In West Africa, the Islamization started in the 8c when the Magreb brought it from North Africa to Sénégal. It gradually spread in all of the areas of Sahel, south of Sahala desert. Although it was brought in Sahel, Islam wasn’t recieved by Mossi people who were the majority of Mossi Plateau until 20c. However, Islam traders, Housa and Yarsé (Sing.Yarga), passed and stayed in Mossi area before Mossi’s reception of Islam, in short Yarsé lead Islamization on Mossi Plateau. In this presentation, I am going to introduce the first Muslim village subject to the history of Islam in Burkina Faso, which will help to understand the shape of the society in Burkina Faso.
The most Mossi people know that Sagbotenga is the symbolic muslim village in Burkina Faso. Sagbotenga is founded by muslim Yarsé. Yarsé originated the present Mali are Manding muslim trader. Manding trader organized the caravans to trade mainly Kora nuts, salt and gold between Sahel and the coast of Guinia gulf. On the way of trading route, they established their colony on indigenous villages. This was the contact point between Yarsé and Mossi people where Mossi met Islam. But Yarsé adopted Mossi society and lost their own language. Then, most of Yarsé societies, even chiefdomship was changed and adopted as Mossi’s one. At the present, they can identify only their family name (buudu). Although Yarsé is such a disappearing ethnic, muslim Yarsé is still big actor on Burkina Faso society in respect of religion and economy.
In the point of reception of Islam on Mossi society, the first contact of Mossi to Islam was 12c when Mossi attacked Timbukutu, but the ruler of Mossi didn’t accept it until 17c. According to Skinner, beginning Mogho Naba Ouaraga (c.1684), many rulers granted Yarsé permission to enter the country and allowed them to establish Muslim communities (Skinner1966:177). Before their acceptance of Islam as a religion, they kept some contacts with muslims for economical affairs. In spite of the gradual reception of Inslam to Mossi people, Mogho Naba didn’t accept Islam itself, but he used some Islamic magical services. For instance, Mogho Naba called Yarsé imam to Islamic pray before a fight against their enemy. It means that they believed Islam had the magical power such as a curse and black magic.I will show a folklore regarding to Mogho Naba and Yarsé Imam which was the beginning of Mogho Naba’s respect for Yarsé or Islam.
Around 1710, Mogho Naba Zaana gave Yarsé some territory 70km south of Ouagadougou that called Sagbotenga. When the Yarsé were installed, only resource of water was on this piece of land. The founder of Sagbotenga, Imam Abudra Rahman (Sanfo), constructed a mosque, which I suppose it was the oldest mosque in Burkina Faso. Many muslims often visit Sagbotenga for their religious ceremonies. Sagbotenga is one of the symbolic place of Islam in Burkina Faso.
It was the fact that, in West Africa where its climate has been dry, the water was important to keep their life. It was clear that they obtained the merit of resource of water, but Mogho Naba abandoned the economical merit from Yarsé to keep them away from Ouagadougou. Was it the representation of Mogho Naba’s welcome for Yarsé to live in his country? Why Mogho Naba gave Yarsé this land? I don’t have any answer to these questions, but we could understand a sphere of relationship between Mossi and Islam from their history.