West African Jihads

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The African Jihads

Jihad, the Muslim word meaning holy war. During the 18th and 19th centuries,

this word brought fear to anyone who did not fully believe in the Islamic state

and resided in West Africa. The Jihads of this era not only changed the faith

of many people, but also the landscape of West African democracy. Although

Islamic Jihads had occurred in the past, they never surmounted to the magnitude

of those of the 18th century. What factors and leaders caused the West African

Jihads, of the 18th and 19th centuries, to be so effective?

The people of West Africa were tired of governments who constantly over taxed

its constituents, and simply did not care for the well being of common

individuals. The Islamic
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While he

was still young, Usman moved south with his family to Degel, where he studied

the Koran with his father. Subsequently he moved on to other scholar relatives,

traveling from teacher to teacher in the traditional way, and reading

extensively in the Islamic sciences. One powerful intellectual and religious

influence at this time was his teacher in the southern Saharan city of Agadez,

Jibril ibn 'Umar, a radically Orthodox figure whom Usman respected greatly.

Umar educated Usman on the importance of Orthodoxy, and told him stories of how

the Fulbe defeated their oppressors through the method of Jihad. It was at this

period that Usman discovered that if one decides to live under the Islamic

faith, they must follow the Koran from top to bottom.

In the upcoming years Usman moved to Gobir where he taught and led a community

of Fulbe people. Usman always discussed the importance of Islamic Orthodoxy.

"His two main concerns were the concerns were the conversion of those Fulani

pastoralists who still clung to pagan religious beliefs, and the religious and

social reform of the nominally Muslim Hausa rulers." Throughout the 1780s and

'90s Usman's reputation increased, as did the size and importance of the

community that looked to him for religious and political leadership. It was

even thought that Usman was the second coming of the prophet Muhammad.

Usman at this time became worried at the interest that Hausa rulers gave to his
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