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Most of the scholars of Islamic movements in Nigeria tend to erroneously believe that Shiism in Nigeria is a result of the Iranian Revolution of 1979. There has been a passive Shia community in northern Nigeria since the early colonial period. Lebanese traders were the first Shia community in northern Nigeria and they constituted an exclusivist religious ensemble.

The impact of Lebanese:

The Lebanese came to Nigeria in the second decade of the twentieth century for trading purposes and devoted a substantial part of their time to trade. They did not engage in any missionary activities to promote Shiism in Nigeria from the time of their arrival up to the post-colonial period when they began to show a clear intent of converting the Nigerians to Shiism.

Shia Groups in Nigeria

The active Shia community in northern Nigeria represents a brand of Shiism called  Ithna Ashariyya or the Twelvers. This brand of Shiism was promoted by a group of young Muslim political activists known as the Muslim Brothers (Yanuwa Musulmi) under the leadership of Malam Ibrahim el-Zakzaky. The root of the Muslim Brothers was the Muslim Student  Society (MSS) which was an association of Muslim students in various Nigerian tertiary institutions

A former Sunni Muslim, the leader of the movement, el-Zakzaky, visited Iran and embraced Shiism and subsequently he influenced thousands of his followers

Now, in the 21st century, IMN (Islamic Movement in Nigeria, the followers of el-Zakzaky) boasts of having millions of followers in Nigeria with a modern organizational structure.
to renounce Sunnism and embrace Shiism

There exist other groups that promoted Shia ideology independent of IMN; one, there is Rasulul A’Azam Foundation (RAAF), and two; there is Darul Thaqalyn Organization (DTO).

Taken from: Sunni literary responses to the spread of Shia ideology in northern Nigeria

By: Kabiru Haruna Isa


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