Although we are unsure of the date of his birth, due to his name, we know of his ethnicity and place of residence.
He was from the Fulani people, the great herders of West Africa, who produced some of the outstanding scholars of the Bilad al-Sudan; such as Modibbo Muhammed al-Kaburi, a leading figure of Timbuktu University – and Nana Asma’u, of Sokoto, who founded the Yan Taru organisation, for the teaching of women. His nisba (name) tells us that he was a resident of Katsina, one of the Hausa city-states – and an important centre of learning, in the Central Sudan.
Coming from a region well known for its expertise in Mathematics, Astronomy and Numerology; returning from Hajj, he was invited to join the elite circle of scholars, founded by the renowned Somali scholar, Hasan al-Jabarti. While resident in Cairo, he wrote a treatise, focusing on magic squares, entitled Bahjat al-afaq wa-idah al-labs wa-l-ighlaq-fi ‘ilm al-huruf wa-l-awaq.
On the pursuit of scholarship, he said: ‘’Do not give up, for that is ignorance and not according to the rules of this art…Like the lover, you cannot hope to achieve success without infinite perseverance.” He died in Cairo, in 1741.
© Natty Mark Samuels, 2015. African School.