The Battle of Igodomigodo: The Historic Defeat of Imperialist Islam by African Warriors
AFRICANGLOBE – I am a witness of history. So I am going to write my own story with blood. I am going to narrate my history with the blood that flows from my vein.
I am a direct descendant of warrior women and men-of-war from the land of Igodomigodo, the Ancient Benin Kingdom founded by Oba Ewuare the Geat. My great great grand parents fought two historic epic battles against extremely violent, materially powerful, and brutal imperialist´s armies that sought to impose their culture, religion, and way of life on Africans.
The first of these battles, ´the Battle of Igodomigodo´, was fought against fiendishly fanatic hordes of Islamic jihadists that were violently spreading the Arab religion on horsebacks with swords and spears. The second of these battles, ´the Benin Massacre´, was against a viciously cruel European superpower that was spreading Christianity and seeking territories to exploit in Africa.
Some day in the future, I will tell you of ´the Benin Massacre´ and how in 1897, British Army under Admiral Sir Harry Rawson, rapaciously murdered my ancestors, looted our sacred artifacts, ransacked and destroyed our Oba´s Palace, then burnt the entire city of Benin to the ground. But for today, I wish to honour the memories of my great great grand parents by telling of their exploits in war, their bravery in battle, and the glory of their spectacular triumph and momentous achievement on behalf of Africa in ´the Battle of Igodomigodo´.
The spread of Islam, like Christianity, was facilitated by violent wars of conquest, commonly known as ´jihad´. In English, according to Sahih al-Bukhari 4:52:41, ´Jihad´ literarily means “Fighting for the Cause of Allah”. Many religious scholars and historians have written about the genesis and function of jihad in the Islamic faith. According to Brill (Encyclopaedia of Islam, p. 538), “jihad is a duty. This precept is laid down in all the sources. It is true that there are to be found in the Kur´an divergent, and even contradictory, texts.
These are classified by the doctrine, apart from certain variations of detail, into four successive categories: those which enjoin pardon for offences and encourage the invitation to Islam by peaceful persuasion; those which enjoin fighting to ward off aggression; those which enjoin the initiative in attack provided it is not within the four sacred months; and those which enjoin the initiative in attack absolutely, at all times and in all places.
In sum, these differences correspond to the stages in the development of Muhammad´s thought and to the modifications of policy resulting from particular circumstances; the Meccan period during which Muhammad, in general, confines himself to moral and religious teaching, and the Medina period when, having become the leader of a politico-religious community, he is able to undertake, spontaneously, the struggle against those who do not wish to join this community or submit to his authority. The doctrine holds that the later texts abrogate the former contradictory texts … to such effect that only those of the last category remain indubitably valid.”
Also, basically making the same point as Brill, Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan (Introduction to Bukhari´s Hadith, p.xxiv), wrote “So at first ´the fighting´ was forbidden, then it was permitted and after that it was made obligatory – (1) against those who start ´the fighting´ against you (Muslims) … (2) and against all those who worship others along with Allah…” Therefore, from a logical perspective, it is valid to conclude that violence is intricate to, and inherent in, Islam due to scriptural dictates in the Koran and Hadith that mandate believers to fight and spread the religion through holy wars of conquest.
It is on this basis that Shehu Usman dan Fodio led a jihad movement in the 1800s that brought the flames of ´holy war´ to the front door of the Ancient Benin Kingdom. What follows is a case study that highlights how jihad war of conquest was used in the spread of Islam in Africa, and how Africans mobilized to resist, and in a few cases out-rightly defeat, this violent imposition of an alien religion on indigenous African communities.
The Battle of Igodomigodo
Shehu Usman dan Fodio (1754 – 1817) founded the Sokoto Caliphate in 1809 after a very successful jihad campaign. Usman dan Fodio was an ethnic Fulani religious teacher of the Maliki School of law and the Qadiriyyah order of Sufism, that lived in the city-state of Gobir, in present day northern Nigeria, before he led his followers to exile, in 1802, and began a jihad campaign that swept through West Africa.
Frequently, the peoples that Usman dan Fodio conquered were forced to become Muslims as alternative to imminent death. This was in done with strict adherence to the Islamic doctrine that commands Muslims to “Tell captives they can be blessed with Islam if they want to believe, otherwise power over them has been given by God” (Sura 8:70,71)Spurred on by excited chants of “Allah Akbar!” (God is great!), Usman dan Fodio´s jihad movement, manned by highly motivated Islamic Zealots on horseback, with swords and spears, rode from one village to another conquering the inhabitants and imposing Sharia law on them.
These hordes of euphoric, fiendishly hard fighting, fanatics were inspired by such war fanning Islamic verses like: “Truly God loves those who fight in His cause in battle array, as if they were a solid cemented structure … that ye believe in God and His Apostle, and that ye strive (your utmost) in the cause of God, with your property and your persons. That will be best for you, if ye but knew! He will forgive you your sins, and admit you to gardens beneath which rivers flow, and to beautiful mansions in gardens of eternity. That is indeed the supreme achievement. And another (favour will He bestow), which ye do love – help from God and a speedy victory. So give the glad tidings to the believers”( Sura 61:4,11-13). And, as one could imagine, an even more enticing, enchanting, morale boosting, and motivating stimulant was the famous ´promise of 72 virgins for jihad martyrs´ in Hadith number 2,562, the collection known as the Sunan al-Tirmidhi, where it is written, “The least [reward] for the people of Heaven are 80,000 servants and 72 wives, over which stands a dome of pearls, aquamarine and ruby.”Furthermore, these Islamic Zealots were whipped into frenzy by fiery dogmatic incitements such as, “Fight the unbelievers surrounding you” (Sura 9:123). “Don´t avoid fighting, but fight with whatever you have. Otherwise God will punish you with serious punishment” (Sura 9:38,39,41). “Jihad is greater than other service, and of the highest rank in the sight of God” (Sura 9:19-22). “Those who are able but don´t want to fight are rejected of God” (Sura 9:81-96). “God gives Paradise to those who give all they have to God and slay and/or are slain in Jihad” (Sura 9:111). “Muslims can expect either martyrdom [paradise] or victory in battle. Unbelievers can expect only punishment from God. Fight hard against unbelievers, whose abode is hell” (Sura 9:52,73). “Torture and kill those who oppose the Apostle (Sura 5:36-38). “Cut the necks and fingers of those who opposed God and Mohammad and never turn your backs” (Sura 8:12,13,15-18). “Cut their necks, subdue them, then be generous. Martyrs will receive paradise where there are rivers of water, milk, wine and honey plus fruits” (Sura 47:4-6,15). “Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) and receive no hurt, and those who strive and fight in the cause of Allah with their goods and their persons. Allah hath granted a grade higher to those who strive and fight with their goods and persons than to those who sit at home (Qur´an 4:95).
But thanks to the valor of our ancestors, it was at the ferociously bloody ´Battle of Igodomigodo´, a protracted series of violent clashes fought between fiendisly fanatic Islamic jihadists and traditional African warriors, in Auchi and environs, situated in the northern frontiers of present day Edo state, that the Aristocratic Warrior King of, and the Men-of-War from, the ancient Benin Empire (the land of Igodomigodo) eventually put a full stop to Usman dan Fodio´s war crazed jihad orgy.
This decisive victory is not only one of the most spectacular military upset in history, but it is an historic landmark event because it practically stemmed the rising tide of violent islamization of traditional African communities that was spreading like wild fire southwards, and threatening to engulf the entire southern regions of present day Nigeria, as it had succeeded in doing with the northern regions.
Unfortunately, today, people in those territories that were overran by this jihad movement are still predominantly Muslims, while those behind the lines where the Men-of-War from ancient Benin Kingdom defeated Usman dan Fodio are predominantly non-Muslims. This immediately tells us that without Islamic jihad wars of conquest and rapacious terror campaigns, which were ferociously unleashed on Africans in the past, most Africans that are muslims today would have been non-Muslims.
Islam is an imperialist religion imposed by brutality and violence on Africans and African communities from the northern borders of the continent in Egypt to the eastern shores in Kenya. However, despite this reality, the sad truth is that because of the addicting nature of Islamic dogma, many of the so called ´African Muslims´ in the historically conquered African communities, where Islam was violently imposed, will rather die than give up their chronic addiction: Islam. Usman dan Fodio´s jihad campaign was only one of the many jihad wars of conquest that Muslims unleashed on Africa to create a present day reality where Islam-infested communities are literally littered all about in Africa.
All non-Muslims in southern Nigeria, and indeed, the entire West Africa, must be proud of, and grateful to, the Ancient Benin Warrior women and Men-of-War that courageously stepped up, willingly put their lives on the line, to stop to virulent brutal imperial spread of Islam and archaic Arabic culture in West Africa. If not for this noble act of courage and supreme sacrifice, many of us would have inevitably been born into societies held hostage by irrational Islamic dogmas (like wife beating), archaic Arabic cultural dictates (like beheading and cutting of limbs), and constant threat of violence (like the menacing presence of suicide bombers in the Middle East). We must honour and pay homage to our ancestors.