Flanked by the lands of Dahomey (which formed a part of the Ancient Songhay kingdom) on the West and the Cameroons on the East, the vast land of about 923,768 sq km which inhabits the largest number of black people on earth and named after one of the longest rivers on the African continent, River Niger. Nigeria - has the Atlantic Ocean to its south and the modern day Niger Republic to its north.
As such, the region, Nigeria encompasses areas such as Katsina, Kano, and Sokoto amongst others which were influenced very directly by previous major West African kingdoms such as the Ghana and the Malian kingdoms as well as areas which on their own were a culture and civilization such that their civilization extended to their present boundaries such as the Kanem Borno Kingdom.
There is also the southern part which is dominated by two main groups of people - The Yoruba who had some history of interaction with the previous West African Kingdoms such as the Ghana. Mali and Songhay and the Ibo who were basically known to live in small Village communities.
In all, the entity called Nigeria today was a part of the region which was generally known in the wake of Islaam as Bilaad as-Soodan or Bilaad at-Takroor (The land of the Blacks). The Initial Exploits The earliest traceable statements on when Islaam came to the region now referred as Nigeria dates to the earliest time Islaam came to the West African region. This was with the exploits of the eminent Companion Uqbah bn Aamir (RA) after the establishment of the City of Qayrawaan.
After reaching the West African coasts of the Atlantic and finding no land, the Companion (RA) together with those with him, moved southwards traversing the West African region. Muhammad Naasir al-Mukhtaar Al-Kabara said, "This was what the author of the book Aathaar al-Bilaad (The History of the Cities) said and that Uqbah bn Aamir came to Kwwaar. They used to mention Kwara as Kwwaar," (Risaalatu al-Jaliyyah li makaanati Nayjeeriyyah al-Ilmiyyah Qabla kiyaanati Daolati Sokoto).
"This was later followed by AI-Imam yahya bn Abdullah al-Hasan al-Muthanna bn al-Hasan bn Alee bn Abee Taalib (popularly referred to as Dan Madeenah) came" from Madeenah al-Munawwarah together with a number of his followers and settled in Yan Doto where he established an Islaamic Community in the year 180AH. Muhammad Naasir al-Mukhtaar Al-Kabara has mentioned that the University of Sokoto, Nigeria had written a work on the Scholars of Yan Doto and in it was Dan Madeenah. Yan Doto is an ancient city between Chafe and Gusau in modern day Zamfara State, Nigeria.
All these date between the 7th and 9th Century CE. Over the years, here it is necessary to note that the Baraabira (the people of the North African Region) and the Soodan (the Black people of West Africa) despite the efforts of the Companions and those after them to make them understand the evil of putting up servitude to trees, rivers, stars and rocks which they worshipped besides Allaah, the people soon returned to their old cultures and worship.
We recall that, this fact was the reason given by the companion Uqbah bn Naafi (RA) to establish the gigantic city of Qayrawaan. Return to disbelief by this people was at the flimsiest of reasons!! Sometimes, that the people were overpowered by a conquering non-Muslim Army or the inability of some of the people to maintain steadfastness in the face of trials from non-Muslim Kingship in their domain or the death of a learned person or someone who is influential in the community who served as a source of guide to the people or general ignorance led to their leaving the deen.
Yet, whenever the situation was favorable the people would revert to Islaam. Thus, at some intervals in the history of the people of the area a good number of the people would be Muslims and at other intervals it was as if they never heard of lslaam!! Subsequent spread at the collapse of the Old Ghana Kingdom some of those who are learned in Islaamic Sciences amongst the people from this region at the time migrated to the lands of Katsina and Kano.
So was it at the peak of the reign of the succeeding stupendously rich Malian kingdom. Islaam in the Kingdom at the time were practiced as the religion of Kings and of the notables in the community. So, the deen spread to areas like Timbuktu, Jenne, Borno, the Hausaland and Yorubaland at this time.
Thus, till date Islaam is typically referred to by the Yoruba as the religion of the people of Mali (Esin Imale). The Rule also created the opportunity for other Scholars from other regions to establish themselves, teach the deen and make other converts to the deen around the empire and wherever the influence of the Kingdom was felt.
This atmosphere saw the likes of Ash-Shaykh Muhammad bn AbdulKareem al-Magheelee (from Northern Africa), al-Imaam Jalaaluddeen as-Suyootee (the author of over 300 works on the various Sciences of the deen from Egypt), ash-Shaykh Muhammad Zahr popularly referred to as Maikargo (very learned in the Science of hadeeth from Tunisia), ash-Shaykh Abdullaah Thiqqah (from Mali who was also versed in the science of hadeeth), ash-Shaykh Muhammad Muwatta (who memorized the Muwatta of Imaam Maalik and got known with the Book and al-Imaam AbdurRahmaan as-Suyootee-acquired knowledge from him) and very many others coming to the parts of the region now referred to as Nigeria.
The major tasks they shouldered were to invite the idol worshippers to Islaam, purify the belief of those who were already Muslims, respond to the matters that arose amongst the Muslims by giving verdicts and properly establishing those who were already grounded in the various Islaamic disciplines which they mastered.
In fulfilling these responsibilities, they established learning centers in the various areas especially in the major, trade centers such that those who migrated on the trade caravans either benefited from the learning sessions as teachers or as students.
The major learning centers include: Yan Doto (in present Zamfara State), Kano, Borno, Kashina (Katsina), Zak Zak, and Kulum Fardu amongst many others. The efforts of the Scholars in spreading the deen in the region at the time was buoyed by the movements and interactions of the Muslims from Morocco, Libya, Tarblus, Tunis and Egypt while they carried out their lawful trade.
The fact that the Muslim and his deen were inseparable and that the trade routes connected the various commercial capitals of the various kingdoms such as Ancient Ghana,Timbuktu, Hausa Kingdoms, and the Kanem Bornu Kingdom amongst others was an opportunity to be utilized. All these were to be precursors to the exploits of ash-Shaykh al Mujaddid Uthmaan bn Foodee (RAH).
This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited