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Political Islam Under British Colonial Administration In Sokoto Province: 1903 - 1950s

Centre for Contemporary Islam, University of Cape Town
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  • Economics
  • Political Science


One of the most serious challenges faced by the British in the occupation of northern Nigeria was where and how to place Islam in the new dispensation. Islam provided the state structure and political machinery, which made it easy for British administrators to rule such a vast area through the Indirect Rule system. On the other hand, Islam was the major force that resisted the British inroads and consistently resisted being subsumed into the ambit of the new administration.Islam, as far as the British colonial interest was concerned, was both an ally and foe at the same time. The traditional and spiritual aspects of Islam were tolerable. However, any aspect of Islamic appeal in polity and other socio-economic practices in the form of Mahdism or resistance to state imperial interest were branded as ÔpoliticalÕ and in some cases ÔsubversiveÕ by the colonial officers. While the British did not interfere with the conventional practices of Islam like prayer, fasting, and other rituals, the political side of Islam was under serioussurveillance and continuous scrutiny by the security and otherrelevant government agencies. The movements of such elements were monitored at home and all their links with the international community were trapped and muffled. The main concern of this paper therefore, is to assess the religious policies of the British colonial administration in the Sokoto province in relation to what was termed as the political side of Islam. What were the measures taken to contain the movements? Itwas found that these policies were later retained and maintained significantly in post independent Nigeria.

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