Who was Nana Asmau?

Centuries later Nana Asmau, emerges as a Muslim military leader, political figure, and Islamic scholar, of the Sokoto Caliphate in modern day Nigeria. She worked zealously for dawah throughout West Africa. Nana wrote a biography on the life of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, which was read throughout West Africa. She wrote, “The glory of our Prophet Muhammad..his light exceeds the light of the full moon. There is no light like the light of Muhammad.”

Historian Jean Boyd declares that within the Sokoto Caliphate, “To deny women equal opportunity to develop their God-given talents was to challenge God’s will.” Nana Asmau is lauded even by non-Muslim African feminists and is considered to be the precursor of modern feminism in Africa—even though she was a Muslim woman with an Islamic worldview.”

As an Islamic scholar, she issued legal verdicts known as fatwas concerning what was halal (permissible) and what was haram (forbidden). She spoke out against the use of tobacco, stating that, “It dries one up, it is a waste of money, it affects a person’s facial features. It leads to immodesty, it makes a person look undignified; it is not a common sense thing to do. Anyone who smokes is a fool. It originated in Pagan countries.”

Nana wrote a poem about Aisha bint Abu Bakr, the wife of the Prophet, on women’s education.  It states, “I bring all women to Aisha; Aisha, the Noble Daughter of Al-Siddiq. She was held in esteem by the Prophet. She had a mastery of learning and exceeded all women. She was the outstandingly pious woman person of her time.” Her poem call’s upon her community to study the life of Aisha bint Abu Bakr to encourage women’s learning and scholarship.


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