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The Institution of Sharia in Oyo and Osun States, Nigeria, 1890–2005

by Abdul-Fatah ’Kola Makinde


The spread of Islam to Yorubaland was accompanied by the institution of Sharī،ah (the Islamic law), and Muslims in the area applied it, alongside the Customary and Common Laws during the pre-colonial period before its abolition by the colonial government. However, very little research has been done in this area. Therefore, this study examined the institution of Sharī،ah in Oyo and Osun States of Nigeria with reference to Yoruba Customary Law which had been in existence and the Common Law.

The research employed historical and survey methods using archival materials, interview schedules and a questionnaire. 10 Muslim and Christian leaders from each state were randomly selected. The respondents to the questionnaire were selected using random sampling technique. They consisted of 240 people, 50 each of Muslim and Christian leaders in each state and 20 randomly sampled members for each of the Houses of Assembly in the states because of their constitutional power to pass Bills to Laws. Descriptive statistics was employed in analyzing the data.

The study revealed that the British colonialists, during the colonial era, used their authority to replace Sharī،ah with Common Law through Indirect Rule. It identified that Sharī،ah issue is contentious because of general misunderstanding and misconceptions of its origin, tenets and practices. It also discovered that the agitation of the Muslims in the selected states for Sharī،ah was based on the premise that both Yoruba Customary and Common Laws did not cover certain provisions under Sharī،ah, such as ‘iddah‘ waiting period for a widow’, al-hadānah  ‘custody of children’ and mīrāth ‘inheritance’. The study revealed that Muslims found psychological relief in the Sharī،ah application in Yorubaland. Despite its official replacement, some Muslims had firm conviction in using Sharī،ah; hence, it is applied at individual, private and non-governmental levels as evidenced in the activities of Faya Group in Ikirun, Bamidele Movement in Ibadan and Islāhuddīn Association in Iwo, as well as the Independent Sharī،ah Arbitration Panels in Ibadan and Osogbo. It was discovered that while 93.0% of the Muslim respondents of both states were agitating for the establishment of Sharī،ah Courts, 53.0% of the Christian respondents showed negative attitude to the resuscitation. 60.0% of the respondents of Oyo State House of Assembly supported the agitation, but 75.0% of those in Osun State did not.

The study establishes that Sharī،ah gives psychological satisfaction to Muslim and discovers that legal pluralism could be adopted to solve the conflict between Sharī،ah and other laws. It shows that giving legal backing to the institution of Sharī،ah in these stateswould douse tension and further agitations. It therefore recommends enlightenment programmes, religious tolerance, consultations and dialogues as solutions to the problem of agitations of the institution of Sharī،ah in the states.


The Institution of Sharia in Oyo and Osun States, Nigeria, 1890–2005


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