Wednesday 12 August 2015

Nigerian Kingdoms: The Hausa Kingdoms (500AD - 1808)

The Hausa Kingdoms in northern Nigeria go back to 500 AD.

The Hausa Kingdoms were a collection of states started by the Hausa people, situated between the Niger River and Lake Chad. Their history is reflected in the Bayajidda legend, which describes the adventures of the Baghdadi hero Bayajidda culmulating in the killing of the snake in the well of Daura and the marriage with the local queen Magajiya Daurama. According to the legend, the hero had a child with the queen, Bawo, and another child with the queen's maid-servant, Karbagari.

According to the Bayajidda legend, the Hausa states were founded by the sons of Bayajidda, a prince whose origin differs by tradition. but official cannon records him as the person who married the last Kabara of Daura and heralded the end of the matriarchal monarchs that had erstwhile ruled the Hausa people. Contemporary historical scholarship views this legend as an allegory similar to many in that region of Africa that probably referenced a major event, such as a shift in ruling dynasties.

The first Hausa states began to develop in the Sahel around 500 – 700 AD.

Hausa Bakwai
The Hausa Kingdoms began as seven states founded according to the Bayajidda legend by the six sons of Bawo, the unique son of the hero and the queen Magajiya Daurama in addition to the hero's son, Biram or Ibrahim, of an earlier marriage. The states included only kingdoms inhabited by Hausa-speakers:
  • Daura: 
  • Kano: 
  • Katsina 
  • Zaria (Zazzau) 
  • Gobir 
  • Rano 
  • Biram

Since the beginning of Hausa history, the seven states of Hausaland divided up production and labor activities in accordance with their location and natural resources. Kano and Rano were known as the "Chiefs of Indigo." Cotton grew readily in the great plains of these states, and they became the primary producers of cloth, weaving and dying it before sending it off in caravans to the other states within Hausaland and to extensive regions beyond. Biram was the original seat of government, while Zaria supplied labor and was known as the "Chief of Slaves." Katsina and Daura were the "Chiefs of the Market," as their geographical location accorded them direct access to the caravans coming across the desert from the north. Gobir, located in the west, was the "Chief of War" and was mainly responsible for protecting the empire from the invasive Kingdoms of Ghana and Songhai.

The combined kingdoms of Hausaland were sometimes called the Daura, since Daura is the place where Bayajidda supposedly founded the Hausa people.

It is unclear how much history is preserved in the Bayajidda legend. The Hausa states may have been founded by Berber immigrants from north of the Sahara, or else by peoples coming from East Africa. Despite the story that Bayajidda came from Baghdad, for most of their early history the Hausa were polytheists; Islam was not introduced to the region on any discernible scale until the eleventh century.

Medieval Hausa Civilization
The Hausa kingdoms were first mentioned by Arab geographers in the ninth century, having become known for their role in trade. The seven Hausa city-states never unified, but they cooperated closely. 

Islam was to become an important part of Hausa culture. The religion seems to have first appeared in the region around the eleventh century, brought by merchants and pilgrims, but conversion was slow. Kings and rulers were attracted to the new religion, perhaps for the prestige it granted them in the eyes of other great Islamic states. The common people only gradually adopted Islam, and generally practiced it along with ancient Hausa religious customs. Still, Arabic script was eventually adopted
for writing the Hausa language.

Muhammad al-Maghili, an Islamic scholar and missionary, is credited with converting the Hausa to Islam at the end of the fifteenth century.

The fifteenth century also saw the rise of one city-state over all the others. Kano became the most economically important city, thanks to its cotton cloth and dye industry. It provided most of the cotton to the western Sudan.

Kano became one of the most important trade centers in all of Africa. It is the Kano Chronicle, a history of the city, that provides us with most of our information about early Hausa history.

The Hausa Kingdoms were by the 15th century vibrant trading centers competing with Kanem-Bornu and the Mali Empire. The primary exports were slaves, leather, gold, cloth, salt, kola nuts, animal hides, and henna. At various moments in their history, the Hausa managed to establish central control over their states, but such unity has always proven short. In the 1000s the conquests initiated by Gijimasu of Kano culminated in the birth of the first united Hausa Nation under Queen Amina, the Sultana of Zazzau but severe rivalries between the states led to periods of domination by major powers like the Songhai, Kanem and the Fulani.

Despite relatively constant growth, the states were vulnerable to aggression and, although the vast majority of its inhabitants were Muslim by the 16th century, they were attacked by Fulani jihadists from 1804 to 1808. In 1808 the Hausa Nation was finally conquered by Usuman dan Fodio and incorporated into the Hausa-Fulani Sokoto Caliphate.

Besides the Hausa, another ethnic group lived in their lands: the Fulani. The Fulani were generally treated as second-class citizens and grew to resent Hausa rule. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, a charismatic Islamic leader of Fulani background named Usman Dan Fodio, who lived in the state of Gobir, began a religious movement in the region. He preached the need for a purer form of Islam to the Fulani and the poorer Hausa. Although the leaders of Gobir initially supported him, they soon felt threatened and tried to have Dan Fodio assassinated. The attempt failed, and Dan Fodio declared a jihad against the Hausa state. Supported in the holy war by masses of unhappy Fulani and poor Hausa, Dan Fodio’s “Fulani Jihad” first overwhelmed Gobir, and then the rest of the Hausa city-states. This was the beginning of the Sokoto Caliphate, called such because Dan Fodio made his capital at the city of Sokoto. The Hausa aristocracy was replaced by a Fulani aristocracy, but these new rulers quickly adopted much of Hausa culture. In some places, such as Kano, they began speaking the Hausa language instead of their native Fula language. The Hausa and Fulani mixed
freely, and today the ethnic group is generally termed the “Hausa-Fulani.”

Under the Sokoto Caliphate, the region was truly converted to Islam on a massive scale. The empire, ruled by theocratic caliphs at Sokoto, expanded throughout the nineteenth century. The rule of the Sokoto Caliphate lasted for about a century, until the British colonizers took over the region in the early twentieth century. 

The Hausa are to this day a major ethnic group, chiefly in Nigeria and Niger.

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