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Islamic Education in Kano

It has developed over the centuries in terms of the subjects and books studied in the schools but the method of teaching has remained the same. In every school there is one most senior teacher or Shaykh and in most cases the school bares his name. The Shaykh teaches the senior students who assist him by teaching the junior students.

 History of Islamic Education in Kano

Islamic literacy was brought to Bilad al-Sudan by perhaps the Murabitun (Almoravids) after they liberated Ghana and the “penetration of the Niger Region by Abu Bakr b. Umar al-Murabit between 471AH/1078 CE and 475AH/1082CE” (Hiskette and Bivar 1962). The Wanagarawa were the earliest Islamic educators in Kano. After them al-Maghili and others lived in Kano and contributed to the development of Islamic Education.

The first scholar who lived in Kano and wrote in Arabic was perhaps Shaykh Abd al-Karim al-Maghili. As earlier stated he was in Kano during the reign of Sarki Rumfa (1463-99). He was a great Maliki Jurists and Political Theorist. He wrote Ta'’if fi ma yajib al-Muluk (The obligation of the Princes) (Baldwin 1932) and Mukhtasar mimma yajuz li ’l-hukkam fi radd al-nas an al-haram (summary of permissability of turning away people from unlawful acts by those in authority) (Palmer 1914-15: 53-59) to guide Sarkin Kano Muhammadu Rumfa. It is not clear whether he wrote his al-Mughni al-nabil fi sharh Mukhtasar al-Khalil (A commentary on Mukhtasar Khalil) in Kano. Muhammad b. Ahmad (aka Aida Ahmad) (824-936AH/1469-1529CE) is said to have resided in Kano and other parts of Hausaland he was an author and contemporary of al-Maghili. He was given ijaza (license) to teach by some scholars in Egypt and Hijaz and he wrote a commentary on the Mukhtasar. He may have taught in Kano before he became the Qadi (judge) of Katsina. Another Maliki Jurist who resided in Kano during the Habe period was Makhluf al-Bilbali apart from his knowledge of Fiqh he was also a Muhadith (scholar of Prophetic traditions) have been memorised the Sahih al-Bukhari. Some of his judgements and legal views have been documented.

The pattern of Islamic Education did not change after the jihad and the successful overthrow of the pre-jihad dynasty and establishment of the Emirate. Amir al-Muminin Shaykh Muhammad Bello established a University at Silame. It was famous all over the Western Sudan and it achieved great success in training scholars and officials of the Caliphate administration. Kano had at least two or more students at the University, Alfa Umar b. Alim Abd Allah al-Kanawi and his cousin Zangi (Bello 1994: 3 and 22) who later became Qadi Kano both of them were versed in the common disciplines. During the scramble for Africa, the French invaded Silame, burnt parts of the University town and took away with them valauble books and that was the end of the university project.

Some books were produced during the Emirate period. Four Emirs of Kano: Sulaiman b. Aba Hama, Ibrahim Dabo b. Mahmud, Muhammad Bello b. Ibrahim and Aliyu Babba (aka Alu) were all scholars. Ibrahim Dabo and his grandson Alu made literary contributions on Tasawwuf (sufism). Two history books: Taqyid al-Akbar by Muhammad Zangi and Faid al-Qadir by Muhammad Amin, have been noted as valauble contributions to the history of Kano (Gbadamosi and Ajayi 1980: 305).

Madabo School that grew from the Wangarawa tradition is the oldest surviving Islamic school in Kano and it is still famous in Fiqh. The Kabara School established by Mallam Kabara who flourished during the reign of Sarkin Kano Alwali Kutumbi has been maitained by one of his descendants Shaykh Nasiru Kabara and his children. The Kabara School has been famous in the fields of Theology, Astrology and History. The school at Gidan Liman is also very old have been established early in the 19th century CE and it is still functioning. The Naibin Kano Mallam Aminu is maintaining the school.

One of the most celebrated legacies of the Madabo School is Abdurrahman Suyudi who came to Madabo as a student in the 19th century CE. After he became a scholar he established his own school at Madabo and later when Abbas became Sarkin Kano he appointed him a member of the Majalisar Sarki (Emir’s Council) and turbaned him Babban Mallami (Senior Scholar) of the Emirate. Mallam Suyudi trained Mallam Muhammad Salaga who is considered one of the greatest Kano Mallams of the 20th century CE. He established his own school and he was later engaged in controversy with the Madabawa on some legal issues. Mallam Salaga produced the highiest number of scholars in 20th century CE Kano. Among his students were Abubakar Mijinyawa, Tijani Usman, Abubakar Atiku, Shehu Maihula, Sani Kafinga, Dangwago and others. All of them established their schools. The school of Mallam Shehu Maihula established by his father is the only one still flourishing and his children and students maintain it.


Islamic Schools In Kano

There are three types of Islamic Schools in Kano, the Quranic Schools, Ilm Schools and Islamiyya Schools. The first two have been in existence while the Islamiyya Schools are a recent innovation.

Qur’anic Schools

The first elementary school of most Muslim children is the Quranic School where they are taught reading and writing Quranic text. Imam Umaru has reported that in his time those who send their children to school in Kano were the majority compared to other parts of Hausaland In the 19th century CE when Imam Umaru was a child, children were sent to the Quranic School if they were able to count one to ten even if they were not circumcised (in the case of males). The child was taught to recite and memorise Surat al-Fatiha and from Surat al-Nas to al-Fil. To celebrate the completion of this stage a meal of rice and beans was given as sadaqat (alms) to the Mallam and pupils of the school. Thereafter the child would learn other chapters of the Quran which are divided in sixty hizb (portions) and after each hizb a ram or goat will be slaughtered and served with tuwo (corn meal) and given out as sadaqat to neighbours, the teacher and other pupils (Ferguson 1973: 260-261). This practice is however now very rare because of the economic situation of this decade. The celebration for completing the Quran was expensive in the 19th century CE it involved slaughtering an ox and large walima (party) for neighbours, the teacher and other pupils. Sometimes the ceremony was delayed because of the expenses involved.

The ability to complete the Quranic stage of Islamic Education still depends on the ability of the child. Some children start at a very early age and finish very early while others are indiscipled or less brilliant take a longer time. In Kano and other parts of western Hausaland children are not expected to memorise the Quran, unlike in Borno and eastern parts of Hausaland where some of the pupils are still expected to memorise the Quran. Some parents in Kano still send their children to Borno to learn memorisation of the Quran because of its history in this field, despite the fact that Kano in recent years has been very good in international Quranic memorisation and recitation competitions.

There are very many Quranic Schools in contemporary Kano. They are open in Kano from Saturday to Wednesday mostly in the mornings before noon and in the afternoon after the Dhuhr (noon) prayer to after the Asr (afternoon). The children who attend western education primary schools attend the school in the afternoon. Tajwid (the science of reading the Quran) is also becoming popular especially with the recent successes of the Kano contingent at the Quranic recitation and memorisation competition.

’Ilm Schools

After completing the Quranic School some pupils continue with their Islamic Education by enrolling at any of the numerous Ilm (literarily science) schools in Kano. Most students choose the school of the Mallam they respect most while those with tariqa affialation choose the school of their tariqa Shaykh. Learning in these schools is still based on some books which, shall be stated below and the period of completing each book entirely depends on the ability of the student.

The first book that is studied by most students in Kano is Kitab Qawa’id al-Salat by an anonymous author. It is a very short book of about six pages and it contains passages on salat and tawhid (Oneness of Allah). After completing this book the student will study Mukhtasar al-Akhdari by Abdurrhaman Al-Akhadari (n.d). This is an important elementary book of Maliki Fiqh studied by young students all over Hausaland and it deals mainly with tahara (purification) and salat. The next book though but more advanced than al-Akhdari is Muqiddima Fi-1 Fiqh by al-Aslmawi it covers the two pillars of Islam salat and siyam (fasting) (Katsina 1984). The student may also be introduced to any book on Arabic especially dealing with the praises of the Prophet (SAW). al-Muqadimat al-’Izziyya by by Abul-l-Hassan b. Ali (d.1533) a more advanced fiqh textbook in terms of volcabulary and topics covered is studied by many students who have studied al-Ashmawi. Apart from the rituals, marriage and divorce, commercial transactions, inheritance, explanations on some prophetic traditions, etiquetes, bribery and corruption are concisely treated by al-’Izziya (Quadri and Oloyede 1990). Talim al-Muta’allim by an anonymous author a book on ethics of learning is studied by many students while studying Muqiddimat al-Ashmawi or al-Izziyyah, some may add Arbaun Hadith al-Nawawi (Forty Hadiths of al-Nawawi) by Imam Yahya al-Nawawi which is the most basic hadith textbook used by students in Hausaland.

The second stage of learning in the ’Ilm School may include Bakrut al-Sa’ad wa zubdat al-Madhab (beginning of happiness and cream of the school) popularly known as al-Risalah of Abdallah b. Abi Zayd al-Qayrawan (Kenny 1990). Some students at this stage may study al-Ishiriniyat of Abu Zaid Abd al-Rahman al-Andalusi al-Fazazi. Other poetry books on the praise of Prophet (SAW) that may be studied by many students before the Ishiriniyat include al-Burda by Sharaf al-Din Abu Abd Allah b. Muhammad b. Ali Al-Busiri (d. 1296 CE), al-Witriyyah by al-Bagdadi al-Witri (d. 1264) and Marmuz aI-Tantarani by Ahmad b. Abi Bakr.  Most students are introduced to Nahwu (Arabic Grammer) at this stage by studying the elementary al-Ajurumiya by Muhammad b. Muhammad Ibn Dau’ud Ibn Ajurruma al-Sanhaji. The student may also study Riyad al-Salihin of Muhyidin Imam Yahya al-Nawawi or Mukhtar al-Ahadith al-Nabawiyat wa al-Hikma al-Muhammadiyat of al-Sayyid Ahmad al-Hashimi this book has been translated into Hausa by a Kano Scholar (Musdafa 1997). The next book on Fiqh is the more advanced Irshad al-Salik fi Fiqh Imam Malik of Abd al-Rahman Ibn Muhammad Ibn Askar and the two famous commentaries of the book were written by Nigerian Ulama (Al-Kashnawi nd).

The last stage in most ’Ilm schools is the stage of studying Mukhtasar of Sidi Khalil ibn Ishaq. This is the most advanced textbook of Maliki Fiqh which, is studied in Hausaland. It takes many students several years before they complete thus it is refered to as abokin tsofan yaro. Some students study it with several scholars and whoever masters the book automatically becomes a jurist in the Maliki School. Other books which, may be studied along with Mukhtasar may include Alfiyat of Ibn Malik it is one of the most advanced books of Arabic grammer it also has several commentaries but the most widely read is the commentary of Ibn Aqil. Muqamat of al- Qasim b. Ali b. Muhammad al-Hariri, is the most advanced book of Arabic literature which, is studied in most schools of Kano. In the field of Usul al-Fiqh at this student may study Alfiyat Usul of Shaykh Abdullahi Dan Fodio, although it is not the most elementary book of Usul al-Fiqh many students start studying the subject with it because of their proficiency in Arabic. In field of Theology Nazam al-Kubra is studied at most schools but in schools which, specialise in Theology such as Gidan Qadiriyya of Shaykh Nasiru Kabara more books in this field are studied.

The stages of study enumerate above are the most basic and conventional in Kano but other patterns are also common based on the prefence of the teachers and students. For example those students who have interest in becoming judges usually study Tuhfat al-Hukkam of Muhammad b. Muhammad b. Asim before they study Mukhtasar of Sidi Khalil. Tafsir is mostly learnt through the annual Ramadan sessions although some scholars for example Mallam Yusuf Makwarari teaches it throughout the year. Some schools specialise in specific fields for example the Madabawa have been prominent in Fiqh, the Gidan Qadiriyya as stated early are famous in Theology and Astrology a less popular subject. The school of Mallam Sabo Chiromawa is the oldest flourishing Hadith School in Kano.

[1] See Qawaid of Qadi Iyad.

Last Updated on Friday, 15 August 2008 21:07