The Quranic Beggar Boys of Burkina Faso
"Amadu has no idea of what the Quran actually says; even his teacher cannot understand Arabic!"
Keith and Lynne work among the Fulani in Burkina Faso. They seek to bring the gospel as well as show God’s love in practical ways.
Eight year old Amadu was sent by his family to live many miles away with a marabout, an Islamic religious teacher. He is just one of two million Quranic disciple beggar boys or talibe, in West Africa.
Hoping the marabout doesn’t find out, about 20 of the talibe, including Amadu, come daily to our home. They kick a football around and share our dinner. At bath-time they scramble for a wash and then look at the pictures in our daughter’s Bible and listen attentively to the stories. Sometimes they watch the film of Jesus, the prophet Isa Almasihu, of whom they have heard at the mosque.
Amadu’s life is hard – growing up without a family, sharing one room with his teacher and ten boys.
He spends hours every day begging on the dangerous streets to pay for his keep. Yet Amadu seems unperturbed by his situation, having been taught that God’s path to blessing necessitates suffering to learn humility. The goal is to learn the whole Quran by heart and follow the way of Allah. He spends hours at night writing out verses and reciting them until they are memorised, or risk a violent rebuke for failing to do so. His family believe that he will bring blessing to them, and to himself, by living this way. However, Amadu has no idea of what the Quran actually says; even his teacher cannot understand Arabic!
Life on the streets has taught the talibe to survive by lying, stealing, and fighting. Some run away and others persevere in memorising the Quran. Successful disciples, wearing new white robes, celebrate their achievement. Now they themselves can become marabouts with their own talibes.
The marabout-talibe system is deeply rooted in West African culture. This system, deplored by the government, sidelines the boys from a useful education. It is sustained by parental consent so it is difficult to find a way to help boys to escape.
We know that Amadu and his fellow talibe come to us, primarily, because they need the love and fun of family life. We long for them to know their heavenly Father, who yearns to embrace them and give them hope and a future, so that they may become talibe of Isa Almasihu (Jesus).