It is important to study the existing religion in your context – as this will give the right information of the religion’s major beliefs and practices, in that way, you will be able to understand why they do what they do and know how to relate with them. Knowledge of other religions helps in shaping your faith as Mouw states; “exposure to other religions can deepen my understanding of my own faith commitments.” In this regard, this study intends to present brief history of Islam in Northern Nigeria, its major beliefs and practices, with an intention to give the audience a fist of knowledge about the existing religion (Islam) in his/her environment.

By the end of this blog post, previously formatted for a class here at Calvin, it is expected that the audience will grow in their ability to engage with people practicing Islamic religion (Muslims):

·         To accept people of Islamic faith, not really agreeing with what they believe,

·         See the good side of the religion and

·         Develop a good relationship with them.

The brief history of Islam in Nigeria given bellow, is the record of David B. Barrett (World Christian Encyclopedia); copied from Harvard Divinity School’s website (

Islam arrived in Nigeria in the 11th and 12th centuries through trade, migration, and through the travels of the scholar-mystic-wayfarer along trade routes, through the regions of Kanem and Bornu had been in contact with Muslim traders as early as the 9th century. As Islam spread, Muslim West Africa became deeply tied in with Islamic networks that stretched across North Africa and the Mediterranean to the Middle East, as well as an important trans-Saharan network that enabled and necessitated Arabic literacy as the lingua franca of trade.

During the 15th century the Malian Songhay Empire spread into Northern Nigeria’s Hausa land, establishing a dynasty there under Askiyya Muhammad (d. 1538). The gold trade brought migrants from around Hausa land to flourishing central cities such as Kano, and the Hausa language became an important medium for Islamic literature and scholarship. Arabic continued to provide the groundwork for religious scholarship that facilitated exchanges between Muslims in Mali, Sudan, and beyond, formed the basis for classical Islamic education, and allowed Muslims to read foundational works of doctrine and jurisprudence. By the 18th century, the Hausa and Fulani were well-connected to intellectual traditions and currents in Islamic thought, leading to impressive local intellectual production, from poetry to linguistics.

In the 19th century, Usman Dan Fodio (d. 1817), founder of the Sokoto Caliphate (1804-1903), led a reformist jihad  against religious syncretism and perceived injustice throughout Hausa land and several other states, thereby expanding Islam’s influence in what would become Nigeria. Dan Fodio, his brother Abdullahi, and his son Muhammad Bello are remembered as exceptional leaders and scholars whose writings include several hundred books ranging from theology, jurisprudence, and mysticism, to literature and grammar, and spawned a scholarly movement known as the “Sokoto School.” Notably, the Sokoto School advocated women’s education, and Dan Fodio’s daughter Nana Asma’u became a prodigious scholar, educator, and writer in Arabic, Hausa, and Fulfulde. The Sultan of Sokoto, currently Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III (b. 1956), is the inheritor of the Sokoto legacy and a prominent spiritual leader of Nigeria’s Muslims.

The above history is brief and concise focusing on the coming of Islam to Nigeria not on its spread in the country. The coming of Islam into Nigerian is similar with the coming of Christianity – Islam came from the North “Kanem Born” and Christianity came from the Sourth “Badagry”; the two religions were introduced to Nigeria through trading/bussiness. It is very interesting to note that; the two major religions in Nigeria (Christianity and Islam) were both alien/foreign religions – none was indigenous.

Before we launch into Islamic beliefs and practices, we need to understand why followers of Islamic religions are called “Muslim”. According to; Muslim is an Arabic word that means “one who submits.” Therefore, since Islam means “submission to God’s will,” A Muslim is the one who believes and submit to one and only true God. The religious obligations of Muslims are summed up in the five pillars of Islam, which includes:

·         Believe in God and his prophet Muhammad,

·         Prayer,

·         Charity,

·         Pilgrimage and

·         Fasting.

Islam is a monotheistic religion that strongly believes in one and only true God, the creator of the universe. The religion also believes in Muhammad as God’s messenger and as the last prophet. (Qur’an 33:40) In Islam, God is called Allah – which is the standard Arabic word for God, as Hebrew call God “YHWH” or “Yahweh.”

Muslim observes prayer five times a day and join in community worship on Friday at the Mosque, where worship is led by an Imam. Prayer in Islam means a physical act of prostration before God.

This is also known as Zakat; what this involves is the giving, sometimes on a monthly basis and sometimes on an annual basis, of a proportion of a Muslim’s wealth, to charitable causes. What this involves is the giving, sometimes on a monthly basis and sometimes on an annual basis, of a proportion of a Muslim’s wealth, to charitable causes.

This is one of the important act which if at all possible Muslims should participate in once during their lifetime. In more detail what this involves is taking part in a series of rituals in Mecca, the birthplace of Muhammad during the twelfth month of the Muslim calendar.

This practice takes place during one month of the Muslim calendar, ‘the month of Ramadan between the hours of dawn and sunset’. During this time nothing should enter the body of a Muslim, so that Muslims should abstain not only from food and drink but also from such things as having injections.

Muslims believe in paradise ‘jannah’; the place where those who have been good go. It is described in the Qur’an as “gardens of Pleasure” (Qur’an 31:8). “Shahda”; can be added to Islamic practices which is a recitation made by someone who wants to convert to Islam. This simple creed consists simply of two phrases, the first being “I declare that there is no god but (or except) God”, in other words that there is only one God, and the second being “I declare that Muhammad is the prophet of God”, each of these phrases being from the Qur’an (37:35 and 48:29 respectively.

From the above Islamic beliefs and practices one will notice that they are common with the beliefs and practices of Christianity varying only in the processes or methods of practice. This is evident that Christianity and Islam may have a common ground if opportunity is given for in-depth studies and analysis.

With respect to the religion’s formal, communal rituals and to their informal, more personal and private devotional practices, then, there are differences but also some similarities between Christian and Muslim practices. On the one hand the outward forms of the two communities’ worship are quite different, but on the other when attempts are made to locate the inner intention of this worship and its meaning some common ground may be discerned.


Saved by Grace


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