Hausa people

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Total population
over 35 million (2007 estimate)
Regions with significant populations
Nigeria, Niger, Sudan, Chad, Ghana,[1] Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire
Islam; small minority practices Hausa animism and Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Maguzawa, Azna, Mawri, Gwandara, Ngezzim, Bole; other Chadic peoples.

The Hausa (autonyms for singular : Bahaushe (m), Bahaushiya (f); plural Hausawa and general: Hausa/Haoussa; exonyms being Ausa, Mgbakpa, Kado, Al-Takari, Fellata and Abakwariga) are the largest ethnic group in West Africa[citation needed] and one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa. The Hausa are a racially diverse but culturally homogeneous people based primarily in the Sahelian and Sudanian areas of northern Nigeria and southeastern Niger, with significant numbers also living in parts of Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Chad, Togo, Ghana,[2] and Sudan.

The largest population of Hausa are concentrated in Nigeria and Niger, where they constitute the majority. Predominantly Hausa-speaking communities are scattered throughout West Africa, and on the traditional Hajj route north and east traversing the Sahara Desert, with an especially large population around and in the town of Agadez. Other Hausa have also moved to large coastal cities in the region such as Lagos, Accra, Abidjan, Banjul and Cotonou, as well as to parts of North Africa such as Libya over the course of the last 500 years.

Most Hausa, however, live in small villages or towns in West Africa, where they grow crops, raise livestock including cattle and engage in trade. They speak the Hausa language, an Afro-Asiatic language of the Chadic group. The Hausa aristocracy had historically developed an equestrian based culture.[3] Still a status symbol of the traditional nobility in Hausa society, the horse still features in the Eid day celebrations, known as Ranar Sallah (in English: the Day of the Prayer).[4]

Population distribution[edit]

The Emir of Muri Alhaji Abbas Tafida and his vizier.

A table of Hausa ethnic population by country.[5][6]

Country Population
 Benin 800,934
 Ivory Coast 1,000,000
 Saudi Arabia 1,000,000[citation needed]
 Burkina Faso 500,000
 Cameroon 2,300,500
 Ghana 241,000[7]
 Niger 13,000,000
 Nigeria 54,700,000
 Sudan 1,200,000
 Togo 1,300,000


Emir of Kano and officials, 1911.
Photo of Sultan of Zinder's palace courtyard, 1906.
The Hausa-Fulani Sokoto Caliphate in the 19th century.

Daura, in northern Nigeria, Which is the olders city of Hausaland and by extension also with the establishment of other Hausa states by foreign immigrants which is considered the center of Hausa trade and culture. The Hausa of Sokoto, also in northern Nigeria, speak the oldest surviving classical vernacular of the language.[8] Historically Sokoto was the centre of Hausa Islamic scholarship.[9]

The Hausa are culturally and historically closest to other Chadic groups (in northern Nigeria), the Fulani, the Zarma and Songhai (in Tillabery, Tahoua and Dosso in Niger) the Kanuri and Shuwa Arab (in Chad, Sudan and northeastern Nigeria); Tuareg (in Agadez, Maradi and Zinder); the Gur and Gonja (northeastern Ghana, northern Togo and upper Benin); Gwari (in central Nigeria), and Mandinka and Soninke who border them to the west of their traditional areas, in Mali, Senegal, Gambia, Ivory Coast and Guinea. Migrants from the latter area introduced Islam to the Hausa in the 1300s.

All of these groups live in the Sahel, Saharan and Sudanian regions, and as a result have influenced each other's cultures to varying degrees. Today some Fulani people cannot be distinguished from Hausa people in many northern states of Nigeria, due to inter-marriage and cultural assimilation. In Agadez and Saharan areas of central Niger, the Tuareg and Hausa groups are indistinguishable from each other in their traditional clothing; both wear the tagelmust and indigo Babban Riga/Gandora. But the two groups differ in language, lifestyle and preferred beasts of burden (the Tuareg use camels, while Hausa ride horses).[10]

Other Hausa have mixed with ethnic groups such as the Yoruba and Shuwa, incorporating the foods and style of dress into local Hausa customs, as well as heavily influencing the cultures of these groups. Islamic Shari’a law is loosely the law of the land in Hausa areas, well understood by any Islamic scholar or teacher, known in Hausa as a m'allam, mallan or malam (see Maulana). This pluralist attitude toward ethnic-identity and cultural affiliation has enabled the Hausa to inhabit one of the largest geographic regions of non-Bantu ethnic groups in Africa.[11]

Between 500 CE and 700 CE, Hausa people had been slowly moving west from Nubia and mixing in with the local Northern and Central Nigerian populations[citation needed]; they established a number of strong states in what is now Northern and Central Nigeria and Eastern Niger[citation needed]. With the decline of the Nok culture and Sokoto, who had previously controlled Central and Northern Nigeria between 800 BCE and 200 CE, the Hausa developed new alliances.[dubious ]. Closely linked with the Kanuri people of Kanem-Bornu (Lake Chad), the Hausa aristocracy adopted Islam in the 11th century CE. The Hausa Bakwai kingdoms were established around the 7th to 11th centuries. Of these, the Kingdom of Daura was the most important.

By the 12th century CE the Hausa were becoming one of Africa's major powers[dubious ]. 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, including intricate engraving or elaborate symbols designed into the facade. By 1500 CE the Hausa used 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 West Africa and shared the area with the Hausa, invaded the Hausa states, starting with Gobir under the leadership of Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio. He attacked the traditional Habe dynasty kings for their alleged injustices against the peasant class. The Fulani and Hausa cultural similarities as a Sahelian people however allowed for significant integration between the two groups. Since the early 20th century, these peoples are often classified as"Hausa-Fulani" within Nigeria rather than as individuated groups. Many Fulani in the region do not distinguish themselves from the Hausa, as they have long intermarried and share the Islamic religion.

The Hausa remain preeminent in Niger and Northern Nigeria. Their influence in Nigeria is paramount, as the Hausa-Fulani amalgamation has controlled Nigerian politics for much of its independent history since 1960[citation needed].


A Hausa gurmi harpist.

According to a Y-DNA study by Hassan et al. (2008), about 40% of Hausa in Sudan carry the West Eurasian haplogroup R1b. The remainder and majority belong to various Sub-Saharan paternal lineages: 15.6% B, 12.5% A and 12.5% E1b1a. A small minority of around 3% are E1b1b clade bearers, a haplogroup which is most common in North Africa and the Horn of Africa.[12]

In terms of overall ancestry, an autosomal DNA study by Tishkoff et al. (2009) found the Hausa to be most closely related to Nilotic populations from Nigeria, Cameroon, central Chad and South Sudan. This suggests that the Hausa and other modern Chadic-speaking populations originally spoke Nilo-Saharan languages, before adopting languages from the Afro-Asiatic family after migration into that area thousands of years ago.[13]

"From K = 5-13, all Nilo-Saharan speaking populations from Kenya, Tanzania, southern Sudan, and Chad cluster with west-central Afroasiatic Chadic-speaking populations (Fig. S15). These results are consistent with linguistic and archeological data, suggesting a possible common ancestry of Nilo-Saharan speaking populations from an eastern Sudanese homeland within the past ~10,500 years, with subsequent bi-directional migration westward to Lake Chad and southward into modern day southern Sudan, and more recent migration eastward into Kenya and Tanzania ~3,000 ya (giving rise to Southern Nilotic speakers) and westward into Chad ~2,500 ya (giving rise to Central Sudanic speakers) (S62, S65, S67, S74). A proposed migration of proto-Chadic Afroasiatic speakers ~7,000 ya from the central Sahara into the Lake Chad Basin may have caused many western Nilo-Saharans to shift to Chadic languages (S99). Our data suggest that this shift was not accompanied by large amounts of Afroasiatic16 gene flow. Analyses of mtDNA provide evidence for divergence ~8,000 ya of a distinct mtDNA lineage present at high frequency in the Chadic populations and suggest an East African origin for most mtDNA lineages in these populations (S100)."[13]



Main article: Hausa language
Ethno-linguistic territories of the Hausa people in Nigeria (in yellow).
Ethno-linguistic territories of the Hausa people in Niger (in yellow).

The Hausa language has more first-language speakers than any other language in Sub-Saharan Africa. It has an estimated 35 million first-language speakers, and 20 million second-language speakers.[14]

The main Hausa-speaking area is northern Nigeria, Niger, and (representing an independent pocket of majority Hausa-speakers). Hausa is also widely spoken in northern Cameroon, Chad, Sudan and the Ivory Coast among Fulani, Tuareg, Kanuri, Gur, Shuwa Arab and other Afro-Asiatic speaking groups.

There are also large Hausa communities in every major West African city in neighbourhoods called zangos or zongos, meaning "camel-caravan camp" in Hausa (denoting the trading post origins of these communities). Most Hausa speakers, regardless of ethnic-affiliation, are Muslims; Hausa often serves as 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 technical academic works. Radio and television broadcasting in Hausa is ubiquitous in northern Nigeria and Niger, and radio stations in Cameroon have regular Hausa broadcasts, as do international broadcasters such as the BBC, VOA, Deutsche Welle, Radio Moscow, Radio Beijing, RFI France, IRIB Iran, 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. Besides, several high degrees (masters and phd) are offered in Hausa in various universities in the UK, US and Germany. Hausa is also being used in various social media networks around the world.

Hausa ranks as one of the world's major languages, and it has widespread use in a number of countries of West Africa. Hausa's rich poetry, prose, and musical literature, is increasingly available in print and in audio and video recordings. The study of Hausa provides an informative entry into the culture of Islamic West Africa. Throughout West Africa, there is a strong connection between Hausa and Islam.

The influence of the Hausa language on the languages of many non-Hausa Muslim peoples in West African is readily apparent. Likewise, many Hausa cultural practices, including such overt features as dress and food, are shared by other Muslim 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.


The 15th century Gobarau minaret in Katsina.

Sunni Islam of the Maliki madhhab is the predominant and historically established religion of the Hausa people. Sizable but visible minorities of Muslims belonging to the Tijani, Mouride and Qadiri sufi tariqas, and more recently, Shia and Salafi groups. Islam has been present in Hausaland since the 13th century, brought by traders and Islamic preachers from Mali and Guinea.

Muslim scholars of the early 19th century disapproved of the hybrid religion practised in royal courts. A desire for reform contributed to the formation of the Sokoto Caliphate.[15] The formation of this state strengthened Islam in rural areas. The Hausa people have been an important factor for the spread of Islam in West Africa. Today, the current Sultan of Sokoto is regarded as the traditional religious leader (Sarkin Musulmi) of Sunni Hausa-Fulani in Nigeria and beyond.

Maguzawa, the African Traditional Religion, was practiced extensively before Islam. In the more remote areas of Hausaland, the people continue to practice Maguzawa. Closer to urban areas, it is not as common, but with elements still held among the beliefs of urban dwellers. Practices include the sacrifice of animals for personal ends, but it is not legitimate to practice Maguzawa magic for harm. People of urbanized areas tend to retain a "cult of spirit possession," known as Bori. It incorporates the old religion's elements of African Traditional Religion and magic.[16]


Four Hausa gun carriers of the South Nigerian Regiment in traditional clothing (1902 photo by John Benjamin Stone)

The Hausa people have a restricted dress code related to their religious beliefs. The men are easily recognizable because of their elaborate dress which is a large flowing gown known as Babban 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 fula. Depending on their location and occupation, they may wear a Tuareg-style turban around this to veil the face (known as Alasho or Tagelmust). The women can be identified by wrappers called abaya, made with colorful cloth, accompanied by a matching blouse, head tie and shawl.

The Hausa were famous throughout the Middle Ages; they were often characterized by their Indigo blue dressing and emblems. They traditionally rode on fine Saharan camels and Arabian horses.


The gate to the Emir of Zaria's palace.

Main article Sudano-Sahelian architecture

Hausa architecture (known as Tubali in the Hausa language) is a distinct sub-style among the various Sudano-Sahelian architectural styles found throughout the Sahel-geographic band stretching from Senegal and Mauritania in the West to Sudan in the east.

Hausa buildings are characterised by the use of dry mud bricks in cubic structures, multi-storied buildings for the social elite, the use of parapets related to their military/fortress building past, and traditional white stucco and plaster for house fronts. At times the facades may be decorated with various abstract relief designs, sometimes painted in vivid colours to convey information about the occupant.


Kilishi, a Hausa delicacy similar to jerky.

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 dishes. This food is popularly known as tuwo in the Hausa language.

Usually, breakfast consists of cakes made from ground beans and fried, known as kosai; or made from wheat flour soaked for a day, 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 usually feature a 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.

Spices and other vegetables, such as spinach, pumpkin, or okra, are added to the soup during preparation. The stew is prepared with meat, which can include goat or cow meat, but not pork, due to Islamic food restrictions. Beans, peanuts, and milk are also served as a complementary protein diet for the Hausa people.

Hausa symbolism[edit]

The Hausa eternal knot, a traditional symbolic indicator of Hausa identity

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 beige.[17] The older and traditionally established motif of Hausa identity, the eternal knot in a star shape, is used in historic architecture, design and embroidery.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
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  5. ^ " entry for Hausa". Retrieved 2011-07-25. 
  6. ^ (French)
  7. ^ "World Map - People Group Name: Hausa". Retrieved 28 May 2014. 
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Agadez Sultanate of the Sahara", Saudi Aramco World, January 2003
  11. ^ "Hausa Identity"
  12. ^ Hassan, Hisham Y. et al. 2008 "Y-Chromosome Variation Among Sudanese: Restricted Gene Flow, Concordance With Language, Geography, and History"
  13. ^ a b Williams, Floyd A. (2009). "The Genetic Structure and History of Africans and African Americans". The American Association for the Advancement of Science 324 (5930): 1035–44. Bibcode:2009Sci...324.1035T. doi:10.1126/science.1172257. PMC 2947357. PMID 19407144  |first2= missing |last2= in Authors list (help); |first3= missing |last3= in Authors list (help); |first4= missing |last4= in Authors list (help); |first5= missing |last5= in Authors list (help); |first6= missing |last6= in Authors list (help); |first7= missing |last7= in Authors list (help); |first8= missing |last8= in Authors list (help); |first9= missing |last9= in Authors list (help); |first10= missing |last10= in Authors list (help); |first11= missing |last11= in Authors list (help); |first12= missing |last12= in Authors list (help); |first13= missing |last13= in Authors list (help); |first14= missing |last14= in Authors list (help); |first15= missing |last15= in Authors list (help); |first16= missing |last16= in Authors list (help); |first17= missing |last17= in Authors list (help); |first18= missing |last18= in Authors list (help); |first19= missing |last19= in Authors list (help); |first20= missing |last20= in Authors list (help); |first21= missing |last21= in Authors list (help); |first22= missing |last22= in Authors list (help); |first23= missing |last23= in Authors list (help); |first24= missing |last24= in Authors list (help); |first25= missing |last25= in Authors list (help)
  14. ^ Nationalencyklopedin "Världens 100 största språk 2007" (The World's 100 Largest Languages in 2007), SIL Ethnologue
  15. ^ Robinson, David, Muslim Societies in African History (Cambridge, 2004), p141
  16. ^ Adeline Masquelier. Prayer Has Spoiled Everything: Possession, Power, and Identity in an Islamic Town of Niger. Duke University Press (2001) ISBN 978-0-8223-2639-7
  17. ^ Hausa ethnic flag:


  • Bivins, Mary Wren. Telling Stories, Making Histories: Women, Words, and Islam in Nineteenth-Century Hausaland and the Sokoto Caliphate (Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Heinemann, 2007) (Social History of Africa).
  • Being and becoming Hausa: interdisciplinary perspectives. African social studies series. Anne Haour, Benedetta Rossi (eds.). Leiden ; Boston: Brill. 2010. ISBN 9789004185425. 
  • Salamone, Frank A. (2010). The Hausa of Nigeria. Lanham, MD: University Press of America. ISBN 9780761847243. 

External links[edit]