Professor Mauro Nobili publishes Sultan, Caliph, and the Renewer of the Faith: Ahmad Lobbo, the Tārīkh al-fattāsh and the Making of an Islamic State in West Africa



The Tārīkh al-fattāsh is one of the most important and celebrated sources for the history of pre-colonial West Africa, yet it has confounded scholars for decades with its inconsistencies and questions surrounding its authorship. In this study, Professor Nobili examines and challenges existing theories on the chronicle, arguing that much of what we have presumed about the work is deeply flawed. Making extensive use of previously unpublished Arabic sources, Professor Nobili demonstrates that the Tārīkh al-fattāsh was in fact written in the nineteenth century by a Fulani scholar, Nūḥ b. al-Ṭāhir, who modified pre-existing historiographical material as a political project in legitimation of the West African Islamic state known as the Caliphate of Ḥamdallāhi and its founding leader Aḥmad Lobbo. Contextualizing its production within the broader development of the religious and political landscape of West Africa, this study represents a significant moment in the study of West African history and of the evolution of Arabic historical literature in Timbuktu and its surrounding regions.