Fulani War

The Sokoto Caliphate (Fulani Empire) in the 19th century, established after Fulani Jihad
Fulani Jihad
DateFebruary 21, 1804 – 1808
LocationPresent day Nigeria and Cameroon
Sokoto Caliphate Hausa Kingdoms
Commanders and leaders
Usman dan Fodio Sarkin Gobir Yunfa

The Fulani Jihad of 18041808, also known as the Fulani War or Jihad of Usman dan Fodio, was a military contest in present-day Nigeria and Cameroon. The war began when Usman dan Fodio, a prominent Islamic scholar and teacher, was exiled from Gobir by the king Yunfa, one of his former students.

Usman dan Fodio assembled a Fulani army to lead in jihad against the Hausa kingdoms of the north of Nigeria. The forces of Usman dan Fodio slowly took over more and more of the Hausa kingdoms, capturing Gobir in 1808 and executing Yunfa. The war resulted in the creation of the Sokoto Caliphate, headed by Usman dan Fodio, which became one of the largest states in Africa in the 19th century. His success inspired similar jihads in Western Africa.


The Kanem-Bornu Empire had been in decline in the area from the mid-18th century. The result was the rise of a number of independent Hausa kingdoms throughout the region. Two prominent Hausa kingdoms were Gobir and Zamfara. However, warfare between the Hausa states and with other states were constant for the latter 18th century, resulting in a harsh system of conscription and taxation.[1] The Fulani, a largely pastoral people, were often the victims of Hausa taxation, land control, and other discriminatory practices.[2]

Lead up to war

Usman dan Fodio, born in 1751, joined a growing number of traveling Islamic scholars through the Hausa kingdoms in the 1770s and became quite popular in the 1790s.[1] Originally, dan Fodio's preaching received the support of the leadership of Gobir; however, as his influence increased and as he began to advocate for self-defense arming by his followers, his favor with the leadership decreased. Sarkin Gobir Nafata, the king of Gobir, placed a series of restrictions on dan Fodio's preaching.[1] In 1801, Sarkin Gobir Yunfa, a former pupil of dan Fodio, replaced Nafata as king of Gobir. However, Yunfa increased the restrictions on dan Fodio and exiled him from Gobir to the village of Degel. A crisis developed later in 1803 when Yunfa attacked and captured many of the followers of a group associated with dan Fodio. Yunfa then marched the prisoners through Degel, enraging many of dan Fodio's followers, who attacked the army and freed the prisoners. Yunfa gave dan Fodio the option of exile before destroying Degel, which led to the large-scale hijra of dan Fodio's community to Gudu. So many people went with dan Fodio throughout the state that on February 21, 1804, Yunfa declared war on dan Fodio and threatened punishment to anyone joining him.[1] Followers of dan Fodio declared him to be the Amir al-Mu'minin, commander of the faithful, and denounced their allegiance to Gobir.


Several minor skirmishes preceded the forces meeting at the Battle of Tsuntua. Although Yunfa was victorious and dan Fodio lost a number of men, the battle did not diminish his force. He retaliated by capturing the village of Matankari, which resulted in the battle of Tafkin Kwattoa, a major action between Yunfa and dan Fodio's forces. Although outnumbered, dan Fodio's troops were able to prevent Yunfa from advancing on Gunu and thus convince larger numbers of people to join his forces.[1]

In 1805, the forces of dan Fodio, the jihadists, captured the Hausa kingdom of Kebbi. By 1807, the jihadists had taken over the states of Katsina and Daura, and the important kingdom of Kano. In 1808, the jihadists captured Gobir, killing Yunfa in the battle.[1]

With the capture of Gobir, the jihadists saw that they were part of a wider regional struggle. They continued with battles against a number of Hausa kingdoms, and the Sokoto Caliphate expanded over the next two years. The last major expansion of the jihadists was the toppling of the Sayfawa dynasty in 1846.[1]

Founding of the Sokoto Caliphate

Muhammed Bello, the son of Usman dan Fodio, transformed the semi-permanent camp of Sokoto into a city in 1809, during the Fulani war.[3] Dan Fodio ruled from Sokoto as the religious leader of the Fulani jihad states from that point until 1815, when he retired from administrative duties.[1] The Caliphate appointed various Emirs to govern the various states of the empire. These men were often veterans of the Fulani wars.[2]


The success of the jihad inspired a number of later West African jihadists, including Massina Empire founder Seku Amadu, Toucouleur Empire founder Umar Tall, Wassoulou Empire founder Samori Ture, and Adamawa Emirate founder Modibo Adama.

The Sokoto Caliphate has continued to the present. Since the British conquest of the Caliphate in 1903, and later Nigerian independence under a constitutional government in 1960, the Caliphate's political authority has diminished. But the position still has considerable spiritual authority.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Maishanu, Hamza Muhammad; Isa Muhammad Maishanu (1999). "The Jihad and the Formation of the Sokoto Caliphate". Islamic Studies. 38 (1): 119–131.
  2. 1 2 Chafe, Kabiru Sulaiman (1994). "Challenges to the Hegemony of the Sokoto Caliphate: A Preliminary Examination". Paideuma. 40: 99–109.
  3. Boyd, Jean (1986). Mahdi Adamu, ed. Pastoralists of the West African Savanna. Manchester, UK: International African Institute.
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