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Hubbaren Shehu: Sokoto royal cemetery where Danfodio, sultans, others rest

Hubbaren Shehu is the most visited historic site in the ancient city of Sokoto. It is a cemetery for the royal families but some prominent...

Hubbaren Shehu is the most visited historic site in the ancient city of Sokoto. It is a cemetery for the royal families but some prominent Nigerians were also buried there. They include the former Eze-Igbo of Sokoto, Dr. Muhammadu Nweke, Umaru Ali Shinkafi, among others.

Hubbare was initially the private residence of the late Islamic Reformer, Sheikh Usman Bin Fordiyo, fondly called Shehu Danfodio in Sokoto and other Hausa speaking states of the northern Nigeria who died on April 20, 1817.

Shehu was buried in one of his wives’ rooms, Hauwa’u, the mother of the pioneer Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Bello. Beside his tomb were the graves of two of his sons, Sambo and Hassan.

However, the place later turned to a full-fledged royal cemetery where his lieutenants and former Sultans who were his direct descendants were buried.

Daily Trust gathered that Hubbare was divided according to the number of Sheikh Danfodio’s children so that each family would have a place to bury their loved ones.

Hundreds of pilgrims visit Hubbare every day from different parts of the country and beyond to pay their respect and pray for the great Islamic Reformer and founder of Sokoto Caliphate.

According to Mai Bude Hubbare (the person charged with taking care of Hubbare), Alhaji Bala Ibrahim, the visits climax during the ed-el-Kabir, Maulud, and Shura festivals and the pilgrims cut across sexes and races.

Shehu’s tomb


Ibrahim told our reporter that eight Sultans were resting at the Hubbare and the most recent one was Sultan Ibrahim Dasuki who died four years ago.

Daily Trust gathered that the other rooms for his wives were still occupied by some women but we could not ascertain whether they were parts of his descendants or not.

As one steps into the main entrance of Hubbare, the first port of call is ‘Jangirde’, a school where Sheikh taught his students and there was a section where his wives were said to have lived and a burial ground.

Our reporter observed visitors trooping into Hubbare, greeted by women and children who lined up along the long path leading to Shehu’s tomb, soliciting for alms.

The most common alms given to them, as observed by our reporter, were grains because, according to our findings, some villagers brought grains to Hubbare and spread on graves, seeking for bumper harvest in the next farming season.

However, one of the guides at the site told Daily Trust that there were people recruited to guide the pilgrims on the etiquettes of visiting burial sites to avoid actions that were against Islam.

“Some of the pilgrims are ignorant of these etiquettes. They do things which are contrary to the teachings of the Holy Prophet (SAW). 

“Some of them spread grains on graves of prominent lieutenants of Shehu which is very wrong. So, our job is to educate them. Teach them what to do and say while visiting grave sites,” he said.

According to him, some of the people visiting the site were those who could not make it to the Holy Land to visit the tomb of the Holy Prophet (SAW).

“They therefore come to Sokoto to visit the tomb of Shehu,” he said.

Our reporter observed that the other side, for prominent people, was in dire need of attention. 

Speaking to Daily Trust, one of the pilgrims, Malam Shehu, a nomad from Kayama in Kwara State, said “I feel happy coming here and I pray to come back next year.

“I always feel happy coming to this place. If God permits, I will return here next year.” 

Shehu, however, requested for a picture of Jingirde in order to have something to prove to his kinsmen that he was once a visitor to Hubbare.

“Pls help me take the picture of this place for me,” he said pointing at Jangirde.

“I want to show it to my people, I want them to know that I visited Hubbaren Shehu in Sokoto. I am so happy to be here. This is the place I’ve always wanted to visit,” he added.

According to him, he was in Sokoto to pick his daughter in-law, but decided to use the opportunity to visit the site.

Mai Bude Hubbare, Ibrahim, could not give the exact number of people who visit Hubbare every day but said the visit climaxes during Islamic festive periods like Eids, Maulud and Shura festivals.

“During these periods, we witness unprecedented surge in the number of visitors. We allow some into our private houses because the two guest houses we have cannot accommodate them,” he said.


He remarked that Hubbare is usually overwhelmed with visitors on Thursdays and Fridays.

On why Fulanis were the most regular visitors to the site, he said it could be because Shehu was from their tribe but people from other tribes also visit the site.

Ibrahim explained that they usually take advantage of the visits to preach the gospel of peace and unity among the ummah.

He, however, attributed the poor sanitary condition of the place to the influx of pilgrims.

“But we are doing our best to keep it clean and secured,” he said.

He also noted that business activities around Hubbare were always booming because of the visitors.

Who is Danfodio

Shehu Danfodio was a religious teacher who became the leader of a revolution. He criticized the elite and changed the political system in present-day northern Nigeria. 

Danfodio was born on December 15, 1754 in the village of Maratta, in the Hausa-speaking city state of Gobir, in what is today northern Nigeria. He studied law, theology and philosophy in Agadez (in what is today Niger Republic) under Islamic scholar Jibril Ibn Umar. Because of his religious knowledge and authority, he later came to be referred to respectfully as Sheikh Usman.

After completing his studies, he went back to Gobir and began to preach Islam to the people, who at that time mixed paganism with Islam. His popularity grew in Gobir and got to a stage where the then King of Gobir, Rimfa, saw Usman dan Fodio as a threat and attempted to assassinate him.

Usman escaped and started moving among rural communities preaching, teaching and writing. In the year 1803, Sheikh Usman and hundreds of his followers migrated to Gudu where he continued to propagate Islam. While at Gudu, Usman dan Fodio declared a holy war (jihad) against King Yunfa of Gobir (Rimfa’s son and successor) and his people as he felt their way of life did not correspond with the teachings of Islam. 

The declaration of the holy war spread across Hausa land and many people volunteered to join his army. In 1804, he formally declared a holy war on the whole of Hausa land. In 1808, Usman and his followers conquered Gobir, Kano, and other Hausa city-states. He retired from battle in 1811 and returned to teaching and writing but his armies continued their conquests until 1815.

This religious revolution united the Hausa states under Islamic law, and in 1812, led to the establishment of an empire called the Sokoto Caliphate, composed of emirates and sub-emirates, many of which were built on the sites of previous Hausa states. The Sokoto Caliphate became the most powerful economic and political system of the region during the 19th Century, and contributed profoundly to the Islamization of Northern Nigeria.

His Islamic religious empire includes most of what is now northern Nigeria and parts of Niger as well as northern Cameroon.