Islam in Nigeria

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Nigeria has one of the largest Muslim populations in West Africa, with the Pew Research Center estimating that it is between 48.5% (2010)[1] and 50.4% (2009).[2][3] The CIA estimates 50%[4] while the BBC estimates slightly over 50% (2007).[5] Muslims in Nigeria are predominantly Sunni in the Maliki school, which is also the governing Sharia law.[citation needed] However, there is a significant Shia minority, primarily in Kaduna, Kano, Katsina and Sokoto State; (see Shia in Nigeria). A smaller minority follow the Ahmadiyya, a reformatory sect originating in 19th century India. In particular Pew Forum on religious diversity identifies 3% as Ahmadi Muslims and 12 percent as Shia Muslims.[6]


Islam was first documented in Nigeria in the 9th century.[citation needed] Religious archives showed Islam had been adopted as the religion of the majority of the leading figures in the Bornu Empire during the reign of Mai (king) Idris Alooma (1571–1603), although a large part of that country still adhered to traditional religions.[7] Alooma furthered the cause of Islam in the country by introducing Islamic courts, establishing mosques, and setting up a hostel in Mecca, the Islamic pilgrimage destination, for Kanuris.[8] It had spread to the major cities of the northern part of the country by the 16th century, later moving into the countryside and towards the Middle Belt uplands. However, there are some claims for an earlier arrival. The Nigeria-born Muslim scholar Sheikh Dr. Abu-Abdullah Abdul-Fattah Adelabu has argued that Islam had reached Sub-Sahara Africa, including Nigeria, as early as the 1st century of Hijrah through Muslim traders and expeditions during the reign of the Arab conqueror, Uqba ibn al Nafia (622–683) whose Islamic conquests under the Umayyad dynasty, in Amir Muavia and Yazid periods, spread all Northern Africa or the Maghrib Al-Arabi, including present-day Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Morocco.[9]

Islam also came to the southwestern Yoruba-speaking areas during the time of Mansa Musa's Mali Empire. In his Movements of Islam in face of the Empires and Kingdoms in Yorubaland, Sheikh Dr. Abu-Abdullah Adelabu supported his claims on early arrival of Islam in the southwestern Nigeria by citing the Arab anthropologist Abduhu Badawi, who argued that the fall of Koush southern Egypt and the prosperity of the politically multicultural Abbasid period in the continent had created several streams of migration, moving west in the mid-9th Sub-Sahara.[10] According to Adelabu, the popularity and influences of the Abbasid Dynasty, the second great dynasty with the rulers carrying the title of 'Caliph' fostered peaceful and prosperous search of pastures by the inter-cultured Muslims from Nile to Niger and Arab traders from Desert to Benue, echoing the conventional historical view[11] that the conquest of North Africa by the Islamic Umayyad Caliphate between AD 647–709 effectively ended Catholicism in Africa for several centuries.[12] Islam in Ancient Yoruba is referred to as Esin Imale (religion of the malians) as the earliest introduction of the religion to that region was through Malian itinerant traders (Wangara Traders) around the 14th - 15th Century. Large-scale conversion to Islam happened in the 18th-19th centuries.[citation needed]

Islam came to Yoruba land centuries before Christianity and before churches were built, Yoruba came in contact with Islam around 14th and 15th during the reign of Mansa Kankan Musa of Mali Empire. According to Al-Aluri, the first Mosque was built in Ọyọ-Ile in 1550 A.D. although, there were no Yoruba Muslims, the Mosque only served the spiritual needs of foreign Muslims living in Ọyọ.[citation needed] Progressively, Islam came to Yoruba land, and Muslims started building Mosques: Iwo town led, its first Mosque built in 1655 followed by Iṣẹyin, in 1760; Lagos, 1774; Ṣaki, 1790; and Oṣogbo, 1889.[citation needed] In time, Islam spread to other towns like Oyo (the first Oyo convert was Solagberu), Ibadan, Abẹokuta, Ijẹbu-Ode, Ikirun, and Ẹdẹ before the 18th century Sokoto jihad.[citation needed] Several factors contributed to the rise of Islam in Yoruba land by mid 19th century. Before the decline of Ọyọ, several towns around it had large Muslim communities, unfortunately, when Ọyọ was destroyed, these Muslims (Yoruba and immigrants) relocated to newly formed towns and villages and became Islam protagonists.[citation needed] Second, there was a mass movement of people at this time into Yoruba land, many of these immigrants were Muslims who introduced Islam to their host.[citation needed] According to Eades, the religion "differed in attraction" and "better adapted to Yoruba social structure, because it permitted polygamy"; more influential Yorubas like (Seriki Kuku of Ijebu land) soon became Muslims with positive impact on the natives.[citation needed] Islam came to Lagos at about the same time like other Yoruba towns, however, it received royal support from Ọba Kosọkọ, after he came back from exile in Ẹpẹ.[citation needed] According to Gbadamọṣi (1972; 1978 in Eades, 1980) Islam soon spread to other Yoruba towns, especially, during the intra-tribal wars-when there was a high demand for Islamic teachers-who dubbed as both Koran teachers and amulet makers for Yoruba soldiers during the intra-tribal wars in Yoruba land.[citation needed] Islam, like Christianity also found a common ground with the natives that believed in Supreme Being, while there were some areas of disagreements, Islamic teachers impressed upon their audience the need to change from worshipping idols and embrace Allah.[citation needed] Without delay, Islamic scholars and local Imams started establishing Koranic centers to teach Arabic and Islamic studies, much later, conventional schools were established to educate new converts and to propagate Islam.[citation needed] Islamic religion no doubt, impacted Yoruba culture significantly, according to Ahmad Faosy Ogunbado, "Ifa (oracle) consultation is Islamized to Istikhara (inquires prayer).[citation needed] Celebration of oriṣa festival is transformed or replaced with celebrating eid-el-fitri and eid-el-kabir." Women and men outlook is modified as polygamy is curtailed or modified into "four at a time" while prefixed oriṣa names were changed to "Olu" (Ọlọrun) plus Bunmi, becomes Ọlọrunbunmi.[citation needed] Traditional shrines and ritual sites were replaced with Central Mosques in major Yoruba town and cities.[13]

Fulani War[edit]

Main article: Fulani War

In the early 19th century, Islamic scholar Usman dan Fodio launched a jihad, the Fulani War, against the Hausa Kingdoms of Northern Nigeria. He was victorious, and established the Fulani Empire with its capital at Sokoto.[14]


A fringe group, led by Mohammed Marwa Maitatsine, started in Kano in the late 1970s and operated throughout the 1980s. Maitatsine (since deceased) was from Cameroon, and claimed to have had divine revelations superseding those of the Prophet Muhammad. With their own mosques and a doctrine antagonistic to established Islamic and societal leadership, its main appeal was to marginal and poverty-stricken urban in-migrants, whose rejection by the more established urban groups fostered this religious opposition. These disaffected adherents ultimately lashed out at the more traditional mosques and congregations, resulting in violent outbreaks in several cities of the north.[citation needed]


Main article: Quranism

Non-sectarian Muslims who reject the authority of hadith, known as Quranists, Quraniyoon, or 'Yan Kala Kato, are also present in Nigeria.[citation needed] 'Yan Kala Kato is often mistaken for a militant group called Yan Tatsine (also known as Maitatsine), an unrelated group founded by Muhammadu Marwa. Marwa was killed in 1980. Marwa's successor, Musa Makaniki, was arrested in 2004[15] and sentenced in 2006,[16] but later released.[17] And another leader of Yan Tatsine, Malam Badamasi, was killed in 2009.[18] Notable Nigerian Quranists include Islamic scholars Mallam Saleh Idris Bello,[19] Malam Isiyaka Salisu,[18] and Nigerian High Court Judge Isa Othman.[20][21]

Islam in Nigerian society[edit]

The national mosque during Harmattan

Two features of Islam essentially concern its place in Nigerian society. They are the degree to which Islam permeates other institutions in the society, and its contribution to Nigerian pluralism.[original research?] As an institution in emirate society, Islam includes daily and annual ritual obligations; the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca; sharia, or religious law; and an establishment view of politics, family life, communal order, and appropriate modes of personal conduct in most situations.[citation needed]

Thus, even in 1990, Islam pervaded daily life.[citation needed] Public meetings began and ended with Muslim prayer, and everyone knew at least the minimum Arabic prayers and the five pillars of the religion required for full participation.[citation needed] Public adjudication (by local leaders with the help of religious experts, or Alkali courts) provided widespread knowledge of the basic tenets of sharia law—the Sunni school of law according to Malik ibn Anas was that primarily followed.[citation needed]

Air transport has made the hajj more widely available. Upper-income groups went several times and sent or took their wives as well.[citation needed]

Sheikh Adelabu has claimed an even greater influence of Islam in Nigeria. He cited Arabic words used in Nigerian languages, especially Yoruba and Hausa names of the days such as Atalata (Ar. Ath-Thulatha الثلاثاء) for Tuesday, Alaruba (Ar. Al-Arbi'a الأربعاء) for Wednesday, Alamisi (Ar. Al-Khamis الخميس) for Thursday, and Jimoh (Ar. Al-Jum'ah الجمعة) for Friday. By far Ojo Jimoh is the most favourably used. It is usually preferred to the unpleasant Yoruba word for Friday Eti, which means Failure, Laziness or Abandonment.[22] Maintaining that the wide adoption of Islamic faith and traditions has succeeded to lay impacts both on written and spoken Nigerian vernaculars, Sheikh Adelabu asserted nearly all technical terms and cultural usages of Hausa and Fulani were derived from Islamic heritages, citing a long list of Hausa words adopted from Arabic. In furthering supports for his claims, Sheikh Adelabu gave the following words to be Yoruba's derivatives of Arabic vocabularies:[23]

  • Alaafia i.e. Good, Fine Or Health(y) from derivative Al-Aafiah (Ar. العافية)
  • Baale i.e. husband or spouse derived from Ba'al (Ar. بعل)
  • Sanma i.e. heaven or sky adopted for Samaa` (Ar. السماء)
  • Alubarika i.e. blessing used as Al-Barakah (Ar. البركة)
  • Wakati i.e. hour or time formed from Waqt (Ar. وقت)
  • Asiri i.e. Secrete or Hidden derivative of As-Sirr (Ar. السرّ)

Organization of Nigerian Islam[edit]

Nigerian Islam is not highly organized.[citation needed] Reflecting the aristocratic nature of the traditional ruling groups, there were families of clerics whose male heirs trained locally and abroad in theology and jurisprudence and filled major positions in the mosques and the judiciary.[citation needed] These ulama, or learned scholars, had for centuries been the religious and legal advisers of emirs, the titled nobility, and the wealthy trading families in the major cities. Ordinary people could consult the myriads of would-be and practicing clerics in various stages of training, who studied with local experts, functioned at rites of passage, or simply used their religious education to gain increased "blessedness" for their efforts.[citation needed]

Sufi brotherhoods, a form of religious order based on more personal or mystical relations to the supernatural, were widespread, especially in the major cities.[citation needed] There the two predominant ones, Qadiriyah and Tijaniyah, had separate mosques and, in a number of instances, a parochial school system receiving grants from the state. The brotherhoods played a major role in the spread of Islam in the northern area and the middle belt.[citation needed]

Sa'adu Abubakar, the 20th Sultan of Sokoto, is considered the spiritual leader of Nigeria's Muslims.[24]

Muslims by state in Nigeria[edit]

[citation needed]

Region State Population Muslims % Muslim population total reigion
Northern Region 1- Sokoto 3,696,999 98.9 % 3,656,332 92,28 %
2- Zamfara 3,259,846 98.9  % 3,223,987
3- Jigawa 4,348,649 98 % 4,261,676
4- Kano 9,383,682 98 % 9,196,008
5- Yobe 2,321,591 94.8 % 2,200,868
6-Katsina 5,792,578 95 % 5,502,949
7- Borno 4,151,193 98 % 4,068,169
8- Kebbi 3,238,628 90 % 2,914,765
9- Bauchi 4,676,465 90 % 4,208,818
10- Gombe 2,353,879 80 % 1,883,103
11- Niger 3,950,249 80 % 3,160,199
12- Kaduna 6,066,562 70 % 4,853,249
Central belt 13-Adamawa 3,168,101 90% 2,851,291 80%
14-Taraba 2,300,736 55 % 1,265,405
15-Benu 4,219,244 2,8 % 118,139
16-Plateau 3,178,712 30% 953,613
17-Nassaraw 1,863,275 70% 1,304,292
18-Kogi 3,278,487 85% 2,786,714
19-Kwara 2,371,089 85% 2,015,425
20- Abuja 1,405,201 80% 1,124,161
Western States 21-Oyo 5,591,589 70 % 3,914,112 49,94%
22- Ogun 3,728,098 65% 2,423,264
23- Osun 3,423,535 70% 2,396,474
24- Lagos 9,013,534 45 % 5,858,797
25- Ondo 3,441,024 30 % 1,032.307
26- Ekiti 2,384,212 30 % 715,263
27- Edo 3,218,332 30 % 965,499
28- Delta 4,098,391 3% 122,952
Southern States 29-Anambra 4,182,032 3 % 125,461 2,417 %
30- Enugu 3,257,298 2 % 65,146
31- Cross River 2,888,966 3% 86,669
32- Ebonyi 2,173,501 1 % 21,735
33- Rivers 5,185,400 3 % 155,562
34- Abia 2,833,999 2 % 56,680
35- Akwa Ibom 3,920,208 0% 0
36- Bayelsa 1,703,358 8 % 136,269
37- Imo 3,934,899 2 % 79,698
total 140,003,542 56,931 % 79,705,051

Muslims by ethnic group in Nigeria[edit]

There is not a consensus data for adherents of faith in Nigeria. However, Joshua Project, the Christian evangelic ministry of the U.S. Center for World Mission provides its own table list for the Muslim populations of the larger ethnic groups in the country as follows.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Mapping The Global Muslim Population" (PDF). Retrieved 13 March 2012. 
  2. ^ Mapping the Global Muslim Population
  3. ^ "Global Christianity: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Christian Population" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-12-29. 
  4. ^ CIA – The World Factbook – Nigeria
  5. ^ BBC: "Nigeria: Facts and figures" April 7, 2007
  6. ^ "The World's Muslims: Unity and Diversity" (PDF). Pew Forum on Religious & Public life. August 9, 2012. Retrieved August 14, 2012. 
  7. ^ Kenny, Joseph (November 1996). "Sharia and Christianity in Nigeria: Islam and a 'Secular' State". Journal of Religion in Africa. BRILL. 24 (4): 338. doi:10.2307/1581837. JSTOR 1581837. 
  8. ^ Lapidus, Ira Marvin (2002). "Islam in West Africa". A History of Islamic Societies. Cambridge University Press. p. 405. ISBN 0-521-77933-2. 
  9. ^ Works of Sheikh Dr. Abu-Abdullah Adelabu at Awqaf Africa, Damascus: Islam in Africa – West African in Particular, and Missionary and Colonization in Africa see
  10. ^ Abduhu Badawi: Ma'a Harak ul-Islam fi Ifriqiyah (Siding Islamic Movement in Africa) 1979 Cairo page 175
  11. ^
  12. ^ Mawsuaat Al-Islam Al-Kubrah (The Big Encyclopedia of Islam) Volume 2 page 939 and volume 3 646 and Abduhu Badawi: Ma'a Harak ul-Islam fi Ifriqiyah (Siding Islamic Movement in Africa) 1979 Cairo page 177
  13. ^ Archived from the original on July 17, 2014. Retrieved July 16, 2014.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. ^ "Usman dan Fodio". Encyclopædia Britannica. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. 
  15. ^ KAYODE FASUA (Mar 3, 2013). Maitatsine: Tale of religious war in the North. National Mirror Online.
  16. ^ J. Peter Pham, 19 Oct 06.In Nigeria False Prophets Are Real Problems, World Defense Review.
  17. ^ Timawus Mathias. Musa Makaniki: Discharged and acquitted. Daily Trust, Wednesday, 09 May 2012 05:00.
  18. ^ a b Abiodun Alao, Islamic Radicalisation and Violence in Nigeria, Retrieved March 1, 2013
  19. ^
  20. ^ Philip Ostien, A Survey of the Muslims of Nigeria's North Central Geo-political Zone, Nigeria Research Network, Retrieved March 1, 2013.
  21. ^ Muhammad Nur Alkali, Abubakar Kawu Monguno, Bellama Shettima Mustafa, Overview Of Islamic Actors In Northeastern Nigeria, Nigeria Research Network, Retrieved March 1, 2013.
  22. ^ A lecture by Sheikh Dr. Abu-Abdullah Adelabu of Awqaf Africa London titled: The History Of Islam in 'The Black History' at
  23. ^ [1]
  24. ^ The Muslim 500: "Amirul Mu’minin Sheikh as Sultan Muhammadu Sa’adu Abubakar III" retrieved May 15, 2014
  25. ^ Joshua Project: "Nigeria" retrieved October 19, 2015

External links[edit]