The Toucouleur, a black West African people group, sub group of
the Fulani people, live mostly in the Senegal River Valley in
Northern Senegal and Southern Mauritania, although they are also
found widely dispersed throughout other Western African countries.
Stretching from Senegal to Nigeria, 26 million Fula people speak 41 dialects of
Pulaar such as Fuladou, Futa Toro, Fulacounda and Fulfuta etc. These speakers
of Pulaar, or Haalpulaaren as they call themselves, are by and large Muslims and
have been for centuries.
The Toucouleur and the Fulani (Peul in French) people are of one and the same
ethnic group. They have the same language and often the same names, but there
are never the less certain differences between the two groups.
In Cameroon, Guinea and Northern Nigeria the Fula form the ruling elite,
however the majority are nomadic herdsmen wandering from place to place.
Only in Southern Mali, Nigeria and Benin have significant numbers of Fulani
people come to believe in Jesus Christ. Smaller groups of believers also exist
in Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Senegal. A significant turning to Christ among
the Fulani peoples of Africa would significantly affect other related peoples
throughout the Sahel, the semi-desert area immediately south of the Sahara.
The Toucouleur population in Senegal numbers about 901,000 according to
’96 estimates, and worldwide the total population surpasses 1.7 million
people. Unconfirmed reports estimate that as many as 20,000 Toucouleur could
be living in Europe. Popular destinations include France, Spain, Germany and
When asked, the Toucouleur call themselves Haalpulaaren – literally meaning,
"speakers of Pulaar". The origins of the Toucouleur are unclear. It is speculated
that they are descendants from the rulers of the ancient Tekrour Empire. They
are considered a cultural mix of the ethnic groups. Another popular explanation
is that the Toucouleur are a cultural mix of the ethnic groups that used to inhabit
the northern regions incorporated in the Tekrour Empire. Notably these ethnic
influences include the Saragoele / Soninkes, the Maures and the Bedouins,
Sereres and nomadic Fulani herders.
Traditionally sedentary farmers, the Toucouleur live in close-knit society
groups and follow a partriarchal social structure. Community life is highly
stratified into a hierarchy of Clans, 12 Casts and 3 social classes. The cast
determines the ‘value’ of an individual in society. Toucouleur people mostly
belong to the cast of religious leaders called the Tooroobe.
The ruling aristocratic, clerical class was in fact the first to embrace Islam in
the 11th century. Now most Islamic learning and scholarship comes through this
class. Toucouleur Marrabouts and ‘holy men’ are renowned throughout
Western African. The middle class is composed of fishers, farmers,
administrators and tradesmen. The lower middle class includes skilled
craftsmen, storytellers and musicians etc. The lower class is made up of day
labourers, servants and slaves, both free and bound.
The Toucouleur people are Muslims at heart, and are known as the defenders of
the faith. It was by ‘holy war’ that Toucouleur religious leaders exported
Islam through most of West Africa. The tenets of Islam are an integral cultural
value that permeates all aspects of Toucouleur society. It is also said with pride,
that to be born Toucouleur, is to be born Muslim. However, Islamic practices
are inextricably mixed with traditional animistic ideas and occult folk rituals.
Divination, witchcraft and magic (often practised by the Islamic cleric - the
midibbo) are widespread. Amulets and charms are made and sold by religious
leaders. A belief in "baraga" (supernatural power) is common and religious
leaders thought to possess it are sought after for the miracles they can work.
In Senegal, a secular country open to evangelism, Christians have been sharing
the Good News of the Bible with the Toucouleur for at least 30 years. While
there are already more than 50 Pulaar Christians, only about 18 Toucouleur are
reported to have become Christians thus far. Unfortunately these believers are
widely scattered, and growth in the faith is slow and uncertain. One could be a
bad Muslim and never pray – that’s OK, but there is not yet an acceptance for
Christians in Toucouleur society.
This site is dedicated to the glory of God with the firm conviction of one day
seeing the Great Commission completed, and disciples from every tribe,
tongue, and nation worshipping God around His throne.
According to Revelation 7:9-12 in the Bible