Dan Fodio lived a life that can be described as of two parts.
The first part which falls in the 18th century was a period where he concentrated on writing, teaching, preaching and reforming.
He was disturbed by the social problems affecting his society.
These social problems included the following;
High level of ignorance especially among the Muslim Women.The social system was terrible in that women were oppressed, neglected and mistreated. Women were locked into their houses against their will. The mode of dressing was that of women walking around in nothing but waist- cloth while exposing their upper part of the body. The society also practiced female circumcision.
The increasing rate of bid’aa (innovation) in Islam. Shehu was strongly opposed to any innovation that disagreed with the Holy Qur’an or the Sunnah.
The wide spread unislamic practices.The society used to engage in practices that did not have its roots or origin from the Qur’an and the prophet’s traditions such as shirk. There was a class of sheikhs who posed as spiritual leaders and earned their living through false prophecy and fortune telling.They swindled their followers by pretending to have supernatural powers. Most people also engaged in haram businesses while others practiced kufr (things that are unacceptable and offensive to Allah).
The violation of the Sharia and neglect of the Sunnah. Most teachers were hypocrites. They took advantage of the people’s ignorance and collected their wealth and property under several pretexts. They misguided the rulers in several matters and made them perpetuate all manners that defied the Islamic religious law. The results of this was a decay in the the society’s social and moral life.
Due to these challenges, he decided to devote his whole life in educating the public on the fundamentals of the Islamic religion.
In order to achieve this; he wrote books in Arabic and a poem praising the Prophet (PBUH).
He also gave lectures during Friday prayers and public seminars.
His teachings were focused on Fiqh, Tawheed and basic Islamic teachings on acts of Ibada.
Since he was well versed in classical Arabic, Huasa, Fulani and Tawadil language he attracted masses of people during his da’wa activities.
He was involved in daawa for 30 years in different areas in Hausa land.
He would pay special attention to the spiritual development of his students through tasawwuf.
He criticized the Ulamas who supported the authorities to protect their vested interests and those who performed all kinds of corruption.
One of his biggest tasks was to create high standard of morality within the society.
Once the sultan of Gobir invited all ulama including Uthman to his palace and presented gifts to them.
The Ulamas made their requests to the Sultan.
Uthman requested for some major changes in the administration.
These included; freedom of participation in daw’a activities, removal of restrictions in practicing the religion, respect to religious people and reduction of the taxes.
The Sultan conceded to his request.
This encouraged Uthman to keep up with the spirit of re-establishing the Islamic teachings within the society.
The second part of his life which began in 1802 witnessed his migration and struggle against the unjust and tyrant regimes of North Africa.
Hausa land was at a critical stage in its history characterized by unbelief, inequity and open defiance to the laws of Allah (SWT).
The social system was immoral and oppression was the order of the day.
This prompted Uthman to raise against the Hausa rulers and establish his own caliphate which he called ‘the Sokoto caliphate.’
He strongly criticized the Hausa ruling class for the following:
Their heavy taxation and violation of the Muslim Law.
Their oppression and unfairness.
The giving and acceptance of bribes.
The imposition of unfair taxes to their subjects.
Forceful seizing of land from its owners.
Unauthorized grazing of animals on other people’s crops.
Good intention is most essential in Muslim deeds and action. It should remain unchanged under all circumstances.
Muslims should have a unity of purpose in the service of Allah (SWT), the Creator of this universe.
Muslims should conform to truth and have the courage to fight against their own inclination by forsaking pleasure and enduring pain by exercising self discipline.
Muslims should avoid bid’a (all innovations in matters of religion) and conform to life established practice, for authority is always better than anarchy.
They should be alive to the evils of procastination and show steadfast zeal and determination in their work.
As human beings, we should acknowledge our inability to accomplish anything without the help of Allah, but we should not use it as a pretext to laziness.
The doctrine for salvation by faith with ‘Al ahazali’ for the ‘fear and hope’ (Khawf wa Raj’a) means that muslims should not feel secure (with Allah’s punishment) and satisfied merely with their good conduct in life, but should also place their hope (Raja) in Allah who is all Merciful.
Muslims should lead a life of devotion and prayers.
Muslims should continuously observe and watch over their hearts (Muraqabah). He who persists in watching and observing his own heart and banishes there from everything will find Allah and His grace.
A consecration to the knowledge of Allah brings us closer to Him.
Imam al ahazali spent his last days in devotion, Qur’an recitations, prayer and fasting, and the company of Sufis.
He died at Tabran in 1111C.E at the age of 55 years.
Ibn al Jawzee narrated in his book, Al-Thabat‘Inda al-Mamat (Firmness at the Time of Death) from al-ahazali’s brother Ahmad: “On Monday [11th Jumadul-Akhira] at the time of the dawn prayer my brother Abu Hamid made his ablution, prayed, then said: ‘Bring me my shroud.’ He took it, kissed it and put it on his eyes, saying: ‘We hear and obey in readiness to enter the King’s presence.’ Then he stretched his legs, facing the Qibla, and died before sunrise.” – may Allah sanctify his soul!
Imam al-Ghazzali's life was spent in self-sacrificing service to Allah (SWT) and humankind.
He left behind him a fine example for all Muslims to follow.