Islamic Education in Nigeria: How It All Began

Islam came into Nigeria in the 9th century and this was the time Islamic education began in the country. Islamic domination and Islamic education began in the Bornu Empire; that is, in the northern part of Nigeria; this was during the time of Mai Idris Alooma, who reigned till 1603.


Aside Islamic schools, the king also furthered the establishment of Islamic pilgrimage, building of mosques, Islamic courts and the likes.

Islamic education spread further from the Borno Empire to other parts of Nigeria in the years that followed. By the 16th century, many of the cities in northern Nigeria were already practicing Islam and the Islamic education system was already established in them. Islamic system of education later moved to the middle Beltan part of Nigeria.

Islamic religion and Islamic education came into the southwestern part of Nigeria during the reign of Mansa Musa of the Mali Empire.  This was during the reign of the Abbasi Dynasty.

Movement to southwestern part of Nigeria and the establishment of Islamic education was due to incursion of Arab traders from North Africa down the northern region, across the river Niger into the southwestern part of Nigeria.

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There are evidences however that Islamic education came to the southwest from Mali, hence the name “Esin Imale” given to it by the Yoruba people. “Esin Imale” means religion of the Malians.

The Malian traders that brought the religion into Yorubaland were called the Wangara Traders and they were the ones that established the first set of Islamic schools in the region.

The first sets of Islamic schools were established in the southwestern part of Nigeria between the 14th and 15th century. The education system further took root between the 18th and 19th century.

The above means Islamic education came into Nigeria long before Christian education. The very first mosque to be built in Yorubaland was built in 1550 AD in Oyo-Ile.  This also served as the venue for Islamic education.

Truth is no Yoruba kid was attending the Islamic schools as at that time; the mosques were built to meet the spiritual and education needs of the foreigners coming in from Mali and other parts of Nigeria into the southwest.

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Soon, mosques were built in other towns in Yorubaland, like Ede, Ikirun, Ijebu-ode, Abeokuta, Ibadan and Oyo. This incursion happened in the 18th century and the mosques also served as centers for Islamic schools in these towns.

The destruction of Oyo led to the scattering of Muslims in the town to other towns around and this further led to the spread of Islam and the Islamic education system.

The intertribal war in Yorubaland further led to the spread of Islamic teachers across Yorubaland, since these Islamic teachers were acting as amulet makers and spiritual guides to the Yoruba soldiers.

The first form of Islamic school was established as Koranic Centers and purpose was to teach people about the Koran.  These Koranic centers also taught Islamic studies. Later, the Muslims started establishing conventional schools, where they expose new converts to other forms of education.

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