The Great Mosque of Niamey, Niger.

The country of Niger is located in West Africa and is a landlocked country where more than 80% of the land is covered by the vast Sahara Desert. The country takes its name from the mighty Niger River which flows through the capital Niamey in the southwestern part of the country. Niger is a country that over the centuries had its original traditional religions, but also Islam, and later Christianity, brought into the country by outside forces.

The main religious beliefs in Niger

Shia and Sunni Islam

Shia Islam is the second largest religion in Niger, with 6.5% of the population adhering to the religion, while Sunni Islam is by far the largest religion in the Niger country, with 81.1% of the population. population according to religion. Islam arrived in the region that is now Niger in the early 15th century with the expansion of the Songhai Empire (1375-1591) and the influence of trans-Saharan trade across North Africa and the West. Although it had been in Niger for a few hundred years, Islam did not become the dominant religion in the 18th and 19th centuries, when the Hausa and Zarma were influenced by the Fula-led jihads of the Sufi brotherhoods . During the 20th century, the Muslim sects Tijaniya, Hammallism and Sanusiya achieved brief prominence in the country. Currently, the Senegalese Sufi Nyassist teachings and Wahhabi Arabic teachings have won a small number of converts in the country.

Hausa animism and other traditional African religions

The number of people in Niger who follow a traditional African religion is 5.9%, with Hausa animism being the most notable. There are traditional African religions like the Hausa-speaking Maori community in Dogondoutci or the Kanuri-speaking Manga near the city of Zinder which both practice different forms of the pre-Islamic version of the Hausa Maguzawa religion. Other traditional African religions like Hausa (Bori) animism are practiced by syncretic Muslim communities as a mixture of Islam and traditional religion. Hausa animism is known for its belief in spiritual possession and control of spirits through ritual or song and dance known as worship.

Ahmadiyya Islam

The number of people in Niger who follow Ahmadiyya Islam is currently 5.6% of the population. Ahmadiyya Islam is a recent Islamic religious movement that established itself in Punjab, India at the end of the 19th century. The religion only arrived in Niger in 1956 and is the most recent of the main beliefs in the country. The Ahmadiyyas believe that Islam as a religion is the last dispensation for mankind as it was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad and that they must restore it to its true form and teaching as it was under Muhammad and the first Islamic community.

Protestant and Roman Catholic Christianity

The number of Roman Catholic followers in Niger is only 0.1% of the population, with the number of Protestants only slightly over 0.4%. Christianity was brought to Niger by Europeans in the 19th century when the French and Germans were among the first to explore the region. By the 1890s the French had control of parts of Niger and eventually established the French colony of Niger (1922-1960). Shortly after, in 1924 and 1931, the first Protestant and Catholic missions settled in the country along with other French colonial institutions. Most of the country’s Christians live in and around the country’s major urban centers like Niamey or Maradi. Most Christians in the country are local believers who descend from colonial families or are immigrants from other coastal countries like Togo or Benin.

The state of religion in Niger

Niger’s constitution provides for freedom of religion for the population and other policies and laws also help to promote it. Important societal leaders in the country promote freedom of religions and Niger has mostly had positive relations between its Islamic majority and other religions. The country’s government is able to see that Islam is the religion of the vast majority of the country, but they also have a secular law and do not fund any religion directly. Although there have been violent attacks such as the November 2000 riots in Niamey due to a fashion show organized by French people or the January 2015 attacks on businesses linked to France due to the Charlie Hebo magazine, the government was quick to crack down on religious intolerance and to ban and arrest members of these groups.

Religious beliefs in Niger

Rank belief system Share of population in Niger
1 Sunni Islam 81.1%
2 Shia Islam 6.5%
3 Hausa animism and other traditional African religions 5.9%
4 Ahmadiyya Islam 5.6%
5 Protestant Christianity 0.5%
6 Roman Catholic Christianity 0.1%
Other or no belief 0.3%