Asma’u, Nana

1793–1864
Islamic poet and teacher

Nana Asma’u, an Islamic teacher in what is now northern Nigeria, was known for her writings and for her work in educating Muslim women. Fluent in Arabic and several African languages, she memorized the entire Muslim holy book, the Qur’an. Her father, UTHMAN DAN FODIO, was an Islamic ruler who led a jihad in 1804 in Hausaland. Nana Asma’u later wrote extensively about this jihad.

After her father’s death, Nana Asma’u became part of a team that organized a new Muslim community in the Sokoto Caliphate. She also assisted her brother, Caliph Muhammed Bello, in translating and adapting a work on Sufi women in verse form. Through her poetry Nana Asma’u reminded the new leaders of the caliphate of their responsibilities to the people. Some of her writings provide a glimpse into the workings of the Muslim community. She is perhaps most fondly remembered for creating an educational network for rural Muslim women that instructed students in their native languages. This network still exists today. (See also Literature, Sufism.)

Asma’u, Nana