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Fulani is a Hausa plural word with the singular Ba-Fillaci of the people who call themselves Fulbe (singular Pulo) in their own language of Fulfulde. In French, they are called “Peuls or Peulhs” while in Arabic they are known as Fellata with masculine singular Fellati and ferminine singular Fellatiyya (Hunwick 1966: 36-37). Torankawa (singular, Ba toranke) is the Hausa word (Hunwick 1966: 305 note 4) for all the Fulfulde speakers who originated from Futa Toro of Senegal and in Fulfulde they are called Toorobbe or Toorodbe (singular Tooroodo), Toucouleur in French (Klein 1968: 66) and Takrur in Arabic (Iliffe 1995: 72).  But they belong to different tribes and clans such as Ba’en, Jallube, Yirlaabe, Wolarbe and Ferrobe (Idrissou 1979: 340).  In fact some of them distinguish themselves as a separate entity distinct from other Fulbe thus they became identified as Toronkawa in Nigeria.

According to Wazirin Sakkwato Shaykh Junaidu who was the leading authority on Sokoto history during his time the ancestor of the Toronkawa was Rama son of Esau (refered to Isa in Junaid 1956) who was the son of the Prophet Ishaq (AS), the son of Prophet Ibrahim (AS). They moved from Sinai and settled at Toro in West Africa, where they got their name of Toronkawa (the people of Toro). Uqbat Ibn Naif the great Muslim Leader converted them to Islam and married Bajju Manga the daughter of their Chief. They gave birth to four sons, Deita, Woya, Roroba and Nasi. These were the ancestors of the Fulani and were the first to speak Fulfulde language, the language of most of the Toronkawa was Wakore. The Songay descended from Deita, Ba'awina and Wolorbe descended from Nasi, Forbe descended from Woya and Wolobe from Roroba. As these tribes multiplied they moved to Falgo and became distinct from the Toronkawa of Futa Toro (Junaid 1956: 7).

The Fulani from Falgo later attacked the Torankawa of Futa. The Chief of the Torankawa was killed while performing the Id Salat. The Fulani thus took over Futa but Mallam Ibrahim a scholar of Toranke origin who led a Jihad against their misrule later defeated and drove them out. After the death of Mallam Ibrahim, the Fulani returned and took over Futa and continued with their misrule and transgression. The Torankawa retaliated and defeated the Fulani who became divided into three groups. One group remained with the Torankawa at Futa Toro the second group returned to Falgo and the third group headed for Egypt in search of their Arab brothers. Because they believed their ancestor was Uqbatu Ibn Naif who was an Arab (Junaid 1956: 8).

Some of the Fulani reached Egypt while others amongst whom were the descendants of Yalalbe, Sissilbe, Walanbe, Gumborawa, Galankwa'en and the Fulani of Adamawa remained in the West Central Sudan under the leadership of Dunurundi. The remaining Fulani of Falgo again attacked the Torankawa and continued with their oppressive government. Mallam Sulaiman a leader of the Torankawa led a Jihad against the Fulani, who were defeated and he appointed Abdulkadir as the new Chief of the Torankawa (Junaid 1956: 8).

This Sakkwato legend agrees with the genealogists that ascribe a light skin ancestor to the Fulbe. Linguistic Science has demonstrated that the Fulfulde language is closer to the languages of other Negroid peoples than to Arabic and other Afro-Asiatic languages. And moreover there is hardly any Arabic source which reported Uqbah ibn Nafi`s sojourn in the Sudan. It has been documented that he championed Khalifah (Caliph) Mu`awiyya`s westward expansion of the Dar al-Islam (Hitti 1970). He built the fourth most important Islamic city after Makkah, Madina and Jerusalam and this city was named Qayrawan, in 49 AH (670 CE). The area was a forest before a Mosque and a palace were built which became the city and later the nucleus of Islamic influence in Ifriqiyya (Hitti 1970: 979, 261 and 213). The legendary General was said to have advanced from his military base in Qayrawan until he was stopped by the waves of Atlantic but his purported encounter with Bajju Manga has not been reported. He died a matyr in Biskar in modern Algeria in what, may have been an encounter with some Berbers. His grave has become a national monument of Algeria (Hitti 1970: 213).

Another problem for the Sakkwato legend is the report of Al-Bakri who was the first to write about Takrur. He has reported that it was “a town on the “Nile” (the Senegal), whose black inhabitants were idol worshippers. War Djabi (or War Ndiyay) son of Rabis was their first Chief who became a Muslim. He enjoined his people to accept Islam and he introduced the Shari’ah. He died in 432 AH (1040 – 1). Thus Takrur became “one of the earliest Sudanese kingdoms to embrace Islam”. Al-Idrisi who wrote one hundred years after Al-Bakri described the contemporary king of Takrur as just and firm ruler (Levtzion 1976: 129 and Newman 1995: 112-113 where it is stated that “Takrur is the first African polity south of the Sahara to embrace Islam”). Al-Bakri`s account contracdicts Sakkwato legend if Uqbah Ibn Nafi one of the earliest Muslim generals Ibn Hajar (1989: 492). Some sources documented him as a companion but Ibn Hajar differentiated the general who was al-Fahiry while the companion was al-Quraisy. He died in 62 AH (684 CE) al-Bakri did not report any contact between him and Takrur (Levtzion 1976: 129). Al-Bakri’s may be more authentic than the Sakkwato legend since he was a contemporary of War Ojabi (or War Ndyay) and he wrote his al-Masalik in 459 AH (1067 – 8) twenty-seven years after the later`s conversion to Islam.

Prior to the 19th century the Fulbe or Fulani were scattered all over Northern Nigeria. Their life style at that time was parallel to the present day Bororo, who are mostly nomads who do not mix (Fiditimi and Bameru 1991: 163). Politically their leadership was egalitarian, their community was governed by the elders and in some few cases by the ardo`en (chiefs). Their social system was based on partri-clans, which were genealogically wifegiving units. They were also racially conscious thus they encouraged group endogamy (teegal bandiriga) in which marriage to closest relative was most desirable (Vereecke 1986).

The Fulani distinguish themselves from other ethnic groups by specific distinguished personal virtues, which are collectively known as Pulaaku. There are several components of Pulaaku but Catherine Vareecke has listed ten of them namely semteende (shyness, reserve), munyal (patience, endurance), ngoru (bravey), marugo na`i (owning cattle), en`dam (kindness), ne`d`daku (dignity), ardungal (leadership), daraja (honour or prestige obtained through position) and ndottaku (honour acquired with age). And later when most of Fulbe became Muslims dina and juldamku (Islam and Islamic peity) were included in Pulaaku (Vereecke 1986: 93-106). The Hausa and Fulani who cannot speak Fulfulde call the virtues of the Fulani, Fulatanci.

The Fulani scholars first came to Kano during the reign of Sarkin Kano Yakubu (1452-63) CE (856 – 867 AH). The Kano Chronicle has reported that “in Yakubu`s time the Fulani came to Hausaland from Melle, bringing with them books on divinity and etymology”. The Hausa scholars were more conversant with books on Law and Hadith (traditions of the Prophet peace and blessings of Allah are upon him) (Palmer 1928: 110-111)[1]. Professor Hunwick has reported that they brought books on philogy and not etymology The exact time during which the Bororo came to Kasar Kano is hard to determine but it might have been earlier than the time of the arrival of the scholars. Before the jihad led by Shaykh Usman Dan Fodio there were many Fulani clans in Kasar Kano and most of their leaders were Islamic Scholars.

[1] Palmer  1929:110 – 111 but Hunwick, J.O. has reported that they brought books on philogy and not etymology.

Last Updated on Monday, 25 August 2008 14:53