Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Usman Dan Fodio
Shaihu Usman dan Fodio (also referred to as Shaikh Usman Ibn Fodio; alternative spelling, Shehu), 1754-1817 was a writer and Islamic reformer. Dan Fodio was one of a class of urbanized ethnic Fulani living in the Hausa city-states in what is today northern Nigeria. He lived in the city-state of Gobir .
Dan Fodio was well-educated in classical Islamic science, philosophy and theology and became a revered religious thinker. His teacher, Jibril ibn 'Umar argued that it was the duty and within the power of religious movements to establish the ideal society, free from oppression and vice. Dan Fodio used his influence to secure approval to create a religious community in his hometown of Degel that would, dan Fodio hoped, be a model town.
However, in 1802, the ruler of Gobir and one of dan Fodio's students, Yunfa turned against him, revoking Degel's autonomy and attempting to assassinate dan Fodio. Dan Fodio and his followers fled into the western grasslands where they turned to help from the local Fulani nomads. Yunfa turned for aid to the other leaders of the Hausa states, warning them that dan Fodio could trigger a widespread Jihad.
Yunfa proved right and dan Fodio was proclaimed Amirul Momineen or Leader of the Faithful. This, in effect made him political as well as religious leader, giving him the authority to declare and pursue a Jihad, raising an army and becoming its commander. A widespread uprising began in Hausaland. This uprising was largely composed of the Fulani, who held a powerful military advantage with their cavalry. It was also widely supported by the Hausa peasantry who felt over-taxed and oppressed by their rulers.
After only a few short years of the Fulani War, dan Fodio found himself in command of the largest state in Africa, the Fulani Empire. Dan Fodio worked to establish an efficient government, one grounded in Islamic law. Already aged at the beginning of the war, dan Fodio retired in 1815 passing the title of Sultan of Sokoto to his son Muhammed Bello.
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