Islam in Africa: The story of Hausa Fulani Empire

Africa Contributor
Islam in Africa

Islam in Africa has a mysterious history. It has spread among a number of kingdoms on this continent. The Hausa Fulani empire or the Sokoto empire was a Sunni Muslim caliphate of West Africa. It was founded by Usman Dan Fodio during the Fulani jihad of 1804. There were a number of independent Hausa Kingdoms. The Sokoto caliphate connected over 30 different emirates. It was the most important empire of West Africa.

The region between the Niger River and Lake Chad was hugely inhabited by the Hausa, the Fulani, and other ethnic groups such as Tuaregs from Timbuktu. The Hausa population were city dwellers. On the other hand, the Fulanis were mainly a pastoral community that resided in grasslands. With the increment of trade, a large number of Fulani people established themselves in town. Though, Hausas were the majority.

Most of the population had taken refuge in Islam in the centuries before. But, local pagan beliefs were also there. Especially the aristocrat people used to believe in both. Though, at the end of 1700, an increase in Islamic preaching happened throughout the empire.

The Hausa Legend

There is a famous Hausa legend that indicates the origin of the empire. It is attributed to Bayazid who came from Begh to live in Kanem-Bornu. The ruler of Bornu welcomed Bayazid and arranged a marriage with his daughter. But at the same time, the ruler ruthlessly robbed Bayazid and his people. Bayazid was threatened, he ran away from Kanem-Bornu and reached Gaya Mai Kano. He then asked the goldsmith of the Kano to make a sword for him.

According to the story, Bayazid saved the people of Kano by killing a giant supernatural snake which had prevented the people from getting water from a well. As an appreciation, the queen of Kano named Darua married him. With Darua Bayazid got seven sons. They were, Biran, Dcura, Katsina, Zaria, Kano, Rano, and Gebir. These seven sons were, allegedly the founder of the Hausa Fulani Kingdom. Another name of this kingdom is Sokoto Caliphate. Thus Islam in Africa happened.

The initiation of Islam in Africa and the Hausa Fulani empire

Islam came to Hausaland in the early 14th century. Islam in Africa came much before that.

It is said that about 45 Wangarawa graders brought Islam during the reign of Ali Yaji. He was a ruler of Kano during the years 1349 to 1385. A brick mosque was built under his supervision and a muedthith was appointed. A qadhi or judge was also appointed to give religious verdicts.

A number of the Islamic preachers were connected in a shared Tariqa of Muslim study. Maliki scholars were invited to preach their beliefs in Hausa land from the region of Maghreb. Some of them even joined the courts of some sultanates in Kano. The famous of these scholars were Muhammad al-Maghili. Islam in Africa was enriched by them.

The golden era of Islam in the Hausa Fulani empire

During the reign of the ruler Yaqub during the years 1452 and 1463, one Fulani went to Kano and introduced the books of Jurisprudence. And during the reign of Muhammad Rumfa in the years 1453 to 1499, Islam was deeply established in Kano.

The ruler Rumfa consulted Islamic scholars on the governing and administrative affairs. He asked the famous Muslim scholar Al-Maghili to write a book on Islamic Governance and Sharia during the 15th century. The book is considered a masterpiece and called” The obligation of the princes,”

Al-Maghili later went to Katsina which was a great place for learning and teaching at that time. Scholars and researchers from Sankore university also visited Rumfa’s empire and preached their learning among the people.

Islamic scholarship was an important aspect of the Hausa Fulani empire from its foundation. Sultan Usman Dan Fodio, Sultan Muhammed Bello, Muhammad Rumfa all devoted a lot of time to engage in writing poetry and literature.

The establishment of Islam in Africa owes to many important factors like history, ethnicity, and psychology. Islam never stopped growing in this continent. It can be said that Islam has become an African religion that influenced her people in various ways.