Hausa is an Afro-Asiatic language widely spoken throughout West Africa. In terms of numbers of speakers, Hausa rivals Swahili as the most important language on the African continent. It is the pre-eminent language of Northern Nigeria, and is widely spoken in the neighboring countries as well as in other parts of West Africa. Hausa has been written with a modified Arabic script since at least the 18 th century. The growth of Hausa ʿAjamī was accelerated by the reform movement of Uthman dan Fodio (1754-1817) and the Sokoto Caliphate, which dominated the Northern Nigerian region through the 19 th century, and which is often equated with Hausaland itself. Dan Fodio and his contemporaries made a very conscious effort to spread their message and faith through ʿAjamī in Hausa, as well as Fulfulde. They composed works, often in verse, to persuade people to join the reform movement and to instruct them in Islamic practice.
It was only in the late 19 th century that European travelers and missionaries began to write Hausa in the Latin script. The foremost figure in this effort was Charles H. Robinson, an Anglican missionary of the Church Missionary Society. He became the first professor of Hausa at Cambridge University and author of several books on the Hausa language. Robinson often included ʿAjamī texts and their transliterations in Boko in his publications. British colonial authorities also used ʿAjamī in official documents and correspondence with Muslim rulers of Northern Nigeria into the early 20th century. The first Hausa newspaper, Gaskiya Ta Fi Kwabo (“Truth is More Valuable than Wealth”), included pieces in ʿAjamī. The weekly Hausa newspaper, Alfijir (the Hausa word for ‘dawn’), was established in 1981 and is published entirely in ʿAjamī. Hausa ʿAjamī still appears on Nigerian currency notes and continues to be widely used in both religious and secular contexts.
Our team is in the process of collecting and digitizing Hausa Ajami text files with transcriptions, English and French translations and related video material, which will be published on this web page. Analysis of the material will follow in a separate section of the website.