Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2018
  • Online publication date: July 2019

2 - The Roots of Sokoto Caliphate Plantations


The Sokoto jihad was spearheaded by men of vision who were mainly concerned with the establishment of a just, ideal, and viable Islamic state modeled after that centered in Arabia in the seventh century. The consensus among these men was that Muslims are destined to rule over unbelievers, and that trade in enslaved Muslims was wrong. Among other factors, this resulted in the use of military action to support their vision. The nature and course of the resulting military engagements led to increased availability of land and slaves, which in turn fostered plantation development.

State Policy Goals, Innovations, and Plantation Development

Although the policy goals pursued by the Sokoto jihad leaders were in many respects consistent with those of the various Hausa regimes they displaced, they differed significantly, in part because they were primarily shaped by Islamic principles, and in part because the basis for these policies was the Muslim ummah, or broader Islamic community, rather than the limited regional interests which had underpinned the policies of the old regimes. It is not necessary to examine the pre-jihad and the post-jihad policy goals in detail. However, it is crucial to state that, unlike the pre-jihad leaders, their successors extensively documented their concerns. They wrote on diverse issues such as education, personal integrity, finance, and administration. The jihad leaders, however, were primarily concerned with the establishment of a just, viable, and ideal Islamic state modeled after the historic state centered in Arabia in the seventh century. In conformity with the ideals that inspired the jihad, they presented their policy objectives in religious terms. For instance, Usman dan Fodio's writings suggest that his concern with the establishment of a state and with the security of Muslim interests in general was connected with his belief that Muslims were obliged to reject domination by unbelievers, either by overthrowing them or by fl ight. In articulating this position and relating it to his local context, he, in explicitly Islamic ideological terms, considered his followers as jama'a and the pre-jihad Hausa rulers as unbelievers, because they had mixed Islam with “indigenous” religious practices:

Another class [of “unbelievers’ lands”] is those lands where Islam predominates and unbelief is rare such as Borno, Kano, Katsina, Songhay, and Mali according to the examples given by Ahmad Baba in the aforementioned book [Al-Kashf wa'l-bayan].