Nigerian History: The North--Hausaland and the Fulani Sokoto Caliphate

Figure 1.--This is a scene in Kano at the end of the British colojnial era. The press caption read, "Had a Fine Time: Baba, the three-year old grandson of the Emir of Kano, shakes hands with the British Colonial Secreary Alan Lennor Boyd, left, as he prepares to leave with his grandfather's party to return to Nigeria after a visit in England."

Northern Nigeria was dominated by The Hausa who founded the Kano Kingdom in northenr Nigeria (999) which endured for nearly milenium. The Hausna and Kano were finally conquered by the Fulani as part of the Islamic Jihad that created the Sokoto Caliphate (1805). This occurred before British influence hd expanded into northern Nigeria. Kano was the most prosperous province of the Sokoto Caliphate. It was governed by an emir who ruled as a vassal ofthe Caliphate. British in the 19th century gradually expanded its influence inland, evebntually reaching Muslim-dominated northern Nigeria. The British seized Kano Emirate (1903). Under British rule, the political powers of emirate were reduced. The ruling emirs, however, are still influential figures, but subject to Nigerian law.

Centralized Hausa States (15th-17th centuries)

Many small competing city states developed in norther Nigeria. Several of these city states emerged as particularly important commercial and Islamic centers in Hausaland. They built strong walled defenses and became the southern terminus of the Saharan caravan trade. . The most prominent of these states were Kano, Katsina, Zazzau, Zamfara, Kebbi, and Gobir. These Hausa states included immigrant peoples of diverse tribal origin. Islam spread south from North Africa along the caravan routes to these walled trading city states. At first it was the faith of a small group of merchants and eventually scholars. Greadually it became generally practgiced faith of the various Hausa states. Butas late as the 18th century in­digenous religious rites coexisted with Islam and were still widely practiced and tolerated. Often Muslims had incorportated aspects of traditional religion in their practice of Islam--syncretism.

The Hausa/Kano Kingdom (11th-18th centuries)

Small chiefdoms were prevalent throughout Hausaland (northern Nigeria) during the first millenium. One of those chiefdoms was an ancient settlement at Dalla Hill. This settlement over time became increasingly important. The principle source of information about the Kano Kingdom is the Kano Chronicle which describes Bagauda, described as a grandson of the mythical hero Bayajidda. Bagauda rose to become the first king of Kano (999). He expabded the kingdon's territory anhad along reign (until 1063). Muhammad Rumfa became king (1463). He was one of the more notble Kano kings. He improved the city, expanded the emir's palace (Sahelian Gidan Rumfa), and promoted Islamization. He strongly prompted important residents to convert to Islam. King Rumfa ruled (until 1499). The Hausa/Kano continued as an important northern state through the 18th century.

Fulani Sokoto Caliphate (19th century)

The pastoralist Fulbe (Fulani in the Hausa language) spread from Futa Toro across much of the West African savanna, including northern Nigeria. They were one of the most important imigrantgroups that moved into Hausaland. The Torodbe community produced many of the Fulani mallams (learned Muslims) in Hausaland. The Torodbe mallams adopted an increasingly strident view of Islam and began to see syncretical practices as blasfemoius and thise who practiced them as infidels. The Torodbe began to aspire to create aure Islamic state in which Muslim rulers would enforce strict Shari’a law and stamp out traditional rites and practices. Shehu ‘Uthman dan Fodio became increasingly respected as a spiritual leader (early-1780s). He at first declined to become involved in political issues abd disputes. He became aevered adviser at the court of the Sarkin Gobir Bawa. As time passed, however, he began to become increasly disturbed by the continued practice of Hausa rulers to tolerate non-Islamic religious practices, both traditional religions and syncretic practices. ‘Uthman began to sanction the establishment of autonomous Muslim communities throughout Hausaland. And ultimately he became the leader the Sokoto Jihad (holy war) which conquered much of what is now northern Nigeria. This led to the formation of the Sokoto Caliphate. ‘Uthman's forces captured Kano (1805). The former Kano Kingdom became the largest and most prosperous province of the new Caliphate that was centered in Sokoto, located in the extreme northwest of Nigeria, close yo the confluence of the Sokoto and Rima Rivers.

Kano Emirate (19th century)

The Kano Emirate was one of the world's last large slave societies. Modern authors commonly write of the European Atlantic slave trade as if it was all of the African slave trade. Often ignored is the Arab slave trade which had both Saharan and Indian Ocean routes. We do not yet have a complete history of slavery in the Kano Kingdom and the Sokoto Caliphate. Several sources, however, describe the Kano Emirate as having a very substahntial slave population. The emirate was establisghed at about the same time Britain launched its effort to end the Atlantic slave trade. At the time, British influence did not extend to northern Nigeria. Slavery continued in the Emorate afyer Britain had abloished slavery in the Empire and ended the Atkantic slave trade. One source estimates that slaves constituted about half the population (1850s). [Lovejoy, p. 195.] This was about the time that the Btitish seized Lagos to the south. The slaves were confined to large slave villages. A dynastic dispute developed at the end of the century, astruggle was fought by Yusufu and Tukur using slave armies (1893-95). Yusufu emerged victorious and emerged as emir. The Emirate was one of many Muslim polities that maintained slavery and the slavetrade in the face of European Muslim pressure. The most important was the Sultan of Zanzibar. Britain also faced the Mhadist revolt in the Sudan.

British Colonial Rule (1903-60)

The British gradually extebded theur cintrol nort. The reached Kano (1903). The 7th Emir was in Sokoto when when the British entered Kano. He was eventually captured and exiled to Lokoja. He subsequently died there (1926). The British did not end the emirate, but ended its political role. British colonial authoritie made Kano the administrative center northern Nigeria. It was, however, replaced as a the center of government by Kaduna.

Independence (1960- )

The emirate regained some imprtance after independence and the creation of Kano State. The Emir now has only limited political power. He is a respectedfigure and exerts considerable authority in the Muslim community. He has provided leadership on ithe increasing tension between Christians and Muslims in the city.


Lovejoy, Paul. Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in Africa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983). Lovejoy cites a German classical scholar traveling in northern Nigeria at the time, Heinrich Barth.


Navigate Children in History Website:
[About Us]
[Introduction] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Climatology] [Clothing] [Disease and Health] [Economics] [Freedom] [Geography] [History] [Human Nature] [Law]
[Nationalism] [Presidents] [Religion] [Royalty] [Science] [Social Class]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Children in History Home]

Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing national pages:
[Return to the Main African country history page]
[Return to the Main African page]
[Angola] [Cape Verde Islands] [Democratic Republic of the Congo] [Ethiopia] [Gabon] [Lessotho]
[Madagascar] [Mali] [Nigeria] [Somalia] [South Africa] [Uganda]

Created: 6:04 AM 9/21/2012
Last updated: 6:05 AM 9/21/2012