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Fulani Empire and Usman dan Fodio

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Topic: Fulani Empire and Usman dan Fodio
Posted By: rami
Subject: Fulani Empire and Usman dan Fodio
Date Posted: 15 August 2007 at 8:20am
Bi ismilahi rahmani raheem

assalamu alaikum

Fulani Empire

The Fulani Empire, also called the Sokoto Empire or Sokoto Caliphate, was one of the most powerful" title="State - states in" title="Sub-Saharan Africa - sub-Saharan Africa in the years prior to" title="Europe - European" title="Colonization - colonization .

  • - 1 Background
  • - 2 Growth of the empire
  • - 3 Decline and European colonization
  • - 4 See also
  • - 5 References
  • - 6 External links


The" title="Fula people - Fulani were traditionally a" title="Nomadic - nomadic , pastoral community, herding" title="Cattle - cattle ," title="Goat - goats and" title="Sheep - sheep . They populated the grasslands between the towns throughout" title="West Africa - West Africa . With increasing trade, a good number of Fulani also began to settle in towns, forming a distinct minority.

The Fulani were mostly" title="Islam - Muslims , as were the rulers of most of the states in the region. The Islam of the rulers of these states was quite fragile, however, and they quickly reverted to the" title="Nationalism - nationalistic" title="Animist - animist religions when threatened. Over the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Fulani began to launch scattered uprisings against rulers who were oppressing them. These established a number of small, and usually briefly lived, emirates in the west of the Sahel.

The most powerful states in the region were the city-states of" title="Hausaland - Hausaland . They had large Fulani populations, who were generally considered second class citizens. Over the centuries, however, the" title="Hausa people - Hausa and Fulani had become quite integrated. One of the more marginal Hausa states was that of" title="Gobir - Gobir . Poor and on the periphery of Hausaland, it was ruled by a remnant of the defunct" title="Gao - Gao empire. This rule was noted for its despotism towards both the Fulani and the Hausa peasants.

One of the most revered religious scholars of the region," title="Usman dan Fodio - Usman dan Fodio , an urbanized Fulani, lived in Gobir. With the initial approval of" class="new" title="Bawa - Bawa , the ruler of Gobir, he was allowed to found a religious community at" title="Degel - Degel . In exchange, dan Fodio blessed the monarchy and educated Bawa's nephew and heir" title="Yunfa - Yunfa . When Yunfa became ruler, however, he decided to revoke the autonomy of dan Fodio's community and have dan Fodio assassinated.

Degel was defended, but unable to stand up to the army of Yunfa - dan Fodio and his followers retreated from Gobir. From exile dan Fodio called for a jihad against oppressors throughout the region that became the" title="Fulani War - Fulani War . Joined by large numbers of Fulani and also many Hausa, this sparked a general uprising in Hausaland and most of the region's governments quickly fell. Dan Fodio was proclaimed as ruler of the new empire.

Growth of the empire

From this base in Hausaland the Fulani rapidly spread throughout the region. The open plains to the west were annexed, to the south the Fulani captured the northern section of" title="Yoruba people - Yorubaland . They were blocked in the east by the kingdom of" title="Bornu Empire - Kanem-Bornu in" title="1810 - 1810 . Since Fulani strength was centered on powerful cavalry they could not expand very far southwards, however, as the horses were ineffective in the forests of the region and could not withstand the diseases of those latitudes. It became the largest state in Africa stretching from what is today" title="Burkina Faso - Burkina Faso to" title="Cameroon - Cameroon .

The new empire was organized into a series of emirates that were loosely controlled by dan Fodio. Under him the empire was split into two divisions, one ruled by his brother, the other by his son. In" title="1815 - 1815 dan Fodio retired from the Sultanate and the empire passed to his son" title="Muhammed Bello - Muhammed Bello . He built up the new capital at" title="Sokoto - Sokoto , turning it into a major centre. The empire in the nineteenth century is often referred to as the Sokoto Caliphate. Dan Fodio's brother" class="new" title="Abdullahi - Abdullahi continued to rule in the west, and this position, known as the emirate of" title="Gwandu - Gwandu , was passed to his heirs but remained subordinated to Sokoto.

In addition to its military prowess, the empire became known for its scholarship. Bello, Abdullahmi, and dan Fodio were all considered great scholars and despite ruling such a vast state, all three continued to produce a sizable output of poetry, and texts on religion, politics, and history. While scholarship continued in the empire after Bello's death it became divorced from political life. Over time, the empire also became far more Hausan in character with the Hausa language becoming the official language.

The empire continued to be an economic success. Hausaland, now unified, reached a level of unprecedented prosperity and the region remained safe from raids by Saharan nomads.

While the Sultan of Sokoto was paramount the Emirs controlling the other cities, especially" title="Kano - Kano , steadily increased in power during the nineteenth century. In" title="1893 - 1893 a crisis of the succession saw the rulers of Kano rise to preeminence.

Decline and European colonization

The empire began to collapse under pressure from European colonialism that destroyed traditional trading patterns and armed neighbouring states. In" title="1903 - 1903 both Sokoto and Kano were sacked and the Empire collapsed, being divided between the French and British.

The colonizers preserved the Fulani emirate system as the local rulers were given considerable autonomy by the British. The" title="Sultan of Sokoto - Sultan of Sokoto remains to this day the main religious leader of Nigerian Muslims, and the position is still held by descendents of dan Fodio.

See also

  •" title="List of Sultans of Sokoto - List of Sultans of Sokoto
  •" title="Sokoto - Sokoto


  • Johnston, Hugh A.S. Fulani Empire of Sokoto. London: Oxford University Press, 1967." class="internal - ISBN 019-215428-1 .
  • Stilwell, Sean. Paradoxes of Power: The Kano "Mamluks" and Male Royal Slavery in the Sokoto Caliphate, 1804-1903. Porstmouth: Heinemann, 2004." class="internal - ISBN 0-325-07041-5 .

External links

  •" class="external text" title="" rel="nofollow - British Sokoto Conquest - 1903
  •" class="external text" title="" rel="nofollow - Picture of a Fulani Shapherd boy

Rasul Allah (sallah llahu alaihi wa sallam) said: "Whoever knows himself, knows his Lord" and whoever knows his Lord has been given His gnosis and nearness.

Posted By: rami
Date Posted: 15 August 2007 at 8:34am
Bi ismilahi rahmani raheem

Usman dan Fodio

Usuman dan Fodio
Sultan of Sokoto, Amir al-Muminin
Reign" title="1804 - 1804 -" title="1815 - 1815
Born" title="1754 - 1754" title="Gobir - Gobir ?
Died" title="1817 - 1817" title="Sokoto - Sokoto ?
Successor" title="Muhammed Bello - Muhammed Bello
Issue" title="Muhammed Bello - Muhammed Bello" class="new" title="Nana Asmau - Nana Asmau
other sons and daughters

Shaihu Usman dan Fodio (" title="Arabic language - Arabic : عثمان بن فودي ، عثمان دان فوديو‎) (also referred to as Shaikh Usman Ibn Fodio , Shehu Uthman Dan Fuduye, or Shehu Usman dan Fodio," title="1754 - 1754 -" title="1817 - 1817 ) was a" title="Writer - writer and" class="new" title="Islamic reform - Islamic reformer . Dan Fodio was one of a class of urbanized ethnic" title="Fulani - Fulani living in the" class="new" title="Hausa city-states - Hausa city-states in what is today northern" title="Nigeria - Nigeria . Sheikh Uthman dan Fodio was a follower of the" class="new" title="Maliki School - Maliki School in" title="Law - law and the" class="new" title="Qadiri order - Qadiri order in" title="Sufism - Sufism (the Sufi brotherhood that dates back to the" title="12th century - 12th century ). He lived in the" title="City-state - city-state of" title="Gobir - Gobir until" title="1802 - 1802 when he motivated by his" title="Reformist - reformist ideas led his" title="Muslim - Muslim followers out of the state. He wrote around one hundred books concerning his thoughts about" title="Religion - religion ," title="Government - government ," title="Culture - culture and" title="Society - society . He was strongly criticizing the" title="Hausa - Hausa ruling elite for their heavy taxation and unacceptable violation of the" title="Muslim Law - Muslim Law . He is considered an" class="new" title="Islamic revivalist - Islamic revivalist ; he encouraged the" title="Education - education of women in religious matters, and several of his daughters emerged as" title="Scholars - scholars and" title="Writers - writers . [8]


  • - - 1 - Training
  • - - 2 - Spreading Islam
  • - - 3 - The Sokoto Jihad
  • - - 4 - Nana Asma’u
  • - - 5 - Primary sources
  • - - 6 - Secondary sources
  • - - 7 - Reference and Notes
  • - - 8 - See also
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Dan Fodio was well-educated in classical Islamic science, philosophy and theology and became a revered religious thinker. His teacher," class="new" title="Jibril ibn 'Umar - Jibril ibn 'Umar argued that it was the duty and within the power of religious movements to establish the ideal society free from oppression and vice. His teacher was a North African Muslim alim who gave his apprentice a broader perspective of the Muslim reformist ideas in other parts of the Muslim world. Dan Fodio used his influence to secure approval to create a religious community in his hometown of" title="Degel - Degel that would, dan Fodio hoped, be a model town.

Spreading Islam

However, in 1802, the ruler of Gobir and one of dan Fodio's students, Yunfa turned against him, revoking Degel's autonomy and attempting to assassinate dan Fodio. Dan Fodio and his followers fled into the western grasslands of Gudu where they turned for help to the local Fulani nomads. When he moved to Gudu he was proclaimed al-mu’minin (“commander of the faithful”) In his book Tanbih al-ikhwan ’ala ahwal al-Sudan (“Concerning the Government of Our Country and Neighboring Countries in the Sudan”) Usman writes: “The government of a country is the government of its king without question. If the king is a Muslim, his land is Muslim; if he is an Unbeliever, his land is a land of Unbelievers. In these circumstances it is obligatory for anyone to leave it for another country”. [1]. In fact, Usman did exactly this when he left Gobir in 1802. After that Yunfa turned for aid to the other leaders of the Hausa states, warning them that dan Fodio could trigger a widespread Jihad. [4]. Eventually, he did and it was the first major Jihad for the series of Jihads which were surging during the 18th and 19th century across Sudan and the neighboring states. It was called the Sokoto Jihad and it took place in Hausaland.

Dan Fodio was proclaimed Amir al-Muminin or Leader of the Faithful.[5] This, in effect made him political as well as religious leader, giving him the authority to declare and pursue a Jihad, raising an army and becoming its commander. A widespread uprising began in Hausaland. This uprising was largely composed of the Fulani, who held a powerful military advantage with their cavalry. It was also widely supported by the Hausa peasantry who felt over-taxed and oppressed by their rulers. After only a few short years of the Fulani War, dan Fodio found himself in command of the largest state in Africa, the" title="Fulani Empire - Fulani Empire . His son Muhammed Bello and his brother Abdullahi were carrying out the Jihad and were taking care of the administration. Dan Fodio worked to establish an efficient government, one grounded in Islamic law. After 1811, Usman retired and continued writing about the righteous conduct of the Muslim belief. After his death in 1817 his son, Muhammed Bello, succeeded his as amir al-mu’minin or Sultan of Sokoto and became the ruler of the SOkoto Caliphate which was the biggest state south of the Sahara at that time. Usman’s brother Abdullahi was given the title emir of Gwandu and he was placed in charge of the Western Emirates, Nupe and Ilorin. Thus, all Hausa states, parts of Nupe, Ilorin and Fulani outposts in Bauchi and Adamawa were all ruled by a single politico-religious system. From the time of Usman dan Fodio there were twelve caliphs, until the Birtish conquest at the beginning of the twentieth century. Dan Fodio's uprising inspired a number of later West African jihads, including those of Massina Empire founder Seku Amadu, Toucouleur Empire founder El Hadj Umar Tall (who married one of dan Fodio's granddaughters), Wassoulou Empire founder Samori Ture, and Adamawa Emirate founder Modibo Adama.

The Sokoto Jihad

The Sokoto Jihad is one of the major jihads which swept across the region of Sudan which resulted in the emergence of a state (the Fulani Empire). Great number of Fulani led by Usman dan Fodio, were unhappy that the rulers of the Hausa states were mingling the Islam with aspects of the traditional regional religion. After 20 years of writing, teaching and preaching, he finally withdrew his people to Gudu in 1802 and after 2 years, in 1804, he rose up and overthrew the unjust rulers. In Islam Outside the Arab World, David Westerlung writes: “The jihad resulted in a federal theocratic state, with extensive autonomy for emirates, recognizing the spiritual authority of the caliph or the sultan of Sokoto.”[3] That means that Usman achieved his goal to raise the Muslim law above the power of the government which is one of his main ideas in his written works. In Tanbih al-ikhwan ’ala ahwal al-Sudan he writes: “As for the sultans, they are undoubtedly unbelievers, even though they may profess the religion of Islam, because they practice polytheistic rituals and turn people away from the path of God and raise the flag of worldly kingdom above the banner of Islam. All this is unbelief according to the consensus of opinions.”[1]

Usman points out in his books many of the flaws and demerits of the African non-Muslim or Nominal Muslim rulers. Some of these are corruption on various levels of the administration along with absurdity and injustice regarding ordinary people’s rights. Usman is strongly criticizing the heavy taxation and obstruction created in the business and trade of the Hausa states by the law system. One can assume he was fighting for common equality according to the Muslim law which was inexistent before 1804.

It is astonishing how the call for Jihad from Gudu mnaged to spread throughout the whole county. The communication was carried along trade routes and rivers draining to the Niger-Benue valley, as well as the delta and the lagoons. The call for Jihad did not only reach other Hausa states such as Kano, Katsina and Zaria but also Borno, Gombe, Adamawa, Nupe and Ilorin. These were all places with major or minor groups of Fulani alims.

Nana Asma’u

One of the most prominent members of the caliphate was Shehu Usman dan Fodio’s daughter. She was very devoted to the education of the Muslim women and she was a writer herself like most of the rest of her family. She witnessed many of the Jihad wars and wrote about her experiences in the war in her books.Many of her written works are related to Islamic education; for much of her adult life she was responsible for educating women in their religion, Islam. She created a cadre of women teachers who travelled throughout the Caliphate educating women the students' own homes. Nana Asma’u was very well educated in the classics of the Arab world, and well versed in four languages (Arabic, Fulfulde, Hausa and Tamachek) which gave her a widespread reputation of a scholar and the opportunity to communicate with the whole sub-Saharan African Muslim World. David Westerlund wrote: “She continued to be a source of inspiration to the present day.” [3]

Primary sources

1.The Human Record: Sources of Global History, Fourth Edition/ Volume II: Since 1500, ISBN 0-6`8-04247-4 (page:233-236)
2. Asma'u, Nana. Collected Works of Nana Asma'u. Jean Boyd and Beverly B. Mack, eds. East Lansing, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1997.

Secondary sources

1.Encyclopedia Britannica Online

2.Islam Outside the Arab World by David Westlung (page:59)

3.Bivins, Mary Wren. Telling Stories, Making Histories: Women, Words and Islam in Nineteenth-Century Hausaland and the Sokoto Caliphate. London: Heinemaan, 2007.

Reference and Notes

4.A Continuity of the 19th Century Jihaad Movements of Western Sudan by Muhammad Shareef

5.Nigeria gets new Islamic leader:...Uthman Dan Fodio, who led a 19th Century jihad to spread Islam across northern Nigeria" BBC News

7.Encyclopedia Britannica Online

8.African And Islamic Revival, John Hundwick

See also

  •" title="Fulani Empire - Fulani Empire
  •" title="Sokoto - Sokoto
  •" title="History of Nigeria - History of Nigeria

Rasul Allah (sallah llahu alaihi wa sallam) said: "Whoever knows himself, knows his Lord" and whoever knows his Lord has been given His gnosis and nearness.

Posted By: lovesakeenah
Date Posted: 26 August 2007 at 2:32pm

As-salaam alaykum

Jazakallahu for a job well done.Am truly glad that someone found it necessary to write something from my Home country.It seems to me that Islam is mostly looked at from the Asian Continent than from Africa.We equally have Scholars&Religious Leaders in my Country as a part of West Africa than most people know,and Islam is thriving well there.Usman Dan Fodio was a very important personality.You can't talk about Islam in Nigeria without mentioning his name.May Allah forgive him&rest his soul.Last year during ramadan,we lost the Sultan of Sokoto&it was a heavy loss for all Muslims.Sokoto is the Cradle of Islam in Nigeria and the Seat of Islamic Council.The North have the largest population of Muslims up till date than any other part of the country.For them,it's 'natural' to be Muslims.Even their mode of dressing have been Islamized.

"I have conviction that Allah has power over everything.Verily!Allah's knowledge includes and encompasses everything".

Posted By: UmmTaaha
Date Posted: 10 October 2007 at 9:46pm

Bismillah hir Rahman ir Rahim


I did not see your post before, am not a frequent member. There was an event of SunniPath about NanaAsmaú, very motivating and informative. I came to know there are so many sisters in US who are carrying out the tradition of teachings ( - Yan Taru ) first started by Nana Asmaú, masha allah.

It is not that people do not know about Africa and islam there, alhamdulillah. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf , who runs his institute in california has spent years in Mauritania, and has lots to talk about islamic culture and tradition in Africa ... hearing from scholars and prominent figures one gets a good picture.


Adab with Allah is the proper fruit of obedience - Habib Ali Jifri

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