The ‘Umar Falke Collection consists of 3323 items, approximately 90% of which are original manuscripts, while 10% are market or printed editions. Most of these documents were produced in the 19th and 20th centuries.
This collection represents the intact library of a Kano trader who was also a local scholar and author—‘Umar Falke [b.] Abi Bakr (d. 1962). Malam ‘Umar Falke is a prototypical example of the Hausa scholar-trader--a learned man who dedicated his life to the pursuit and dissemination of Islamic knowledge. Malam ‘Umar Falke was affiliated to the Tijâniyya tariqa (Sufi order), and was among the first group of Nigerian scholars to accept the leadership of the Senegalese Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse (d. 1975), thereby starting the “Fayda Tijâniyya” in Nigeria. Falke’s library is composed of poems, journals, and religious works that he authored, those handed down to him by his ancestors, and the religious works that he acquired from others in the course of his travels. Upon Falke’s death in 1962 his library was distributed among his heirs, but in 1970 Northwestern University Professor John Paden was able to reassemble much of it and purchase it on behalf of Northwestern University.
The collection contains books and manuscripts on all aspects of Islamic learning, protective medicine, and the secret arts (asrar). It is strong in works on Sufism and in almost all the branches of Islamic sciences, especially Maliki law, jurisprudence, Prophetic traditions (hadith), theology, literature, and grammar and contains a number of fine examples of handwritten copies of the Qur’an that may have been used by Umar’s students. The library also includes earlier works written by West African jihad leaders and many other notable malams (learned men). A special area of the Falke collection is in the field of protective and secret medicine. Falke was a noted healer who wrote several books on the subject.
The Falke collection has been the subject of a doctoral dissertation. See Mohammed Abdullahi, “A Hausa scholar-trader and his library collection: The case study of Umar Falke of Kano” (Northwestern University, 1978).
Language: The majority of the items are in Arabic, but approximately one fourth are in Hausa written in the Arabic script (ajami).
Authorship: 40% Nigerian authors; 60 % authors from others areas of the Muslim world, mainly North Africa and Egypt.