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Book Reviews 163 in this actual narrative, told many years later to a non-Somali audience, does she refer to such values. But, in comparison with the two books mentioned above, the tragic and chaotic story of Aman reveals the very different, more disintegrated, and more aggressive nature of African societies of today. Aman is the issue of a generation spoiled by irresponsible colonialism, careless post-colonial elites, and failed modernization. The continuing male chauvinism and "control of women"—directed against the actual independence and the vital contributions they make in daily life-and the deep and violently expressed divisions between politicized kinship-units have, meanwhile, further undermined the social fabric of this country. Jon Abbink Afrika-Studiecentrum Leiden, Netherlands The Caliph's Sister: Nana Asma'u Jean Boyd London: Frankcass, 1989. Pp. xx, 168. Jean Boyd has drawn on her nearly three decades of experience in Nigeria to write this biography of Nana Asma'u (1793-1865), who was the daughter of jihad leader Shehu Usuman dan Fodio (d. 1817), the sister of Shehu's successor Muhammad Bello (d. 1837), and a prolific and influential scholar in her own right. It is as a work of history rather than a biography that this book succeeds. Boyd manages to rescue from oblivion the important career of a seminal figure in the jihad, as well as bring to light the much-ignored role of women in the Sokoto Caliphate. The author readily admits that this is an introductory treatment of her subject: Nana Asma'u's voluminous writings remain unpublished and largely unstudied by specialists, as do indeed many of the works produced by the Sokote jihadists. Yet it seems certain that this book will encourage further studies of Nana Asma'u as well as the roles of women in the jihad movements in general; hence, whatever its shortcomings, it represents a valuable and much appreciated contribution to the historiography of Sudanic Africa. Nana Asma'u's life makes for fascinating reading. Born in the village of Degel the very year the Shehu composed his famous Ihya' al-Sunna, she was raised in an environment of scholarship and Sufism and witnessed the evolution of the Shehu's movement from its earliest conflict with Gobir, 164 Book Reviews to the waging of jihad, to the full development of the Sokoto Caliphate. To an unusual degree, the Shehu's family encouraged the education of women; hence, Asma'u grew up among a number of learned and influential female relations. Indeed, to the Shehu the tendency of men to mistreat their wives and deny them education was one sign of the dissolution of the times, and he condemned such practices in many of his works. Of course, the Shehu's interest in women's education was matched by his concern for proper decorum and public morality. We are told that he "enjoyed occasions of relaxed informality with his wives, whom he enjoined to stay at home but who were expected to take advantage of every opportunity to advance their education providing they dressed in the prescribed way and comported themselves in a sensible manner" (p. 6). Such requirements did not translate into a life of quiet seclusion for Asma'u, living as she did during the times of great uncertainty and upheaval. Until her death at the age of 72, wherever Asma'u lived, she was to be acquainted with warfare, meetings to discuss tactics and strategies, the cleaning of congealed blood from swords, the preparation of food supplies for fighting men, trumpet calls to arms, the building of forts, settlement of new lands, desires for peace, arrival of booty and slaves, and the allures of power. Through all this, she drew on her certain knowledge of what the Shehu had set out to achieve and she had witnessed at Degal. She made a positive contribution to jihad theory and was a sustainer of the moral integrity of the Caliphate, not as a unique and formidable woman, nor as a voice speaking from a separate power base, as did the Queen Mothers in Hausa states. She spoke in a social milieu where men and women could talk on the same themes as equals. What...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-6574
Print ISSN
0740-9133
Pages
pp. 163-165
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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