Amina, also known as Aminatu, was an influential Muslim monarch who reigned the Hausa. She was the Queen of Zazzau. The latter is located in Kaduna state, which is in the northwestern region of Nigeria. Amina ruled this state in the 16th century.
Today, Zazzau is called Zaria. It is a prominent local government region and home to the largest Nigerian University ( Ahmadu Bello University). Moreover, Zazzau hosts highly influential people in Nigeria; it’s more of like a wealthy suburb.
The Early Life of Amina
Amina was born in the 26th century to King Nikatau and Queen Bakwa Turunku. Her father was the 22nd ruler of the Zazzau Kingdom. Amina also had two siblings and a small sister named Zaria. The British people renamed the Kingdom later after her sister Zaria, hence the name. According to anthropological evidence, Amina lived in her grandfather’s court, who loved and adored her. Her grandfather carried her around and taught her concerning political and military matters. This prepared her for the future.
When Amina became sixteen years old, her parents nicknamed her Magajiya, which meant heir apparent. They then assigned her forty female slaves who served her any time she needed aid. There is no doubt Amina was aging gracefully. Therefore right from a young age, she had many suitors seeking her hand in marriage. Those who wanted to marry her came with generous offers—some suggested bags of white and blue cloths, and numerous slaves.
Around 1566, an unfortunate incident happened. Amina’s parents passed away. Therefore, Amina’s brother became the incumbent King, succeeding his late father. During this time, Amina was a warrior in her brother’s calvary. She would go to the field during battles. In the field, Amina showed outstanding leadership and exceptional skills. As such, she always led the warriors in her brother’s cavalry.
To date, the Hausa people commemorate Amina for her exemplary military skills. They sing praise songs that celebrate Amina as a woman capable of completing manly tasks and even leading them to war.
The Rise Of Amina To the Throne
Throughout most of her early life, Amina gained skills and leadership qualities. She stood out among men and proved her worth. She was not just a common woman but had great strength, intelligence, diplomatic, as in general, she was a complete package of the attributes leaders should have. Her brother Karami reigned the Kingdom for some time with her help.
Nevertheless, in 1576, Karami succumbed. His death left Amina in grief. But then she picked up her self together and succeeded her brother as the Queen. It is important to note that other than Zazzau, Hausa had other states: Daura, Kano, Gobir, Katsina, Rano, and Garun Gabas. Before Amina’s ascension to power, Zazzau was one of the largest Hausa States.
Zazzau was also a prominent slave trade center. This is because most of the slaves came from Zazzau. Therefore the Kingdom gained popularity as the primary source of slaves, supplying the Arab merchants who came to buy slaves in Kano and Katsina markets.
The Conquests Amina Led
As known to many, Amina had tremendous military prowess. As such, she was a person who challenged people to determine her entire course. She had only been in power for three months when she decided to expand her territory. Of course, growing her territory meant conflicting with her neighbors as it involved grabbing some of their lands.
The Queen, therefore, endorsed a 34-year campaign against her enemies. During this time, she managed to recruit many people to join her army. She ensured to train her army, which comprised of 20000-foot soldiers, and 1000 cavalry troops. Before battles, Amina reminded her army to sharpen their weapons and ensure they were in a good state. In one of the wars, she defeated her opponents, thereby conquering large land pieces in Kwarafa and Nupe.
Sidney John Hogben stated that she met new lovers in every town she visited during her fighting expeditions. However, none of these lovers lived to see the next day. This is because she beheaded them so they would not live to talk about their encounter with her. History documents that during Amina’s reign, Zazzau became so powerful. It was only during her time that Zazzau controlled very many territories.
Meanwhile, to ensure the safety and mark her lands, Amina ordered the construction of earthen walls around her cities. These walls provided maximum security, restricting the movement of strangers or enemies to her territory. She engraved the walls ‘ganuwar Amina’, which meant Amina’s walls.
In one of the wars, where Amina went against a neighboring Hausa King, Sarkin Kanajeji, Amina was in a disadvantaged state. This is because her opponent came dressed in iron helmets, hence advancing their protection. Because of this encounter, Amina re-invented a new metal armor in Hausa, the state of Kano. Therefore, despite the idea originally coming from Sarkin’s Kingdom, Amina innovated a better metal armor. This was also possible because the Zazzau Kingdom had well-skilled iron craftsmen. These men were responsible for making the potent weapons and amulets the Soldiers of Zazzau used during wars. The soldiers, in most cases, defended themselves from the enemy with the help of those weapons.
The Demise of Amina
There are no clear accounts of what exactly caused Amina’s death. As such, scholars have published different ideologies based on their thoughts and research. One of the scholars, Dan Tafa, stated that Amina died in a place called Attaagar. He said that the Zazzau Kingdom was the largest amongst all the Kingdoms of Hausa because of the above reason.
Another scholar, Sidney John Hogben, seconded Tafa’s idea and reported that Amina died in Atagara, a place near Idah. Some authors also wrote in their books that Amina died in Vom Jos. As such, there are so many controversies surrounding Amina’s death.
How Does Modern Society Commemorate Amina?
Since Amina was a great legend during medieval times, some modern societies still celebrate her. This is despite some arguing that Amina never really existed, that her story was a myth. A variety of learning institutions in the northern part of Nigeria have the name Amina engraved on them. Among these institutions is one government school in Kaduna State. It is called Queen Amina College. Moreover, there are female hostels in Universities like Zaria, Lagos, Ahmadu Bello, which bear the name Amina.
There is also a US-based television series called ‘Xena: Warrior Princess. Viewers believe that Queen Amina of Zazzau inspired Zena’s character.
People remember Amina as a warrior queen who reigned for 34 years and expanded her Kingdom through winning battles. She also opened up trade routes, which contributed to the spread of trade in Zazzau. Also, she introduced the farming of kola nuts.
The government of Nigeria also preserved Queen Amina Statue at the National Arts Theatre in Lagos. By doing so, the government helps in preserving and restoring the culture of the Zazzau Kingdom. Most of all, many authors have written books in honor of her legacy. There is the historical fantasy novel Queen of Zazzau, which talks about the early life of Amina. There is also the Warrior Queen, with the character Malika, who possesses the attributes of Amina.
Queen Amina’s popularity has also spread through oral tradition. Numerous stories about the Queen have spread in many parts of western Africa. One of the stories narrates the tale of Amina as a famous warrior who loved fighting. One time during her childhood, her grandmother caught her holding a dagger. However, this act did not shock her grandmother, for she foresaw her grandchild becoming a warrior in the future. And when Amina became old enough, she refused to marry for she feared submitting and losing power to a man. The great Queen helped her Kingdom become one of the biggest trading centers.
In conclusion, we learn that these ancient women, in a way, motivated the modern woman. They portrayed high bravery levels during the warfares, fought for their people, and protected their kingdoms. When Amina led battles, she showed a fierce character, which is equally essential in the modern world. And since today, there are many challenges, everyone should be brave and ready to face them.
We also learn to re-invent ourselves where necessary. I.e., we can always define our course despite restricting cultural norms. In ancient societies, many communities disapproved of female leadership. Therefore, many women could not lead nor give their opinions regarding political matters. However, Amina disapproved of this idea as she became the queen ruler and led her soldiers during battles. Most of all, we learn to become brilliant and strategic. The most successful warriors are those who strategically plan their attack before ambushing their enemies. The Queen defeated many enemies who came her way and secured Zazzau numerous lands. Becoming a legend is never a walk in the park. It entails thinking critically and making the right decisions. In a way, Amina was a ruthless ruler, and thanks to that, she achieved so much for her Kingdom.