Housa Marriage

Marriage in the Hausa culture

The Hausas live in northern Nigeria. They are also found in Ghana, Togo, and Benin. The Hausas generally attach great importance to premarital chastity. A Hausa husband who discovers that the girl he has married is not a virgin will proclaim her shame to the entire town by breaking a pot outside his house. Among most Fulani, and other subtribes of the Hausa, custom forbids sexual intercourse between young people who are betrothed.

Other tribes, however, view premarital intercourse as a kind of trial marriage. The Piri suitor cohabits with his fiancée for a period of four months in her mother's compound. Some of them may bear children before marriage, depending on the length of courtship. The young men are usually happy to marry these young mothers. Among tribes who accept premarital sex, no stigma is attached to the young woman (girl) who bears a child before marriage. The child is claimed by the girl's family, except where the father of the child is the girl's betrothed and has paid the bride-price in full. Kona boys and girls who are betrothed may cohabit. If the girl conceives, the boy has to make additional payments to her father, presumably on the ground that her fertility has been proven.

Some tribes practice the custom of placing young women under the care of their betrothed before they reach marriageable age; this is common among the Kona, Margi, Mumuye, and Mumbake, as well as the Mosi tribe. The objective appears to be twofold.

First, the responsibility for the girl's upbringing and chastity is thrown on the fiancé's family, and second, the appropriation of the girl by her betrothed is clearly signified. As a result of pre-nuptial relations, a man can repudiate his betrothal at any time without the payment of damages in Hausaland.

Types of marriages in Hausaland

The Hausas practice various kinds of marriage. They include junior levirate marriage, whereby a younger brother may marry his late senior brother's wife or wives, and sororate marriage, whereby a man may marry his late wife's sister. Other types of marriage in Hausaland include cousin marriage known as auren zumunta, whereby a man or woman may marry anyone from a second cousin onward. Polygyny is also very popular, while many of the women, especially among the Muslims, are kept in the harems. The Hausas also practice a special type of polyandry that is a counterpart of concubinage. Among the Fulani pagan nomads, "wife lending" to a husband's brother or son is regarded as an act of reciprocal hospitality. The Munshi, Amgula, Yergurn, Rukuba, and Lungu practice marriage by "wife abduction." Other types of marriages in Hausaland include "marriage by purchase" (women are seen as transferable property) and "marriage by exchange" (one man gives his sister or daughter to a friend for a wife in exchange for a wife for himself). Marriage can also be by "capture," in most cases with the girl's consent, or by elopement.


  1. Actually I don't know where the writer got his source but I am a Hausa man and I want to make it crystal and clear that "marriage" in Hausa land is strictly based on Islamic laws. However, purchase and transfer marriages you mentioned are totally unacceptable and boy touching a girl before marriage is prohibited. Therefore your post did not represents the true Hausa culture.

    1. Alhassan M Tukur, the article is about traditional Hausa marriage, and not Islamic marriage. It is important to highlight the Hausa culture before the arrival of Islam. It is the culture of a people who called God UBANGEJI, and not ALLAH. This culture has been depleted so much that an acclaimed Hausa man can deliberately or unconsciously dismiss it.

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  3. Alhassan, you have just proven what i have long accused the hausa tribe of..... your culture has been lost..... you guys have no native name or tradition anymore.... a people's culture are who they are despite religion... Islam or Christianity are all from the white... to bear fruits you have to discover your roots instead of lashing out at d writer