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A contribution to the biography of Shaikh Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd-al-Karīm ibn Muḥammad (ʿUmar-aʿMar) al-Maghīlī, al-Tilimsānī

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 January 2009


Few African scholars have had such an impact on both North and West Africa as al-Maghīlī (d. 1503/4 or 1505/6). This biographical sketch begins by assessing his part in the theological debate preceding the persecution of the Jewish community at Touat (conventionally dated to 1492), which was largely instigated by him, and relates it to his unsuccessful campaign against the Banū-Waṭṭāş whom he opposed because of their incapacity to check the growth of Christian power and Jewish influence in Morocco. After his failure against the Banū-Waṭṭāş, al-Maghīlī went to the western Sudan, where in Air, Takidda, Kano, Katsina and Gao he exerted a more peaceful and scholastic influence as a great renovator of Islam. The death of his son at Touat led him to return there C. 1503, and to resume his active campaigning against the Jews and their influence until his death a year or two later.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1973

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1 Cherbonneau, M. A., ‘Histoire de la littérature arabe au Soudan’, Journal Asiatique, IV (1855), 392–7.Google Scholar The biography of al-Maghīlī appears in Bābā's, AhmadNayl al-Ibtihāj bi-tatrīz al-Dībāj (henceforward referred to as Nayl)Google Scholar on the margin of Farhūn's, Ibnal-Dibāj al-Mudhahhab (Cairo, A. H. 1329), 330–2.Google Scholar

2 Barth, H., Travels and Discoveries in North and Central Africa (London, 1965), I, 310 and n.Google Scholar

3 Marty, P., Études sur l'Islam et les Tribus du Soudan (Paris, 1920), 1, 21.Google Scholar

4 Hiskett, M., ‘An Islamic tradition of reform in the Western Sudan from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century’, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, XXV, 3 (1962), 584.Google Scholar

5 Bābā, Ahmad, Nayl, 331.Google Scholar

6 On Ibn Yadīr,Google Scholar see Bābā, Ahmad, Nayl, 359. Al-Tamantītī (al-Qawl al-Bas¯k fi akhbār Tamantīt, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, MS. Arabe no. 6399, fol. ), asserts that Ibn Yadir came to Touat in 845/1441–2.Google Scholar

7 'Askar, Ibn, Dawhat al-Nāshir, B.N.P., MS. Arabe no. 5025, fol. 72. The Banü-Wattāş were a family related to the Marinids. From 1420, as viziers to the Marinid sultans, this family held power in Morocco. In 1472 the first Wattāaşid sultan, Muhammad al-Shaikh b. Abū-Zakariya, was proclaimed at Fez after six years of struggle. Throughout their period of power, the Banū-Wattās encountered the hostility of the religious orders on account of their failure to resist the Christians’ attempts to occupy territory in Morocco.Google Scholar (See Terrasse, H., Histoire du Maroc, Casablance, 1950, II, 543 if.;Google ScholarSalmon, M. G., ‘Essai sur l'histoire politique du Nord-Marocain’, Archives Marocaines, II (1904), 46).Google ScholarThe brotherhoods' reaction was championed by the Shaikh of the Jazulyya harīqa (a North African brotherhood attributed to Abu- ‘Abd-Allah Muhammad b. Sulaymūlī (d. 1465–70)). Al-Maghili's campaign was therefore not an isolated one, and may be viewed as part of this general crusade.Google Scholar

8 'Askar, Ibn, op. cit. fol. 72.Google Scholar

9 Ibid Ibn 'Askar is most probably making reference to al-Maghīlī's treatise, Ah.kām Ahi al-Dhimma. Cf. B.N.P., MS. Arabe no. 5452, fols. 550–4.

10 Ibid

11 Ibid

12 Ibid

13 Ibid The story is told that al-Maghīlī antagonized the fuqahā of Fez by deputing one of his six learned negro slaves, al-Faqih Maymūn, to discuss the question of the Jews with them. Humiliated by this gesture, the fuqahā are reported to have hastened to the sultan and aroused his hostility towards al-Maghīlī, saying to him that al-Maghīlī desired to incite the people against him, neither intending to prescribe good nor to forbid evil but his overriding desire was for the sultan's throne.

14 Ibid fol. 73. Sultan Muhammad al-Shaikh is said to have accused al-Maghīlī of conspiring against the throne, whereupon al-Maghīlī retorted that the sultan's palace and the latrine were the same to him.

15 al-Tamanitītī. op. cit. fol. 6.Google Scholar

16 Hirschberg, H. Z.(J. W.), ‘The Problem of the Judaized Berbers’, J. Afr. Hist., IV, (1963), 323. According to al-Tamantītī (op. cit. fol. 2), as many as 360 Jews worked as gold and silversmiths in Touat before the time of al-Maghīlī's.Google Scholar

17 See Crone, G. R., The Voyages of Cadamosto (London, 1937), 86.Google Scholar

18 Ibid The poverty of the inhabitants of Tamantītī may account for the active support which they are claimed to have given to al-Maghīlī's campaign against the Jews.

19 De La Martinière, H. M. P. and Lacroix, N., Documents pour servir a l'étude du Nord Afrzcain (Algiers, 1897), 111, 152.Google Scholar

20 Cour, A., L'établissement des dynasties des chertfs au Maroc (Paris, 1904), 46.Google Scholar

21 Sidi Muhammad al-Khalīfa b. Sidi al-Mukhtār al-Kuntī, Kitāb al-Tarā'if wa al. Tarā'id min kar¯m¯t al-shaikhain al-wālida wa al-wālid (henceforward referred to as Kitāb al-Tarā'if), fol. 52. MS. in possession of the writer.Google Scholar

22 Martin, A. G. P., Les Oasis Sahariennes (Algiers, 1908), 128.Google Scholar

23 Sidi Muhammad al-Khalīfa b. Sidi a1-Mukhtār al-Kuntī, Kitāb al-Tarā'if, fol. 52.Google Scholar

24 a1-Tamantītī, op. cit., fol. 2.Google Scholar

25 Martin, A. G. P., Les Oasis Sahariennes, 228–9.Google ScholarFor more traditions on this subject see De La Martinière, H. M. P. and Lacroix, N., op. cit. 254 if.Google Scholar

26 al-Wansharīsī, al-Mi'yār, Archives Marocaines, XII (1908), 244 and 247. On al Fajījī,Google Scholarsee 'Askar, Ibn, op. cit. fol. 73.Google Scholar

27 al-Wansharīsī, al-Mi'yār, 247.Google Scholar

28 Goitein, S. D., Jews and Arabs (New York, 1955), 68.Google Scholar

29 al-Wansharīsī, al-Mi'yār, 247.Google Scholar

30 Sidi Muhammad al-Khalīfa b. Sidi al-Mukhtar al-Kuntī, Kitāb al-Tarā'f, fol. 52;Google Scholar'Askar, Ibn, op. cit. fol. 72.Google Scholar For details of the pact (al-'ahd) or the legal position of ahl al-dhimma see, for example, Tritton, A. S., The Caliphs and their Non-Muslim Subjects, (London, 1930);Google Scholaral-Wansharīsī, al-Mi'yār, 229–43;Google ScholarHirschberg, H. Z. (J. W.), ‘The Oriental Jewish Communities’, in Religion in the Middle East, ed. by Arberry, A. J. (Cambridge, 1969); 1, 125 if.Google Scholar

31 al-Maghīlī, Ahkām Ahl al-Dhimma, fol. 153.Google Scholar

32 Ibid Only a few years before al-Maghīlī's attacks on the ews, the Marinid sultan 'Abd-al-Haqq (d. 1465) was executed by his subjects because, amongst other things, he favoured the Jews and appointed one of them, Harn, as his treasurer and personal adviser. Harun (see Cour, A., op. cit. 36–8) is claimed to have misused his powers, especially with respect to the collection and distribution of the jizya.Google Scholar In Ahikām Ahl al-Dhimma, fog. 153–4, al-Maghīlī relates a similar story of a Jew who was appointed as minister at the court of sultan Abū-‘Inān (reg. 1352–8). This Jew, says al-Maghīlī's, deliberately misinterpreted the Qur'ān and was consequently put to death.Google Scholar

33 al-Maghīlī, Ahkām Ahl al-Dhimma, fol. 153. Al-Maghīlī's sternly warned against fraternizing with the Jews and composed a poem to this effect.Google Scholar

34 Ibid

35 Ibid

36 Ibid

37 Ibid fos. 152–3.

38 Ibid fol. 153.

39 According to al-Tamatītī (op. cit. fol. 6), Qādī al-'snūnī arrived at Touat in 862/1457–8 or 863/1458–9. Al-'Asnūnī Was alive in 914/1508–9.Google Scholar

40 al-Wansharīsī, al-Mi'yār, 248–249.Google Scholar

41 Ibid. On Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Zakri¯ al-Mana¯wi¯, Mufti¯ of Tilimsa¯n (d. 3494), see Ahmad Ba¯ba¯, Nayl, 84.

42 al-Wanshari¯si¯, al-Mi'ya¯r, 249.Google Scholar

43 Ibid. 251 and 255.

44 Ibid. 251–2.

45 Ibid. 253–4. On al-Mawa¯si¯ see Ahmad Ba¯ba¯, Nayl, 194.

46 a1-Wanshari¯si¯, al-Mi'ya¯r, 254. Reference is made here to Kita¯b Tahdhib Masa¯'il al-Mudawwana of Abu¯-Sa'id Khalaf b. Abi¯-al-Qasim al-Bari¯di'i (c. 982);Google Scholar see Farbun, Ibn, al-Dibi¯f al-Mudhahhab, 112.Google Scholar

47 al-Wansharisi, al-Mi'yi¯r, 254.Google Scholar

48 Ibid. 255–6. On Muhammad b. Qi¯sim Abu¯-'Abd-Aflah al-Ansa¯ri al-Rassa’, see A1mad Bi¯bä, Nayl, 323–4.

49 al-Wansharisi, al-Mi'yi¯r, 257. On Qa¯di¯di Abu¯-Zakaryya Yahyya al-Ghamari (d. 1504/1505) see Alimad Ba¯ba¯, Nayl, 359.Google Scholar

50 al-Wanshariri, al-Mi'yi¯r, 258.Google Scholar

51 Ibid. 258–9.

52 Ibid. 261 if. On al-Tanasi (d. 899/1493–1494) see Abmad Bi¯bi¯, Nayl, 329. Al-Tanasi is the author of Nazm al-Dur wa al-‘UqiyJn, ed. and trans. by Barges, J. J. L. with the French title Complement de l'Histoire des Beni Zeiyan (Paris, 1887).Google Scholar

53 al-Wansharisi, al-Mi'yi¯r, 262. For a brief biography of Qi¯sim a1-'Uqbani, Qadi of Tilimsi¯n, see Ahniad Bi¯bi¯, Nayl, 223–4.Google Scholar

54 al-Wansharisi, al-Mi'yi¯r, 262–3.Google Scholar

55 Ibid. 265.

56 Ibid. On ‘Abd-al-'Aziz b. Mu¯si¯ b. Mustafa¯ al-'Abdu¯si¯ (d. 1433/1434), see Ahmad Ba¯ba¯, Nayl, 179–82.

57 Bi¯bi¯, Alrnad, Nayl, 331.Google Scholar

58 Ibid. It was amongst the Awlad Ya'qub of Tamantit that al-Maghili found refuge on his arrival in Touat, and so they may have possibly formed the nucleus of his jamd'a.

59 Ibid. The primary sources do not provide a clear chronology of the massacre of the Jews of Touat. However, H. M. P. de Ia Martinière and N. Lacroix, op. Cit. 353, date it as 1492, but without mentioning their source.

60 al-Tamanti¯ti¯, op. cit. fos. 2 and 6.Google Scholar

61 H. M. P. de Ia Martinière and N. Lacroix, op. cit. 153–4. A. G. P. Martin, op. Cit. 329, n. 2, suggests that this sultan, who cannot be identified, may have been a ruler of a restricted and ephemeral authority.Google Scholar

62 Ibid. None of the primary sources which I have consulted confirm the reason mentioned above for al-Maghili's departure for Sudan.

63 Rodd, F. R., People of the Veil (London, 1926), 292.Google Scholar

64 Barth, Travels and Discoveries, 1, 331.Google Scholar

65 For possible identification of Takidda, see Hunwick, J. O., ‘Notes on a late fifteenth-century document concerning al-Takrur’, in African Perspectives (Cambridge, 1970), 27–8;Google ScholarBrouin, G., ‘Du nuveau sur Ia question de Takedda’, Notes Africaines, XLVII (1950), 90–1;Google ScholarFuron, R., ‘A propos du cuivre de Ia region d'Azelick (Niger)’, Notes Africaines, LXIV (1954), 99101;Google ScholarLhote, H., ‘Contribution à l ' étude des Touaregs Soudanais’, B.I.F.A.N., B (1955), 359–69.Google Scholar

66 Ahmad Ba¯bS, Nayl, 332. According to Ahmad Ba¯ba¯ (p. 335), Ai¯da-Ahmad was a scholar of some renown who became Qa¯di¯ of Katsina. His full name was Muhammad b. Ahmad b. Abu-Muhammad al-Tizakhti¯ (d. 1529/30). On al-A¯qib al-Ansamu¯ni¯ alMasūfi¯ (c. 1543) see Ahmad Ba¯ba¯, Nayl, 217–18.Google Scholar

67 Ahmad Ba¯ba¯, Nayl, 332. See also, Palmer, H. R., ‘The Kano Chronicle’, in Sudanese Memoirs (London, 1967), III, III;Google Scholaral-ha¯jj, Muhammad, ‘A seventeenth century chronicle on the origins and missionary activities of the Wangarawa’, Kano Studies, IV (1968), 1112;Google ScholarSmith, Abdullahi, ‘The early states of the Central Sudan’, in Ajayi, J. F. A. and Crowder, M., History of West Africa (London, 1971), I, 198;Google Scholar J. O. Hunwick, ‘Songhay, Bornu and Hausaland in the sixteenth century’, Ibid. 216. Cf. Rattray, R. S., Hausa Folk-Lore, Customs, Proberbe etc. (New York, 1969), I, 1016.Google Scholar

68 Al-Ma(dout)ghili's treatise on statecraft for sovereigns is edited and translated into English by Baldwin, T. H. and is published under the title, The Obligation of Princes (Beirut, 1932).Google ScholarJumla Mukhtasra is quoted in full by ‘Uthman dan Fodio in his work Tanbi¯h al-Ikhwa¯n and he dates it as 1491/2;Google Scholar the latter work has been translated into English by Palmer, H. R. under the title ‘An early Fulani conception of Islam’, in J.A.S. XIII (19131914), 407–14, and xv (19141915), 53–9 and 185–92.Google Scholar The text of Jumla Mukhtasra also appears in al-lIūrī, , al-Islamfi Ni¯ji¯ri¯a wa ‘Uthma¯n ibn Fūdi¯ (Cairo, n.d.), 21–4.Google Scholar

69 Rattray, R. S., op. cit. 10–16.Google Scholar

70 Barth, Travels and Discoveries, I, 474. Hausa traditions (see R. S. Rattray, op. cit. p. 14) give us an account of a1-Maℑili's efforts in Katsina: ‘He instructed one who was to write books for them. It was said, speaking of him, he did not write the Qur'a¯n with his own hand, and because of this the Kano people surpass the Katsina in their knowledge of the Qur'a¯n till today.’Google Scholar

71 Hogben, S. J. and Kirk-Greene, A. H. M., The Emirates of Northern Nigeria (London, 1966), 161, and 181.Google Scholar

72 The text of al-Suyuţi's risãla (message) appears in al-Ilūri¯, op. cit. 25–7. See also Palmer, H. R., op. cit. 74, and J.A.S. (19141915), 55–9.Google Scholar

73 Smith, H. F. C., ‘A further adventure in the chronology of Katsina’, in B.H.S.N. (Bulletin of News), IV, I (1961), 7.Google Scholar

74 From accounts in Ta¯ri¯kh al-Fatta¯sh, 15, it appears that al-Maℑi¯li¯'s meeting with the Askia took place after the latters return from pilgrimage in 1498.Google Scholar

75 Hiskett, M., op. cit. 578–83. See also Ibn al-Muℑta¯r, Ta¯rikh al-Fatta¯sh, 12–16. Professor J. O. Hunwick of the University of Ghana is at the moment preparing an analytical study of these Ajwiba.Google Scholar

76 Ahinad Ba¯ba¯, Nayl, 331.Google Scholar

77 Sidi Muhammad al-ℑalifa b. Sidi al-Muℑta¯r al-Kunti¯, Kita¯b al-Tara¯if, fol. 51. Sidi Muhammad claims that the Askia who was associated with al- Maℑi¯li¯ was Askia Isha¯q. But it could not have been Isha¯q, for Isha¯q I reigned between 1539 and 1549, after the death of al-Magi¯li¯, which, even according to the same author, occurred in 1533/4. Al-Maℑi¯li¯ in fact associated with Askia al-hi¯li¯ Muhammad I (reg. 1493–1528). This would be consistent with the date of 1503/4 given by Ahmad Ba¯ba¯, and that of 1505/6 given by Ibn ‘Askar for al-Maℑi¯li¯'s death.Google Scholar

79 Martin, A. G. P., Les Oasis Sahariennes, 530. This second massacre of the Jews of Touat is not mentioned by any of the known primary sources.Google Scholar

80 There were also those who claimed direct descent from al-Maghi¯li¯. These were the distinguished Shari¯fs of Kano, who assert that they descended from Sidi Fari, said to be a son of al-Maℑi¯li¯. See Smith, Abdullahi, op. cit. 191;Google ScholarRattray, R. S., op. cit. 14.Google Scholar

81 On the Kunta and the Qa¯diriya in West Africa see Batra¯n, 'Abd-al-';Azi¯z 'Abd-Allah,‘The Kunta, Sidi al-Muℑta¯r al-Kunti, and the Office of Shaykh al-Tari¯qa al-Qa¯diryya’, in Willis, J. R. (ed.), Studies in West African Islamic History, in press;Google ScholarAn introductory note on the impact of Sidi a1-Muℑta¯r al-Kunti¯ (1729–1811) on West African Islam’, to be published in the Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria, IV, 06 1973;Google Scholar‘Sidi al-Muℑta¯r al-Kunti¯ and the recrudescence of Islam in the Western Sahara and the Middle Niger’, unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Cre of West African Studies, University of Birmingham, 1971.Google Scholar

82 Sidi al-MuℑtAr, al-Kunti¯, Kita¯b al-Minna, fol. 80, MS. in possession of writer; Sidi Muhammad al-ℑali¯fa b. Sidi al-Muℑta¯r al-Kunti¯, Kita¯b al-Tara¯'if, fol. o. The Kunta do not give the exact date when Sidi ‘Umar aI-ℑaiℑ joined al-Maℑi¯li¯'s school, but they say it was while al-Maℑi¯li¯ was on his way from Hausaland to Takrūr (Niger Bend) and al-Maℑrib al-Aqsa (area between al-Hawd and the Atlantic), that is sometime between e. 1492–1503. But the same Kunta sources add that this event occurred after the death of Sidi ‘Umar al-ℑai's father, Sidi Ahmad al-Bakka¯y Bū-Dam’, dated by Sidi Muhammad al-Khalifa in al-Risa¯la al-Ghalla¯wiya, fol. 69 (MS. in writer's possession, as of around 1515, that is after the death of al-Maℑi¯li¯, in which case the two could never have met. Nevertheless, for the Qa¯diris of West Africa Sidi ‘Umar al-ℑaiℑ is al-Maℑia¯i¯’s direct spiritual disciple and al-Maℑi¯li¯ is one of rija¯l al-silsila al-Qa, acr;diryya.Google Scholar

83 Sidi al-Muℑta¯r al-Kunti¯, Fiqh al-A ‘ya¯n, II, fol. 565, MS. is in the possession of the writer. For a list of al-Maghi¯li¯'s works see Ahmad Ba¯ba¯, Nayl, 331;Google ScholarBivar, A. D. H. and Hiskett, M., ‘The Arabic literature of Nigeria to 1804: A provisional account,’ Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, xxv, I (1962), 107–9.Google Scholar