Fula jihads

The Fula or Fulani jihads, were a series of independent but loosely connected events across West Africa between the late 18th century and European colonisation, in which Muslim Fulas took control of various parts of the region. It is also sometimes referred to as "Fulani revolution." The best known of these events is the Fulani War of 1804–10.

A jihad state is a territory that was established by political and religious Muslim leaders who conquer a region by war, invoking (offensive) jihad ("struggle" in Arabic). The rulers often assumed honorific titles such as in the Fulani Empire, Emir, an Arabic title which can mean general as well as prince or governor, or a derivate in a local language. Another title was Almamy (from Imam) used by rulers of Kingdom of Fouta Djallon.

Although religion was a motivator for the jihads, it may not have been the principal motivator over time; the Fula intended to produce the captives needed to gain valuable imports from the coast.[1]

These states are listed in rough chronological order below.


A small state in present-day Senegal in which Muslim Fulas took control in the late 17th century.

Futa Jallon

The Futa Jallon, located mainly in present-day Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Senegal, and Sierra Leone, was a major state with a written constitution and ruling alternance between the 2 main parties: the Soriya and the Alphaya. The Futa Jallon state was born in 1735 when Fulani Muslims decided to rise against the non-Muslim Fulanis and Djalonkes rulers to create a confederation of provinces. Alpha Ibrahima Sory Maoudho was elected as the first Almaamy in 1725 at the capital Timbo in present-day Guinea. The Futa Jallon state lasted until 1898 when the French colonial troops defeated the last Almamy (Ruler) Bokar Biro Barry, dismantled the state and integrated it into their new colony of Rivières du Sud, which became Guinea.

Futa Toro

Under the unifying banner of Islam, the Muslim Fulas revolted against the non-Muslim Fulani of the Denianke Kingdom in 1776 under the leadership of Sileymaani Baal. The following Islamic revolution created the new kingdom of Futa Toro under a government called the Almamate (a term derived from the Pulaar borrowing of the Arabic al-imaam). Before formal colonization this state was weakened by French incursions and the effort by El Hadj Umar Tall to carry his "jihad" eastward (see also Toucouleur Empire, below).

Fulani Empire

At the beginning of the 19th century under Usman dan Fodio the Fulani became the leaders of a centralized Fulani Empire which continued until 1903 when the Fulani were divided up among European colonizers.

Fulani jihad states

The term jihad state is historically used in reference to the 19th century Islamic conquests in Western Africa, especially the Fulani jihad or Fulbe (from Fulɓe) jihad, a phrase referring to the state-founding jihad led by Usman dan Fodio in the first decade of the 19th century in and around Nigeria. Most of these states were in colonial times brought into the British Northern Nigeria Protectorate around 1901-1903.

The jihad states in the region controlled by the empire included:

  • Abuja, replacing the former Zuba; the ruler's title was Sarkin Zazzau, from 1828 also Emir
  • Adamawa (now partially in Cameroon), founded in 1809; title Baban-Lamido
  • Agaie, founded in 1822; title emir
  • Bauchi Emirate, founded in 1805; title Lamido (laamiiɗo in Fula language), meaning "ruler" (similar meaning to Emir )
  • Gombe, founded in 1804; title Modibo Gombe.
  • Gwandu, a major Fulbe jihad state, founded in 1817; title Emir
  • Hadejia, replaced Biram (title Sarkin Biram) in 1805; new title Sarkin Hadejia, from 1808 also styled Emir
  • Jama`are, founded in 1811; style Emir.
  • Jema`an Darroro, founded in 1810; title Emir
  • Kano replaced the old (Hausa) Kano state in March 1807; the old title Sarkin Kano is still used, but now also styled Emir
  • Katagum, founded in 1807; title Sarkin Katagum, also styled Emir
  • Katsina replaced the old (Hausa) Katsina state in 1805; the old title Sarkin Katsina is still used, but now also styled Emir.
  • Kazaure, founded in 1818; title Emir, also styled Sarkin *Arewa (apparently imitating neighbours)
  • Keffi, founded in 1802; title Emir
  • Lafiagi, founded in 1824; new title Emir
  • Lapai, founded in 1825; style Emir
  • Massina Empire
  • Mubi, founded in 18..; title Emir
  • Muri, founded in 1817, style Emir; 1892-1893 de facto French protectorate, 1901 part of Northern Nigerian British protectorate
  • Sokoto, the center of the Fulani jihad, established on 21 February 1804 by Usman dan Fodio, title Amir al-Mu´minin, also styled Lamido Julbe; on 20 April 1817 Sokoto was styled sultanate (title sultan, also styled Amir al-Mu´minin and Sarkin Musulmi), the suzerain of all Fulbe jihad states; in 1903 the British occupied Sokoto Sultanate
  • Zaria, superseded the old Zazzau state (title Sarkin Zazzau) on 31 December 1808; new style first Malam, since October/November 1835 Emir, also styled Sarkin Zaria and Sarkin Zazzau

Massina Empire

Located in what is now central Mali, this state lasted from 1818 until 1862. Inspired by the recent Muslim uprisings of Usman dan Fodio in nearby Hausaland, preacher and social reformer Seku Amadu led a Fula army in jihad against the Bambara Empire. The empire expanded rapidly, taking Djenné and establishing a new capital at Hamdullahi. It was eventually defeated by Umar Tall and incorporated into the Toucouleur Empire.

Toucouleur Empire

El Hajj Umar Tall led armies east from his base in Futa Tooro and Dinguiraye to conquer Kaarta, the Bambara Empire, and Massina in the early 1860s. The Toucouleur controlled the region until French colonization, at which time the last leader of the state, Ahmadu Tall, fled to Sokoto.


  1. Hawthorne, Walter (2010-09-13). From Africa to Brazil: Culture, Identity, and an Atlantic Slave Trade, 1600–1830. Cambridge University Press. p. 70. ISBN 9780521764094.

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