh al-Husaini, Sheikh Abubakar El-Miskin, Sheikh Sharif Tijjani, Sheikh Aba Goni, Sheikh Malam Adamu Dankyllori, Sheikh Malam Maidalailu. In other parts of the state a good example of them are Sheikh Sharif Bashir and Shiekh Tahiru in Gamboru Ngala, in Baga Sheikh Muhammad Mashayabo,SheikhSaniinDoro.NearlyineverytowninBorno(eg:Biu, Bama,Gwaza,Damasak,Malanfatori e.t.c)there isa TijjaniyyahZawiyyah carryingoutsimilarfunctions,purposesandresponsibilitiesentrustedtothem by  the  founder  of  the  Tijjaniyyah  sufi  oder  Sheikh  Ahmad  Tijjani  and  his Khalifa Sheikh Ibrahim Inyass.                                          The purpose of Sheikh AhmadAbulfathiZawiyyah,andindeed,allotherTijjaniyyahZawiyyahsare to train, guide, educate, initiate people into Tijjaniyyah and establish a communityofbrotherhoodwholove,help,respecteachotherinthespritof Allah and His Prophet (S.A.W).


Therefore wherever Zawiyyah is, the purposes are the same and the people are given the same guidance and leadership. It is a centre of learning, unity, co-operation and brotherhood. These noble ethics and characters are instilled in the minds and hearts of the followers which make the discipleofTijjaniyyaharecompletelysubmissivetoAllahandabsolutelyloyal to their leaders and therefore different from other religious groups.





One major objective of Tijjaniyyah Zawiyyah is to educate its members and disciples. The followers of the order are encouraged, and in a sense being forced to learn and understand their religion and the principles or conditions of the Tijjaniyyah Sufi order. This is made very clear bySheikh Ibrahim Inyass whereheemphasisesthatknowledgeisthefirstandforemostashepointedout in                                   a poem, thus: It is inevitabletofirstandforemostseekknowledge.Andyoumoststudythelaws ofAllahShariaproperly.


I swearbymylifethatknowledgeistheleaderofactions, aswastransmitted from Ta’Ha (S.A.W) the best of all messengers.


Obtain knowledge of four (4) subjects, oh! you traveller.


The first of it is the knowledge of the Lord possessor.


AndsecondlyistoknowallthatisinvolvedintheworshipofAllah,forthat you will be certain.


And thirdly is to learnthe difference states of soul, from its treachery, deceptions and plots.


And the fourth, seeking knowledge of good conduct on you, disciple for indeed              it is the door for every disciple.


This  poem  by  Sheikh  Inyass, (Trans 2005) originated since 1920, is making it clear to all disciples of Tijjaniyyah and, indeed Muslims, that seeking knowledge is a must and necessary,knowledgeshouldproceedseveryotherthing. Itisourknowledge thatthefirstverseofQur’anrevealedtotheProphet(S.A.W)isIqra-Read.Ch-96.vers.1


The disciplesof TijjaniyyahinalltheZawiyyah’sinBornoareencouragedandaremadeto learn the four basic knowledge that will make individual a complete servant of Allah which are mentioned in the above poems. And these are knowledge of Allah, the knowledge of Shariah laws concerning worshiping of Allah, knowledge of the condition of heart, soul and spirit and then humility and characterthatleadtomakingone humble notarrogantorproudofhimself.It is the basis of these teachings and instructions that Zawiyyahs in Borno were founded and sustained. For instance, Sheikh Abulfathi was very concerned with educationfor all people, male and female. For centuries, Borno iswell known for Islamic tradition and sangaya system of education. Zawiyyah is much more than that because it was not limited to the memorization of the Qur’an but emphasis on all Islamic sciences and Arabic language as well as the teaching of Sufi values, ethics and formationof human being devoid of bad character, humble  and  devotes  to  Allah,  a  man  with  clean,  purified  soul,  mind  and



IntheZawiyyahofSheikhAbulfathi,rightfromitsinception,the Sheikh gave great importance to education; his concerned was to educate all peoplearoundhimregardlessofageandsexorsocialbackgroundsandstatus. In fact the children of disciples of Tijjaniyyah from difference places, towns and cities were brought together to learn not only Islamic sciences, principles of Tijjaniyyah but also Arabic language. He was the first to introduce modern system of education in Borno by establishing Zawiyyahs modern school now Ma’ahad Sheikh Ahmad Abulfathi along-side with the existing traditional method of learning in the Mosques. He divided the students into different levels. The advanced level was the Sheikh himself took the responsibility of teaching, training and guidingthem; a duty took open him throughout his life time.


He regarded education, as it were, a complete training and good character. Among this level of student many of them became very prominent scholars, Sheikh of TijjaniyyahandspiritualleadersorMuqaddam,giventhepermissionalsoto trainandinitiatepeopleintoTijjaniyyah.Thisistheprocessthroughwhich many  Zawiyyahs  emerged  and  had  their  roots  from  the  great  Zawiyyah  of Sheikh Abulfathi. Most of the Zawiyyahs in Borno, if not all, are directly or indirectly the products of his Zawiyyah. The number of Zawiyyah in Borno is very difficult to accurately determine. The difficulty is in the fact that in one village or Town one can find more than one, and nearly in all towns in Borno there must be at leasta functional Zawiyyah with effectivesystem of education. Almost the scholars and teachers in such Zawiyyahs were trained in the Zawiyyah of the Sheikh or educated or taught by the product of the Zawiyyah of Sheikh Abulfathi. It is difficult to find a single Zawiyyah which produced scholars and educated people of diverse specializations like that of Sheikh Abulfathi in Borno.


Sheikh AbulfathieducationalinstitutionisasoldastheZawiyyahitselfandithasgone throughtransformation,modernisationandexpansion.TheinstitutionMa’ahad SheikhAhmadAbulfathiisalsothemotherofallIslamicschoolsinthemodern systemofeducationinBorno.ItisthefirstIslamicschooltorecognisethe importanceofwesterneducationandwhichwas,establishedsincethe1950s.In Bornothiswasaverynewideahardlyconceivedatthattime.Theschoolhas beenproducingandgraduatingpeoplewhoeventuallybecameeruditescholars ofinternationalrepute.


Theschoolhasthemultiplier effectsextendingbeyondtheimmediatecommunitytothewidersocietyof Bornoandbeyond.A greatnumbersofpeopleinonewayortheotherhad benefited from the institution and the teaching and guidance of the Sheikh. The scholars that emerged from the institution and Zawiyyah could be categorized intothree,scholarsandspiritualleadersofhighesteem,academicofnational andinternationalfame,professionalsandscientistindifferentspecialization whohadexcellentintheirvariousfieldofendeavours.Amongthemanumber of professors (e.g. Professor Tijjani El-Miskin (R.A), professor Muhammad Kabir in B.U.K, and professor M.S. Imam of University of Maiduguri and many Ph’D   holders,   graduate   and   post   graduates   from   the   institution.   Other TijjaniyyahZawiyyahsinBornoaredirectreplicaofthegreatZawiyyahin Maiduguri. Zawiyyah Sheikh Abulfathi. Following the teaching of Tijjaniyyah they   continued   to   disseminate   knowledge   and   produce   scholars   in Borno.                                                                                            


Next    to    the Zawyyah of Sheikh Abulfathi in the spread of knowledge is that of Sheikh Ibrahim Saleh al Hussaini. In this Zawiyyah, in addition to the traditional method of education which continued to actively function and disseminates knowledge, modern educational institutions were established up to the advanced levels, and many people were attracted to the Zawiyyah for Knowledge and scholarship. Also a number of Professors scholars and Ph’D holders emerged from this Zawiyyah. (e.g J. Hassan, Dr Adam Jibrin and Dr Hamid)



Tijjaniyyah Zawiyyah and Peace Building in Borno  


Tijjaniyyah  Zawiyyah  is  a  community  established  on  the basisoftheprinciplesandvaluesofSufism,andSufismhasinitsteachingtotal submission  and  loyalty  to  Allah  and  the  leaders.  This  basic  principle  and practice of the members of Tijjaniyyah has in build stabiliser for peace and peaceful co-existence. The training and guidance emphasised by the Tijjaniyyah Sufi order is to make the disciple’s hearts and minds free from all vices that will lead to violence, because they believed whatever happen is from Allah. All the spiritual leaders in Tijjaniyyah arevicegerent of Sheikh Tijjani and therefore absolute loyaltymust be giventothem.Thisisthe guidingprinciple ofthe disciples of Tijjaniyyah, therefore instruction coming from a leader is strictly adhered to and all the leaders of Tijjaniyyah have always called for peace and respect                               for the existing authority.


Moreover, Zawiyyah community is a group of people well verse in the Islamic education and therefore very difficult for anybody to mislead a knowledgeable person, nearly  any  disciples  of  Tijjaniyyah  is  a  peace  ambassador  and  ready  to recognize the government. There has never been any instance Tijjaniyyah followersriseagainstthestateandtheleadersareverymuchinconsultation with government for any major issues. Sheikh Ahmad Abulfathi, for instance, was very close to the palace of Shehu and he was in agreement with the traditional authority in issues related to the State. For instance, Maulid Al- Nabawi an important religious occasion which is regarded in high esteem, he usedtoaskthepalacewhenthe occasion shouldtakeplacesoasnotto be different from the day in which the palace would hold the occasion.


The extent to which Tijjaniyyah Zawiyyah believed in peace building could be seen in the followings unfortunate incidences the leaders of Zawiyyah demonstratedhighsenseofpeacebuildingagainstalltheprovocations.   The two events happen in the early 1970s in Maiduguri which significantly indicated the patience of the Zawiyyah leaders in Borno. One was that, it is well known fact that leaders of Tijjaniyyah were called for a meeting in the Shehu’s palace after the meeting the leaders of Tijjaniyyah left the palace but at a distance of about400meters,specificallyclosetotheroundaboutleadingtothepalace,in amobaction,somethugsattackedandstornedthem,theirmotorandacarin front of the house of Alhaji Idris Kadi were smashed. It became clear that, the targetswere theleadersofTijjaniyyahZawiyyahpresent;amongthem were Sheikh Ahmad Abulfathi and Sheikh Sheriff Ibrahim Saleh al-Husaini. By the graceofAllah,allofthemescapedmiraculouslyunhurtor not wounded.And withtheexampleoftheProphet,(S.A.W)theleaderstoldthedisciplestobe calm and patient and reminded them that everything come from Allah, as the Prophet (S.A.W.) did when he was wounded at the Battle of Uhud and he kept on saying oh, Allah forgive my people because they did not know, in deed the peopleinMaiduguriwerenotawareofthegravityofwhattheydidandits consequences.


Similarly, in the same period, early 1970s, in the very great night of the occasion of Maulid of the Prophet (S.A.W) while Tijjaniyyah disciples, as usual, came together in front of the house of Alhaji Umar, a disciple of Tijjaniyya and strong supporter of Sheikh Abulfahi and whos house was very close to the Zawiyyah andthehouseoftheSheikh.Atthetimewhenlargecrowdofpeoplegathered in the space available, and Maulid session already started, scholars reading the history of the Prophet (S.A.W), to the surprise and dismay of all presence some peoplecomingfortheoccasionofMaulidfromGwangeareaastheyreached the area of Shehus palace, they were stoned by thugs and many of them were stonedand many of them wounded and bleedingand some other believed to be drown into the river and one person died as a result of the attack.


They narrated their ordeals to the Sheikh and he realized that it was a calculated and  organized  attack  against  his  people  and  the  occasion  of  Maulid.  His response was that of spiritual leader and peace builder, the Sheikh was naturally highly  disturbed,  but  not  emotional,  therefore  called  the  attention  of  the gathering to be calm, patient and believe in Allah. And should continue with their Maulid and the wounded taken to the hospital.


Theincidentswouldhavebeenviolent situation that wouldinvolvethe whole cityof Maidugurior the state and repercussions would be great and permanent.  A very violent situation that would involve many people, but the peaceful nature and the spirit of Zawiyyah none of the disciples attempted any act of disobedience. This is the Tijjaniyyah Zawuyyah in Borno, peace loving community, loyal and respect to their leaders and the constituted authority. It is worthy to note that of all the Islamic groups in Nigeria, Tijjaniyyah Zawiyyah, with the guidance of the spiritual leaders, are no part of any religious crisis in the city. Again, an important mechanism that kept awaytheTijjaniyyahyouthfromsuchgroupisthecircleofDhikirinpublic, though is not free from accusation in some quarters, the public Dhikir proved to be the pre-occupation of the youth of Tijjaniyyah and therefore they have no reason to be involved in violence and killing of innocent people. Alsothe loyalties to the leaders have also contributed to their non-participation in the group, Boko Haram. The insurgency of Boko Haram has its origin and root causes  in  the  unregulated  and  unguided  preaching  in  public  places  and electronic media especially in the month of Ramadan usually sponsored by wealthy individuals and politicians in the state.


Government at various levels were indifferent and oblivious to the happening in the state and the result is the emergence of numerous so-calledpreachers disseminating wrong and dangerous ideas to their ignorant followers, therefore the state had to shoulder the responsibility, by its in action and not regulating the preaching activitiesinBorno.Asifthe government isinagreementwith the situationsthe recent formation of the Preaching Board is not apolitical, certainly some other considerations are used in including some members who may not, with critical assessment, qualified to be on the board. It appears that this is the time when a Prophet tradition predicted, that there will be a time when a great number of peoplewillclaimknowledgebutinrealitythescholarsamongthemarevery few.ThisisthestateofIslamtoday,andunlessthepoliticalleadersassumed total responsibility and face the reality to serve, protect people andIslam, insurgency and extremism will very likely continued to be with us. Preaching must be regulated, qualified scholars to be identified and assessed before any permission to be granted in public and in electronic media for the conduct of Tafsir or any religious programme, otherwise government, particularly of Borno, has a lot to share of the blame in the event of reemergence of religious crisis under any name, new group or ideology.





Tijjaniyyah Zawiyyah is a community of peace and scholarship free from vicesandviolence.Brotherhood,goodvirtueslearningandspiritualguidance are the main features and characters of Tijjaniyyah Zawiyyahs in Borno. Therefore,  the  disciples  of  Tijjaniyyah  are  made  to  imbibe  the  culture  of patience, loyalty and total submission to Allah and the leadership. In a community of educated people like Zawiyyah religious extremism leading to insurgency has no role to play in the hearts and minds of such people. In spite of the numerous Zawiyyahs across the state and great number of the disciples of Tijjaniyyah there is yetno any evidence of a single person joined the Boko Haram in Borno.


However, it is disturbing to note that government, at all levels, givelittleattentiontothewidespreadofunregulatedpreachinginthestate which in realty is the root cause of the religious crisis and insurgency being experienced in the state and, in deed Nigeria. While one cannot exonerate the members of Boko Haram from the blames, for their ignorant and selfishness, government cannot equally be blameless, it was solely responsible for the emergence, growth and spread of the insurgency among the poor, ignorant and vulnerable unemployed youth. If care is not taken in handling the religious issue andpreachers,moredaringextremistgroupmayre-emergedinthecountry under the guise of Islamic religion.






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