Fula (the language of the Fulɓe people) developed in several communities that spread from west to east, from Senegal to Nigeria and Cameroun, over the last millennium. Fula is closely associated with the “Islamic revolutions” that occurred in four areas of West Africa in the 18th and 19th century. The first was the Sokoto Caliphate, in which Fulfulde was second only to Hausa as a vehicle for spreading the faith. The second was the more short-lived Caliphate of Hamdullahi (1818-1862), set in the Middle Niger Delta. The third was Fuuta Tooro, constituting the middle valley of the Senegal River and the presumed birthplace of Fula and the Fulɓe people, and the fourth was Fuuta Jalon, set in the mountains of Guinea Conakry at the sources of the Niger, Senegal and Gambia Rivers. Both Fuuta Tooro and Fuuta Jalon called their rulers Almaami (from the Arabic word: Al-imām) and their regimes went by the name of Almamates.
Fuuta Jalon, particularly the town of Labe, became a center for composition, instruction and dissemination in Ajami and for the establishment of a certain Fulɓe pre-eminence in the wider region. Thanks to the work completed several decades ago by Alfâ Ibrâhîm Sow, we are able to study the development, dissemination and some of the main texts composed by the Labe scholars, which include religious poetry, poems of moral guidance, and chronicle and legal texts. Fuuta Tooro had a tradition of poetic chronicle around the jihad of Al-Hajj Umar Taal (1797-1864), but did not develop Ajami literature as much as Fuuta Jalon.