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 18th century. The growth of Hausa Ajami was accelerated by the reform movement of Usman ɗan Fodio (1754-1817) and the Sokoto Caliphate, which dominated the Northern Nigerian region through the 19th century, and which is often equated with Hausaland itself. Usman ɗan Fodio, his daughter Nana Asma’u (1793-1864), and their contemporaries made a very conscious effort to spread their message and faith through Ajami 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 19th 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 Ajami texts and their transliterations in Boko in his publications. British colonial authorities also used Ajami 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 Ajami. The weekly Hausa newspaper, Alfijir (the Hausa word for ‘dawn’), was established in 1981 and is published entirely in Ajami. Hausa Ajami still appears on Nigerian currency notes and continues to be widely used in both religious and secular contexts.