The Hausa, numbering more than 20 million, are the largest ethnic group in west Africa. They are widely distributed geographically and have intermingled with many different peoples.
Islam arrived in the area by the fourteenth century. By the fifteenth century, there were a number of independent Hausa city-states. They competed with each other for control of trade across the Sahara Desert,slaves, and natural resources. In the nineteenth century, the region was unified by a jihad (Islamic holy war) and became known as Hausaland. The British arrived and colonized the area in about 1900. Even during colonial times, the city-states and their leaders maintained some autonomy. Many Hausa traditions were preserved until late in the twentieth century.
According to tradition,Bayajidda, the mythical ancestor of the Hausa, migrated from Baghdad in the ninth or tenth century AD . After stopping at the kingdom of Bornu, he fled west and helped the king of Daura slay a dangerous snake. As a reward, he was given the Queen of Daura in marriage. Bayajidda's son, Bawo, founded the city of Biram. He had six sons who became the rulers of other Hausa city-states. Collectively,these are known as the Hausa bakwai (Hausa seven).
Hausa folklore includes tatsunya— stories that usually have a moral. They involve animals, young men and maidens, and heroes and villains. Many include proverbs and riddles.
Most Hausa are devout Muslims who believe in Allah and in Muhammad as his prophet. They pray five times each day, read the Koran (holy scriptures), fast duringthe month of Ramadan, give alms to the poor, and aspire to make the pilgrimage (hajj) to the Muslim holy land in Mecca. Islam affects nearly all aspects of Hausa behavior, including dress, art, housing, rites of passage, and laws. In the rural areas, there are communities of peoples who do not follow Islam. These people are called Maguzawa. They worship nature spirits known as bori or iskoki.MAJOR HOLIDAYS:
The Hausa observe the holy days of the Islamic calendar. Eid (Muslim feast days) celebrate the end of Ramadan (month of fasting), follow a hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), and celebrate the birthday of the prophet Muhammad. On Eid al-Adha, Muslims sacrifice an animal to reenact the time Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son to God. Families also slaughter an animal in their own homes.This may be a male sheep or cow. People then celebrate with their relatives and friends and give each other gifts.
RITES OF PASSAGE:
About a week after a child is born, it is given a name during an Islamic naming ceremony. Boys are usually circumcised at around the age of seven, but there is no special rite associated with this.
In their mid-to late teens, young men and women may becomeengaged. The marriage ceremony may take as long as several days. Celebrations begin among the bride and her family and friends as she is prepared for marriage. Male representatives of the bride's and the groom's families sign the marriage contract according to Islamic law, usually at the mosque. Shortly thereafter, the couple is brought together.
Following a death, Islamic burial principles arealways followed. The deceased is washed, wrapped in a shroud, and buried facing eastward—toward the holy land of Mecca. Prayers are recited, and family members receive condolences. Wives mourn their deceased husbands for about three months.
Hausa tend to be quiet and reserved. When they interact with outsiders, they generally do not show emotion. There are also some customs thatgovern interaction with one's relatives. For example, it is considered a sign of respect not to say the name of one's spouse or parents. By contrast, relaxed, playful relations are the norm with certain relatives, such as younger siblings, grandparents, and cousins.
From an early age, children develop friendships with their neighbors that may last a lifetime. In some towns, young people may form...
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