Unreached People of the Day: Hausa of Nigeria
Introduction / History
The country of Nigeria is located on the western bulge of Africa, with its coast on the Gulf of Guinea. Nigeria has a total population of over 110 million people; over 23 million of them are the Hausa. In fact, the Hausa are the largest ethnic group in all of West Africa. Thirty percent of all Hausa can be found in the north and northwest regions of Nigeria, an area known as “Hausaland.”
The Hausa have been heavily involved in long distance trading for many centuries. Traders exchanged gold from the Middle East for leather, crafts, and food. Hausa communities can also be found in other West African nations such as Chad, Ghana, and the Ivory Coast.
Although English is recognized as the country’s official language, Hausa, the native language of the Hausa people, is rapidly becoming the chief language of northern Nigeria. The Hausa are very influential in West Africa, both culturally and politically. God’s heart is to see them become a strong Christian influence as well.
What are their lives like?
Seventy percent of the Hausa live in rural farm villages with populations that may range from 2,000 to 12,000. Their homes are generally made of grass or dried mud with thatched roofs. Only the “well-to-do” can be found living in modern homes or apartment buildings in the city. Most of the Hausa are farmers, herdsmen, or traders. Cocoa, peanuts, palm oil, cotton, and rubber are grown for sale or trade, while corn, rice, beans, and yams are grown for consumption. The farmers depend heavily on nearby cities for trade opportunities. Most of the villagers cannot survive solely as farmers or herdsmen, but must also hold factory jobs to adequately provide for their families.
In comparison to some other African tribes, the Hausa have reasonable standards of health care, diet, shelter, electricity, and education. However, life for the Hausa is still very difficult. For example, nearly one-third of the people are unemployed, and only about half of the population can read and write. The average life expectancy of a Nigerian is only 56 years.
Within the Hausa’s social structure, individuals are classified as either being commoners or chiefs, depending on which profession they hold and the amount of wealth they possess. In marriage relationships, close relatives, preferably cousins, are chosen as partners. Marriages are arranged, and ceremonies last for weeks. Everyone is to appear happy except the bride. In the village compounds, each wife has her own hut where she and her young children sleep. Often the husband has his own hut where the wives takes turns spending the night. In Nigerian terms, a woman is almost always defined as someone’s daughter, wife, mother, or widow and is given less educational opportunities than men. In fact, women are often confined to the home, except for visits to relatives and attending ceremonies. For the most part, women do not work in the fields, but are responsible for preparing all the daily meals. There is a large population of single women, especially in the cities, due to the high divorce rate. The Hausa are ashamed of their firstborn, who are often given to relatives to raise.
What are their beliefs?
By 1500, Islam had been introduced to the Hausa by traders. Many of the urban Hausa embraced it right away, in hopes of enhancing their businesses. However, the villagers were not as receptive to this new religion.
In the “holy wars” of 1804 and 1808, the Hausa were conquered by the Fulani, their strongly Islamic neighbors. They were made slaves until the early 1900’s. At that time, many of the villagers were either forced or bribed into becoming Muslim. They adopted some of Islam’s basic outward behaviors and rituals, but did not “sell out” as many of the urban Hausa did. For that reason, many of the rural Hausa today are only superficially Muslim.
What are their needs?
The Hausa culture is strongly linked to Islam, which makes it difficult to reach this people group with the Gospel. There is a lot of prejudice against the Christians of southern Nigeria, and there has been intense persecution of the Christian Hausa.
Because Islam has been carried throughout West Africa by Hausa traders and priests, nearly everyone expects a Hausa to be Muslim. This could be one of the main reasons why the Hausa stay so resistant to the Gospel and have difficulty leaving their Islamic faith.
The Hausa also have physical needs such as education and safe drinking water. Pray that the Hausa would come to know Jesus, the giver of Living Water.
Thank God for the Hausa Bible and the powerful impact that the Holy Scriptures has upon Muslims.
* Pray for the Maguzawa Hausa as they take the Gospel to the Muslim Hausa.
* Pray that Christian converts would be bold in the face of family pressure and persecution.
* Ask the Lord to raise up loving Christians who are willing to share Christ with the Hausa.
* Pray that God will open the hearts of the Hausa to the Gospel.
* Ask God to encourage and protect the small number of Hausa believers.
* A recent drought in Nigeria has been a tremendous hardship for the Hausa. Pray that God will supply drinking water for the people and animals, and rain water for their crops.
* Pray that a church will be raised up among the Hausa.
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