How Colonialism, Christianity and Western education influenced Yoruba Muslims By Bashir Arowojobe

How Colonialism, Christianity and Western education influenced Yoruba Muslims By Bashir Arowojobe

Theoretically, in any social construct, when two cultures come into contact, there are a number of outcomes, as observed by Yinger (1963). One- complete domination by the other, two, co-existence on parallel lines, and three, intermingling between the two with exchanges at the level of material and immaterial culture.

This write-up does not purport to explain all the influences colonialism, Christianity and western education has/had on Yoruba Muslims, rather it cites some of the major influences (in the writer’s estimation).


At the advent of Colonialists and Christian missionaries with education as a bait to convert the natives in Yoruba land, at least, three strategies were devised by Yoruba Muslims to face this social challenge. One, outright rejection of western education, two, establishment of Arabic schools (Al-madaris an-Nidhamiyyah), three, establishment of Muslim organizations with the sole aim of pulling resources together to establish private Muslim schools. However, beyond this lofty aim of creating viable alternative for Muslim children to learn western education, myriads of sectarian cleavages has continue to tear Yoruba Muslims apart, along different mundane persuasions.

Distortion of Islamic scholarship

The first university in Nigeria was established in 1948 and Arabic and Islamic studies department was not established Until 1962, after series of petitions and outcries. Though, the department was established, its curriculum was designed by orientalist scholars, Christian missionaries and atheists. The curriculum was not in consonance with orthodox Islamic law studies standards. This distortion contributes to the disunity among Muslim scholars in Yoruba land and their audiences*. In view of this, one will come to the conclusion that, the colonial powers, intend to breed their own version of Muslim scholars, who will turn out to be apologist, pantheist and strong supporters of religious syncretism.

Identity issues

Central to the philosophy of British hegemony is “the notion that all natives and indigenes of the colony are sub-humans excepting those who, either by choice or coercion, enjoy racial redemption,  through their acceptance of the Christian faith or western education. Unfortunately, by conspiracy or coincidence, the colonial government showed little interest in education, the available means to be educated is to enroll in Christian missionaries schools (before establishing Muslim schools). For Muslims to attend missionary schools, they either convert to Christianity or hide their identity. The latter strategy  affected the Muslims afterwards in their social and career life. If not for fashion, wearing the beard and making sure the trousers are above the ankles as an Islamic identity in a corporate environment is reserved for the ‘Alfas’.


Colonialism made Nigeria a copy-and-paste version of Britain, and Muslims in Yoruba land as a social animal, are not insulated from this social realities. Until recently, discussing polygamy and validating it as an essential social norm is a taboo among Yoruba Muslim elite and academics, let alone practicing it. The lifestyle of the colonialists whose religion is Christianity, became a new measure of ideal social standard.

Elitism and English language mastery

Using English language as the language of educational instruction, transformed it into the language of the elite. For Muslim clerics to convince a learned Yoruba Muslim person on religious matters, in some cases, the former ability of good command of English language may play a major role, and if ‘Alfa’ is well-versed in Arabic language ( the language of the Quran) he may be categorized as “illiterate” if he lacks English language speaking skills.

Above are my major observations on how colonialism, Christianity and western education influenced Muslims in Yoruba land.

Bashir Arowojobe, a social commentator and Sharia pundits writes in from Ibadan through:

Read Also: The Connection Between Yoruba and Arabic Language via Common Words

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