The “Wahhabi” influence on the movement of al-Mujaddid ‘Uthman dan Fodio

By Shaykh Jamal al-Din Zarabozo

Uthmaan Dan Fodio (b. 1169 A.H./1754 C.E.) was from the Fulani tribe. During his early years, many of his people had yet to embrace Islam in a complete sense. A lot of idolatry still existed; they did not attend to the prayers and fasts; they still drank alcohol; they ran around practically in the nude and so on. At an early age, Uthmaan learned the Quran and Arabic language. While traveling to further pursue his studies, he studied under Shaikh Jibreel ibn Umar in the land of the Tawaariq. Shaikh Jibreel directed his attention to the serious study of the Quran and Sunnah. Previous to that, Shaikh Jibreel had made the pilgrimage and was greatly influenced by the followers of ibn Abdul-Wahhaab in Makkah. Uthmaan himself decided to make the Hajj and in the process met with many of the scholars in the Hijaz who were followers of ibn Abdul-Wahhaab. In the Hijaz, he studied the writings of ibn Abdul-Wahhaab and personally transcribed copies for himself.1

After staying one year in the Hijaz, he returned to his homeland and earnestly started his reform movement. He gave lectures, wrote books and became very popular. He fought against common heresies within his tribe. He struggled to remove the final remnants of polytheism, animism and ancestor worship from his area. He spread the correct teachings of the faith. He began his movement with polite admonitions, reminders, ordering good and eradicating evil. As his followers increased in number, he, like ibn Abdul-Wahhaab before him, turned to one of the local authorities to gain political strength. He went to King Nafta, the strongest of the Hausah rulers, and explained to him Islam and the principles upon which he wished to work. The two entered into an alliance, although there existed those who opposed Uthmaan. He eventually was able to unite his people under his political authority. He took part in a number of jihads to spread the faith, starting in 1802 A.H. By 1804, he had established the Sultanate of Sokono, a relatively large Islamic empire, that continued after Uthmaan Dan Fodio’s death.

Of all the movements that are ascribed as having been influenced by ibn Abdul-Wahhaab, Uthmaan Dan Fodio was definitely the closest to ibn Abdul-Wahhaab in his teachings and approach, leaving very little doubt that the influence was quite strong. In fact, Uthmaan’s brother Abdullah ibn Muhammad explicitly stated that Uthmaan started his movement after returning from the Hajj and leaving the practices of his people that contradicted the Shareeah.2


1. There are those who deny that Uthmaan visited Hijaz. In any case, though, it is clear that he studied under Shaikh Jibreel who was a follower of ibn Abdul-Wahhaab’s teachings.

2. He is quoted in Jumuah, p. 114. For more details concerning Uthmaan Dan Fodio and ibn Abdul-Wahhaab’s influence upon him, see Abdul-Fattaah al-Ghunaimi, “Athar Dawah al-Shaikh Muhammad ibn Abdil-Wahhaab fi Gharb Afreeqiya” in Buhooth Nadwah Dawah al-Shaikh Muhammad ibn Abdil-Wahhaab (Riyadh: Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University, 1991), vol. 2, pp. 343-368. Mustafa Masad, “Athar Dawah al-Shaikh Muhammad ibn Abdil-Wahhaab fi Harakah Uthmaan ibn Faudi al-Islaahiyyah fi Gharb Ifreeqiyaa” in Buhooth Nadwah Dawah al-Shaikh Muhammad ibn Abdil-Wahhaab (Riyadh: Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University, 1991), vol. 2, pp. 423-444; Jumuah, pp. 103-116.

Zarabozo, J (2005). The Life, Teachings, and Influence of Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhaab . Riyadh: Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Dawah, and Guidance. 176-7.

One thought on “The “Wahhabi” influence on the movement of al-Mujaddid ‘Uthman dan Fodio

  1. As salamu Alaikum wa rahmatulah

    Shayhk Uthman Dan Fodio was no shape and form influenced by Muhammad Abdul Wahab. His Shayhk Jibril did go to hajj but it was never reordered that the Shehu physically ever went to Mecca. Shayhk Uthman wrote many books on tawaswuf including “The Glad tiding of the community of Ahmad” where he speaks about the blessing of being part of the Qadiriya Tariqa. Please feel free to read it on our website Shayhk Uthman Dan Fodio wrote many books on tasawuf and his most famous supplications which is the Munajat is loaded with tawasul. The views that Shayhk Jibril brought back from the hijaz was rejected by the Shehu. We have recieved ijaza directly from the Shehu’s family where they migrated to in Sudan and Nigeria and they have transmitted many work of tasawuf from Shayhk Uthman Dan Fodio Raheem Allah.

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