In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Hausa

  • Competing Options in Education
  • Material Culture of Hausa Islam
  • Popular Culture in Modern Hausaland

Islamic Studies Hausa
Margaret Saunders
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 October 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 October 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0305


With an estimated population of up to 50 million, Hausa make up one of the largest people groups practicing Islam. Despite settlement of today’s Hausaland in the central Sudan by the early 1000s CE, the use of “Hausa” (often spelled Haoussa in French, with Hawsa now official in Niger) for its inhabitants is absent from early records; the word first appears as a geographic term in the 1500s. Islam reached this area even before the name, with early Ibadite/Kharijite influences from North Africa, followed by the arrival of Malikite Islam by the 1400s. Groups of non-Muslim Hausa speakers known by terms such as Maguzawa, Arne, or Azna still exist today, their religious practices influenced by Islam while some traditional beliefs have also influenced Muslim Hausa practices. The Fulani-led jihad of 1804–1812 led to major political as well as religious changes in Hausa city-states and added a Fulani element to the population now called Hausa. From rural villages to large cities with long-standing trade with North Africa and the forest belt to diaspora communities, Hausa speakers present a wide range of lifestyles, in which the Hausa language and the practice of Islam are shared elements. Major research topics included here begin with the history of Islam in Hausaland and Hausa/Fulani participation in a West African “core curriculum” of Islamic scholarship, especially as it developed following the jihad. The material culture of Islam is explored in the archaeological record, in mosque architecture, and in scholarly practices. The many roles of Hausa malamai from Qurʾanic education to medicine to rituals of daily life are discussed, as are practices such as the seclusion of married women. European colonization by Britain and France at the turn of the twentieth century impacted the role of Arabic literacy, education styles, Hausa participation in the hajj, and other aspects of religious practice. Political uses of religion, including the role of the major Qadiriyya and Tijaniyya brotherhoods, are another topic of interest, both within Hausaland and in communities in the Hausa diaspora. Recent developments in Hausa Islam include the Yan Izala reform movement and the Boko Haram movement now associated with terrorism. It may be helpful to begin with a brief selection of background sources on Islam and on Hausa.

The Development of Islam in Hausaland

Here we first examine pre-Islamic religious practices and separate waves of Islamization that led to the majority of Hausa-speakers becoming Muslim. Then a major Islamic reform movement led by the Fulani cleric Usuman dan Fodio brought major political changes to the Hausa city-states in the early 1800s, creating the Sokoto Caliphate but with less impact in rural Hausaland. Sporadic warfare continued, as did the search for slaves, with those opposing the Caliphate now legally subject to capture and sale. The colonial era followed: French troops reached Zinder in eastern Hausaland and beyond by 1900; both Sokoto and the major cities of the Caliphate fell to the British by 1904. Colonial impacts continue to this day, with the division of Hausaland between the Republic of Niger for its northern reaches while the majority of Hausa speakers are in Nigeria.

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