Usman dan Fodio

Usman Ɗan Fodio, (Arabic: عثمان بن فودي, romanizedʿUthmān ibn Fodio; 15 December 1754 – 20 April 1817)[4] was a Fulani scholar, Sunni Islamic religious teacher, revolutionary, and philosopher who founded the Sokoto Caliphate and ruled as its first caliph.[5]

Uthman ɗan Fodio
عثمان بن فوديُ
Amir al-Mu'minin
Usman Ibn Fodio Calligraphy 02.png
1st Caliph of the Sokoto Caliphate
CoronationGudu, June 1803
PredecessorPosition established
SuccessorMuhammed Bello
Born15 December 1754
Died20 April 1817
Hubare, Sokoto.[1]
  • Maimuna
  • Aisha
  • Hawa'u
  • Hadiza
Issue23 children, including:
Muhammed Bello
Nana Asmau
Abu Bakr Atiku
DynastySokoto Caliphate
FatherMallam Muhammadu Fodio
MotherHauwa bnt Muhammad

Born in Gobir, Usman was a descendant the Torodbe clans of urbanized ethnic Fulani people living in the Hausa Kingdoms since the early 1400s.[6] It is traditionally believed that Usman was an Arab descendant of the commander Uqba ibn Nafi. In early life, Usman became well-educated in Islamic studies and soon, he began to preach Sunni Islam throughout Nigeria and Cameroon. He 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, violation of the standards of the Sharia.

Usman formed and began an Islamic religious and social revolution which spread from Gobir throughout modern Nigeria and Cameroon, and was echoed in a jihad movement led by the Fula people across West Africa. In 1803, he founded the Sokoto Caliphate and his followers pledged allegiance to him as the Commander of the Faithful (Amīr al-Muʾminīn). Usman declared jihad against the Hausa Kings and defeated the kings. Under Usman's leadership, the caliphate conquered Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Southern Niger and most of Northern Nigeria. Ɗan 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.[7]

He encouraged literacy and scholarship, for women as well as men, and several of his daughters emerged as scholars and writers.[8] His writings and sayings continue to be much quoted today, and are often affectionately referred to as Shehu in Nigeria. Some followers consider ɗan Fodio to have been a mujaddid, a divinely sent "reformer of Islam".[9] Shehu ɗan Fodio's uprising was a major episode of a movement described as the Fula jihads in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries.[10] It followed the jihads successfully waged in Futa Bundu, Futa Tooro, and Fouta Djallon between 1650 and 1750, which led to the creation of those three Islamic states. In his turn, the Shehu inspired a number of later West African jihads, including those of Seku Amadu, founder of the Massina Empire, Omar Saidou Tall, founder of the Toucouleur Empire, who married one of ɗan Fodio's granddaughters, and Modibo Adama, founder of the Adamawa Emirate.

Early lifeEdit

Usman was born in December 1754 and was a Fulani descendant of a Torodbe family that was well established in Hausaland.[11] His father Muhammad Fodio was an Islamic scholar. Usman's mother Hauwa is believed to be a direct descendent of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. While Usman was young, he and his family shifted Degel where he studied the Quran.[12] At age 20, he set up his own school in Degel and preached for a stricter observance of Islam.[13]

Soon after, he became well educated in classical Islamic science, philosophy, and theology and also became a revered religious thinker. His teacher, Jibril ibn Umar was a powerful intellectual and religious leader at the time, who was a staunch proponent of Jihad. In 1774, Usman began his itinerant preaching as a Mallam and continued preaching for twelve years in Gobir and Kebbi, followed by further five years in Zamfara. Among Usman's well-known students include his younger brother Abdullah, the Hausa King Yunfa and many others.[12]

Usman criticized the Hausa rulers with his writings; condoning them of enslavement, worshiping of idols, sacrificial practices, taxation practices, their arbitrary rule and greed.[13] He also insisted on the observance of the Maliki fiqh in personal observances as well as in commercial and criminal law. Usman also denounced the mixing of men and women, pagan customs, dancing at bridal feasts, and inheritance practices contrary to Sharia.[14] He was also influenced by the mushahada or mystical visions he was having. In 1789 a vision led him to believe he had the power to work miracles, and to teach his own mystical wird, or litany. His litanies are still widely practiced and distributed in the Islamic world.[15] In the 1790s, Usman later had visions of Abdul Qadir Gilani, (the founder of the Qadiri tariqah) and an ascension to heaven, where he was initiated into the Qadiriyya and the spiritual lineage of the Prophet. Usman later became head of his Qadiriyya brotherhood calling for the purification of Islamic practices.[13] His theological writings dealt with concepts of the mujaddid (renewer) and the role of the Ulama in teaching history, and other works in Arabic and the Fula language.[11] Usman broke from the royal court and used his influence to secure approval for creating a religious community in his hometown of Degel that would, he hoped, be a model town. He stayed there for 20 years, writing, teaching, and preaching. As in other Islamic societies, the autonomy of Muslim communities under ulama leadership made it possible to resist the state and the state version of Islam in the name of sharia and the ideal caliphate.[11]


Origins and foundationEdit

In 1780–1790s, Usman's reputation increased as he appealed to justice and morality and rallied the outcasts of Hausa society.[12] The Hausa peasants, slaves and preachers supported Usman, as well as the Fulbe and Fulani pastoralists. These pastoralist communities were led by the clerics living in rural communities who were Fulfude speakers and closely connected to the pastoralists. Many of Usman's followers later hold the most important offices of the new states. Usman's jihad served to integrate a number of peoples into a single religious-political movement.[16]

In 1797–98, King Nafata of Gobir forbade Shaykhs to preach, wear turbans and veils, prohibited conversions, and ordered converts to Islam to return to their old religion.[12][16] This was highly resented by Usman who wrote in his book 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".[17]

In 1802, Nafata's successor Yunfa, a former student of Usman, turned against him, revoking Degel's autonomy and attempting to assassinate Usman.[18] Yunfa then turned for aid to the other leaders of the Hausa states, warning them that Usman could trigger a widespread jihad.[19] In February 1804, Usman and his followers, carried out a hijra (migration) to the western grasslands of Gudu, where they turned for help to the local Fulani nomads. Usman's followers entitled him the Commander of the Believers (Amīr al-Muʾminīn), and elected him as the leader. They also gave the title Sarkin Muslim (Head of Muslims) to Usman.[20] In the same year, Usman started the jihad and founded the Sokoto Caliphate.[21] By this time, Usman had assembled a wide following among the Fulani, Hausa peasants and Toureg nomads.[13] This made him a political as well as religious leader, giving him the authority to declare and pursue a jihad, raise an army and become its commander. There were widespread uprisings in Hausaland and its leadership was largely composed of the Fulani and widely supported by the Hausa peasantry, who felt over-taxed and oppressed by their rulers.[22]

Expansion of IslamEdit

Sokoto Caliphate in the 19th century

After Usman's declaration of Jihad, he gathered an army of Hausa warriors to attack Yunfa's forces in Tsuntua. Yunfa's army, composed of Hausa warrios and Tuareg allies, defeated Usman's forces and killed about 2,000 soldiers, 200 of whom were hafiz (memorizers of the Quran). Yunfa's victory was short-lived as soon after, Usman captured Kebbi and Gwandu in the following year.[23] At the time of the war, Fulani communications were carried along trade routes and rivers draining into the Niger-Benue valley, as well as the delta and the lagoons. The call for jihad reached not only other Hausa states such as Kano, Daura, Katsina, and Zaria, but also Borno, Gombe, Adamawa, Nupe.[24] These were all places with major or minor groups of Fulani alims.

By 1808, Usman had defeated the rulers of Gobir, Kano, Katsina, and other Hausa Kingdoms.[25] After only a few years of the Fulani War, Usman found himself in command of the Hausa state and the Fulani Empire. The Sokoto Caliphate had become the largest state south of the Sahara at the time. In 1812, the caliphate's administration was reorganized, with Usman's son Muhammed Bello and brother Abdullahi dan Fodio carrying on the jihad and administering the western and eastern governance respectively.[26] Around this time, Usman returned to teaching and writing about Islam. Usman also worked to establish an efficient government grounded in Islamic law.

The Sokoto Caliphate was a combination of an Islamic state and a modified Hausa monarchy. Muhammed Bello introduced Islamic administration, Muslim judges, market inspectors, and prayer leaders were appointed, and an Islamic tax and land system was instituted with revenues on the land considered kharaj and the fees levied on individual subjects called jizya, as in classical Islamic times. The Fulani cattle-herding nomads were sedentarized and converted to sheep and goat raising as part of an effort to bring them under the rule of Muslim law. Mosques and Madrassahs were built to teach the populace Islam. The state patronized large numbers of religious scholars or mallams. Sufism became widespread. Arabic, Hausa, and Fulfulde languages saw a revival of poetry and Islam was taught in Hausa and Fulfulde.[16]


In 1815, Usman moved to Sokoto, where Bello built him a house in the western suburbs. Usman died in the same city on 20 April 1817, at the age of 62. After his death, his son Muhammed Bello, succeeded his as amir al-mu’minin and became the second caliph of the Sokoto Caliphate. Usman’s brother Abdullahi was given the title Emir of Gwandu and was placed in charge of the Western Emirates of Nupe. Thus, all Hausa states, parts of Nupe and Fulani outposts in Bauchi and Adamawa were all ruled by a single political-religious system. By 1830 the jihad had engulfed most of what are now northern Nigeria and the northern Cameroons. From the time of Usman ɗan Fodio to the British conquest at the beginning of the twentieth century there were twelve caliphs.


The Foundations of Justice for Legal Guardians, Governors, Princes, Meritorious Rulers, and Kings (Usman dan Fodio)

Usman has been viewed as the most important reforming leader of Africa.[12] Muslims view him as a Mujaddid (renewer of the faith).[9] Many of the Fulani led by Usman ɗan Fodio were unhappy that the rulers of the Hausa states were mingling Islam with aspects of the traditional regional religion. Usman created a theocratic state with a stricter interpretation of Islam. In Tanbih al-ikhwan 'ala ahwal al-Sudan, he wrote: "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 a worldly kingdom above the banner of Islam. All this is unbelief according to the consensus of opinions".[27] In Islam outside the Arab World, David Westerlund wrote: "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".[28] Usman addressed in his books what he saw as the flaws and demerits of the African non-Muslim or nominally Muslim rulers. Some of the accusations he made were corruption at various levels of the administration and neglect of the rights of ordinary people. Usman also criticized heavy taxation and obstruction of the business and trade of the Hausa states by the legal system. Dan Fodio believed in a state without written constitution, which was based on the Qur’an, the Sunnah and the ijma.[29]

Lineage and familyEdit

Usman ɗan Fodio was described as well past 6 feet, lean and looking very much like his mother Sayda Hauwa. His brother Abdullahi dan Fodio (1761–1829) was also over 6 feet in height and was described as looking more like their father Muhammad Fodio, with a darker skin hue and a portly physique later in his life.

In Rawd al-Janaan (The Meadows of Paradise), Waziri Gidado ɗan Laima (1777–1851) listed ɗan Fodio's wives as:

His first cousin Maymuna with whom he had 11 children, including Aliyu (1770s–1790s) and the twins Hasan (1793- November 1817) and Nana Asmaʼu (1793–1864). Maymuna died sometime after the birth of her youngest children.

Aisha ɗan Muhammad Sa'd. She was also known as "Gaabdo" (Joy in Fulfulde) and as "Iyya Garka" (Hausa for Lady of the House/Compound). Iyya Garka was famed for her Islamic knowledge and for being the matriarch of the family. She outlived her husband by many decades. Among others, she was the mother of:

  • Muhammad Sa'd (1777-before 18

Abdullahi dan Fodio, brother of Shehu ɗan Fodio stated that their family are part Fulani, and part Arabs, they are Arabs through Uqba ibn Nafi who was an Arab Muslim of the Umayyad branch of the Quraysh, and hence, a member of the family of the Prophet, Uqba ibn Nafi allegedly married a Fulani woman called Bajjumangbu through which the Torodbe family of Usman ɗan Fodio descended.[30] Caliph Muhammad Bello writing in his book Infaq al-Mansur claimed descent from Prophet Muhammad through his paternal grandmother's lineage called Hawwa (mother of Usman ɗan Fodio), Alhaji Muhammadu Junaidu, Wazirin Sokoto restated the claims of Shaykh Abdullahi bin Fodio in respect of the ɗan Fodio family been part Arabs and part Fulani, while Ahmadu Bello in his autobiography written after independence replicated Caliph's Muhammadu Bello claim of descent from the Arabs through Usman ɗan Fodio's mother, the historical account indicates that the family of Shehu ɗan Fodio are partly Arabs and partly Fulani who culturally assimilated with the Hausas and can be described as Hausa-Fulani Arabs.[31] Prior to the beginning of the 1804 Jihad the category Fulani was not important for the Torankawa (Torodbe), their literature reveals the ambivalence they had defining Torodbe-Fulani relationships. They adopted the language of the Fulbe and much ethos while maintaining a separate identity.[32] The Toronkawa clan at first recruited members from all levels of Sūdānī society, particularly the poorer people.[33] Toronkawa clerics included people whose origin was Fula, Wolof, Mande, Hausa and Berber. However, they spoke the Fula language, married into Fulbe families, and became the Fulbe scholarly caste.[34]


Usman Ibn Fodio Calligraphy

Usman ɗan Fodio "wrote hundreds of works on Islamic sciences ranging from creed, Maliki jurisprudence, hadith criticism, poetry and Islamic spirituality", the majority of them being in Arabic.[35] He also penned about 480 poems in Arabic, Fulfulde, and Hausa.[36]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ SOKOTO STATE, Background Information (2/10/2003).
  2. ^ University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center: "An Interview on Uthman dan Fodio" by Shireen Ahmed 22 June 1995
  3. ^ Loimeier, Roman (2011). Islamic Reform and Political Change in Northern Nigeria. Northwestern University Press. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-8101-2810-1.
  4. ^ Hunwick, John O. 1995. "Arabic Literature in Africa: the Writings of Central Sudanic Africa (pp.
  5. ^ I. Suleiman, The African Caliphate: The Life, Works and Teachings of Shaykh Usman Dan Fodio (1757–1817) (2009).
  6. ^ T. A. Osae & S. N. Nwabara (1968). a Short history of WEST AFRICA A.D 1000–1800. Great Britain: Hodder and Stoughton. p. 80. ISBN 0-340-07771-9.
  7. ^ "Usman Dan Fodio's Biography". Fulbe History and Heritage. 17 March 2016. Retrieved 26 May 2020.
  8. ^ "Usman Dan Fodio, a great reformer". Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  9. ^ a b John O. Hunwick. African And Islamic Revival in Sudanic Africa: A Journal of Historical Sources : #6 (1995).
  10. ^ "Suret-Canale, Jean. "The Social and Historical Significance of the Fulɓe Hegemonies in the Seventeenth, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries." In Essays on African History: From the Slave Trade to Neocolonialism. translated from the French by Christopher Hurst. C. Hurst & Co., London., pp. 25–55". Retrieved 8 October 2014.
  11. ^ a b c Lapidus, Ira M. A History of Islamic Societies. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2014. pg 469
  12. ^ a b c d e "Usman dan Fodio | Fulani leader | Britannica". Retrieved 12 December 2021.
  13. ^ a b c d Meredith, Martin (2014). The fortunes of Africa : a 5000-year history of wealth, greed, and endeavour. Internet Archive. New York : Public Affairs. pp. 164–165. ISBN 978-1-61039-459-8.
  14. ^ "Keywords; history, nation building, Nigeria, role | Government | Politics". Scribd. Retrieved 26 May 2020.
  15. ^ "الدلائل الشيخ عثمان ابن فودي" – via Internet Archive.
  16. ^ a b c Lapidus, pg 470
  17. ^ Usman dan Fodio: Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
  18. ^ "Usman Dan Fodio: Progenitor Of The Sokoto Caliphate". The Republican News. 14 October 2017. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  19. ^ The Islamic Slave Revolts of Bahia, Brazil: A Continuity of the 19th Century Jihaad Movements of Western Sudan?, by Abu Alfa Muhammed Shareef bin Farid, Sankore' Institute of Islamic African Studies, Archived 15 January 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
    Also see Lovejoy (2007), below, on this.
  20. ^ "THE EMPIRES AND DYNASTIES – The Muslim Yearbook". 16 July 2019. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  21. ^ "Fodio, Usuman Dan |". Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  22. ^ "Usman dan Fodio | Fulani leader". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  23. ^ Spencer C. Tucker (2009). A Global Chronology of Conflict: From the Ancient World to the Modern Middle East [6 volumes]. ABC CLIO. p. 1037. ISBN 978-1-85109-672-5. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  24. ^ Ososanya, Tunde (29 March 2018). "Usman Dan Fodio: History, legacy and why he declared jihad". – Nigeria news. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  25. ^ Welle (, Deutsche. "Usman dan Fodio: Founder of the Sokoto Caliphate | DW | 24.02.2020". DW.COM. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  26. ^ "Muḥammad Bello | Fulani emir of Sokoto". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  27. ^ "Salaam Knowledge". Retrieved 8 October 2014.
  28. ^ Christopher Steed and David Westerlund. Nigeria in David Westerlund, Ingvar Svanberg (eds). Islam Outside the Arab World. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1999. ISBN 0-312-22691-8
  29. ^ Abdul Azim Islahi (1 January 2008). "Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio and hiseconomic ideas" (pdf). MPRA (Paper N. 40916). Islamic Economics Institute, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah: 7. Archived from the original on 26 January 2013 – via {{cite journal}}: External link in |via= (help)
  30. ^ Abubakar, Aliyu (2005). The Torankawa Danfodio Family. Kano,Nigeria: Fero Publishers.
  31. ^ Ibrahim, Muhammad (1987). The Hausa-Fulani Arabs: A Case Study of the Genealogy of Usman Danfodio. Kadawa Press.
  32. ^ Ibrahim, Muhammad (1987). The Hausa-Fulani Arabs: A Case Study of the Genealogy of Usman Danfodio. Kadawa Press.
  33. ^ Willis, John Ralph (April 1978). "The Torodbe Clerisy: A Social View". The Journal of African History. Cambridge University Press. 19 (2): 195–212. doi:10.1017/s0021853700027596. JSTOR 181598. S2CID 162817107. Retrieved 13 February 2013.
  34. ^ Ajayi, Jacob F. Ade (1989). Africa in the Nineteenth Century Until the 1880s. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-03917-9. Retrieved 13 February 2013.
  35. ^ Dawud Walid (15 February 2017), "Uthman Dan Fodio: One of the Shining Stars of West Africa", Al Madina Institute. Retrieved 27 April 2019.
  36. ^ Yahaya, Ibrahim Yaro (1988). "The Development of Hausa Literature. in Yemi Ogunbiyi, ed. Perspectives on Nigerian Literature: 1700 to the Present. Lagos: Guardian Books" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 July 2011. Retrieved 11 July 2011. Obafemi, Olu. 2010. "50 Years of Nigerian Literature: Prospects and Problems" Keynote Address presented at the Garden City Literary Festival, at Port Harcourt, Nigeria, 8–9 Dec 2010]


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  • Bunza[6]
  • Adam, Abba Idris., "Re-inventing Islamic Civilization in the Sudanic Belt: The Role of Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio." Journal of Modern Education Review 4.6 (2014): 457–465. online
  • Suleiman, I. The African Caliphate: The Life, Works and Teachings of Shaykh Usman Dan Fodio (1757–1817) (2009).

External linksEdit

Preceded by
1st Sokoto Caliph
Succeeded by
  1. ^ "Usman Bugaje:THE TRADITION OF TAJDEED IN WEST AFRICA: AN OVER VIEW". Archived from the original on 21 January 2008. Retrieved 6 December 2007.
  2. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 28 September 2007.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "Dr Usman Muhamad Bugaje: The Impact of usman Dan fodio's Jihad beyond the Sokoto Caliphate". Archived from the original on 21 January 2008. Retrieved 6 December 2007.
  4. ^ "Dr Usman Muhamad Bugaje". Archived from the original on 21 January 2008. Retrieved 6 December 2007.
  5. ^ "Nigeria Usman Dan Fodio and the Sokoto Caliphate". Retrieved 8 October 2014.
  6. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 July 2010. Retrieved 20 June 2009.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)