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David H. Anthony

Islamic scholar, Jamaican slave, and author, was born in Timbuktu, Mali. When he was two years old his family moved to Jenné in the western Sudan, another major center of Islamic learning and a renowned Sahelian trade city. Heir to a long tradition of Islamic saints and scholars claiming descent from the Prophet Muhammad, he was part of one of several dynasties designated as Sherifian or Shurfaa. Abu Bakr was trained and certified in Jenné by several ulama, the highly intellectual stratum of Islamic teachers. He was in the process of becoming a cleric when he was captured. As was true for many Islamized Africans caught in the vortex of the Atlantic slave trade, Abu Bakr's itinerant life had pre slave African and post slave black Atlantic dimensions His path shares the trajectory of many coreligionists from Muslim areas of the continent as well ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

Ahmad Baba was one of the best-known Islamic scholars and writers of his time. Born into the prestigious Aqit family near Tombouctou (Timbuktu) in 1556, he was educated in Islamic theology and law. After completing his studies, he began writing books and treatises on theology, Islamic jurisprudence, history, and Arabic grammar. Over the course of his life he wrote more than fifty-six works. More than half of these are still in existence, and several are still used by West African ulama (scholars). Ahmad Baba also was a great collector of books; he amassed a library containing thousands of volumes. At this time, Tombouctou, ruled by the Songhai empire, was renowned throughout the Islamic world as a center of learning.

In 1591 the sultan of Morocco invaded Tombouctou. Ahmad Baba and other scholars refused to serve the Moroccan rulers and, by some accounts, instigated a 1593 rebellion against ...

Article

religious teacher and expert in Islamic law in Timbuktu, was born 26 October 1556 in the village of Araouane, a few days north of Timbuktu by camel caravan. His full name was Abu al-Abbas Ahmad Baba ibn Ahmad ibn Ahmad ibn ʿUmar ibn Muhammad Aqit al-Sinhaji, al-Tinbukti. His father was Ahmad (1522–1583), his grandfather al hajj Ahmad (1458–1535), and his great grandfather Umar, the son of Muhammad Aqit, the celebrated patriarch of the Masufa Tuareg clan of Aqit (one of the most powerful families of Timbuktu).

Ahmad Baba was raised in Timbuktu, where he studied the hadith and Islamic law with his father and other Aqit family members. His most influential teacher was the famous scholar and historical figure Mahmud Bagayogo, author of numerous qurʾanic commentaries, whose acts of courage are recorded in al hajj Mahmud Kati’s Tarikh al fattash Prior to the Moroccan invasion ...

Article

Mauritanian teacher and Muslim scholar, was born to a scholarly family and reared in Walata, an oasis town in present-day eastern Mauritania. His full name was Muhammad abu ʿAbd Allah ibn abu Bakr as-Siddiq al-Bartili al-Walati. The main lineages that claim descent from the Bartili (or Barittayl) are the at-Talib Jibril, the ʿAli Diggan, and the at-Talib ʿAli Bannan, who formed a network of scholarly families. All of these groups have played an important role in the cultural and political life of the region of Takrur, serving as muftis (Muslim scholars qualified to formulate legal opinions on matters of Islamic law), imams, and especially teachers. In al-Bartili’s time, the name “Takrur” came to signify a Muslim cultural region stretching from the mouth of the Senegal River in the west to the Niger River bend in the east, including much of present-day Mauritania, Mali, and Senegal.

Walata was situated on a ...

Article

John Gilmore

Also known as Ayuba Suleiman Diallo (c.1702–1773?), one of the very few victims of the transatlantic slave trade to survive and get back home. Son of an important Muslim cleric from Bondou in what is now the Gambia. In 1731, while on a journey down the river Gambia to trade and sell slaves, Job was himself kidnapped and sold as a slave, together with his servant and companion Loumein Yoai. The two were shipped across the Atlantic and sold, separately, in Maryland.

Job soon ran away. Although he was speedily recaptured, he was allowed to write a letter, in Arabic, to his father, asking him to try and arrange for his ransom. This was sent to London for transmission to the Gambia, and a copy came to the attention of James Oglethorpe (1696–1785 the founder of Georgia who was then deputy governor of ...

Article

Louis Brenner

prominent Muslim scholar in the West African interior and ruler of the West African kingdom of Bornu, was born in Murzuk, in the Fezzan. His father, a locally respected scholar, was of Kanembu and his mother of Arab origin. Al-Kanemi’s youth was devoted to Islamic studies in Murzuk and Tripoli, and in the 1790s he accompanied his father on pilgrimage. His full name was al-Hajj Shaikh Muhammad al-Amin b. Muhammad Ninka, and he was known locally as Shehu Laminu.

On his return from the east, al-Kanemi settled south of Lake Chad in the town of Ngala in Bornu, where he was drawn into local conflicts with Fulani who had allied themselves with the jihad movement of Shaikh Uthman Dan Fodio. In 1808, supported by an armed following, he defeated a Fulani army that was threatening the region of Ngala.

Following this victory al Kanemi was summoned by the king ...

Article

Mohammed Bashir Salau

Qurʾanic teacher and warlord, was a Fulani originating from Kebbi in the northern part of modern-day Nigeria. His real name was Muhammadu Bangana, and he was also known as “Manko.” Very little is known about his early life. Following the conquest of a vast part of the Central Sudan by jihad forces led by Uthman dan Fodio, the Nupe came under the domination of the dynasty of the Emir of Gwandu at the turn of the nineteenth century. Mallam Dendo migrated to Nupe country at about the time when the Nupe were brought under the rule of Gwandu, specifically at about 1810. It seems likely that he had, as a Qurʾanic teacher, undertaken preaching missions to several Nupe towns prior to 1810. According to various sources, Dendo settled at Nupeland during a period of great political instability, specifically following the death of the etsu king Abdullahi Yinkanko ...

Article

Stephen Cory

a Sufi leader who revived the Qadiriyya Sufi order in the southwestern Sahara during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In doing so, he assured the dominance of his tribe, the Kunta, as the premier zawaya (clerical) tribe, providing religious and legal education and spiritual leadership throughout the area. His peaceful propagation of the faith led to an increased practice of Islam in the Western Sahara. In addition, his linkage of religious renewal to the promotion of trade led to a realignment of power relations among the tribes, with the Kunta at the top. Sidi al-Mukhtar sought to use the tariqa (Sufi brotherhood) structure to teach Islamic practices, reform social mores, and eliminate non-Islamic religious accretions from society. His descendants, leaders of the peaceful Qadiriyya-Mukhtariyya order, opposed the nineteenth-century jihad movements in West Africa, including the jihad of the Tijani leader Hajj ʿUmar Tal in Senegal.

The Kunta are ...

Article

Leyla Keough

Job ben Solomon was born around 1702 to an aristocratic Tukulor or Fulani family in Bundu, formerly a Muslim state in present-day Senegal. His father was an imam, or Muslim prayer leader, and Job became an Islamic scholar, able to recite the Qur'an (Koran) from memory. He married twice and had four children.

In 1731Mandinkas captured Solomon as he himself attempted to sell slaves. They sold him as a slave, and a plantation owner in Maryland eventually purchased him. In desperation Solomon sent a letter in Arabic to his father in Africa by way of Great Britain, where the philanthropist and founder of Georgia, General James Oglethorpe, intercepted and translated it. Impressed by Solomon's literacy and story, Oglethorpe paid the Maryland planter for Job's release and transport to Great Britain. On the voyage Solomon met English traveler and writer Thomas Bluet who introduced Solomon to ...

Article

David J. Peavler

Ayuba Suleiman Diallo (later known to Europeans as Job Ben Solomon) was born to a powerful family of Muslim clerics of the Fulbe tribe in the northern region of present-day Senegal. While he was in Africa, Job received formal educational training in both secular and religious fields. He assisted his father in trade and became quite wealthy by the age of twenty-nine, owning three houses, a plantation with eighteen servants, and more than seventy head of cattle. In February 1730, however, Job's father sent him on a slave-trading mission that would ironically lead to his own capture and enslavement in North America.

After failing to receive his asking price from an English trader Job sent his servants home and crossed into the territory of a rival tribe in the hope of securing a better price He succeeded in this endeavor but was captured on his return journey and ...

Article

Russell Hopley

polymath religious scholar, was born in Cairo to a family originally from Asyut. His full name was Abu ʾl-Fadl ʿAbd al-Rahman ibn Abi Bakr ibn Muhammad Jalal al-Din al-Khudayri al-Suyuti. His father was of Persian origin, while his mother had been a Circassian slave. She reportedly gave birth to al-Suyuti in the family library, a possible explanation for his sobriquet “son of books” (ibn al-kutub). The moniker is an apt one, as it is estimated that al-Suyuti went on to write no fewer than 980 works during his lifetime, a stunning output that easily makes him the most prolific author in the entire Islamic tradition.

Al-Suyuti’s father worked part-time as a qadi and served also as a preacher in the mosque of Ibn Tulun in Cairo He appears to have overseen al Suyuti s education from a very early age Indeed al Suyuti relates that his father ...

Article

A Fulani born in the Hausa state of Gobir, Usuman dan Fodio studied the Qu’ran (Koran) with his father, an eminent Islamic scholar, then moved from place to place to study with other religious scholars. When he was twenty-five, he began teaching and preaching, and from this time his reputation as a holy man grew. He taught Islam in Gobir, and he was probably engaged as tutor to the future sultan Yunfa because of his learned reputation. Usuman criticized the Hausa ruling elite for their heavy taxation and other practices that he claimed violated Islamic law. His call for Islamic reform (and tax reduction) earned him a wide following in the 1780s and 1790s, when he became a political threat to Gobir sultan Nafata. When Yunfa assumed power as sultan in 1802 the repression of Usuman s followers worsened Following the example of the prophet Muhammad Usuman went on ...

Article

Edmund Abaka

Fulani Muslim scholar, led an important intellectual reform movement that culminated in the creation of the Sokoto Caliphate (present-day northern Nigeria), one of the largest states in Africa in the early eighteenth century. Born in Gobir in 1754, Uthman Dan Fodio channeled the political, social, and economic grievances of the Fulani into a movement for reform that dismantled the traditional power structure of the Hausa and led to the emergence of a new political and religious elite, the Fulani, in the Sokoto Caliphate. He was a chain in a link of reformist leaders in the Western Sudan who had stressed a return to orthodox Islam, in contradistinction to what was perceived as a “syncretic” form of Islam that tolerated certain African religious elements.

As a young man Uthman Dan Fodio studied under many learned Muslim men in Hausaland and Agades He was most of all influenced by Jibril ibn Umar ...

Article

David S. Powers

Maliki scholar, jurist, and mufti, was born in Jabal Wansharis (Ouarsenis), a mountain massif in the Central Algerian Tell, 31 miles (50 kilometers) southwest of Algiers. When Ahmad was five years old, his father moved the family to Tlemcen, where he studied the Qurʾan, Arabic language, and Maliki law and jurisprudence with distinguished scholars.

In 1469 at the age of forty al Wansharisi incurred the wrath of the Zayyanid sultan Muhammad IV who ordered that his house be ransacked and plundered Leaving everything behind al Wansharisi fled to Fez where he was welcomed by the scholarly community receiving food and shelter from the jurist Muhammad al Sughayyir He moved into a house near the Muʿallaq mosque in the Sharratin quarter of Fez al Qarawiyyin and was appointed professor of Maliki law at the Madrasa Misbahiyya His knowledge of the law was proverbial He who has not studied with al ...