The Fulani people are one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa covering the better part of West Africa and the Sahel. They are known to be widely spread in Africa and culturally diverse. They divide themselves into groups; the nomadic Fulani, the pastoral Fulani, and the settled Fulani. Although they come from the same group with the same origin, they identify as individual groups. Despite these, the Fulani still have some similarities between them.
- Some Ethnic Groups Were The First Islamic Converts Out Of The Middle East
The Fulani people were among the first African to convert to Islam. The people of Takrur produced the first Muslim-speaking clan called the Torodbe. The Fulani adopted the Islamic religion which made them feel superior to the other communities in West Africa. With time, the other clans began to accept the Islamic religion and left pastoralism except for the Woodabe and Bororo. In the 19th century, the Fulani people began religious wars called jihads or holy wars. These jihads were meant to resist taxation and acquiring of more grazing land.
Being the first people in West Africa to convert to Islam, the Fulani people used their political influence to change the religion of the other people. They conquered in the 1800s and managed to convert the non-Islamic Fulani people to join the Islamic movement. After the non-Islamic joined the group, the Islamic Fulani became a very strong group.
The Torodbe people joined forces with the Islamic people of the Middle East during trade and decided to spread Islam throughout the Fulani people and other West African communities.
- Their Traditional Dressing Heavily Borrows From Islam
There is no specific type of clothes that are worn by the Fulani people. However, they generally followed the Islamic way of dressing which is mostly modest clothing. Sometimes, the dressing and ornaments worn vary from one Fulani sub-group to another.
The Fulani women wear long, colorful, cotton robes that reach their feet. They also decorate their feet, hands, and arms with henna which is known to be worn by Muslim women. They also tie a long cloth around their waists, cover their heads or place it on one shoulder. Married Fulani women are supposed to wrap a headscarf and veil before they leave their house. However, Nomadic Fulani women do not wear the veil.
The men, on the other hand, wear long pants and shirts. They also have a very long piece of cloth they cover their heads and faces with. They also wear a small corn-shaped hat. Young men and women braid their hair and adorn themselves with ornaments.
- They Are The Largest Nomadic People In The World
The Fulani people are famously known as nomadic and pastoralist people. They are the largest nomadic group of people in the world. They herd cattle, goats, and sheep among other animals in the areas of the Sahel.
The pastoral Fulani move with their cattle from one place to bother throughout the year, depending on the season of the year and the availability of pasture and water for the herd. They counted wealth by considering the number of cattle and how large a herd is.
- The Fulani Way Of Life Incorporates Both Islamic And Pre-Islamic Traditions
The Fulani follow both Islamic and their own traditional ways. When a child is born, they hold a naming ceremony, according to Islamic law and practice. At the age of seven, the boys are circumcised and are celebrated by having a small ceremony in their household. After the circumcision, the boys can now perform duties like herding and farming. On the other hand, girls help their mothers with house chores.
Girls are married in their mid-teens while boys are unmarried until they are twenty when they can marry after having a herd of cattle or owning a farm of their own. After they complete the pre-marriage ceremonies, their families are supposed to sign a marriage contract under Islam. The Fulani believe that if someone follows the palaaku code and obeys the laws of Allah, they will be rewarded in the afterlife. Just like Muslims, the Fulani people believe in material rewards in the afterlife.
Their oral literature has greatly been influenced by Islam. The Fulani literature includes poetry, legends, stories, proverbs, and riddles among others
- They Participate In Various Elaborate Recreational Activities
The Fulani children participate in folk dance which they perform for their relatives and friends. In the settled Fulani group famous singers and artists perform in ceremonies like weddings, naming ceremonies, and other Islamic feasts. Fulani women do activities like weaving, embroidery, and knitting, they also make engraved guards and calabashes. The Fulani men do not participate in any recreational activities like iron-working and pottery like the men of other communities. They consider it a shame and disrespect to them.
Due to their pastoralism, the Fulani people have gone through different cultures, and through that, they have gathered great knowledge about them. They are known to have a wide knowledge of musical instruments and vocal music. Fulani music varies from one subgroup to another- each subgroup has a unique sense of music and dance from the other. Each song and dance is a reflection of the group’s traditional life and is made for a specific occasion. Fulani herders like the flute and Fulani violin called nianioru. The Fulani shepherds whistle and sing when grazing their cattle and sheep. The Fulani are known for the one-string viola called nianioru, the flute, and a set of drums.
The settled Fulani have local games like wrestling and boxing. The nomadic Fulani young men engage in a sport known as sharro. It is used as a test of bravery where young men whip each other to see who has the most endurance. This sport is mostly used when a young man is crossing to adulthood.
- The Fulani Way Of Life Incorporates Various Aspects From Constituent Subgroups
The Fulani are a very large group of people which is then subdivided into smaller sub-groups. Each sub-group has its own unique way of doing things but they have all affected each other’s cultures.
The Northern Fulani people dress and speak like the Fulani people in Hausa. There are people in Mali, Senegal, and Burkina Faso who are not originally Fulani people but they follow the Fulani culture. In terms of dressing, the Fulani women generally wear long, colorful robes and veils and the men wear cotton-made trousers and shirts. This mode of dressing varies from one sub-group to another.
The Fulani are predominantly Islamic but their way of worship and devotion varies. They use religion to mark the boundaries of their subgroups. These people marry fellow clan members but that has changed over time. They now marry from other ethnic groups which have brought about cultural diversity.