Dan Fodio also wanted to establish laws that facilitated trade and commerce. This he was successful at, as he enhanced the economy of the Sokoto Caliphate by instituting large-scale slavery via jihad. We often speak of jihad in a vacuum. We separate it from its logical outcome--the enslavement of the non-believer. In adopting Islam, Afrikan Muslims accepted the dichtomous/dualistic thinking that governed it. Hence, human beings were reduced to two types: those that by religious decree become enslavers (Muslims) and those by virtue of not believing in Islam (kufr) become the enslaved (traditionalists). Islamic expansion produced jihadic slavery and the Sokoto Caliphate became one of the largest slave societies in Afrikan history. In regards to dan Fodio elevating the status of women, the majority of the enslaved within the Caliphate were women, who were sexually exploited through concubinage.
Some scholars have argued that the Caliphate had a mixed economy, with a significant number of slaves (largely owned by the aristocracy and wealthy merchants) who worked on plantations, and a considerable segment of free-born people who worked on individual/family farms. However, a number of scholars argue that the Caliphate was a slave society. Philip Curtin has demonstrated that after the establishment of the Caliphate the quantities of the enslaved increased. Between 1750 and 1900, it has been estimated that from one- to two-thirds of the entire population of the Fulani jihad states consisted of enslaved people. In the 19th century, the population of the Sokoto Caliphate was half-enslaved and Adu Boahen's research also demonstrates that the Caliphate was an important source of slaves entering the Arab Trans-Saharan trade. When British rule was first imposed on the Sokoto Caliphate and the surrounding areas in northern Nigeria at the turn of the 20th century, approximately 2 million to 2.5 million people there were enslaved. Slavery in northern Nigeria was finally outlawed in 1936.
The Sokoto State employed a slave system not based on traditional patterns of domestic servitude but adopted its system fully-formed from the Islamic tradition. Slavery in the Islamic world was a highly developed institution sanctioned by the Qu'ran, the Hadith, and Shari'a. The Sokoto State used the enslaved as administrators, plantation workers, concubines, soldiers, and in various other capacities within the Caliphate, at the same time, it provided enslaved Afrikans for the Arabs Trans-Saharan slave trade and to a lesser extent traders involved in the European Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Paul Lovejoy has contended that favorable exchange rates for cowries in areas nearer the coast may have provided an impetus for merchants to export slaves south.
The reader might ask, "But weren't traditional Afrikan societies, meaning non-Muslim, also involved in enslaving other Afrikan societies?" Yes, but traditionalists did not have doctrines or holy documents that sanctioned, justified, and systematized slavery. The relationship of war captives in Afrikan traditional societies was transformed through two large scale processes: the Arab slave trade, and the European slave trade. In traditional society, domestic servitude was a result of debt, crime, or war. These individuals were not traded until the Arabs introduced the practice and it became a small but growing part of Afrikan economies. Walter Rodney identified that there was also no slavery or significant domestic servitude in early European accounts of the Upper Guinea coast. I. A. Akinjogbin contends that European accounts reveal that the slave trade was not a major activity along the coast controlled by the Yoruba and Aja before Europeans arrived.
With the beginning of the European Trans-Atlantic slave trade, demand for slavery in West and Central Afrika increased and a number of traditional states became centered on the trade and domestic slavery increased dramatically as well. Still, it would not be until late in the 18th and early 19th centuries that traditional societies (non-Muslim) engaged in wholesale slave raiding. Initially a number of traditional societies tried to resist the slave trade but eventually economic forces prevailed forcing them into the market for their economic and cultural survival. An example would be the Mossi Kingdoms, which tried to take over key sites in the Arab Trans-Saharan trade and, when these efforts failed, they became defenders against slave raiding, only to eventually enter the trade in the 1800s now with the European Trans-Atlantic slave trade as their market.
However, in the case of the Islamic states, the idea of jihad and slavery were mutually inclusive and a system of enslavement closely followed conversion. Afrikan Islamic societies had been involved in the trade much earlier as the Sokoto Caliphate was not without precedence. The Mali and Songhai Empires though their wealth was derived primarily from the gold and salt trade, these societies became part and parcel of the Arab slave trade after their conversion. And other Afrikan Muslim states were part of this slaving network as well such as Bornu, Wadai, Dar Fur, Sennar, and Futa Jallon.
This suggests that the coming of Islam to Afrika, even before the advent of the Europeans, already had a pejorative effect on traditional Afrikan societies. To put the role of Islam and jihadic slavery in context, I offer the following facts: Arab Muslims began the slave trade; the Arab slave trade lasted for approximately 1500 years; they had two networks, the Trans-Saharan and the Trans-Indian trades; in some areas of North Afrika, Arab Islamic slavery still exists; and Islam never developed a well-organized abolition movement, as the Qur'an, the Hadith, and Shari'a have enshrined slavery. Moreover, it would be the Islamic slave trade whether conducted by Arabs or Afrikans that would exacerbate the Afrikan system. And naturally Afrikan Muslims states targeted traditional states. Sometimes Muslim states would require non-Muslim vassal states to pay their tribute with captives. Often times traditional states would find themselves attacked by Afrikan Muslims on one side, and European slave agents/Afrikan states on the other.
Although Muslims will laud the merits of Usman dan Fodio, many perceiving his jihad movement as a religious obligation, and viewing him as a mujaddid (reformer), as a force for good; but for me as a traditionalist, his legacy is bad if not plain old ugly.