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Hausa Folk-Lore, by Maalam Shaihua, tr. by R. Sutherland Rattray, [1913], at

Part I


In the name of Allah the Compassionate, the Merciful, and may the peace of Allah be upon him, after whom there is no prophet. This is the history of the Hausa (nation). It has been familiar to every one from the time of their grandfathers and grandmothers, (and) is a thing which has been handed down from the malamai (learned men) and these elders. Any account other than this one is not authentic. If a questioner ask of you (saying) I Where did the Hausa people have their origin?' Say (to him) 'Truly their origin was (from) the Barebari and Northerners'. And this is the account of how this came to pass.

The king of Bornu had a horse with a golden horn. This horse did not neigh just at any time, but only on Fridays. If it neighed you would say it was a tornado. It was hidden away in a house. Now the king had a son. He (the son) continually gave him who looked after the horse money and robes in order that (he might persuade him) to bring his horse out, and they should come, and he should mate the horse with his mare. And it was always thus. (And) one day the man who was looking after the (king's) horse took (it) the horse out and brought it. The king's son too took his mare out. They went into the forest and the mare was covered.

Now the king has (had) previously said that whoever was seen (with) a foal from this horse at his house, he would have his throat cut. Things remained at this, (and) one day the mare gave birth, (and nothing happened) till the colt grew up, (when) one day the king's horse neighed, then the young horse answered. And the king said, 'At whose ever house they see it let (that person) be killed (lit. be cut), and do not let him be brought before me.' Then the councillors scattered (to make search) in the town. They were searching for the young horse.

And they came to the house of the king's son, and behold as it were the king's horse with its golden horn. Then the councillors said, 'The king has said we must come with you.' Then the king's son lifted his sword. He cut down two men, the remainder were scattered. Then he saddled up the young horse. He mounted. The king ordered he should be seized and brought (before him). The whole town mounted their horses (and) followed him. They did not come up with him. He has gone his way. The king, moreover, has given orders that his own horse is not to be mounted, and if not his horse, then there was not the horse to overtake him.

The king's son (rode) went on and (eventually) dismounted in the country of Daura. He saw the daughter of the king of Daura, she possessed the town. He stayed with her. And one day she said she wanted him in marriage and he too said he loved her. So they married. The king's daughter became with child. She bore a child, a son. She weaned it. She was again with child (and) bore a girl. And that was the origin of the Hausa nation.

The Barebari and Daura people were their ancestors. But the Mohammedan religion, as far as that is concerned, from Bornu it came. Hausas and Barebari and whatever race (you can name) in the West were at first in early times pagans. Then the maalamai (scribes) said that this is what happened.

There was a certain man away there at Bornu from among the children of their royal house, his name (was) Dalama. When he came to the throne he was called Mainadinama, the meaning of that is, 'a chief more powerful than any other.' After he had reigned for some months then he sent a messenger to the Caliph.

Now at this time Abubakari Sidiku, the blessing of Allah be upon him, he was Caliph. You have seen the beginning of his being sent, referring back to that man (Mainadinama), was that he was hearing about Mohammedanism before he succeeded to the kingdom. Behold the name of his envoy whom he sent, his name was Gujalo. At the time when the envoy came he found the Caliph's attention occupied with a war. He said nothing to the envoy. All he said was, 'Remain here.' Then he did not again remember his words because his mind was so occupied with words of the war of the father of the twins.

The messenger remained there till the messenger died. After three months and a few days then the Caliph Abubakari Sidiku he too died. After some months Umaru Ibunuhutabi was set up. He was the Caliph after Abubakari Asidiku. Then he called to mind the report of the envoy and his death. Then they held a consultation, they his friends who remained. They joined their heads about the question of sending an envoy to Bornu. Umaruasi was sent with manuscripts of the Koran. It was said the writing of Abdulahi the son of Umoru the Caliph, and turbans and a sword and spears and shields and the kingly fez and such things and plates; all these presents from the Caliph to Mainadinama.

When the envoy drew near he sent to them one to acquaint them of the news of his coming. The king of Bornu and his men mounted their horses and met him afar off. When he (the envoy) entered his town, then he bound the turban on him, he was established in his right to the kingdom, he was given the name of the king of Bornu, he (the king) gave him everything he was told to give him, because of the presents which he (the envoy) had been sent with for him. He lived among them. He was instructing them (the people of Bornu) in the creed of Allah and the names of His messengers, may the salvation and trust of Allah be assured to them.

They continued to honour him, to the extreme that honour could be carried. They sought a blessing (by eating) the remains of his meals and his food and from the spot (he) set his feet. Half of them were seeking blessing from the mucus from his nose and his spittle (by rubbing it on their persons). They were climbing the roofs in order to see him. They also sought blessing by touching his robes and his slippers and his whip, until it was even said they looked for a blessing from his beasts, and the remains of their fodder and their dung.

Now he wrote manuscripts for them in the writing of his own hand, the blessed one. He lived amid such works up to the very end of (his) sojourn (and this went on) till he was informed that, 'Other owners of (another) land are behind you (and) are wishing for the Mohammedan religion, should they see you they would follow you.'

He did not give (this report) credence until he had sent one to spy out (the land), his name is unknown. He (the spy) went and travelled over Hausa-land. He made secret inquiries, he heard they were praising the Mohammedan faith and that they wished for it. He returned and gave Umaru Ibunuasi the news. Umaru lbunuasi told his people. He said they must go (and preach the Mohammedan religion). They agreed.

Then he made preparations. He sent Abdulkarimu-Mukaila to Kano. About 300 men, Arabs, followed him. When Abdulkarimu was near to them (the people of Kano) then he sent one to inform them. He (the messenger) came and said, 'Tell them the envoy of the envoy has come.'

When he came to them he told them what (message) he had been sent with. They believed him, they received the thing which he had brought. Now at this time Kano was an unenclosed town but not a walled town, the name of the men (man) at Kano (was) Muhamadu Dajakara at the time when Abdulkarimu alighted amongst them. He (Abdulkarimu) wrote them books in the writing of his own hand, the blessed one, because he had not come to them bringing books from Umaru Ibunu(l)asi.

And thus it has come to be reported that every one who wished to be able to write well let him set out towards Bornu and remain there (till he had learned to write) and then return (home). But Abdulkarimu continued to instruct them the laws of Allah and the commands of the law until they made inquiries about things which were not (to be found) in Arabia. He did not know what answer to give them. Then he said to them to leave the matter open till he returned (to Arabia).

Among the things they were asking about were panthers, and civet-cats, and rats, and servals, and tiger cats, and such like (whether clean or unclean). He lived with them (many) months (and) every day instructed them well in the Koran and the Traditions, till at length he was informed, 'There is another town near this town, it is called Katsina, should the people of the town see you they would believe you and him who sent you.' When he heard (them speak) thus, then he made ready, He set out himself to go to it (the town).

When they got news of his coming, then they met with him afar off. When he alighted among them he taught them about what (he had come) to instruct them in. He instructed one who was to write books for them. It was said, speaking of him, he did not write the Koran with his own hand, and because of this the Kano people surpass the Katsina in their knowledge of the Koran till to-day.

Then, after the completion of his work at Katsina, he went back, going to Kano, (and) remained there a short time. Then when he thought of returning to go to Bornu he said to them, 'Shortly I shall return to you with the answer to what you were asking about.' Then he rose up and went away.

But many among his people did not follow him, only a few among them followed him. The rest remained and continued to perform great deeds in Kano. Their descendants are found (and) known in Kano until to-day, till people called them seraphs, but surely they were not seraphs, they were just Arabs. Of a truth Abdulkarimu has set up a judge in Kano, and one to lead in prayers, and one to slaughter (live stock), and one who was to instruct the youths in the Koran, and one to call (them) to prayer.

He made lawful for them that which Allah had made lawful, and forbade that which Allah had forbidden. When he returned to go to Umaru lbunulasi he gave him an account of what they had asked him about. And Umaru lbunulasi was silent (on the subject) till he returned to go to the Caliph and then he sent an answer to it (the question) after six months had elapsed. He made lawful for them half of it, half he made unlawful. But Abdulkarimu did not return to Bornu after his return to their (his, Abdulkarimu's) town or to Kano. Thus (also) Umaru Ibunulasi, but he ruled over Egypt after his return home.

Now the remainder of the towns were coming in, half of them to Kano in order to know about the (new) religion, and half also to Katsina, until the creed filled all Hausa-land. Now the Kibi country, speaking of them, they refused (to adopt) the Mohammedan religion, they continued in their paganism. They persisted in it. Their kings, (these) were their names, Barbarma, Argoji, Tabariu, Zartai, Gobari, Dadafani, Katami, Bardo, Kudamdam, Sharia, Badoji, Karfa, Darka, Gunba, Katatar, Tamu. All these refused the Mohammedan creed after his advent into the land of the Hausas.

Then at the time when Zaidu came to the throne [then] he became a Mohammedan and those who were with him. The Kabi country became Mohammedan up to the time of Bata-Musa. These were the kings of Kabi under the Mohammedan régime. The first of them was Zaidu, (then) Muhamadu, Namakata, Sulaimana, Hisrikoma, Abdulabi, Dunbaki, Alia, Usmanu, Chisgari, Barbarmanaba, Muwashi, Muhamadu-Karfi, Bata-Musa.

After them Fumu ruled. He turned Mohammedanism into paganism. These were they who became pagans. The first of them (was) Fumu, (then) Kautai, Gunba, Sakana-Murtamu, Kanta, Rataini, Gaiwa, Gado, Masu, Chi-da-gora, Gaban-gari, Maikebe, Marshakold, Lazimu, Mashirana, Makata. These were they who all continued in paganism.

At the time when Kanta ruled he revived the Mohammedan religion (and) inquired of the learned men the contents of (their) books, He established the faith in his time and in that of them who followed him, till the whole of the Kabi country became Mohammedan. These were their names, Kantahu, Gofe, Dauda, Hamidu, Sulaimana, Mali, Ishaka, Muhamadu-Nashawi, Amuru, Muhamadu-Kabe, Kantanabaiwa, Muhamadu-Shifaya, Hamidu. All these continued in the Mohammedan faith.

When Barbarma, became king he changed the Mohammedan religion (and) became a pagan. Pagranism lasted up to the time of Hudu. He was the one Usmanu the son of Fodio made war against. He drove him out (and pursued him) till he slew him near to Kebi. Buhari the son of Abdu-Salimi, he it was who slew him. He was the king of Jega. His family are its kings till to-day.

It is finished. But as for Kano in (it) the faith continued after his, Abdulkarimu's, return (home). The faith continued to increase always with force and power. And it lasted on such footing for many years until the time of Mainamugabadi. It was he who changed the order of things Abdulkarimu had set up. He set at naught the law (of Mahomed), he made the kingship all powerful, he disregarded the Mohammedan faith, he exalted fetish worship, and was arrogant. He surpassed (all his predecessors in evil). Instructors endeavoured to instruct him, but their admonitions were of no avail against him, but he increased in pride. He was vainglorious. He continued thus till he died.

His brother Kunbari reigned in his stead and followed in his ways. He too continued in this (evil) till the time of Kunfa. He also spread paganism and evildoing- It was he who married 1,000 maidens. He instructed (people) to prostrate themselves and put earth on their heads before saluting him. He said, let not him whose name happened to be the same as that of his parents be called so, but (let him be called) by some sobriquet. He completely destroyed the creed, he sold free men, he built a palace, the one which the kings of Kano enter to-day. He did what he wished.

And it was so with all the people of Kano except a very few, speaking of them, they kept to the Mohammedan faith, they were not powerful, only the Kano people did not know how to make beer, except a few among them, men in outlying villages. Thus they did not eat any animal that had died a natural death. They removed the clitoris of their women, they covered their heads with a veil. They did nothing else but this.

They continued in such (conduct) until learned men were found in Kano, who had renounced the world, who feared Allah. (Of these learned men one) his name was Muhamadu-Zari. He stood up and preached. Rumfa paid no heed to whatever admonitions he admonished them. But they planned to kill him, till at last they did kill him in the night by slaying him from behind, in the road to the mosque, and he lay (there) murdered, cast aside, till dawn. He was buried about eight in the morning. His grave is known in Kano, it is visited and watched over, he was called 'the Kalgo man', blessings are sought by prayers being made for him.

Then Abdulahi-Sako stood up (to proclaim the creed) after him. He was admonishing them but they paid no heed to him, except some people of no importance, but those in authority did not hear. And they frightened him so that he fled to the outlying towns in order to instruct the people of the lesser towns. Then the king sent one to seize him. They seized him, and continually flogged him till he was brought before (the king). He was (by this time) in and died after a few days. His grave is known, (it lies) behind the rock (known as) I the single rock', but it is not visited or watched over.

And so it came to pass that paganism existed till the time of Muhamadu-Alwali. It was he Usmanu, the son of Fodio, made war on, after he had ruled in the kingdom for seventeen years. He (Usmanu-dan-Fodio) drove him out and his men, he fled in the direction of the country on the right and none know where he settled till this day, (some) say Barnabarna (some) say it was not there. The learned men said that from the coming of Abdulkarimu till the coming of Usmanu, the son of Fodio, there were seventy-six kings. All their graves have remained in the town of Kano, but two of them, that of Bawa and Muharnadu-Alwali, are in Katsina.

The creed continued after the return of Abdulkarimu. The faith continued to grow always and took firm hold. Men from Gobir continued to come to Katsina and were adopting the Mohammedan faith with (in all) truth and earnestness, they embraced it, all together. The faith took hold among them also as it had taken hold in Katsina.

And so it was until the time of Agarga. He was the first who changed the state of things that Abdulkarimu had established in Katsina. Instructors (strove) to admonish him. He heard not. He remained in his heathenism till he died.

Kaura ruled the kingdom, and (then) his son; he followed the path his father had taken. Paganism continued till the time of Wari-mai-kworia. It was he who did evil and was most arrogant. He married 1,000 maidens. He embraced evil (and) did not cease. He sought for (a) medicine in order that he might go on living in the world and not die, till (at last) a certain wizard deceived him, saying he would never die, That doctor did for him what he did from (his knowledge of) medicines.

This king gave him much wealth, it was said one hundred slaves, one hundred female slaves, a hundred horses, a hundred black robes, and a hundred cattle, cows and bulls a hundred, and a thousand rams, and a thousand goats. He gave him robes which could not be counted by reason of their number, and things of this description, Allah he know (what all).

In his reign two learned men made their appearance in Katsina, men who renounced the world (and) who feared Allah. The name of one was Muhamadu Ibnumusina, the name of the other also was Muhamadu Dunmurna. Each one among them gave instruction, (such) instruction as enters into the heart. He did not hear them. Then they made them afraid in order to dissuade them from preaching. They did not desist. The kings also did not pay any attention till these learned men died. In Katsina their graves are known till to-day, where young and old visit and guard, and at which blessings are sought by prayers for them.

Now Wari-mai-kworia, speaking of him, he lived eight years after he had had the medicine made for him to prevent his dying. He died the ninth year after (taking) it. When he died a quarrel about the kingdom arose among the king's sons. Half were slaying the other half until about 1,000 men were killed in the town of Katsina among both free men and slaves. Then the younger brother of Wari ruled after slaying the son of Wari.

He again continued in heathenism. (And) heathenism continued in Katsina till the reign of Bawa-Dungaimawa. It was he Usmanu, the son of Fodio, drove out of Katsina, he and his men, they went to Maradi, they settled there until to-day. His descendants continue to make war on the descendants of Usmanu, the son of Fodio, till to-day.

But the (men of) Gobir assembled together and continued in the faith and dwelt in it till the reign of Babari. He was the first who changed the true faith, it became lax, he exalted (and) set up paganism (and) was arrogant. The preachers (of the faith) preached to him but he would not receive (their instructions), but persisted in his heathenism till he died.

Bachira ruled over the kingdom, he did what his predecessor had done, he added to the evil he had done, and the harm, the foam from the wave of heathenism rose in the land of Gobir, its kings were proud. They sold free men, they acted as they wished until report had it that every king that ruled married one hundred maidens. But (the only redeeming point was) they did not know how to make beer, except a few among them, (and) they did not eat animals that had died a natural death, but when they greeted (their kings) hey poured earth over their heads, they served idols.

(Some) who cleaved to the faith were (still) among them, at that time only a few (and) without power or influence among them. And they continued thus till the time of Bawajan-gwarzo. He went on (living) in heathenism. He was arrogant till a learned man was found in his reign, one who had fled from the world, one who served Allah. He was called Alhaji-jibrilu. It was said, speaking of him, he went from Gobir, he came to Mecca and performed the pilgrimage and resided (away) there twenty years. It was said he lived in Egypt eighteen years. He stayed in Mecca two years, and then returned to Gobir. He instructed them each new day and night, in secret and openly. They refused the thing (message) he brought and thought to kill him.

All the kings of Hausa(land) plotted to slay him. They could not. The malamai were in Kalawa at that time, but they could not speak from their (store) of knowledge for fear of the chiefs. Only Alhaji-Jibrilu, speaking of him, he stood (fast) in (his) preaching and strove openly (and) they were not able to kill him. He could not, however, prevent them (doing) the evil they dwelt in. And they continued in evildoing and heathenism in this reign.

(Then) Usmanu, the son of Fodio, was born at the time when Alhajijibrilu died. Usmanu, the son of Fodio, began to preach little by little till (the time when) Bawa-jan-gwarzo died. His brother Yaakubu reigned in his stead. Then Usmanu proclaimed (his) preaching openly till he did what (all the world knows) he did (and) finished. We have drawn the history to a close.

Allah, he is the one who knows all. It is finished.
The salvation and blessing of Allah
be upon
the prophet.

Next: 1. The story of the slave by name 'The World'