An Introduction to Islamic Movements and Modes of Thought in Nigeria

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This working paper surveys Islamic organizations, movements, and ideologies in Nigeria, roughly identifying them along the lines of Islamic traditionalism, Sufi orders (turuq lit. pathways), Salafi/Wahhabi revivalism2 modernist and insurgent Islam(ism), trado-Islamic and Christo-Islamic syncretism and deviant “Islamic” cultism. Previous academic studies of Nigerian Islam were often limited to the Muslim northern region and focused mostly on traditional, Sufi, and Sunni Islam (Doi, 1984; Kukah 1993; Kane 1994; Loimeier 1997; Schacht 1975; Paden 1973, 2002, 2005; Umar 1993). For the most part, they consisted of “outsider” perspectives that included various strands of misunderstandings or outright stereotypes. More recently, some scholars point out two additional reasons for a periodic review and analysis of Islamic movements and ideological trends in the Nigerian federation. For example, Umar (1993) points out that in the three decades from 1970s to the 1990s, we see that organizational trends constantly evolve due to changing political, socioeconomic, educational, spiritual, ethnic and regional conditions and biases. Moreover, the recent rapid rise to violence by some Islamic movements, notably Boko Haram and its comrade-in-arms, the Ansaru, calls for reconsideration of assumptions and new analysis. The objective of this essay is to present a comprehensive exploration of the wide spectrum of Islamic movements and modes of ideologies in the Nigerian federation. It updates existing knowledge, particularly regarding trends and organizations in the neglected regions of the east andthe west as well as emerging or understudied trends in the much studied northern zones. In addition, this essay highlights how Islamic groups engage modern power blocs and systems of thought and practices. The essay proceeds in three broad sections. The first section reviews the problem of categorization of Islamic trends. The second section briefly overviews the precolonial background and shows how colonialism facilitated or obstructed the formation of Islamic movements in Nigeria. The third section maps contemporary trends such as nonsectarian traditionalism, Sufi orders (turuq), Salafism, Shi‘sm, Islamic radicalism, and “jihadism

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