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Forum LockedKanem, Bornu and the Hausa States

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    Posted: 13-Mar-2007 at 13:28

This is part of my own initiative to open up more topics on areas that are under-represented in the forum, in this case the history of Africa.

This topic's introduction, along with the other ones, is pulled from the webiste of one of our members, Berosus, who has this site below. I find his entries on Middle-Eastern history somewhat arguable (since he's writing from a Biblical viewpoint), but his articles on the history of the rest of the world are quite good.

http://xenohistorian.faithweb.com/

And now, the feature article:

 

Kanem, Bornu and the Hausa States

A different kind of kingdom arose in the eastern Sahel, one which depended on agriculture and warfare more than trade, though trade remained important. It was also the longest-lived of the Sahel states, lasting for a thousand years, despite a complete relocation from one side of Lake Chad to the other.
We mentioned in Chapter 1 how Lake Chad was the only body of water that survived the drying out of the Sahara Desert. After that it served as a crossroads, being both the largest oasis and the best place to stop at on the way between the Nile valley and West Africa. In the ninth century A.D., one tribe in the area, the Zaghawa, prose to prominence over the others, and it was organized enough to found the kingdom of Kanem, north and east of Lake Chad, with its capital at the desert town of Manan.

No records survive from Kanem's first two centuries. In the eleventh century, another tribe, the Kanuri, took charge; their ruling dynasty was called the Saifawa. The first Saifawa mai (king), Umme ibn 'Abdul-Jalil (1086-98), is credited with introducing Islam to the kingdom. He may have been Kanem's first Moslem king, but we don't know what sort of inroads Islam had made before his reign, so we have to take the Islamic claim with a bit of caution.

Umme and his successors moved the capital to Nijmi, which was closer to Lake Chad. They attempted to dominate the Fezzan district of the Sahara, which meant controlling the caravan routes that passed through the Fezzan. For the trans-Saharan trade Kanem provided textiles, salt, and later on slaves, in return for copper, weapons and horses. However, the main interest of the mais seems to have been with the sedentary farmers on Lake Chad's shore. By marrying into agricultural families, and by making their crops the primary commodity sold to traders, they hoped to make the farmers rich enough to afford the upkeep of a standing army. This army was not a group of warriors on foot, armed only with spears and shields (the African norm), but men on horseback, covered with chainmail and wielding lances. Because these cavalrymen got their support from an agricultural base, much like the feudal system of Europe, it is appropriate to call them African knights. Originally the plan was to reward military commanders by putting them in charge of the people they conquered, but soon officers bequeathed their jobs to their sons, transforming the office from one based on achievement and loyalty to the mai, into one that automatically went to members of a hereditary nobility.

Kanem saw its best years under Mai Dunama II Dubalemi (1221-59). The royal chronicle of Kanem portrayed Dubalemi as a pious Moslem, who restored pure Islam in the kingdom after a lax period under his predecessors; apparently, the mais of the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries had tolerated non-Moslem customs, which included giving political power to the queen mother and other women of the court. In addition, Dubalemi launched a series of jihads in all directions: north into the Fezzan, west as far as Hausaland, east to Darfur, and south as far as the Adamawa grasslands in Cameroon. Still, it is best to draw dotted lines on a map of Africa to show how influential Kanem really was; the farther one got from Nijmi, the more likely it was that the locals would give only minimal allegiance to the mai, and nomads were likely to escape paying tribute altogether. To the south, expansion had to stop where the grasslands of the Sahel gave way to the equatorial jungles, because forests of any kind cancel out much of the advantage of having cavalry.

The people living south of Lake Chad were still unconverted, so they provided the largest source of slaves to sell to the Arabs; we'll be hearing a lot more about this disturbing practice in future chapters. Dubalemi also took credit for destroying the mune, a mysterious object held in reverence by pagans and believed to possess supernatural powers. Finally, Dubalemi founded a madrasa and hostel in Cairo for Kanuri citizens living in Egypt and/or traveling to Mecca, as well as an embassy in Tunis.

Dubalemi left an overextended kingdom, which came undone during the century and a half after his death. There were several reasons for this: rivalry among Dubalemi's sons, many of which had been appointed to high positions; rebellion from Kanem's non-Moslem subjects, avenging the destruction of their sacred symbol (the mune); and relative poverty whenever peace broke out or a battle was lost, because the military brought in much of the kingdom's wealth. The biggest threat, however, came from the Bulala, a clan that had split off from the Kanuri tribe and now contested with the Saifawas for leadership. At the end of the fourteenth century, internal struggles and external attacks tore Kanem apart. Between 1387 and 1400, six mais reigned, of which the Bulala killed five.

One of the kings at this time, Umar I (1393-98), became a refugee; he abandoned Kanem to the Bulala, and moved to the lands southwest of Lake Chad (northeastern Nigeria), taking the Kanuri people with him. There he established a new kingdom named Bornu, but trouble followed him there. The Bulala continued to make raids from Kanem, and the So, a Chadic tribe already living in the area, resisted the newcomers, to avoid losing their ethnic identity to assimilation (the So had been the target of Kanuri raiders in the past, when they went looking for slaves). There also was more infighting within the Saifawa dynasty, to the point that one prince went into exile, living at Kano in the 1420s. The fifteenth century would be more than half over before this "time of troubles" ended for the Saifawas in Bornu.

Kanem-Bornu usually got along well with its neighbor to the west, the Hausa of northwestern Nigeria. Traditionally the Hausa were divided between seven city-states: Kano, Rano, Katsina, Zazzau (Zaria), Gobir, Kebbi, and Auyo. Like the Swahili on Africa's east coast, the Hausa were never united, but because of their success as traders, they were influential over a wide area, in this case the lands between the Niger River and Lake Chad.

Though we classify the Hausa as a Chadic tribe, their actual origin is unknown. Some scholars believe their ancestors migrated from the Sahara; others believe they came from Lake Chad; still others believe they were indigenous, always living where we see them now. Hausa legend asserts that their founder was an exiled Arab prince named Bayajidda. He married the queen of Daura and had a son named Bawo, who in turn had seven sons; each grandson is identified as the first ruler of a Hausa kingdom. Of these kingdoms, Kano was usually the most important, and probably the oldest; our chief source of Hausa history, a nineteenth-century work in Arabic called the Kano Chronicle, begins listing kings of Kano in 998 A.D. However, even if the Bayajidda story is true, it doesn't rule out the possibility that Kano existed as a village previously. Indeed, the Kano Chronicle describes a struggle that went on for much of the eleventh and twelfth centuries between the kings, who wanted to build walled cities, and the native priests who had been the traditional rulers of the area. These priests got their power from sacred groves and shrines in rural locations, so they saw urbanization as a threat; the kings had to capture or destroy all the holy places before they could rule without opposition.

However they got started, the seven city-states became strong trading centers between 1000 and 1350. Typically each one was surrounded by a wall and had a mixed economy of intensive farming, cattle raising, craft making, and later slave trading. The monarchs enjoyed less power than the kings of the Sahel super-states; many were probably elected, and most of the time they acted as a referee over a network of feudal lords.

Islam must have been familiar to the Hausa from an early date, due to Moslem merchants and other visitors, but it took longer to convert the kings here than it did in Mali or Kanem-Bornu. The first king identified as a practicing Moslem was Yaji I of Kano (1349-85), and because he captured Santolo, the last of the traditional religious centers, the chronicler of Yaji's reign described the conflict between city and countryside as a jihad against paganism. However, Yaji and his successors remained willing, perhaps too willing, to accommodate traditional beliefs and their followers. They probably did this because political relationships were complex in Hausaland, and the king, unlike a Bornu mai, was powerless without the cooperation of his warriors and subjects, many of whom remained non-Moslem until the Fulani conquest of 1807.

 

What is history but a fable agreed upon?
Napoleon Bonaparte

Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth.- Mohandas Gandhi

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Decebal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Mar-2007 at 16:05
This is pretty sad: 2 views in 3 days, including my original one... and I'm pretty sure it is penguin who had the other view. Just goes to show the level of interest in African history around here... I didn't even get our resident 2 African history "enthusiasts", AfrikaJamaika and viola76 to read these. Had city states like the Hausa or a steppe empire like Kanem-Bornu existed somewhere else, there would be a lively discussion...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Malik Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Mar-2007 at 06:31
I think its just that people dont bother to go down to these lower sections.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Leonidas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Mar-2007 at 08:55
Decebel, AfrikaJamica is banned so that why you havent herad from him .
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Mar-2007 at 09:45

Decebal, I would like to comment quite a lot about these topics. Unfortunally if I do, the answers to question on pre-Columbian Americas will be deeper down this list. I have some answers to Maya Astronomy and Easter Island genetics down there that just went down to the bottom.

That's the problem: we have at least five interisting topics in a single list:

(1) Pre-Columbian America

(2) Pre-Colonial Subsaharian Africa

(3) Classical Empires of Ancient East Africa (Ethiopia, Nubia, Egypt)
 
(4) Pacific and Australian peoples

(5) Eurasian nomadic peoples

This list seem to be the one that has all the rest that people don't usually care much. LOL
 
All in a single list! If you see, the amount on information in this list is just to heterogenious to make any sense: we have topics since Quetzalcoalt theology, to Eastern Island Moais, Maya Astronomy and Ife sculptures, Ancient Australia and Ancient Ethiopians, etc.
 
That's why I vote to split, and I promisse I will colaborate you in your African section when that happens. Because I got info and I have the will to do.
 
Pinguin
 
 

 

 



Edited by pinguin - 16-Mar-2007 at 09:46
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Spartakus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Mar-2007 at 18:49
I am so sorry Decebal.I know very few things about global history,so i am currently learning more .If i add African history too,a huge historical chapter,my head will broke down.My brain capabilites are not that great to support an effort like this.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Decebal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Mar-2007 at 00:32
I appreciate the candor, Sparty! No worries, all in good time my friend! I just got a bit frustrated because I thought it might be interesting to talk about this exotic (for me) field of study. Turns out there's not too many people who know much about it, because most people from richer countries (even when interested in history) never get around to it (unless they are black themselves), and people from poorer countries like Africa just don't have access to sites like these.
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Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth.- Mohandas Gandhi

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote malizai_ Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Mar-2007 at 01:15

Quite frankly Decebal you are one big headache, you introduce us to the likes of Queen Judith and then leave us wondering to her origins. I am still investigating that story, and before there is any resolution on that front you intorduce another mystery. Slow down man, the brain of us mortals hurts like Spartakus said.Smile Having said that i do share ur sentiments.

I think however that with a greater number of posts on Africa the forum itself will have better visibility on search engines, hopefully leading to a greater number of visitors interested in African history. Limited internet availability is also a big factor like u said.



Edited by malizai_ - 17-Mar-2007 at 01:33
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Decebal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Apr-2007 at 14:31

This is a good site with pictures of some of the traditional costumes of Hausa people, including some of the cavalry which was crucial in the formation of steppe empires in this region of Africa.

http://www.pictures-of-nigeria.com/Limited%20Works.htm

In many ways, the Sahel from Senegal to Sudan is similar in historical development to the steppes of Eurasia, being an important avenue of trade and a region where cavalry was paramount. The Hausa city states for instance are similar to Central Asia cities like Bukhara or Samarkand, in that they lie at the intersection of several trade routes (across the Sahara to the Mediterranean, West and South along the Niger river and East towards Lake Chad and the Nile), and they were often menaced by steppe nomadic tribes such as the Fulani, the Ouaddai or the Kanouri. Sometimes, these tribes would form veritable empires, comparable to the great Steppe empires of Eurasia. These would include Kanem-Bornu, Sokoto, Bambara and most famously Songhay. While Songhay appears at first quite similar to the earlier states of Ghana and Mali, which controlled the gold trade from Senegambia and the upper Volta region, it is also quite different, in having its centre of gravity a long way to the East.

 

What is history but a fable agreed upon?
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Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth.- Mohandas Gandhi

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote IBB Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10-Nov-2008 at 23:50
Hi D what an interesting piece you have here. I, am new to this forum. I actually registered because I have to reply to your post. But I later found out that the forum is more interesting than I thot.
 
I'm a Hausa man from Kano. Thats some of my history you laid out there. Which made me feel really good. Been someone with much interest in history. I believe this your site will help me alot.
 
Thanks  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote es_bih Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Nov-2008 at 00:08
Originally posted by IBB IBB wrote:

Hi D what an interesting piece you have here. I, am new to this forum. I actually registered because I have to reply to your post. But I later found out that the forum is more interesting than I thot.
 
I'm a Hausa man from Kano. Thats some of my history you laid out there. Which made me feel really good. Been someone with much interest in history. I believe this your site will help me alot.
 
Thanks  


Welcome to our forum, hope you stay enjoy your self and post around our forums.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote IBB Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Nov-2008 at 00:16

Thanx for the hospitality es_bih. I will explore the forum and contribute my little knowledge

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote JanusRook Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Nov-2008 at 22:20
Quote This is pretty sad: 2 views in 3 days, including my original one


I'm sorry Decebal I've been away for a few days working on some personal stuff. That being said it was a very interesting article. Most people if asked wouldn't know what kind of people live in the Sahel. Many would just assume Arab (Tuareg) style nomads probably. The peoples of the Sahel have a great history though and it's nice to hear some of it. Unfortunately Decebal, you have the unfortunate style of being too thorough with your work which leaves informed people with nothing else to say.

Quote I'm a Hausa man from Kano. Thats some of my history you laid out there. Which made me feel really good. Been someone with much interest in history. I believe this your site will help me alot.


Welcome IBB, please feel free to post anytime. You're from Kano, that's pretty interesting, as I work with a Yoruba gentleman from Lagos who was telling me the other day about the politics of Nigeria and how there is much political tension between the North and the South of the country. As I have only his experience on the topic, I don't know how northerners perceive the southerners and would be interested in hearing about it.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote IBB Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Nov-2008 at 01:23
Originally posted by JanusRook JanusRook wrote:


Welcome IBB, please feel free to post anytime. You're from Kano, that's pretty interesting, as I work with a Yoruba gentleman from Lagos who was telling me the other day about the politics of Nigeria and how there is much political tension between the North and the South of the country. As I have only his experience on the topic, I don't know how northerners perceive the southerners and would be interested in hearing about it.
 
Thank you JanusRook, yes I'm from Kano.
 
I'm glad to know you had an encouter with my Nigerian brother. Extend my regards.
 
The political tension your collegue is talking about is the old politics. Now is time for a 'change' one Nigeria
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote JanusRook Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Nov-2008 at 16:37
Quote The political tension your collegue is talking about is the old politics.


Yes he was telling me that it is better now than it was in the past. However, I still believe that some in the North of the country are still trying to get Shariah law passed in parts of the country that have never had it before. And in places where Islam is not a majority religion. Is this a common belief in the North that the entire country should be under Shariah law, or is it a belief held by a few powerful conservatives?
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