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The Hausa are a Sahelian people chiefly located in the West African regions of northern Nigeriamarker and southeastern Nigermarker. There are also significant numbers found in regions of Sudanmarker, Cameroonmarker, Ghanamarker, Cote d'Ivoiremarker, and Chadmarker and smaller communities scattered throughout West Africa and on the traditional Hajj route across the Sahara Desert and Sahel. Many Hausa have moved to large coastal cities in West Africa such as Lagosmarker, Accramarker, Kumasimarker and Cotonoumarker, as well as to countries such as Libyamarker. However, most Hausa remain in small villages, where they grow crops and raise livestock, including cattle. They speak the Hausa language, an Afro-Asiatic language of the Chadic group.

History and culture

Kanomarker, Nigeriamarker is considered the center of Hausa trade and culture. In terms of cultural relations to other peoples of West Africa, the Hausa are culturally and historically close to the Fulani, Songhai, Mandé and Tuareg as well as other Afro-Asiatic and Nilo-Saharan groups further East in Chadmarker and Sudanmarker. Islamic Shari’a law is loosely the law of the land and is understood by any full time practitioner of Islam, known in Hausa as a Mallam (see Maulana).

Between 500 CE and 700 CE Hausa people, who had been slowly moving west from Nubia and mixing in with the local Northern and Central Nigerian population, established a number of strong states in what is now Northern and Central Nigeria and Eastern Niger. With the decline of the Nokmarker and Sokotomarker, who had previously controlled Central and Northern Nigeria between 800 BCE and 200 CE, the Hausa were able to emerge as the new power in the region. Closely linked with the Kanuri people of Kanem-Bornu (Lake Chadmarker), the Hausa aristocracy adopted Islam in the 11th century CE.

Near East in 1200 AD, showing Hausa States and neighbors.

By the 12th century CE the Hausa were becoming one of Africa's major powers. The architecture of the Hausa is perhaps one of the least known but most beautiful of the medieval age. Many of their early mosques and palaces are bright and colourful and often include intricate engraving or elaborate symbols designed into the facade.By 1500 CE the Hausa utilized a modified Arabic script known as ajami to record their own language; the Hausa compiled several written histories, the most popular being the Kano Chronicle.

In 1810 the Fulani, another Islamic African ethnic group that spanned across West Africa, invaded the Hausa states. Their cultural similarities however allowed for significant integration between the two groups, who in modern times are often demarcated as "Hausa-Fulani" rather than as individuated groups, and many Fulani in the region do not distinguish themselves from the Hausa.

The Hausa remain preeminent in Nigermarker and Northern Nigeria. Their impact in Nigeria is paramount, as the Hausa-Fulani amalgamation has controlled Nigerian politics for much of its independent history. They remain one of the largest and most historically grounded civilizations in West Africa.

The language of Hausa has more native speakers than any other language in sub-Saharan Africa, with an estimated 22 million native speakers, plus an additional 17 million second language speakers. The main Hausa speaking area is northern Nigeria and Niger, but Hausa is also widely spoken in northern Ghana and northern Cameroon, and there are large Hausa communities in every major West African city.

Most Hausa speakers are Muslims, and Hausa is often a lingua franca among Muslims in non-Hausa areas.

There is a large and growing printed literature in Hausa, which includes novels, poetry, plays, instruction in Islamic practice, books on development issues, newspapers, news magazines, and even technical academic works. Radio and television broadcasting in Hausa is ubiquitous in northern Nigeria and Niger, and radio stations in Ghana and Cameroon have regular Hausa broadcasts, as do international broadcasters such as the BBC, VOA, Deutsche Welle, Radio Moscow, Radio Beijing, and others. Hausa is used as the language of instruction at the elementary level in schools in northern Nigeria, and Hausa is available as course of study in northern Nigerian universities.

In terms of sheer numbers, Hausa thus ranks as one of the world's major languages, and its widespread use in a number of countries of West Africa makes it probably the single most useful language to know in that region. Hausa's rich poetic, prose, and musical literature, more and more of which is now available in print and in audio and video recordings, makes it a rewarding area of study for those who reach an advanced level.

Aside from the inherent interest of Hausa language and its literature, the study of Hausa provides perhaps the most informative entree into the world of Islamic West Africa. Throughout West Africa, there is a strong connection between Hausa and Islam. The influence of Hausa language on the languages of many non-Hausa Islamic people in West African is readily apparent. Likewise, many Hausa cultural practices, including such overt features as dress and food, are shared by other Islamic communities. Because of the dominant position which Hausa language and culture have long held, the study of Hausa provides crucial background for other areas such as West African history, politics (particularly in Nigeria and Niger), gender studies, commerce, and the arts.


Hausa have an ancient culture that had an extensive coverage area, and have long ties to the Arabs and other Islamized peoples in West Africa, such as the Mandé, Fulani and even the Wolof of Senegambia, through extended long distance trade. Islam has been present in Hausaland since the 14th century, but it was largely restricted to the region's rulers and their courts. Rural areas generally retained their animist beliefs and their urban leaders thus drew on both Islamic and African traditions to legitimise their rule. Muslim scholars of the early nineteenth century disapproved of the hybrid religion practised in royal courts, and a desire for reform was a major motive behind the formation of the Sokoto Caliphatemarker. It was after the formation of this state that Islam became firmly entrenched in rural areas. The Hausa people have been an important factor for the spread of Islam in West Africa.

Maguzawa, the animist religion, was practiced extensively before Islam. In the more remote areas of Hausaland Maguzawa has remained fully intact, but as one gets closer to more urban areas it almost totally disappears. It often includes the sacrifice of animals for personal ends, it is thought of as illegitimate to practice Maguzawa magic for harm. What remains in more populous areas is a “cult of spirit possession” known as Bori which still holds the old religion's elements of animism and magic.


The Hausa people have a very restricted dressing code due to the fact of religious beliefs. The men are easily recognizable because of their elaborate dress which is a large flowing gown known as Baba riga and a robe called a jalabia and juanni, see Senegalese kaftan. These large flowing gowns usually feature some elaborate embroidery designs around the neck. (See Grand boubou for more information). Men also wear colorful embroidered caps known as fullah, see kufi for more information. The females can be identified by their dressing codes in which they wear wrappers called abiah made with colorful cloth with a matching blouse, head tie and shawl.


The most common food that the Hausa people prepare consists of grains such as sorghum, millet, rice, or maize which are ground into flour for a variety of different kinds of food. The food is popularly known as tuwo in the Hausa language.Usually, breakfast consist of cakes made from ground beans which are then fried -- known as kosai -- or wheat flour soaked for a day then fried and served with sugar -- known as funkaso. Both of these cakes can be served with porridge and sugar known as koko. Lunch or dinner are usually served as heavy porridge with soup and stew known as tuwo da miya. The soup and stew are usually prepared with ground or chopped tomatoes, onions, and a local pepper sauce called daddawa. While preparing the soup, most of the times spices and other vegetables such as spinach, pumpkin, or okra are added to the soup. The stew is prepared with meat, which can include goat or cow meat but not pork due to Islamic religion restrictions. Beans, peanuts, and milk are also served as a complementary protein diet for the Hausa people.


Ethnic territories of the Hausa people in Nigeria
Table of Hausa population by country
Country Population, 1000s

Hausa ethnic flag

A proposed Hausa ethnic flag is a banner with five horizontal stripes--from top to bottom they are red, yellow, indigo blue, green, and khaki biege. There is no political entity which uses this flag.

See also


  1. Robinson, David, Muslim Societies in African History (Cambridge, 2004), p141
  2. Adeline Masquelier. Prayer Has Spoiled Everything: Possession, Power, and Identity in an Islamic Town of Niger. Duke University Press (2001) ISBN 9780822326397
  3. Hausa ethnic flag:

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