Risālah ibn Abī Zayd al-Qayrawaanī – Chapter Six: Tayammum and Its Description

نظم رسالة ابن أبي زيد القيرواني
Risālah ibn Abī Zayd al-Qayrawaanī

The Risālah : A Treatise on Mālikī Fiqh by ʿAbdullah ibn Abī Zayd al-Qayrawānī (310/922 -386/996)

Translated by Alhaj Bello Mohammad Daura, MA (London) (Including commentary from ath-Thamr ad-Dānī by al-Azharī)

Risālah ibn Abī Zayd al-Qayrawaanī – Chapter 6: Tayammum and Its Description

6.1 When It is Done

[If you cannot find water, then you must do tayyamum, which is recommended. Linguistically tayammum means aiming for something. The Almighty says, “Do not have recourse to bad things,” (2:267) i.e. aim for them. In the Sharī’ah it is a legal act of worship by which the prayer becomes allowed. This means that the Sharī’ah has judged it. This exists in wudū and ghusl. By it the prayer is permitted when wudū‘ and ghusl are excluded because tayammum is only to make lawful. Wudū‘ and ghusl are done in order to remove impurity. It is obligatory by the Book, Sunna and consensus. The Almighty says, “If you cannot find any water, then do tayammum with pure earth,” (4:43) and in Muslim the Prophet said, “We were preferred over people by three things: our rows were made like the rows of the angels, the entire earth was made a mosque for us and its earth is purification if we do not find water.” The consensus is that tayammum is obligatory when water is lacking or the ability to use it lacking it. There are preconditions for the obligation: Islam, adulthood, sanity, absence of the blood of menstruation or lochia, the arrival of the time, lack of water or lack of ability to use it, and that there is no barrier over the limbs and nothing which precludes it.]

6.1a. On a Journey

If you are on a journey and you cannot find water, you have to dotayammum, provided that you do not expect to find any water before the time for the prayer has finished.

[The situation is that either that there is no water to be found at all or a judgement that he will not find enough water for wudū‘ or ghusl in a journey (or while resident), whether short or not, whether the traveller is healthy or not, and whether the journey is permissible or not, because the allowance for doing it on a journey or while resident does not have the precondition that the journey be for something permissible. If the allowance is only in the journey, like breaking the fast in Ramadan, then the journey must be permissible and it must be a distance of at least four postal stages, like that for shortening the prayer. Thus the mere absence of water is only a reason for the obligation of tayammum when he despairs of finding water or he thinks it probable that there is no water. It is not the case if he is unsure or hopes for water or is certain of finding water within the time. What is meant by the obligation is the widest period of obligation. The one who has despaired is someone who has searched for it in a manner which is not arduous for someone like him. He is only obliged to seek if he hopes to find it or suspects its presence. If he is certain that he does not exist, then he does not look for it in the time. By ‘time’, the preferred time is meant.]

6.1b. Lack of Ability

You also have to do tayammum even when there is water, whether on ajourney or staying in one place, if you are unable to touch water on accountof illness or are disabled by illness to such an extent that although youcould use it, you are unable to get to it and cannot find anyone else tobring it to you.

[This is when there is water and you are unable to use it, on a journey or at home, because of illness which prevents using it since you fear that using it will cause death, loss of use of a faculty or limb, increased illness, delayed recovery, or will actually cause a illness. If he does not fear any of that, but is only pained by it, he must continue to do wudū‘ or ghusl. So tayammum is obliged for someone who is healthy when water exists because he cannot use it because illness would occur, or for a sick person who is able to use it, but does not find anyone to bring it to him, even for a payment equal to the price which the seller would oblige or it or he does not find a vessel or he only finds a forbidden vessel or cannot pay for using it.]

6.1c. Danger

The same applies to someone traveling who is near water but prevented from reaching it because of the fear of thieves or wild animals.

[This is also true about the traveller who is near water but cannot reach it out of fear of thieves as he must preserve his property and the property of others. The property must be more than what he would have to pay to buy water. It must be ascertained that they exist or he thinks that it is probable that they exist. Uncertainty is not taken into consideration. The same applies if he fears for himself from wild animals when he is certain about that or thinks that it is probable.]

6.1d. Certainty About Reaching Water

If a traveller feels certain that he will get to water within the time of the prayer, he avoids doing tayammum until the end of the time.

[Whether he is in a journey where he shortens the prayer or not and he is certain that he will find enough water for wudū‘ or ghusl, it is recommended that that he delay tayammum. The upshot of the fiqh in the matter is that one of the preconditions of the obligation of tayammum is the arrival of the time. The judgement in it varies according to the state of the person doing tayammum because either he is certain that water will exist in the time or he will reach it or he despairs of finding it or reaching it, or he is unsure about finding it or reaching it in time or hopes to find it or reach it in time. The author clarifies these circumstances and indicates it when he says, “If a traveller feels certain.” In fact, it is not particular to the traveller, but applies to all who are permitted to do tayammum due to the absence of water. When he is certain that water exists or that he will reach it within the time or thinks that it is probable that it exists or that he will reach it in time, then it is recommended to delay tayammum to the end of the time.]

6.1e. Certainty About not Reaching Water

If he feels certain he will not get to water he should do tayammum at the beginning of the time.

[This is about the absence of water or the failure to reach it in time after seeking for it. If there is what obliges seeking, then it is recommended that he do tayammum at the beginning of the time to obtain the excellence of the time because the excellence of water is despaired of. That is how it is judged by the one who thinks it probable that it will not exist within the time or will not be found in it.]

6.1f. Uncertainty About Reaching Water

If he does not know whether he will get to water or not, he should do tayammum in the middle of the time. This also applies to someone who is afraid that he will not be able to get to water but nevertheless hopes that he will.

[If he is unsure about finding it, it is recommended to do it in the middle of the time. It is affirmed by Shaykh Ahmad Zarruq that what is meant is uncertainty about reaching it. He said that there is no difference between it and what before it according to the Mālikī School. Although it is sound from the aspect of the judgement, the author’s words imply a difference when based on what is meant by the one who hopes. He said that the words of the author contain something different from the position of the School. That is because his literal words say that the one who hopes does not delay, but does tayammum in the middle of the time. It is not as he said. His judgement is that of the one who is certain and the one who is certain delays to the end of the time. Ibn Harūn said, “I do not know of anyone who transmitted that the one who hopes does tayammum in the middle of the time except Ibn Abī Zayd. Ibn Nājī said that it is possible that it refutes his words. According to the words of Ibn Nājī by “fears” the author means “suspects“.]

6.2 Finding Water after doing Tayammum

If, under any of these circumstances, you do tayammum and do the prayer and then come across water within the time of the prayer the following judgements apply.

[These seven who can do taymmum are: the sick person who cannot touch water, the sick person who cannot find anyone to bring him water, the traveller who is near water but is prevented from reaching it by fear of thieves or animals, the traveller who is certain that water will exist within the time, the one who despairs of finding it within the time, the one who has no knowledge, and the fearful one who hopes to find it. This is what happens if such a person (except for the sick person who cannot use water then find water or the sick person who can, but does not find anyone to bring him the water) finds water. Finding water means having the ability to use it, its existence, or the existence of a vessel to bring it.]

6.2.a A Sick Person

A sick person who could not find anybody to bring water to him should do the prayer again.

[It is recommended that he does the prayer again within the time. The rule for the sick person who does not find anyone to bring him water or any vessel with which to bring the water is to delay tayammum to the middle of the time. If he does the necessary tayammum in the middle of the time and prays and then before the end of the time of the prayer then that which stops him from using the water is removed, as when he finds what will enable him to obtain it, then it is recommended for him to repeat the prayer within the time if he is restricted in that people do not come in to him often. If people come in to him often, then he has no restriction, then he does not have to repeat it.]

6.2b. A Fearful Person

This also applies to someone who was afraid of wild animals or other dangers of that sort, and to a traveller who was afraid he would not get to water but hoped that he would. If you have done tayammum for any other reason, you should not repeat the prayer.

[The one who fears for himself from wild animals or for his property from thieves is like the sick person who does not find anyone to bring him water in the time. It is recommended that he repeat the prayer when he gets water within the time. The result is that when the person who is afraid of animals does tayammum in the middle if the time, it is recommended that he repeat it in the time with four provisos. That is that he is certain that water exists or that he will find it were it not for his fear. His fear must be definite or likely and he ascertains the absence of what he fears and the existence of water itself. If he is not certain that it exists or that he will reach it, or what he fears is clear, or none of it is certain and someone else finds it, he does not repeat if. If his fear is a simple doubt, then he always repeats it. ]

6.2c. A Traveller

and to a traveller who was afraid he would not get to water but hoped that he would.

[When he finds water within the time, it is recommended that he repeat the prayer he has prayed in the time allotted for it, which is the middle. Part of the subject is that it is better if it is advanced. What is meant by ‘fear’ in the words of the author is uncertainty about reaching it. It is recommended for the one who prayed in the time allotted to it to repeat it within the time. That is even more the case if he has advanced it. As for the one who is unsure about whether it exists, if he does it before the middle of the time allotted for it, then he repeats it. If he prayed in the middle of the time allotted for it, he does not have to repeat it. The difference between them is that the one who is unsure about reaching it, has a sort of falling short and so he is asked to repeat it. As for the one who is unsure about whether it exists, he relies on the basis, which is its non-existence.]

6.2d. Other Reasons

If you have done tayammum for any other reason than these three, you should not repeat the prayer.

[It appears from his words that the one who despairs does not repeat the prayer when he finds water absolutely. It is not like that, and it must be explained. If he finds the water which he despaired of, he repeats it. If he finds other water, he does not repeat it. It also seems from his words that someone who finds water in his bag or saddle or forgets it is there and then remembers it, does not have to repeat it. The one who acts deliberately in the three cases has to repeat it, which differs from the literal words of the author.]

6.3 Frequency

6.3a. Number of Fard Prayers with One Tayammum

You should not pray two fard prayers with one tayammum except if you are ill and cannot touch water because of some harm to your body which will last at least until the time of the next prayer.

[None of those seven categories should pray two obligatory or sunna prayers at home or on a journey. whether they share in the time or not, with the same tayyamum except for the person with a constant illness which will continue to the time of the second prayer. It may happen that he does not do the first prayer in its time, either intentionally or by forgetfulness or ignorance. In that case he can pray them both together with one tayammum. This is a general judgement for prayers at home and on a journey.]

6.3b. For Each Prayer

Although there are some who say that even in this situation you should do tayammum again for each prayer.

[For each obligatory prayer, whether he is healthy or ill, travelling or at home.]

6.3c. A Number of Missed Prayers

It has been related from Mālik that someone who remembers not having done a number of prayers can do them with one tayammum.

[This is a number of fard prayers which he missed by forgetfulness or by sleeping through them or deliberately not praying them and then repenting and wanting to make them up: he can pray them with one tayammum, whether healthy or ill, travelling or at home. The first statement is by Ibn Sha’ban and the second is by Ibn al-Qasim and is the famous one. This is why it was rejected by the shaykh when he was ill at midday when someone else suggested it to him. According to the well-known position, if he disagrees and prays two prayers with one tayammum, whether they are shared or not, he does not ever have to make up the second. According to his words at the beginning of the chapter about the time, one does tayammum for the obligatory prayer absolutely, even for Jumu’ah. That is not the case, since the healthy person who is resident does not do tayammum for Jumu’ah since it is a substitute for Dhuhr. He prays Dhuhr with tayammum, even at the beginning of the time. If he prays Jumu’ah with tayammum, that is not acceptable. The sick person and the traveller can do tayammum for it. It That is also the case with the funeral prayer. The healthy resident does not do tayammum for it unless it becomes a specific obligation for him since no one else is found who can pray it nor is it possible to delay it until he can obtain water.]

6.3d. Voluntary Prayers

[As for the sunnahs and the voluntary prayers, the traveller but not the heathy resident person does tayammum for them, i.e the one who is obliged to do tayammum because of lack of water. The judgement of the healthy resident for whom tayammum is obliged out of fear of illness is like that of the sick person and he does tayammum for Jumu’ah and the funeral, even if it is not a specific obligation, and for the sunnah and voluntary prayers. If he intends an obligatory prayer by his tayammum, he is permitted to pray the voluntary prayer with it afterwards with the precondition that it is connected to the obligation, even if he did not intend the voluntary prayer after the obligatory. It is limited to prayers which are after the obligatory, although if he prays a voluntary prayer before it, it is valid by his statement, ‘provided that it is connected to the obligatory.’ If there is a long separation or he leaves the mosque, he must repeat his taymmum if he wants to pray the voluntary prayers. A short separation is overlooked. That is defined as about the length it takes to recite Ayat al-Kursi. It is also a precondition that he does not do more than the voluntary. What is “more” is defined by custom.

6.3e. What Can Be Used for Tayammum

Tayammum is done using pure surface earth, that is any substance on the earth’s surface such as soil, sand, stones, or salt deposits.

[“Pure” is how the people of firm knowledge and those who know fiqh explain “tayyib” where Allah says,”do tayammum with clean earth,” Tayyib means pure earth in Arabic and that is what Mālik said. Mālik said that sa’id means what is on the surface of the earth in accordance with Arab usage. Others believe that the sa’id in the ayat designates pure earth found on the surface of the earth or brought out from inside of it. This includes salt desposits, and secretions. Tayammum is not done deliberately on wood, plants and grass and groups. The literal meaning of his words is that tayammum can be done on stones, even hard ones, if there is no soil as long as it has not been baked. It is not permitted to do tayammum on lime nor baked bricks, which are red bricks. Tayammum can bedo ne on soil, whether it has been moved or not, although it is better when it is not moved by agreement. The first is based on the well-known position. One does not do tayammum on other things than earth. Things like salt, alum, sulphur, copper and iron are not used for tayammum except in their original place or moved from one place to another. But it is cannot be in a form which is firm in people’s hands, like medicines. As for what can be held in people’s hands like medicines, it is not valid to use them for tayammum.]

6.4 How to do it

6.4a. Beginning Tayammum

To do tayammum you hit both hands on the ground – if anything clings to them it should be lightly shaken off –

[This clariifies how tayammum is done. He strikes both hands on the ground. If he is missing a hand, he does tayammun with the other. If he is unable to do it, someone does it for him. If he cannot delgate someone, he rubs his face in the dust. What is meant by ‘striking‘ is not actual striking. What is meant is to place his hands on the surface used for tayammum, soil or whatever. This ‘striking’ is an obligation. It is not a precondition that anything clings to his hands. If something clings to them, he shakes them lightly so that some people consider this shaking as one of the meritorious parts of tayammum so that it does not harm his face.]

6.4b. The Intention

[Before beginning, the one doing tayammum must intend earth and nothing else with which tayammum is not valid. He must intend to make the prayer lawful or intend the obligation of tayammum in the first striking. If he is in minor impurity, he intends to make the prayer permissible from the lesser impurity. If he is in greater impurity, he intends to make the prayer lawful from the greater impurity. If he does not call the major impurity to mind and thus omits the intention regarding the greater impurity intentionally or by forgetfulness, and prays with that tayammum, then he must always repeat the prayer. If he intends the greater impurity, believing that he has it and then the opposite is clear, then it allows the lesser. When he intends the obligations of tayammum, it is enough for him, even if the intention of the greater does not occur to him, If he intends to remove the impurity, it is enough enough for him in the well-known position. Tayammum does not remove lesser impurity. It only makes the prayer permissible.]

6.4c. Wiping the Face

then using both of them you wipe over your whole face.

[After shaking his hands, then he wipes his face and does not omit any of it. He does not miss the cartilage of the upper ear and other things. If he leaves any of the wiping of all of the face, even a little, then it is not allowed. He begins from the top, as in wudu’ and runs his hands over the length of it to his beard. He passes over the lines of the face, because the basis of wiping is doing it lightly.]

6.4d. Striking the Ground a Second Time

Then you hit both hands on the ground again

[The second blow is for wiping the hands by way of sunnah. It is not said how the obligation is done in a sunnah manner because we say after the obligation that the second comes after the first so if he fails to strike the earth the second time and then wipes his face and hands with the first, it is adequate.]

6.4e. Wiping the Hands

and then wipe your right hand and arm with your left hand. To do this you put the fingers of your left hand on the tips of the fingers of your right. Then you slide your fingers down the back of your right hand and arm, as far as the elbow, folding your fingers round it as you do so. thoroughly.

[The recommended manner of wiping is to first wipe the right with the left, putting the fingers on the right on the left except for the thumbs. The palm is passed over the top of the hand and arm to the elbow. It appears from the words of the author that the elbow is not wiped because it is the end. It is said that he meant including the elbows as is done with wudu’ since tayammum replaces it. Wiping to the elbows is sunna, and to the wrists is obligatory according to what is in al-Mukhtasar. Al-Bisami adds to it by saying that the well-known position of the school is that wiping is to the elbows is obligatory. The dispute is when it is confined to the wrists and he prays. The well-known position is that he repeats the prayer if still within the time. An opposite position is that he must always repeat it. This consequence is rejected. Al-Muqaddamat (Ibn Rushd) prefers that which is followed in al-Mukhtasar, and Qadi ‘Iyad summarised it in his Qawa’id, and it is preferred.

The well-position of the school is that the fingers go between each other, and that is by the flat sides of the fingers, not the sides because they have not touched earth. The well-known position is also that a ring is removed and moving it from its place can be done instead of actually removing it. The difference between tayammum and wudu’ is said to lie in the fact that the ring is removed in tayammum but not in wudu’ because of the force of the water flowing in wudu’ which is not the case with earth.

6.4f. Wiping the Inside of the Right Hand

Then you put your palm on the inside of your arm and, gripping your arm, slide your hand from your elbow just back as far as your wrist

[After wiping the outside of the right hand, using the palm, because the fingers because the fingers were already use on the outside of the hand except for the thumb.]

6.4g. The Thumb and then run the inside of the left thumb over the outside of your right thumb.

[This is because it was not wiped before. What he mentioned about wiping the thumbs was also mentioned by Ibn at-Talla’ who is Muhammad ibn Farāh, the shaykh of the fuqahā‘ in his time. The literal of the transmission, which is relied upon, it wiping the outside of the right thumb with the outside of the fingers. Al-Fakhānī said, “I do not know of anyone of the people of language who transmit that the thumb is the largest “finger“].

6.4h. The Left Hand

You then wipe over the left hand and arm in the same way and after reaching the wrist you wipe your right palm with the left down to the tips of the fingers.

[After finishing the right, then do the left to the wrist. The tips of the fingers designates the inside of the palm and fingers. Observe how he is silent about the left palm unless he says that each of them wipes and is wiped. This is the description which the shaykh mentioned and it was also mentioned by Shaykh Khālid. He begins with the outside of the right hand with the left and moves to the left before completing the right. This was transmitted by Ibn Habīb from Mālik. Ibn al-Qāsim said, “He only moves to the left after finishing the right.” Al-Lakhmī and ʿAbdul-Ḥaqq preferred that. The position of Ibn al-Qāsim is preferred. The basis of the preference is that moving to the second before completing the first misses out the excellence of proper order between right and left. Some of the shaykhs recommend the transmission of Ibn Habīb so that he does not wipe the dust onthe palm, but the one with the reliable position says that the remaining of the dust is not sought aso that its judgement should be observed.]

6.4i. Other Methods of Wiping

If you wipe the right with the left or the left with the right in some other way that you find easy, that is acceptable as long as it is done fully.

[If you differ from the recommended manner, your tayammum is still allowed. It only differs from the best manner. One can deduce from his words, “done fully” that if he does not wipe his forearms, it is not allowed because the arms are mentioned in wiping. The well-known position is that if he confines hismelf to the wrists and then prays, then he repeats it within the time.]

6.5 Judgements About Someone in a Major State of Impurity

6.5a. Tayammum for janābah or end of menstruation

If someone is in a state of janābah, or has been menstruating, and cannot find any water to do ghusl with, they should do tayammum and do the prayer and then when they find water they should do ghusl.

[Even if someone like this finds enough water for wudu’, they still do tayammum following the previous information regarding the possibility of finding water which is not repeated here. Tayammum is obliged when there is no water. He mentions it here to refute those who say that someone in a state of janābah and or a woman who has been menstruating do not do tayammum.]

6.5b. Not Repeating Prayers Done with Tayammum They do not have to repeat any prayers they have done.

[Because their prayer occurs in manner which is commanded. The literal import of his words is that that is the case in the time or after it. It is explained that it is repeated within the time in the instances which were already mentioned. Its literal meaning is that is the case or not whether there is impurity on their bodies. It is the text of the Mudawwana and it restricted by there not being any impurity on the body. If there is impurity in his body and he prays with it by forgetfulness and they remember after they have finished, then they repeat it within the time. The statement of the author about not repeating it is informing about when water is found after they have prayed with tayammum. If there is water before the prayer, and there is enough time for ghusl and the prayer, even a rakʿah, within the time, then tayyamum is invalid. If they find it after the time has begun and before it finished, even if the time is ample, or the time has begun, but there is not enough time for a ghusl and still catching a rakʿah, they pray with tayammum.]

6.6 Further Judgements about Tayammum

6.6a. Taymmum Does not Make Intercourse Permissible A man cannot have sexual intercourse with his wife if she has just finished menstruating or the bleeding after childbirth if she has only purified herself by tayammum until there is enough water for her to do ghusl first and both of them to do ghusl afterwards.

[This is whether she is a Muslim or a kitābī or a concubine. According to the well known position, it is forbidden for him to have intercourse with her. This does not only imply to actual intercourse, but enjoying her between the navel and knee, even through a barrier, is unlawful. Finding water can either be his responsibility or the responsibility of both.]

6.6b. Water for Ghusl after Intercourse

[There must be enough water for ghusl on account of bleeding and then for ghusl on account of janābah. This explains the words at the end of the book about not approaching a woman bleeding from menstruation or lochia because the literal meaning is would be that when the bleeding stops, he is permitted to have intercourse, and so here he explains that even if menstruation has stopped, intercourse is not permitted, even with tayammum. Intercourse is forbidden in the well-known position beause tayammum does not remove impurity. It only makes the prayer permitted. The words of author show that tayammum is called ‘purification,’ and that is indeed the case since the Prophet said, “Its earth is pure.” It is also called wudu’ by since the Prophet said, “Tayammum is the wudu’ of the Muslim.]

6.6c. Avoiding Janābah if There is No Water

[It is also deduced from this that he if he does not find water, he should not voluntarily bring about a state of janābah in himself. That is the position of Mālik in al-Mudawwana, i.e. that it is disliked. if he does tayammum for the lesser impurity, he should not bring about janaba in himself so that he has to do tayammum for the greater impurity. This does not negate what was already stated about the unlawfulness in the statement of the author about having intercourse, because the unlawfulness comes from his going to have intercourse with her when she has purified herself from menstruation by tayammum. This is is when he does not fear any harm to his body or fear fornication. If he is physically harmed by the length of time or fears fornication, then he has intercourse and does tayammum. Other matters relating to tayammum will be mentioned in the general chapter on the prayer.

Published in: on January 3, 2021 at 22:16  Leave a Comment  

Learn the Languages Spoken by African Muslims

Madani Timbukti Shared Library presents:

Learn the Languages Spoken by African Muslims: A Language Resource for learning one or more of the languages of the African Muslims

African Muslims speak a number of major languages spoken on the African continent. Theses languages are spoken by millions of people over vast stretch territory that reach from the Atlantic ocean to the Red Sea. Some these languages have become the lingua franca in social transaction, trade and in places even education among both Muslims and non-Muslims, These languages are the oral representation of the tribes that use them. They convey the magnificence of the tribes history and culture.

Allah has said in His Noble Book: O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Chapter (49) Sūratu-l-Ḥujurāt (The Dwelling Places)

What better way to get to know your brother from another tribe than to learn his language and he learns yours. It’s a form of honoring and respect for each other, especially when learning another language is not an easy task. When you invest the time to learn your brothers language, you honored him, and he feels honored. and when he invests the time to learn your language, he honors you, and you feel honored. What was distant becomes close. What was not understood becomes understood without intermediaries. No more walls or barriers will exist between you, and you will be able to transact directly without interpreters.

Madani Timbukti Shared Library presents Spoken Languages of the African Muslims: An African language learning resource found both on our facebook page and YouTube Channel for courses, textbooks, reference materials and other learning tools needed to learn the languages spoken by Muslim Africans.

Among the main languages spoken by African Muslims are:

  • Al-Arabiyyatu-l-Fuṣ-ḥah (Classical Arabic) – the language of African Muslims of every tribe and ethnic group who are practicing Muslims
  • Fulfulde (pronounced: full – full – day) – the language of the Fulani, Fula People
  • Hausa (pronounced: how-sa) – the language of the Hausa People
  • Mandinka – the language of the Mandinka people
  • Swahili – the language of the Swahili People – spoken by Muslims and non-Muslims
  • Wolof (pronounced woo-luf) – the language of the Wolof People
  • Yoruba (pronounced: you-ra-ba) – the language of the Yoruba People – spoken by Muslims and non-Muslims

Other languages spoken by African Muslims include:

  • Serahule
  • Chadian Arabic
  • Berber
  • Somali
  • Hassaniyya Arabic Spoken in Mauritania
  • Soninke
  • Pulaar Gambia an African Language related to Fulfulde
  • Pulaar (Mauritania) an African Language related to Fulfulde
  • Oromo (Oromoo) – the language of the Oromo People – spoken by Muslims and non-Muslims

A Discussion About the Major Languages and the People Who Speak Them

Al-Arabiyyatu-l-Fuṣ-ḥah (Classical Arabic)

Classical Arabic (Arabic: اَلعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلْفُصْحَىٰ‎, al-ʿArabiyyatu-l-Fuṣ-ḥaa) or Quranic Arabic is the standardized literary form of the Arabic language used from the 7th century and throughout the Middle Ages.

Classic Arabic which is also known as Qur’anic Arabic is what is found in the Muslim Holy Book and what was spoken in the pre-Islamic era. It is highly intricate, nuanced, imaginative and sophisticated. Those who speak it) pride themselves heavily on its usage. The grammar is very involved and complex and the vocabulary is quite layered and highly contextualize. Some will say that its beauty if unmatched by any language on earth. even today you find many Arabic speakers who are still captivated and awe struck by the beauty of the words written in the Qur’an.

As Islam spread through Africa, Arabic became the lingua franca first and foremost for the purposes of worship and Islamic scholarship and then as the medium communication for trade and commerce

It is impossible for any community in Islam to be truly Muslims without the minimum ability to use Arabic for it’s ʿibaadah (worship of Allah) and for learning ʿuluumu-d-diin (the knowledge that clarifies the correct practices of their worship and way of life).  

By the 2nd century AH, the language had become standardized by Arabic grammarians, and Classical Arabic had become the common language of worship, scholarship, and  trade throughout the Islamic world. Arabic  was the bridge language across the Middle East, North Africa East, West Africa,  wherein if Arabic was not use as a primary language in these regions, it surely had become a second language.

As mentioned above, historically speaking, Arabic was used as one of the main mediums of communication for trade and commerce among African Muslims. As result, many African Muslims from coast to coast became masters of Al-Arabiyyatu-l-Fuṣ-ḥaa (Classical Arabic) and this still continues even up until today.

About Fulfulde (pronounced: full – full – day) – the language of the Fulani, Fula People

Fulfulde, Pulaar, Pular, Peul (French spelling), is a Sene-Gambian language spoken in various dialects across some 20 countries in West and Central Africa by more than 65 million people.It is spoken as a first language by the Fula people (“Fulani”, Fula: Fulɓe) from the Senegambia region and Guinea to Cameroon, Nigeria, and Sudan and by related groups such as the Tukolor people in the Senegal River Valley. It is also spoken as a second language by various peoples in the region, such as the Kirdi of northern Cameroon and northeastern Nigeria.

As mentioned above,  Fulfulde is known by several other names as is the Fula people who are the speakers of it. The Fulas themselves call their language Pulaar or Pular in the western regions of Africa  Fulfulde in the central and eastern dialects. Fula, Fulah and Fulani in English come originally from Manding (esp. Mandinka, but also Malinke and Bamana) and Hausa, respectively; Peul in French, also occasionally found in literature in English, comes from Wolof.

Fulfulde is an official language in Senegal (It is called Pulaar there). Fulfulde is an official lingua franca in Guinea, Senegambia, Maasina (Inner Niger Delta), North Eastern Nig eria and Northern Cameroon, precisely in Adamawa regions of the two countries where many speakers are bilingual. (It called Fulfulde in these regions). Fulfulde is found among the local languages in many other African countries also, such as Mauritania, Mali, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Togo, Ghana, Benin and Niger.

About the Fula People

Who Are the Fulani People and What is Their Origins?

Fula or Fulani or Fulɓe are an ethnic group of people spread over many countries, predominantly in West Africa, but found also in Central Africa and The Sudan of east Africa. The countries in Africa where they are present include Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, The Gambia, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Niger, Togo, the Central African Republic, Ghana, Liberia, and as far as Sudan in the east. Fulas are not a majority in every country they live, but in Guinea they are largest single group among its multi-ethnic population .

There are also many names and spellings of the names used in other languages to refer to the Fulɓe. Fulani in English is borrowed from the Hausa term. Fula, from Manding languages is also used in English, and sometimes spelled Fulah or Foulah. Fula and Fulani are commonly used in English, including within Africa. The French borrowed the Wolof term Pël, which is variously spelled: Peul, Peulh, and even Peuhl. More recently the Fulfulde / Pulaar term Fulɓe, which is a plural noun (singular, Pullo) has been adapted to English as Fulbe, which some people use. In Portuguese it’s Fula or Futafula.


A closely related group is the Tukolor (French Toucouleur) in the central Senegal River valley. These people are often referred to together with Fulɓe of the region as Haalpulaar’en (Pulaar-speakers). Fula society in some parts of West Africa features the “caste” divisions typical of the region. In Mali, for instance, those who are not ethnically Fula have been referred to as yimɓe pulaaku (people of the Fula culture). The Woɗaaɓe, also known as the Bororo, are a sub-group of the Fula people.


The Fulani are traditionally a nomadic, pastoralist, trading people, herding cattle, goats and sheep across the vast dry hinterlands of their domain, keeping somewhat separate from the local agricultural populations.


The Fulani People are believed to have descended from the nomads of both North Africa and sub-Sahara Africa. It is believed that they came from the Middle-East and North Africa and settled into Central and West Africa. In the Senegal region, they established the Tukruur Empire which was contemporary to the Ghana Empire. Then, they spread all across the countries in West-Africa, as nomads leading their nomadic life style. They created here and there sometimes where they were the dominant group. But more often, they were absorbed by the indigenous population whom they had dominated.

While some have speculated over the origin of Fulani people, current linguistic and genetic evidence suggests an indigenous West African origin among the Peul. The vast majority of genetic lineages associated with them reflect those most commonly seen in other West Africans. Their language is also of West African origin, most closely related to that of the Wolof and Serer ethnic groups. Historical and archaeological records indicate that Peul-speakers have resided in western Africa since at least the 5th century A.D. as well. Interestingly, rock paintings in the Tassili-n-Ajjer suggests the presence of proto-Fulani cultural traits in the region by at least the fourth millennium B.C. Scholars specializing in Fulani culture believe that some of the imagery depicts rituals that are still practiced by contemporary Fulani people.

The Fulani were among the first group of people in West Africa to convert to Islam. They became the missionaries of Islam.

The Fulani are primarily nomadic herders and traders. Through their nomadic lifestyle they established numerous trade routes in West Africa. Many times the Fulani go to local markets and interact with the people, getting news and spreading it through much of West Africa.


The history of the Fulani seems to begin with the Berber people of North Africa around the 8th or 11th century AD. As the Berbers migrated down from North Africa and mixed with the peoples in the Senegal region of West Africa the Fulani people came into existence. Over a thousand year period from AD 900 – 1900, they spread out over most of West Africa and even into some areas of Central Africa. Some groups of Fulani have been found as far as the western borders of Ethiopia. As they migrated eastward they came into contact with different African tribes. As they encountered these other peoples, they conquered the less powerful tribes.

Takrur, Tekrur, or Tekrour (c. 800 – c. 1285) was an ancient state of West Africa, which flourished roughly parallel to the Ghana Empire. Takrur was the name of the capital of the state which flourished on the lower Senegal River. Takruri was a term, like Bilad-ul-Sudan, that was used to refer to all people of West African ancestry.


Distribution of Fulani in West Africa

Beginning as early as the 17th and 18th centuries, but mainly in the 19th century, Fulas and others took control of various states in West Africa. These included the Fulani Empire founded by Usman dan Fodio (which itself included smaller states), Fouta Djallon, Massina and others. M. Delafosse suggested that with the expansion of the Fulani from Futa to Darfur, all this region became known to the Arabs as Takrur.


The language of Fulas is called Pulaar or Fulfulde depending on the region, or variants thereof. It is also the language of the Tukulor. All Senegalese who speak the language natively are known as the Halpulaar or Haalpulaar’en, which stands for “speakers of Pulaar” (“hal” is the root of the Pulaar verb haalugol, meaning “to speak”). In some areas, e.g. in northern Cameroon, Fulfulde is a local lingua franca.

With the exception of Guinea, Fulas are minorities in every country they live in (most countries of West Africa). So some also speak other languages, for example:

Portuguese and Creole in Guinea-Bissau, French and Arabic in Mauritania, Hausa and French in Niger, French and English in Cameroon, Wolof and French in Senegal, Sango and French in Central African Republic, Bambara and French in Mali, English, Hausa and Ghanaian languages in Ghana, English and some indigenous languages in Sierra Leone, particularly Creole, that lingua franca, Hausa and English in Nigeria.

Fula are primarily known to be pastoralists, but are also traders in some areas. Most Fula in the countryside spend long times alone on foot, moving their herds; they were the only major migrating people of West Africa, though most Fula now live in towns or villages.

Over 99% of Fulani are Muslims. It is said that to be a Fulani is to be a Muslim. There are a small group of Fulani called the Mbororo, or Wodaabe, found in Niger and Cameroon, who resisted Islam, and have kept much of their pre-Islamic way of life and beliefs. And in different places, small groups of Fulani have also become Christians. However, the vast majority of Fula are are Muslims.

By the 1840s the effects of Islamization and the Fulani expansion were felt across much of the interior of West Africa. New political units were created, a reformist Islam that sought to eliminate pagan practices was spread, and social and cultural changes took place in the wake of these changes. Literacy, for example, became more widely dispersed and new centers of trade, such as Kano, emerged in this period. Later jihads established other new states along similar lines. All of these changes had long-term effects on the region of the western Sudan.


For the fully nomadic Fulani, the practice of transhumance, the seasonal movement in search of water, strongly influences settlement patterns. The basic settlement, consisting of a man and his dependents, is called a wuru. It is social but ephemeral, given that many such settlements have no women and serve simply as shelters for the nomads who tend the herds.

There are, in fact, a number of settlement patterns among Fulani. In the late twentieth century there has been an increasing trend toward livestock production and sedentary settlement, but Fulani settlement types still range from traditional nomadism to variations on sedentarism. As the modern nation-state restricts the range of nomadism, the Fulani have adapted ever increasingly complex ways to move herds among their related families: the families may reside in stable communities, but the herds move according to the availability of water. Over the last few centuries, the majority of Fulani have become sedentary.

Those Fulani who remain nomadic or seminomadic have two major types of settlements: dry-season and wet-season camps. The dry season lasts from about November to March, the wet season from about March to the end of October. Households are patrilocal and range in size from one nuclear family to more than one hundred people. The administrative structure, however, crosscuts patrilinies and is territorial. Families tend to remain in wet-season camp while sending younger males—or, increasingly, hiring non-Fulani herders—to accompany the cattle to dry-season camps.

Town Fulani live in much the same manner as the urban people among whom they live, maintaining their Fulani identity because of the prestige and other advantages to which it entitles its members. In towns, Fulani pursue the various occupations available to them: ruler, adviser to the ruler, religious specialist, landlord, business, trade, and so forth.


Subsistence and Commercial Activities:  The Fulani form the largest pastoral nomadic group in the world. The Bororo’en are noted for the size of their cattle herds. In addition to fully nomadic groups, however, there are also semisedentary Fulani—Fulbe Laddi—who also farm, although they argue that they do so out of necessity, not choice. A small group, the Fulbe Mbalu or Sheep Fulani, rely on sheep for their livelihood.

The Toroobe are outstanding clerics in the Sunni branch of Islam. They have generally intermarried with Hausa and no longer speak Fulfulde. They are found practicing other urban trades: teaching, serving in government positions, engaging in legal activities, renting property, financing trade, and so forth.

Many of the other Town Fulani were actually slaves of the Fulani who now identify with the group because of their high prestige. These urban dwellers engage in all the trades one finds in Hausa towns from crafts to long-range trade throughout Africa and the world.

Industrial Arts:  The Fulani are not particularly noted for industrial arts, except for those associated with cattle. They do engage in leatherworking and some craft production. Many of their former slaves who have assumed Fulani ethnicity follow the basic crafts of other West Africans: silver- and gold-smithing, ironworking, basket making, and similar crafts.

Trade:  The Fulani are engaged in long-distance trade, generally involving cattle, with their Hausa colleagues. Often the Hausa are also butchers who control West African cattle markets by controlling access to Fulani cattle.

Division of Labor:  Herding cattle is a male activity. Tending and milking cattle, however, are women’s work. Women may also sell dairy products; their graceful movement with containers of milk or cheese is a common sight in West African towns. Adolescent males traditionally have been in charge of moving the herds, whereas their elders deal with the political decisions and negotiate with sedentary people for the safe movement of the herds through farmlands.

Land Tenure:  Land is held by—and inherited through—the patrilineage. As the Fulani have become increasingly sedentary—generally as a result of the pressure of the modern nation state and its centralized control—rights in land have become increasingly important.] Source:  The Encyclopedia.com

The Fulani consist of a few million people speaking dialects of the Fulfulde language, and are spread across several countries of North-West Africa. Traditionally they were nomadic cattle herders, moving around the grasslands of the savannah south of the Sahara. Over the past few hundred years many Fulani have settled down as farmers and intermarried with other peoples of the region. But some Fulani remain as nomads, and the Wodaabe [singular: Bodaado] are one of the largest tribes of these ‘pastoral’ Fulani. The Fulani, including the Wodaabe, are now at least nominally Muslims, though the Wodaabe have retained many of their pagan traditions.

From early times explorers and anthropologists have been intrigued by the appearance of the Fulani, which differs from that of the Negroid peoples around them. According to Stenning: “The Fulani are not basically of Negro stock, although it is clear that through the centuries Fulani populations have interbred in various degrees with the Negro populations among whom they are dispersed…[the pastoral Fulani] retain non-Negroid physical characteristics to the greatest extent, speak the purest Fulfulde, and in general have been the least amenable to conversion to Islam…

These are obviously ‘Caucasian’ characteristics, and the natural explanation is that the Fulani have a partly Caucasian ancestry, either from East Africa (e.g. Ethiopean) or more likely from the North (e.g. Tuareg). The Fulani themselves believe they are related to the Tuaregs and Arabs.

Countries with a large number of Fulanis [Source: Jamtan.com, Sagata Group Inc ]

The Principal Traditional Fulanis regions are: Adamawa, Kanem-Bornou, Masina, Futa-Jallon, Futa-Toro and many other regions in West Africa. Fulanis are found in significant numbers include the following republics: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, The Gambia, Guinea Republic, Guinea Bissau, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra-Leone, Sudan (See Table: Fulanis Country Statistics)


In 21 countries (Ethnic Groups and religions); (2008 Data)


Population: 130 million; Fulani: 9%; Growth rate: 2.54%Nigeria, which is Africa’s most populous country, is composed of more than 250 ethnic groups; the following are the most populous and politically influential: Hausa and Fulani 29%, Yoruba 21%, Igbo (Ibo) 18%, Ijaw 10%, Kanuri 4%, Ibibio 3.5%, Tiv 2.5%Muslim 50%, Christian 40%, indigenous beliefs 10%


Population: 54 million; Fulani: small; Growth rate: 2.64%Oromo 40%, Amhara and Tigre 32%, Sidamo 9%, Shankella 6%, Somali 6%, Afar 4%, Gurage 2%, other 1% Muslim 45%-50%, Ethiopian Orthodox 35%-40%, animist 12%, other 3%-8%


Population: 16.2 million; Fulani: 10%; Growth rate: 2.34%Cameroon Highlanders 31%, Equatorial Bantu 19%, Kirdi 11%, Fulani 10%, Northwestern Bantu 8%, Eastern Nigritic 7%, other African 13%, non-African less than 1%indigenous beliefs 40%, Christian 40%, Muslim 20%

4- NIGER; 

Population: 10.6 million; Fulani: 9%; Growth rate: 2.7%Hausa 56%, Djerma 22%, Fulani 9%, Tuareg 8%, Beri Beri (Kanouri) 4.3%, Arab, Toubou, and Gourmantche 1.2%, about 1,200 French expatriatesThe Fulani who, together with their herds, are concentrated in the Dosso-Agadez- Maine-Soroa triangle. Some have also settled in the West, around Tera, Say and Niamey. They predominate in certain parts of Maradi, Tessaoua, Mirriah and Magaria Districts. Sometimes they live alongside Tuaregs and Toubous. (ref : Upenn)Muslim 80%, remainder indigenous beliefs and Christian


Population: 7.8 million; Fulani: 40%; Growth rate: 2.3%Fulani 40%, Malinke 30%, Soussou 20%, smaller ethnic groups 10%Muslim 85%, Christian 8%, indigenous beliefs 7%

6- CHAD; 

Population: 9 million; Fulani: small; Growth rate: 3.27%200 distinct groups; in the north and center: Arabs, Gorane (Toubou, Daza, Kreda), Zaghawa, Kanembou, Ouaddai, Baguirmi, Hadjerai, Fulani, Kotoko, Hausa, Boulala, and Maba, most of whom are Muslim; in the south: Sara (Ngambaye, Mbaye, Goulaye), Moundang, Moussei, Massa, most of whom are Christian or animist; about 1,000 French citizens live in ChadMuslim 51%, Christian 35%, animist 7%, other 7%

7- BENIN; 

Population: 6.8 million; Fulani: small; Growth rate: 2.91%African 99% (42 Ethnic groups, most important being Fon, Adja, Yoruba, Bariba), Europeans 5,500Indigenous beliefs 50%, Christian 30%, Muslim 20%

8- TOGO; 

Population: 5.2 million; Fulani: small; Growth rate: 2.48%African (37 Ethnic Groups; largest and most important are Ewe, Mina, and Kabre) 99%, European and Syrian-Lebanese less than 1%-Indigenous beliefs 51%, Christian 29%, Muslim 20%


Population: 3.6 million; Fulani: small; Growth rate: 1.8%Baya 33%, Banda 27%, Mandjia 13%, Sara 10%, Mboum 7%, M’Baka 4%, Yakoma 4%, other 2%- Indigenous beliefs 35%, Protestant 25%, Roman Catholic 25%, Muslim 15%


Population: 12.6 million; Fulani: 8%; Growth rate: 2.64%Mossi over 40%, Gurunsi, Senufo, Lobi, Bobo, Mande, Fulani.- Burkina Faso also has several hundred thousand Fulani nomads in the northern part with their goats, sheep, and other livestock.- Indigenous beliefs 40%, Muslim 50%, Christian (mainly Roman Catholic) 10%


Population: 16.8 million; Fulani: small; Growth rate: 2.45%Akan 42.1%, Voltaiques or Gur 17.6%, Northern Mandes 16.5%, Krous 11%, Southern Mandes 10%, other 2.8% (includes 130,000 Lebanese and 20,000 French) (1998)- Christian 20-30%, Muslim 35-40%, indigenous 25-40% (2001) note: the majority of foreigners (migratory workers) are Muslim (70%) and Christian (20%)

12- GAMBIA; 

Population: 1.4 million; Fulani: small; Growth rate: 3.09%African 99% (Mandinka 42%, Fulani 18%, Wolof 16%, Jola 10%, Serahuli 9%, other 4%), non-African 1%- Muslim 90%, Christian 9%, indigenous beliefs 1%

13- GHANA; 

Population: 20.2 million; Fulani: small; Growth rate: 1.7%Black African 98.5% (major tribes – Akan 44%, Moshi-Dagomba 16%, Ewe 13%, Ga 8%, Gurma 3%, Yoruba 1%), European and other 1.5% (1998)- indigenous beliefs 21%, Muslim 16%, Christian 63%


Population: 1.3 million; Fulani: 20%; Growth rate: 2.23%African 99% (Balanta 30%, Fulani 20%, Manjaca 14%, Mandinga 13%, Papel 7%), European and mulatto less than 1%- indigenous beliefs 50%, Muslim 45%, Christian 5%

15- MALI; 

Population: 11.3 million; Fulani: 17%; Growth rate: 2.97%Mande 50% (Bambara, Malinke, Soninke), Fulani 17%, Voltaic 12%, Songhai 6%, Tuareg and Moor 10%, other 5%- Muslim 90%, indigenous beliefs 9%, Christian 1%


Population: 2.8 million; Fulani: small; Growth rate: 2.92%Maur 30%, Fulani, Soninke, Wolof, Haratin – Muslim 100%


Population: 10.6million; Fulani: 23.8%; Growth rate: 2.91%Wolof 43.3%, Fulani 23.8%, Serer 14.7%, Jola 3.7%, Mandinka 3%, Soninke 1.1%, European and Lebanese 1%, other 9.4%- Muslim 94%, indigenous beliefs 1%, Christian 5% (mostly Roman Catholic)


Population: 5.6 million; Fulani: small; Growth rate: 3.31%20 native African tribes 90% (Temne 30%, Mende 30%, other 30%), Creole (Krio) 10% (descendants of freed Jamaican slaves who were settled in the Freetown area in the late-18th century), refugees from Liberia’s recent civil war, small numbers of Europeans, Lebanese, Pakistanis, and Indians- Muslim 60%, indigenous beliefs 30%, Christian 10%

19- SUDAN; 

Population: 37 million; Fulani: small; Growth rate: 2.73%Black 52%, Arab 39%, Beja 6%, foreigners 2%, other 1%.The Fulani nomads are found in many parts of central Sudan from Darfur to the Blue Nile. In the Eastern Sudan there are large colonies of Fallata the name by which the Fulani are called. They are also called Teckruri and believed to number between 1 and 2 millions.In Darfur groups of Fulani origin adapted in various ways to the presence of the Baqqara People. Sunni Muslim 70% (in north), indigenous beliefs 25%, Christian 5% (mostly in south and Khartoum)


Population: 7.7million; Fulani: small; Growth rate: 3.46%Somali 85%, Bantu and other non-Somali 15% (including Arabs 30,000)-Sunni Muslim


Population: 4.4; Fulani: 1-2 million; Growth rate: 1.28%Ethnic Tigrinya 50%, Tigre and Kunama 40%, Afar 4%, Saho (Red Sea coast dwellers) 3%, other 3%. The Tekruris have been part of the Eritrean society.

Click the following link for a playlist to study and learn the Fula people. Click the link in the right hand corner of the embedded picture below to open the playlist. Click the picture in the small picture in the left hand corner to go our YouTube channel to learn other languages spoken by African Muslims:

The accompanying textbook for the Fula Basic Course can be downloaded at the following link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1KcNZcv-Ns9OdCA6_pUstbcQRulNzVlML/view?usp=sharing

About Mandinka the Language of the Mandinka People

The Mandinka language (Mandi’nka kango) or Mandingo, is a Mande language spoken by the Mandinka people of Guinea, northern Guinea-Bissau, the Casamance region of Senegal, and in The Gambia where it is one of the principal languages.

Mandinka belongs to the Manding branch of Mande and is thus similar to Bambara and Maninka/Malinké but with only 5 instead of 7 vowels. In a majority of areas, it is a tonal language with two tones: low and high, although the particular variety spoken in the Gambia and Senegal borders on a pitch accent due to its proximity with non-tonal neighboring languages like Wolof.

Mandinka (or Mandingo), is part of a group of languages of West Africa known collectively as Manding. it is the main language of Gambia. It is spoken by roughly 1.2 million people in total; also in Senegal and the central-northern part of Guinea-Bissau. There is also a small number of speakers in the United Kingdom.

About Mandinka the Language of the Mandinka People

The Mandinka, or Malinke, are a West African ethnic group primarily found in southern Mali, eastern Guinea and northern Ivory Coast. Numbering about 11 million, they are the largest subgroup of the Mandé peoples and one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa. They speak the Mandinka language, which is one of the Western Manding languages in the Mande language family and a lingua franca in much of West Africa. Over 99% of Mandinka adhere to Islam. They are predominantly subsistence farmers and live in rural villages. Their largest urban center is Bamako, the capital of Mali, which is also inhabited by the closely related Bambara.

The Mandinka are the descendants of the Mali Empire, which rose to power in the 13th century under the rule of king Sundiata Keita, who founded an empire that would go on to span a large part of West Africa. They migrated west from the Niger River in search of better agricultural lands and more opportunities for conquest.[18] Nowadays, the Mandinka inhabit the West sudanian savanna region extending from The Gambia and the Casamance region in Senegal to Ivory Coast. Although widespread, the Mandinka constitute the largest ethnic group only in the countries of Mali, Guinea and The Gambia. Most Mandinka live in family-related compounds in traditional rural villages. Their traditional society has featured socially stratified castes. Mandinka communities have been fairly autonomous and self-ruled, being led by a chief and group of elders. Mandinka has been an oral society, where mythologies, history and knowledge are verbally transmitted from one generation to the next. Their music and literary traditions are preserved by a caste of griots, known locally as jelis, as well as guilds and brotherhoods like the donso (hunters).

Between the 16th and 19th centuries, many Muslim and non-Muslim Mandinka people, along with numerous other African ethnic groups, were captured, enslaved and shipped to the Americas. They intermixed with slaves and workers of other ethnicities, creating a Creole culture. The Mandinka people significantly influenced the African heritage of descended peoples now found in Brazil, the Southern United States and, to a lesser extent, the Caribbean.

Today, over 99% of Mandinka are Muslim. Mandinkas recite chapters of the Qur’an in Arabic. Some Mandinka syncretise Islam and traditional African religions. Among these syncretists spirits can be controlled mainly through the power of a marabout, who knows the protective formulas. In most cases, no important decision is made without first consulting a marabout. Marabouts, who have Islamic training, write Qur’anic verses on slips of paper and sew them into leather pouches (talisman); these are worn as protective amulets.

The conversion to Islam took place over many centuries. According to Robert Wyndham Nicholls, Mandinka in Senegambia started converting to Islam as early as the 17th century, and most of Mandinka leatherworkers there converted to Islam before the 19th century.

he Muslim influence from North Africa had arrived in the Mandinka region before this, via Islamic trading diasporas.

The history of Mandinka people started in Mande region. Mande region is between southern Mali and Guinea.

The Mandé were initially a part of many fragmented kingdoms that formed after the collapse of Ghana empire in the 11th century.[25] During the rule of Sundiata Keita, these kingdoms were consolidated, and the Mandinka expanded west from the Niger River basin under Sundiata’s general Tiramakhan Traore. This expansion was a part of creating a region of conquest, according to the oral tradition of the Mandinka people. This migration began in the later part of the 13th century.

The caravan trade to North Africa and Middle East brought Islamic people into Mandinka people’s original and expanded home region. The Muslim traders sought presence in the host Mandinka community, and this likely initiated proselytizing efforts to convert the Mandinka from their traditional religious beliefs into Islam. I

The Mandinka (also known as the Mandingo and Malinke, among other names) are a West African people spread across parts of Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Senegal, the Gambia and Guinea-Bissau. With a global population of some 11 million, the Mandinka are the best-known ethnic group of the Mande peoples, all of whom speak different dialects of the Mande language. They are descendants of the great Mali Empire that flourished in West Africa from the 13th through the 16th centuries. Beginning in the 16th century, tens of thousands of Mandinka were captured and shipped to the Americas as slaves. Of the approximately 388,000 Africans who landed in America as a result of the slave trade, historians believe 92,000 (24 percent) were Senegambians, from the region of West Africa comprising the Senegal and Gambia Rivers and the land between them; many were Mandinka and Bambara (another Mande ethnic group). In the 20th century, the author Alex Haley made the Mandinka famous when he traced his “Roots” back to the village of Juffure in the Gambia, where his great-great-great-great-grandfather, Kunta Kinte, was captured and sold into slavery in the United States.

Some Mandinka converted to Islam from their traditional animist beliefs as early as the 12th century, but after a series of Islamic holy wars in the late 19th century, more than 95 percent of Mandinka are Muslims today. Most live in family compounds in rural villages, which are largely autonomous and governed by local chiefs. Most Mandinka men are poor subsistence farmers, for whom one rainy season spells hunger and ruin. Peanuts are a main crop, and a staple of the Mandinka diet; they also plant millet, corn and sorghum. Mandinka women do the laborious, physically demanding work of tending the rice fields, in addition to their roles as wives and mothers.

The Mandinka arrived in The Gambia during the 14th century, at a time when the Mali Empire was at its height. The Mali Empire having been founded by Sundiata Keita. Historians argue over this, but many believe that the reasons for emigrating to the west include the need to find a favourable climate for agriculture in the Senegambia region in order to boost crop production. Another reason given is that many Mandinka merchants wanted to move to areas where there was less competition in trade. The areas west of the Mali empire did not take part in the trans-Sahara trade, and so these Mandinka traders believed they would have a better chance to grow rich. A general named Tiramang Taraore led the expansion westwards, accompanied by thousands of settlers. As a result, they conquered and settled in large parts the Cassamance region in Senegambia and Guinea Bissau.

Most Mandinka live in family compounds in traditional rural villages and are fairly autonomous. They are led by a chief and group of elders. The linguistic culture is rich in tradition, music, and spiritual ritual. In many traditional societies in The Gambia, there was a social hierarchy as well as a political one. In a social hierarchy, the top level, or upper class, is thought of as the most important, while the lowest level of society is not highly regarded. Traditionally, Mandinka society was divided into four main groups, namely nobles, commoners, caste group and slaves.

Most of the Mandinka are farmers. Rice, millet, sorghum, and peanuts are their staple crops. While they raise most of their own food, some products are obtained through trade and some are gathered from the forests. During planting and harvesting seasons, much time is spent in the fields. At other times, the men work in part-time businesses to supplement their incomes. Others raise goats, sheep, bees, poultry, and dogs. Cattle are sometimes kept, but only to gain prestige, to use as ritual sacrifices, or to use as a bride price.

Mandinka are rural subsistence farmers who rely on peanuts, rice, millet, maize, and small-scale husbandry for their livelihood. During the wet season, men plant peanuts as their main cash crop. Men also grow millet and women grow rice (traditionally, African rice), tending the plants by hand. This is extremely labour-intensive and physically demanding work. Only about 50% of the rice consumption needs are met by local planting; the rest is imported from Asia and the United States.

The oldest male is the head of the family and marriages are commonly arranged. Small mud houses with conical thatch or tin roofs make up their villages, which are organised on the basis of the clan groups. While farming is the predominant profession among the Mandinka, men also work as tailors, butchers, taxi drivers, woodworkers, metalworkers, soldiers, nurses, and extension workers for aid agencies. However, most women, probably 95%, tend to the home, children, and animals as well as work alongside the men in the fields.

Click the following link for a playlist to study and learn the Mandinka people. Click the link in the right hand corner of the embedded picture below to open the playlist. Click the picture in the small picture in the left hand corner to go our YouTube channel to learn other languages spoken by African Muslims:

The accompanying textbook for the Mandika Language Course can be downloaded at the following link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1qOlC033In1KkZc33jJb4otJb2_aOYCtG/view?usp=sharing

About Hausa (pronounced: how-sa) – the Language of the Hausa People

Hausa is spoken by the Hausa people, the largest ethnic group in Africa. They speak the Hausa language, an Afro-Asiatic language of the Chadic group which is the most spoken indigenous African Language. 

It has been estimated that Hausa is spoken as a first language by 47 million people and as a second language by another 25 million, bringing the total number of Hausa speakers to an estimated 72 million. According to more recent estimations, Hausa would be spoken by 100–150 million people, possibly making it the most spoken indigenous, native African language.

The main Hausa-speaking area is northern Nigeria and Niger. Hausa is also widely spoken in northern Ghana, Cameroon, Chad, Sudanese Hausa in Sudan and the Ivory Coast as well as among Fulani, Tuareg, Kanuri, Gur, Shuwa Arab, and other Afro-Asiatic speaking groups. There are also large Hausa communities in every major African city in neighbourhoods called zangos or zongos, meaning “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.

Predominantly Hausa-speaking communities are scattered throughout West Africa and on the traditional Hajj route north and east traversing the Sahara, with an especially large population in and around the town of Agadez. Other Hausa have also moved to large coastal cities in the region such as Lagos, Port Harcourt, Accra, Abidjan, Banjul and Cotonou as well as to parts of North Africa such as Libya over the course of the last 500 years. Significant indigenized populations are reported in Benin, Cameroon, Ivory Coast,[9][unreliable source] Chad, Sudan, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Togo, Ghana, Eritr ea, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Senegal and the Gambia. 

Hausa is a written as well as oral language, and as a result it is used as the language of instruction at the elementary level in schools in northern Nigeria. 

By the early 15th century the Hausa were using 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. Many medieval Hausa manuscripts similar to the Timbuktu Manuscripts written in the Ajami script, have been discovered recently some of them even describe constellations and calendars.

As mentioned above, Hausa has long been written using a modified Arabic alphabet called ajami. Since about 1912, Hausa has also been written in a standardized orthography called boko, originally meaning “sham” or “deceit,” that is based on the Latin alphabet (with the addition of modified letters that represent glottalized consonants). This Latin-based orthography is the one now used for education, newspapers, books, and other general purposes.

Hausa is recognized as an indigenous national language in the constitutions of both Nigeria and Niger. So-called Standard Hausa is based on the pan-dialectal koine of Kano (Nigeria), which is the biggest commercial centre in Hausaland. There are two major dialect areas: the northwestern area, comprising most of the dialects spoken in Niger (Kurfeyanci around Filinguey, Aderanci around Tahoua, Arewanci around Dogondouchi, Tibiranci around Maradi, and Damagaranci around Zinder) plus those of Sokoto (Sakkwatanci) and Katsina (Katsinanci) in Nigeria; and the eastern area, with Kano (Kananci), Zaria (Zazzanci), and Bauchi (Guddiranci) as prominent urban agglomerations with their own dialectal variants. Dialectal variation, however, does not impede mutual intelligibility across the whole of Hausaland.

Serious linguistic research on the language began in the mid-19th century with the works of the German missionary J.F. Schön. Hausa has been taught outside Africa since 1885, when the first course was offered in Berlin. Today Hausa is taught on a regular basis throughout the world, mainly at universities that have a department specializing in African languages. An early milestone in Hausa studies was the 1934 publication of a dictionary compiled by the Rev. G.P. Bargery; it had about 40,000 entries and demonstrated the remarkable number of loanwords from Arabic, Kanuri (a Nilo-Saharan language), and Tamajaq (the Amazigh language spoken by the Tuareg). Since the colonial period, English (in Nigeria) and French (in Niger) have competed with Arabic as major sources of Hausa lexical innovation.

Because of the dominant position which the Hausa language and culture have long held, the study of Hausa provides crucial background for other areas such as African history, politics (particularly in Nigeria and Niger), gender studies, commerce, and the arts.

Hausa is available as course of study in northern Nigerian universities. In addition, several advanced 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 is considered one of the world’s major languages, and it has widespread use in a number of countries of 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 Africa. Throughout 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 Africa is readily apparent. Likewise, many Hausa cultural practices, including such overt features as dress and food, are shared by other Muslim communities. 

Hausa has replaced many other languages especially in the north-central and north-eastern part of Nigeria and continues to gain popularity in other parts of Africa as a result of Hausa movies and music which spread out throughout the region.

In West Africa, Hausa’s use as a lingua franca has given rise to a non-native pronunciation that differs vastly from native pronunciation.

About the Hausa People 

The Hausa (also pronounced Hausawa and Ausa; French spelling: Haoussa) are an ethnic group in Africa based primarily in the Sahelian and the sparse savanna areas of southern Niger and northern Nigeria. With a total population of some 80 million (2019 estimate), they qualify as the most numerous single African ethnic group.

The name Hausa is applied to both the ethnic group and the language. Linked culturally to Islam, Hausa are characterized since the early nineteenth century by centralized emirate governments with Fulani rulers, extended households, agricultural villages, trade and markets, and strong assimilative capacities.

The Hausa traditionally live in small villages, as well as in towns and cities, where they grow crops, raise livestock including cattle, and engage in trade, both local and long distance across Africa.

For these reasons, Hausa cultural borders have been constantly expanding. Given modern communications, transportation, and the accelerating need for a lingua franca, Hausa has rapidly become the first or second language of the entire northern area of the country.

The Hausa are culturally and historically closest to other Sahelian ethnic groups, primarily the Fula; the Zarma and Songhai (in Tillabery, Tahoua and Dosso in Niger); the Kanuri and Shuwa Arabs (in Cameroon, Chad, Sudan and northeastern Nigeria); the Tuareg (in Agadez, Maradi and Zinder); the Gur and Gonja (in northeastern Ghana, Burkina Faso, northern Togo and upper Benin); Gwari (in central Nigeria); and the Mandinka, Bambara, Dioula and Soninke (in Mali, Senegal, Gambia, Ivory Coast and Guinea).

The Hausa have an ancient culture that covered a large area, and had 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 fourteenth 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 legitimize their rule. Muslim scholars of the early nineteenth century disapproved of the hybrid religion practiced in royal courts, and a desire for reform was a major motive behind the formation of the Sokoto Caliphate.  It was after the formation of the Sokoto Caliphate that Islam became firmly entrenched in rural areas. The Hausa people have been an important vector for the spread of Islam in West Africa through economic contact, diaspora trading communities, and politics.

The Hausa people are heirs of a civilization that has flourished for over a thousand years in West Africa. The Hausa also have an architectural legacy represented by the Gidan Rumfa, or Emir’s palace in Kano at the center of what is the economic capital of Nigeria and the remains of the old walls around the city.

The Hausa culture deserves a wider exposure outside of West Africa, since it testifies to the existence of a sophisticated, well organized society that predates the arrival of the European colonizers, who saw little if anything admirable, interesting, cultured or civilized in what they persisted in calling “the Black continent.”

The traditional homeland of the Hausa was an early location for French and British interests, attracted by the gold deposits and the possibility of using the Niger for transport. Some of the earliest British explorers in Africa, such as Mungo Park and Alexander Gordon Laing gravitated to the Niger. Little thought was given to the preservation of indigenous culture or systems,

The city of Kano 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, Songhay, Mandé, and Tuareg, as well as other Afro-Asiatic and Nilo-Saharan groups further east, in Chadand Sudan.

Daura city is also a cultural center of the Hausa people. The town predates all the other major Hausa towns in tradition and culture. The aristocratic Hausa are traditionally horsemen. Horsemanship has become deeply ingrained in Hausa culture and is still a status symbol of the traditional nobility in Hausa society up until today. The horse still features in the Eid day celebrations, known as Ranar Sallah (in English: the Day of the Prayer).

Islam and the Hausa

In the twelfth century, the Hausa were a major African power. Seven Hausa kingdoms flourished between the Niger River and Lake Chad, of which the Emirate of Kano was probably the most important. According to legend, its first king was the grandson of the founder of the Hausa states. There were 43 Hausa rulers of Kano until they lost power in 1805. Historically, these were trading kingdoms dealing in gold, cloth, and leather goods.

By the onset of the 14th century, Islam was fast becomjng widespread in Hausaland, as Wangara (Malinke, Jula and Soninke) and Fula scholars and traders from Mali as well as a Tuareg caravan traders, brought the religion with them, settled in the merchantile districts of Hausa cities, while Hausa traders began to settle in Zango (camel caravan) districts in cities throughout West Africa. Common Hausa surnames such as “Kaita” (Keita), “Turai” (Touré), “Jallo” (Diallo), “Bello”, and “Coulibaly” reveal their distinctly Mandé and Fula origins, and trace back to the specific Malian clans that engaged in the early and gradual Islamisation of the medieval Hausa city states. In Mali and Guinea today, Haoussa is used as a first name or surname by those who have Hausa ancestry, and several villages and districts use the name Haoussa-Foulane or Aoussa to identify medieval Zango districts. Hausa remains a minority language in the Ansongo District of Mali.

Orthodox Sunni Islam of the Maliki madh-hab, is the predominant and historically established religion of the Hausa people. Islam has been present in Hausaland as early as the 11th century – giving rise to famous native Sufi saints and scholars such as Wali Muhammad dan Masani (d.1667) and Wali Muhammad dan Marna(d. 1655) in Katsina – mostly among long-distance traders to North Africa whom in turn had spread it to common people while the ruling class had remain largely pagan or mixed their practice of Islam with pagan practices. By the 14th Century Hausa traders were already spreading Islam across large swathe of west Africa such as Ghana, Cote d Ivoire etc..

In the 19th century, Muslim scholars began to disapproved of the mixed Islamic religion and non-Islamic practices of the royal courts. A desire for reform contributed to the formation of the Sokoto Caliphate. 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. Up to today, the Sultan of Sokoto is regarded as the traditional religious leader (Sarkin Musulmi) of Sunni Hausa-Fulani in Nigeria and beyond.

Hausa Migration

Many Hausa have moved to large coastal cities in West Africa such as Lagos, Accra, or Cotonou, as well as to countries such as Libya, in search of jobs that pay cash wages.

Click the following link for a playlist to study and learn the Hausa people. Click the link in the right hand corner of the embedded picture below to open the playlist. Click the picture in the small picture in the left hand corner to go our YouTube channel to learn other languages spoken by African Muslims:

The accompanying textbook can be downloaded at the following link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Aa_XzMhd7DgBeqC64yEcCX8NSLQ_XYr-/view?usp=sharing

About Swahili the Language of the Swahili People

It’s a national language in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, and an official language of the East African Community which comprises Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan. Its use is spreading to southern, western and northern Africa.

Swahili is the lingua franca (a common language adopted between two non-native speakers) of the East African Union and is the official language of Tanzania (official language), Kenya (official language next to English) and of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is also widely spoken in Uganda and, in smaller numbers, in Burundi, Rwanda, North Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique.

People who speak Swahili as their sole mother tongue are usually referred to as Waswahili, but this name refers to their language only and does not denote any particular ethnic or tribal unit. Swahili is widely used as a lingua franca in: (1) Tanzania, where it is the language of administration and primary education; (2) Kenya, where it is, after English, the main language for these purposes; (3) Congo (Kinshasa), where a form of Swahili is one of the four languages of administration, the main language for this purpose being French; and (4) Uganda, where the main language is again English.

Swahili has been greatly influenced by Arabic; there are an enormous number of Arabic loanwords in the language, including the word swahili, from Arabic sawāḥilī (a plural adjectival form of an Arabic word meaning “of the coast”). The language dates from the contacts of Arabian traders with the inhabitants of the east coast of Africa over many centuries. Under Arab influence, Swahili originated as a lingua franca used by several closely related Bantu-speaking tribal groups. In the early 19th century, the spread of Swahili inland received a great impetus from its being the language of the Arab ivory and slave caravans, which penetrated as far north as Uganda and as far west as Congo. Swahili was later adopted by European colonialists, especially the Germans, who used it extensively as the language of administration in Tanganyika, thus laying the foundation for its adoption as a national language of independent Tanzania. In Kenya and Uganda, other local languages also received official encouragement during the colonial period, but the tendency in these countries is now to emphasize the use of Swahili. The oldest preserved Swahili literature, which dates from the early 18th century, is written in the Arabic script, though the language is now written in the Roman alphabet.

The Swahili language dates its origin to the Bantu people of the coast of East Africa. Much of Swahili’s Bantu vocabulary has cognates in the Pokomo, Taita and Mijikenda languages and, to a lesser extent, other East African Bantu languages. While opinions vary on the specifics, it has been historically purported that about 20% of the Swahili vocabulary is derived from loan words, the majority Arabic, but also other contributing languages, including Persian, Hindustani, Portuguese, and Malay. In the text “Early Swahili History Reconsidered”, however, Thomas Spear noted that Swahili retains a large amount of grammar, vocabulary, and sounds inherited from the Sabaki Language. In fact, while taking account of daily vocabulary, using lists of one hundred words, 72-91% were inherited from the Sabaki language (which is reported as a parent language) whereas 4-17% were loan words from other African languages. Only 2-8% were from non-African languages, and Arabic loan words constituted a fraction of the 2-8%. What also remained unconsidered was that a good number of the borrowed terms had native equivalents. The preferred use of Arabic loan words is prevalent along the coast, where natives, in a cultural show of proximity to, or descent from Arab culture, would rather use loan words, whereas the natives in the interior tend to use the native equivalents. It was originally written in Arabic script.

In regards to Islam, Swahili played a major role in spreading Islam in East Africa. From their arrival in East Africa, Arabs brought Islam and set up madrasas, where they used Swahili to teach Islam to the natives. As the Arab presence grew, more and more natives were converted to Islam and were taught using the Swahili language.

The earliest known documents written in Swahili are letters written in Kilwa in 1711 in the Arabic script that were sent to the Portuguese of Mozambique and their local allies. The original letters are preserved in the Historical Archives of Goa, India.

With the arrival of the Arabs in East Africa, they used Swahili as a language of trade as well as for teaching Islam to the local Bantu peoples. This resulted in Swahili first being written in the Arabic alphabet.

Several Swahili consonants do not have equivalents in Arabic, and for them, often no special letters were created unlike, for example, Urdu script. Instead, the closest Arabic sound is substituted. Not only did that mean that one letter often stands for more than one sound, but also writers made different choices of which consonant to substitute.

Borrowed Words in the Swahili Language

Borrowed Words may or may not be given a prefix corresponding to the semantic class they fall in. For example, Arabic دود‎ dūd (“bug, insect”) was borrowed as mdudu, plural wadudu, with the class 1/2 prefixes m- and wa-, but Arabic فلوس‎ fulūs (“fish scales”, plural of فلس‎ fals) and English sloth were borrowed as simply fulusi (“mahi-mahi” fish) and slothi (“sloth”), with no prefix associated with animals (whether those of class 9/10 or 1/2).

In the process of naturalization[42] of borrowings within Swahili, loanwords are often reinterpreted, or reanalysed,[43] as if they already contain a Swahili class prefix. In such cases the interpreted prefix is changed with the usual rules. Consider the following loanwords from Arabic:

  1. 1 The Swahili word for “book”, kitabu, is borrowed from Arabic كتاب‎ kitāb(un) “book” (plural كتب‎ kutub; from the Arabic root k.t.b. “write”). However, the Swahili plural form of this word (“books”) is vitabu, following Bantu grammar in which the ki- of kitabu is reanalysed (reinterpreted) as a nominal class prefix whose plural is vi- (class 7/8).[43]
  2. 2 Arabic معلم‎ muʿallim(un) (“teacher”, plural معلمين muʿallimīna) was interpreted as having the mw- prefix of class 1, and so became mwalimu, plural walimu.
  3. 3 Arabic مدرسة madrasa school, even though it is singular in Arabic (with plural مدارس‎ madāris), was reinterpreted as a class 6 plural madarasa, receiving the singular form darasa.

Similarly, English wire and Arabic وقت‎ waqt (“time”) were interpreted as having the class 11 prevocalic prefix w-, and became waya and wakati with plural nyaya and nyakati respectively.

Swahili is now written in the Latin alphabet. There are a few digraphs for native sounds, ch, sh, ng and ny; q and x are not used,[39] c is not used apart from the digraph ch, unassimilated English loans and, occasionally, as a substitute for k in advertisements. There are also several digraphs for Arabic sounds, which many speakers outside of ethnic Swahili areas have trouble differentiating.

The language used to be written in the Arabic script. Unlike adaptations of the Arabic script for other languages, relatively little accommodation was made for Swahili. There were also differences in orthographic conventions between cities and authors and over the centuries, some quite precise but others different enough to cause difficulties with intelligibility.

About the Swahili People

The Swahili people originate from Bantu inhabitants of the coast of Southeast Africa, in Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique. These Bantu-speaking agriculturalists settled the coast at the outset of the first millennium. Archaeological finds at Fukuchani, on the north-west coast of Zanzibar, indicate a settled agricultural and fishing community from the 6th century CE at the latest. The considerable amount of daub found indicates timber buildings, and shell beads, bead grinders, and iron slag have been found at the site. There is evidence for limited engagement in long-distance trade: a small amount of imported pottery has been found, less than 1% of total pottery finds, mostly from the Gulf and dated to the 5th to 8th century. The similarity to contemporary sites such as Mkokotoni and Dar es Salaam indicate a unified group of communities that developed into the first center of coastal maritime culture. The coastal towns appear to have been engaged in Indian Ocean trade at this early period, and trade rapidly increased in importance and quantity between the mid-8th and the 11th century

Many Swahili claim a Shirazi origin. This forms the basis of the Shirazi era origin myth that proliferated along the coast at the turn of the millennium. Modern scholarship has rejected the veracity of these claims. The most likely origin for the stories about the Shirazi is from Muslim inhabitants of the Lamu archipelago who moved south in the 10th and 11th centuries. They brought with them a coinage tradition and localized form of Islam. These Africans migrants seem to have developed a concept of Shirazi origin as they moved further southwards, near Malindi and Mombasa, along the Mrima coast. The longstanding trade connections with the Persian gulf gave credence to these myths. In addition, because most Muslim societies are patrilineal, one can claim distant identities through paternal lines despite phenotypic and somatic evidence to the contrary. The so-called Shirazi tradition represents the arrival of Islam in these eras, one reason it has proven so long lasting. Extant mosques and coins demonstrate that the “Shirazi” were not Middle Eastern immigrants, but northern Swahili Muslims. They moved south, founding mosques, introducing coinage and elaborately carved inscriptions and mihrabs. They should be interpreted as indigenous African Muslims who played the politics of the Middle East to their advantage. Some still use this foundation myth a millennium later to assert their authority, even though the myth’s context has long been forgotten. The Shirazi legend took on new importance in the 19th century, during the period of Omani domination. Claims of Shirazi ancestry were used to distance locals from Arab newcomers, since Persians are not viewed as Arabs but still have an exemplary Islamic pedigree. The emphasis that the Shirazi came very long ago and intermarried with indigenous locals ties this claim to the creation of convincing indigenous narratives about Swahili heritage without divorcing it from the ideals of being a maritime-centered culture.

There are two main theories about the origins of the Shirazi subgroup of the Swahili people. One thesis based on oral tradition states that immigrants from the Shiraz region in southwestern Iran directly settled various mainland ports and islands on the eastern Africa seaboard beginning in the tenth century. By the time of the Persian settlement in the area, the earlier occupants had been displaced by incoming Bantu and Nilotic populations.[9] More people from different parts of the Persian Gulf also continued to migrate to the Swahili coast over several centuries thereafter, and these formed the modern Shirazi. The second theory on Shirazi origins also posits that they came from Persia, but first settled in the Horn of Africa. In the twelfth century, as the gold trade with the distant entrepot of Sofala on the Mozambique seaboard grew, the settlers are then said to moved southwards to various coastal towns in Kenya, Tanzania, northern Mozambique and the Indian Ocean islands. By 1200 CE, they had established local sultanates and mercantile networks on the islands of Kilwa, Mafia and Comoros along the Swahili coast, and in northwestern Madagascar.

The modern Swahili people speak the Swahili language as a mother tongue, which belongs to the Bantu branch of the Niger-Congo family. The language contains loan words from Arabic and Persian.

The Swahili people (or Waswahili) are a Bantu ethnic group inhabiting East Africa. Members of this ethnicity primarily reside on the Swahili coast, in an area encompassing the Zanzibar archipelago, littoral Kenya, the Tanzania seaboard, and northern Mozambique. The name Swahili is derived from Arabic: سواحل‎, romanized: Sawāhil, lit. ‘coasts’ settling on the coast tapped into the Indian Ocean trade networks. The Swahili people follow the Sunni denomination of Islam.

Large numbers of Swahili undertake the Hajj and Umrah from Tanzania, Kenya, and Mozambique. Traditional Islamic dress such as the jilbab and thobe are also popular among the Swahili.

Traditional Sailing in Kilwa

City-states along the east African coast have a longstanding tradition of trade and mingling between various peoples. Many of these former city-states still exist in modern nations. Kilwa, Tanzania, is one such city in which people still use traditional sailing practices.

What Is the Swahili Coast?

The Swahili Coast is on Africa’s east coast. It has a long history and fascinating culture.  The coast stretches from Somalia in the north to Mozambique in the south. It sits along the Indian Ocean. Travelers have passed through the Swahili Coast for centuries. This is partly because of special wind patterns in the Indian Ocean. Such winds made sailing trips easy. A Greek merchant’s guide was found. The writing is from the first century, about 2,000 years ago. It describes ivory, rhino horn, and tortoiseshell available for trade.  This coast is home to a unique culture and language. A mix of African, Arab, and Indian Ocean peoples lived here.

Who Lives on the Swahili Coast?

The original residents were Africans. They spoke the Bantu languages. This group had migrated east from inland areas. They later spread up and down the coast, trading with each other. Later they traded with people from far away.

Around the year 700, Muslim traders settled in the region. Muslims practice the religion of Islam. Most of the traders were Arabs, meaning they spoke Arabic. In the 1100s, Persian settlers arrived. Persia today is the country of Iran. This group was known as the Shirazi. Today, most Swahili people are Sunni Muslims. It is the largest group within the religion of Islam.

The Busy Medieval Times

The Swahili Coast peaked during the medieval period. This happened from around the 11th century to the 15th century. During that time, the Swahili Coast was made up of numerous city-states. They traded across the Indian Ocean. The city-states were independent lands. Their leaders were called sultans. However, they shared a common language, Swahili, and religion, Islam. They traded across the Indian Ocean. Pottery, silks, and glassware were popular items.

Altogether, the city-states are often called “stone towns.” That is because many buildings were constructed using stone. These were coral blocks held together with mortar. 

Kilwa and Songo Mnara

Kilwa was a major southern city-state. It is also a major site for archaeologists. It is located on an island off the southern coast of Tanzania. In the medieval period, it kept a trading post at Sofala. Kilwa traded with the gold-rich Kingdom of Great Zimbabwe, located to the south.

In medieval times, Kilwa was an important trading center on the East African coast. Its ruins today include the Great Palace. Back then the palace was the largest stone building in Africa south of the Sahara Desert. The grounds of the Great Palace were huge. It included a swimming pool. There were about 100 rooms.

On another island just to the south is Songo Mnara. This site was founded by the Kilwa government. No one knows why Kilwa built Songo Mnara. It appears to have been built following a city plan. It has clean lines and coral stone decorations.

Chinese Contacts

Chinese Emperor Yongle ruled from 1403 to 1424, during China’s Ming Dynasty. One of his key officials was Admiral Zheng He. Yongle sent Zheng He on seven sea expeditions. Hundreds of ships were sent for carrying goods and money. Thousands of men were aboard.

Zheng He visited the Swahili Coast. He stopped at Mombasa, Malindi, and Mogadishu. His ships would have been a fascinating sight. The sultan of Malindi sent the Chinese emperor a giraffe and other creatures. The Chinese were impressed with these rare gifts.

However, the Chinese did not stick around in East Africa. The voyages of Zheng He ended with his death and the emperor’s death.

Archaeologists are still finding proof of the Chinese-Swahili connection. In 2010, researchers found a Chinese coin. It was not far from the medieval city-state of Malindi. The coin dated to the Ming Dynasty. A similar coin was found nearby a few years later. 

Arrival of the Portuguese 

From 1497 to 1498, Portuguese voyager Vasco da Gama arrived. He brought four ships and 170 men. They sailed up the East African coast.

The Portuguese used violence to try to control all trade and business in the Indian Ocean. They established bases and trade offices at several Swahili Coast sites. 

Soon, the Swahili Coast city-states began to fall. Dealings with the Portuguese were blamed. Trade declined. However, some city-states did carry on for another few centuries. A few came under the rule of the Omani Empire.

Swahili Today

Today, Swahili is the main language of East Africa. It is in the Bantu language family. That group of languages is spoken in much of central and southern Africa. Swahili has been influenced greatly by Arabic.

Indeed, the term “Swahili” comes from Arabic. It means “[people] of the coast.” The language also contains words from Persian, Portuguese, and German. More than 100 million people speak Swahili.

City-states along the east African coast have a longstanding tradition of trade and mingling between various peoples. Many of these former city-states still exist in modern nations. Kilwa, Tanzania, is one such city in which people still use traditional sailing practices.

Islam is the religion of 10.91 percent of the Kenyan population, or approximately 5.2 million people. The Kenyan coast is mostly populated by Muslims. Nairobi has several mosques and a notable Muslim population.

The majority of Muslims in Kenya follow the Sunni Islam of Shafi school of jurisprudence at 73%, 8% with Shia and 8% as non-denominational Muslims. There are also sizeable populations of Ibadism, Quranist and Ahmadi adherents. In large part, Shias are Ismailis descended from or influenced by oceanic traders from the Middle East and India. These Shia Muslims include the Dawoodi Bohra, who number some 6,000-8,000 in the country.

Pioneer Muslim traders arrived on the Swahili Coast around the eighth century. The tension surrounding the succession of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, and the already established trade links between the Persian Gulf and the Swahili Coast were some of the factors leading to this development.

Archaeological evidence attests to a thriving Muslim town on Manda Island by the Tenth Century AD. The Moroccan Muslim traveller, Ibn Battuta, visiting the Swahili Coast in 1331 AD, reported a strong Muslim presence. Ibn Battuta said: The inhabitants are pious, honourable, and upright, and they have well-built wooden mosques.

On arrival, the Muslims settled along the coast, engaging in trade. The Shirazi intermarried with the local Bantu people resulting in the Swahili people, most of who converted to Islam. Swahili, structurally a Bantu Language with heavy borrowings from Arabic, was born.

Primarily, Islam spread through the interactions of individuals, with the Arab Muslims who had settled in small groups maintaining their culture, and religious practices. Despite encountering local communities, Islam was not ‘indigenized’ along the patterns of the local Bantu communities. Nevertheless, Islam grew through absorption of individuals into the newly established Afro-Arabic Muslim communities. This resulted in more ‘Swahilization’ than Islamization.

There was strong resistance toward Islam by the majority of communities living in the interior. The resistance was because conversion was an individual act, leading to detribalization and integration into the Muslim community going against the socially acceptable communal life.

Islam on the Swahili Coast was different from the rest of Africa. Unlike West Africa where Islam was integrated to the local communities, the local Islam was ‘foreign’; the Arab-Muslims lived as if they were in the Middle East.

The primary concern for the early Muslims was trade with a few interested in propagating Islam. The arrival of the Portuguese in the 15th Century interrupted the small work in progress. On the other hand, the interstate quarrels that ensued meant that much effort was now directed towards restoring normality and not Islamization.

The Spread of Islam into the Interior

Islam remained an urban and coastal phenomenon. The Spread of Islam was low-keyed with no impact amongst the local non-Swahili African Community. There were no intermediary Africans to demonstrate that, adoption of a few Islamic institutions would not disrupt society.

The spread of Islam to the interior was hampered by several factors: for instance, the nature of the Bantu society’s varied beliefs, and scattered settlements affected interior advancement. Other factors included, harsh climatic conditions, the fierce tribes like the Maasai, tribal laws restricting passage through their land, health factors, and the lack of easy mode of transportation. For Trimingham, the brand of Islam introduced to the region was equally to blame.

Muslim traders were not welcome in the social structures thereby impeding any meaningful progress until the beginning of European occupation.

Other factors affecting Islamic movement into the interior included; atrocities committed during slave trading, as these unfavourably affected the spread of Islam. In addition, the embracing of Islam by large portions of coastal tribes in the Nineteenth Century aided in its spread.

Besides, local Muslim preachers and teachers played major roles in teaching religion (Ar. dīn) and the Qur’ān at the Qur’ān Schools (Swa. vyuo) and Madrasa attached to the Mosques.

The coming of the second wave of Europeans, in the Nineteenth Century, brought mixed fortunes to the coastal Muslims, their strong sense of pride and belonging was greatly diminished, with efforts being redirected to self adjustments.

Nonetheless, Muslim agents deployed by Europeans as subordinate labourers to assist in the establishment of Colonial administration centres, were advantageously placed throughout the country, bringing the Islamic influence to the interior. Each place where a European installed himself, military camp, government centre, or plantation, was a centre for Muslim influence.

In the interior, the Muslims neither integrated nor mingled with the local communities, yet, non-Swahili Africans began joining the Swahili trends in trade with some returning as Muslims. Swahili became the trade and religious language. Alongside the interpersonal contacts, intermarriages also yielded some conversions.

Although coastal rulers did not send missionaries to the interior, local Africans embraced Islam freely through attraction to the religious life of the Muslims. Close integration with the local population helped to foster good relations resulting in Islam gaining a few converts, based on individual efforts.

Subjectively, most of the surrounding Bantu communities had a close-knit religious heritage, requiring strong force to penetrate. The pacification and consolidation by European powers provided the much-needed force to open up the communities for new structures of power and religious expression (Trimingham:1983:58).

Basically, progress in the spread of Islam in Kenya came between 1880 and 1930. This was when most social structures and the African worldviews were shattered, leaving them requiring a new, wider worldview encompassing or addressing the changes experienced.

Consequently, Islam introduced new religious values through external ceremonial and ritualistic expressions, some of which could be followed with no difficulty.

Socio-culturally, Muslims presented themselves with a sense of pride and a feeling of superiority. Islamic civilization was identified with the Arab way of life (Ustaarabu), as opposed to ‘barbarianism’ (Ushenzi) hence the domination of a form of Arabism over the local variety of Islam.

The ease, with which Islam could be adopted, meant adding to the indigenous practices, new religious rites and ceremonies to the African ways, with new ways of defining one’s identity by new forms of expression. Mingling with Muslims led to conversion meaning returning home as Muslims and not aliens. Lacunza-Balda shows that Islam could be adopted easily.

Although most of the conversions were of individuals, there were communities that embraced Islam en-masse. Some of these included the Digo and Pokomo of the Lower Tana region. From these communities Islam slowly penetrated inland.

Organized Missionary Activities

Pioneer Muslim missionaries to the interior were largely Tanganyikans, who coupled their missionary work with trade, along the centres began along the railway line, such as, Kibwezi, Makindu and Nairobi.

Outstanding amongst them was Maalim Mtondo, a Tanganyikan credited with being the first Muslim missionary to Nairobi. Reaching Nairobi at the close of the Nineteenth Century, he led a group of other Muslims, and enthusiastic missionaries from the coast to establish a ‘Swahili village’ in the present day Pumwani.

A small mosque was built to serve as a starting point and he began preaching Islam in earnest. He soon attracted several Kikuyus and Wakambas, who became his disciples.

Local men converted and having learned from their teachers took up the leadership of religious matters. Khamis Ngige was a prominent local convert of the early outreach. Having learned from Maalim Mtondo, he later became the Imam of the Pumwani Mosque. Different preachers scattered in the countryside from 1900 to 1920, introducing Islam to areas around, Mt. Kenya, Murang’a, Embu, Meru, Nyeri and Kitui. This serious missionary move interior was out of personal enthusiasm with the influence being highly localized. Only a few Africans were converted, and the impact was short lived.

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About Wolof the Language of the Wolof People

Wolof (pronounced woo-luf) is a language of Senegal, the Gambia and Mauritania, and the native language of the Wolof people.

Senegalese/Mauritanian Wolof and Gambian Wolof are distinct national standards: they use different orthographies and use different languages (French vs. English) as their source for technical loanwords.

In Senegal, the Wolof are the largest ethnic group (~43.3%), while elsewhere they are a minority.[5] They refer to themselves as Wolof and speak the Wolof language, in the West Atlantic branch of the Niger–Congo family of languages.

Wolof is spoken by more than 10 million people and about 40 percent (approximately 5 million people) of Senegal’s population speak Wolof as their native language. Increased mobility, and especially the growth of the capital Dakar, created the need for a common language: today, an additional 40 percent of the population speak Wolof as a second or acquired language. In the whole region from Dakar to Saint-Louis, and also west and southwest of Kaolack, Wolof is spoken by the vast majority of people. Typically when various ethnic groups in Senegal come together in cities and towns, they speak Wolof. It is therefore spoken in almost every regional and departmental capital in Senegal. Nevertheless, the official language of Senegal is French.

In The Gambia, although about 20–25 percent of the population speak Wolof as a first language, it has a disproportionate influence because of its prevalence in Banjul, the Gambian capital, where 75 percent of the population use it as a first language. Furthermore, in Serekunda, The Gambia’s largest town, although only a tiny minority are ethnic Wolofs, approximately 70 percent of the population speaks or understands Wolof.

In Mauritania, about seven percent of the population (approximately 185,000 people) speak Wolof. Most live near or along the Senegal River that Mauritania shares with Senegal.

Wolof dialects vary geographically and between rural and urban areas. “Dakar-Wolof”, for instance, is an urban mixture of Wolof, French, and Arabic.

 Like the neighbouring languages Serer and Fula, it belongs to the Senegambian branch of the Niger–Congo language family. Unlike most other languages of the Niger-Congo family, Wolof is not a tonal language.

“Wolof” is the standard spelling and may refer to the Wolof people or to Wolof culture. Variants include the older French Ouolof and the principally Gambian Wollof, Jolof, jollof, etc., which now typically refers either to the Jolof Empire or to jollof rice, a common West African rice dish. Now-archaic forms include Volof and Olof.

The English language is believed to have adopted some Wolof words, such as banana, via Spanish or Portuguese,[8] and nyam in several Caribbean English Creoles meaning “to eat” (compare Seychellois Creole nyanmnyanm, also meaning “to eat”).

About the Wolof People

The Wolof people are the largest ethnic group in Senegal, particularly concentrated in its northwestern region near the Senegal River and the Gambia River. In the Gambia, about 16% of the population are Wolof. In the Gambia, they are a minority. However, Wolof language and culture have a disproportionate influence because of their prevalence in Banjul, the Gambian capital, where a majority of the population is Wolof. In Mauritania, about 8% of the population are Wolof. Their total population exceeds 6 million in the three countries.

The term Wolof also refers to the Wolof language and to their states, cultures, and traditions. Older French publications frequently employ the spelling Ouolof; up to the 19th century, the spellings Wolluf, Volof, and Olof are also encountered, among rarer variants like Yolof, Dylof, Chelof, Galof, Lolof, and others. In English, Wollof and Woloff are found, particularly in reference to the Gambian Wolof; for English-speakers, the spelling Wollof is closer to the native pronunciation of the name.) The spelling Jolof is also often used, but in particular reference to the Jolof Empire and Jolof Kingdom that existed in central Senegal from the 14th to the 19th centuries. Similarly, a West African rice dish is known in English as Jollof rice.

The Wolof people are a West African ethnic group found in northwestern Senegal, the Gambia, and southwestern coastal Mauritania.

They are also referred to as the Wollof, Jolof, Iolof, Whalof, Ialof, Olof, and Volof, among other spellings. In Senegal, the Wolof are the largest ethnic group (~43.3%), while elsewhere they are a minority. They refer to themselves as Wolof and speak the Wolof language, in the West Atlantic branch of the Niger–Congo family of languages. Their early history is unclear and based on oral traditions that link the Wolof to the Almoravids.

“Wolof” is the standard spelling and may refer to the Wolof people or to Wolof culture. Variants include the older French Ouolof and the principally Gambian Wollof, Jolof, jollof, etc., which now typically refers either to the Jolof Empire or to jollof rice, a common West African rice dish. Now-archaic forms include Volof and Olof.

The vast majority of Wolof people are Sunni Muslims.

The West African jihads that involved the Wolof and other ethnic groups started early and often inspired by militant reformers such as those of the 15th century. The assaults of the 18th and 19th century jihads, states Lapidus, paved the way for massive conversions to Islam, yet not a nearly universal conversion.

In the late 19th century, as the French colonial forces launched a war against the Wolof kingdoms, the Wolof people resisted the French and triggered the start of near-universal conversion of the Wolof people in Senegambia to Islam. Wolofs joined the various competing Sufi Muslim movements in the 20th century, particularly those belonging to the Mouride and Tijaniyyah Islamic brotherhoods.

The Senegalese Sufi Muslim brotherhoods appeared in the Wolof communities in the 19th century and grew in the 20th. The Sufi leaders and marabouts exercise cultural and political influence amongst most Muslim communities, most notably the leader of the Muridiyya also called the Mouride brotherhood.


The Wolof people are traditionally settled, farmers and artisans. Millet has been the typical staple, while rice a secondary staple when rains are plenty. Cassava is also grown, but it has been a source of income for the Wolof farmers. Since the colonial era, peanuts have been the primary cash crop.

Wolof society is patrilineal, and agricultural land is inherited by the landowning caste. The typical farmers in a village pay rent (waref) to the landowner for the right to crop his land. Wolof farmers raise chickens and goats, and dried or smoked fish purchased, both a part of their diet. Cattle are also raised, not for food, but milk, tilling the land, and as a reserve of wealth. Rural Wolof people eat beef rarely, typically as a part of a ceremonial feast. Some villages in contemporary times share agricultural machinery and sell the peanut harvest as a cooperative.

The Jolof or Wolof Empire

The Jolof or Wolof Empire was a medieval West African state that ruled parts of Senegal and the Gambia from approximately 1350 to 1890. While only ever consolidated into a single state structure for part of this time, the tradition of governance, caste, and culture of the Wolof dominate the history of north-central Senegal for much of the last 800 years. Its final demise at the hands of French colonial forces in the 1870s-1890s also marks the beginning of the formation of Senegal as a unified state.

By the end of the 15th century, the Wolof states of Jolof, Kayor, Baol, and Walo had become united in a federation with Jolof as the metropolitan power. The position of king was held by the Burba Wolof, and the rulers of the other component states owed loyalty and tribute payments to him. Before the Wolof people became involved in goods and slave trading with the Portuguese merchants on the coast, they had a long tradition of established trading of goods and slaves with the Western Sudanese empires and with Imamate of Futa Toro and other ethnic groups in North Africa.

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About Yoruba the Language of the Yoruba

Yoruba (pronounced you-ra-ba) is a language spoken in West Africa, most prominently Southwestern Nigeria. It is spoken by the ethnic Yoruba people. The number of Yoruba speakers is estimated at between 45 and 55 million.[4] As a pluricentric language, 

As West African regional language Yoruba it is primarily spoken in various dialects in area spanning like Nigeria, Benin and Togo, and among migrant communities in Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, and in  Rio de Janeiro, and Salvador, Bahia, Brazil as a cultural language. In fact, Yoruba vocabulary is used in the Afro-Brazilian religion known as Candomblé, in the Caribbean religion of Santería in the form of the liturgical Lucumí language and various Afro-American religions of North America.

As the principal Yoruboid language, Yoruba is most closely related to the languages Itsekiri (spoken in the Niger Delta) and Igala (spoken in central Nigeria).

Yoruba is classified among the Edekiri languages, which together with Itsekiri and the isolate Igala form the Yoruboid group of languages within the Volta–Niger branch of the Niger–Congo family. The linguistic unity of the Niger–Congo family dates to deep prehistory, estimates ranging around 11,000 years ago (the end of the Upper Paleolithic). In present-day Nigeria, it is estimated that there are over 40 million Yoruba primary and secondary language speakers as well as several other millions of speakers outside Nigeria, making it the most widely spoken African language outside of the continent.

The wide adoption of imported religions and civilizations such as Islam and Christianity has had an impact both on written and spoken Yoruba. In his Arabic-English Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Quran and Sunnah, Yoruba Muslim scholar Abu-Abdullah Adelabu argued Islam has enriched African languages by providing them with technical and cultural augmentations with Swahili and Somali in East Africa and Turanci Hausa and Wolof in West Africa the most beneficiaries. Adelabu, a Ph D graduate from Damascus cited—among many other common usages—the following words to be Yoruba’s derivatives of Arabic vocabularies:[29][better source needed]

Some Loanwords

  • • Sanma: Heaven or sky, from السماء
  • • alubarika: blessing, from البركة
  • • alumaani: wealth, money, resources, from المال

Among commonly Arabic words used in Yoruba are names of the days such as Atalata (الثلاثاء) for Tuesday, Alaruba (الأربعاء) for Wednesday, Alamisi (الخميس) for Thursday, and Jimoh (الجمعة, Jumu’ah) for Friday. By far Ọjọ́ Jimoh is the most favorably used. It is usually referred to as the unpleasant word for Friday, Ẹtì, which means failure, laziness, or abandonment. better source needed] Ultimately, the standard words for the days of the week are Àìkú, Ajé, Ìṣẹ́gun, Ọjọ́rú, Ọjọ́bọ, Ẹtì, Àbámẹ́ta, for Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday respectively. Friday remains Eti in the Yoruba language.

In the 17th century, Yoruba was written in the Ajami script, a form of Arabic script.

Yoruba is spoken by both Muslims and Christians.

The Yoruba are predominant in the southwest, and comprise about 21 percent of the population. Approximately half of the Yoruba are Christian and half are Muslim.

The last census that recorded religious identification in south-west Nigeria was carried out in 1963. For the area of the present-day states of Ekiti, Kwara, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Oyo, covered by the KEO survey, the census data reported roughly similar numbers of Muslims (46.3 percent) and Christians (45.5 percent),

The Yoruba People and Islam

Most Yorubas adhere to Sunni Islam. Islam came into Yorubaland around the 14th century, as a result of trade with Hausa and Wangara (also Wankore) merchants,[citation needed] a mobile caste of the Soninkes from the then Mali Empire who entered Yorubaland (Oyo) from the northwestern flank through the Bariba or Borgu corridor,[78] during the reign of Mansa Kankan Musa.

Due to this, Islam is traditionally known to the Yoruba as Esin Male or simply Imale religion of the Malians. The adherents of the Islamic faith are called Musulumi in Yoruba to correspond to Muslim, the Arabic word for an adherent of Islam having as the active participle of the same verb form, and means “submitter (to Allah)” or a nominal and active participle of Islam derivative of “Salaam” i.e. (Religion of) Peace. Islam was practiced in Yorubaland so early on in history, that a sizable proportion of Yoruba slaves taken to the Americas were already Muslim.[80] Some of these Yoruba Muslims would later stage the Malê Revolt (or The Great Revolt), which was the most significant slave rebellion in Brazil. On a Sunday during Ramadan in January 1835, in the city of Salvador, Bahia, a small group of slaves and freedmen, inspired by Muslim teachers, rose up against the government. Muslims were called Malê in Bahia at this time, from Yoruba Imale that designated a Yoruba Muslim.

The Mosque served the spiritual needs of Muslims living in Ọyọ. Progressively, Islam started to gain a foothold in Yorubaland, and Muslims started building mosques. Iwo led, its first mosque built in 1655,[81] followed by Iseyin in 1760,[81] Eko/Lagos in 1774, Shaki in 1790, and Osogbo in 1889. In time, Islam spread to other towns like Oyo (the first Oyo convert was Solagberu), Ibadan, Abẹokuta, Ijebu Ode, Ikirun, and Ede. All of these cities already had sizable Muslim communities before the 19th century Sokoto jihad. Several factors contributed to the rise of Islam in Yorubaland by the middle of the 19th century. Before the decline of Ọyọ, several towns around it had large Muslim communities, however, when Ọyọ was destroyed, these Muslims (Yorubas and immigrants) relocated to newly formed towns and villages and became Islam evangelists.

Secondly, there was a mass movement of people at this time into Yorubaland, many of these immigrants were Muslims who introduced Islam to their hosts. According to Eades, the religion “differed in attraction” and “better adapted to Yoruba social structure, because it permitted polygamy”, which was already a feature of various African societies; more influential Yorubas (like Seriki Kuku of Ijebuland) soon became Muslims, with a positive impact on the natives. Islam came to Lagos at about the same time as other Yoruba towns, however, it received royal support from Ọba Kosọkọ, after he came back from exile in Ẹpẹ. Islam, like Christianity, also found common ground with the natives who already believed in a Supreme Being Olodumare / Olorun. Without delay, Islamic scholars and local Imams started establishing Koranic centers to teach Arabic and Islamic studies, much later, conventional schools were established to educate new converts and to propagate Islam.

Today, the Yorubas constitute the second largest Muslim group in Nigeria, after the Hausa people of the Northern provinces. Most Yoruba Muslims are Sunni, with small Ahmadiyya communities.

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Published in: Uncategorized on January 1, 2021 at 21:00  Leave a Comment  
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