By Khalid Aliyu
Shehu Al-Hajj Muhammad al-Amîn ibn Muhammad al-Kânemî was an Islamic scholar, teacher, religious and political leader who advised and eventually supplanted the Safwan dynasty of the KanemvBornu Empire.
In 1846, Al-Kanemi’s son Umar Ibni Muhammad-Al- amin became the sole ruler of Borno, an event which marked the end of the Sayfawa dynasty’s eight hundred year rule. The current Shehu of Bornu,a traditional ruler whose seat remains in modern Borno State, Nigeria, is descended from Al-Kanemi.
Born to a Kanembu father and an Arab mother near. Murzuk in what is today Libya, Al-Kanemi rose to prominence as a member of a rural religious community in the western provinces of what was then a much atrophied Borno Empire.
The Fulani jihadists, under Usman Danfodio’s banner tried to conquer Borno in 1808. They partly succeeded. They burnt the capital, N’Gazagarmo and defeated the main army of the mai of Borno.
The latter called for the help of Al-Kanemi to repel his Fulani opponents. By planning, inspiration, and prayer, he attracted a following, especially from Shuwa Arab networks and Kanembu communities extending far outside Borno’s borders.
The mai , Dunama IX Lefiami rewarded the leader with control over a Bornu province on the Western march. Taking only the title “Shehu” (“Sheikh“), and eschewing the traditional offices, al-Kanemi gathered a powerful following, becoming both the voice of Bornu in negotiations with Sokoto, as well as a semi independent ruler of a trade rich area with a powerful military.
Dunama was deposed by his uncle in 1809, but the support of al-Kanemi brought him back to power in 1813.
Al Kanemi waged his war against Sokoto not only with weapons but also with letters as he desired to thwart dan Fodio’s jihad with the same ideological weapons.
He carried on a series of theological, legal and political debates by letter with the Sultan of Sokoto Usman Danfodio , and later with his son, Muhammadu Bello.
As the expansion of Sokoto was predicated upon a struggle against paganism, apostasy, and misrule, Al-Kanemi challenged the right of his neighbours to strike at a state which had been Muslim for at least 800 years.
Credit: Ahmed Waziri Blog