The Story of Bayajidda’s Loves
Do you know the story of how the Hausa people came to be? It is an old story that hearkens back to great kingdoms, powerful queens, monstrous snakes and daring feats. It is the story of Abu Yazid, a prince of Baghdad. It is the story of his ambitions, his trials and his triumphs. It is a healthy horse of a story, with sturdy bones and strong muscles which people have ridden from generation to generation. It is a story claimed by the seven Hausa kingdoms, a story sung by praise singers in their royal courts. It is also the story of the love and loyalty of the two women who made the realization of this prince’s ambitions possible: Magira, Princess of Bornu, and Daurama, the Karaba of Daura.
The story starts in the eastern part of what is now known as Chad. It starts right there where the Sahara desert begins to relinquish its arid hold on the land, allowing trees and shrubs to grow. Some people believe Abu Yazid or Bayajidda, as he is commonly known (which means “he didn't understand the language before”), arrived from Baghdad, a runaway prince fleeing court intrigue. Others believe he came from much closer, from Gao or maybe Tademekket in Niger where he was raised in relative comfort as the son of a merchant from the Zanata of Tuzar in present day Tunisia. In this account, Abu Yazid was a leader in the Ibadite sect of Islam who fled south under the threat of being killed by al-Mansur, the Fatimid Khalifa at the time. What the stories all have in common is that when he arrived in the Kingdom of Borno with a company of horse-riding men, Bayajidda’s entourage was formidable enough to be of concern to the Mai of Borno who, wily in the way of seasoned monarchs, took action to neutralize the threat.
“My daughter, Magira, is a fitting wife for some one of your intelligence, wisdom, fighting skill and bravery,” the Mai said to Bayajidda. And indeed she was for Magira was a woman of great wisdom. She instructed her husband in the ways of her people and encouraged her father to accept the reforms Bayajidda introduced to Bornu. As her husband’s profile rose at court, and his followers assimilated to Bornu society, she was the one who noticed the sidelong looks of the courtiers and the envious glares of the princes. She was the one who instructed her servants to keep their ears open as they worked for she suspected a plot against her husband. It was because of her that Bayajidda was able to escape when her father, swayed by the poisonous tongues of these detractors who accused Bayajidda of plotting to seize the kingdom, ordered Bayajidda’s arrest and execution. In other tellings of the story, Magira and one servant were the only ones who stood by Bayajidda’s side after the Mai successfully striped him off all his followers. They escaped with him, Magira heavily pregnant at the time, fleeing west until they arrived in Garun Gabas, near Hadejia in present day Nigeria. Bayajidda left Magira there, promising to return to her when he found a safe place for them to settle. He travelled further west until he came to Daura.
It is said that the people of Daura also came from the East, as far away as Palestine. They settled in Daura and established a dynasty of Karabas, sovereign queens who did not marry. When Bayajidda arrived in Daura, he was welcomed by Ayana, an old woman who lived on the outskirts of the city. When he asked her for water, Ayana informed him that the one well from which they could draw water was controlled by a snake called Sarki which gave them access only once a week. Bayajidda decided to handle the matter himself. He grabbed his sword, a bag and a bucket, and took off for the well. When he arrived, the dropped the bucket in and began to draw up water. But as he pulled the bucket up, Sarki coiled up around the rope. Undaunted, Bayajidda grasped the snake’s head and cut it off. He put the head in his bag, left Sarki’s body near the well and went home to his hostess with water from the well.
The next day, when the people of Daura saw Sarki’s body near the well, they sent word to their Karaba, Daurama, informing her that the snake was out and about.
“Sarki is out of the well although today is not the normal day of his appearance.”
“Bring the dajinjin and let us get ready,” Daurama said, wondering why the snake was out. “Let us go and beg as we do so Sarki might leave us without causing damage.”
The people of Daura gathered and walked in a procession to the well. From a distance, they played the dajinjin drum and performed the rituals to appease Sarki. No one dared go near the rim of the well where they could see the snake’s body. When they realized that the beast did not move, no matter how much they played the drum or sang to him, a brave man named Audu Indi crept closer to find out why. He was stunned to see that the snake was dead, its body headless. When he brought the news to Daurama, she was elated.
“Tell the people,” she proclaimed, “whoever killed the snake, I will divide the land into two and give them half of it. We will rule together.”
Many men came forward, claiming they had killed Sarki but no one could produce a head that matched the body. Ayana, the old woman who hosted Bayajidda came forward and knelt before her queen.
“Yesterday I had an outstanding visitor,” she said. “He even gave me water to drink!”
“Go and bring him to me!” Daurama instructed. Ayana went to Bayajidda and said to him:
“Come my son, let us go to the well. The Karaba is looking for you.”
This is how Bayajidda met his second love. Daurama was so impressed by the brave man Ayana led into her presence, she broke with long established traditions and accepted his proposal of marriage. But theirs was to be an unconsummated joining for the queens of Daura did not live with men. Daurama had a solution, however.
"It is only once I remove the obstacle between us that you will be able to consummate the marriage,” she told Bayajidda. “Meanwhile let me give you a concubine with whom you can stay."
She offered her servant, Bagwariya, to Bayajidda as his concubine. Bagwariya was of the Anza, the people on whose land the kingdom of Daura was founded. She bore Bayajidda a son who she named Karap da Gari which means “We took the town”. Concerned, Daurama consummated her marriage with Bayajidda and also bore him a son who she named “Bawo” which means “Give it back.” Bawo’s sons, it is said, became the founders of the Hausa kingdoms of Gobir, Kano, Rano, Zazzau, Katsina and Biram. In some accounts, the founder of Biram was the grandchild of Magira, Bayajidda’s first wife. Meanwhile, the sons of Karap da Gari founded the kingdoms of Kebbi, Zamfara, Gwari, Kwararafa, Oyo, Nupe and Yauri.
And so we have the Hausa people, the fruit of this brave man and the women who loved him.
Hallam, W. K. R. “The Bayajida Legend in Hausa Folklore.” The Journal of African History, vol. 7, no. 1, 1966, pp. 47–60. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/179458.
Lange, Dierk. "Chapter Six: The Bayajidda Legend and Hausa History." African Zion: Studies in Black Judaism (2012): 138 - 174.
Lange, Dierk. Ancient Kingdoms of West Africa: African-centred and Canaanite-Israelite Perspectives; a Collection of Published and Unpublished Studies in English and French. JH Röll Verlag, 2004, pp 287 – 296
Liman, Abubakar Aliyu. "Memorializing a legendary figure: Bayajidda the prince of Bagdad in Hausa land." Afrika Focus 32.1 (2019): 125-136.
This is a West African folktale contributed by Mythological Africans.
It is a part of our series, Folklore Worldwide. We are currently open to submissions from around the world, and you are welcome to send us your stories!