Sunday 6 September 2020

Islam in Benin

The Republic of Benin, the erstwhile Republic of Dahomey,  is a country in West Africa with a population of almost 100 million (2013 estimates). The country is predominately a Christian country but has a sizable Muslim minority of almost 27-30% of the total population. It is not unusual for members of the same family to practice Christianity, Islam, African Traditional Religion, or a combination of all of these.

Islam was brought to Benin from the north by Hausa, and Songhai-Dendi traders. Nearly all Muslims adhere to the Sunni Maliki branch of Islam. A few Shi'a Muslims are primarily Middle Eastern expatriates.

There is no legal restriction on Muslim worship in Benin. A liberal environment in accordance with the diversity of religions in the country is provided by the constitution and other legislation. In virtually all parts of the country, salah can be performed without disturbance. As part of its commitment to secularism, the state of Benin provides funding for the building of mosques and for other relevant services. Mosques in the country have been built with the support of wealthy Muslim merchants or support from Kuwait. Mosque expenses are covered by their congregations. Islamic occasions such as Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, and the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) are official holidays. [2]

Due to the French government’s intervention on religious publications during the colonial period, and due as well to interaction resulting from the multicultural composition of the country, it can be observed that ignorance and confusion reign in society. It has become commonplace that Islamic and Vodun rituals are practiced together in the Beninese Islamic community, where such fundamental concepts of Islam as trade ethics and jihad do not find complete acceptance. A culture has emerged in the country where Vodun traditions are perpetuated by both Muslims and Christians. [2]
The biggest mosque in Porto Novo Benin [Photo credit: ISHMALOO ;)) / Flickr ]

Muslims are generally educated at Quranic schools called da’ara. In addition to learning how to read the Quran, at the da’ara students receive the basics of Islamic catechism. However, as there is no public school or education center offering secondary education in many areas populated by Muslims, young Beninese Muslims cannot receive education of this kind. In the madrasahs founded by Sufi orders, religious education of a more advanced nature, such as fiqh and hadith, is provided. Such institutions are continuing to increase in number across the country. There is, in addition, an elite group who receive education in Islamic sciences in Saudi Arabian or Egyptian universities.

Ketou's largest mosque [Photo credit: Trek Earth]

In relation to how "political and religious powers" are exercised within the Islamic community, it is the imam, who is described as the spiritual guide for the community and is the highest religious authority; his duties include officiating at the mosque and celebrating marriages. In his absence, his vicar/advisor known as the naimi takes his place. Aside from his official duties, the imam also settles disputes within the community and is a member of the electoral council for the traditional chief, and sometimes becomes its marabout. [3]

Although Muslims follow their Islamic beliefs, they are also influenced by the marabouts and many people (Muslim or not) believe that a marabout has powers of divination, and that he can act as an intercessor between God and humans. In Beninese society, it is common for some people to consult the marabout in the hope that their desires will be fulfilled or their problems resolved. However, the marabout can use his knowledge of the Koran, and can even threaten his clients with curses (death, poverty, accidents, etc.) if they do not follow his instructions. The marabout, however, does not carry out his threats personally-he prays to Allah (God) for his threats to be fulfilled. It is a matter of beliefs. [3]

I could not get any information about lifestyle, culture, traditions of Muslims of Benin. However, they do celebrate Muslim festivals, keep fasts during month of Ramadan and celebrate Eids. The video below shows Muslims celebrating Eid ul Fitr:

Disclaimer: The data for this post has been collected from the references as given below. If any one differs with the material contained in this post, one may consult the references and their authors.  If someone has more material about the subject, he/she is most welcome to share in the comments box to make the post all encompassing.

To know more about life of Muslims in other non Muslim countries, please visit our page: Islam and Life of Muslims in Non Muslim Countries

You may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Quran.
Photo | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 
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