Islam as a religion in Nigeria is categorised, like Christianity, under the foreign religions which found their way into the nation. History has it that Islam arrived in Nigeria in the 11th/12th centuries through trade, migration, and through the travels of the scholar-mystic-wayfarer along trade routes, through the regions of Kanem and Bornu. However, unlike Christianity which depends on the English language of the colonial masters, Islam came with the Arabic language with which it can only be practiced, being a religion modified by and sent with the Arab noblest man, Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).
For that reason, it becomes incumbent on every Muslim to learn the basic supplications and chapters from the Qur’an in Arabic to serve Allah accordingly and properly. It is also required that some, Muslims, should go deeper into learning the Arabic language by specialising in its study. These set of Muslims are Islamic scholars and are known as “Alfas” in Nigeria.
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Consequently, most of the Muslims in Nigeria rely solely on the Alfas vehemently in knowing the history, teachings, creeds and general knowledge about Islam.
Having said all this, it is clear that Islam cannot be perfectly understood just by solely depending on what the Alfas say. While the words of the scholars are beneficial, the proper knowledge about Islam can be attained by seeking it from the right sources—the Qur’an and the authentic traditions (Ahādīth) of the Prophet (peace be upon him). It was reported by Malik that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “I have left you with two matters which will never lead you astray, as long as you hold to them: the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of his Prophet.” (Al-Muwatta’ 1661). If this is the case, getting a translated copy of the Qur’an and some books of Hadith will do better for a Muslim to a large extent in understanding the religion with facts rather than hearsay from some people.
Adebayo, Muritala Ayinde wrote from the Department of Religions and Peace Studies, Lagos