Introduction / History
The Republic of Niger is a large, landlocked country in West Africa. It takes its name from the Niger River, which flows through its southwestern corner of the country. The people of Niger belong to many different ethnic groups, each with its own language and customs. One of these groups is the Hausa. They are the largest ethnic group in West Africa, a high majority of which are Muslims.
The Hausa are originally from "Hausaland," a region covering 75,000 square miles and straddling the borders of Niger and Nigeria. From 1890 to 1960, Hausaland was divided into two sovereign states under French and British rule. After 1960, one became the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and the other, the Republic of Niger. While French is the country's official language, Hausa is the language of trade.
What are Their Lives Like?
The Hausa are primarily farmers and shepherds or traders. Among the farmers and shepherds, two-thirds have additional non-agricultural jobs. 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 ranging 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 made up of extended families. These economic kin-based units live under the authority of the male head of the household.
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. Girls often marry between the ages of 12 and 14. Unfortunately, fifty percent of the women are divorced; but because there is such pressure to be married and have children, most of them will remarry. In Niger, a woman's marital status determines her social importance.
The Hausa of Niger have adopted the kulle tradition of Islam, meaning that they seclude their women. This does not mean total seclusion; they are free to visit each other in the evenings and go on extended visits to relatives. Many of the women actually prefer seclusion because it releases them from hard labor in the fields and allows them to spend their energies on personal economic pursuits.
The Hausa Muslims are known for being hospitable to strangers. In Niger, it has even become a source of national pride. In the Hausa language, one word, bako, is used to define both "guest" and "stranger."
What are Their Beliefs?
By 1500 A.D., Islam had been introduced to the Hausa by Arab traders. Many of the urban Hausa embraced it right away, in hopes of enhancing their businesses. However, the villagers were not as receptive to this new religion. In the "holy wars" of 1804 and 1808, the Hausa were conquered by the Fulani, their staunch Islamic neighbors. At that time, many of the villagers were either forced or bribed into becoming Muslim. They adopted some of Islam's basic outward behaviors and rituals, but did not "sell out" as many of the urban Hausa did.
Today, many of the rural Hausa are only superficially Muslim, and their religious practices have been mixed with local traditions. They believe in a variety of spirits, both good and bad. Traditional rituals include making sacrificial offerings to the spirits and to the spirit possessed. Most rituals are performed by family members, but specialists are called upon to cure diseases.
What are Their Needs?
The Muslims of Niger remain closely linked to the rest of the Islamic world. Islamic reform movements are very apparent in Niger today. Nearly everyone expects a Hausa to be Muslim. Perhaps this is why they have remained so resistant to the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to send long term laborers to live among the Hausa and share the love of Christ with them.
* Pray that God will raise up faithful intercessors who will stand in the gap for the Hausa.
* Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Muslim Hausa who have converted to Christianity.
* Pray that their traditional Muslim culture will soften, creating open doors for the Gospel to be preached among them.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to open the hearts of the Hausa towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Hausa.
|Profile Source: Bethany World Prayer Center|