Katsina From the Earliest Times

The historical origin of Katsina kingdom is contained in several traditions as recorded by historians. One of these traditions says that the kingdom came into being during the early part of 13 th Century with a dynasty ruling at Ambuttai where the Birnin Katsina is presently situated. Another tradition states that the first Sarkin Katsina was known as Kumayau, grandson of Bayajidda. Kumayau is said to have established himself after conquering an older kingdom of the Durbawa. The dynasty founded by Kumayau was overthrown a century later when Korau, a stranger from the town of ‘Yandoto, killed Sanau and established a new dynasty.

It was reported that in the earliest times, the selection of a new king was conducted through the cast of a spear. The name of the candidate was called, the spear was thrown, if it remained up-right, the nomination was confirmed. Another account reported the use of wrestling contest whereby the winner automatically became the new king.

The era of Korau (1445 – 1495), also known as Muhammad Korau, is regarded as an important period in the history of Katsina for several reasons. First, he was the first Muslim king. Secondly, he was the first to rule from the Birnin Katsina. Thirdly, it was during his time that the celebrated Islamic scholar Muhammad Abdulkarim Al-maghili visited Katsina where he was reported to have taken the noble profession of teaching and prompted the building of Gobarau mosque to serve as a centre for spiritual and intellectual activities. This was apparently done in order to raise the standard of learning in Katsina and impart a new socio-political culture, which would help in creating an Islamic State with well-defined institutions.

The tradition of Islamic reform which was started in the reign of Korau was carried further during the reign of Sarkin Katsina Maje, who was noted for his desire to implement Islamic practices among his people. The outcome was that those among his subjects who were nominal Muslims were made to observe the obligatory prayers, and bachelors were forced to get married in order to live a decent life. Another achievement of Maje was the construction additional mosques in the kingdom. This led to the expansion of knowledge and the growth of Islamic institutions.

By the end of the 16 th century, Katsina began to produce indigenous scholars of international repute. These included Muhammed B. Masani al Barwani al Kashnawi who was originally from Borno, and Muhammad al-Kashinawi popularly called Ibn Sabbag (Dan Marina). There was also Muhammad al-Fulani al Kashinawi who became famous in the secret sciences (alu’um al siriya), mathematics and astronomy. Muhammad al-Kashinawi was educated in Katsina. Later, he traveled through Egypt to perform the Holy Pilgrimage. On his return, he stayed and taught in Cairo where he died as a guest of al-Jabarti. Among his works is ‘al-Durr al-Manzum wa Khulasat al Sirr al Maktum fi Ilmi al-talasim wal Nujum’ which he compiled in Cairo in 1734 AD.

Towards the end of the 18 th century, Katsina came into conflict with the powerful Kingdom of Gobir. The hostilities started in 1788 when the Gobir army conquered Maradi and advanced to Birnin Katsina. Sarkin Katsina Agwaragi (1778-1799) came out with an army and after unsuccessful attempt to reach a peaceful settlement, a battle line was drawn. The Gobir army was surrounded and destroyed with many of their warriors killed.

The Katsina-Gobir war continued in the reign of Sarkin Gobir Yakubu (1788 – 1795). One of the reasons for the continuation of the war was the killing of a Katsina blacksmith by Sarkin Gobir Yakubu, and the attack on the town of Ruma. In the bloody battle which ensued Sarkin Gobir Yakubu was killed, his head and sword were taken to Katsina. The defeat brought an end to Gobir’s attacks on Katsina.

Prior to 19 th Century, Katsina kingdom covered a very large area. It bordered Kano to the south-east, Zazzau to the south, Zamfara to the west, Daura to the east, Damagaram to the north-east and Birnin Gwari to the south west. The principal towns were ‘Yandoto, Gozaki, Maska, Tasawa, Gazawa, Ingawa, Matazu, Ruma, Kwatarkwashi, Birnin Bakane, Karofi, Maradi, Gwiwa, Kanen Bakashe, e.t.c.

The town of ‘Yandoto was located in the western part of Katsina. In the olden days, that part of Katsina was known as ‘Katsina Laka’. ‘Yandoto occupies a special position in the history of Katsina. First, it was the home of Korau, the founder of Korau dynasty. Secondly, it was the home of numerous Islamic scholars. This made it an important centre of Islamic scholarship. Among the famous scholars of ‘Yandoto was Alhaji Mustapha, Malam Abdulrahman and Malam Buhari Na ‘Yandoto who served as one of the Advisers to Sarkin Katsina.

The town of Kwatarkwashi was situated in the same geographical region with ‘Yandoto. It was founded during the time of Kumayau. In the pre-Islamic period, Kwatarkwashi was a major centre for the worship of ‘Magiro’ which is an integral part of Hausa traditional religion.

Maska is situated in the south western part of Katsina. The area around Maska is blessed with iron ore which is the major raw material for the production of farming tools and weapons. It was also a centre for the production of cotton and indigo. The town became famous in the production of a kind of a fabric popularly called ‘Dan Maska’.

Gozaki is located east of Maska. The town was among the largest and best fortified towns in southern Katsina. Like Maska, Gozaki was also an important centre for cotton production.

The town of Katsina, popularly called Birnin Katsina is believed to have come into existence towards the end of the 15 th century. From the time of Muhammadu Korau, the town has remained the capital of the Kingdom. In ancient times, a city wall was built around the town to provide security. Similarly, gates were constructed at different locations for easy movement of people. Some of these gates are still major gateways to the city.

During the Habe dynasty, a new political structure developed around Katsina kingship. The components of this structure included, kingmakers, palace chiefs, occupational chiefs, town chiefs, war chiefs, e.t.c. At the initial stage, the kingmakers comprised of ‘Yandaka, Durbi, Samri and Gazobi. However, in the course of time, Samri and Gazobi were dropped. The duty of the king makers was to select a new king when the incumbent died or was deposed.

The royal regalia consist of a short sword known as Gajere (the short one) which tradition says was the sword which Korau used to slay Sanau. The other two items are the iron pot which is said to belong to Korau, and a large sword known as Bebe (the deaf one), which was captured on the battle field after the great victory against Sarkin Gobir Yakubu in 1795. The other item is the bachelor drum which is beaten by the Galadiman Katsina three times during the coronation of a new king.

The palace chiefs were selected mostly from among the royal slaves and the palace guards. Their duty was to help in the day-to-day running of the palace. Among the earliest in this category included Ajiya, Baraya, Turaki and Jakadiya. The first two were in-charge of royal finances and stores, while the other three were responsible for the royal chambers.

The slogan of Sarkin Katsina is linked to Korau. The Emir is described as ‘the powerful one’, ‘the son of Korau’, ‘the heir of the powerful one’, ‘the owner of the iron pot’, ‘the wizard of Samri, who slaughtered his host’ and ‘guest of Sanau’. The link of the slogan with Korau was probably because Korau is regarded as the architect of the new political order, out of which the kingdom grew and became a model among Hausa States. It is note worthy that up to today; this is the official slogan for the Emir of Katsina.

The war chiefs were headed by Kauran Katsina. They were responsible for leading the various sections of the army into battle and held command over garrison towns. The Ubandawakin Katsina, Sarkin Karma,Sarkin Baka and Magayaki were responsible for Military organization. Apart from his role as the Commander in-chief of the army, the Kauran Katsina was responsible for the defense of the capital. Other war chiefs included the Marusan Katsina who was the commander of the eastern frontier while the Gatarin Katsina was in-charge of the north western frontier.

The occupational chiefs were responsible for the various trades. Their main duties included the allocation of land and other facilities, maintenance of standards and the collection of taxes, In the late 18 th century, the most outstanding occupations were blacksmithing, cloth weaving and dyeing, leather tanning, wood carving, farming, grain selling , salt trading, building e.t.c.

The town chiefs were responsible for the day-to-day running of their respective areas on behalf of Sarkin Katsina. These chiefs could be categorized into three (3) groups. The first group comprised of the heads of the large and established towns like Maska, Gozaki, Kogo, ‘Yandoto, Karofi, ‘Yandaka e.t.c. The chiefs of these towns enjoyed autonomy in running the affairs of their areas. This was because their dynasties and the communities over which they ruled had maintained considerable cohesion for long periods, in some cases going back to the period before the formation of the kingdom. As a result of this, they enjoyed such freedom that the Government officials responsible for supervising them acted more as representatives of Sarkin Katsina rather than supervising Officials.

The second group consisted of towns which had a very large immigrant groups. They too enjoyed some form of autonomy. The town chiefs that enjoyed this privilege included the Dambo of Ingawa, the BarebarinKatsina, SarkinSullubawa, Tambari of Illela and Tasar of Tazarawa.

The third group consisted of towns whose chiefs enjoyed less autonomy; hence, the central Government exercised much closer control over them. In a town established through the initiative of the Government, the chief was selected from among the royal slaves. However, in towns where there was conflict among the people, the Government made its own choice. But in well-established towns, the views of old people were taken into consideration before the selection of a new chief.

The source of finance for the Government was mainly through taxation which was levied on farmers. Other forms of taxes included; Jangali i.e. cattle tax and occupational tax levied on artisans. There was also customs duty collected on highways from caravans coming or passing through the kingdom. This tax was collected by an official of Sarkin Katsina known as ‘Sarkin Tafarki’.

The succession to the throne of Katsina was limited to royal princes. During the Habe rule, immediately a successor was chosen, the rites of installation began with the slaughter of a bull, whose blood was used to anoint the new king, and whose hide was used as a burial shroud for the dead one. The selected prince stepped over the corpse of his predecessor, and he was lectured on the heritage and ways of his ancestors. After this, he was dressed in a leather apron and a thick woven cloth, and taken to the house of the senior princes.

After seven days, the rite of installation was concluded. This marks the formal accession to the throne, and the new king stayed in the home of Magajiya (Queen Mother) to receive homage and pledges of loyalty from his subjects. Next, the new king traveled out of the capital to a tree shrine where festivities and sacrifices were made. The last part of the rites was the presentation of the sword and pot of Korau, as well as a horse to the new king.

During the middle of the 18 th century, a dynastic rivalry broke out between the various ruling Habe and other interest groups. This rivalry is said to have started during the reign of Bawa Dangiwa. Some traditions reported that as a result of this disorder, a civil war broke out in which hundreds of people were killed.

Another problem which affected the polity was the conflict between Islam and tradition. For instance, during the reign of Gozo, he was criticized for his policy of supporting the Shariah while at the same time patronizing the worship of sprits. This rendered him vulnerable to his opponents and led to his assassination in the year 1801.