Burkina Faso, a former French colony, is a small country located in West Africa. Originally known as Upper Volta during the colonial era, it was renamed Burkina Faso, meaning “Land of Honorable/Happy People,” after the famous leader Thomas Sankara came to power. Let’s take a look at the status of Islam and Muslims in Burkina Faso, which is among the world’s poorest countries.
How many Muslims live in Burkina Faso?
Burkina Faso is home to approximately 20 million people, with an estimated 12 million being Muslims. While there is no precise census data, the fact that Islam is spreading in the country is perhaps a piece of encouraging news that may surpass the current number of Muslims.
When and how did Islam reach Burkina Faso?
Islam’s presence in Burkina Faso dates back to ancient times, although the northern regions were exposed to Islam earlier than the rest of the country. In most parts of the country, Islam has a history of no more than two centuries. The late Rahmetullah Shaykh 1st Muhammad Mayga played a significant role in spreading Islam in the region through the Tijaniyya Sufi order. The Islamization process initially took place through the lens of Sufism.
What are the most important mosques in Burkina Faso?
If you find yourself in the capital city, Ouagadougou (pronounced Vagadugu), you’ll encounter three major mosques in the central market area. The Tijani Mosque, started by the late Shaykh Muhammad Mayga, who put efforts into buying a small corner of an old pagoda and gradually expanded it, is significant in spreading Islam in the country. Dhikr (remembrance) of the Shahada is performed here before prayers. Another mosque is the Central Mosque, owned by the Muslim Committee, where you may feel as if you are between the columns of the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca.
There is also a mosque associated with a group of Muslims adhering to a Wahhabi interpretation of Islam, and you can see circles of knowledge in every corner. When you see the Istanbul Mosque slightly outside the city, you might think you are in Turkey. Lastly, don’t forget to pray at the Ancient Mosque in Bobo-Dioulasso, made of clay, and valiantly preserving its unique architecture for the region. It is a place situated close to Allah but distant from the world of people.
Who are the individuals and institutions working for Islam in Burkina Faso?
Unfortunately, there is a fragmented Muslim structure in the country. The most prominent organization is the Muslim Committee, which is also of Tijani origin. There is another group called Ittihad-i Islam, led by the country’s most famous scholar, Ebu Bekir Dukri. This group is predominantly composed of Fulani Muslims. There are other Muslim groups as well, revolving around the Tijani Sufi order and its sheikh, though their scholarly weight is more robust; some things have remained unchanged. Like anywhere in the world, one can find various right and wrong groups here.
What are the problems faced by Burkina Faso’s Muslims?
The most significant problem faced by Burkinabé Muslims is their lack of unity and division. Unfortunately, each group expects others to align with their own views and is reluctant to compromise and unite. We pray for the presence of educated youth with knowledge and skills to embrace the world. Poverty is also a pressing issue for Muslims in Burkina Faso, which is a bleeding wound. The saying, “Poverty would have been almost disbelief,” is best understood in this region of the world.