Home Opinion How Islam Entered Yoruba Land | Alabi Quadri

How Islam Entered Yoruba Land | Alabi Quadri



The belief that Islam came into existence in Yoruba land through the Hausa is a fallacy. Islam came to Yorubaland around the year 1440. For the records, it needs to be repeated that Islam came to Nigeria in the 11th century hundreds of years before Uthman Dan Fodiyo got contacts with Nigeria.

In Yoruba land according to the research of Emiritus Professor Wande Abimbola, Islam was brought to Nigeria through inter-relations with the Old Mali Empire. This is why the religion of Islam was code named Esin Mali (The religion of Mali) which was later corrupted to Esin Imale (The tough religion).

The first Mosque was built in Oyo-Ile in 1550 AD although, there were no Yoruba Muslims then, the Mosque only served the spiritual needs of foreign Muslims living in Oyo. Progressively, the Yorubas started believing in the doctrine of Islam and Muslims started building of Mosques. In time, Islam spread to towns like Iwo, Iseyin, Lagos, Saki, Osogbo, Ibadan, Abeokuta, Ijebu-Ode, Ikirun, Ede, to mention but a few before the 18th century Sokoto jihad.

One significant effect of the Islamic revolution was the loss of an important Yoruba town of Ilorin which became an emirate within the Sokoto caliphate. In the early years of the nineteenth century, the Islamic revolution in Hausaland under the leadership of Usman Dan Fodiyo, led to the establishment of the Sokoto caliphate. This caliphate in no small measures, affected the history and growth of Islam in Yorubaland.

In specific terms, Ilorin which had been an important outpost of the Old Oyo kingdom became an emirate within the Sokoto caliphate through the misadventure of Afonja. It then became the responsibility of Ilorin Emirs to extend, not only the size of the emirate, but in doing so, extend the frontiers of Islam. In the attempt to achieve this wars were launched on Yorubaland by Ilorin emirate authorities.

Initially, the Ilorins were successful, as battles led to the final collapse of the Old Oyo kingdom. However, the Ilorin army was halted at Osogbo in 1838 by Ibadan under the generalship of Balogun Oderinlo. This marked the end of Ilorin foray into Yorubaland.

The defeat of Ilorin changed the pattern of spread of Islam in Yoruba land, the spread now became the handi-work of both Ilorin and Yoruba clerics, who transversed the length and breath of Yorubaland during the century. Preaching the tenets of Islam, attracted such large Muslim populations that Islamic traditions began to permeate Yoruba traditions.

What is now fairly certain is that, in almost every part of Yorubaland, there had been encounters with Islam before the beginning of the nineteenth century, a fact not so well known by many people. Indeed, Islam has a very long history among the Yoruba.

Alabi Quadri Adetunji

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