Friday, April 27, 2012
Who Are the Fulani People? Origins 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. Along the way many Fulani completely or partially abandoned their traditional nomadic life in favor of a sedentary existence in towns or on farms among the conquered peoples. The nomadic Fulani continued eastward in search of the best grazing land for their cattle. Their lives revolved around and were dedicated to their herds. The more cattle a man owned, the more respect he was given. Today, some estimate as many as 18 million Fulani people stretch across the countries of West Africa. They remain to be the largest group of nomadic people in the world. What Do the Fulani Believe? Religion and Beliefs: The Fulani were one of the first African tribes to convert to Islam and are today more than 99% Muslim. The devoutly Muslim Fulani have seen themselves as the propagators and preservers of the Islamic faith in West Africa from as early as the fourteenth century. Historically it was a Fulani chief named Usuman dan Fodio, along with nomadic Fulani herdsmen who were instrumental in facilitating the spread of Islam across West Africa through evangelism and conquest. At times they would wage "holy wars" or jihad in order to extend and purify Islam. As the Fulani migrated eastward they spread their Islamic beliefs. As they became more powerful and attained more wealth they began to be more aggressive with their religion. Their adoption of Islam increased their feeling of cultural and religious superiority to surrounding peoples, and that adoption became a major ethnic boundary marker. Some settled in towns and quickly became noted as outstanding Islamic clerics, joining the highest ranking Berbers and Arabs.