History of SIIASI

The name SANKORE’ is taken from one of Black Africa’s oldest educational institutions located in the ancient city of Timbuktu. In the 15th century Timbuktu, in general, and the Sankore’ University/Mosque complex, in particular, was the religious, scientific and literary center of the Bilad’s-Sudan.

The University of Sankore’ was the intellectual magnet where pious scholars were drawn from all over the Muslim world. In the mosque there lived and taught the murabit, a scholar who by his profound knowledge of the shari`a, his learning and the dignity of his personal life became a model to society. This devout and cultured group lived within or around the precincts of the Sankore’ University/Mosque disseminating the teachings of al-Islam and providing the people of the government with highly sought after legal decisions. These scholar/notables were held in great esteem by both dignitaries and common people alike. Their knowledge astounded the most learned people of Al-Islam. Because of them, pupils flocked to this university from all regions of the Muslim world.

To the government of Islamic Africa, the Sankore’ University/Mosque supplied generations of administrators, judges and functionaries of the state. To the wider community, the university furnished teachers, men of religion, jurist and a class of merchants, notaries and clerks. There emerged within the vicinity of the Sankore’ University/Mosque complex scholarly guilds who combined the teaching of `ilm with the transmission of professional vocation.

There were the Alfa guilds responsible for the transmission of the craft of scribe, tailoring

Shaykh Muhammad Shareef with Sultan Ali ibn Sultan Muhammad at-Tahir and Sidi Abd’l-Qaadir of Sokoto.

and embroidery. There were the Arma guilds responsible for the transmission of tanning and leather work. There were the Modibe’ guilds responsible for the transmission of city planning, architecture, masjid construction and the important craft of grave digging (malu). They also supervised the gabibi guild of masons (soro banna), carpentry and smithing (diamouasi). Among these respected and venerated modibe’ scholar/master builders was the erudite chief judge of Timbuktu, al-Qadi al-Aqib ibn Mahmud ibn Umar who built the Sankore’ University/Mosque. He accomplished this with the financial assistance of a wealthy African woman who left a generous endowment for the founding and building of the famous educational center.

Shaykh Mahmud Ka`ti described the process and building codes utilized for the building of Sankore’ in his Tareekh ‘l-Fataash, “Al-Qadi Aqib made the pilgrimage . . .in the year 989 he began building the Sankore’ mosque, may Allah be merciful to him. I was informed by one of the shaykhs, ‘When he made the pilgrimage and prepared to take leave to return to Timbuktu, he took authorization from the attendants of the noble Kaaba to delineate the measurement of the Kaaba in length and breadth.

They gave him permission and he measured it with a long cord measuring the length and breadth by marking these on the cord. He then brought this cord back to Timbuktu to serve as proportions. When he was ready to build the Sankore’ Mosque, he unrolled the cord and delineated the exact breadth he wanted to build by placing four pegs planted on the corners of the four directions. Thus the inner court of the mosque had the exact dimensions of the Kaaba. It is not deficient nor does it exceed it in any way.

In short, the products of this religious and educational institution became the leaders of society in all its spheres of activity. The Sankore’ University was the symbol of the spirit of the society, the guardian of its morals and the formulator of its hopes and aspirations.
The Sankore’ Institute of Islamic-African Studies International was first conceived December 15, 1985, in the Republic of Sudan as the result of conversations between the present Sultan of Maiurno al-Hajj Abu Bakr ibn Muhammad ibn Bello Maiurno ibn Attahiru ibn Ahmad Zuruku ibn Abu Bakr Attiku ibn Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio, our shaykh, Imam Muhammad al-Amin ibn Adam Karagh, Ahmad Abideen Hassan and the founding director Muhammad Shareef.

SultanThe sultan gave written authorization and commissioned SIIASI. to collect the Arabic and Ajami manuscripts of the Sokoto Caliphate from northern Nigeria and convey them to the town of Maiurno in order to be edited and republished to provide capital for the public amenities and the general welfare of the people. As a result trips were made to Chad, Northern Nigeria, Mali to collect and copy old manuscripts relevent to the Islamic heritage of the Bilad ‘s-Sudan. Later the Sultan al-Hajj Abu Bakr and the Imam Muhammad al-Amin gave written authorization for SIIASI to translate these works into English and disseminate these works among the Muslims of the United States.

To date SIIASI has collected 3000 Arabic manuscripts and 123 Ajami manuscripts (Fulbe’, Hausa, Wolof and Mande’). Of these, more than 89 have been translated and published by the institute. Classes utilizing the works published by the institute have been established in the cities of Houston, Atlanta, Compton, Los Angeles and Oakland. Presently in two correctional institutions in California the SIIASI curriculum is being taught to some 400 Muslim inmates. In 1992 the SIIASI was officially made a research organization of IHRAAM (the International Human Rights Association for American Minorities), the only non-governmental organization that represents American national minorities in the United Nations.

Our teacher, the late Waziri of Sokoto, Junayd ibn Muhammad al-Bukhari once said, “Knowledge is universal and eternal but it has a social and cultural stamp. It also has a purpose and a commitment to a particular world view. It therefore cannot be neutral.”  History has shown that African Muslims around the world have been branded and stamped with a social and cultural stamp which not their own. The world view that they now share is completely alien to them.

Waziri Junayd also said in his book called Nayl ‘l-Arab Fi Istifsaa’i ‘n-Nasab

“Whoever does not inform his children of his grandfathers then has destroyed his child, marred his descendants, and injured his offspring the day he dies.
Whoever does not make use of his ancestry,     then he has muddled his reason
Whoever is not concerned with his descent, then he has lost his mind.
Whoever neglects his origin, then his stupidity has become critical
Whoever does not know his roots, then his idiocy has become great.
Whoever does not cause his ancestry to be abundant then his opinion has become corrupted.
Whoever is ignorant of his lineage then his intellect has dissipated.
Whoever does not increase his place of descent, then he has abolished his honor.”

Althohatumereugh this searing poem was originally composed more than 500 years ago, it accurately describes the psychosis suffered by Africans the world over, especially the Africans in the United States and the western hemisphere. The above poem by our Muslim ancestors foretold our sickness and the work of the Sankore’ Institute of Islamic-African Studies International will help (Allah willing) calculate the cure. The overall aims of the institute is to rediscover the authentic purpose, commitment and particular world view of Islamic Africa and to revive the learning which gave it its unique social and cultural stamp. In short, the Sankore’ Institute is, with the help of Allah ta`ala, preserving and extending the intellectual heritage of the ancient Sankore’ University/Mosque of the 15th century – making this legacy viable for the electronic age for the Muslims of Africa, America and the world.

Shaykh Muhammad Shareef

37 Responses to About

  1. Bashiir Abdulmumin says:

    Assalamu Alaykum Shaykh Muhammad, years ago I heard a recorded lecture by you entitled Islam means freedom or something similar to that. In it you talked about the Fir’uan and contextualized it to today’s time, with today’s magicians being the social scientist. Do you have a transcript or know how I could get a copy of that lecture?

  2. بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم.
    اسلام عليكم ورحمة وبركاته اخي
    I am a fairly new Black American Muslim in Los Angeles CA who, although took shahada in Senegal back in 2012, I am just coming into full practice perhaps some 3 years ago. I am part of this ummah however i have not found confidence in following a particular sheikh or even a sect to follow (I have Sunni however my new husband is a Senegalese mouride), as I am adamantly unsupportive of division when there is only one God and Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم is his Messenger! There is so much mixed information I have received from what if halal in wudu to how to stand in salat to what direction to face while in it. Additionally, I come from a Christian family and I have a deep-seated passion to connect our African roots to islam and how to give dawah on that. Would you PLEASE guide me in finding my path and establishing my deen? May Allah reward you with the best of good!

  3. Daoud and Modibo says:

    As salaamou aleykoum dear Shaykh,

    I am writing these words on behalf of myself and a good friend of mine a Talib Al Ilm ma cha’ Allah but he doesn’t know english. I am interested in geopolitics, African Islamic history and religion he is more focused on religion but we are both amazed about the work you have and are doing as we believe it is so necessary. We are both of west-African Soninke/fulbe/kagoro descent but born and raised in Europe. You are reinforcing our pride to be from the Bilad As Sudan and foremost our pride in being muslims.

    You translate manuscripts/books/works in English do you also translate to French ?

    Is it possible to have your contact as in a phone number of one of your French-speaking associates so we can visit if we come to Mali and maybe study or contribute in one way or another ?

    May Allah reward you and your associates dear shaykh Muhammad.

    Kind regards,
    As salamou aleykoum

    Daoud and Modibo

  4. As-Salamu Alaikum Shaikh Muhammad Sharif. I am Abu-Djuwairiyyah Karim ibn Muhammad. I am a Salafi muslim from Niamey (Niger). As you know, the type of Tasawwuf that Shaikh Uthman ibn Muhammad ibn Fofy, was practising back them was base firmly upon the Qu’an and the Sunnah. You know how hard hight fought against Mawlid and so on…

    My question is, why do most Soofis of today ignore the Manhaj of the Shehu? Why do they claim to be on the way of the Shehu while the Shehu himself was upon the Qur’an and the Sunnah throught the Methodology of the Salaf and they themselves are not upon the way of the Salaf. How could people who ignore his books, refute them and some even questioning the fact that he wrote those books, claim to be upon his Manhaj?

    My second question is in fact a plea: I read my books on my computer and tablet P.C with TTS feature; I would like to know if it’s possible for you to send me the books contained in the digital archive, in *.epub or *.doc / *.docx format? Of course, I could convert the PDF into *.docx with the help of some program, but this would be tiresome, very tiresome indeed.

    Thanks in advance;

    • wa alaykum as salaam wa rahmtullahi wa barakaatuhu …brother Karim. You are correct, Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio was firmly affixed upon the Book and the Sunna. He was sufi whose manhaj (methodology) was based firmly upon the Book and the Sunna. The problem that you lament about to day with modern sufis, can be said also about modern salafis; who too have drifted far from the Book and the Sunna. That is the Signs of the End of Time. Heretical innovations are an affliction which has impacted the entire Umma, sufis, salafis, everyone! As for Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio’s opinion on the Mawlid of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, he said in his Ihya as-Sunna: “If you were to say, “What is the legal judgment concerning what the people do during the month of Rabi` ‘l-Awwal on the day of Prophet’s birthday (al-mawlid) or on the seventh day of the mawlid where people gather together for remembrance of Allah (dhikr) and the food which is prepared for that purpose?” I say: That is a reprehensible innovation if it is free of every disobedience (ma`siyya). It is said that the answer is that the practice of the Mawlid of the noble Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace is a highly recommended good innovation (bid`a hasana manduuba) when it is free of every disobedience. As for what the people have made a habit in these times where men and women mix freely, Allah forbid that any scholar would make that permissible. It says in the al-Madkhal, “Generally what the people have invented from innovation is their false belief to be among the momentous acts of worship (akbar ‘l-`ibaadaat) and manifesting the rites of Islam is what they do during the month of Rabi` ‘l-Awwal from the Mawlid of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant hi peace. This has been included among the innovations (bid`a) and the forbidden things (muharramaat).” He continued, “It is necessary that when this noble month comes that it be honored, ennobled and respect it with deserving respect. This is by following the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace in that he used to single out times of blessing by increasing in performing acts of righteousness and generosity.” If you were to say, “What is the legal judgment concerning those who prepare food only on the day of the mawlid. He intends by that the recognition of the mawlid and invites his Muslim brothers to eat along with that being free of every disobedience?” I say, This is a reprehensible innovation or an allowed innovation. The latter is the preferred decision (al-mukhtaar). The former decision was the opinion of the author of the al-Madkhal because he said, “If food is prepared only and one intends by that to recognize the Mawlid and the Muslim brothers are then invited even when it is free of every disobedience – it is still an innovation because of the intention only. This is because that is making increase in the religion and it is not among the behavior of the early community (as-Salaf). For following in the footsteps of the Salaf is paramount. No, rather it is obligatory.” This is the view of the SHEHU.

  5. Mustafa Ali says:

    As Salaam Alaykum Ya Shaykh, please keep up the excellent work. I feel bad that we didn’t benefit more from you in San Antonio. Appreciate you filling this void for many of us here in the states.

  6. Zahid Hanif says:

    Assalamu alaikum dear Shaykh, my name is Zahid and I am from Scotland, friend of Naeem of Glasgow. Remember you came visited us a long time ago. I attended the Dar al-Arkan retreat where you taught and i helped you with your Sankore database. I still have wonderful memories of you and I pray that we will meet again soon, Insha Allah. Please get in touch if you remember me

  7. Pape Barka says:

    Assalamu alaykum beloved Shaykh,

    I hope you are fine. I’m from Mali/Bamako and I think I’ve seen somewhere on this website that you live in Bamako too. If I’m right, where exactly are you living? How can I contact you?

    Thank you very much and may God bless you.
    Was Salamu alaykum.

  8. Well all I can say is welcome back home. I believe that the answers to your question you will find on SIIASI. I would suggest reading the Lost and Found Children of Abraham.

  9. Hadiyah says:

    Assalaamu Alaikum Shaykh. I am African born and raised in America, Muslim revert for two years. A brother just gave me this site yesterday because I told him I was feeling a disconnection here amongst Muslims in America especially with the non black Muslims. I’ve always have been a avid reader on African literature and conscious of who I am and where I come from in terms of I know my ancestors were not born here. I’ve always felt that I had to chose between Islam and my heritage. I always had an incline that it has to be more that what most Americans views as Islam.
    That’s where the disconnect formed. Most of these brothers and sisters follow the middle east traditions…and when I would ask informative questions they would say do not worry about all those things just focus on Allah (swt) and Prophet (saw). I have and still do but, there’s something that is missing for me…I long for that in depth spiritual satisfaction and I believe I can only concur that by finding out who I truly am! So any feedback would be greatly appreciated… I feel that Allah has led me to this juncture of my life t help me find that stability Iong for and through prayers, fasting and meditator InshaAllah I’m on my way. Alhamdulilah😊

    • Your concerns are natural and consistent with any people who went through the trauma of being violenlty disconnected from their historical consciousness. There is a vacume within the psychic of every African American Muslim which only an authentic spirituality connected to the African Islamic past can fill. In Islam this redress is understood as ‘radd al-mudhaalim’ (restoring acts of injustice). In our case the simple act of learning Islam from our own ancestral sources and intentionally embracing a spiritual suluuk connected to those spiritual paths that are still alive in the West African islamic environment will work wonders in redressing the immense crime that most of the world particpated in against our people. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace once said: “Allah does not send down a sickness except that He sends down its cure with it.” The spiritual and psychic cure for the African Muslims of the western diaspora is not in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Yemen, Riyadh or in any of the Arab religious metropoles it is located in the same places from which our people were violently torn and snatched from. Our cures lay in the cities of Djenne, Timbu, Nioro, Djia, Jughu and Niki; and likewise the revival of these once thriving African islamic centers depend upon us.

  10. mustafa says:

    Salam alaykum. What are the thoughts of the ula3ma of making salaat in a masjid with a qibla pointing north or northeast for someone living I’m in northern California and? The reason I ask is because the masjid closest to my house when I used the compass what pointing North and very slightly to the NE. Alot of the masaajid have a NE qibla.

    • wa alaykum as salaam wa rahma
      I am not sure if it is beneficial to get into the United States qibla debate issue. What I will say is that we here in Bamako Mali pray east northeast. This qibla direction goes back more than 1000 years before the time of the great Mansa Kankan Musa, may Allah be pleased with him. With the United States being west northwest from Mali, it is difficult to understand how in the mid to late 70s muddajin led Muslim organizations in the US altered the qibla direction of east, east southeast and south east to be north east. However, because you are allowed a 45 degree error margin in the qibla direction, I assume then that southeast, east southeast, east, east northeast and northeast are valid qibla directions for the people of North America. Once you find a masjid which is facing either north northeast or south southeast then I would not pray in that masjid; and Allah knows best.

  11. I’ve been back in Africa for the past three years now and in spite of the fact that Chinua Achebe’s description of colonial and post colonial Black Africa still holds true; I am beginning to sense a kind of movement right across Black Africa strongly influenced by the dynamics that had been driving China, India, Brazil, Venezuela in the last decade. It seems to be turning due to the impact of the economies of China and India on the continent. In fact the recent successes of South Africa and Nigeria, two of the largest economic engines in Africa, were due to their robust relationship and integration with Asian economies. I believe that Africa, as a unified continent, should realize its global potential to be the worlds greatest super power – a continent that is strong and prosperous in order to fulfill its Divine Mandate as a refuge for God’s people.

  12. Regarding the victims of the latest atrocities committed in Paris by Daesh, I offer a sincere supplication, that of Shaykh Dan Tafa which he recited three times per day for all of creation, its animate and inanimate, its sentient and non sentient, its human and its jinn, its virtuous and its sinful: Allahumma arham jamee` khaliqika wa akfeehim maa laa yataquun (O GOD be merciful to all of Your creation and suffice them where they are unable!)

  13. Yes we will post articles from outside authors as long as the article deals with African Islamic civilization/

  14. As salamu alaykum ,does this site allow people to post articles ?

  15. Mohammedelrasheed Bello ibn Abd’r-Raaziq says:

    Hi mohammed sheryf

  16. Abdulraheem abdulqahar says:

    Salaaaam alaikum, I read your article on ism Azam and it was really helpful. Please are there books written I’m English on the same topic of ism azam

    • The majority of the works produced by the Shehu regarding the Ism Allah’l-`Aadhem were composed in ajami Fulfulde`. One of the disciples of the Shehu who specialized in this area of Islamic erudition was Shaykh Muhammad Bello ibn Muhammad (aka Muhammadu Tukur). It was from him that the majority of the transmissions of the Shehu regarding the special qualities of the Names of Allah and the Most Immense Name of the Absolute Being were transmitted. I am still working on Shaykh Muhammadui Tukur’s Qiraa’l-Ahibaa which discusses this area of Islamic mysticism in authoritative candor. So stay tuned to SIIASI and visit our digital zawiyya; stay and learn about the rich and empowering story of African Islamic civilization. And if you have any contributions to make to the SIIASI then please feel free to send us your research. Our only condition is that your research must pass academic standards of substantiation and citation. We even got a poetry section which is still empty; so if you have some original verses in any language regarding African islamic civilization; then let’s get it up. In this age every African must be a griot!

  17. Ulysses Abdul-Aziz says:

    This was a very interesting read. I’d like to be presented with more. May Allah bless you in your efforts

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