Religious Beliefs and Spirituality in Mauritania

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Mauritania has a population of approximately three million, and it is almost one-hundred percent Islam. There are however, a trace number of non-Muslims. In fact, one can find that Roman Catholic and Christian churches have been established in the areas of Nouakchott, Nouadhibou, Zouerate, Rosso, and Atar. There are also resident expatriates who practice Judaism, although the absence of synagogues is quite noticeable. Virtually, the whole of this nation is Sunni Muslim, and its Islamic roots can be traced back to the Muslim traders and craftsmen who moved into West Africa.

Sunni Muslims comprise the largest branch of Islam. It is also known as Ahl as-Sunnah wa’l-Jamā‘ah, which means people of the tradition of Muhammad and the community. In the Islam religion, Sunni is what they call the Orthodox Islam. Although there are many lesser known schools, the Sunnis follow the four major legal schools of thought, or what are more popularly known as the madh'hab.

The four Sunni schools of law are the Hanafi, Hanbali, Shafi'I and lastly, the Maliki Madhab which the Mauritania Sunnis adhere to and practice.

Since the country is an Islamic Republic, freedom of religion is limited by the government of Mauritania. The very few non-Muslim citizens of the country and the non-Muslim residents and expatriates can openly practice their religion, although not without restrictions. There are limitations set to non-Muslims on proselytization, or the process of recruiting someone to convert to one's faith, and on the publication, printing, importation and distribution of the Bible and other non-Muslim literature. However, if you are a non-Muslim, the possession of the Bible within the confines of your home is allowed and legal.

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