This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Massina Empire" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (September 2014) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Caliphate of Hamdullahi
خلافة حمد الله
The Fulani Jihad States of West Africa, c. 1830.
The Fulani Jihad States of West Africa, c. 1830.
Common languagesArabic (official)
Maasina Fulfulde, Bambara, Tamasheq
• 1818 – 1845
Seku Amadu
• 1845 – 1852
Amadu II
• 1852 – 1862
Amadu III
LegislatureGrand Council
Historical eraLate modern period; Fula jihads
• Established
• Disestablished
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Bambara Empire
Pashalik of Timbuktu
Toucouleur Empire
Today part ofMali

The Caliphate of Hamdullahi (Arabic: خلافة حمد الله; also: Dina of Massina, Sise Jihad state), commonly known as the Massina empire (also spelled Maasina or Macina), was an early nineteenth-century Sunni Muslim caliphate in West Africa centered in the Inner Niger Delta of what is now the Mopti and Ségou Regions of Mali. It was founded by Seku Amadu in 1818 during the Fulani jihads after defeating the Bambara Empire and its allies at the Battle of Noukouma. By 1853, the empire had fallen into decline and was ultimately destroyed by Omar Saidou Tall of Toucouleur.[1]

The Massina Empire was one of the most organized theocratic states of its time on the African continent and had its capital at Hamdullahi. It was ruled by an almami with the help of a Grand Council that possessed the power to elect new rulers after the death of the previous one.[1] While, in theory, the almami did not have to be a member of the Bari family, but only someone who was learned and pious, every almami elected happened to be a son of the previous ruler.[2]



The Fulas of the region had for centuries been the vassals of larger states, including the Mali Empire (13th-14th centuries), the Songhai Empire (15th century), the Moroccan pashas of Tomboctou (16th century), and the Bambara Empire at Ségou (17th century).

By the early 1800s, many of these larger states had declined in power and inspired by the recent Muslim uprisings of Usman dan Fodio in nearby Hausaland, preacher and social reformer Seku Amadu began efforts at increasing religious revivals in his homeland.[3] Amadu was born from a minor scholar family from one of the less important Fulbe clans.[4] He was both a religious and political outsider which increasingly led him to clash with the established elites as his influence in the region grew at their expense.[1][4] This tension would lead to open confrontation in 1818 when the death of Ardo Guidado, son of the chief Fulani Ardo Amadu, was blamed on one of Seku Amadu's students.[1]

Ardo Amadu used this incident to mobilize an army of over 200,000 men from Segu, Poromani, Monimpé, Goundaka, and Massina to crush the Jihadists. The initial encounter took place at the Battle of Noukouma, during which Seku Amadu's relatively small battalion of 1,000 men was able to route a force of 100,000, led by General Jamogo Séri. Seku Amadu interpreted his victory as a divine miracle and went on to lead a jihad against the Bambara Empire in 1818.[1] The empire expanded rapidly, taking Djenné in 1819 and establishing a new capital at Hamdullahi in 1820.[5][6]


At the height of the Empire's power, a 10,000-man army was stationed in the city, and Seku Amadu ordered the construction of six hundred madrasas to further the spread of Islam. Alcohol, tobacco, music and dancing were banned in accordance with Islamic law, while a social welfare system provided for widows and orphans. A strict interpretation of Islamic injunctions against ostentation led Amadu to order the Great Mosque of Djenné to be abandoned, and all future mosques were ordered built with low ceilings and without decoration or minarets.

One of the most enduring accomplishments was a code regulating the use of the inland Niger delta region by Fula cattle herders and diverse farming communities.

Massina's expansion into the region between the Mali-Niger border and north-eastern Burkina Faso was more successful, and marked the southernmost limit of the empire, which it shared with the Sokoto empire. The various chiefdoms of the region, most notably Baraboullé and Djilgodji, were subsumed in the late 1820s after a serious of disastrous battles for the Massina army that ultimately ended when threats from the Yatenga kingdom forced the local chieftains to place themselves under Massina's protection. The conflict that emerged with the Bambara state of Kaarta, however, was more serious, with Massina's army suffering heavy casualties, especially in 1843–44. every attempt by to expand westward proved equally futile.

After the first conquest of the north-eastern regions between Timbuktu and Gao in 1818-1826, Arma and the Tuareg who controlled the region rebelled several times, trying to escape the imposition of direct rule by Lobbo’s appointed governor Abd al-Qādir (who took over from Pasha Uthman al-rimi). This prompted Massina to firmly control the town in 1833 when a Fulbe governor was appointed that controlled the entire region upto Gao. A Tuareg force drove off the Massina garrison in 1840 but were in the following year defeated and expelled. The Tuareg then regrouped in 1842-1844 and managed to defeat the Massina forces and drive them from Timbuktu, but the city was later besieged by Massina and its inhabitants were starved into resubmitting to Massina's rule by 1846. Disputes between Massina and Timbuktu were often mediated by the Kunta scholary family led by Muhammad al-Kunti and his son al-Mukhtar al-Saghir.[7] Niger bend until its incorporation into al-Hadjdj 'Umar's empire, which stretched from the headwaters of the Senegal and Gambia rivers to Timbuktu."[8] Amedu died in 1845, leaving control of the Massina Empire to his son, Amadu II, who was succeeded by his son Amadu III.[1]


The ascension of Amadu III to the throne in 1853, following his election by the Grand Council over arguably more capable uncles, marked the beginning of the decline of the empire. Amadu III's reign was defined by controversy. He was said to be less valiant in war and was more lax when it came to the adherence to the religious tenets that governed the empire. By the time of Omar Saidou Tall's Jihad against the Massina Empire, he was met with little resistance from Amadu III's unorganized army.[1]

In 1862, Omar Tall of Toucouleur launched an attack on the Massina from his newly secured base at Ségou. After a series of bloody battles, he entered Hamdullahi on March 16, leveling it. Amadu III was captured and put to death. Though resistance briefly continued under Amadu III's brother Ba Lobbo, the destruction marked the effective end of the Massina Empire.[citation needed]


The Massina Empire contained one of the most sophisticated governments in Africa at the time, with a system of checks and balances and a well-established tax system. It was organized as an Islamic state with strong democratic tendencies that created great stability within the empire.[1]

There were also agents who would audit government officials.[1]


The Massina Empire was governed by a 40-member Grand Council appointed by the Almami for their wisdom and creativity and 60 judges who were prominent marabouts. The Grand Council acted as the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the empire and could make their own decisions based on strict observance of the Maliki interpretation of Sharia law. However, it was only the Almami who could demand a revision of a policy or decision or act as a lawyer on behalf of a plaintiff. If the Grand Council and the Almami ever came to a disagreement 40 of the 60 judges were selected randomly to make the final decision.[1]

The Grand Council also possessed the authority to designate the succeeding Almami.[1] While, in theory, the almami did not have to be a member of the Bari family, but only someone who was learned and pious, every almami elected happened to be a son of the previous ruler.[2]


The empire was made up of five major regions known as Jenneri, Fakala-Kunari, Hayre-Seno, Massina, and Nabbe-Dude. Within each of these regions, governance was entrusted to a military governor, known as the amiru, who bore the responsibility of safeguarding their respective territories. The amiru were supported by local councils and a state-funded judicial system, granting them the authority to render independent legal judgments and facilitate conflict resolution. The Grand Council would act as the supreme court.[1]

Local government

The capital of Hamdullahi was divided into 18 neighborhoods further divided into several residences. Each of these residences were surrounded by a high wall to protect privacy and a well that ensured a reliable source of drinking water. There was also a strong police presence that enforced rules of conduct such as hygiene. Taxes were levied on harvest, military spending, and a general Muslim tithe in all of the villages and towns of the empire.[1]

Education was prioritized by the empire and played an important part in every citizen's life. Both boys and girls from the ages of 7-21 would learn the basics of the Qur'an and the tradition of the Prophet, advanced theology and mysticism, and, in some cases, more secular subjects such as grammar and rhetoric. All school fees were fixed and teachers were subsidized by the central government.[1]

List of rulers

Names and dates taken from John Stewart's African States and Rulers (1989).[9]

Masina founded in c. 1400 by the Fulanis.[9]

Rulers from 1814 to 1873, except for Tukolor regents, used the title of 'Sheikh'[9]

# Name Reign Start Reign End
1 Majam Dyallo c. 1400 1404
2 Birahim I 1404 1424
3 Ali I 1424 1433
4 Kanta 1433 1466
5 Ali II 1466 1480
6 Nguia 1480 1510
7 Sawadi 1510 1539
8 Ilo 1539 1540
9 Amadi Sire 1540 1543
10 Hammadi I 1543 1544
11 Bubu I 1544 1551
12 Ibrahim 1551 1559
13 Bubu II 1559 1583
14 Hammadi II 1583 c. 1595
Moroccan rule (c. 1595 – 1599)
14 Hammadi II (Restored) 1599 1603
15 Bubu III 1603 1613
16 Birahim II 1613 1625
17 Silamaka 1625 1627
18 Hammadi III 1627 1663
19 Hammadi IV 1663
20 Ali III 1663 1673
21 Gallo 1673 1675
22 Gurori I 1675 1696
23 Gueladio 1696 1706
24 Guidado 1706 1716
25 Hammadi V 1761 1780
26 Ya Gallo 1780 1801
27 Gurori II 1801 1810
28 unknown 1810 1814
29 Hamadu I 1814 1844
30 Hamadu II 1844 1852
31 Hamadu III 1852 1862
Tukolor military government (1862 – 1863)
32 Sidi al-Bakka (Tukolor regent) 1863 1864
33 Sheikh Abidin al-Bakha'i (Tukolor regent) 1864
34 Badi Tali 1864 1871
35 Badi Sidi 1871 1872
36 Ahmadu 1872 1873
- Sheikh Abidin al-Bakha'i (Tukolor regent) (Restored) 1873 1874

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Brodnicka, Monika (11 January 2016). Massina Empire. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. doi:10.1002/9781118455074.wbeoe388.
  2. ^ a b Ajayi, Jacob F. Ade (1989). Africa in the Nineteenth Century Until the 1880s. University of California Press. p. 608. ISBN 9780520039179.
  3. ^ Abdul Azim Islahi (2009). "Islamic economic thinking in the 12th AH/18th CE century with special reference to Shah Wali-Allah al-Dihlawi" (PDF). MPRA (Paper No. 75432): 48,41. Archived from the original on May 15, 2021.
  4. ^ a b Nobili, Mauro (2020). A Contested Space of Competing Claims: The Middle Niger, 1810s–1840s. In Sultan, Caliph, and the Renewer of the Faith: Aḥmad Lobbo, the Tārīkh al-fattāsh and the Making of an Islamic State in West Africa. Cambridge University Press. pp. 123–202. doi:10.1017/9781108804295.
  5. ^ Fage, J.D. (1969). A History of West Africa: An Introductory Survey. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 154–155.
  6. ^ Johnson, Marion (1976). "The Economic Foundations of an Islamic Theocracy: The Rise of Masina". Journal of African History. 17 (4): 481–495. doi:10.1017/S0021853700015024. S2CID 162679554.
  7. ^ L'empire peul du Macina by Amadou Hampâté Bâ pg 269, A note on Mawlāy ‘Abd al-Qādir b. Muḥammad al-Sanūsī and his relationship with the Caliphate of Ḥamdallāhi by Mohamed Diagayété
  8. ^ J. F. Ade Ajayi; A. A. Boahen; UNESCO International Scientific Committee for the Drafting of a General History of Africa (1989). "3 - New trends and processes in Africa in the Nineteenth Century until the 1880s". General History of Africa (PDF). Vol. VI - Africa in the Nineteenth Century until the 1880s. Heinemann Publishers, University of California Press, UNESCO. p. 42. Archived (PDF) from the original on May 15, 2021.
  9. ^ a b c Stewart, John (1989). African States and Rulers. London: McFarland. p. 173. ISBN 0-89950-390-X.

Further reading