?Uthman Dan Fodio (1754–1817)

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UTHMAN DAN FODIO (1754–1817)

˓Uthman dan Fodio was a religious scholar and the founder of the Islamic empire of Sokoto in present-day northern Nigeria.

˓Uthman dan Fodio was born in Maratta in the Hausa kingdom of Gobir. He studied the Qur˒an with his father, and other Islamic sciences such as fiqh and hadith with a number of scholars of the region. Through Shaykh Jibril b. ˓Umar he was initiated into the Qadiriyya Sufi brotherhood. After completing his education in circa 1774, he started to teach and preach in Gobir. His preaching brought him into a conflict with the political establishment in Gobir that, although claiming to be Muslim, was still committed to a policy of accommodation with respect to the non-Muslim majority of the population. In 1804, this conflict led to a military confrontation between the jama˓a (community) of ˓Uthman dan Fodio and the King of Gobir. In the subsequent jihad the jama˓a of Uthman dan Fodio was able not only to defeat the King of Gobir in 1808, but also to conquer almost all other Hausa states and to establish an empire that was ruled by religious scholars and defined as an Islamic state, the socalled "Sokoto caliphate." ˓Uthman dan Fodio became emir al-mu˒minin (the title "commander of the faithful" taken by the second caliph, ˓Umar) of this empire and was able to exert great influence on neighboring jihad movements, in particular those in Bornu (from 1808) and Masina (1818). Dan Fodio was also author of more than one hundred scholarly works that were to influence decisively the intellectual, religious, and political development of Islam in the Sokoto empire as well as other parts of West Africa such as the Masina imamate. His most influential works are probably those he wrote to legitimize the jihad, on the necessity of hijra (emigrating to establish a Muslim community), on reviving the sunna and quelling innovation, and on the distinction between Muslim rule and the rule by nonbelievers.

See alsoAfrica, Islam in ; Caliphate ; Kano .


Hiskett, Mervyn. The Sword of Truth. The Life and Times of theShehu Usuman dan Fodio. New York: Oxford University Press, 1967.

Last, Murray. The Sokoto Caliphate. London: Longman, 1967.

Roman Loimeier