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The 2nd Edition
An Introduction by
Robin Walker

Study Guide

africa5.jpg50 Greatest Africans - Sarki Muhammad Rumfa & Emperor Semamun

43. Sarki Muhammad Rumfa of Kano (ruled 1463-1499 AD)
Most celebrated ruler in the northern Nigeria region

The Gidan RumfaMuhammad Rumfa became ruler of the Hausa city-state of Kano in 1463. He greatly extended the walls of the city and built an imposing new palace, the Gidan Rumfa, with courtly attendants adopting fashions from the nearby empire of Borno. They wore extravagant sandals of ostrich feathers and sported fans from the same bird. His principal officers built palaces of their own. Reforming the government, he appointed a nine-member council of advisors and promoted slaves to important positions. Slaves managed the treasury, staffed the palace, attended to the harem, and policed the city. He enforced Islamic law. Humiliating the Abagayawa, a non-Islamic people, he compelled leading citizens to become Muslims and built a Friday Mosque on the sacred Shamuz site. Women were kept in purdah. Additionally, Eid al-Fir, the great Islamic festival after Ramadan, was celebrated for the first time. He offered active support to scholars.

One famous scholar, Sheikh Muhammad Al-Maghili, taught Koranic studies in Katsina and law at Kano. He wrote a treatise on government for Rumfa called On The Obligations of Princes. One excerpt from this great work reads as follows: "The sojourn of a prince in the city breeds all manner of trouble and harm. The bird of prey abides in open and wild places. Vigorous is the cock as he struts round his domains. The eagle can only win his realm by firm resolve, and the cock's voice is strong as he masters the hens. Ride, then, the horses of resolution upon the saddles of prudence. Cherish the land from the spoiling drought, from the raging wind, the dust-laden storm, the raucous thunder, the gleaming lightning, the shattering fireball and the beating rain. Kingdoms are held by the sword, not by delays. Can fear be thrust back except by causing fear? Allow only the nearest of your friends to bring you food and drink and bed and clothes. Do not part with your coat of mail and weapons and let no one approach you save men of trust and virtue. Never sleep in a place of peril. Have near to guard you at all times a band of faithful and gallant men, sentries, bowmen, horse and foot. Times of alarm are not like times of safety. Conceal your secrets from other people until you are master of your undertaking."

In this work, Rumfa was advised to install an Ombudsman to receive complaints against the government. Rumfa put the advice into practice and Al-Maghili left for the Songhai city of Gao in 1502. The only significant failure of his career was an inconclusive eleven year war conducted against Katsina. The Kano Chronicle says of him: "He can have no equal in might, from the time of the founding of Kano, until it shall end".
All of this information is extracted from When We Ruled. To find out more about this book CLICK HERE

44. Emperor Semamun of Makuria (flourished 1286 AD- ?)
Defender of the Sudanese Empire of Makuria against Arab and Turkish aggression

Following a complaint to the Egyptian Sultan about the mistreatment of envoys from Egypt by the ruler of the Sudanese empire of Makuria, the Egyptians attacked in 1286 AD. When the Arabs and Turks of Egypt sent two armies into Makuria, Semamun, the Makurian Emperor, ordered the evacuation of the country. In his absence, the invaders placed the son of the royal sister on the throne and also appointed a new deputy. The Egyptian armies returned home arriving at their court in August 1288. As they withdrew, Semamun returned to Old Dongola, seized the city, and regained power. The Muslim royal puppet and the deputy fled to the Egyptian court. The Egyptians assembled another large army to battle the Makurians. They set off from Cairo in October 1289. Semamun again ordered evacuations. He himself fled upstream to the island of Mograt, fifteen days journey from Old Dongola, accompanied by his court. The Makurian Emperor, after refusing to swear allegiance to the Sultan and fearing the arrival of an Egyptian fleet, fled even further upstream to the Kingdom of el-Abwab. However, the royal princes, officials and priests were left abandoned on Mograt. They made their peace with the invaders and swore allegiance to them. Furthermore, they handed over the Makurian crown and other royal regalia. Following this, a great banquet was held in the largest of Old Dongola's churches, where the new royal appointee by the Sultan's court was enthroned. This puppet swore loyalty to the Egyptian Sultan and was required to pay the Baqt. Leaving a garrison behind in the capital, the Egyptians again withdrew, arriving in Cairo in May 1290. Once again Semamum returned to Old Dongola and, with the support of the army and some of the princes, arrested the puppet ruler at the palace. He gave safe passage to the Muslim garrison who then withdrew to Qoz. Moreover, he ordered the execution of the puppet ruler and the puppet deputy. His actions eventually brought some peace.
All of this information is extracted from When We Ruled. To find out more about this book CLICK HERE

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Creation date : 18/04/2006 @ 17:32
Last update : 28/07/2014 @ 16:54
Category : 50 Greatest Africans

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African Rulers
50 Greatest Africans

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