Nana Asma'u (1793 - 1864) was a prolific Muslim scholar, poet, historian, and educator. Daughters are still named after her; her poems, read and recited privately and in public, still move people profoundly; the memory of her remains a vital source of inspiration and hope. She was a devout, learned Muslim, courageous, independent-minded, and able to observe, record, interpret and influence the major public events that happened around her. Her example as an educator is still followed: the system she set up in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, for the education of rural women, has not only survived in its homeland - through the traumas of the colonization of West Africa and the establishment of the modern state of Nigeria - but is also being revived and adapted elsewhere, notably among Muslim women in the USA. This book, richly illustrated with maps and photographs, recounts Asma'u's upbringing and critical junctures in her life, from several perspectives: her own first-hand experiences presented in her writings; the accounts of contemporaries who witnessed her endeavours; and the memoirs of European travellers.
The authors have drawn on a variety of primary sources, mostly unpublished, as well as modern scholarship. For the account of her legacy, her present influence, and how her example is being sustained and adapted, they have depended on extensive field studies in Nigeria, and documents pertaining to the efforts of women in Nigeria and the USA to develop a collective voice and establish their rights as women and Muslims in today's societies.