Muwālāt and Apostasy in the Early Sokoto Caliphate

In: Islamic Africa
Kota Kariya Associate Professor, Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies,

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‘Uthmān b. Fūdī (d. 1817) launched a jihad in Hausaland in 1804 and was successful in establishing a strong polity known as the Sokoto Caliphate. During this jihad, the Sokoto leadership clashed not only with non-Muslims but also with those who had historically been recognized as Muslims, such as the inhabitants of Bornu, a state neighboring Hausaland. Islamic law does not, in principle, permit attacks on Muslims. Therefore, to justify the jihad, the hostile Muslims had to be branded unbelievers. For that, ‘Uthmān and his successor, Muḥammad Bello (d. 1837), developed and instituted a provision on apostasy based on the idea of muwālāt (friendship) with unbelievers. This stipulation emerged as a substantial regulation legalizing the violence committed by the Sokoto leaders on Muslims who were opposed to them both within and outside the early Caliphate.

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