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Hausa History


Encyclopedia » History
Nigeria

 

Pre Colonial History

The Hausa cultures, which as early as the 7th century A.D were smelting iron ore, arose in what is today northwestern and north central Nigeria, to Bornu’s west. Hausa represents a place (Hausaland), a people (the Hausas), a language and a culture that spans multiple West African Nations, with a heavier concentration in Northern, Nigeria. The origin of these cultures, however, is a mystery.

Hausas exist in  Benin Numbers unknown, in Burkina Faso 500, Cameroon 23,500, Ghana unknown, Niger 5,000,000, Nigeria 28,525,000, Sudan418,000 and Togo 9600.

 

BAYAJIDDA – The Beginning

Legend has it that Bayajidda (Hausa: BàyÄÌ€jiddà) the founder of Hausaland came from Baghdad, travelling across the Sahara, and arrived in the Kanem-Bornu Empire, where he married a local princess.

Popular legend has it that, Bayajidda was prince of Baghdad (the capital of Iraq) and son of King Abdullahi, but he was exiled from his home town after Queen Zidam, also known as Zigawa, conquered the city. Once he left Baghdad, he traveled across Africa with numerous warriors and arrived in Borno. In Borno he assisted the ‘Mai’(ruler of Borno) to defeat the surrounding pagans. In appreciation, the  Mai gave Bayajidda his daughter called ‘Maghira’in marriage.

Bayajidda later left Borno and eventually settled with his wife, Maghira, at a settlement called Garun gabas or Biram in Hadejia, since she could not continue with the harzadous journey as a result of pregnancy. She later gave birth to a son who became the chief of the town.

            Meanwhile, Bayajidda continued his journey westwards and arrived at Dala hill in Kano which was then occupied by pagan blacksmiths known as Ábagiyawa’. He stayed briefly before moving northwards and finally arriving at the city of Daura in the night. He lodged in the house of an old woman called ‘Ayana’. When he asked the old woman for water to give his horse. She told him that water was not available except on Fridays because of the menace of a snake in the well. Undaunted, Bayajidda borrowed a calabash and asked for the way to the well. When he put the calabash inside the well the snake seized it. He however, pulled the snake out and cut its head with a knife, drew the water he needed and returned to his lodge.

(Note: Kusugu well is located in the ancient city of Daura. According to historical accounts, the well is associated with the establishment of Daura town in the 7th century and the formation of Sarauta system in hausaland. In the ancient times, the well was the only source of water for the people of Daura, but it harboured a dangerous snake which only allowed people to fetch water from the well on Fridays. The snake was called ‘Sarki’ or simply ‘Ki’ which means ‘refuse’ or ‘reject’.)

            The following morning, the people of the town became amazed when they found the body of the snake beside the well. News of the event reached Daurama, the ruler of the town. She sent two of her senior officials, Kaura and Galadima to investigate the situation and report back their findings. At the well, the Galadima apparently afraid, could not go near, but the more courageous Kaura went up to the beheaded  snake, touched it and confirmed that it was really dead. He reported this to the Queen who promptly appointed him the Commander-in-chief of her Armed Forces.

            After the appointment of Kaura, the Queen ordered to see the man who killed the snake so that she could redeem her pledge to give half of the town to anyone who rid the town of the menace. The order attracted false claims by many ambitious men, who were quickly exposed when asked to show the head of the snake. Eventually, the old woman who hosted Bayajidda remembered her visitor’s request for water. She narrated the event to the Queen and remarked that Bayajidda had watered his horse the previous night. The Queen promptly summoned Bayajidda who convinced her that he killed the snake by presenting its head in a wrapped cloth. When the Queen became satisfied, she offered Bayajidda half of the town in appreciation. But he replied that he would rather marry her. The Queen accepted this and the they were married. Bayajidda moved to the palace and soon afterwards, the people began to call the Queen’s house ‘Gidan Makashin Sarki’ (The house of the man who killed the Snake). According to some sources, this is the origin of ‘Sarki’ the Hausa word for Chief. (Note: “Kusugu” well now reserved for history and the sword are still intact and can be seen by tourists in present day Daura Local Government Area of Kastina State.)

            The royal couple lived together for many years without a child because it was against the custom of the people of Daura for their queens to marry. Daurama made a compromise with Bayajidda and said she would only have sexual intercourse with him later; because of this, she gave him a concubine named Bagwariya. (according to the oral palace version of the legend, Daurama gave him Bagwariya because she wanted to break her "queenly vow to remain a virgin," but had to undergo rituals to do so.)

Bagwariya had a son fathered by Bayajidda and she named him Karap da Gari, or Karbagari which means "he snatched the town" in Hausa. This worried Daurama, and when she had a son of her own (also fathered by Bayajidda), she named him Bawo which means "give it back".

            Bawo gave birth to six children. The first was Kazaure who succeeded him as the Sarki (Chief) of Daura. The second was Kumayo who became the first Sarki of Katsina. The third was Gunguma who became the first Sark of Zazzau (in Kaduna). The fourth was Duma who became the first Sarki of Gobir. The fifth was Bagauda who became the first Sarki of Kano. The sixth was Zamnakogi who became the first Sarki of Rano. Bayajidda’a son by Maghira, hid wife from Borno became the first Sarki of Biram. These Kingdoms founded by the legitimate descendents of Bayajidda are known as the seven Hausa states (Hausa Bakwai).

            According to some versions of the story, Bawo’s brother Karbo gari is also credited with seven sons, who established the Chiefdoms of Zamfara, Nupe, Gwari, Yauri, Katanga, Kebbi and Jukun (in Taraba). These seven states are referred to as ‘Banza Bakwai’ (the false seven) because they were founded by the illegitimate decedents of Bayajidda through his concubine.

The rise of the Hausa states occurred between 500 and 700 A.D., but it was not until 1200 that they really began to control the region. The history of the area is intricately tied to Islam and the Fulani who wrested political power from the Hausa in the early 1800s through a series of holy wars.

Leadership in the early Hausa states was based on ancestry. Those who could trace their relations back to Bayajidda were considered royal. With the introduction of Islam, many Hausa rulers adopted this new religion while at the same time honoring traditional ways. This position allowed the elite to benefit from the advantages of both systems.

 

Map of Nigeria's main linguistic groups, as of 1979Map of Nigeria

Left: Map of Nigeria's main linguistic groups, as of 1979 (Hausa and Fulani are in yellow).

Right: Map of present day Nigeria.

Since the beginning of Hausa history, the seven states of Hausaland divided up production and labor activities in accordance with their location and natural resources. Kano and Rano were known as the "Chiefs of Indigo." Cotton grew readily in the great plains of these states, and they became the primary producers of cloth, weaving and dying it before sending it off in caravans to the other states within Hausaland and to extensive regions beyond. Biram was the original seat of government, while Zaria supplied labor and was known as the "Chief of Slaves." Katsina and Daura were the "Chiefs of the Market," as their geographical location accorded them direct acccess to the caravans coming across the desert from the north. Gobir, located in the west, was the "Chief of War" and was mainly responsible for protecting the empire from the invasive Kingdoms of Ghana and Songhai.

There was an Islamic presence in Hausaland as early as the 11th century. According to tradition, Islam was brought to Hausa territory by Muhommad Al-Maghili, an Islamic cleric, teacher, and missionary, who came from Bornu toward the end of the 15th century. Early Islamization proceeded peacefully, mainly at the hands of prophets, pilgrims, and merchants. In the early days the number of individuals who accepted Islam was small, and among those who did, it was usually practiced along with traditional Hausa religious beliefs. In many cases, the ruling elite were the first to convert to Islam. It was not until the early 1800s that the Fulani began to put pressure on the Hausa to undergo large scale conversion. Through a series of holy wars (jihads) the northern part of what is today Nigeria was unified in the name of Islam under the auspices of the Fulani empire

 

Shaihu Usman Dan Fodio – Fulani Takeover

The seven city-states developed as strong trading centers, typically surrounded by a wall and with an economy based on intensive farming, cattle raring, craft making, and later slave trading. In each Hausa state, a monarch, probably elected, ruled over a network of feudal lords, most of whom had embraced Islam by the 14th century. The states maintained persistent rivalries, which at times made them easy prey to the expansion of Bornu and other kingdoms.

 Fulani Map

-Current map of the Fulani coverage of West Africa- 

A perhaps greater, if more subtle, threat to the Hausa kingdoms was the immigration of Fulani pastoralists, who came from the west to make a home in the Nigerian savanna and who permeated large areas of Hausa land over several centuries. In 1804 a Fulani scholar, Usuman dan Fodio, declared a jihad (holy war) against the Hausa states, whose rulers he condemned for allowing Islamic practices to deteriorate. Local Fulani leaders, motivated by both spiritual and local political concerns, received Usuman’s blessing to overthrow the Hausa rulers. With their superior cavalry and cohesion, the Fulani overthrew the Hausa rulers and also conquered areas beyond Hausa land, including Adamawa to the east and Nupe and Ilorin to the south.

After the war, a loose federation of 30 emirates emerged, each recognizing the supremacy of the sultan of Sokoto, located in what is now far northwestern Nigeria. The first sultan of Sokoto was Usuman. After Usuman died in 1817, he was succeeded by his son, Muhammad Bello. Militarily and commercially powerful, the Sokoto caliphate dominated the region throughout the 19th century.

 

Illustration of Usman Dan Fodio Shaihu Usman dan Fodio (Arabic: Ø¹Ø«Ù…ان بن Ùودي ØŒ عثمان دان Ùوديو‎), born Usuman É“ii Foduye, (also referred to as Shaikh Usman Ibn Fodio, Shehu Uthman Dan Fuduye, or Shehu Usman dan Fodio, 1754–1817) was the founder of the Sokoto Caliphate in 1809. A religious teacher, writer and Islamic promoter, Dan Fodio was one of a class of urbanized ethnic Fulani living in the Hausa States in what is today northern Nigeria. A teacher of the Maliki school of law and the Qadiriyyah order of Sufism, he lived in the city-state of Gobir (present day Nasarawa) until 1802 when, motivated by his reformist ideas and under increased repression by local authorities, he led his followers into exile. This exile began a political and social revolution which spread from Gobir throughout modern Nigeria and Cameroon, and was echoed in an ethnicly Fula-led Jihad movement across West Africa. Dan Fodio declined much of the pomp of rulership, and while developing contacts with religious reformists and Jihad leaders across Africa, he soon passed actual leadership of the Sokoto state to his son, Muhammed Bello.

 

Dan Fodio wrote more than a hundred books concerning religion, government,culture and society. He developed a critique of existing African Muslim elites for what he saw as their greed, paganism, or violation of the standards of Sharia law, and heavy taxation. He encouraged literacy and scholarship, including for women, and several of his daughters emerged as scholars and writers. His writings and sayings continue to be much quoted today, and is often affectionately referred to as Shehu in Nigeria. Some followers consider dan Fodio to have been a Mujaddid, a divinely inspired "reformer of Islam".[2]

Dan Fodio's uprising is a major episode of a movement described as the Fulani (Peul) hegemonies in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It followed the jihads successfully waged in Fuuta-Æundu, Fuuta-Jalon andFuuta-Tooro between 1650 and 1750, which led to the creation of those three islamic states. In his turn, Shehu inspired a number of later West African jihads, including those of Masina Empire founderSeku Amadu, Toucouleur Empire founder El Hadj Umar Tall (who married one of dan Fodio's granddaughters), and Adamawa Emirate founder Modibo Adama.

Training

Dan Fodio' was well-educated in classical Islamic science, philosophy and theology and became a revered religious thinker. His teacher, 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 Degel that would, dan Fodio hoped, be a model town. He stayed there for 20 years, writing, teaching and preaching.

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 (present day Niger State) where they turned for help to the local Fulani nomads. In his book Tanbih al-ikhwan ’ala ahwal al-Sudan (“Concerning the Government of Our Country and Neighboring Countries in the Sudan”) Usman wrote: “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”.[3] 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]

The Fulani War

Usman dan Fodio was proclaimed Amir al-Muminin or Commander of the Faithful in Gudu. This made him political as well as religious leader, giving him the authority to declare and pursue a jihad, raise an army and become 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. Usuman started the jihad against Gobir in 1804.

The Fulani communication during the war 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.

Fulani Women and Face Painted Girl

After only a few short years of the Fulani War, dan Fodio found himself in command of the largest state in Africa, the Fulani Empire. His son Muhammed Bello and his brother Abdullahi carried out the jihad and took care of the administration. Dan Fodio worked to establish an efficient government 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’mininand 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 British conquest at the beginning of the twentieth century.

   Fulani Cattle Herder   

 (Sources: Countriesquest, Hospitalitynigeria, Wikipedia, Uiowa, Dauralga)

 

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Updated 1 Year ago
 

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