THE ISLAMIC MILLENARIAN TRADITION IN WEST AFRICA WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO NIGERIA: AIMS AND IMPACT

Peter Clarke

Abstract


The millenarian notions of the Mahdi and Mujaddid as they existed in early Islam, and their impact on Nigeria is discussed with a view to establishing the aims of the West African mahdist movements, their social composition, leadership and achievement.  The notion of the Mahdi primarily came to West Africa through Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti’s writings and the writings and teaching of Muhammad b. Abd al-Karim al Maghili in the 15th century and thereafter.  Aspects of the role of other influential clerics and teachers as well as the Muslim brotherhoods are described.  Most notable among these are Shaykh Uthman dan Fodio, involved directly in the 1804-1808 jihad for religious renewal and against slavery.  This is followed by a description of aspects of the approach of the colonial authorities to millenarianism, asking the question whether they at all adequately understood the movement.  This leads to a discussion of the social composition of millenarian movement in West Africa as well as their aims and achievements.  It is concluded that millenarian movements did little to change the traditional order but did effect a number of significant changes in the spread and influence of Islam.


Keywords


Islam; Islamic millenarian movements; West Africa; Nigeria; Mahdi; Mujaddid; Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti; Muhammad b. Abd al-Karim al Maghili; Muslim; Shaykh Uthman dan Fodio; Colonial authorities in West Africa

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7833/56-0-1549

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ISSN 2305-445X (online); ISSN 0254-1807 (print)

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