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Mohammed Marwa (died 1980), best known by his nickname Maitatsine, was a controversial preacher in Nigeria. Maitatsine is a Hausa word meaning "the one who damns" and refers to his curse-laden public speeches against the Nigerian state.[1] His militant followers are known as the Yan Tatsine.


He was originally from Marwa in northern Cameroon.[2] After his education he moved to Kano, Nigeria in about 1945, where he became known for his controversial preachings on the Qur'an. Maitatsine spoke against the use of radios, watches, bicycles, cars and the possession of more money than necessary.[3][4]

The British colonial authorities sent him into exile, but he returned to Kano shortly after independence. By 1972 he had a notable and increasingly militant following known as Yan Tatsine.[4] In 1975 he was again arrested by Nigerian police for slander and public abuse of political authorities[2] But in that period he began to receive acceptance from religious authorities, especially after making hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.[2] As his following increased in the 1970s, so did the number of confrontations between his adherents and the police. His preaching attracted largely a following of youths, unemployed migrants, and those who felt that mainstream Muslim teachers were not doing enough for their communities.[citation needed] By December 1980, continued Yan Tatsine attacks on other religious figures and police forced the Nigerian army to become involved. Subsequent armed clashes led to the deaths of around 5,000 people, including Maitatsine himself.[4] Maitatsine died shortly after sustaining injuries in the clashes either from his wounds or from a heart attack.[5]

According to a 2010 article published by the Sunday Trust magazine the military cremated Maitatsine's remains, which now rest in a bottle kept at a police laboratory in Kano.[6]


Despite Mohammed Marwa's death, Yan Tatsine riots continued into the early 1980s. In October 1982 riots erupted in Bulumkuttu, near Maidaguri,[7] and in Kaduna,[7] to where many Yan Tatsine adherents had moved after 1980. Over 3,000 people died. Some survivors of these altercations moved to Yola, and in early 1984 more violent uprisings occurred in that city.[7] In this round of rioting, Musa Makaniki, a close disciple of Maitatsine, emerged as a leader and Marwa's successor.[4][5] Ultimately more than 1,000 people died in Yola and roughly half of the city's 60,000 inhabitants were left homeless. Makaniki fled to his hometown of Gombe,[7] where more Yan Tatsine riots occurred in April 1985. After the deaths of several hundred people Makaniki retreated to Cameroon, where he remained until 2004 when he was arrested in Nigeria.[4]

Some analysts view the terrorist group Boko Haram as an extension of the Maitatsine riots.[8]

See also[edit]


  • Allan Christelow, Abdalla Uba Adamu: Art. "Mai Tatsine" in John L. Esposito (ed.): The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. 6 Bde. Oxford 2009. Bd. III, S. 459-462.


  1. ^ Adesoji, Abimbola (Summer 2011). "Between Maitatsine and Boko Haram: Islamic Fundamentalism and the Response of the Nigerian State". Africa Today. 57 (4): 98–119, 136. ProQuest 883393210.
  2. ^ a b c Paul M. Lubeck (1985). "Islamic Protest under Semi-Industrial Capitalism: 'Yan Tatsine Explained". Africa: Journal of the International African Institute. 55 (4): 369–389. doi:10.2307/1160172. JSTOR 1160172.
  3. ^ Kastfelt, Niels (1989). "Rumours of Maitatsine: A Note on Political Culture in Northern Nigeria". African Affairs. 88 (350): 83–90. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.afraf.a098156. Retrieved 2011-09-04.
  4. ^ a b c d e Pham, J. Peter (2006-10-19). "In Nigeria False Prophets Are Real Problems". World Defense Review. Archived from the original on 2013-02-09. Retrieved 2011-11-21.
  5. ^ a b Hiskett, Mervyn (October 1987). "The Maitatsine Riots in Kano, 1980: An Assessment". Journal of Religion in Africa. 17 (3): 209–23. doi:10.1163/157006687x00145. JSTOR 1580875.
  6. ^ Adamu, Lawan Danjuma (2010-12-26). "Maitatsine: 30 Years After Kano's Most Deadly Violence". Sunday Trust. Daily Trust. Retrieved May 25, 2012.
  7. ^ a b c d Religious Violence in Nigeria – the Causes and Solutions: an Islamic Perspective, A. O. Omotosho. Swedish Missiological Theme 2003, P. 15-31.
  8. ^ Johnson, Toni (31 August 2011). "Backgrounder: Boko Haram". Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved 2011-09-01.

External links[edit]