Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary


Religion, Church History PhD

First Advisor

Nicholas Miller

Second Advisor

Trevor O'Reggio

Third Advisor

Bruce L. Bauer



Currently in Northern Nigeria, religious interaction among the three major religious traditions, Islam, Christianity, and African Traditional Religion, is marred by violent religious conflicts. Also, competing concepts of religious legitimacy, which appeal to the historical heritage of Nigeria, are often used to validate and justify the violation of religious freedom. Does the current state of religious interaction among the various religious groups reflect the true heritage of religious interaction in Northern Nigeria? Or is it possible that the history of the interaction between African Traditional Religions, Islam, and Christianity in the past might actually be a heritage that points toward a solution regarding religious freedom and tolerance today?


This is a qualitative historical study based on published primary and secondary sources by historians whose works relate the history of Northern Nigeria as it impacts religious interaction among the various religious traditions (African Traditional Religions, Islam, and Christianity) and its relation to power politics.

This study validates historical data by comparing and analyzing a variety of historical sources, particularly on the religious history of Northern Nigeria beginning from pre-Islamic to colonial times. Three Northern Nigeria states, Borno, Kano, and Sotoko, are chosen as representative of the region. Although there is a limitation of primary historical sources in Northern Nigeria before the arrival of Islamic scholars in the eleventh century AD, this limitation has been compensated for by the documentation of oral traditions of Northern Nigeria. --


This study shows that prior to the introduction of Islam in Northern Nigeria in the eleventh century AD, religious interaction among the adherents of African Traditional Religions was relatively peaceful. This state of relatively peaceful coexistence among the various religious traditions continued during early Islam, and the relationship between religion and civil affairs remained casual. However, beginning in the early nineteenth century the region deviated from its religious heritage of relative tolerance, and a casual overlap of religious and civil affairs, to a more intentional fusion of religion and politics, which has led to violent religious conflicts in Northern Nigeria. This change occurred, mainly as a result of the growing desire to consolidate the establishment of Islam within Hausaland and beyond by Islamic reformists. An understanding of the true history of Northern Nigeria’s religious heritage does not only correct the wrong impression that the region has always been involved in violent religious conflicts, but also, provides resources for those involved in dialogue towards religious freedom and tolerance in twenty-first century Nigeria.

Subject Area

Nigeria, Northern--Religion; Islam--Nigeria, Northern--History; Christianity--Nigeria, Northern--History; Religion and politics--Nigeria, Northern