The nature of Islam in Hausaland before the arrival of Shehu Usmanu Danfodiyo

The nature of Islam in Hausaland before the arrival of Shehu Usmanu Danfodiyo.

Historians and scholars generally agree that Islam was already present in the Hausaland long before the arrival of Shehu Usmanu Danfodiyo. The people of Hausaland embraced Islam around the 14th century. Before the advent of Islam in the Hausa kingdoms the people of this region were known for their practice of "Maguzanci," which encompassed beliefs in various supernatural beings, including spirits, trees, ancestors, and charms, as well as seeking protection and blessings from them in their daily lives and religious practices. The spread of Islam in the Hausa kingdoms was in a different approach to that of other African societies, as it was introduced through peaceful trading means rather than through warfare.

The spread of Islam in the Hausaland was facilitated through trade and cultural interactions between the diverse Hausa populace and other people from the northern regions, such as the Arab traders from North Africa. As recorded in the Kano Chronicle, the introduction of Islam in the Hausa kingdom was facilitated by a group of traders known as the "Wangarawa," led by Malam Abdulrahman Zaite. These traders were primarily merchants and practitioners of Islam from the Mali Empire. They brought their trade and religious influences from the region to Hausa land. Because of their trade relationship, they propagated the religion to the king of Kano Sarki Ali Yaji at  that time who accepted, along with the support of Sarki Ali Yaji, Islam began to gain prominence in the Hausa kingdoms. Sarki Ali Yaji, during his rule as the king of Kano, embraced Islam and promoted the Islamic faith, thereby initiating a shift from the traditional religious practices, such as "Tsumburbura," to Islam and influencing its spread to other regions.

During this time, around the 14th century, the Hausa people began to embrace the Islamic religion. However, Islam did not gain significant influence until the reign of Muhammadu Rumfa, the king of Kano, who made Islam as the state religion to be practiced in the entire Kano and actively promoted and practiced the Islamic faith throughout the Kano kingdom. Following his lead, Islam also spread to other regions, such as Zaria under the rule of Muhammadu Rabbo, and Katsina under the rule of Muhammadu Korau, as well as other Hausa states.

King Muhammadu Rumfa of Kano welcomed the renowned Islamic scholar named Sheikh Muhammad Abdulrakarim Al-maghili, who hailed from Tlemcen, a city in the present day Algeria. This scholar, as historical records indicate, was the first Islamic teacher to have written approximately two Islamic books in the Hausa region:

1. Taj al-din fi ma yajib 'ala I-muluk: "The meaning of this book is to guide the rulers in the appropriate way of governance, just as Islamic teachings dictate."

2. Jumla Mukhtasara: "The significance of this book lies in guiding the society on how to come together to hinder themselves from doing what is wrong 

During his reign, King Muhammadu Rumfa of Kano took great interest in the guidance of Islamic scholars and held them in high regard. He would seek their counsel and supplication, among the supplications are :-

1. Whoever comes to Kano and finds sustenance in Kano will not leave  empty-handed.

2. Similarly, they supplicate to Him for everything that would prevent hunger from befalling the city of Kano.

3. A prayer is made for that upon anyone's  arrival in Kano, be it day or night, to find whatever he seeks, and so on.

This King Muhammadu Rumfa was the one who built the present-day Kano royal palace known as "Gidan Rumfa" and also established the market called "Kurmi" in the 15th century, around 600 years ago. He was the first king in the Hausaland to perform the Eid prayers.

From then until now, whoever ascends to the throne of Kano will carry the title "Magajin Rumfa," a tradition that existed during that period. During King Rumfa's reign, the Kano kingdom engaged in a conflict with the Katsina kingdom, which lasted for approximately 11 years. The outcome of the conflict was a stalemate, with neither side achieving a clear victory. King Rumfa governed Kano kingdom for a duration of 36 years.

Islam was in various regions such as Gobir, Katsina, Zamfara, and Kabi, before the arrival of the reformer Shehu Usmanu Danfodiyo.
In the region of Katsina, there were two prominent Islamic scholars who were highly regarded for their contributions to the spread of Islam in the 17th century, about 200 years before the era of Shehu Usmanu Danfodiyo.

These scholars were:

1. Muhammadu Ibn al-Sabbagh “Wali Dan Marina”.
2. Muhammadu ibn Abdullahi “Wali Dan Masani”. 

And today there are other books like "Dan Marina da Dan Masani" that are highly respected in the field of education in the Hausaland, and now the biggest cemetery  of Katsina  is named "Makabartan Dan Marna". 

However, during the time before the arrival of Shehu Usmanu Danfodiyo, the majority of the Hausa people had already begun to combine   the Islamic faith and the indigenous customs and traditions. Some practiced indigenous beliefs, while others strictly adhered to the teachings and principles of Islam as prescribed by Sharia law.

Like, In the city of Katsina, "Inna" is the sorceress and highly esteemed name among the people. they refer to her For instance, "Inna Uwar Mu" (Inna Our mother), "Inna Uwar Ibrahim, Sarkin rafi(Inna, mother  of Ibrahim, the river god), "Inna ta Malam Sambo" (Inna, wife of Malam Sambo), "Inna Mai Nobbom" (Inna, the talented one), "Inna ta Maidawa Dan Jigo" (Inna, the wife of Maidawa the compassionate one), "Allah Abin Dogara" (Inna, the one we seek for help), "Inna Mai Gida Bisa Kuka" (Inna, the one with a house on the top of baobab tree), "Inna Mai Gida Bisa Labi" (Inna, the one with a house on grazing ground), if not for  you, Aljanu's existence would be deemed false.

Kabi kingdom, like other kingdoms of Gobir and Katsina, emerged around 1515 during the 16th century, under the reign of Muhammadu Kanta Kotal. The city of "Surame" became the capital of the kingdom until it was later replaced by Kabawa to another city called "Takalafiya,"  also known as "Birnin-Kabi," after the demise of the ruler. In 1805, during the 19th century, the Sokoto caliphate Jihadist invaded Birnin-Kabi and established their rule, leading to the relocation of the capital to a new place known as "Argungu." This relocation took place in 1849, under the rule of the new Sarkin Kabi, Yakubu Nabame. Since then, Argungu has served as the new capital of the Kabi kingdom up to the present day.

Similar to the Hausa people, the Kabawa community also incorporates customs and beliefs into their Islamic religious practices. One such belief is "Camfi" irrational belief, which states that pregnant women should avoid going to rivers to prevent their babies from exhibiting traits similar to mythical beings called Aljannu. Additionally, the belief that washing clothes on Wednesdays and Saturdays brings poverty encourages people to refrain from doing laundry on these days.

In the Kabi kingdom, there are various individuals who provide herbal medicine, such as Bokaye (native doctors), Yan-magori (traditional healers), Yan bori (charmers), Makera (blacksmiths), Masunta (fishermen), Wanzammai (barbers), Ar-bikai/Ungozomai (women midwife), and Mahauta (hunters) among others. Each of these individuals specializes in different types of herbal remedies.

For example, Bokaye, or native doctors, offer their medicinal services upon visiting their place of work. Yan-magori, on the other hand, commonly carry their medicines with them, which may include body parts of animals like birds, crocodiles, lizards, tortoise and so on, as well as parts of trees and other natural elements. 

These various practitioners play an important role in providing herbal medicine in the Kabi kingdom, each with their unique expertise and methods of treatment.

Some of the Aljannu that serve as influential figures in the Hausa society, such as "Malam Alhaji," "Dan Tsatsumbe," and "Doguwa," were respected by the community and provided guidance. Additionally, there were certain cultural traditions in the Hausa society that did not align with Islamic teachings, such as the practice of imposing heavy taxation on cows (harajin shanu),  land tax (harajin kudin kasa)  festival tax (harajin kudin sallah) , and town tax (kudin gari). These practices were not in accordance with the principles outlined in the Islamic Shari'ah, and Muhammadu Bello's book "al-gayth al-wabl fi-sirat al-imam," which focused on following Shariah laws and obtaining state revenue in line with Islamic principles.

In the Hausa regions, there were wars that involved stronger kingdoms conquering weaker regions. These wars involved capturing the youth as slaves and exploiting the resources of the conquered region. It is important to note that these practices went against the teachings of Islam.

These conflicts were prevalent in various regions of the Hausa kingdom, including Kano, Katsina, Zazzau (Zaria), Gobir, Rano, Daura, Kabi, Zamfara, Yawuri, and others. The kingdoms engaged in these wars not to spread the Islamic religion, but rather to gain power and control over territories, often resulting in the enslavement of individuals and the subjugation of the conquered regions.

It was in these circumstances, that Allah graciously blessed Sheikh Usmanu Danfodiyo, his brother AAbdullahi Danfodiyo, his son Muhammad Bello, and their dedicated followers. Their noble mission was to revive and enlighten the Hausaland that had veered away from the true teachings of Islam. Through the mercy of Allah, they successfully achieved this objective. Before the advent of Sheikh Usmanu Danfodiyo, this was the prevailing state of Islam in the Hausaland.

Mujitaba Mainasara Gwandu
Hausa Department, 
Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto. 

300 Level
Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto.


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