The Timbuktu Manuscripts and the Human Right to Education

According to the Timbuktu manuscripts, every child had the right to everything that could make them a caliph, God’s vice-regent on earth, which they are called upon to become

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The idea that a child has the right to everything that will make him or her the caliph (vice-regent) of God, which he or she is called upon to become, explains the importance of the right to education. It is also important to stress that this right was much that of girls as boys.


‘Treatise on Human Interests Relating to Religion’

In the first half of the 19th-century, Abdullahi Dan Fodio wrote: “The observation of the child’s right to education is also the sixth opportunity to consolidate the family bond.

[The parents] owe it to the child, as much as is possible, to choose teachers, even if they live far away.


These should be chosen according to the following criteria: a religious and pious teacher; if they have knowledge of Arabic, so much the better; if they also have knowledge of Islamic jurisprudence, even better again; and if they are old, this is more suitable;

if they are known to be devout and ascetic, even better. In fact, the more good qualities the teacher has, the more the child will benefit from them and achieve a higher rank."

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At a time when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was on the whole world’s lips, it was remarkable to discover this writing from a century earlier, approaching the subject of human rights in a detail that goes beyond current concepts of rights issues (for example: the right to a good family—the choice of both parents—for a child born from a marriage).

When Abdullahi Dan Fodio tackles the right to education, he does not limit himself to equal opportunities for all in education, with the obligation to send a child to acquire knowledge. He goes further and discusses the right to a good teacher and educational content that meets the aspirations of the child and their intellectual capacities according to age groups.

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On a different topic, Abdullahi Dan Fodio also emphasizes the ethics of therapeutic practice, among other things. He discusses the relationship between doctor and patient, the role of the person serving the patient, prescription and dosage, the administration of medication and rigorous monitoring of treatment, all while emphasizing the fundamental role played in this regard by the patient for a successful recovery.

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