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  • Mohammed Bashir Salau (a1)


Until the second half of the twentieth century, the role of religion in Africa was profoundly neglected. There were no university centers devoted to the study of religion in Africa; there was only a handful of scholars who focused primarily on religious studies and most of them were not historians; and there were relatively few serious empirical studies on Christianity, Islam, and African traditional religions. This paucity of rigorous research began to be remedied in the 1960s and by the last decade of the twentieth century, the body of literature on religion in Africa had expanded significantly. The burgeoning research and serious coverage of the role of religion in African societies has initially drawn great impetus from university centers located in the West and in various parts of Africa that were committed to demonstrating that Africa has a rich history even before European contact. Accordingly scholars associated with such university centers have since the 1960s acquired and systematically catalogued private religious manuscripts and written numerous pan-African, regional, national, and local studies on diverse topics including spirit mediumship, witchcraft, African systems of thought, African evangelists and catechists, Mahdism, Pentecostalism, slavery, conversion, African religious diasporas and their impact on host societies, and religion and politics. Although the three works under review here deal with the role of religion in an African context, they mainly contribute to addressing three major questions in the study of religion and politics: How do Islam and other religious orientations shape public support for democracy? What is the primary cause of conflict or religious violence? What strategies should be employed to resolve such conflicts and violence?



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1 Wright, Marcia, “African History in the 1960's: Religion,” African Studies Review 14, no. 3 (1971): 439–45.

2 Willis, John Ralph, “The Historiography of Islam in Africa: The Last Decade (1960–1970),” African Studies Review 14, no. 3 (1971): 403–24, at 403–04.

3 A collection of essays that address such diverse issues is Ogungbile, David O. and Akinade, Akintunde E. eds., Creativity and Change in Nigerian Christianity (Lagos: Malthouse Press, 2010).

4 Examples of works on law and religion include Anderson, J. N. D., “Conflict of Laws in Northern Nigeria,” Journal of African Law 1, no. 2 (1957): 8798; Bambale, Yahaya Yunusa, Crimes and Punishments under Islamic Law, 2nd ed. (Ikeja: Malthouse Press, 2003); Christelow, Allen, Thus Ruled Emir Abbas: Selected Cases from the Records of the Emir of Kano's Judicial Council (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1994); Christelow, Allen, “Islamic Law and Judicial Practice: An Historical Perspective,” Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 22, no. 1 (2002): 186204; Ibrahim, Hauwa and Princeton, Lyman N., Reflections on the New Shari'a Law in Nigeria (New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 2004); ed., Jibrin Ibrahim, Sharia Penal and Family Laws in Nigeria and in the Muslim World: Rights Based Approach (Zaria: Ahmadu Bello University Press, 2004); Kirwin, Mathew, “Popular Perceptions of Shari‘a Law in Nigeria,” Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 20, no. 2 (2009): 137–51; Ludwig, Frieder, “Christian-Muslim Relations in Northern Nigeria since the Introduction of Shari'ah in 1999,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 76, no. 3 (2008): 602–37; Marshall, Paul, The Talibanisation of Nigeria: Sharia Law and Religious Freedom (Washington, DC: Freedom House, 2002); and Nasir, Jamila, “Sharia Implementation and Female Muslims in Nigeria's Sharia States,” in Sharia Implementation in Northern Nigeria 1999–2006, ed. Ostien, Philip (Ibadan: Spectrum Books, 2007), 76118.

5 See, for instance, Rowe, J. A., “The Purge of Christians at Mwanga's Court: A Reassessment of this Episode in Buganda History,” Journal of African History 5, no. 1 (1964): 5572; Ranger, Terence, “Traditional Authorities and the Rise of Modern Politics in Southern Rhodesia, 1898–1930,” in The Zambesian Past: Studies in Central African History, ed. Stokes, Eric and Brown, Richard (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1966), 171–93; and Low, D. A., “Converts and Martyrs in Buganda,” in Christianity in Tropical Africa, ed. Baeta, C. G. (London: Oxford University Press, 1968) 150–64.

6 See, for instance, Holt, P. M., The Mahdist State in the Sudan, 1881–1898: A Study of Its Origins, Development and Overthrow (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958); Last, Murray, The Sokoto Caliphate (London: Longmans, 1967).

7 See, for instance, Sklar, Richard L., Nigerian Political Parties: Power in an Emergent African Nation (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963).

8 See, for instance, Dudley, B. J., Instability and Political Order: Politics and Crisis in Nigeria (Ibadan: Ibadan University Press, 1973).

9 See, for instance, Paden, John N., Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto: Values and Leadership in Nigeria (Zaria: Hudahuda, 1986).

10 Falola, Toyin, Violence in Nigeria: The Crisis of Religious Politics and Secular Ideologies (New York: University of Rochester Press, 1998), 10.

11 See for instance, Kukah, Mathew Hassan, Religion, Politics and Power in Northern Nigeria (Ibadan: Spectrum Books, 1993); Enwerem, Iheanyi M., A Dangerous Awakening: The Politicization of Religion in Nigeria (Ibadan: Institut francais de recherche en Afrique, 1995).

12 Falola, Violence in Nigeria, 24–48.

13 Manglos, Nicolette D. and Weinreb, Alexander A., “Religion and Interest in Politics in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Social Forces 92, no. 1 (2013): 195219.

14 A good example of works on religion and politics in Nigeria is Reynolds, Jonathan T., “The Politics of History: The Legacy of the Sokoto Caliphate in Nigeria,” Journal of Asian and African Studies 32, no. 1/2 (1997): 5065.

15 Huntington, Samuel P., The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996).

16 Kedourie, Elie, Democracy and Arab Political Culture (Washington, DC: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 1992), 5.

17 Filali-Ansary, Abdou, “Muslims and Democracy,” Journal of Democracy 10, no. 3 (1999): 1831.

18 See for instance, Geertz, Clifford, The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays (New York: Basic Books, 1973); Dowd, Robert A., Christianity, Islam, and Liberal Democracy: Lessons from Sub-Saharan Africa (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015).

19 See, for instance, Ohadike, Don, “Muslim-Christian Conflict and Political Instability in Nigeria,” in Religion and National Integration in Africa: Islam, Christianity, and Politics in the Sudan and Nigeria, ed. Hunwick, John O. (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1992), 101123.

20 See, for instance, Usman, Yusuf Bala, The Manipulation of Religion in Nigeria, 1977–1987 (Kaduna: Vanguard, 1987).

21 See, for instance, Diamond, Larry, “Nigeria: Pluralism, Statism, and the Struggle for Democracy,” in Democracy in Developing Countries, vol. 2, Africa, ed. Diamond, Larry, Linz, Juan J., and Lipset, Seymour Martin (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1988), 3391.

22 Falola, Violence in Nigeria, 12–17.

23 Momoh, C. S. and El-Miskin, Tijani, Nigerian Studies in Religious Tolerance, 4 vols. (Lagos: Centre for Black and African and Civilization, 1989); and Falola, Violence in Nigeria.

24 See, for instance, Comaroff, Jean, Body of Power, Spirit of Resistance: The Culture and History of a South African People (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985).

25 Sanneh, Lamin, Piety and Power: Muslims and Christians in West Africa (Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2015).



  • Mohammed Bashir Salau (a1)


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