Friday, December 28, 2018

Hausa Culture And Islam: A Letter to Hausa-Muslim Youth of Today and those yet Unborn

In human history, there will be no progress without readiness. If yesterday was history, today will soon be a story by tomorrow.  To balance the equation of our development, we must know our past, be conscious of our present, to get ready for tomorrow’s challenges. The so-called sophisticated scientific and technological advancements of the modern world of the 21st century stated from time immemorial with series of modification and amendments before it reaches the level of its present state. This is directly telling us, whatever we named modern “today” passes through the ancient period of what we called tradition, norms, folklore or culture before it is scientifically....
Aliyu Muhammad Bunza
(Professor of Hausa Culture)
Faculty of Humanities and Education
Department of Languages and Cultures
Federal University Gusau
Zamfara State
Tel: 0803 431 6508


In human history, there will be no progress without readiness. If yesterday was history, today will soon be a story by tomorrow.  To balance the equation of our development, we must know our past, be conscious of our present, to get ready for tomorrow’s challenges. The so-called sophisticated scientific and technological advancements of the modern world of the 21st century stated from time immemorial with series of modification and amendments before it reaches the level of its present state. This is directly telling us, whatever we named modern “today” passes through the ancient period of what we called tradition, norms, folklore or culture before it is scientifically or technologically acculturated to meet the demand of the so-called civilized world. In this view, the concept of culture is closely associated with human development, civilization, religion, socio-economic activities, political ideologies, his scientific development and security strategies. Dress code, language, and food culture are not excluded. Thus, to do justice to the topic of our discussion, the following important questions must be addressed: What is culture? Who are the Hausas? What is Islam? How and why the intermarriage between Hausa culture and Islam? Why we want our youth to reason with our predecessors in respecting our cultural heritage.


To an ordinary Hausa Muslim speaker, culture is nothing more than the ancient ways of life. To a blind religious critics, culture is assumed to be primitive and ungodly affairs of people before the divine religion. This is the genesis behind the term “Al’adun Gargajiya” and the devotee named “Dan gargajiya/ ‘yar gargajiya”. These tag names are insulting, because it implies that the adherer is a fetish worshiper. However, in the academia, the meaning of culture is the totality of human life, his behaviours, thoughts, thinking, believes and reasoning, his perceptions of the world, worldly affairs and world beyond, his illnesses and well being, his food and shelter. To reduce the burden of add and drop in our discussion, culture is broadly divided into two: Material and non-material culture. Material culture deals with all the physical materials and the human involvement in its making. Non-material cultures are the products of human oral art and socialization. This is what culture is and we shall see its meeting point with Islam.


The definition of a real Hausa man is a serious academic debate. Scholars of various disciplines have different approaches to the definition of a Hausa man. The approaches of Hausa scholars from the angles of language, literature and culture to attempt the question of, who is a Hausa man? Wane ne Bahaushe? It was an unending battle of debate. Though, the cut and dry definition is still under the cloud, but  for the consumption of an average Hausa student (like my humble self) a true Bahaushe is:

Lawful child of a Hausa man whose parent (especially father) is a Hausa man and descendants of Hausa family who speak Hausa as the first language and purely Hausas in Hausa cultural context. It is added that, such person must accept to be a Hausa man and be proud to be associated with Hausa people. The endangered tribes by the Hausa language and culture are also considered as Hausas by Mahdi Adamu.

These great men occupy the majority area of the present northern region in Nigeria. In addition, they are found in parts of Niger Republic, Benin, Togo, Cameron, Sudan, Eretria, Ghana, Serra Leon , Ivory Coast, Central African Republic in thousands and millions, etc. Currently, they are the majority black Africans in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with highest population in Mecca and Medina. Hausas are the most serious and committed Muslims in the Muslim world of the 21st century (including Saudi Arabia) by the BBC Report, 2015.


Islam is a religion of mankind which abrogates all the divine religions in human world. In its practical aspect, it is a complete way of life to the believers. In the hierarchy of Islamic jurisprudence, Al’urf  norms/culture is an important ingredient in the sources of Islamic law. Culture and norms are well protected and very much recognized in Islamic law. Whatever is not in conflict with Islamic dogma is theologically acceptable to be part of the lawful deeds. In several important issues, culture was given due regard in Qur’an and Sunnah, as in the following cases:

  1. Case of Prophet Yusuf and the wife of his Boss
  2. Marriage contract between Prophet Musa and the daughter of Prophet Yaqub
  3. The great debate between Prophet Musa and Pharaoh’s Magicians


From the aforementioned definitions, it is very clear that culture and religion have many things in common. Culture is the traditional ways of dealing with routine life activities while religion is revolutionized approach to such activities. The major landmarks to the cultural history of Hausaland are:

  1. Hausa primitive culture: This is the totality of the period before the arrival of any divine religion. This could be termed as “Hausa period of ignorance”. During this era, spirit possession (bori), Tsafi (fetish) and magic (sihiri) were the order of the day.

  2. Hausa culture and Islam: This is the period of Islamization of culture and belief. Islam being accepted as a religion, whatever contradicts its tenets is null and void. This was the meeting point between culture and Islam in Hausaland.
  3. Colonial culture: This was the new era culture imposed by the imperialist in the name of civilization.

These three stages of Cultural Revolution in Hausaland gave Hausa people the opportunity to know much about Western and Islamic civilizations. Before the colonial epoch, a decent Islamic culture was deeply rooted all over the Hausaland. Islamic education and ethics were well accepted and adapted as part of life and hence considered to be part of the Hausa Muslim culture. Consequent to the said cultural endangerment, Hausa pagan culture diminishes even among the Hausa pagan (Maguzawa). The amalgamation of Hausa culture and Islam is unlike French system of assimilation and far from British Colonial Cultural Policy. Islam-Hausa cultural affiliation was by coincidence; from time immemorial is was not by jihad or conquest as assumed by the interpretation of mischievous spectators. The fact that, the meeting point of the two cultures was never at battleground, it makes it easier to be accepted and incorporated.

Culture as a way of life has a policy. Islam as a system has a law. The Islamic family and civil law, rituals and ceremonies, socio-economic orders, ethics of socialization and disagreements, parental care and social responsibilities etc are found to be very close to the Hausa cultural policy. At this point, it is very important for students of Hausa culture and history to note that, there was never a jihad in any part of Hausaland to impose Islam. Certainly, the 19th century Jihad led by Sheikh Usman bn Fodio was to reactivate and eradicate ungodly practices in the name of “Islam”, that is why he is called Mujaddadi (reviver/revivalist) and not Muqaddami (introducer/imposer). These are very clear in Shehu’s books: Wasiqatul Ikhwaani, Nurul Albaabi, Ihya’us Sunnah, Bayanil Bidi’is Shaixaniyya.


Accepting Islam as a religion means adopting Islamic norms as a way of life. Islam and Hausa cultural intermarriages open up a new cultural revolution in Hausaland. The Western culture and religion were left behind for several reasons:

  1. At the beginning it was a matter of first come - first serve, meaning the earlier the better. They arrived very late and so the acceptance.
  2. The brutal approach of conquer; capture, enslavement and dictatorship by the French and British imperialist in Hausaland met serious challenges, encounters, and revolts. In the absence of peace, nothing can be achieved.
  3. The worst of all was that substantial parts of the colonial policies were in conflict with Islamic laws and Hausa traditions. By implication, accepting colonial policy means denouncing Islam and abandoning the cultural heritage right away.

All the offensive majors were taken by the colonial administrators to plant and higher-breed British culture and religion in Hausaland. Battles were badly fought; revolts, riots and agitations went out of hand. These were not only against British occupation, but specifically against Western culture and religion. Imposition of the British norms and cultures was wisely handled by colonial administrators and propagation of religion (Christianity) was the missionary affairs. Both the two are one as far as Hausa people are concerned, and therefore deserve same attention. In my understanding of cultural and religious unrest, in Hausaland this was the beginning of the episode; by then, it was purely “Bature and Turanci Haram” and to the British it was “Islam Haram”, this was the genesis behind the so-called war against terrorism by the world power mongers under the guise of peace-keeping.


After realizing the mistakes of the styles of divide and rule, killed and captured Boko education and Indirect Rule was considered a better option. In the programmes of British educational policies, reading and writing in English language was the priority. Christian writing style from left to right was imposed. Co-education and half naked school uniforms were encouraged. Activities that are believed to be capable of brain washing children to respect colonial cultures and castigate their ancestral cultural heritage were the headlines of the curriculum. Indigenous languages and Islam were at total neglect. The pupils were therefore prepared to be the raw materials for  the colonial education policy. These gentle young men were named Sukola, Sipikin, Gaye, ‘Yan qwari etc; their counterparts were kauyawa, dolaye. The boko stands not only at being education but a new civilization for Britainization of Hausa people which gave birth to slogan: “Dan Boko mai ganin ubanai wawa.”

The second machinery was Indirect Rule. This hypocrite system of administration is what we call: “I hate you and I can do without you.” Through the Indirect Rule system, British culture of administration, chieftaincy and religious affairs were smuggled into major Hausa cities, courts and palaces. Traditional ceremonies and festivals were forced to dance to the British tone. This was how the prominent Hausa kingdoms were culturally colonized. To implicate issues further, the elite of Boko education were redeployed to the palaces as secretaries and administrators in courts and palaces to replace the Muslim scholars thereby directly eradicating Arabic and Ajami writing systems in our palaces and courts. What a mischievous hand-over indeed? Thus, battle of cultural discrimination and marginalization is an ongoing battle between Hausas and British ideology.


The impact of these two machineries that were used to plant colonial cultures and religion in Hausaland were examined in the life activities of our youth. Our ancestors who vehemently hesitated the domination and sacrifice their life for their dear fatherland and cultures honourably. Perpetrators of trouble and imposers of unjustifiable system left unceremoniously. At periphery, one may think that, the time of trouble and disaster is over. Alas! The tree that was planted germinates multiple flowers and fruits awaiting the coming generation to inhale the poisonous ordor and be infected with its dangerous virus in the history of mankind. During this research, I was able to detect the following:

  1. Language endangerment: We were forced to adopt colonial language as official language of the state. The treasury of wisdoms, knowledge, traditions, philosophy and figure of speech in our languages are becoming history; consequently, our offspring have no idea of our historic past. The colonial language failed to graduate our youth with required skill to address our domestic needs. To date, Nigeria has no record of excellence in any branches of knowledge being trained in English Language. Be informed, language is not only how to communicate, but how to relate and how to treat are all built therein. If language is lost, all are lost in a broader perspective.

  2. Insecurity: colonialism opened up many unhealthy cultures in African colony. War, raid, and slavery were the top affairs of the regime. These inhuman acts gave birth to the abuse of human right, kidnapping, human trafficking, cultism, sectarian conflicts, illegal arms possession, brigands, area boys, area ladies and area men; exposing children into war and raid is the most serious insecurity in human history. Internet, handset, videos and computers are open universities for learning terrorism and injecting destructive cultures into our youth. What a surprise that our popular Hausa drama and film industries are now the centres of these crises. No doubt, our culture is being abused and it is very clear along Kaduna-Abuja express road in the year 2017.


Actually, this is the umbilical cord of our paper, but I decided to treat it at this stage after going through the picture of the subject under review. Cultural values are the background of history and identity of origin and development. The server blow of the colonial brutality to our cultural heritage is the concern of elders and all the right-thinking people. After several decades of colonial departure, we are still in the hangover of the deadly wine. In our cultural values, youth are expected to be in the following:

  1. Trustworthy:
Trust means to be honest and not lie, cheat or steal. Our culture counts on you to be reliable so that your actions and characters are not questionable at the rating scale. This was the first testimony of Lord Lugard to Hausa people, that our ancestors are trustworthy; they stand by their words and never betray the trust. This is what qualifies the Hausa elder to be ranked as mutum or dittijo, which is translated into mutumin kirki. Anything short to this is what he calls mutumin banza or dittijon biri. This is well addressed in Narambada’s peom of Sardaunan Isa:

Jagora:        Duk sarkin da kas sani
:Basaraken da kas sani
:Amadu ya fi shi kane shiryayye
:Babu batun banza kuma babu sakewa
:Kuma in yai tsaye ba mai kausai
:Na rikaka da girma Abdu kanen Maidaga
:Kan da mu san kowa kai munka sani Sardauna

Leader:        Amongst all the chiefs you know
:The king you are certain (of his personality)
:Amadu has a well composed younger brother best of all
:He is always frank and never tired of being so
:He stands by his words with no apology to any
:I respect you Abdu the younger brother of the warrior
:It is you we know as Sardauna and no one else.

  1. Obedience and dedication:

The culture of respecting elders, teachers, constituted authority and goodness to parent is well pronounced in Hausa culture and literacy traditions. In Hausa culture, leadership is not a dictatorship matter, it is by competency and acceptance by the ruled. Subjects are expected to be hard working and dedicated to their state and society for responsible leadership to bestow confidence on them. That is why leaders are addressed ranka ya dade (may your life be long); Allah shi taimakeka (may His almighty help you), and the reply is amin tare da kai (amen, and you too). This is how cordial our palaces, courts and kingdoms were. What brought the insurgency, riots and demonstration to the lawful constituted authority of today needs to be investigated. Sani Aliyu Dandawo, has the following to the defeated princes by Shu’aibu Yakubu Abarshi:

Jagora:        Kai mutane ku bar jayayya
:Ku yarda da ikon Allah
:Allah shi ka bai ya ba shi
:Ku zo ku rufa mai baya
:Akwai gaba na nan kuma
:Ba duka za a zama sarki ba

Amshi:        Mai Yawuri sabon sarki
:Shu’aibu madauki fansa
:Yakubu shirinai ya kai

Leader:        Oh my people stop agitating

:Accept the will of God
:It is God who gives and He gave him
:Come together and give your support
:Follow him obediently don’t contest
:It is his time await yours to come\
:It is never possible for all to ascend throne
Chorus:       Owner of Yawuri the new king
:Shu’aibu the conqueror
:Yakubu the aim is being achieved

With these few remarks we can see that our cultural heritage is rich enough to guide our youth the strategies of confronting challenges.
  1. Islamic dress code:
The most common impact of colonialism is dress code. In reality, there is no stated color or materials that Muslims must observed. However, dress code of both male and female should be large enough to cover the most sensitive parts of the body. The Islamic over-garment (Hijab) for ladies most be plain not decorative, should not resemble men’s clothes and not resemble disbelievers’ clothes and should not be conspicuous or ostentatious (Abdullah, n.d.). Qur’an 24:31, Qur’an 33:59, Qur’an 33:33 are with details of Islamic dress code for women.


Student of Islamic studies/religions studies and culture are very special students in the Arts and Humanities studies. They are at the centre of human needs and control the weapons to reach the desired target. Our hopes in you are very many, it is our prayer that:

  1. Your actions and deeds are the example for others to follow.
  2. As students of religious studies you are the representatives of our religion at whatever capacity you found yourselves.
  3. You have a big duty to learn Arabic language and have working knowledge in it. This would enhance your carrier in your future studies and beyond.

  4. We have no doubt that your services are highly needed to correct the anomalies in our democratic society. With you in the system, we are certain to get the change we are looking ahead in Nigeria.


May I use this very important occasion to commend the efforts of Zamfara State Government for its ambition to create Zamfara State University. This is a welcome idea by all and sundry. However, Zamfara being the first Shari’a state in Nigeria must never forget its obligations to the entire Zamfara communities. The University that is expected to provide qualitative education so its people must never forget to carry their culture and religion along. In a nutshell, the anticipated University to be must be provided a strong Faculty or School for Islamic Studies, Arabic and Indigenous Languages.


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