Weiss Architecture Studio

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Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa

Kane’s seminal work, Muslim Modernity in Postcolonial Nigeria: A Study of the Society for the Removal of Innovation and Reinstatement of Tradition, is a study of the Yan Izala or the Society for the Removal of Innovation and the Reinstatement of Tradition, which is the single largest Islamic reform movement in West Africa. Kane treats Izala as a vehicle for modernity and aims at providing an analytical account of the restructuring of the religious field in Northern Nigeria with Kano as a focus. The Islamic field in Nigeria, like that of West Africa, is uniquely expressive of Sufism- a mode of Islamic devotion. In order to situate the reader into the debate, it is imperative to present an overview of Sufism.

The Sufi mystical tradition is characterized by its reverence of spiritual beings (alive or dead) that are believed to embody extraordinary amounts of baraka, or divine grace. Islamic practice takes the form of membership of religious brotherhoods, tariqa, that are dedicated to marabouts (the founders or current spiritual leaders) of these brotherhoods. Muslims in Nigeria are almost always members of the Qadriyya brotherhood, which is the smallest and oldest, or the Tijaan (Tijaniyya) brotherhood which has the largest following and is spread all over West Africa (Kaba 1974; Miran 1998; Brenner 1988). Sufi Islam is essentially conservative and supportive of the African traditional socio-political order and hierarchical system of class and gender differentiation. Until the 1950s, Sufi orders largely dominated the Northern Nigerian religious sphere and were accepted as the highest form of Islamic orthodoxy and purity (p.150). Kane’s thoroughly researched work is an interesting account of how the traditional Sufi tariqa came under attack from Islamic reformers, particularly the Yan Izala that claim Wahabiyya The Sufi mystical tradition is characterized by its reverence of spiritual beings (alive or dead) that are believed to embody extraordinary amounts of baraka, or divine grace. Islamic practice takes the form of membership of religious brotherhoods, tariqa, that are dedicated to marabouts (the founders or current spiritual leaders) of these brotherhoods. Muslims in Nigeria are almost always members of the Qadriyya brotherhood, which is the smallest and oldest, or the Tijaan (Tijaniyya) brotherhood which has the largest following and is spread all over West Africa (Kaba 1974; Miran 1998; Brenner 1988). Sufi Islam is essentially conservative and supportive of the African traditional socio-political order and hierarchical system of class and gender differentiation. Until the 1950s, Sufi orders largely dominated the Northern Nigerian religious sphere and were accepted as the highest form of Islamic orthodoxy and purity (p.150). Kane’s thoroughly researched work is an interesting account of how the traditional Sufi tariqa came under attack from Islamic reformers, particularly the Yan Izala that claim Wahabiyya