Rabiu Aliyu Rambo

Department of Nigerian

Usmanu DanfodiyoUniversity, Sokoto.





Marriage like in any other traditions, play a vital role among the Hausa (kabawa) and the Zarma communities. Marriage is one of the important agent of socializations and development of every communities or nation at large. The word marriage means a bond or contract that legalizes the union of man and woman as wife and husband. In the two communities under study, marriage is considered as a cultural and religious obligation, as such any man or woman who has no wife or husband is reluctantly accepted as a inresponsible member of the society. It is in view of the above, this paper wishes to comparatively study some aspect of marriage culture in two different communities (Hausa and Zarma). As such the paper will focus its attention on the differences and similarities of some marriage culture in the two communities.


Marriage institution, play a vital role in almost every society in the world. Just like in any other communities, Hausa and Zarma communities place the tradition of marriage to be an occasion that calls for joy and merriment, it entails a celebration of life that can be considered as an institution of itself[ii].  Every parent in the two communities wishes to see their child’s are marriage when they are matured. Marriage in both Hausa and Zarma communities, means a bond or a contract that legalizes the union of man and woman as husband and wife. Marriage is considered as a cultural and religious obligation among the Hausa and Zarma people, it is in view of the above obligation, that the two communities considered any person who is mutual and physically feet for marriage, but reluctantly refused to married as irresponsible member of the society.

Marriage in the two communities is legalized only when the dowry has been paid by the husband to the wife. Although no fixed amount is specified, it all depends on the amount mentioned by the bride’s father or Waliyi ( bride guardian).

In line with the above, this paper wishes to look in to the some aspect of marriage culture of the two communities (Hausa and Zarma). Thus, the area under study on this paper will include: A brief historical background of Hausa and Zarma people, and towards defining a marriage. Others areas to be study in this paper includes some aspect of marriage culture before the marriage, during the marriage and after the marriage. In addition, the paper will make comparative analysis of some aspect of marriage culture between the two different communities, whereby differences and similarities of the cultures will be discoursed and finally the conclusion.


The concept of marriage has no universal definition. Marriage has different meaning in different cultures and may mean different things to people living at the same time. The definition of marriage depends on the socio- cultural and economic environment of a given society and may change from time to time.[iii]   In Islamic law, marriage is a civil contract legalizing intercourse and the procreation of children. It is an institution that combines both worship (Ibadat) and social relations (Mu’amulat ).[iv] Others view marriage as in different perspective, as Wasagu (2007:39) quoted Alhassan et al (1980:1) saying “ marriage is the coming together of a man and woman in a legitimate way so as to avoid adultery , protect ones image, help one another and above all give a legitimate background to their offspring’s. Wasagu, (2007:39).

However, Westermark is of the view that, “ There are three essential element in every normal marriage, the gratification of the sexual impulse, the relation between husband and wife and apart from it, the procreation of children.[v] Others sociologist perceived marriage as mutual relationship between one person or persons with another with the zeal of relationship as husband and wife.[vi] In addition , others authors has contributed a lot towards defining a marriage, among them include Alhassan (1980) Saulawa, (1986) Sa’ad, (1989) Rambo, (2007)  among others .

From the various definitions above, one may conclude to say that a marriage is a concrete and mutual relationship between man and woman control under some stipulated guide lines from the community.


Hausa is the name by which the people of the Hausa ethnic group call themselves and are understood as such by many other people. Though, of course different people had different local names for them. Hausa is also the name of the language of the people, and in their literature they have no other word for their country but “kasar Hausa”, the land of the Hausa people or language.[vii]   The Hausa people are mostly fond in Northern Nigeria, they are equally found in diasporas such as in Niger, Benin, Northern Ghana Cameron and Sudan just to mentioned the few.

Hausa land extends roughly from latitude 10 South to 20 North and from longitude 10 West to 40 East.[viii]  The land has high temperature, it also has cold, dry and dusty wind from the Saharan desert known as hamatan, and a worm and humid air bringing air from the southern Atlantic ocean. In terms of vegetation it is just like that of Savannah Sudan and Sahel savannah. Their main occupation includes farming and rearing of animal and trading as while as extracting mineral. They also have central political system headed by the sarki.[ix]


The Zarma people has the estimated population of about 34590,000,and are mostly found in Niger with the population of 3,300,000, and 113,000 lives in Nigeria, 1100 lives in Burkina Fasso and 69000 lives in Ghana, 38000 lives in Benin.[x] Their related ethnic group includes Songhai, others are Nilo- Saharan groups, Fulo, Hausa and Mande. The Zarma language is one of the Songhai language family. The Zarma people share common language and culture with Songhai, it is because of this good relationship, the Zarma people are some times  refered  to as “Zarma-Songhai” or “Djerma –Songhai”. They constitute a smaller ethnic groups who were either indigenous  of Songhai Empire and later assimilated into Zarma people or else of Zarma origin who have differentiated themselves in the pre-colonial times ( through dialect, political structure or religion )[xi]

The zarma people therefore are said to might have migrated from Fula region around Lac Debo, Mali from Songhai Empire and settle in Anzourou and Zameganda in the 16th century. Zarmakoy Aboubacar founded the Dosso state from his own Taguru clan around 1750’s. it remained a small collection of villages in the Dallon Basso valley until 1820s when the it led much of the resistance to the Sokoto caliphate. While Dosso fell under the control of the Amir of Gando (a sub division Sokoto) between 1849-1856. By 1856-65 they were converted to Islam during Zarmakoy Kossoru.

The language of Zarma is dialect of the Nilo-Saharan language family. Traditionally, the people of Zarma and Songhai view themselves as a one family. It is estimated that over 90% of Zarma are Muslim, therefore adhere to the teaching of Islam in their daily activities.


There are so many cultures that are practice before the Hausa traditional marriage take place. Here the paper will look in to the some aspect of marriage of Hausa people generally right from the courtship to the weeding day and off course after the marriage.

  • Courtship Among the Hausa people:

In a traditional Hausa society, the parent has the responsibility of selecting their younger ones (daughters) the husband, and any choice of her parent is her final decision. That is to say in traditional Hausa society, their girls has no right to select their husband. Although after the contact the Hausa with Islam, things has change were the girl may be allowed to make up her own choice for marriage.

Hausa people provide an avenue were boys and girl can meet to start discussing as courtship’ This avenue include market place or during night child play or in any other ceremony like sallah and weeding  and naming ceremony. After the boy saw the girl he has interested on, he will then sent his friends to discourse the matter with her directly or her friends or else inform his parent.

After they agreed to each other, he then presents a gift to the girl which is conveyed by the parent of boy or his guardian. This gift is call “Na gani ina so” (  I so and I love). If the gift is accepted, the girl parent will give the boy permission to start visiting the girl. Traditionally, the boy will be visiting the girl weekly especially on the village market day accompanied by his friends and the girl too with her friends or sister.[xii] This is done to avoid any misconduct in their isolation.


Eventually a bond of love and agreement with good understanding will be established between the couple. The boy parent will sent “Dukiyar Aure” (marriage wealth) to the girl family which is normally some farm product, bur now replace with money. This money will then be shared among the girl relatives in other to formally inform them that she has got suitor, and also to make them start preparing their contribution for the success of the weeding.

  • Gayya

In addition to the above, in some area of Hausa land, after courtship has developed, the boy and his friends will be asked to go for ‘aikin ganya’ were from time to time the boy will be going to his in-law farm to be assisting them on farming activities or some time domestic work. Hausa people attach much importance to this physical work. By tradition it is done to test the ability of the boy endurance.

  • Baiko

One other important culture exercised before marriage includes betrothal ceremony. Here people will be invited to gather at the girl homes.  The girl’s father or waliyi open the proceeding with the following pronouncement.

“ I hereby give my daughter or change (name of the girl)

to ( name of the boy) upon payment of ( mention a sum)

as dowry”

Then the boy’s father or his representatives will replied:

“I solemnly accept on his behalf”

The Imam will then led prayers and the crowds disperse. After this betrothal no any other suitor can come and seek the girl marriage. The betrothal give room for the commencement of the courtship.

Kayan Toshi (Gift present)

After the betrothal, next is the suitor visit to the girl, while visiting her, he usually present to her some gift from time to time more especially during Ramadan fasting or sallah festival. This gift may include wrapper, cosmetic, blouses, jewelries, bags, and so on. In Hausa tradition, this gift signified the economic standard of the suitor, and saved as a means to measure the capability of the suitor to handle the girl after the marriage.

  • Kayan Sa Ruwa ( Fixing the weeding date)

One other important tradition that took place before the marriage is (kayan sa ruwa” , here some items are sent to the girl’s house for aims of fixing the date for the weeding. This marks the approach of the weeding. The items may include all other items of Na gani ina so, but must include lalle (henna leaves). Other items to be sent include food grains, dates, cooking oil, plates, spoons, tasa (brase plate), mat, kola nut and so on.

Some Aspect of Hausa Cultures During the Marriage Ceremony

On the weeding day, so many cultural activities took place, out of which includes the weeding prayers which is led by the Imam after fulfilling some condition. These are consenting male and a female, marriage guardian, dowry, reliable witnesses and offer and acceptance ( sigah). The marriage is pronouse by the Imam and praise singers will anause in a lauder voice. The dowry mentioned may be paid there or later. In addition, in some areas of Hausa land, they require the groom to pay some money for malam’s ( kudin malamai) and cousin’s gift and grandparent gift among others.

It is good to note that, in those days, the marriage contract is performed before the actual weeding ceremony, but this time around everything is done at same time. During marriage ceremony many cultural activities took place among which include; The jikon lalle (soaking of the henna leaves), “wankin lalle” (bathing the bride with henna) which others call “ cudanya”. Others includes “ shan maye” and “lugude” and “ kidin kwarya” among others are some cultural activities that took place during the Hausa traditional weeding ceremony.

Some Aspect of Hausa Cultures after the Marriage

Daukar Amarya

After the wedding ceremony, the next important aspect of Hausa culture is “Daukar Amarya” ( taking the bride to the groom’s home). Traditionally after the sun rest, some women mostly relatives and neighbors will take the bride to her room, while going; others will be dancing, singing, clapping and joking. Later Amaryar Karya (false bride) will be taken by groom friends just like the original bride.

Kai Bante (virginity)

In Hausa communities’ bride virginity is regarded to be very important culture. White mate or white bed sheet will be used in on consummation bed. If the bride was found virgin, it shows that her parent gave her good family training, and she will be given a special gift from her family as a sign of gratitude. This could be in form of money, kola nut, wrapper (Atamfa) among others.

Sayen Baki  (buying mouth)

This is usually done when the bride and her friends left in the new bride room. The groom will be accompanied by his friends, and they will be cracking jokes between the friends of the celebrants. Finally the groom’s friends will be giving some gift to bride friends. But it is discourage now because of teaching of Islam.

Jere (Decoration of bride’s Room )

This is another important aspect of marriage culture. It is a furnishing or decoration of the bride’s room, this is done according to the financial standard of the bride family. Most importantly, the bride will be taken to her room with all necessary home work materials.


From the brief historical background we discoursed on this paper, we can understand that the Zarma shared so many things in common with the Hausa people. Here an attempt is made to study some aspect of marriage culture of Zarma people.

Courtship among the Zarma people

The traditions of Zarma custom mandate the parent to select for their daughters the husband. In normal Zarma tradition either of boy or girl has the right to select their husband or wife. In whatever economic standard you belong to, you must Waite for your parent decision before going in to any girl as your proposer. In the selection of suitor, the parent consider honest and discipline house for their child. If there is any bad historical record against any house, they will not allow their own blood in to such house.

Although some times the suitors may meet at market place or on ceremonial day like sallah day or naming ceremony day where the spouse will first see each other and introduce themselves.

Special Gift

After the boy and the girl agreed to each other, the next cultural obligation as for the Zarma tradition is the special gift offered to the girl’s parent from the parent or guardian. If the gift is accepted, then the boy is given go ahead to continued his courtship with the girl. However, if the gift is not accepted, it means he is not accepted.

Marriage Wealth

Marriage wealth play a significant role in Zarma marriage. By tradition in the olden days, Zarma people imposed some small amount of money estimated for about two bags (#400). This is because of the fact that, under normal Zarma marriage, there is no separation until death. Equally some agricultural products are accepted as a marriage wealth in Zarma communities. Just like the Hausa’s, the marriage wealth are distributed to the members of the family, which is informing them their daughter has got a suitor, and to make them get ready for their own contribution on the weeding day.

Physical Work

Physical work known as Gayya in Hausa is another cultural aspect of marriage in Zarma communities. During the courtship, before the actual weeding day, the boy may be ask to be going to his in-law’s farm to be assisting them on farming activities. This is done to test the endurance capacity of the boy.

Moving the Bride to her Room (Daukar Amarya)

In tradition, when the bride will  be taking to the grooms house, it is usually by inviting her relatives particularly the older ones. These women will conveyed bride using either the horse or camel to the groom house, and it is done a day after the weeding. The bride will remain in the house for seven days with her friends. After the first week, she will then come back to her parent and spent another week before she will be finally moving to room (groom house).


The relationship between boys and girls are strictly control by the elders of Zarma people. To this, they take serious precaution on preventing their younger ones on committing adultery. As such, when the bride is taken to her room, and found to be virgin, the groom family prepared some special gift for her in appreciation to her virginity.


The two predominantly Muslim communities of Hausa and Zarma have numerous cultural similarities which can be for many factors.

The two communities regard the selection of the spouse as a family duty. Parent are responsible for the choosing of partner for their child. In both communities they consider the historical background of the spouse houses, which means to say they don’t go in to the broken home. After the selection of the spouse, in both communities ceremony are done to mark the engagement, which is usually done before the presence of some invited family and friends. But before the engagement both the Hausa and Zarma people practice what is called courtship. The period of this courtship is not stipulated by any community. In terms of marriage wealth, both communities shared the same procedures.

Equally, both communities work out the details of the marriage and dowry to be paid. Both communities has no fixed amount of dowry it all depends on the agreement reached by the two parties concerned. Gift are usually allowed, and these gift include kayan jin kira (first gift), Kayan Azumi (Ramadan Gift), Kayan Sallah (Eid Gift), lehe (Weeding Trousseau), kayan kitso (Plaiting Gift) and kayan sa ruwa ( Sprinkling the bride) among others. Sa’ad,( 1989:195)

In both communities, the duty of ensuring the bride has enough room furniture and other working materials is on the sight of the bride family. Alhough each community has bear in mind that the furniture may depends on the financial standard of the family.

In respect to kai-gara gift , in both Hausa and Zarma communities they practice the same culture. The son-in-law in both communities make used of this gara to settle some of their depts., because some money are included.

One other area or similarities of marriage culture in the two communities is on the formal contraction of the marriage. In both communities marriage take place in a ceremony form. It take place in the presence of members of the family, relatives and friends. The bride is usually given by the parent or guardian in the presence of witnesses. The responsibility of organizing the weeding is shoulder on the two parties evolved.

In addition, in Hausa culture, the bride usually visits her friends and relatives in company to make a farewell, so also the Zarma people.

More ever, in both communities they have what we called “Arwanka” in Hausa. Arwanka is responsible for the preparation of the bride and advisor, she educate the bride on sex education and other domestic duties as well as taking care of her husband. Sa’ad. (1989:195 )

Apart from the above, other important culture practice in both communities is the test and proud of the bride virginity. “ The virginity of the bride was traditionally considered as a great importance. Both the communities usually place a white bed-sheet on the consummation bed which to be soiled to prove the brides virginity. Sa’ad (1989:200). When the bride are meet virgin, the family in both communities prepared some special gift for the bride.

Above all, both the communities practice almost the same type of marriage which may include child marriage, force marriage, love marriage relation marriage and polygamy marriage among others.


In terms of the differences that exist between the marriage culture of the two communities ( Hausa and Zarma), not much differences has been discover. However out of the little one’s discovered for case of this study includes the following:

The first important culture that differed in the two communities is on how bride is taking in to her room. In Hausa, she was taken on the first day of her weeding, while in Zarma communities it was done a day after the wedding day. Equally the bride in Zarma used to run away to her relatives homes, and she will not come back until after her weeding, but in Hausa this is not the case.

In the olden days, the Zarma people do not sent lefe (weeding trousseau) while in Hausa they do. Although at present some Zarma people do sent their weeding trousseau now.

Finally, we may conclude by saying that, the marriage culture of Hausa and Zarma people are almost the same, although there is some area were they differed. This may not be unconnected with the fact that Islam makes a great impact on the two communities’ cultures, despite the fact they speak different languages.


Marriage is one of the means by which one’s relation are widening and develop affinities between different groups of various societies like family , culture and nationality. T he culture of marriage initiates the new generation into the culture and tradition and improve their further civilizations. It is the bridge that link the past with the present and with the future. It is also the basic unit of society which integrates its members and makes them to play their ideological and cultural role as an ongoing process.

Marriage cultures in both the communities helps in shaping the life style of the people of the communities, and if they should be allow to be destroyed, the future of such and communities civilization will be threatened.

Finally the paper is able to find out that, the two communities (Hausa and Zarma) shared so may things in common in terms of their marriage culture. The study also found out that there are some areas were their marriage culture differed. It is equally observed that, because of these marriage culture similarities make the life of the Hausa and Zarma people to be very unique and united so much so that you can only differentiate the Hausas and Zarma through their language.









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[ii] Wasagu F I : Voice from Silence: A Literary Analysis of selected Traditional Hausa women weeding songs from Sokoto. M .A. Thesis  Department of Modern European Languages. Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto.2007 p 38.


[iii]  Sa’ad M. F.  A comparative study of marriage in two muslim communities . M. A . Thesis  Usmanu Danfodiyo University . 1989, page 32.

[iv] Ra’uf M. A.  Islamic view on women and the family. New York. Cambridge Press. 1977 p 19.

[v]  Westermark. The Future of Marriage in Western Civilization. Lahore. Pakistan. 1984 p 30.

[vi]  Burgess et al . The Family. 2nd Ed .New York. American Book Co. 1953 p 16.

[vii]  Adamu ,M. The Hausa Factor in west African History. Zaria. Ahmadu Bello University Press. 1978 p 1

[viii] Wasagu F I : Voice from Silence: A Literary Analysis of selected Traditional Hausa women weeding songs from Sokoto. M .A. Thesis  Department of Modern European Languages. Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto.2007 p

[ix] Sarki: The head or leader

[x] Internet

[xi]  Internet

[xii] Rambo R A Nazari a kan wasu kebabbun al’adun auren Hausawa da na Dakarkari. Sashen Harsunan Nijeriya Jami’ar Usmanu Danfodiyo Sokoto. Kundin Digiri na Biyu. 2007 p 69