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OPINION………200yrs: Accessing the contributions of Sheikh Alimi to Islamic Propagation



ilorin palace

By Muhammad Dare


Sheikh Solihu bn Janta popularly known as Sheikh Alimi was a renowned

Fulani Muslim scholar who initiated a successful Islamic movement in Ilorin.


Historical accounts revealed that upon his arrival in Ilorin, Alimi who came with the first part of the Quran exegesis called (Tafsir Aljalalain)-written by the two noble scholars; Jalaludden Al-Mahali and Jalaludden As-Suyuti -alsofound the second part of the book with the then Muslim scholars he met intherein.


Further checks showed that that both of them requested the copy from him as well as its learning. In response to their request, Alimi gave and taught them the second part of the book in order to facilitate the work of Islamic Dawah.

He was therefore named Alimi meaning; “the scholar”.When the sheikh decided to establish the Islamic movement in the city, he solicited for the assistance of those scholars he met amongst them are his students and companions from different tribes such as; Nupe, Hausa, Fulani among others and they all obliged him in order to accomplish his unique idea but with prayers, fasting, and other means of invocation to Almighty Allah.


After the formation of Islamic empire in the city, the scholars started the propagation of Islam firstly by establishing Islamic cultural and  traditional circles of knowledge where the method of Quran recitation and memorization are being taught. They also taught other Arabic and Islamic studies most especially for daily worships.


The city therefore became a preserved centre for Quran learning and secured

citadel for Islamic scholars where religious teachings emanated to other corners of the world. It also became a new centre for Arabic and Islamic civilization where scholars of different tribes, ethnics, cultures but similar faith reside.


Due to their specialization in different Islamic science e.g. Arabic language, Quran, Islamic law and jurisprudence e.t.c., the scholars established series of Islamic schools. They graduated competent students who later became experts and great scholars that propagated Islam in diverse regions.


However, the scholars –in my view- can be easily categorized into different categories namely: The Preachers, The Teachers, The Writers, The Orators /Public speakers (khutobaa),and The Sufis.


The Preachers are also categorized according to Sheikh Adam into:

–    Those who organize their preaching in mosques every Friday immediately after Fajr prayer or every Friday night after Isha prayer.

–    Those who dedicated certain day or night for their preaching in public places so as to be attended by different men and women from every nooks and cranny of the city.

–    Those who sacrifice their time, health and wealth for reaching out to people from one city to another. They spent nothing less than a week in every city they reached. The most famous scholar in this line is Sheikh Saad An-nufaawiy who converted thousands of disbelievers in different villages and town into Islam.

There are some other preachers who give admonitions in different circles of occasions like wedding, naming ceremonies, mourning the deaths e.t.c

However, the Teachers include those scholars who only sit at their mosques or Quran and lower elementary schools (KUTTAB) and teach students different types of Islamic studies and Arabic language.


The Kuttab were established next to mosques which focused on teaching, reading, writing the Quran and other calligraphy works. The kuttab which still exists in some parts of Ilorin is similar to elementary schools.


Sometimes, a single Kuttab would accommodate hundreds of students who live around the vicinity of Mallam. Tuition was free and education was available to all classes of society. There was no discrimination between the pupils.

The son of the poor sits besides the son of the rich. Students write lessons on slates (WALA). They used black ink called (TADA). In addition, the writers are those scholars who excelled in Arabic and Islamic studies but only specialize in authoring books. In that time when there was no printing press, books were copied by hands. This made books somehow scarce and expensive that poor students were unable to purchase them. It was even recorded that some scholars copied the glorious Quran with Hand. They also authored some other Arabic and Islamic books in Arabic Language.


The Sufis are those committed Muslim worshipers and scholars who devoted all their lives for ascetics and mysticisms .They are very conservative in doing adhkaar every day and night. They are majorly focused on spiritual devotion living behind them all lively materials. They contributed immensely to the propagation of Islam by calling people into devotion and ascetic lives in reformation of societies.


The first two major and popularly known Sufis movement in Ilorin were Qodiriyyah and Tijaniyyah. The Qodiriyyah was established by Sheikh Abdul Qodir Al-Jaelani. The movement which has its centre in Baghdad also has many followers in West Africa especially in Ilorin. However, the Tijaniyyah movement can be traced back to Algeria. It was established by Sheikh Ahmad At-Tijani. It was later spread into different African countries by Sheikh Ibrahim bn Abdullah Niyass.


Muslim scholars in Ilorin who were the followers of these movements later established different Zawiyyay (adhikr circle) in their homes for daily practices of their activities which include daily congregational Adhikr and weekly kubura every Friday evening.


Some of the Sufis scholars use their mosques as Zawiyah while some have separate Zawiyah at homes apart from mosques. They also organized annual Maolud nabiy in commemoration of the birth of the noble prophet Muhammad (PBUH).


Moreover, some Sufi scholars reached out to people in rural areas with the aim of spreading their Sufism doctrine .In doing so, they let people embrace Islam and later became their Muridis(Student /follower).They spent many years in a  certain settlement . They built mosques and zawiyah where they observed their daily religious practices.


The Khutabaa(orators / public speakers) are those scholars who were very talented in Arabic language. They were very eloquent and maintained high standard in linguistic styles. They also employed the use of paronomasia and synonymous words to attract the attention of their listeners. They mounted Minbar (pulpit) every Friday to admonish people on their religion, lifestyles, doctrine, e.t.c In accordance with the Quran and Sunnah. They were also the Imams of central and community mosques.


It is also worth mentioning that those scholars engaged in different Islamic conquests in order to expand the Islamic boarders and to purify the beliefs and practices of paganism and heretics.


After the demise of Sheikh Alimi, his eldest son Abdus-Salam was installed as the first Emir in recognition of his father’s efforts and achievements in establishing a secured and peaceful Islamic movement in the city.

However, with the assistance of Fulani and Hausa Muslim soldiers from the north, Abdus-Salam conquered Afonja (a Yoruba pagan who migrated to Ilorin from Oyo Ile) in a religious skirmish that occurred between them.

Muslim scholars also led major jihads and conquered many neighbouring cities and towns. A notable example of the jihad was that of Offa that was conquered in 1886 by Ilorin Muslim scholars.

However, the jihadists movements invited Yoruba leaders to Islam. They requested them to either adopt it as a religion or remain under its control otherwise they should prepare for Jihad. As a result, Islam began to spend rapidly into new rural and urban cities of Yoruba land.

In conclusion, it is 200 years memory lane, the legacies left by those scholars (may Allah be pleased with them all) have continued wax stronger and relevant up till the present moment in Ilorin in particular and the entire Yoruba land in general. I therefore urge all our modern Muslim scholars to intensify more efforts in the propagation of Islam everywhere and at all times.

Ustaz Muhammad Dare writes from Ilorin via


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