Hausa - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. About 90 percent of the Hausa are Muslims. "The traditional Hausa way of life and Islamic social values have been intermixed for such a long time that many of the basic tenets of Hausa society are Islamic" (Adamu 1978, 9). Islam has been carried throughout West Africa by Hausa traders.

Adherents are expected to observe the five pillars of Islam—profession of the faith, five daily prayers, alms giving, fasting at Ramadan, and at least one pilgrimage to Mecca (the hajj). Within Hausa society, there are sects (brotherhoods) of adherents; of these, the Tijaniya, Qadriya, and Ahmadiyya have been important. Wife seclusion is basic to the Hausa version of Islam, although it is believed that the institution is more a sign of status than of religious piety.

Even among some Muslims, as among the Maguzawa pagans, spirit cults persist. One, the Bori, has more female than male adepts; cultists are believed to be possessed by particular spirits within the Bori pantheon.

Religious Practitioners. Although such personnel as imams and teachers ( mallamai; sing. mallam ) have no churchly functions or spiritual authority, they do tend to assume or accept some measure of spiritual authority in certain contexts.

Ceremonies. Men are enjoined to attend Friday prayers at the mosque. Men and women celebrate the three main annual festivals of Ramadan, Id il Fitr, and Sallah. Life-cycle events—birth, puberty, marriage, death—are also marked.

Arts. The arts are limited to those forms allowed by Islam; the Hausa use Islamic design in their architecture, pottery, cloth, leather, and weaving. Music is an integral part of Hausa life and can be classified in terms of function and audience: for royalty, for dancing pleasure, and for professional guilds. Each category has its own instruments, which include drums as well as string and wind instruments. Poetry exists in an oral tradition, as practiced by the praise singers and the oral historians, and also in the written tradition of the learned.

Medicine. There is a tricultural system that consists of strong traditional roots set in the framework of a predominantly Islamic mode, now augmented by Western medicine. The Bori spirit-possession cult is relied upon for various kinds of curing, and this involves diagnosing the particular spirit giving the sick person trouble.

Death and Afterlife. Burial is in the Islamic manner. Upon death, the individual passes on into the realm of heaven (paradise) or hell, consistent with Islamic teaching.

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