The Sokoto Caliphate and Inter-State Diplomacy in Western and Central Sudan in the 19th Century

Cite this article: Aliyu, S. S. and Sama’ila, A. (2021). “The Sokoto Caliphate and Inter-State Diplomacy in Western and Central Sudan in the 19th Century”. In Sokoto Journal of History Vol. 10. Pp. 43-55.

Shuaibu Shehu Aliyu

Arewa House Center for Historical Research and
Documentation, Kaduna


Abubakar Sama’ila

Department of History & International Studies, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto


The Sokoto Jihad which led to the establishment of the Sokoto Caliphate
is a product of intellectual quest spinning
for centuries across states in the Sudan. The founders
of the caliphate „the triumvirate‟ were themselves, the heirs to
the long tradition of learning lasting a millennium, have distinguished themselves by the intellectual sagacity
and wisdom that wielded the entire western
and central Sudan into a single religious-political block. The caliphate
distinguished itself by the astonishing
amount of written documents
and the literary tradition it occasioned. Through its literary influence, the jihad created the
largest empire in Africa since the fall of Songhai in 1591. In addition, it also provided the inspiration
for a series of related holy wars in other parts of the Savanna and Sahel far beyond Nigeria's borders that led to the
foundation of Islamic states in indifferent
parts of the region. The availability
of a
rich body of jihad literature
has endowed us with numerous studies on various aspects
of inter-state relations in the region and particularly between the caliphate and its subordinate emirates. However,
issues surrounding relations between the
Caliphate and other states in the Sudan has not been adequately treated. In
fact, less has been written on the
caliphate‟s relations with some other states such as Morroco, Agadez, Masina, Liptako and the state of Kurani in spite
of substantial evidence in the Jihad literature on the exchanges of envoys and dispatches between Sokoto and some of
these states. The main focus of this paper
therefore is to reappraise the diplomatic relations between the caliphate and
some of her neighboring states in the
region and the lessons that could be drawn from such legacy for the contemporary international system.

Key Words: Sokoto Jihad, Sokoto Caliphate,
Diplomacy, Scholarship, Inter-state relation


The Sokoto
Caliphate was the upshot of the reform movement that started in Hausaland as
early as 1776 under the leadership of
a scholar and reformer known as Shehu Usmanu Danfodiyo. By 1809 the movement had captured power in almost
all the ancient prosperous Hausa states that flourished for over five centuries.1 Within a short period of
time, the Jihad succeeded in changing the political landscape of the entire Hausa land and to certain
proportion, most parts of the West African
The Sokoto Caliphate was the largest state in West Africa since the 16th
century. It was created by Muslim
reformers in the Hausa states. The revolutionary movement which was closely associated with the founding of the Sokoto
Caliphate stimulated a unique intellectual tradition.3 At its peak in the mid. 19th
century, the caliphate stretched 1,500 kilometers from Dori in modern Burkina Faso to southern Adamawa in
Cameroon and included Nupe lands, Ilorin in northern Yorubaland, and much of the Benue River valley.4 In
addition, it also provided the inspiration for a series of related holy wars in other parts of the savanna and
Sahel far beyond Nigeria's borders that led to the foundation of Islamic states in Senegal,
Mali, Ivory Coast, Chad, Central
African Republic, and Sudan.
Sokoto Caliphate existed for over 100 years – a dynasty that bestrode a very large landscape
and population in the West African

availability of a rich body of Arabic sources5 and the narratives of
nineteenth-century European travellers
has endowed us with numerous studies of the relationship between Sokoto
Caliphate and some of its main
emirates.6 These studies mainly deal with the emirates within the
confinement of the contemporary
northern Nigeria. Issues surrounding relations between the Caliphate and other distant areas/emirates outside northern
Nigeria have not received adequate attention by scholars.7 Compared to the wealth of studies on
Sokoto caliphate‘s relations with its immediate emirates, less has been written
on the former‘s relations with Morocco, Massina,
Agadez 8 and the distant
tributaries of the caliphate in the western flank. Furthermore, the
Caliphate‘s intellectual influence on the development of these areas has not been adequately addressed.9

since the most important factor in the spread and development of Islam is
education, the caliphate leadership
preoccupied itself with teaching and preaching which had spread to different parts of western
and central Sudan. For instance
Shiekh who is the architect
of the movement

M.U.Bunza, The Application of
Islamic Law and the Legacies of Good Governance in the Sokoto Caliphate, Nigeria (1804-1903): Lessons for the
Contemporary Period, Electronic Journal
of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law, EJIMEL Vol.I.
, University of Zurich, 2013, p.84.

H. M. Maishanu, Five Centuries of
Historical Writing in Hausaland and Borno, 1500-2000
, Macmillan, Nigeria, 2007, P.1.

R.A. Adeleye, ‗The Sokoto Caliphate in the Nineteenth Century‘, J.F.A.
Ajayi and Michael Crowder, History of West Africa,
Vol. II,
London, Longman, 1974,

One of the most outstanding of these sources is Muhammad Bello, Infaqul Maisur fi TarikhBilad al-Tekrur, Annett John (trans), 1922. It is a pioneer
historical work that deals with the history of the Sudan. It is also eye opener
for the colonial and postcolonial
historians on the history of the region. Muhammad Isa Talatar Mafara, an
Islamic Scholar, Interviewed at his
House, Gwiwa Low Coast Area,
Sokoto, 15/09/2021.

Some of the studies include; D. M. Last, The Sokoto Caliphate, Longman, London, 1967, S. J. Hogben and A. H.
M Kirk-Greene, The Emirates of Northern Nigeria: A Preliminary Survey of their
Historical Traditions
, Oxford University
Press, London, 1966; Y. B. Usman, Studies
in the History of the Sokoto Caliphate: The Sokoto Seminar pape
r, Lagos, 1979, and Ibrahim
Sulaiman, The Islamic State and the
Challenge of History: Ideals, Policies and Operations of the
Sokoto Caliphate,
London, 1987.

On this see for instance, Rossi, B. Between Sokoto and Agadez:
Inter-Ethnic Hierarchy in the Nineteenth Century. In From Slavery to Aid: Politics,
Labour, and Ecology
in the Nigerien Sahel, 1800–2000
, African Studies, Cambridge, Cambridge University
Press, 2015.

Djibo Hamani provides detail analysis on the history and evolution of
the Sultanate of Agadez. The work makes an important
contribution to the history of the Ayar of Niger. Djibo, Hamani, L‟Adar precolonial: Contribution l‟etudede l‟histoir des etats Hausa,
Institut de Recherche en Sciences Humaines,
Niamey, 1975.

See  for
 instance,  M.T.  Usman,  ―Intellectual  Tradition  in
 the  Sokoto  Emirate,  1903-1960‖,  Unpublished  Ph.D, UDUS, Nigeria, 1998.

indefatigable, moving from one place to another. He started from Kebbi and
Zamfara and
then to other parts of
Hausaland before he finally settled at Degel, He spent practically nineteenth
years travelling, teaching, preaching,
converting and writing along with his expanding team of
disciples. During such preaching tour, he was silently but consciously building
all over his itinerary,
a body of scholars and students whom he left behind to continue instructing his
number of followers on the
basic tenets of Islam as well as his idea of reform. Definitely, such tours
also acquainted him with the nature,
problems, and aspirations of the society.
movement was
therefore intellectually
based; and interestingly enough, those literatures are still very relevant in
contemporary societies.10
For proper administration, rule of law and accountability, the triumvirate
wrote a number
of books to guide leaders
of the state as in most parts
of the Caliphate, scholars were appointed as state officials, hence were partaking in the running
of the affairs of the state.11 The literary contributions of the Jihad
leaders therefore, became accessible in other parts of West
Africa as some of such literatures influenced the subsequent Jihads that took
place in West African
region.12 For instance, before his jihad, Seku Ahmad
acquainted himself with the works of the
and it was his reference to those literatures that finally enabled him to
convince and
control his Council of Ulama‟u.13 Similarly, Alhaji
Umar was also influenced by the writings from

Sokoto Caliphate which he studied thoroughly prior to his movement,
among others. The pertinent
question therefore
is what impact have these literatures made in the promotion of inter-state diplomacy in west and central sudan?. The
following section provides background survey on the
Jihadist encounter with the Hausa rulers which eventually
translates into the establishment of the

The Jihad of 1804 and the Establishment of the Sokoto Caliphate

The Sokoto Jihad started
after the disagreement which ensued between
the Sheikh Usmanu Danfodiyo
and the authorities in Gobir. Dan Fodio and his entire community emigrated from
Degel and settled in Gudu on the
north western border of Gobir. After the establishment of the community in Gudu on 21st February 1804 new
disciples continued to flock to Shehu. Sarkin Gobir later wrote to Dan Fodio and told him that he was
declaring war on the community.14 The community met, swore allegiance to Shehu and proclaimed
him Sarkin Musulmi (Commander of the Believers), a title still held by the Sultan of Sokoto.15 Between
1804 and 1808 most of the Hausa states fall to the Jihadists and Alkalawa, the capital of Gobir, was also captured.16
The first battle was between Shehu's
supporters and a small punitive expedition from Gobir. Yunfa's soldiers were
defeated and that of Usman's took advantage of this to occupy two northern towns, Matankari, and Kwanni on the


10 . A. Smith, ‗The contemporary significance
of the academic ideals of the Sokoto Jihad‘ in Usman, Y. B. ed., Studies in the History of the Sokoto Caliphate, New York, 1979,

11.       J.M. Kaura, ‗Sokoto Caliphate
literature in the context of the 19th century Jihad in Hausaland: A reflection
on the contemporary relevance
and challenges‖ 9th Inaugural lecture, U.D.U.S, 2009.

12.       In respect to this see for
instance, C.C. Stewart, Diplomatic Relations in Early Nineteenth Century West
Africa: Sokoto-Masina-Azaouad
Correspondence, in Y.B.Usman (ed.), Studies
in the History of the Sokoto Caliphate: The Sokoto Seminar Papers,
A.B.U., Zaria, p.410.


Murray Last, The Sokoto Caliphate, Longman, London,
1977, p.41.

15.       Djibo M. Hamani, Contribution AL‟etude De L‟Histoire De Etat
Hausa: L‟Adar Precolonial (Republique du Niger),
Institute De Recherches en Sciences Humaines, Niamey, 1975, p.12.

16 . Ibid.


border of
Adar. Sarkin Gobir Yunfa wrote, according to Bello, to the Hausa rulers to ask
for their help.17 They
promised him help but none of them came, as they were busy facing their own
internal opposition. Only the Tuaregs
accompanied Yunfa on his expedition against Gudu. Yunfa, accompanied
by his Tuareg allies and some Fulani groups not yet rallied to Shehu, wanted to
cut off the reformers from the road
to prevent them from fleeing and to destroy them. But some villagers informed Shehu of Yunfa's position. The
meeting took place at the Kwatto pond (Tabkin Kwatto) west of Gudu where the soldiers of Sarkin Gobir were defeated.18
In July 1804 the community left Gudu
and settled in Magabci in the Sokoto region.19 In March 1805 the
community moved much further south,
to Sabon Gari, near Zamfara. In
April, the Jihadists army led by its Sarkin Yaki (war commander) Ali Jedo captured Kabi and by October 1805, the
community had moved to Gwandu near
this new conquest.20

Shortly after
his arrival in Gwandu, Shehu faced a major attack by the Gobirawa, assisted by
the Tuareg Kel Geres and Itesan,
Sarkin Adar and a group of Kabawa. Two encounters took place in Alkalawa, not far from Gwandu. Shortly
after Alwassa, Namoda, leader of the Fulani Alibawa, based in Zurmi, inflicted a severe defeat on a coalition of
Tuareg, Adarawa and Zamfarawa.21 The battle of Zurmi forced Tuareg to make peace with Shehu. All the
while, throughout the Hausa states and in neighbouring regions,
Shehu's supporters had become organised and were fighting
against the local rulers. At
the beginning of 1807, the caliphate forces led by Umaru Dallaje captured the whole of Katsina, thus completing the
encirclement of Gobir. Subsequently, Kano was conquered at the end of the second year, and later
Zaria. Furthermore, on 3rd October 1808, the Jihadists stormed Alkalawa and Sultan Yunfa lost his life.22
With the fall of Alkalawa, resistance to the Jihadists was broken everywhere. The Gobirawa asked for
peace which lasted until the death of Usman dan Fodio in 1817.

The Literary Influence of the
Caliphate Leaders

The thorough
intellectual formation of the Jihad leaders, as seen above, qualified them to
produce hundreds of works on various
disciplines and different themes, some in the form of deep intellectual works and others written in response to
urgent matters in their societies.23 Members of the Fodio‘s family and their descendants alone
produced about 700 works24 in Arabic only, ranging from a lengthy versification to a voluminous
book. This is besides their writings in Fulfulde and Hausa. These works covered almost all the
important branches of Islamic sciences known to the Islamic world till then: exegesis, theology,
Prophetic tradition, grammar,
syntax, philology, logic,


18.       Murray Last, The Sokoto

19.       From Magabci, located close
toSokoto, the decision was taken to take the war to the very heart of the
Gobir, to Alkalawa the capital. Shehu
in fact, after Tabkin Kwatto, had alliance of the Twareg of Ayar and Adar. The
attack on Alkalawa was a failure, so the Tuareg deserted Shehu's
camp. Now he had
only the Zamfarawa as allies.

20.       Ibid.

This is a major victory for the Shiekh. See for instance,
Muhammad Bello, InfaqulMaisur fi TarikhBilad al-Tekrur,

Annett John (trans), 1922.


23.       M.T. Usman, ‗Historiography of the Sokoto
Caliphate Draft Paper,
June, 2020, p.2.

24.       154 works by Shaikh Usman; 112 by Shaikh Abdullahi; 162 by Shaikh Muhammad Bello; 295 by their descendants. Total = 723. cf. John Hunwick
(1995): Arabic Literature of Africa, Vol.
2: The writings of Central Sudanic Africa.
Leiden: E.J. Brill.


numerology, science of rhyme and metre, philosophy, etc. Notwithstanding,
literature of jihad and criticism of syncretic practices can be singled out as
their particular contribution to the development
of Islamic science as well as leadership and governance. 25
Similarly, the Arabic manuscripts and published works amount to the total of 1594 (including the Shiekh‘s writings).26 On the intellectual basis of the Jihad,
Abdullahi Smith had long contended that the Jihad that led to the establishment of the Caliphate was essentially;

intellectual movement involving the conception of an ideal society and a theory of revolution by which this ideals
could be approached. All ideals are intellectual
but the ideals of the Sokoto jihad
are also academic: not academic in the
sense of unreal or impracticable, but in the sense of educational having to do with what is taught in schools, in
academies. Whatever else may have inspired them,
the mujahidun in Sokoto drew their ideas from scholarly literature, from a tradition
of learning.27

The main
argument of the 19th century movement in the high academic posture
could be found in numerous books
produced by the jihadists. Some of these writings are to be found in various
places in northern Nigeria. The
importance of this literature on the literary culture of northern Nigeria is summed
up in the following

In the literature, there
is everything, the poetry, the prose, the fiction, the true story,
the parable, the anecdote, most of what we call the creative
recreational art as well as matters that pertain to
faith, state, medicine, the applied sciences and the craft. It drew very well from the Islamic traditions of learning
and writing, leaving us with a
society that knows more about literacy and education than many who think of it otherwise.28

The thorough
intellectual formation of the Jihad leaders qualified them to produce hundreds
of works on various disciplines and
different themes, some in the form of deep intellectual works and others written in response to urgent
matters in their societies.29 The caliphate literature has played a prominent role in reforming the once
corrupt Hausa society. They are also heavily dependent on classical sources which are still relevant
in the contemporary society. The Shehu‘s ideas on the imamate and other socio-political issues are contained in a
number of works such as the Wathiqat ahl al-Sudan,
the Kitab al-Farq, and the Bayan Wujub al-Hijra to mention just few.

Another way
through which the Jihad literature was used intensively is through the
documented messages which
were exchanged between
the Ulama of that time in series of polemic debates

25.    For the literature on Principles of leadership see, H. Bobboyi,
Principles of Leadership according
to the founding fathers of Sokoto Caliphate,
CRID, Leadership series, Abuja, 2011.

26.       See for more, H.M. Maishanu, Five Centuries
of Historical Writing in Hausaland
and Borno, 1500-2000
, Macmillan, Nigeria,
2007, P.1.

A. Smith,   ‗The
contemporary significance of the academic
ideals of the Sokoto Jihad‘
in Usman, Y. B. ed.,

Studies in the History
of the Sokoto Caliphate
, New York, 1979245

28.       S. A. Balogun, ‗Position
of Gwandu in the Sokoto Caliphate‘, in Y.B. Usman, (ed.) Studies in the History of the Sokoto Caliphate: The Sokoto Seminar
r, Lagos, 1979,  P. 175

29.       J.M. Kaura, ‗Sokoto Caliphate
literature in the context of the 19th century Jihad in Hausaland:
A reflection on the contemporary relevance and
challenges‖ 9th Inaugural lecture, U.D.U.S, 2009.


issues, whereas others were directed to the general public in time of
turbulences. An example of the first
type of these messages relates to those exchanged between the Ulama of the Sokoto Caliphate, on the one hand, and Shaikh Muhammad Al-Amin
Al-Kanemi of Borno, on the other
hand. In these messages the latter was questioning the justification and
rationale of the Sokoto Jihad against
already established Muslim kingdoms (i.e. of Hausa).30 Contemporary
scholar cited these literature as an
evidence on the richness of the intellectual debates these Ulama used to conduct through the ‗pen‘.31

Similarly, in
Massina, Ahmad Labbo, one of the students of Sheikh Danfodiyo, appeared to have profoundly influenced by the Sheikh, even as they never met physically. Ahmad‘s
major work titled,
al-idtirar ila Allah fi Ikhmad ba‟ad ma Tuqad min al-Bid‟a
wa Ihya‟ ba‟ad
ma andarasa min al-sunnah,
was in both content and style similar to Sheikh Usman‘s Bayan Bid‟I Shaytaniyya.32 Bugaje states that, Ahmad had all along been in correspondence with the leadership of the movement in Sokoto, especially Abdullahi
Fodio.33 In fact, between 1815 to 1816 this contact becamed intensified as Ahmad Labbo sought
and received legal as well as moral support from the leadership of the Jama‟a in
his struggle against the Ulama‟ and
the ruling class in Masina.34 Sheikh Ahmad having obtained Shehu‘s permission in 1817, started his Jihad. By the following year Seku Ahmadu had overthrown the yoke the Bambara
state of Seku and their surrogates and went ahead to establish an Islamic state made up of five emirates
administered centrally by a council of forty, from the capital Hamdullahi.35 It is also on record
that, the influence of Shiekh Usman was naturally not restricted to Seku
Ahmadu alone, but in the routine administration of the state. It was reported
that, Seku Ahmadu had difficulty in
carrying his council with him until he could quote from the Ihya‟ al-
of Shehu Usman.36 In fact, as argued by Bugaje,
Seku Ahmadu was considered so much part of
Shehu‘s enterprise that when Muhammadu Bello took over the Caliphate following
the demise of the Sheikh in 1817. Bello however demanded bay‟a from Seku Ahmadu. Seku however
drew Bello‘s attention to Abdullahi Fodio‘s fatwa in Diya‟ul Hukkam, which justifies the existence of two Imams
in a territory which is so large as
it render it ungovernable.37

Umar al-Futi,
apparently impressed with what he saw in Masina and Sokoto, decided to stay in Sokoto during the reign of Muhammad Bello
that endedin 1937. During his seven-year sojourn in sokoto, Umar became involved with scholarly activities as well
as administration. He was appointed a
judge in Bello‘s court and even took part in some of the military campaigns. He
married Bello‘s daughter who gave
birth to a son Habibu.38
On return to Futa Toro, Umar began vigorous efforts following the footsteps
of his mentors in Sokoto. The impact of the Sokoto literature reflected in his

30.       M. Bello, Infaqq al-Maisur,
Al-Shacb Press, pp. 155-198.

31.       M.T. Usman, ‗Historiography of the Sokoto Caliphate‘

Usman Bugaje, The Past as Future,
Some preliminary Thought on Sokoto Caliphate
Pyla-Mak, Kaduna, 2015 P.72

33.       Usman Bugaje, The Past as Future…p.73.

34.       C.C. Stewart, Diplomatic Relations
in Early Nineteenth Century West Africa:
Sokoto-Masina-Azaouad Correspondence,
in Y.B.Usman (ed.), Studies in the
History of the Sokoto Caliphate: The Sokoto Seminar Papers,
A.B.U., Zaria, p.410.

35.       Ibid.

Usman Bugaje, The Past as Future, Some preliminary Thought
on Sokoto Caliphate…P.73

C.C. Stewart, Diplomatic Relations in Early
Nineteenth Century West Africa…

38.       Abdullahi Smith,
Little New Light,
Gaskiya Corporation, Zaria, P.140.


writings. Some of the works
which had profound influence on Hajj Umar include Shehu‟s works Hisn al-Afham
min Juyush al-Awham, Masa‟il al-Muhimma and Siraj al-Ikhwan.
Others include Sheikh
Abdullahi‟s Diya al-Hukkam and Muhammad Bello‟s Qadh al-Zinad fi amr hadha
Some of the ideas of
these works are to be found in Hajj Umar‘s Tadhakirat
al-Ghafilin, Tadhakirat al-Mustarshidin
and his famous Rimah Hizb al-Rahim
ala Nuhur Hizb al-Rajim.39
He has also written another important book when he was in Sokoto; Suyuf al-sa‟id.40 When Umar left Sokoto, he left with a number of his personal staff , some disciples and students who played a significant role in his movement . Thus, by 1857, he
had conquered the Bambara state of Segu and established an Islamic state. Thus, besides
their intellectual value, these works have shown the literary
contributions of the
caliphate scholars on inter-state diplomacy in the region.

The Aspects of Inter-state

With the
establishment of the Sokoto caliphate, machineries for diplomatic relations
were already put in place through
the Jihadists writings
spreading across the region and beyond as indicated in the
first part of this paper. All the states neighboring the Caliphate in the East,
West and North received substantial
literary influence from the caliphate scholars justifying the Jihad and calling
for the others to join the
movement. This in a way creates possibilities of cooperation with the pure and nominal muslims and this gave the
caliphate tremendous influence in the affairs of some of these states.41 The caliphate for instance, have exercise
tremendous influence on the many states in Western and Central Sudan and in fact, secured
allegiance of their leaders. For instance, the caliphate
has exercise tremendous influence on the sultanate of Ayar and the rival Tuareg
groups who controlled both the region
and the trading routes connecting Agadez region with Bornu and Hausa states.42 Similarly, the
Caliphate had diplomatic relations with Bornu
in the eastern flank as well other emirates on the western flank as
examined below.

a)      The Sokoto-Bornu Diplomatic Relations

On the eastern
flank, the literary aspect of the diplomacy between the caliphate and other
states featured prominently in the
central Sudan when at the initial period of the Jihad, Kanem-Borno engaged the Jihadists in series of
intellectual debate through correspondences on the legality or illegality in waging Jihad in an area that
had long accepted Islam as state religion. This position served as a turning point for the Kingdom of Borno above any
other state in the Central Sudan in addition
to its political and religious credence in the Muslim World at the time. In the
field of scholarship, Borno had no equal in the pre-nineteenth century central Sudan. Apart from its economic and political dominance, ‗its
intelligentsia, had developed a powerful tradition of Islamic learning and active participation in
public affairs long before the coming of Islam in Hausaland‘.43 According to Muhammadu Bello, Borno has
been known for its high position in the sphere of knowledge and
memorization of the holy Qur‘an.
According to him:


39.       Usman Bugaje, The Past as Future,
Some preliminary Thought
on Sokoto Caliphate…P.75.

40.       Abdullahi Smith,
Little New Light…

Ibrahim Sulaiman, A Revolution in History: The Jihad of Usman Dan Fodio, Mansell, New York, P.117

42.       Rossi, Benedetta, The Agadez
Chronicle and Y-Tarichi: A reinterpretation', History in Africa, vol. 43, 2016, P.8.

43.       Y. B. Usman, ;the
Transformation of Political Communities: some notes on a significant dimension
of the Sokoto Caliphate‘, in Y.B.
Usman,, (ed.) Studies in the History of
the Sokoto Caliphate: The Sokoto Seminar pape
r, Lagos, 1979, P.34.


Before this holy war took place no country in our land surpassed (Borno)
in prosperity… Wadai and Bagarmi were
formally subject to the Sultans of Borno, as
also Hausa and the neighboring parts of Bauchi. Later, their power
declined. Many of their chiefs made
pilgrimage and they were prosperous and contented in the Muslim faith. They stood fast by the law and custom of Islam. Islam was widespread throughout their land. It is
known that their chiefs and Wazirs and the rest
of their people were Muslims... There are no found in our towns, students and writers of the Qur‘an equal to theirs. It
is stated that they remained steadfast up to
the time that our jihad began.44

This statement
from Sultan Muhammad Bello in favor of Borno was a testimony to its greatness, politically and religiously in the central
Sudan. Its fame and dominance in the political and economic structure
of the Sudan confirmed its influence over the most prosperous and strongest Hausa states like Kano, Katsina and Daura.
The military assistance therefore, Borno offered to these states during
the 19th century
Jihad, which became
the main cause of conflict
with the Sokoto Sultanate could be understood in
the light of a stronger state protecting its vassals against invasion; more so that they were paying
annual tribute to Borno before the outbreak of the jihad.45 The scholarly disposition of the leaders
of the movement, according to Murray Last, impacted on the nature and character of their reform movement and the new
state of Sokoto they established.46
Consequently, the jihad movement thus,
became distinct from the other similar
movements in West Africa in the nineteenth century.
That was why the Sokoto leadership engaged al-Kanemi of Borno Sultanate, in dialogue and intellectual debates instead
settling the case in battle field. Thus, one
of the basic factors for the intellectual discourses that took place in the
19th century between Borno and Sokoto
Sultanates were the capability and position of each of them to defend whatever action it had taken intellectually and
authoritatively, not by use of arms.47 It is also worthy of note that the religion
of Islam was very central
to the two disputing states especially in the administrative and diplomatic affairs.
Thus, it was normal for them to have debated on anything which was seen as contravening the basis and tenets of the
religion on which their states structures were founded.

b)     Sokoto-Ayar (Agadez
region) Relations

On the northern fringe
of the Caliphate, relations between
Sokoto and the Sultanate of Ayar had been characterized by intense political
intervention and deliberate diplomatic tactics by the leaders
of the Sokoto Caliphate to address the divisive nature of the various
Tuareg groups of the Ayar region
throughout the 19th Century.48 Available records have
shown that from the 1810 when Sultan Muhammadu
Baqiru of Agadez pay homage to Shehu Danfodiyo at Gwandu up to the time of French occupation of Agadez, there were
series of interventions from Sokoto caliphate to stabilize the internal crises and succession disputes in the sultanate of Ayar which has also been extended


44.       M. Bello, Infaqul Maysur

45.       M.U. Bunza, Intellectual Factor in African Diplomatic History:
Sokoto and Borno Sultanates, 1786-1817, Sociology International, Volume 2 Issue 3 – 2018, P. 216.

Murray Last, The Sokoto Caliphate…Pp. 52-3.

47.       M.U. Bunza, Intellectual Factor
in African Diplomatic History… P. 216.

48.       A.B. Sokoto, Intellectual Foundation of Sokoto
Caliphate: Scholarship, Faith,
Revolution and Building
of an Empire,
University Press, Sokoto, 2014, P.272


The role of Muhammad al-Baqri was very critical in the relationship between the
two states. In fact, Shehu Usman
Danfodiyo considered him as the pillar of Islam in the region hence the caliphate‘s intervention in the Sultanate was located within what Danfodiyo
considered to be the area of religious and political influence
of the Sultan of Ayar.50 Similarly, although Sultan Muhammad
al-Baqri died early (1810) before the completion of the Sokoto Caliphate, his
influence on the future relation
between the two states continued up to the end of the century and even beyond.51 According to
Johnston, Muhammad Baqir, the Sultan
of Ayar, received flag of the Jihad from Sheikh and he was considered
to be the first person to collect flag from the Shiekh Usmanu.52 It was said that Baqir visited Shiekh
and stayed with the Sheikh for one month, studying and assisting him in the foundation of the caliphate and on his way
back to his hometown he wrote to all the
neighboring chiefs around him to support and join the Shehu movement.53
He died before reaching his home town in Agadez.

After Muhammad
Baqir‘s death his brother succeeded
the throne and extend his loyalty and obedience
to the Shiekh‘s movement.54 Similarly, Johnston, reported that the Emir of Ayar, Muhammad
Baqiri had come to Shehu in about 1810 and done homage and his successor, Muhammadu Khamma also come in person to
see the Sheikh at Sifawa for his bay‟a.55
During this visit a treaty had been
negotiated whereby the new Emir had undertaken to keep open the desert trade routes and to transfer to Shehu the
sovereignty of certain northern towns which the Tuaregs had hitherto controlled.56 In this way the distant
oasis of Ayar and the intervening region of Adar57 had become part of the Empire.58
What is clear from the above correspondences between Sheikh Usman Danfodiyo and Sultan Baqir is the
fact that by the beginning of the 19th century, when the Jihad broke out in Hausaland, Sultanate of
Agadez had already accepted and pay allegiance to the Jihad of Sheikh
Usman bn Fodiyo.
Similarly, Djibo Hamani reports an instance of two letters
written by the Sultan of Morocco, Mulay Sulayman, one addressed to Sultan Muhammad

DjiboHamani cited some correspondences between the Sokoto Caliphate and
Sultans of Agadez between 1810 and 1839,
indicating the strong political and diplomatic connection between the two. See,
Djibo M. Hammani, Au Carrefour Du Soudan Et De La Berberie: Le
Sultanat Touareg De L‟Ayar,
Institute De Recherches en Sciences Humaines, IRSH, Niamey, 1989. Translated
version: At The Crossroads of Sudan and
Berberia: The Tuareg Sultanate of the

50.       Djibo Hamani, …… in Y. B.
Usman, (ed.), Studies in the History of
the Sokoto Caliphate: The Sokoto Seminar pape
Lagos, 1979

51.       The Sultan of Ayar was even responsible for the creation of one of the
new great titles of Sokoto, that of Sarkin Sudan
(King of Sudan), the first holder of which was Muhammad Bello himself, and
which is now worn by such dignitaries as the Sarkin Sudan of Kontagora (Nigeria).

Johnston, H.A.S, The Fulani
Empire of Sokoto
, London, Oxford University Press, 1967.

53.       Ibid.

54.       A.B. Sokoto, Intellectual Foundation of Sokoto Caliphate:
Scholarship, Faith, Revolution and Building of an Empire,
UsmanuDanfodiyo University Press, Sokoto, 2014, P.272

55.       Johnston, H.A.S,
The Fulani Empire of Sokoto P.91

56.       In respect to this see also,
Djibo.M. Hammani, Au Carrefour Du Soudan Et De La Berberie: Le
SultanatTouareg De L‟Ayar,
Institute De Recherches en Sciences Humaines,
Niamey, 1989, P. 24.

57.       Between 1653 and 1687, Ayar
under Sultan Mugammad Mubarak successfully resented Kebbi influence and even went ahead to annexed Adar one of the
tributaries of Kebbi. See M.B. Alkali, ‗A Hausa community in Crisis: Kabi in the 19th century, Unpublished M.A. thesis, History, A.B.U., Zaria,
November, 1969, P.79.

58.       Djibo M. Hamani, Contribution AL‟etude De L‟Histoire De Etat
Hausa: L‟Adar Precolonial (Republique du Niger),
Institute De Recherches en Sciences Humaines,
Niamey, 1975, P.


(Sultan of Ayar) and the other to Usman Danfodiyo. These letters were in response
to correspondence in which the
Sultan of Ayar informed the Sultan of Morocco of the activities of Shehu Usman.59

c)      Sokoto in the
western frontier: the Emirates
of Dosso-Junju-Sayi-Liptako

In the western part of the caliphate, Gwandu,
as indicated in the last section, had been the administrative
headquarters since 1805 for running the affairs of the reform movement. Shehu migrated
to Gwandu in the late 1805 with a view to solving the problem of military
strategy and scarcity of food,
pasture and water.60 While
the eastern flank under Muhammadu Bello, had the borders of the caliphate extended running over all Hausa states
of Kano, Katsina, Daura, Gobir, Zamfara,
Zazzau, incorporating areas of Bauchi, Gombe Adamawa and some parts of Borno61,
the Caliphate also wields greater
influence on the political and religious affairs of Ayar sultanate in the north-eastern part of the caliphate.62 Therefore, after the establishment of
Sokoto and Gwandu as centers of the
caliphate in 1809, the western side of the caliphate under Abdullahi extended
to as far as Yorubaland with emirate
center at Ilorin. Other areas under the jurisdiction of Abdullahi include Nupe land and further North to Gurma
countries, Zabarma, Liptako (in present Burkina Faso) and Masina in Mali.63 After the Jihad destabilized the Kingdom
of Kabi, the caliphate went further west to
incorporate the areas of the Zabermawa of Dosso as well as the emirates of Sayi
and Junju. Another area which the
caliphate extend its influence is the Zarmatarey or Zarma country, which is the area of expansion of the Zarma from
the Zarmaganda,64 which was at the same time the place of origin of the Zarma. The country is a vast tertiary plateau
sloping slightly to the south and intersected from north to south with
fossil tributaries of the Niger river along the Dallols Mawri, Fogha and Bosso. The climate of the area
is Sahelian, but in the southern tip it has a North Sudanese character.65

It is worth
noting that at the beginning of the 19th century, the insidious infiltration of
the Tuareg broke the fragile balance
of the Zarmatarey subgroups.66 The Jihad of Usman Dan Fodio led to
the conquest of Zarma and it led to
their subsequent submission to the Jihadist. The eastern part of Zarmatarey was ruled by the Tamkalla
Fulani and the Tuareg, while the western part was spiritually subjugated by the persistent piety and diplomacy
of Alfa Mamman Jobbo and his descendants.67 In

59.       Djibo Hamani reports that
Sultan of Morocco Mulay Sulayman (1792-1822) wrote two letters, one addressed
to Sultan Muhammad Al-Baqri and the
other to Usman Dan Fodio. The letters are dated from July 1810. These two letters
were published in Infaq-al-Maisur, (CAyaro edition pp. 202-203).

60.       M.U. Bunza, Gwandu Emirate: The Domain of Abdullahi
Fodiyo since 1805
, Gwandu Emirate Development Association, 2018, P.

61.   Ibid…P.176.

Djibo M. Hammani, Au Carrefour Du
Soudan Et De La Berberie: Le Sultanat Touareg De L‟Ayar,
Institute De Recherches en Sciences Humaines, IRSH,
Niamey, 1989; Translated Version: At The
Crossroads of Sudan and Berberia: The Tuareg Sultanate of the Ayar.


Zermaganda means the land of Zerma.

65.       Boube Gado, LE ZARMATAREY: Contriution al‟histoiredes
populations d‟entre Niger et Dallol Mawri
, IRSH, Niamey, 1980, P. 11.

66.       Moumouni Yacouba,
Contribution a l‘etude du Passe Songhai: L‘histoire du Dendi, PhD Thesis, Department of History,
University of Code Voire,
1997, P.20.

67.       Boube Gado, LE ZARMATAREY P.14


Abdullahi Fodiyo led an expedition to Dosso, the capital of the Zaberma
Kingdom.68 It was consequent upon his success that he
appointed sarkin Zabarma Zarmakoi as the Emir of Zabarma in Dosso. 69 In the 1820s Dosso
people mounted some resistance to the Jihadist but finally they were subjected under the administration of the
Sokoto Caliphate. However, resistance continued down to 1830s and 1840s especially when Issa Korombé,
sought Kebbi alliance
against the Caliphate. Korombe joined forces with Dauda Bagaran and Hamma Fandu in
Kabi, around 1849, coinciding with
the time of the revolt of Yakuba Nabame, who proclaimed himself Sarkin Kabi and
set up his capital at Argungu.70
With the support of Kabi and Tsibiri the Zarma was able to victoriously repelled a Fulani attack at Gorubankassam
north-east of Dosso.71 In spite of the series of Zarma resistance, Dosso remained under the
Caliphate as part of the Jurisdiction of Gwandu up to 1856.72 During the time of Emir Ibrahim Halilu bn
Abdullahi, the Zabarma also rebelled against Gwandu, the rebels however where defeated at Dubadama with the combined
forces of Sokoto sent by Sarkin Musulmi
Aliyu Babba, led by his brother Yusuf as well as Umar Nagwamatse to assist the
Emir of Gwandu73

Further west of Dosso Emirate are also the Emirates of Sayi, Junju and Liptako.
The emirates of Sayi
and Junju (in the present day Niger Republic) came under the influence of the
western axis of the sokoto caliphate
with Headquarters in Gwandu. In fact sultan Muhammadu Bello reinforced the forces of the Emir of Gwandu with Sullubawa armies under the leadership and command of Baraden
Wamakko.74 Sayi emirate was the seat of learned muslim scholar known
as Modibbo who supplied Gwandu with
the needed forces and resources with which it run the islamization of the westernmost regions of its territories.75
Some sources reported that Modibbo or rather Diobbo, and his companion Boubakar Lokouji/Luluje, are two famous clerics
who established their hegemony in Sayi
at about 1810.76   Because of
his reputation as learned and peaceful man, Diobbo soon gained an ascendency over the Fulani in the Sayi
region who recognized him as their overlord. Sayi therefore, became not only a seat of learning, but also an
important economic center through which east-west
trade, especially trade along the river was channeled. By the time Diobbo died
in 1840, he was by far the single
most important chief of the west and could claim allegiance from a host of lesser chiefs of the right bank of the river valley.77 Diobbo in turn considered himself
to be a vassal


R.A. Adeleye, Power and Diplomacy in Northern Nigeria,
1804-1906: the Sokoto Caliphate and its Enemies,

Longman, London,
1977, p. 65.

69.       His name is given
as Zarmakoi Abul-Hassan as Emir of Zabarma, M.U. Bunza, Gwandu

Boube Gado, LE ZARMATAREY…P.15.

71.       Ibid.

Hogben and Kirk-Green, (1966) and Arnett, The History
of Sokoto
, 1922.

73.       M.U. Bunza, ‗Change of the
Guards: Vegaries in Dosso-Zarma Relations with Kebbi kingdom and Gwandu Emirate,
1820s-1880s‘ in B.A. Gado& A. Bako (eds.), Relations
between Dosso, Kebbi and Sokoto:
Spaces, Societies, States,
Cultures, Economy & Politics.
Abdulmumin University Niamey, (Niger Republic), Usmanu Danfodiyo
Univeristy, Sokoto (Nigeria) & Kebbi State University,
Aliero (Nigeria), Decmber,
2016, P. 151


75.       For instance, some of the forces
which Gwandu used for expedition against Gurma were from Say. See, M.U. Bunza, Change
of Guards….

76.       Ibid.

Finn Fuglestad, A History of Niger…P.37.


of the Sarkin Musulmi
in Sokoto.78 In the same manner, Boubakar
Lokouji/Luluje, Diobbo companion, and the leader of the Fulani who settled down in the middle dallol Bosso also established close ties with Sokoto caliphate, especially with the Emir of Gwandu. By this arrangement, the Zerma, the Mauri, the
Dendi and also the Kebbawa, were caught in the middle and by about 1830-1835, the first
three were reduced to a state of vassaldom compelled to pay tributes.79

In Junju
Emirate, it was the Alfa Adde who served as representative of Mallam Abdullahi
bn Fodio and consequently assumed the
role of an Emir.80 Just like other emirates in the western part of
the caliphate, Emirate of Junju
participated and gave assistance to Gwandu in their campaign in the expansion and protection of the caliphate.
Other emirates that were given flags and played similar role in the western flank include, Emirates of Ngaure, Liptako,
Lamurdi Torodi, Bitimkogi,Yaga as well as the emirate
of Macina.81 The latter was said to be particularly under the control
of Abdullahi bn Fodiyo.82
It was reported that Ahmad Lobbo continuously paid his annual tribute until the death of ShehuUsman in 1817. According
to Adeleye ‗it was after some convincing arguments by Ahmad Lobbo, that he was granted some operational autonomy in
his emirate‘.83 It was upon this
effective control of the emirates that in terms of appointment in the
areas under his jurisdiction, he had
to consult Sokoto or Gwandu for approval.84 This, according to
Adeleye, was a guarantee of loyalty
to his overlord and of equitable rule in his province. The west of the caliphate at the time included the Niger valley down
to Nupe and extended as far west as
Dendi. Later Gwandu often with sokoto
help, pushed farther in these directions to include Ilorin in the south and
Liptako in the West.

d)     Sokoto-Masina Relation

Sokoto-Masina relation in the nineteen century has been marked by serious
diplomatic and religious significance
in the western sudan. Masina Jihad has exerted great influence of the literary culture of the Sokoto caliphate and thus,
applied same ideals in establishing Islamic state there.85 Masina derived great deal of inspiration
from the ideals of the Sokoto Jihad leaders: their literatures, the jihad itself and their ability to
establish an organised Islamic state of Sokoto. It is from this connection that we can understand how,
from 1818 through the early years of 1850s, the states of Sokoto and Masina were able to dominate
politics and economies of central and western sudan vis- à-vis the diplomatic ties among the two states. Masina formally pledges allegiance to Sokoto as early as the starts of the Danfodiyo
movement. The implication of bay‟a (the swearing
of allegiance), as per as the
19th century diplomacy in the central and western sudan, is very
critical not only in Sokoto-Hamdullahi relations, but throughout the region. Bay‟a and
its implication, according
to Stewart, is subject of great complicity that deserves careful attention by historians of

78.       Ibid.

79.       Ibid.

M.U. Bunza, Change
of Guards….

81.       Ibid.

R.A. Adeleye, Power and Diplomacy in Northern Nigeria…P.66.



85.       When the jihad began in Masina, it was an independent movement led by a local Qādirī Fulani, Ahmadu ibn Hammadi. Ahmadu was certainly cognizant of Usman‘s jihad, and the circumstances in which his
own movement was born were
very similar to those
that had occasioned the jihad in Hausaland.


West African
diplomacy.86 The most critical period of relations
between Sokoto and Masina therefore, is the 1817-1821
years immediately following
Sheikh Usman‘s death. The period witnessed
the Sheikh Ahmad‘s allegiance and breaking of allegiance (bay‟a) to Sokoto Caliphate. According to Brown‘s account
of the Sokoto-Masina relations, it appears that the initial
period of the Jihad witnessed exchanges of envoys
who were firstly dispatched to Sifawa for the flags, while Shiakh Usman b. Fodio still lived. The
envoys were retained in Sokoto by the death of the Shaikh and returned back to Masina in 1817-18.87
Barth also reported that Flags were sent from Sokoto to Shaikh Ahmad. There is also evidence among the Sokoto
correspondence about the subordinate position
of Hamdullahi. What is clear from the above narrative is that, Shaikh Ahmad did
offer bay‟a to Sokoto
before the death of Shaikh
Uthman, but it said that it was broken shortly
afterwards. Abdullahi bn
Fodio was later reported that he agreed that the break of the Masina Bay‟a are debatable.

In spite of
the debacle of broken bay‟a, the
relation between the two states had been established in the years after 1821. This can be seen in the aftermath of a
revolt in Masina in 1821 and in an account of correspondence between
Bello and Shaikh
Ahmad in 1826. The revolt was led by Galajio (Hammada Badejo) who had joined
Sheik Ahmad Movement shortly after his Jihad began. In 1819 he travelled to Timbuktu where he studied under Sidi
Muhammad and it was to him he returned in 1825 in quest of support and encouragement against
Shaikh Ahmad authority. Subsequently, he and his followers were forced to flee to the
east where they were received by Gwandu
and settled in what letter became known as Kurani Emirate. Subsequent mediation
through the office of Sidi Muhammad
involved the recording of Sokoto‘s frontiers along the Belehede River which
marked the frontier between Masina and Sokoto.


Contrary to
the writings of Western scholars who consider the history of Sub-Saharan Africa
in the pre-colonial period as records
of dark accounts, conflicts and wars, the discussion contained in this paper demonstrates quite significant
achievements in African literary and diplomatic story. The emergence and evolution of diplomacy and
foreign policy of the sokoto caliphate vis-à-vis its relations with other states in western and central sudan reveals
excellent, constructive, bilateral and beneficial
inter-state relations within the sub-region.
Our discussion attempted to show that the Sokoto scholars have used intellectual approach in dealing with
certain complexities of relating with other
states that happens to fall outside the direct control of the caliphate: Ayar
and Massina as example. Even after
the division of the Caliphate into two: Eastern and Western parts, there were signs through the various correspondences
to show that states of Massina, Ayar and other smaller emirates that were far away from the Caliphate sought religious
advice and permission (a sign of allegiance) from the Sokoto Jihad leaders before carrying out certain critical decisions.

86.       C.C. Stewart, Diplomatic Relations
in Early Nineteenth Century West Africa:
Sokoto-Masina-Azaouad Correspondence,
in Y.B.Usman (ed.), Studies in the
History of the Sokoto Caliphate: The Sokoto Seminar Papers,
A.B.U., Zaria, P.410.

87.   Ibid. p.413.

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