Hausa Interpreter

Presenting the gospel to the Hausa requires one to learn their language. Shortly after our arrival, my wife and I were placed at a Hausa-speaking Bible school. Immediately we began studying the language. I also began teaching at the Bible school, relying upon Yohanna to interpret for me. He was a Hausa believer; a man I learned to respect and depend on in presenting biblical truth to the students.

Yohanna's oldest son was attending the Roman Catholic secondary school. One day I suggested to Yohanna that it didn't look good for him to be working at the Bible school and his son attending a Roman Catholic school. He explained that if his son attended mass on Sunday morning, he was permitted to attend school without paying any school fees. He agreed with me, but finding money for school fees was difficult.

I arranged with Yohanna for his son to work in our yard every day after school and paid him for his labor. The son was 13-years old. I began reading the Bible and praying with him often. It was my privilege to disciple this young man, teaching him to tithe, have daily devotions, and to be a witness of his faith in Jesus Christ. Later he went to Bible school, became a pastor, and today serves as an important leader in the national church. Thank God for the privilege of helping to shape the life of a Hausa believer! 

 

HAUSA PROFILE

General Description:

The Hausa are a racially diverse but culturally homogeneous people group of northern Nigeria and south-central Niger. Numbering more than 33 million across eight African countries, they are the largest ethnic group in West Africa. The Hausa have an ancient culture that had a wide coverage area. They have historic ties with the Arabs and other Islamic peoples in West Africa through extended long distance trade. Wealthy merchants share the highest social positions with the politically powerful and the learned.

Geography and Population:

The Hausa are a people of the Sahel. Significant numbers are found in Benin 700,934; Burkina Faso 500,000; Cameroon 1,300,500; Ghana 172,000; Niger 8,000,000; Nigeria 20,600,000; Sudan 918,000; Togo 929,600; for a total of 33,121,034 people. They live among other people groups. 

The area of northwestern Nigeria and in adjoining southern Niger is mostly semiarid grassland  are among the greatest commercial centers of sub-Saharan Africa. Kano, north Nigeria is considered the center of trade or culture.

Lifestyle:

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.

Typical Hausa life is consumed with caring for family and making ends meet. Their major safety net is the immediate community and family whose approval is vital. Hausa society is extremely hierarchical. All authority in large familial households lies in the hands of the eldest male.

Descent is patrilineal; and close kin, especially cousins, are preferred marriage partners.

Families arrange marriages for their young people. In their mid-to late teens, young men and women may become engaged.  Under Islamic law, a man may marry up to four wives. Divorce, regulated by Muslim law, is frequent

Following Islamic custom, most married Hausa women live in seclusion. They stay in the home and only go out for ceremonies or to seek medical treatment. When they do leave their homes, women wear veils and are often escorted by their children.

Hausa tend to be quiet and reserved. When they interact with outsiders, they generally do not show emotion. From an early age, children develop friendships with their neighbors that may last a lifetime.

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. Staple foods include grains (sorghum, millet, or rice) and maize, which are ground into flour for a variety of foods. 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.

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 are well known for their craftsmanship. There are leather tanners and leather-workers, weavers, carvers and sculptors, ironworkers and blacksmiths, silver workers, potters, dyers, tailors, and embroiderers. Their wares are sold in markets throughout West Africa

Hausa society was, and to a large extent continues to be, politically organized on a feudal basis. Social structuring is markedly hierarchical; the ranking, both of offices and social classes, is expressed in an elaborate etiquette. Individuals may be ranked as commoners, administrators, or chiefs; and varying degrees of prestige attach to different professions and levels of prosperity.

Hausa men are recognizable by their elaborate dress. Many wear large, flowing gowns with elaborate embroidery around the neck. They also wear colorful embroidered caps. Hausa women wear a wrap-around robe made of colorful cloth with a matching blouse, head tie, and shawl.

From about the age of six, Hausa children attend Qur’anic schools. Since Nigeria received its independence in 1960, the government has built many schools and universities. A majority of Hausa children, especially in urban areas, are now able to attend school.

Music and art are important in everyday life. From a young age, Hausa children participate in dances, which are held in meeting places such as the market. Work songs often accompany activities in the rural areas and in the markets. Storytelling, local dramas, and musical performances are also common forms of traditional entertainment.

Hausa society has a strong division of labor according to age and sex. Many Hausa men have more than one occupation. Hausa women earn money by processing, cooking, and selling food. They also sell cloth scraps, pots, medicines, vegetable oils, and other small items. Since women are generally secluded according to Islamic law, their children or servants go to other houses or the market on their behalf.

Poverty is widespread among the Hausa. Poverty results in poor nutrition and diet, illness and inadequate health care, and lack of educational opportunities. Most of the region where the Hausa live is prone to drought.  Nearly one-third of the people are unemployed. Only about half of the population can read and write. The average life expectancy of a Nigerian is only 56 years.

Language:

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 language belongs to the Chadic group of the Afro-Asiatic (formerly Hamito-Semitic) family. Hausa is written in Arabic characters, and about one-fourth of Hausa words come from Arabic. Many Hausa can read and write Arabic. Many can also speak either French or English.

History:

It is not known when the movement of the ancestors of the Hausa people actually occurred; neither has the migrants' place of origin been pinpointed. The seven Habe kingdoms were formed by a merging of strangers with local natives. This rise of the Hausa states occurred between 500 and 700 A.D. Though these kingdoms were growing, they didn't fully control the region until about 1200 A.D.

By 1500 AD, Islam had been introduced to the Hausa by Arab traders. Many of the urban Hausa embraced Islam immediately, in hopes of enhancing their business. Villagers however were not as receptive to this new religion. In the "holy wars" of 1804 and 1808, the Hausa were conquered by the Fulani.  Many of the villagers were forced or bribed into becoming Muslim. They adopted some of Islam's outward behaviors and rituals, but did not accept Islam wholeheartedly as many of the urban Hausa did.

By the twelfth century C.E., the Hausa were becoming one of Africa's major powers. They survived in various forms until the late seventeenth century, when they were absorbed into the Sultanate of Sokoto before the arrival of the European powers. By the early nineteenth century, most of the Hausa emirates were under British control as the Protectorate of Nigeria.

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

Religion:

The Hausa culture is strongly linked to Islam, which makes it difficult to penetrate this people group with the Gospel. They are very prejudiced against the Christians of southern Nigeria, and there is intense persecution of the Hausa who have become Christians.

In the rural areas, there are communities of peoples who do not follow Islam. These people are called Maguzawa.  The religion often includes the sacrifice of animals for personal ends. What remains in more populous areas is a "cult of spirit possession" which still holds the old religion's elements of animism and magic.

Progress of the Gospel:      

Out of the population of more than 33 million there are only 36,000 known Christians. Muslims compose more than 99.9% of the Hausa people.

Fortunately there is a Bible printed in the Hausa language as well as the Jesus film. There are at least 14 mission agencies working among them. It is estimated that about 10 million Hausa have heard the gospel, but only a small percentage have openly made a commitment to Christ as Lord and Savior.

Among the 0.10% who profess Christianity, 20% are Anglican, 25% Independent, and 55% Protestant. The Evangelicals are distributed among them.  The Joshua Project Progress Scale rates them as 1.2 with Evangelicals greater than 0.01% but less than 2%, and professing Christians less than 5%.

Scripture Availability

The entire Bible was translated and published in the Hausa language in 1932. Since then, Bible portions have been translated in Braille and in Ajami, the Arabic script. But with a low literacy rate among the Hausa people, a need exists for creative ways to communicate. The Old and New Testaments are now available in recordings, films and visuals.