The Hausa of Africa
A cluster of 9 Hausa groups in 8 countries.
The 23 million Hausa are the largest ethnic group in Central Africa. They are a people whose culture is linked closely to Islam. Their history is one of immigration and conquest, having been influenced by Fulani rulers since the early nineteenth century. Because of their overall assimilative nature and heavy involvement in long distance trading for many centuries, Hausa cultural borders have been constantly expanding.
The Hausa language is rapidly becoming the chief language of northern Nigeria. It is also spoken by various peoples spread across the Sahel. Some of the Fulani groups, including the Toroobe and the Fellata, have adopted not only the Hausa language, but also their culture.
More than 20 million Hausa live in the northern regions of Nigeria, an area known as "Hausaland." However, most other West African countries, as well as Sudan and Ethiopia in the East, also have large Hausa populations. They are well established in all major cities of West Africa, and have become very influential, both culturally and politically. God's heart is to see them become a strong Christian influence as well.
What are their lives like?
Hausa traders are characterized by their gowns and embroidered caps. They spend much of their time at the local markets, trading such items as leather goods, metal locks, and horse equipment. Markets are a traditional part of Hausa society, carrying social as well as economic significance. Male friends and relatives meet there to discuss village affairs, while young, well dressed single women pass through to see and be seen.
Most of the Hausa live in rural farm villages with populations that may range from 2,000 to 12,000. Both inside and outside the villages, one-third to one-half of the population live in small farm settlements that are made up of extended families. These economic kin-based units live under the authority and direction of the male head of the household.
Within the Hausa social structure, individuals are classified as either being commoners or chiefs, depending on which profession they hold and the amount of wealth they possess. In marriage relationships, close relatives, preferably cousins, are chosen as partners. It is a patrilineal society, or one in which the line of descent is traced through the males. The wardrobe of the wealthier Hausa still includes the embroidered gowns and sandals and leather slippers from traditional Hausa attire.
Hausa girls are usually married between the ages of twelve and fourteen. Although the divorce rate is high, there is tremendous pressure on women to be married and produce children, so they tend not to stay unmarried for long. Important social distinction identifies women in terms of their marital status.
Hausa women are given less educational opportunities than men. In fact, they are often confined to the home, except for visits to relatives, ceremonies, and the workplace. They are primarily responsible for tending to the children and doing the household chores. This includes providing the water and fuel needed for cooking. They also work in the fields and help the men with harvesting. In addition, they are expected to invest the rest of their time in some type of trade. The money earned is used in financing their daughters' dowries.
The Hausa are very industrious people and idleness is not tolerated among them. In fact, they have been known to hold down several different professions at the same time, such as in the military, trade and commerce, social services, and in the spreading of Islam. In this respect, they have come to dominate in the areas of religion and commerce in many of the countries where they now live.
What are their beliefs?
In the "holy wars" of 1804 and 1808, the Hausa were conquered by the Fulani, their strongly Islamic neighbors. At that time, many of the villagers were either forced or bribed into becoming Muslim.
Today, the Hausa are an entirely Muslim people. They have greatly aided in the spreading of Islam to neighboring peoples. They are very devout Muslims, observing all of the Islamic festivals and ceremonies.
What are their needs?
Most of the Hausa groups have Christian resources available to them. Unfortunately, however, very few have given their hearts to Jesus. Since Islam has been spread throughout West Africa by Hausa traders and priests, nearly everyone expects a Hausa to be Muslim. This may be one of the main reasons they stay so resistant to the Gospel.
More than anything else, the Hausa need prayer so that the available Christian resources can be put to use.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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