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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...