Nana Asma’u (1793 – 1864): Daughter of Usman dan Fodio

Nana Asma’u (1793 – 1864)

Nana Asma’u (1793 – 1864) was the daughter of Usman dan Fodio, founder of Sokoto Caliphate which was one of the most powerful kingdom’s in northern Africa of the time. For some, Asma’u represents the education and independence that is possible for women under Islam and remains a model for African feminists into the present.


Erudite and well versed in Arabic, Greek, and Latin classics and fluent in Arabic, Fulfulde, Hausa, and Tamacheq, Asma’u was reputed to be a leading scholar in the most influential Muslim state in West Africa. She represented the number of highly educated Muslim women of the time. Bearing witness to the Fulani Jihad (1804-1810) in which her father conquered Nigeria and Cameroon, she recorded her reactions in The Journal.


Asma’u also left an impressive corpus of poetry which is comprised of historical narratives, elegies, laments, and admonition, which became tools for teaching men and women the principles of the caliphate.


Today, in northern Nigeria, Islamic women’s organization, schools, and meeting halls are frequently named in her honor.

Nana Asma’u (1793 – 1864)
Nana Asma’u (1793 – 1864)

With the republication of her works, she has become a rallying point for African women for the cause of women’s education.


Photo: Nigerianostalgia
Historical Africa

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