Muslim Modernity in Postcolonial Nigeria: A Study of the Society for the Removal of Innovation and Reinstatement of Traditon

Muslim Modernity in Postcolonial Nigeria: A Study of the Society for the Removal of Innovation and Reinstatement of Traditon

Muslim Modernity in Postcolonial Nigeria: A Study of the Society for the Removal of Innovation and Reinstatement of Traditon

Muslim Modernity in Postcolonial Nigeria: A Study of the Society for the Removal of Innovation and Reinstatement of Traditon

Synopsis

This book deals with Muslim modernity in a country with the largest single Muslim population in Sub-Saharan Africa. It provides much needed new grounds for comparative study. Until now, virtually all socio-anthropological works about any specific African country are either authored by nationals of that country or by Western scholars. This book is an exception because its author is an Islamicist and a social scientist from Senegal trained in the French social science tradition. Therefore, his work does offer an original perspective in the study of Nigeria. In addition, the study of Islam south of the Sahara has so far focused on Sufi orders, which form the mainstream of Islam, but which by no means, covers the whole Islamic field; socalled Islamic fundamentalist movements are also part of the religious landscape. This book is devoted to the study of the largest single Muslim fundamentalist organization in postcolonial Sub-Saharan Africa, the Society for the Removal of Innovation and Reinstatement of Tradition.

Excerpt

Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) and receive no hurt,
and those who strive and fight in the cause of God with their goods
and their persons. God hath granted a grade higher to those who
strive and fight with their goods and persons than to those who sit (at
home). Unto all (in faith) hath God promised good: But those who
strive and fight hath He distinguished above those who sit (at home)
by a special reward (Koran, 4–95).

To outline the argument of this book, a personal note will be much in order. As a discussant in a panel on Islam in Africa convened by David Robinson at the 1995 meeting of the African Studies Association of North America held in Orlando, Florida, I was invited to comment on contemporary West African Islamic movements. With regard to Islamic movements of “reform” I argued that in postcolonial West Africa, they attempted to promote modernity. At the end of the presentation, a scholar who I presume is a non-Muslim from Nigeria, requested the floor for comments. As it turned out, she was very shocked by my statement linking Islamic reformers to modernity. What words she used to voice her disagreement, I do not remember exactly, but they were very much like: “How dare you say that members of the Society for the Removal of Innovation and Reinstatement of Tradition (Yan Izala in Hausa) promote modernity? They pay no respect to the Nigerian national anthem. They burn the Nigerian flag. They attack women who dress in a western fashion, etc.”

This person’s reaction did not shake my conviction. I assumed

Abdallah Yusuf Ali, The Glorious Kuran (translation and commentary), Beyrout, Dar al-fikr, nd., pp. 210–11.

For a definition of reform, see below.

Indifferently, I refer to the Society for the Removal of Innovation and Reinstatement of Tradition as the Yan Izala movement, Izala, the Izala movement, the movement, the Society. Yan Izala means in Hausa language members of the Izala movement. I also refer to them indifferently as Izala followers, Izala members, Izala sympathisers, reformers, reformists. While they would not mind being called Yan Izala, they usually refer to themselves as ahl al-sunna, an expression which means in Arabic language followers of the way of life (Sunna) of the holy Prophet Muhammad.

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