Mali Religion

By | March 8, 2021

Mali Overview

According to transporthint, Mali, the official name of the Republic of Mali, is a landlocked country in West Africa and borders in the northwest on Mauritania, in the north on Algeria, in the east on Niger, in the southeast on Burkina Faso, in the south on Ivory Coast and Guinea and in the west on Senegal.

Location of Mali on the African continent

Location of Mali on the African continent

Various maps illustrate the administrative structure of the country, its topography or enable a comparison of Mali with the West African countries and clarify its interdependencies in the regional context . Map collections for the country offer, for example, theFAO or the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.


An estimated 90% of Malians profess Islam (almost exclusively Sunnis). The second largest religious group are the followers of natural religions, which are difficult to quantify. Christians make up only a few percent of the population, with Catholics in the majority and Christians mainly among members of smaller ethnic groups.

The largest mud mosque in the world is located in Djenné, approx. 500 km northeast of Bamako. The mosque, which was built between 1907 and 1909, is an excellent example of the Sudanese mosque architectural style. Once a week there is a large market on the spacious forecourt of the mosque (in the foreground).

The Great Mosque in Mali

The Great Mosque in Mali

Since 2009 there has been a modern research and study center in Timbuktu, which was built with South African support, which is dedicated to researching and preserving the city’s rich Islamic archives. Many of the old writings are also kept in private households and in private libraries. During the temporary occupation of Timbuktu by Islamist rebels, they wreaked havoc on the rich Islamic cultural heritage of the city and its deeply religious residents. Many of the destroyed cultural monuments in that time have now with the support of UNESCO rebuilt.

Political and social significance of religion

The transitions between Islam and Christianity on the one hand, and traditional beliefs of the natural religions on the other hand, are sometimes fluid.

Although around 90% of Malians profess Islam, traditional beliefs have retained a high priority and continue to flow into many areas of life. A special feature of the Bambara is the continued existence of secret societies. Even in the traditionally shaped Dogon culture, traditional beliefs still play a major role. So-called gris-gris are widespread among all ethnic groups, which means a large number of protective and lucky charms. They are supposed to protect from bad luck and bring luck.

The Islam practiced in Mali can be described as moderate. However, advocates of a stricter belief and practice are gaining in importance. Nevertheless, veiled women continue to be the exception in public. It should also be emphasized that the ideas and demands of the Islamist rebels, who temporarily brought large parts of northern Mali under their control, met with strong rejection on the part of the influential Islamic associations.

In Bamako, however, the sometimes violent repression of a minority among Muslims against bars and hotels branded as immoral was observed with concern.

Islam has a formative influence on society and everyday life, which can be observed especially during the fasting month of Ramadan. In rural areas in particular, the five prayers shape the daily routine. Koran teachers and scribes are highly regarded and play an important role both as advisors and as mediators of disputes. Mecca pilgrims are also highly regarded.

The most important festivals are the Islamic festival of sacrifice Aid el Kebir, called Tabaski in Mali, as well as the festival at the end of the Islamic month of fasting Ramadan.

Relations between the government and the influential Islamic associations have been severely tested by the government’s plans to introduce a new family law. In the end, numerous demands of the Islamic associations were taken into account in the law passed in 2011. The law is therefore considered to be much more conservative than the original bill, which was rejected by the Islamic associations and part of the population. Overall, the Islamic associations have had a significantly increasing influence on politics over the past few years, as was clearly evident during the severe domestic political crisis in mid-2020. Influential Islamic clergyman Mahmoud Dicko, who in September 2019Coordination des mouvements, associations et sympathisants (CMAS), played a leading role in the protests against then President Keita. After the military coup in August 2020, he announced his retirement from politics.

The FES provides background information on the relationship between Islam and politics in West Africa. The small credit program of the GTZ Mali-North program had gained fundamental experience with regard to taking Islamic values into account when planning development projects.