digplanet beta 1: Athena
Share digplanet:


Applied sciences






















Usman dan Fodio
Sultan of Sokoto, Amir al-Muminin, Imama
Reign 1803–1815
Coronation Gudu,June 1803
Titles Al Khalifa Al Amirulmuminin
Born 1754
Birthplace Gobir
Died dead
Place of death Sokoto
Buried Hubare, Sokoto.[1]
Successor Eastern areas (Sokoto):
Muhammed Bello, son.
Western areas (Gwandu):
Abdullahi dan Fodio, brother.
Wives Maimuna
Issue 23 children, including:
Muhammed Bello
Nana Asmau
Abu Bakr Atiku
Dynasty Sokoto Caliphate
Father Muhammadu Fodio (Legal and Religious teacher)

Shaihu Usman dan Fodio, born Usuman ɓii Foduye, (also referred to as Shaikh Usman Ibn Fodio, Shehu Uthman Dan Fuduye, or Shehu Usman dan Fodio, 1754–1817) was a religious teacher, writer and Islamic promoter, and the founder of the Sokoto Caliphate. Dan Fodio was one of a class of urbanized ethnic Fulani living in the Hausa States in what is today northern Nigeria.

A teacher of the Maliki school of law, he lived in the city-state of Gobir until 1802 when, motivated by his reformist ideas and under increased repression by local authorities, he led his followers into exile. This exile began a political and social revolution which spread from Gobir throughout modern Nigeria and Cameroon, and was echoed in a jihad movement led by the Fula ethnic group across West Africa. Dan 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.

Dan Fodio 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, or violation of the standards of Sharia law, and heavy taxation. He encouraged literacy and scholarship, including for women, and several of his daughters emerged as scholars and writers. His writings and sayings continue to be much quoted today, and are often affectionately referred to as Shehu in Nigeria. Some followers consider dan Fodio to have been a mujaddid, a divinely inspired "reformer of Islam".[2]

Dan Fodio's uprising is a major episode of a movement described as the Fulani hegemonies in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries.[3] 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, Shehu inspired a number of later West African jihads, including those of Masina Empire founder Seku Amadu, Toucouleur Empire founder El Hadj Umar Tall (who married one of dan Fodio's granddaughters), and Adamawa Emirate founder Modibo Adama.


Dan Fodio' was well-educated in classical Islamic science, philosophy and theology and became a revered religious thinker. His teacher, Jibril ibn 'Umar, argued that it was the duty and within the power of religious movements to establish the ideal society free from oppression and vice. His teacher was a North African Muslim alim who gave his apprentice a broader perspective of the Muslim reformist ideas in other parts of the Muslim world. Dan Fodio used his influence to secure approval to create a religious community in his hometown of Degel that would, dan Fodio hoped, be a model town. He stayed there for twenty years, writing, teaching, and preaching.

In 1802, Yunfa, the ruler of Gobir and one of dan Fodio's students, turned against him, revoking Degel's autonomy and attempting to assassinate dan Fodio. Dan Fodio and his followers fled into the western grasslands of Gudu where they turned for help to the local Fulani nomads. 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”.[4] Usman did exactly this when he left Gobir in 1802. After that, Yunfa turned for aid to the other leaders of the Hausa states, warning them that dan Fodio could trigger a widespread jihad.[5]

The Fulani War[edit]

Sokoto Caliphate, 19th century

Usman dan Fodio was proclaimed Amir al-Muminin or Commander of the Faithful in Gudu. 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. A widespread uprising began in Hausaland. This uprising was largely composed of the Fulani, who held a powerful military advantage with their cavalry. It was also widely supported by the Hausa peasantry who felt over-taxed and oppressed by their rulers. Usuman started the jihad against Gobir in 1804.

The Fulani communication during the war was carried along trade routes and rivers draining to the Niger-Benue valley, as well as the delta and the lagoons. The call for jihad not only reached other Hausa states such as Kano, Katsina, and Zaria, but also Borno, Gombe, Adamawa, Nupe, and Ilorin. These were all places with major or minor groups of Fulani alims.

After only a few years of the Fulani War, dan Fodio found himself in command of the largest state in Africa, the Fulani Empire. His son Muhammed Bello and his brother Abdullahi carried out the jihad and took care of the administration. Dan Fodio worked to establish an efficient government grounded in Islamic law. After 1811, Usman retired and continued writing about the righteous conduct of the Muslim belief. After his death in 1817, his son, Muhammed Bello, succeeded his as amir al-mu’minin and became the ruler of the Sokoto Caliphate, which was the biggest state south of the Sahara at that time. Usman’s brother Abdullahi was given the title Emir of Gwandu, and he was placed in charge of the Western Emirates, Nupe and Ilorin. Thus, all Hausa states, parts of Nupe and Ilorin, and Fulani outposts in Bauchi and Adamawa were all ruled by a single politico-religious system. From the time of Usman dan Fodio there were twelve caliphs, until the British conquest at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Religious and political impact[edit]

Many of the Fulani led by Usman dan 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 worldly kingdom above the banner of Islam. All this is unbelief according to the consensus of opinions.”[6]

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.”[7]

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 made by him were corruption at various levels of the administration along with injustice regarding ordinary people's rights. Usman also criticized the heavy taxation and obstruction to the business and trade of the Hausa states from the legal system.


Usman dan Fodio wrote about 480 poems in Arabic, Fulfulde, and Hausa.[8]

See also[edit]


Web sites[edit]

Other primary sources[edit]

  • Writings of Usman dan Fodio, in The Human Record: Sources of Global History, Fourth Edition/ Volume II: Since 1500, ISBN 0-6`8-04247-4 (page:233-236)
  • Asma'u, Nana. Collected Works of Nana Asma'u. Jean Boyd and Beverly B. Mack, eds. East Lansing, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1997.

Other secondary sources[edit]

  • Mervyn Hiskett. The Sword of Truth: The Life and Times of the Shehu Usuman Dan Fodio. Northwestern Univ Pr; 1973, Reprint edition (March 1994). ISBN 0-8101-1115-2
  • Ibraheem Sulaiman. The Islamic State and the Challenge of History: Ideals, Policies, and Operation of the Sokoto Caliphate. Mansell (1987). ISBN 0-7201-1857-3
  • Ibraheem Sulaiman. A Revolution in History: The Jihad of Usman dan Fodio.
  • Isam Ghanem. The Causes and Motives of the Jihad in Northern Nigeria. in Man, New Series, Vol. 10, No. 4 (Dec., 1975), pp. 623–624
  • Usman Muhammad Bugaje. THE TRADITION OF TAJDEED IN WEST AFRICA: AN OVER VIEW . Paper Presented to the International Seminar on the Intellectual Tradition in the Sokoto Caliphate and Borno. Organized by the Center for Islamic Studies, University of Sokoto from 20 to 23 June 1987.
  • Usman Muhammad Bugaje. The Contents, Methods and Impact of Shehu Usman Dan Fodio's Teachings (1774-1804)
  • Usman Muhammad Bugaje. THE JIHAD OF SHAYKH USMAN DAN FODIO AND ITS IMPACT BEYOND THE SOKOTO CALIPHATE . A Paper to be read at a Symposium in Honour of Shaykh Usman Dan Fodio at International University of Africa, Khartoum, Sudan, from 19 to 21 November 1995.
  • Helen Chapin Metz, ed. Nigeria: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1991.
  • B. G. Martin. Muslim Brotherhoods in Nineteenth-Century Africa. 1978.
  • Jean Boyd. The Caliph's Sister, Nana Asma'u, 1793–1865: Teacher, Poet and Islamic Leader.
  • Nikki R. Keddie. The Revolt of Islam, 1700 to 1993: Comparative Considerations and Relations to Imperialism. in Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 36, No. 3 (Jul., 1994), pp. 463–487
  • R. A. Adeleye. Power and Diplomacy in Northern Nigeria 1804–1906. 1972.
  • Hugh A.S. Johnston . Fulani Empire of Sokoto. Oxford: 1967. ISBN 0-19-215428-1.
  • S. J. Hogben and A. H. M. Kirk-Greene, The Emirates of Northern Nigeria, Oxford: 1966.
  • J. S. Trimgham, Islam in West Africa, Oxford, 1959.
  • 'Umar al-Nagar. The Asanid of Shehu Dan Fodio: How Far are they a Contribution to his Biography?, Sudanic Africa, Volume 13, 2002 (pp. 101–110).
  • Paul E. Lovejoy. Transformations in Slavery - A History of Slavery in Africa. No 36 in the African Studies series published by Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-78430-1
  • Paul E. Lovejoy. Fugitive Slaves: Resistance to Slavery in the Sokoto Caliphate, In Resistance: Studies in African, Caribbean, and Afro-American History. Gary Y. Okihiro - editor. University of Massachusetts: Amherst, MA. (1986).
  • Paul E. Lovejoy, Mariza C. Soares (Eds). Muslim Encounters With Slavery in Brazil. Markus Wiener Pub ( 2007) ISBN 1-55876-378-3
  • F. H. El-Masri, “The life of Uthman b. Foduye before the Jihad,” Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria (1963), pp. 435–48.
  • M. A. Al-Hajj, “The Writings of Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio”, Kano Studies, Nigeria (1), 2(1974/77).
  • David Robinson. "Revolutions in the Western Sudan," in Levtzion, Nehemia and Randall L. Pouwels (eds). The History of Islam in Africa. Oxford: James Currey Ltd, 2000.
  • http://www.arewahouseabung.org/Bunza.pdf

See also[edit]

Preceded by
1st Sokoto Caliph
Succeeded by
Muhammed Bello

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usman_dan_Fodio — Please support Wikipedia.
A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.
267 videos foundNext > 

Shehu Usman Dan Fodio - The African Caliphate

Book panel discussion - A western darqawi tribute to the tajdeed of amir al-mu'mineen Shehu Usman Dan Fodio.

History recalls the Caliphates in West Africa, a brief overview

3 minute brief on approximately 800 years of West African empies not usually covered by western historians. Its an overview of the west african caliphates na...

Black and North African Muslims in History

Great Black and North African Muslims in history from the book Illuminating the Darkness by Habeeb Akande. Featuring Tariq ibn Ziyad, Ibn Battutah, Usman dan...



Deeper Roots: African Muslims Black History | Abdullah Hakim Quick

Dr Abdullah Hakim Quick is an international Scholar, Speaker, Da'wah worker, and historian. He has travelled to, more than 51 countries in his quest for know...

Uthman dan Fodio by Arrey Mbongaya Ivo.mp4

A literary work that traces the causes and the routes of the Fula Jihads and how it spread across northern Nigeria into Cameroon. Author: Arrey Mbongaya Ivo ...

Sheikh Muhammad Isa Talatan Mafara (Tarihin Daular Sheikh Uthman Dan Fodio 1)

The Muslim News Awards - Uthman Dan Fodio Award for Excellence in Community Development

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2009 Second Award - Uthman Dan Fodio Award for Excellence in Community Development.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2010 Eighth Award - Uthman Dan Fodio Award for Excellence

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2010 Eighth Award - Uthman Dan Fodio Award for Excellence in Community Development.

History Book Review: The African Caliphate: The Life, Works and Teaching of Shaykh Usman Dan Fodi...

http://www.HistoryBookMix.com This is the summary of The African Caliphate: The Life, Works and Teaching of Shaykh Usman Dan Fodio (1754-1817) by Ibraheem Su...

267 videos foundNext > 

7 news items


Tue, 25 Mar 2014 04:46:59 -0700

Sheikh Usman dan Fodio was a revolutionary leader that supported the Fulani clan in Nigeria from the persecution of the Hausa Sultanate, and launched the Islamic revival in the Hausa states of Nigeria, he further created the Sokoto caliphate, one of ...
Sun, 23 Mar 2014 23:22:30 -0700

Take, for instance, the Usman Dan Fodio jihad. Almost every region of Nigeria cherishes barefaced historical lies about this relatively recent historical event. Many people in the far north, for example, think that it was the jihad that brought forth ...


Tue, 08 Apr 2014 16:37:21 -0700

According to him “the programme commences lectures on Monday, 19th May 2014 in four universities namely: University of Uyo, Usman Dan-Fodio university, Sokoto, University of Maiduguri and National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN)”. He said Imo ...

Daily Sun

Daily Sun
Fri, 11 Apr 2014 15:52:30 -0700

Even Usman dan Fodio first warmed his way to the powers that be during his time. The second strategy is subversion, which they pursue by destruction of public and government installations. The final strategy is coercion. Here, they use violence by way ...
Sun, 06 Apr 2014 01:38:48 -0700

The Speaker, like Malam in Kano, was, as one writer observed, a proponent of the Usman Dan Fodio lifestyle of talking “to the people in simple, clear language; referring to their history and culture; composing songs to convey precise messages; living ...
Nigerian Bulletin
Mon, 31 Mar 2014 01:37:30 -0700

Usman dan Fodio also undertook his own hijra, to Gudu, when Yunfa wanted to kill him. This should give us some context. Back to topic, and this period at Kanama, is probably where they had their first foreign contact. While there, more members joined ...


Tue, 15 Apr 2014 10:02:46 -0700

Le nord-est du Nigeria, et plus exactement le pays haoussa, est musulman sunnite, profondément imprégné par les idées et l'oeuvre d'Usman Dan Fodio qui rêvait d'une société idéale, libre de l'oppression et de la perversion. Adepte du Djihad pour lutter ...

Oops, we seem to be having trouble contacting Twitter

Talk About Usman dan Fodio

You can talk about Usman dan Fodio with people all over the world in our discussions.

Support Wikipedia

A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia. Please add your support for Wikipedia!