This article re-evaluates the jihād of Usuman dan Fodio. It first traces the history of the age-old Sudanic pattern of royal tolerance, and sometimes encouragement, of learned Muslims without the implementation of their demands for reform. Then it shows that Usuman and the sarki of Gobir at first interacted according to this pattern. But, finding this relationship unsatisfactory and unlikely to produce the reforms he desired, Usuman sought to remain on cordial terms with the court but intensified his appeal to the people of Hausaland and possibly his criticisms of the existing political and social orders. He attracted followers, not so much because they sympathized with his religious goals, as because in his person and in his criticisms their own discontent with Hausa government and society could find expression. Usuman's eventual conflict with the sarkuna did not arise because he actively sought or plotted it; it arose because the sarkuna felt compelled to abandon their hitherto concessive relations with Usuman in order to attempt to contain his appeal, to undermine his authority, and finally to threaten the existence of his community. An analysis of the conduct of the jihzād bears out an emphasis on Usuman's preference for peaceful pressure, on his lack of planning for a war, and on his many-sided relationship with his followers. The necessity of justifying a war he had not sought, together with the largely secular interests of his followers, gave a tone to the jihād not totally in keeping with its avowed aims. However, because Usuman's leadership was essential, he managed to overcome the many factors which militated against its unity.