Humuani Mosque, Lagos -1933 constructed by Cappa & D'Alberto
Humuani Mosque, Lagos -1933 constructed by Cappa & D’Alberto Source: NNP

Islam is an Abrahamic faith with strong emphasis on monotheism, deriving its tenets from the Quran, regarded by the world’s 1.57 billion adherents as the verbatim word of Allah, as revealed to Prophet Muhammad, held almost universally in the religion as the last prophet of God.

Islam was introduced to the region that will later be known as Nigeria by Berbers who occupied the southern fringes of the Sahara Desert. By the eleventh century it reached Borno and the seven Hausa states in the fourteenth century, spreading gradually first among ruling classes, then to the people in the urban areas, and finally to the country-sides. The Jihad or reformist revolution led by Shehu Usman Danfodio at the begining of the 18th Century was primarily designed to eliminate oppression ad enforce Islamic discipline in the Hausa-Fulani communities. Islam was brought to the southwestern part of Nigeria in the 14th Century during the reign of Mansa Musa of the Mali Empire by Mali traders. The religion didn’t gain popularity until later in the 17th Century. Although the first mosque in southwest Nigeria was built in Oyo Ile in 1550, there were no native Muslims and the mosque served the spiritual needs of foreign Muslims living in the region.

After the successful conversion of Solagberu; the first convert in Yoruba land, from Traditional Religion to Islam in Oyo. Islam propagated to other parts of the southwest, and Muslims started building Mosques: Iwo town led, its first Mosque built in 1655; followed by Iseyin in 1760; Lagos 1774; Saki 1790; and Osogbo 1889. In time, Islam spread to other towns, Ibadan, Abeokuta, Ijebu-Ode, Ikirun and Ede; even before Sokoto jihad. The Islamisation of the Southwest Nigeria was largely successful as a result of some common factors and traditions between Islam and Traditional Religion. Among those factors that contributed to the rise of Islam in Yoruba land were: Believe in Supreme Being; Polygamy; Festive Celebration; the use of Islamic talisman among others which was largely harnessed during various inte-tribal war among the Yorubas.

By mid-19th century before the decline of Oyo, several towns around it had already, large Muslim communities. When Oyo was destroyed, these Muslims (Yoruba and immigrants) relocated to newly formed towns and villages and became Islam protagonists. And there was mass movement of people at this time into Nigeria southwest; many of these immigrants were Muslims who introduced Islam to their hosts. According to Eades, the religion “differed in attraction” and “better adapted to local social structure, because it permitted polygamy”; more influential people like (Seriki Kuku of Ijebu land) soon became Muslims with positive impact on the natives. Islam then spread to other southwestern towns, especially, during the intra-tribal wars-when there was a high demand for Islamic teachers-who dubbed as both Koranic teachers and amulet makers for soldiers during the intra-tribal wars in the region.

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer