Sultanate of Kano

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Massarautar Kano
Al Sultan Al Kano
Anthem: Busar Bagauda
Drum of Bagauda
StatusReligious Kingdom
(1349- ????)
Common languagesHausa (official), Arabic
Sunni Islam, Hausa Animism
GovernmentAbsolute Monarchy
List of sultans of Kano 
• 1349
Ali Yaji Dan Tsamiya (first)
• 1781-1807
Muhammadu Alwali Ibn Yaji (last)
Grand Vizier 
• ???–????
Zaiti (first)
• 1782-1807
Muhammadu Bakatsine (last)
LegislatureShura/ Taran Kano
House of Nine
• Founded
???? 1350
• Ascension of Queen Amina
• First Interregnum
• Ascension of Kisoki
??? 1805
CurrencyDirham, Salt, Gold
Preceded by
Kingdom of Kano
Kingdom of Gano
Kingdom of Gaya
Kingdom of Dutse
Kingdom of Rano
Kingdomof Turanku
Kingdom of Ringim
Kingdom of Santolo
Today part of
Part of a series on the
History of Northern Nigeria
Northern Nigeria

The Sultanate of Kano was a Hausa kingdom in the north of what is now Nigeria that dates back to 1349, When the then King of Kano; Ali Yaji (1349-1385) dissolved the cult of Tsumbubra, accepted Islam and proclaimed Kano a Sultanate. Before 1000 AD, Kano had been ruled as an Animist Hausa Kingdom. The Sultanate lasted until the Fulani jihad in 1805 and the assassination of the Last Sultan of Kano in 1807. The Sultanate was then replaced by the Kano Emirate, subject to the Sokoto Caliphate. The capital is now the modern city of Kano in Kano State.[1]


Kano lies to the north of the Jos Plateau, located in the Sudanian Savanna region that stretches across the south of the Sahel. The city lies near where the Kano and Challawa rivers flowing from the southwest converge to form the Hadejia River, which eventually flows into Lake Chad to the east. The climate is hot all year round. Rainfall is variable, ranging from 350mm to 1,300mm annually with the mean around 950mm, almost all falling during June–September period. Traditionally agriculture was based on lifting water to irrigate small parcels of land along river channels in the dry season, known as the Shadouf system. At the time when the kingdom was flourishing, tree cover would have been more extensive and the soil less degraded than it is today.[2]

Early history[edit]

Our knowledge of the early history of Kano comes largely from the Kano Chronicle, a compilation of oral tradition and some older documents composed in the nineteenth century, as well as more recently conducted archaeology.

In the 7th century, Dala Hill, a hill in Kano, was the site of a community that engaged in iron-working. It is unknown whether these were Hausa people or speakers of Niger–Congo languages.[3] Some sources say they were Hausa speaking hunter/gatherers known as Abagayawa who migrated from Gaya.[1] The Arab geographer al-Yaqubi, writing in 872/873 CE (AH 259), describes a kingdom called "HBShH" with a city named "ThBYR" ruled by a king called "MRH" (none of these words are vocalized, so their actual pronunciation can vary), located between the Niger Bend and the Kingdom of Kanem.[4] If the kingdom's name is vocalized as "Habasha" it would correspond with other Arabic language texts that also appear to refer to the Hausa, and would be the earliest reference to the Hausa region.

Kano was originally known as Dala, after the hill, and was referred to as such as late as the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th by Bornoan sources.[5] The Kano Chronicle identifies Barbushe, a priest of a Dalla Hill spirit, as the city's first settler.[6] (Elizabeth Isichei notes that the description of Barbushe is similar to those of Sao people.)[7] According to the Kano Chronicle, Bagauda, a grandson of the mythical hero Bayajidda,became the first Hausa king of Kano in 999, reigning until 1063.[8][9][10][11][12] His grandson Gijimasu (1095–1134), the third king, began building city walls at the foot of Dalla Hill, and Gijimasu's son, Tsaraki (1136–1194), the fifth king, completed them during his reign.[11] The Bagauda family steadily extended the kingdom through conquest of nearby communities. They established numerous sub-rulers, with titles starting with "Dan", of which the most important was "Dan Iya".[1][13]

Rise of the Sultanate[edit]

Ali Yaji (1349–85), accepted Islam from a people called the 'Wangarawa', a Soninke sub-tribe from Mali. He then Relinquished the Cult of Tsumbubura; the principal cult of the Patron goddess of Kano. According to the Kano Chronicle in around 1350, the Cult of Tsumbubura based in Santolo Hill Rebelled against Yaji, A civil war ensued that culminated in the Battle of Santolo, Ali Yaji then set out in a wave of conquest. He conquered Rano, extending Kano's reach and launched an unsuccessful expedition into the Kwararafa region.[14] According to the Kano Chronicle, in the reign of Kanejeji (1390-1410) the cult of Tsumbubura saw a momentary resurgence, after failing to pacify Zukzuk, the parent state of the Sultanate of Zauzau, Kanajeji reverted to Hausa Animism he introduced the armored cavalry Lifidi and using them, succeeded in subduing the Zukzuk occupying the city of Turunku. In the Reign of Umaru Kanejeji (1410-1421), Sufi Islam made its first inroads to Kano, The Kano Chronicle recalls Umaru's reign as that of peace and prosperity, He restored the Sultanate and strengthened religious institutions with Sufism. The reign of his successors; Daud and Abdullahi Burja presumably coincided with the rise of Amina Sukera, The fact that Turunku(Modern Zaria) was under Kanoan suzerainty suggests that the fabled Sultana known as Queen Amina, Founder of modern Zaria was a scion of the House of Gijimasu.

Kanoan Empire[edit]

In the reign of Muhammadu Rumfa, the Sultanate succeeded in maintaining its independence when the Sultan took the daughter of Askiya the great; Auwa as wife, later on the rebellion of Kanta of Kebbi against the Songhai allowed the sultanate to attempt expansion on former Songhai tributary states. Auwa later on became the first female Madaki of Kano and guided her grand son; Muhammadu Kisoki to assert the First Kanoan Empire. In his reign, the Sultan of Kano was Said to have ruled the whole of Hausa Land.[15] Both Abubakar Kado (1565–73) and Muhammadu Shashere(1573–82) attempted to subdue Borno but failed, they however maintained Kano's hold on the rest of Hausa land and Kwararrafa. The Empire was to last until the reign of Muhammadu Nazaki(1618–23). a decline in trade throughout the Sudanic area possibly caused by environmental degradation has been cited as probable cause, ancient cities like Wadan and other Songhai strongholds experienced similar misfortunes.

House of Kutumbi[edit]

Muhammadu Kutumbi was the last Kanoan Sultan to preside over its Empire. In his regn, multiple rebellions slowly degraded the Empire, he eventually lost his life in attempt to subdue one at Katsina in 1648. By the time of Muhammadu Shekarau (1649–51) Kano had signed peace treaties with most of its former tributaries. The relative peace however exposed the House of Kutumbi to internal trifles. In 1652, Muhammadu Kukuna was overthrown this eventually led to the Second Kanoan Civil War. by the time he was restored the economy of the sultanate had been greatly devastated.

Decline and Fall[edit]

By the 1700s Fula clans, invigorated by their success in Takrur and the Futa area, were beginning to assert control over most of Sudanic West Africa. In Kano, the most powerful clan; the Jobawa were relatively pacified by a seat in the powerful council of state known as Taran Kano. Other clans were however wrestling with the sultanate for control. Economic decline had forced the successive sultans to raise taxations to the point that Tuareg clans were abandoning Kano.

According to the Kano Chronicle, Mohammed Sharef (1703–1731) and his successor, Kumbari dan Sharefa (1731–1743), both engaged the Fula in major battles. The Fulani under the Sokoto Caliphate finally established control when Muhammadu Bakatsine, Leader of Jobe Clan of Fulani rebelled against Muhammadu Alwali Ibn Yaji, the last sultan of Kano. He was eventually deposed in 1805 and killed in 1807, Kano then became an emirate subject to Sokoto.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Ibrahim Ado-Kurawa. "Brief History of Kano 999 to 2003". Kano State Government. Archived from the original on 10 December 2009. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
  2. ^ Kabiru Ahmed. "The Kano Physical Environment". Kano State Government. Archived from the original on 10 April 2011. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
  3. ^ Iliffe, John (2007). Africans: The History of a Continent. Cambridge University Press. p. 75. ISBN 0-521-86438-0.
  4. ^ al-Ya'qubi, "Tarikh" in Nehemiah Levtzion and J. F. P. Hopkins, transl, Corpus of Early Arabic sources for West African History (Cambridge University Press, 1981), p. 21.
  5. ^ Nast, Heidi J (2005). Concubines and Power: Five Hundred Years in a Northern Nigerian Palace. University of Minnesota Press. p. 60. ISBN 0-8166-4154-4.
  6. ^ "Kano Chronicle" ed. H. R. Palmer in Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 38 (1908) p. 63
  7. ^ Isichei, Elizabeth (1997). A History of African Societies to 1870. Cambridge University Press. p. 234. ISBN 0-521-45599-5.
  8. ^ "Kano Chronicle" ed. H. R. Palmer,pp. 64-65.
  9. ^ Okehie-Offoha, Marcellina; Matthew N. O. Sadiku (December 1995). Ethnic and Cultural Diversity in Nigeria. Africa World Press. p. 40. ISBN 978-0-86543-283-3.
  10. ^ "Kano". Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
  11. ^ a b Ki-Zerbo, Joseph (1998). UNESCO General History of Africa, Vol. IV, Abridged Edition: Africa from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Century. University of California Press. p. 107. ISBN 0-520-06699-5.
  12. ^ H. R. Palmer, ed. and trans. "The Kano Chronicle" Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 38 (1908), p. 65.
  13. ^ "Kano Chronicle" ed. Palmer, pp. 66, 67.
  14. ^ "Kano Chronicle," ed. Palmer, pp. 70-72.
  15. ^ Bello, Muhammadu (1810). Infaq al Maisur.