A Historical Study Of The Doctrine Of Diganci And Digawa Religious Group

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A Historical Study Of The Doctrine Of Diganci And Digawa Religious Group


This study is about the Digawa Muslims of Danzomo town in Sule Tankarkar Local Government of Jigawa State, Nigeria. The Digawa Muslims are also found in other areas of the State such as ‘Yandamo, Jikai, Umarni, Babbansara, Digawar-Tudu, Saidawa, Dorai, Galma, Buduma and Zai. Data for this study were collected through primary and secondary sources. Primary data was collected using random oral interviews both individual and groups. The Digawa are not ethnic group, but a religious group that follow Sufi teaching ofshunning away from all that is evil and the glitters of the world. The concept of Al-uzlah(isolation) enables them to keep away from all that is evil. Thiswarrant their establishment of Zawaya(Digawa enclosures). So, their attitude of withdrawing from other peoples’ religious, social, and political activities made most people to be ignorant about them. In essence, this study is an attempt to provide a concise history of these people.

Chapter One

General Introduction

1.0 Introduction

In the history of Islam, doctrinal divisions, which led to the emergence of sects are inevitable phenomena as are believed to have been prophesized by the Prophet Mohammed (S.A.W).1Also, the concept of renewal (Tajdeed) is based on another tradition of the Prophet (PBUH).2 The tradition implies that a renewer (Mujaddid) of Islam would be sent at the beginning of each century to restore true Islamic practices, and thus regenerate a community that tends, over time, to deviate from the straight path. In essence, from its earliest days, Islam possessed a tradition of revivalism and reform. With this development, it became people’s right to practice Ijtihad to interpret the source of Islam.This and of course, other prevailing circumstances like rampant materialism, which ensures the worships of the ‘gods’ of wealth, the influence of neo-Platonism and the philosophies of other climes as Persia, Syria, and India3 paved the way for the emergence of different Islamic movements, groups, sects and sub-sects. Almost all the movements claim to purge religion of the contaminations in rituals and traditions, which had been accumulating since the time of the Prophet and Sahaba. It should be noted that most of these religious groupings were attached to the names of their founders or whose names had somehow become linked with them. Some examples include the Qadiriyya founded by Abdal-Qadir Al-Jilani, Tijjaniyya by Ahmad Al-Tijani, Rufa’iyya by Ahmad Al-Rifa’i, Khalwatiyya by Umar Al-Khalwati, etc.4 In the same vein, theDigawa religious group who claim to be the contemporary Sufis were attached to the name of the founder of the movement i. e. Malam Diga as we are going to see later.

The origin of the term ‘Sufi’ is derived from Tasawwuf, which probably goes back to the termSuf, which simply refers to woolen attires that the Sufis wear as a mark of piety and renunciation of the world at about the beginning of the 9th century.5 Thus, the original Sufis were basically mystics i.e. people who followed a pious form of Islam and who believed that a direct personal experience of God could be achieved. To this end, the mystics school of thought claim that the knowledge of ultimate reality can be attained through divine enlightenment and intuition, which themselves are illumination of the self and development of a particular faculty, which can perceive spiritual and metaphysical realities in the same way as our eyes see the material objects.6In essence, Sufism is a particular method of approach to Reality making use of intuitive and emotional spiritual faculties, which are dormant and latent unless called into play through training under guidance. This training, thought of as ‘treading the path’ (suluk at-tariq) aims at dispersing the veil, which hidesthe self from the real and thereby becomes transformed or absorbed into undifferentiated Unity.7 Therefore, the Sufi’s primary goal was to rid the souls of self-love and replace it with love of God. That is to say, the egoistic aspect of human nature must be eradicated if the path of salvation was to be achieved. To attain this, the Sufi way tradition developed six stages viz: repentance, abstinence from the worldly pleasure, detachment or isolation from the world, poverty, patience, and self surrender to God.8 The six-path programme is completed when ego leaves and divine-love enters the soul. The Digawa religious group strictly adheres to these stages as to ensure their closeness to God. Reading between the above lines, Sufism implies the virtue, the code of the heart, the purification of the soul, and the feeling of God’s presence.9 It is against this background that the Digawa aspire to free themselves from the world and its passions whilst living in the world. They form separate settlements in most cases and engage exclusively in the services of religion, as it was the case with the Sufis. The perfect man is he who has no desire to possess the worldly things for he will soon become possessed by them. In essence, Digawa pursue a noble, pure, and pious life fashioned after theexample set by the Holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH)10 and the Sufis are renowned for this.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

The Digawa’s manifestation of the Sufi attributes, leads them to adopting very peculiar practices and life style, which most people who are ignorant about them, apparently consider to be a ‘new’ phenomenon or weird. Such a people take the Digawa’s life style and practices generally to be an aberration because it goes contrary to modern thinking. Probably, it is due to this fact, coupled with the negligible number of the Digawa population that made historians and students of history and Islamic studies to neglect this mystic group unlike for example, the Qadiriyya, Tijjaniyya, Izalah groups, among others. To date there has not been a thorough research on the Digawa as a mystic group. The only two projects written about them were at undergraduate levels hence, the treatment given is superficial.

1.3 Objective of the Student

As stated earlier the Digawa community under study is lacking in any published historical source, as a result of which not much is known about them. Thus, the aim and objectives of this case study are:

  1. To document the historical origin.
  2. To study the religious, social and political institutions of the Digawa.
  3. To study the religious affiliation of the Digawa in the light of the Sufi order which they follow.
  4. To contribute to the literature on the study of religion with reference to Sufism in Northern Nigeria.

1.4 Significance of the Study

The study will enable scholars, students, and the general public to have a clear knowledge and understanding of the Digawa people as a religious sect. The study will also help government security and its apparatus in particular, now that it keeps an eye on the activities of religious organizations and what they aspire for following its previous experiences of Maitatsine, Kalahkato, and now BokoHaram. The research will surely be a reference document.

1.5 Scope and Limitations

This research is a study of Digawa community of Danzomo Town in Sule Tankarkar Local Government Area of Jigawa State covering the period from the year 1970 to 2010. It was in 1970 that what was to become a future challenge to the Digawa started to gather momentum i. e. the emergence of the Izalah sect in 1978. Following this, the Digawa rose strongly to defend their social frontiers from the activities of the newly emerged Izalah movement in the area. The isolative and reluctant nature of the Digawa to accept people constituted a strong constraint to the study especially in the area of data collection. That was so, due to the fact that many people do not know much about them, and an attempt to have a close association with these people met a negative response.

1.6 Research Methodology

Research methodology is the specific procedures or techniques used to identify, select, process, and analyze information about a topic.To realize the objectives of this study, the paper adopts a methodology that is both descriptive and analytical. This approach relies on official records and a considerable volume of related literature. For the purpose of this study, the researchers adopted historical and descriptive methods.

1.7 Sources of Data

This research was conducted through the use of various data collection techniques. In the first place, oral interviews were conducted. These were in form of individual or group discussions. A mini-tape recorder was used in recording responses, but in a situation where an interviewee objected to that, the researcher wrote down the responses. A list of the people interviewed is in the bibliography. Also, the researcher made use of observation i.e. personal visits to the various Digawa settlements within and outside the area of theresearch. By so doing, the researcher found himself in a good position to aptly understand, describe, and interpret the issues. Secondly, documented materials that discussed relevant issues in the research were utilized. Such documented materials include: Books, Journals, Articles, Projects, Dissertations, Thesis, Seminar and Conference papers. To obtain the secondary materials, the researcher visited some research centers namely- the Arewa House in Kaduna, the National Archives in Kaduna, Waziri Janaidu History and culture Bureau in Sokoto, Kano State History and Culture Bureau, Kano and Sokoto States Libraries, the Bayero University and Usmanu Danfodiyo University Libraries. These materials were useful in the course of the literature review. The Internet sources were also not left out.

1.8 Definition of Terms


According to Merrian Wester’s dictionary, a sect is a religious group that adhered to a distinctive doctrine. The Encyclopedia Britannica, further defined sect as a nonmainstream religious group i. e. a religious group with beliefs and practices at variance with those of the more established main group.11 So, on the understanding that the Digawa are close-knit group i. e. a small close-knit group with strong held views that are sometimes regarded as extreme by the majority of Muslims, we regarded them to be a sect.


According to Bargery, Diganci means certain customs and religious observances different from those in general practice amongst Nigerian Muslims.12 On this understanding, Diganci is taken to be a variety of Sufism on its own right simply because the Digawa do not beat the Bandir , dance and/or sing the name of Allah and Saint Abd al-Qadir Jilani. Likewise, the Digawa do not do the Dhikr, Wazifah and above all do not regard Salat al –fatih. What they really do is the recitation of the holy Qur’an (ratib) in the morning before going out for their daily activities and in the evening between the Maghrib and Isha’i prayers. Thus, Diganci neither falls within the realm of Qadiriyyah nor Tijjaniyyah. The followers of the order are called Digawa vis-à-vis their settlements. Also, in some areas these people are called ‘Yan-tuba, Fuffuki and Aljannah wala-shakka in the Biu area of Borno State.


Sufism is yet another concept used in the research, which need to be expatiated. In many studies that were directed at understanding the phenomena of Sufism, authors tried to trace the origin of the word –Tasawwuf particularly its derivation. Although, there are various opinions concerning the origin of the word Tasawwuf but, I tend to be in support of scholars who argue that the concept was derived from Suf (wool).15For example, al-Yafi quoted by Mubarak has reported that most of the apparels of the past Sufi leaders are made of wool as it keeps one obscure and it is nearer to modesty and abstention from worldly pleasure. Moreover, it is the common wear of the Prophets (peace and blessing of Allah be upon them).16 Considering the importance attached to the woolen garment by the Prophets and other pious men because of its roughness, one may say that in the past woolen garments were used to display asceticism where he mortifies his bodily appetites. In other word, wearing woolen garment was a sort of physical self-punishment and self-denial. Tasawwuf does not only connote symbolic attires of the Sufis, but its practice as well. So, on the practical side of it, Tasawwuf means the avoidance of forbidden things, the performance of the religious duties and the renunciation of the world. Detachment from everything or renunciation of the world is the first requisite of a mystic. A Sufi needs Allah and Allah alone and therefore cares not a bit for the world and its belongings.17 So, those who take the Sufis as models both symbolically and character wise are by implication Sufis. To this end, it is along this perspective that we looked at the Digawa in this research.

Chapter Five

Summary and Conclusion

5.1 Summary

The Digawa and their doctrine (Diganci) have gone through a lot of condemnations. A segment of these condemnations were targeted at the phenomenon itself where it has been labeled as religious extremism or innovation. But, due to its vitality as a spiritual force and of course the strong determination and belief of the Digawa people about the genuineness of their mission, the doctrine is steadily growing stronger in the areas of Kano, Jigawa, Bauchi, Maiduguri and Yobe States up to today.146 The doctrine (Diganci) which may be regarded as contemporary Tasawwuf is a means not an end in the worship of God as fear of the Almighty God is the gateway to it. For a successful fruition of the doctrine, the adherents must know and accept the Almighty God as the only being deserving His worship. To this end, the adherents of the doctrine adopts asceticism as to keep them away from the forbidden, obscurity and excess of one’s need from the material world. In essence, the adherents of the doctrine (Digawa) consider worship, knowledge of God and renunciation to be the means through which the soul finds solace in the worship of the Almighty God. From what we have so far discussed about the Digawa people, we should come to realize that their doctrine and general disposition seems to resemble that of the Sufis. They lay emphasis on devotional work (deed) ratherthan on eloquent use of words of mouth for preaching and deception. This is what lures the Digawa people to forsake this material world and lead a life of severe self-discipline in preparation for the everlasting life in the hereafter.

5.2 Conclusion

In conclusion therefore, prior to this research, many people have very little or no knowledge about the Digawa people as a religious group. This is due to the fact that, there was no concise literature that specifically dealt with these people. So, this pioneer work on them is hoped to be a reference document to students, scholars, and the general public as well as the government. A clear knowledge of such a religious group in this country is of paramount importance, more than anything else security wise. The fundamental religious problems of the Digawa such as relying only on Qur’an and discarding hadith and learned scholars consensus, is outside the scope of this study. Thus, such an issue is left to the students of Arabic and Islamic Studies to conduct future research.

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