Religion in Senegal


According to thesciencetutor, Senegal had a population density of 81 residents per km 2 in 2019, but due to changing natural conditions and the large concentration of administrative and economic activities to Dakar, the population is very unevenly distributed.

In 2019, 46 percent of the population lived in urban areas, which is one of the region’s higher rates of urbanization. The dominant city is Dakar, which in 2015 had 2.6 million residents, which corresponds to about 20 percent of the population.

According to Countryaah data, Senegal’s population is made up of some thirty ethnic groups. The largest, the Muslim, West Atlantic-speaking Wolof (4.6 million), is found in the western and central parts of the country; they feed on agriculture and urban trade. The social organization is strongly hierarchical. Those with wolof culturally related seres (1.1 million) live in the area south of Dakar; to 45 percent they have maintained their indigenous African religion, while 40 percent are Muslims and 15 percent are Christians.

In the central parts of the country and in the south are the livestock- feeding fulani (1.6 million), and the furthest in the south are the male-speaking malinka (maninka, 465,000). In the northeast, towards the border with Mauritania and Mali, are the Fulan-speaking, agricultural tubercles (933,000). Smaller groups are diola (382,000) in the west and soninke (268,000) in the east. As traders, over 50,000 Lebanese live in cities and larger communities.

People in Senegal


Among the thirty-five native languages ​​in Senegal, most of which belong to the Mandate or Atlantic languages ​​in the Niger-Congo languages, Wolof dominates, which is also used as an interpersonal language. The official language is French. Arabic and a Portuguese-based Creole language (crioulo) also occur. Recognized “national languages” are considered fulani, diola, mandinka, serer, soninke and wolof.

See also population and Ethnography above.


A large majority of Senegal’s more than 90% of Muslims (2010) are Sunnis. Islam is believed to have come to this area in Africa sometime in the 11th century, when a subgroup of the Fula people, the Tukulors, were converted to Islam by the Zenegabber who had established an Islamic monastery at the mouth of the Senegal River, which in time became a base for the Almoravids. Sufism has a dominant position, especially the Qadiriya, Tijaniya and Muridiyya hordes. Above all, through its investment in peanut cultivation, the Muridiyyahmarabutas, the spiritual leaders of the order, have gained an economically and politically strong position. Modern and anti-Sufi Islamist groups, partly inspired by Islamic reform movements from earlier centuries, have focused primarily on Islamizing the younger urban population and therefore have had only limited political success.

Of the country’s Christians (just over 5%), most are Catholics. Catholicism came to the region in 1445 through the Portuguese, but also with the French who founded the city of Saint-Louis in 1659. Contact with the Catholic Church was renewed in 1815 when Senegal became a French colony and in 1819 when the Saint Joseph sisters from Cluny established themselves in Senegal. The Christians are mainly found in the French-influenced middle class in the cities and in the province of Ziguinchor in southwestern Senegal, where almost 20% are Christians. More than 3% of Senegal’s population mainly practice traditional indigenous religion.

Senegal became independent in 1960. As a colony under France, the constitution was secular, which is also the case according to the current constitution from 2001. The constitution and other laws guarantee freedom of religion. However, unlike other religious groups, Muslims have the right to follow Islamic law in matters relating to inheritance and marriage. Religious organizations are offered financial support by the state for the maintenance of buildings or other places intended for worship or the like. The state provides free air tickets to those who wish to travel on pilgrimage to Mecca, Rome or Israel.

Religious organizations, like all other organizations, must be registered with the Ministry of the Interior to obtain legal status. In the secondary school, which is secular, the students who want to participate in teaching either in Christianity or in Islam are allowed. The state grants financial aid to schools run by religious organizations, but these schools must meet the requirements of national curricula. Furthermore, the state also runs Islamic schools, whose popularity is increasing. Today (2011) there are about 200 such schools and the number is increasing. The Islamic schools are bilingual with French and Arabic.

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National holidays are tabaski (Id al-adha), tamkharit (Ashura), Prophet Muhammad’s birth, Kority/Id al-fitr, Easter Day, Ascension Day, Pentecost, Mary’s ascension to heaven, all Saints’ Day and Christmas Day.

Senegal Religion