Story of Uthman Dan Fodio and the Fulani Jihad


Who is Uthman Dan Fodio? 

Uthman Dan Fodio belongs to the Fulani tribe and he is popularly known as the progenitor of the Fulani empire in the Northern parts of Nigeria. Average Nigerians picture him as a military man and a statesman. 

He was born in December, 1754 in Marata. He belonged to the Fulani ethnic group which can be be found in the western part of Africa most importantly Senegal, Cameron, Nigeria and lots more. 

His clan belonged to those that migrated from Futa Toro in Senegal and settled in Kwoni in the Hausa city state of Gobir. 

Uthman Dan Fodio as a little boy followed the traditional Muslim system of education which was majorly the study of the holy Koran. Normally the study of the Koran stopped at the age of fourteen and fifteen for most of the boys there and then embarked on their vocation skills acquisition. But the few who showed interest in continuing the education, they are mostly being encouraged by their Arabic teachers(Mallam) so they can become Mallam on their own. 

Uthman Dan Fodio belonged to this class. However, after he had learnt Koran from his biological father, he proceeded to study Islamic law and Rhetoric under renowned Islamic teachers. 

Alhaji Jibril Umar who was among Uthman’s teachers really made a great impact on his life. Uthman was a great student under him for twelve months around 1780.

In 1774,Uthman was 20 years of age and has started preaching in Degel, his home town and fully commenced his career as a Mallam. He after some times started propagating the preaching to neighboring towns and villages which was where he recorded his first converts to Islam. 


The Islamic religion was introduced into Hausa land in the 14th century, but it was only practiced by people of the ruling class over hundred years and left the masses heathen.

Even, the Mallam(Arabic teachers) who came from to teach the Hausa people the basic knowledge of Islam around the 15th century mixed it with some acts of heathenism. When Uthman Dan Fodio came into the Hausa land, he began to make shed the heathen accretions which was set out in his preaching career. 

After Uthman had spent some years in Kebbi and Degel, he then proceeded to Zamfara with his brother, Abdullah where they spent five years. 

During their stay in Zamfara, the Sultan of Gobir invited all the Islamic religious teachers(Ulamas) to his compound for a Muslim festival and gave them some presents. It was only Uthman Dan Fodio that rejected the present and demanded for five things instead from the Sultan. The demands are;

  1. He(Uthman Dan Fodio) should be allowed to preach to people to embrace and follow the true path of Islam. 
  2. All prisoners should be freed by the Sultan. 
  3. Nobody should be burdened with heavy taxes 
  4. Muslims identified by their Turbans should be respected 
  5. Anyone who wants to follow his path should be given the freedom 

The Sultan accepted all of his demands.


History of Nigeria pg 32-35

Photos source: Wikipedia

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