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The Insider(16): "NANA ASMA'U BN FODIYO - THE FORGOTTEN WOMEN RIGHT ACTIVIST"



By Salim I. Hassan (Salimullah)
08/03/2017
On March 8, the world observed International Women's Day — a day to commemorate the struggle for women's rights and celebrate the political, social, economic and cultural achievements of women throughout history. So that means a religious achievement is out. No wonder as this occassion is a genius of the Western institution – UN specifically.  In spite of this, we have our yardstick for measuring rights of women and their freedom. Material achievement is incomplete when it is not reinforced by spiritual one.  In UK telegraph a list of 13 women was published as released by google as the best women in the history of the world starts from 1st century. And I don’t think of any muslim women name recorded.  However none of the 13 women fought for a single right or freedom of theirs.  Silliest things recorded as their achievement include Suzanne Lenglen, a French tennis player for popularising the game in the 20th c., Miriam Makeba, a singer, and Rukmini Devi, a Dancer from India. A little more reasonable contributive women also recorded: Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer from Mexico and  El-nadia, the first female pilot from Egypt.
I may pose a series of questions here: what of a first woman who fought for the women rights and freedom to be recognized unconditionally in a society where there wasn’t a right for them?  What of a first woman, with the help of her great father, enforced the world to set women free for equal access to education with men? What of a first woman that participated in various wars with her very soul and body and even served as a Nurse taking care of Muslims army casualties in the battlefield. What of a woman who wrote about 50 books many of which dedicated to publicize the need of women right to free access to education, economy and leadership?
A woman with the above unique contribution should be named as the no. 1st  best woman in the world. And she was from West Africa, Fulani by tribe and Muslim by religion. This is the Woman I set out to extol, appreciate, appraise, and to inform the uninformed about her.  The Western world always try to Rob Peter to Pay Paul - taking away what (credit) belongs to one person and pay another unworthy of it!
On this very day (8 March, 2017) of Women International Day, I am obliged to discuss and bring forth to memory one of the greatest women personality in West Africa in particular and the world in general, for her outstanding contribution to women progress and development. She was much indeed worthy to fit as the subject of discussion when the world marked this Women’s day.   She was a women personality whose great father fought, both intellectually and practically, for the emancipation of women rights and freedom especially their right to equal education opportunity. May Allah continue to shower His mercy on her and her father as well. She was a He-woman that had used to be part of the Muslim combat forces in case of war, where she used to serve as a Nurse taking care for Muslim casualties.  She memorized the complete Qur’an before she reached 10 of her age. She wrote about 50 books. 18 books between 1820-1840 while 34 were between 1841-1865 according to Jean Boyd. Ma sha Allah ko ayanzu sai an tona irinsu.

 I won’t utilize much time extolling this woman personality. All had been and still being said by great writers and historians from both muslim and non-muslim figures. I will not even dare to mentione her name. I will let the authoritative writer and historians to tell you who this woman is.
To begin with, Nana Asma’u (a daughter of great Sheik, the revivalist Uthman Bn Fodiyo) is a product of the 19th century Sokoto Jihad. She is a woman scholar, poet, community leader, political commentator, and socio-cultural engineer whose mountain of knowledge cannot be equaled to her contemporaries. She was active in politics, education and social reform, she was a prolific author, popular teacher and renowned scholar and intellectual (Mack & Boyd; 2000:1).

M. Yusha’u, in his article published in Gamji further added: “These qualities possessed by Nana Asma’u made her a distinguishable figure and a model for those who have the zeal for learning, and at the same time she is an answer to those who view women as exploited, oppressed and relegated to the rudiments of home management and service to the children especially under Islam”. Going by the main objective of this Women’s day which says - …(it is) a day to commemorate the struggle for women's rights and celebrate the political, social, economic and cultural achievements of women throughout history- this woman should have occupied the 1st position as the best 13 women in the world published in Telegraph.
I recalled one of her quote when she said: “Women, a warning (to you). Leave not your homes without good reason. You may go out to get food or to seek education. In Islam, it is a religious duty to seek knowledge Women may leave their homes freely for this”. (—A Warning, II¸Nana Asma’u, 1856). Kaji Malama Mujahida!

Throughout the period of the Sokoto jihad, a series of battles in a campaign to reform Islam (1804-1830), and long after, Asma’u was an active teacher of both men and women. In addition to teaching students in her own community, she reached far beyond the confines of her compound through a network of itinerant women teachers whom she trained to teach isolated rural women. An accomplished author, Asma’u was well educated, quadrilingual (in Arabic, Fulfulde, Hausa, and Tamachek), and a respected scholar of international repute who was in communication with scholars throughout the sub-Saharan African Muslim world.
Source: Mack, Beverly B. and Jean Boyd. One Woman’s Jihad: Nana Asma’u, Scholar and Scribe. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2000.
This woman represent the model on how women should be in Islam. Any curtail of clean women rights by any leader, nation or society is un-islamic.
My Credit to You, Al-sheikhat Nana Asma’u Bn Sheik Uthman Bn Fodio.
Salimullah.

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