The Political Players

Some Christian critics alleged that the Sharia conflict had been planned well in advance: »Zamfara and other states of the North are acting out a script written by some political interest (groups) in the North, aimed at destabilizing the Obasanjo administration.«[1] The idea of a conspiracy looked plausible, because the Muslim elite in the North had backed the demand for Sharia almost unanimously. Even left-wing politicians like Balaraba Musa, who had always spoken out against the Islamic establishment, made politically correct statements: »Any opposition against Sharia is opposition against Islam.«[2] But behind this façade of religious unity, Sharia created much controversy and resentment. Most governors resisted the imposition of having to rule according to divine law; yet they joined the pro-Sharia lobby under pressure from religious zealots. In the case of other Islamic politicians, it is more difficult to assess their attitudes toward Sharia. When talking with Western diplomats or business people, some claimed that they had joined the Sharia movement reluctantly. Even the Sultan of Sokoto, I was assured, was deeply unhappy about the religious campaign. The fact that Sharia had split the whole country was allegedly due to an unfortunate concurrence of circumstances. Even Governor Sani, who initiated the process, did not expect the campaign to cause such a stir. He was said to be appalled at the consequences of his actions, but could no longer shake off his role as a redeemer.

Yet he seemed to enjoy his role as a religious leader. Despite the protests in Nigerian and international media, he appeared at public meetings with his confidence bolstered: »Allah has made me the commander of Muslims in Nigeriaas a whole …. I call on all Nigerian Muslims that if they hear that Yerima [Sani] has started, they should come out to demonstrate their love for me.«[3] He went on to say that he was prepared to die and that his government would pay the medical care for those who were wounded in the coming conflicts, even if they had to be taken to Saudi Arabia for treatment.[4] Like Sani, the Sultan of Sokoto also contributed actively to the religious polarization. When a violent confrontation loomed in February 2000, because the strong Christian minority in Kaduna was unwilling to accept the proposed Sharia law, the Sultan and his delegation of 18 emirs went to see the governor and insisted on the bill being passed.[5] When Islamic authorities insisted nevertheless in private conversations that they regretted the introduction of Sharia, their statements should be taken with a pinch of salt, as a German diplomat explained: »Northern politicians consistently give us the impression that they do not want religious fanaticism. But we also know they like telling people from the West what we want to hear.«

All the same, it is probably true that Ahmed Sani was not acting on behalf of the Islamic elite, when he began his struggle for Sharia. Most likely he simply wanted to win the gubernatorial elections with the support of local Islamic groups. His contender Aliyu Gusau, the PDP candidate, was a man with excellent political connections. As the National Security Adviser, General Gusau had coordinated the state security services. After he lost the election, he was confirmed in his office as National Security Adviser by President Obasanjo. Thus he had huge resources at his disposal with which to destabilize the government of Ahmed Sani. The governor’s position was precarious for yet another reason. When he joined the race for the governor’s election in late 1998, he did so at the instigation of Colonel Yakubu, Zamfara’s military governor, in whose government Ahmed Sani had headed the Department of Lands and Housing. As Nigeria’s military governors had embezzled the states’ resources and left substantial debts, most of their successors instituted investigations against them, yet Governor Sani refused to importune his patron. Colonel Yakubu got into trouble nonetheless, because the federal government put him on trial for attempting to murder the editor of the Guardian, a liberal newspaper, which had clashed with the Abacha government.[6]

Diplomats who had known Ahmed Sani at earlier stages of his career had the impression that he was not guided by religious motives. As they recalled, he had been a sociable, good-humored man who liked his beer and amused himself with his mistresses airily. Sani himself admitted that he had not taken the tenets of his faith seriously. Only at a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabiadid he realize that he was not a good Muslim, and he suddenly started crying.[7] With the transition to democracy he changed his appearance, grew a full beard and adhered to a strict Islamic dress code. Gold-framed photos of the governor and audiocassettes of his speeches or sermons were on sale in markets all over Northern Nigeria. Many Muslims believed that he had morally purged himself, and this conviction was probably backed by the fact that Sani openly admitted some of his past transgressions: »When I was at the Central Bank, in the foreign exchange (department), I would take $800,000 to the (presidential) villa for the ECOMOG operations and sometimes the officer would dash me $10,000 or $5,000.«[8]

Like Ahmed Sani, most Northern leaders, including Buhari and Shagari, had been discredited by their complicity with the Abacha regime. Turning to divine law was one of the few ways »to cleanse themselves of association with a now illegitimate past.«[9] Virtually everyone who later emerged as a champion of divine justice, had stayed loyal to the military regime to the end. Though General Abacha had broken his promise to restore democracy, Hausa-Fulani politicians backed him and his campaign to become a democratically ›elected‹ civilian president. When military rule suddenly ended, they had maneuvered themselves into moral bankruptcy. The transition to democracy with its phony elections did not provide them with new legitimacy. So the religious renewal was an attractive option, especially for members of the opposition All People’s Party, which was commonly referred to as Abacha’s People’s Party. They found that steeping themselves in a religious aura was a good way to afford protection from possible government assaults.

Once the Sharia campaign got under way, individual politicians no longer had the power to stop it. Kaduna’s governor, Ahmed Makarfi, initially resisted the return to Islamic law by arguing that »the state shall not profess any particular religion.«[10] In Gombe State, which also has a strong minority of Christian ›indigenes‹, the governor sought to block the legislative initiative too. Yet his resistance to Sharia was not motivated by a commitment to protect the rights of religious minorities. Governor Hashidu had no reservations using state power to further his religion. Among ethnic groups in the south of his state, which are predominantly Christian, he appointed Muslim chiefs and sought to transform their territories into emirates.[11] Likewise Governor Makarfi, who strengthened Muslim enclaves in the Christian-dominated south of Kaduna State, while trying to split the umbrella organization of the Christian minorities, the Southern Kaduna Peoples’ Union.[12] The violent protests, triggered by the Sharia campaign, jeopardized this strategy. In addition, Hashidu, Makarfi and other governors had no interest in having their freedom of action restricted by religious considerations.

However, open resistance to the law reform did not last long. The Governor of Gombe, nicknamed ›bishop‹ by Muslim zealots, had stones thrown at him by angry youths. In Kano, imams threatened to declare the governor an apostate, and in Kaduna, they instructed all mosques to curse the governor every day.[13] The fact that state governments yielded to religious pressure was interpreted by some Sharia activists as a »triumph of people’s power over elite dominance.«[14] But popular rage alone would not have sufficed. It only worked because the anti-Sharia governors obtained no support in the Islamic public sphere. No religious authority opposed the declaration of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs that every Muslim is obliged to support Sharia. Even the political elite no longer tried to keep religious claims at bay, as they had done in the 1980s and 1990s. As long as Hausa-Fulani politicians had dominated civilian and military regimes, they had not heeded to the demand for full Sharia. The transition to democracy in early 1999 did not change this reluctance. During the election campaign, all candidates apart from Ahmed Sani simply ignored the Sharia issue. The decision to rally behind Sharia and confront Southern politicians was only made in February 2000, following the Sharia clashes inKaduna. In view of the many fatalities, the federal government had entered into negotiations with the 19 Northern governors and some elder statesmen. Vice President Atiku Abubakar, a Northerner himself, pushed for the Sharia legislation to be suspended. However, among Hausa-Fulani leaders, who held intense consultations, the pro-Sharia line prevailed. By committing themselves to obey the will of God, they established a new paradigm for political debates: Political action had to be justified in terms of religious obligations. When the Hausa-Fulani elite insisted that theft and adultery had to be punished with draconian penalties, they did not base their argument on pragmatic secular reasons, but on their religious duty: the submission to God. Needless to say, most did not take their obligations seriously, but weighed the advantages and disadvantages of Sharia. Yet they could not do so openly, as it would have been frivolous to debate whether observing the divine commands was expedient for their political ambitions or not.

By declaring their commitment to Sharia, politicians put each other under pressure to appear as guardians of religious laws. Some young, aspiring talents, who felt that their ambitions were thwarted, acted particularly rigorously in order to oust the old, morally discredited generation.[15] Those under assault sought to defend themselves by also appearing to advocate a religious renewal. As a means to extort loyalty, the Sharia campaign was aimed especially at politicians of the ruling PDP who were tempted to betray Northern interests, like Vice President Abubakar, Foreign Minister Sule Lamido and others who filled the quotas for Northerners in the cabinet. These potential traitors were compelled to take sides: either to join their fellow Muslims or to turn into a tool of the Christian president. At the height of the religious mobilization, even the vice president who had been labelled a »stooge of Christians« had to abandon his resistance to Sharia.[16]

While the Islamic establishment in the North joined the Sharia campaign, Muslim politicians in Yorubaland rejected it. The governor of Lagos, Ahmed Tinubu, said that he was under pressure to introduce Islamic law.[17] Religious authorities in the North had called on their fellow Muslims in the South to adopt the legal reform, and some Yoruba had embraced the demand for Sharia. In Oyo State, in which Muslims form a clear majority, Islamic associations set up a Sharia court, which heard personal matters and occasionally a criminal case like adultery.[18] However, the governor, himself a Muslim, was unwilling to support this initiative. The Muslim governors of Kwara and Osun also adopted a negative attitude, but none of them gave a religious justification for rejecting Sharia.[19] They simply ignored the political claims of their religion, not so much out of a concern for human rights and the constitution, but due to ethnic considerations: Introducing Sharia would have threatened Yoruba unity.[20]

Religious authorities in the North accused their Yoruba co-religionists of not taking their faith seriously. However, a religious confrontation would be disastrous for the Yoruba.[21] Both Christians and Muslims are aware that the call by Northern Muslims to join the Sharia campaign and establish Islamic courts in Yorubaland is not meant to bring peace. After decades of religious conflicts in the North, Hausa-Fulani politicians would benefit if the»Sharia virus«[22] spread to other parts of the country. A northern journal, in favour of Sharia, hinted that the Sharia controversy should fall upon their enemies like a curse: »Yoruba have enough Muslim population to adopt their own mode of Sharia and create their own fratricide.«[23] So far, ethnic solidarity has proved stronger than religious loyalty. As one Muslim chief put it: »I’m a Yorubaman first and foremost. […] I have a duty to my race.«[24] Yoruba still remember the devastations of the nineteenth century, when Hausa and Fulani jihadists used Islam as a means of political subjugation. Since they destroyed the old Oyo Empire, the northern parts of Yorubaland have been Islamized, but the foreign conquerors never acknowledged Yoruba Muslims as equals. Until today, the Emir of Ilorin is a member of a royal Fulani family who refused to address his subjects, who are mostly Yoruba, in their mother tongue.

Mistrust of Northern Muslims had hardened in 1993, when the Sultan of Sokoto and other Hausa-Fulani leaders supported the annulment of the presidential election. Its winner, Moshood Abiola, had been treated by the Northern elites not as a fellow Muslim who deserved support, but as a Yoruba who should be kept out of power. Ethnic considerations had eclipsed religious ones, and it appeared to Yoruba patriots that the call to introduce Sharia inSouthwest Nigeriahad similar motives. The attempt to deepen antagonisms between Christians and Muslims was obviously aimed at splitting Yoruba society, so as to break its resistance to Hausa-Fulani supremacy:

»such a move is bound to be read, sooner than later, as a declaration of war on Yoruba land, a continuation of Fulani conquest by the same means and a subterfuge to re-launch the jihad […] The idea obviously is to trigger another round of in-fighting […] having reflected deeply on what became of MKO Abiola in the hands of his Muslim brothers, more and more Yoruba Muslims now seem to have determined never again to be used by people who never fully accept them either as fellow Muslims or even as human beings.«[25]

There is another reason why Muslim governors in Yorubaland hesitated to heed to the Sharia demands. Politicians who introduced religious law could hardly get rid of it again. At a conference on Sharia in Nigeria, held in Bayreuthin July 2003, experts doubted that Islamic governors had the power to abolish the divine law.[26] Any governor who renounced the laws of God, would be regarded by orthodox Muslims as an apostate who might be cursed by a fatwa. Militant Sharia supporters already made it clear that Muslims who refused to identify with the cause of Islam took a great risk: »The Holy Qur’an has unambiguously classed all such people with the kafirs (infidels) […] [T]he position they so wish to protect is as ephemeral as their lives.«[27] Despite such threats, reservations about Sharia have been expressed more openly in recent years. Yet it remains difficult to formulate basic criticism. What principles could politicians invoke, if they wished to renounce their religious obligations? Progress, modernity, or human rights? As long as there are no credible alternatives to Sharia, Muslims in the North will probably be caught up in the religious discourse.

The religious zeal of Sharia supporters could force the rulers to feign piety. At Friday prayers they mingled with the ordinary faithful, but they did not feel obliged to take the people’s interests seriously. Even the most godly governors flouted their religious obligations, as soon as their privileges were at stake. When Governor Sani was asked by a journalist whether he was prepared to refund the money he had misappropriated, his blunt answer was: no. He would hold on to his possessions because »I allow relatives and other people to stay in my houses.«[28] In addition, he claimed that as the scion of a royal Fulani family, he had always been blessed with wealth.[29]

In view of the arbitrary way in which Sharia courts prosecuted theft and adultery, outsiders had the impression that Sharia was an instrument of oppression by the ruling class: »it was a move by the political elite to tighten power over a population variously described as Nigeria’s poorest, most marginalized, most vulnerable to oppression.«[30] However, Sharia as a political instrument lends itself to many sides. In Jigawa State, hisba members arrested a son of the Emir of Dutse and caned him for drinking alcohol; as a result, an emirate official dissolved the vigilante.[31] But not every emir or governor could deal with the Sharia enforcers so boldly. In Kano, Governor Kwankwaso overestimated his power when he announced that no cleric could tell him what to do, »no matter how long his beard is.«[32] Kwankwaso was voted out of office in April 2003 after just one term. However, his defeat was not merely due to protests by the faithful. The Governor had antagonized influential members of the local establishment, and these rivals used the religious resentment against this all-too confident politician to bring him down.[33]

Many members of the elite found it a nuisance playing the role of pious zealots. But as it was not opportune to express their resistance openly, they defied the divine commandments in silence. Senior officials in YobeStatelooking for amusement would travel on weekends to neighboring Maiduguri, where Sharia was imposed more casually: »They come in hordes to have […] the best things of life which are abundant in town.«[34] Islamic societies, not only in Africa, have a strong aptitude to tolerate double standards. However, the amount of hypocrisy people will acquiesce in depends on what else the political caste has to offer them besides pious phrases. In Saudi-Arabia, the ruling families have sufficient resources to provide the majority of their subjects with a secure livelihood. In Northern Nigeria, where there are only a few enclaves of wealth, the gap between rich and poor is far wider. In the early 1990s, one-third of Nigerians was believed to live on less than one dollar a day. By 1998 this figure had grown to 48 percent, and today, despite record earnings from the sale of oil, it is 70 percent.[35] More than 100 million Nigerians are mired in a poverty trap, from which most have no escape. Even if under favorable conditions the economy grew at 6 percent a year, it would take 30 to 40 years for the average income to reach 1970 levels.[36] The present economic growth is fuelled by high oil prices, not by industrial investments, so Nigerians have little reason to chase the chimera of Western progress.

Islamic politicians have good reason to fear the people’s wrath. Their claim to be recognized as religious authorities is seen by many devout Muslims as arrogant. Sacred tradition does not envisage elected governors or parliamentarians, so these offices do not bestow religious legitimacy. Only through their personal piety and knowledge of Islam could politicians qualify as leaders of the umma. But who among them has taken the trouble to read the classical works of jurisprudence, according to which they claim to rule? As soon as they enter theological terrain and debate with the ulama on the correct interpretation of the scriptures, they lose out to their rivals. The call to base public life on divine principles gives Islamic scholars and preachers the right to meddle in political matters. As the Koran’s message is available to anybody, it cannot be constrained to serve only the interests of a particular group. All sorts of people may join the race/enter the competition for religious expertise. Intellectuals, who used to have little interest in theological disputes, are now keen to cite the word of God, as the masses are far more receptive to a religious language than to the theories of Karl Marx or Franz Fanon. While the political authorities assume an Islamic identity, opposition against them is Islamized too. Government critics who reject the state-driven Islamization do not take offence at Sharia itself. Their anger is reserved for the professional politicians who act as guardians of divine virtue, despite their moral turpitude: »How can society purge itself if the propagators of renewal are rotten to the core? No one can clean himself with a filthy sponge.«[37]

Religious Authorities

The office of the Sultan and the emirs is more in line with classical concepts of Islamic rulers. In pre-colonial time, the Fulani aristocracy could rule autocratically, as their decisions were not supervised by a parliament or a group of scholars. Their right to rule was based on a mandate from God, which the initiator of the jihad, Usman dan Fodio, handed down to his successors. As Sokoto’s rulers modeled their empire on the Arab Medina, they referred to themselves as caliphs: deputies of the Prophet. Their power was first curtailed by the colonial administration, and it hit rock bottom under the rule of the military, who robbed them of their most significant privileges – the right to distribute land and to hold court over their subjects. Despite forfeiting these powers, they have weathered the storms of modern politics surprisingly well. While civilian and military regimes came and went in quick succession, the throne of Sokoto is still occupied by a direct descendant of Usman dan Fodio, and most emirate leaders also trace their lineage to the early jihadists.

Since all forms of secular rule have failed, the traditional dignitaries are claiming political power once again. Under military rule, they had demanded the chairmanship of local government councils,[38] but the generals confidently thwarted the ambitions of the religious establshment. When the Sultan died in 1988 and a successor was elected, General Babangida refused to recognize the kingmakers’ will and appointed a business associate, Ibrahim Dasuki, as the highest Muslim authority. The new Sultan, though of royal blood, was so unpopular that he was often accompanied by police, when he attended Friday prayers at a mosque. Only protection of the military kept him in power. When he fell out of favor, his career came to an end. General Abacha declared Dasuki’s son Sambo a conspirator, had wanted posters put up on the walls of the Sultan’s palace and sent the Sultan himself into exile in April 1996.[39]

With the transition to democracy, the power of the ›feudal‹ authorities was paradoxically reinforced. Governors who prepared for reelection sought to buy the support of local bigwigs. Emirs as well as non-Islamic kings and chiefs received new official cars and had their palaces renovated or extended. Yet the governors and other elected politicians were reluctant to transfer genuine authority to their opponents. In the contest between modern and traditional elites, the emirs only have a chance if they pose as guardians of Islam and emphasize the piety that binds them to the mass of the believers. This does not mean that they are enamored of Sharia. The Emir of Gwandu, who ranks just below the Sultan in the hierarchy of traditional rulers, demonstrated his religious zeal by forcing Christians to move their churches to the suburbs, yet he showed little enthusiasm for full Sharia: »Sharia has always been with us, the world did not come to an end because some aspects of it were not implemented.«[40] As with civilian politicians, it is not an enticing prospect for the emirs to be subject to the rigors of Islamic law, but they cannot afford opposing it in principle. Of course, it is common knowledge that they are more interested in Western luxury goods than in the wisdom of the Koran. Virtues such as piety, which they are supposed to embody outwardly, only play a subordinate role internally. They do not gain access to the highest offices due to their religious expertise but their ethnic and social background. Sultan Ibrahim Dasuki, who led the umma until 1996, did not even speak Arabic, the language of the Koran.[41] As the scion of a royal family he had studied at Oxford, and his son read political science at Harvard. Yet he warned his subjects against acquiring alien, non-Islamic knowledge: »Western education destroys our culture.«[42]

The return of religion into politics provides an opportunity for the emirs to play a major role beyond their own courtly circles. All the same, their attitude to Sharia is ambivalent, as they have to fear religious rivals who use Islamic orthodoxy to push aside the arrogant aristocrats. Islamic preachers and scholars, whose authority is not based on a hereditary office, show a more tenacious interest in enforcing God’s laws. All Muslim organizations that T. H. Gwarzo investigated in Kanobacked the reform movement in principle: »at no time did any group in Kanostate ever criticize the need to return to Shariah.«[43] The return to religious orthodoxy provides them with a dual benefit:

1. As the canon of divine laws is recognized by all currents of Islam, the joint struggle to enact these commandments may overcome internal disputes, at least temporarily: »You can see the solidarity among the Muslims today. It was never so since independence […]. You don’t hear [about] crisis between Izala and others anymore. They are all united by Sharia[44]

2. Those jurists and imams who are not born into families of the upper class possess little more than their knowledge of holy scriptures. It is precisely this knowledge that gains in value, when Muslim societies strive to regulate all areas of life in accordance with God’s instructions. The authority of scholars and preachers extends with the scope of the religious laws they interpret. This creates a counter-elite, which challenges the politicians’ monopoly on decision making. The chance to transform their religious authority into power only arose because politicians like Sani, Shagari and Buhari resorted to religious mobilization: »These politicians have shot themselves in the feet by the introduction of Sharia.«[45]

Under the largely secular regime, which the colonial power had imposed on Africans, Islamic scholarship was considered antiquated or reactionary. Only the decline of the post-colonial order imbued religious experts with new significance. But competition among them is fierce. In the last three decades, increasing numbers of the most talented young people have turned to studying Islam, and as many of them have to use this qualification to make a living, they are pushing for Islamic culture to take center stage in society: »With so many Muslim school-leavers and university graduates with little chance for employment, Islamic activism could provide the means of achieving influence and economic advancement.«[46] One way of exploiting their religious authority is to be co-opted by politicians and accept government offices with pay. The parliaments of the Sharia states created councils of ulama who shall advise judges and hisba groups. Of course, the ambitions of the ulama went far beyond what the governors were willing to concede to them. However, Nigeria’s Sunnis are not as effectively organized as the clergy in Shiite Iran. Religious experts do not have a professional representation apart from the government-controlled councils, thus it is difficult to articulate common interests. In principle, they all agree on the necessity of Sharia, but this common goal does not preclude fierce infighting. Some ulama joined the courtly circles of the emirs in order to acquire money and prestige, while others stood up as spokesmen for the oppressed masses. Preachers who agitated against the corrupt political class launch tirades of hatred against any authorities the country still had: »We as Muslims, we don’t recognize the authority of the federal government, state government, local government and any form of authority […]. What is between us and them is enmity, eternal enmity, fight, war, forever until the day they will come to the book of Allah.«[47]

Most organizations are prepared to work with governors and parliamentarians who are committed to the Islamic cause. The long established Sufi fraternities, which dominated religious life until well into the 1970s, had always allied with the established Islamic authorities. The Qadiriyya was closely connected with the Caliphate of Sokoto and later with the governing Northern Peoples’ Congress, whereas the Tijaniyya supported the Emir of Kano and his local allies. A pragmatic relationship to the rich and powerful is also characteristic of the Izala, which appeared as the vanguard of the Sharia movement. Its spiritual leader, Abubakar Gumi (1924-1992), had never shied away from confronting individual representatives of the political establishment. He had even issued a fatwa against the Sultan of Sokoto during the colonial era. It stated that it was un-Islamic for the Sultan to accept the title ›Knight of the British Empire‹.[48] But Gumi did not see himself as a people’s advocate striving to bring down the feudal authorities. As a member of the Fulani elite he was a close confidant of the political establishment and especially of Ahmadu Bello, the Premier of the Northern Region: »I became his principal adviser on all judicial and religious matters.«[49] Under the premier’s tutelage he rose to become the country’s most senior Islamic judge in 1962. In his autobiography he also described how his benefactors provided him with further privileges, such as the house which the son of an emir gave him as a present.[50] However, as he emphasized, these tokens of acknowledgment did not corrupt him. He continued to censure politicians who disobeyed God’s laws, and he praised pious-minded leaders who were prepared to accept the advice of Islamic scholars. As long as members of the elite were guided by divine principles in their decision-making, there was no reason to object to their privileges. In this, Sheikh Gumi adhered to the Wahabi ideas he had become familiar with inSaudi Arabia. The rulers did not need to be monitored by the people, they only had to listen to the scholars’ advice.

Political opposition in Nigeriais often not committed to a reform of the political system; but is used by marginalized groups to challenge their exclusion and force their way into being coopted into the ruling circles.[51] Even radical religious leaders allowed themselves to be bought by Sharia governors – with government offices, cars and free flights to Mecca: »It is little wonder that these leaders are referred to in the community as ›Malaman Gwamnati‹ i.e. government spokesmen.«[52] But there were also prominent Muslims, who steadfastly refused to collaborate. The best known is Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, leader of the Shiite-inspired Islamic Movement, also known under the name Muslim Brothers. Under civilian and military regimes he spent a total of nine years in prison. When released after the end of the Abacha dictatorship, he became one of the harshest critics of democratically ›elected‹ politicians. More than others he lived up to the ideal of the European intellectual: unswerving in his convictions, unimpressed by the temptations of high political offices, urbane and with relaxed, agreeable manners. Instead of studying theology, he read economics at Zaria, the North’s best university. His closest staff were also mostly academics; yet their radical, ›progressive‹ positions attracted mainly the urban poor. In Kano they were able to put half a million supporters on the street, more than any party politician could hope for.[53]

In Northern Nigeria, El-Zakzaky was the only significant »Islamic cleric« who openly rejected the Sharia campaign as a political maneuver of the ruling class. Whether governors introduced secular or religious laws was immaterial to him: »I don’t think they are interested in implementing any law.«[54] His criticism was of course not aimed at Sharia itself. On the contrary, the divine law appeared so precious to him that it must not be left to politicians who used it in their election campaigns. In the hands of the corrupt elite, which applied religious law selectively at best, it became an »instrument of oppression« to subdue the impoverished masses.[55] Before true Sharia could be established, it was necessary to bring down these oppressors and replace them with a new generation of God-fearing rulers.

The struggle against despotism and social injustice was associated, in the case of Sheikh El-Zakzaky and his followers, with a religious rigor that sought to eliminate anything un-Islamic. Their political ideal was an Islamic Republic based on the Iranian model. Nonetheless, after visiting Iranin 1990, one of their leaders complained that morals there had become too lax and that women were taking too many liberties.[56] Among the liberties, which the Islamic Movement was not willing to tolerate, were disrespectful statements by journalists: »the punishment of whoever ridicule our prophet is death.«[57] The charge of insulting the Prophet was leveled at Muslims as well as Christians, and this provoked a series of clashes. In Kano, Muslim Brothers stormed a police station in order to snatch an Igbo merchant who had been arrested for blasphemy. The charge against him was that he (or his wife) had torn several pages out of a Koran and used them as toilet paper. The mob beheaded the accused man, stuck his head on a pike and marched with it for several hours through the city.[58]

As the Muslim Brothers repeatedly clashed with the police and other opponents, one of their leaders was instructed to set up a paramilitary group in 1991: »I designed it along the lines of the Revolutionary Guards in Iran, and I had also read about the Hitler youth movement.«[59] The young militants with their yearning for martyrdom declared quite candidly that they would resist any orders of the authorities.[60] With this uncompromising attitude they could not expect to be integrated into government-funded hisbas. The recruitment of official hisba groups was supervised in all Sharia states by committees in which the majority of members was appointed by government. These committees often filtered out volunteers who seemed to be hostile to the state authorities. Immediately after the introduction of Sharia laws, Muslim activists had formed independent hisbas who moved against anti-Islamic activities without a government mandate. When arresting criminals and other »anti-social elements«[61] they often did not hand them over to the police, but pronounced judgments themselves and executed them on the spot. Police officers and other critics sometimes described them as terror gangs who raped and extorted money, while the hisba volunteers accused the police of sabotaging Sharia, as the officers often released suspects brought to them by Sharia monitors.[62]

Independent hisba groups are said to have opened offices »in thousands of communities«, so it is virtually impossible to monitor their activities.[63] This is one of the reasons why no one could assess how often Sharia penalties have been imposed.[64] Supervising the activities of independent and official hisba groups should have been the task of the »Islamic civil society«[65], but its organizations are ill-suited to exercise democratic control, as they are not structured democratically in themselves. The traditional Sufi groups are dominated by sheikhs, who keep their position for life and are eager to appoint their sons as successors. The more radical or reformist organizations, which are often led by former members of the Muslim Students’ Society, have a more modern structure – with committees and board members. Nevertheless, they are held together less by democratic procedures than by the authority or charisma of their leaders.[66] In case of internal disputes, when leaders of (local) factions clash, they are not inclined to submit to majority decisions, but break away and form rival organizations. This inner weakness and fragmentation makes it difficult to negotiate and enforce agreements with representatives of the Islamic reform movement. In order to overcome their internal divisions, they have to mobilize their followers for a common goal, such as the struggle for Sharia. But what helps them to unite, brings them into conflict with non-Muslims.

Muslim Criticisms of Sharia

Observers in the South of Nigeria were taken aback that virtually no Muslims in the North protested against the Sharia campaign. Even the ›progressives‹, who had been considered critics of the political establishment, did not pick a fight with Governor Sani and other Sharia authorities: »The silence of Nigerian socialists of northern extraction in the matter is chillingly eloquent.«[67] Intellectuals in the North and South no longer had the impression of being part of the same public sphere. The feeling of alienation even applied to the small group of Hausa-Fulani Muslims who did speak out against the Sharia project, because their criticism was not based on principles which they might share with Sharia critics in the South. Constitutional provisions such as the rejection of a state religion, equality before the law, religious freedom and other human rights played just a minor role for Muslim critics in the North, as they avoided contradicting Sharia on behalf of principles which derived from secular, non-religious sources. Most of them acknowledged the necessity of organizing public and private life in accordance with divine laws and argued from within the Islamic tradition. This self-restriction left Sharia critics in the North with basically two strategies of reasoning: 1. They could cite reasons why the introduction of Sharia under the present circumstances should be postponed. 2. They could reject the letter of the law and emphasize its spirit which allowed conceiving a more moderate, progressive, or ›anti-feudal‹ form of Sharia.

There were several reasons why Muslims submitted to these restrictions of the debate. Criticizing Sharia in principle was difficult, because the sacred texts did not contain arguments one could adduce in order to reject the implementation of Sharia. Muslims who still wished to disavow the ancient rules attracted the suspicion that they were guided by irreligious considerations. A senator in Abuja, who preferred to remain anonymous, described how difficult it was to oppose the religious project: »I am a Muslim and I know what they are doing is not proper but I cannot speak against the implementation of Sharia. It would mean political suicide.«[68] Some Muslims feared they would provoke violent reactions if they criticized the new laws: »It may be mistaken for antagonism towards Islam. In the process, these jobless street beggars called almajiris can be mobilized to burn down your property.«[69] However, external pressure alone cannot explain why the Sharia project gained so widespread support. Another reason is that advocates of full Sharia could presented their case with clear and plausible arguments. They had the additional advantage that the rules of the political discourse had changed. Political claims were only valid, if they were derived from the will of God or, at least, if they did not contradict his will. This favored political actors whose reasoning was as close as possible to God’s word.

Given these constraints of the political discourse, it is no coincidence that the most radical criticism of the new Sharia legislation came from a religious authority whose godly disposition was beyond doubt: Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, leader of the Islamic Movement or Muslim Brothers. He viewed the Sharia project as premature: As long as Muslims had not seized power in Nigeria, but still faced Christian resistance, they could only introduce a corrupt form of Sharia: »the total application of shari’ah is only possible where the system of government is purely Islamic.«[70] Other Sharia critics, who were less militant than El-Zakzaky, also argued that the introduction of Sharia should be postponed, but they gave different reasons: As long as people in their present squalor were unable to live in decency and dignity, it would be unreasonable to act against petty criminals with the rigor of divine laws: »Islam requires social justice and when all the conditions for social justice are established, then any person who takes any person’s property ought to pay.«[71] One of the leading intellectuals in Northern Nigeria, Abubakar Umar, pointed out that the history of Islam provided the role model of a pious ruler who temporarily dispensed with the hudud punishments: »Khalif Umar […] found a man guilty of theft but he did not cut his hand off. Why? Because at that time, there was so much economic distress, there was famine in the land.«[72] Measured by the rules of orthodox Islamic jurisprudence, this was a weak argument, as it was based only on one episode in the hadith, i.e. the accounts of the early period of the umma. In the Koran, there is no mention that God’s instructions to mankind can be suspended under certain circumstances. But even irrespective of such scholarly casuistry, the argument that a just social order would have to be created, before Sharia laws can come into effect, is not convincing. How is society expected to transform itself if not by following divine commandments? Deterrent punishments that compel people to observe God-given rules are supposed to lead mankind on the path of moral betterment. For devout Muslims, the amputation of limbs is not the purpose of their religious efforts, but just a means of freeing themselves from vice. When the Prophet decreed divine laws, the Arab world was in a state of godlessness and moral turpitude; only with the help of Sharia did he manage to »clean« society.[73]

A second strategy of Sharia critics, besides calling for a postponement of full Sharia, was to propose »alternate interpretations«[74] of the sacred law. Again, the validity of Sharia was acknowledged in principle, only its literal application was questioned: »We get the distinct impression from many of the current advocates of the Shari’ah that it is essentially a punitive, political arrangement dealing with beverages and dress codes, the amputation of limbs and the refurbishment of mosques.«[75] Such changes only created a façade of piety; society appeared Islamized but its unjust social order remained unaffected: »Neo-fundamentalism neither challenges the class-character of the state nor shows any interest in altering the underlying social relations. It is consistent with the most retrogressive and feudal systems and thus exists in harmony with backward structures like the monarchy in Saudi Arabia and the Nigerian state.«[76]

Instead of blindly copying the precepts of the Koran and the hadith, it seemed necessary to adapt them to present day requirements:

»This is a different age, a different society and a different world. A different legal process responsive to the peculiarities and unique characteristics of this age, this society and this strange world is an absolute and inescapable necessity. […] Sharia is first and foremost an idea, even before it is law.«[77]

But how does one arrive at the ›idea‹ that is hidden behind the wording of the law? Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the most eloquent proponent of a (post)modern interpretation of Sharia, suggested a philosophical approach. Whatever God’s purpose was, when he decreed Sharia, it could only be understood if attention was paid to the essence of God, to the attributes ascribed to him in the Koran: »A proper apprehension of Allah, His Beautiful Names (al-asma’ al-husna) and His Exalted Attributes (as-sifat al-’ula) must necessarily transform our ethic.« »A Muslim who believes in Allah the Just cannot stand injustice.«[78] If God is praised as the just, his law must also serve justice. Sanusi concluded from this premise that Sharia demanded the eradication of exploitation and oppression. Of course, other interpreters may see divine justice in completely different terms, more in keeping with the patriarchal traditions of Islam. By invoking the ›idea‹ of Sharia, virtually any political position can be taken. And this was obviously intended. If Muslims followed Sanusi’s advice when drafting the laws of the state, they would be as free as the citizens of a Western democracy. Irrespective of the ancient injunctions, they could promulgate any law they felt was just.

Orthodox critics of this liberal theology pointed out that it leads to arbitrary interpretations of the holy scriptures. If the tenets of Islam were reduced to abstract values such as justice, the divine message would evaporate and the ›Islamic‹ label could be applied to all kinds of political stances. For intellectuals like Sanusi, whose ideas of class struggle found little favor among the common people, religion seemed to be just an instrument of popularizing his own ideologies. That he was less concerned with God’s revelation than with secular matters was clear from the thoroughly irreligious authors he invoked: Gramsci, Althusser, Poulantzas, Foucault, Chomsky and Said.[79] Thus, with his reinterpretation of Islam, alien Western ideas intruded in the Sharia debate: »Sanusi […] draws his motivation from Western intellectual tradition and not from the Islamic tradition.«[80] His preference for »kafir philosophers« (i.e. infidels) was seen to be in line with the good contacts he maintained with Western aid organizations and the secular-oriented press in Southern Nigeria: »Everything that he writes is published by all the papers he sends [it] to, without any censor. He is also very much patronized by the NGO’s.«[81]

Like intellectuals in the West, Sanusi assumed that the purpose of the state was to serve the people’s welfare. Hence, when making laws the interests of the citizens should be paramount. This model of self-determination, which united leftist as well as liberal critics of Sharia, was rejected by orthodox Muslims, as it seemed to be based on a materialistic, irreligious attitude, which saw the purpose of mankind in its material wellbeing: »Where did they get that idea that the society will be alright, [when you] give everybody what he should eat, everybody has his house, everybody has everything«?[82] A focus on material concerns was a form of idolatry. With this verdict, pious Muslims rejected the shameless addiction to pleasure which seemed to be characteristic of Western societies. By discarding all theories that made people’s self-interest the basis of legal relationships, they clung to their religious conviction, but they also reacted to the present realities ofNigeria with its rampant, self-destructive individualism. All the dilapidated institutions, the factories and hospitals standing empty, testified that the unbridled pursuit of material interests did not lead to affluence but to disaster. Without moral and religious principles that might remedy the lack of consideration for others, people were swept up in the maelstrom of an economy of prey, in which everyone was out to fleece the other. Muslims who sought a way out turned to a transcendent force which could break the principle of self-interest, and this required obedience to God. When waiving personal liberties and submitting to divine demands, the letter of the law was decisive, because a law that could be interpreted in any way had no binding force on people.

One could argue that scholars, preachers and kadhis had self-serving reasons, when they propagated obedience to the letter of the law. Their influence grew when religious norms were strictly enforced in all spheres of life. Thus they claimed that the sacred law, written more than a millennium ago, contained all knowledge that was essential to run society. There was no need to borrow from other cultures and religions, so all alien ideas should be renounced: »purify society of all un-Islamic practices and […] live solely according to the way laid down by Allah, the Sharia.«[83] European observers tend to assume that such statements reflect the social interests of their authors. But the willingness to submit to divine laws was also born out of genuinely religious motives. When human beings have failed at all attempts to improve the conditions under which they live, they are more inclined to surrender to God’s providence. God, who created mankind, knows best by which rules it is to operate. A leader of the Muslim Brothers explained that running a society was similar to servicing a car: If you want to do things right, stick to the manufacturer’s manual.[84] The present social decline was explained by the disobedience of man who turned away from the instructions of his creator: »for a Muslim community to operate without shari’ah […] is not pleasing to Allah, therefore, misfortunes and sufferings may follow that community as a punishment from Allah.«[85] If mankind’s fate lay in the hands of God, it was important to win back his favor, and this could only be done by submitting to his will. God was prepared to lead men out of their misery, if only they followed him: »So fear not men, but fear you Me; and sell not My signs for a little price. Whoso judges not according to what God has sent down – they are the unbelievers.«[86]

The idea that it should be left to the discretion of the faithful to modify Koranic precepts, is alien to this way of thinking. If God had willed that some institution was authorized to create new rules, why is it not mentioned in the Koran? The sacred text emphasizes instead that God has revealed his will to mankind conclusively and comprehensively through Mohammed, the last of the prophets: »Today I have perfected your religion for you.«[87] As the Koran does not empower the Muslim community to abrogate laws from the time of Mohammed, it is understandable that orthodox scholars warned against such arbitrary acts: »A Muslim must worship God not as he desires, but only in the manner specified by God Himself.« »It is not possible to arbitrarily select which [laws] to accept or not.«[88] From a Muslim perspective it was a typical feature of Christianity that it deliberately discarded parts of the divine revelation: »Some other religions are lucky. They are able to revise their scriptures. […] We don’t have that choice in Islam. We cannot for example, say in Islam, we would pray twice daily instead of five times.«[89] Unlike Islam, in its Sunni form, Christianity has institutions like the papacy, the episcopal councils and synods, which are authorized to sanction doctrinal changes. The Roman church discussed the validity of divine dictates right from its beginning. Yet this relative freedom from irrevocable laws was seen, by devout Muslims, as a failing: »Christianity is nothing […], if you are saying I follow Jesus, in what way? There are no rules, no regulations, no anything. […] on Sundays, you only go to listen to songs.«[90] The books of the Old Testament do contain divine commandments that match the strict provisions of Sharia in great detail – one only has to consider the many dietary and purity taboos. But these rules were already abolished in the early Christian era. The crucial event was the egregious deed of Saint Paul who »made the sacred book of the Jews into one of the sacred books of the Christians«, but tore out its »tabooistic norms.«[91] As the doctrines of the Old and New Testaments contain such divergent ideas of law and morality, Christian authorities were compelled to depart from the wording of the laws. This breach with literalism did not constitute a betrayal of the original Christian message. Rejecting the letter of God’s revelation and elevating its inner meaning was no sacrilege, as the founders of the religion had already practiced it: »for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.«[92]

Muslims regard the fact that the Christian message encompasses so many varied texts as proof that it cannot be authentic. Why should God have given man contradictory commandments? The different books of the Bible seem to represent the opinions of very divergent authors, not the will of the one, unwavering God. The conclusion which already Mohammed had drawn from these inconsistencies was that Jews and Christians had falsified the early manifestations of God’s revelation. Moses, David and Jesus had been Muslim prophets, but their teachings were refuted and distorted by their unworthy followers:

»We gave to Moses the Book, and after him sent succeeding Messengers; and We gave Jesus son of Mary the clear signs, and confirmed him with the Holy Spirit; and whensoever there came to you [Jews] a Messenger with what your souls had no desire for, did you become arrogant, and some cry lies to, and some slay? And they say, ›Our hearts are uncircumcised.‹ Nay, but God has cursed them for their unbelief.«[93]

The Koran also accuses Christians of having willfully discarded parts of God’s teachings and made up others, such as the claim that Jesus was the son of God. Against this relapse into polytheism, the Koran argues that only Mohammed’s message has preserved or reestablished in its pristine purity the age-old prophecy, from Adam via Moses to Jesus. Islam’s right to exist, compared with the two older Abrahamitic religions, is based on this claim that the suras of the Koran express the will of God unaltered, word for word. [94]

One could argue that the Koran also comprises inconsistencies and contradictions, especially between suras that originated in Meccaand those later revealed in Medina. When its verses were compiled, many were taken out of context and listed one after the other, often with no relation between them, so their meaning only becomes clear after meticulous interpretation. The Koran’s early exegetes were aware of these problems, but they applied all their reasoning to resolve inherent contradictions, as they were convinced that the 6,346 verses of the Koran were spoken by only one divine voice: »The Qur’ân […] has been accepted as literally the words of God«,[95] and it is indeed far more consistent than the Bible. While the Old and New Testaments include texts that emerged over a period of a thousand years, the message of the Koran was revealed by only one prophet and recorded while he was still alive. As a statesman »with unlimited power«,[96] Mohammed had given clear, unmistakable instructions, which referred directly to socio-political matters. Some legal matters, like the proper rules of inheritance, are dealt with in such detail that it seems the divine legislator wanted to regulate all contingencies of human life.[97]

Nonetheless, many legal issues remain unresolved in the Koran, so Islamic kadhis relied initially on local traditions of law. However, the scholars of the great law schools succeeded in officially abolishing the ancient Arab common law and the legal traditions of the subdued Roman and Iranian provinces. Only sacred knowledge was to be permitted as a source of law, and this knowledge included not only the prophetic revelation in a narrow sense, i.e. the teachings of Koran. The Prophet was divinely inspired in everything he did and said, so his personal way of life and his actions as a statesman could also serve as a paradigm.[98] In order to draw up a legal system that was in all its details derived from Islamic principles, scholars referred to what was reported from the time of the Prophet. These accounts, which had been handed down orally, were of course more diverse than the original divine revelation, but when selecting suitable reports, jurists considered only those as authentic, which were consistent with the Koran. Thus a fairly homogeneous corpus of texts emerged: six major volumes of hadith with thousands of pages, also deemed sacred, though to a lesser degree than the Koran. [99]

Creating a system of law that derived solely from the Koran and the hadith, offered several advantages. It was supposed to end controversies over God’s demands, contain factionalism, and avert the risk of fratricidal religious wars. Moreover, it could make the judiciary’s behavior more predictable. Of course, for cases that were not stipulated in the Koran and hadith, new rules had to be invented. The great law schools not only systematized laws that already existed, they also complemented Sharia. This implied taking autonomous decisions in order to produce additional ›divine‹ laws. But even this limited form of law creation, ijtihad, was organized in a way that eliminated as far as possible independent reasoning and human discretion. Some jurists had suggested that cases on which the divine legislator kept silent should be decided according to principles of justice, common welfare or the interest of the state. However, such noble principles that allowed judges a wide margin to decide according to their own preference would not have led to legal security but to endless disputes about the welfare of the people or the state. Therefore, legal scholars developed a largely mechanical process of establishing new law, which was meant to exclude human arbitrariness. In order to decide controversial cases in accordance with divine standards, they looked for similar cases in the Koran or hadith, inferred a general rule from them and applied it to the disputes at hand.[100] With this procedure, known as qiyas, the four great Sunni law schools arrived at very similar conclusions: a »coherent« system of laws that only differed from each other in details.[101] Even Sunni and Shia jurists shared a wide consensus, so that Sharia, as the irrevocable law of God, has been  acknowledged far beyond orthodox circles: »The supremacy, or at least the crucial importance, of the Shari’ah has been accepted not only in most Islamic currents, but even by most sorts of opinion within each current – whether mystic or literalist.«[102]

Modernizers who wished to replace the ›outdated‹ Sharia laws with new ones could scarcely invoke a divine mandate. Instead, they introduced philosophical reasoning and other non-religious ways of thinking in order to tackle orthodoxy: »The greatest tragedy in Sunni thought is its hatred of philosophy and philosophers and its enthronement of the legalistic rulings of jurists over all facets of our life.«[103] In order to shake off these constraints, Ibraheem Sulaiman of the Ahmadu Bello University claimed that Sharia laws only had temporary validity: »The founders of the [law] schools […] never intended to solve the problems of generations yet to come, of which they kn[e]w nothing, neither did they ever claim that the results of their output were valid for all time.«[104] But this is merely a dry/arbitrary assertion. The jurists of the eighth and ninth centuries were certainly convinced that the divine instructions they systematized were not only intended for their own time. When they availed themselves of the right to create new laws by ijtihad, they did not wish to abolish Koranic regulations, but simply plug legal gaps. Their intention was to apply Islamic principles to areas for which no explicit rules existed in the holy scriptures. After generations of jurists had debated and finally decided most open legal issues, the idea took hold in Sunni Islam from around 900 that the »gate of ijtihad« and thus the way to new laws were closed.[105]

Today, many if not most jurists no longer feel bound to this consensus, thoughAbubakar Gumi,Nigeria’s most prominent Sharia expert, warned:

»No aspect of our lives is left to human judgment. Everything we do must be according to the laws of God. For example, no less than seventeen regulations in Islam govern how one should carry out such a private and routine habit as visiting the toilet. Other aspects of life with greater complexity or social consequence attract far more rules, and it is not possible to arbitrarily select which ones to accept or not.«[106]

But even Gumi believed that it was legitimate to complement Sharia law in order to adapt it to modern needs.[107] How far these changes may go and what direction they should take cannot be determined in advance. Sunni Islam knows no official body that is authorized to decide theological disputes, thus bitter arguments are bound to occur. Yet these debates cannot be held openly. Even ijtihad does not give the Islamic public sphere permission to disengage from religious constraints and change past laws at will. Resolute modernizers may claim that a contemporary form of Sharia will not be a »replica« of the old laws, but »may almost amount to a new invention.«[108] But what entitles them calling such an invention ›Sharia‹? If everything were up for revision, people would rise to being masters of their religion, and God’s commandments would be debased. Devout Muslims resisted such a process that could lead – as in Europe – to a godless society. What Sharia modernizers were calling for looked like the »Pauline abrogation of Jewish law« which opened the path to secularism: »Sanusi and the modernists before him wanted to change the rules so that Islam will be totally reformed as Christianity leading to complete secularization and the abolishing of Islam just as Christianity was abolished.«[109]

As already mentioned above (p. XXX), there were not only religious reasons why the devout stuck to the letter of the law. In order to tackle the social decay, Nigerians had to form a moral community. Only if they regained a common understanding of good and evil, right or wrong could they stand up to the corrupt elite and exert public pressure. In a society that was deeply divided by ethnicity and class distinctions, religion provided a precious source of universal legal and moral concepts.Nigeria’s Muslims did not turn to the holy scriptures to be told that they could renounce God’s rules at will. On the contrary, their religion was supposed to give them guidance so that moral and political debates were based on common principles. Disputes were still allowed; only the number of possible arguments was drastically restricted. Nobody should present claims that were incompatible with the will of God. Islam thus became a kind of arena, in which the legitimacy of political demands was to be negotiated.

Intellectuals who did not wish to pay heed to the letter of the law undermined the consensus which Sharia activists wished to establish. Invoking the »spirit of Sharia«[110] could not create unity; it only opened the floodgates to all possible interpretations of God’s message. If the modernizers had their way, the debate about law and morality would relapse into the same arbitrariness as prior to the introduction of Sharia. How divergently the sacred texts could be interpreted when the wording of the law no longer mattered, can be illustrated by looking at the debates about women’s rights. Zaynab Alkali, a professor at the University of Maiduguri, argued, based on her historical-critical reading of the Koran, that polygamy should be abolished:[111] When the Prophet allowed men to marry up to four wives, his society was at war with its neighbors, and there were many widows who needed to be provided for. Today, a man was available for every woman, so the original reason for polygamy no longer applied. This inventive interpretation did not impress the Islamic establishment. Muslim males saw the benefits of polygamy in a different light, and they have the power to enforce their point of view. The official guidelines for Sharia vigilantes in Kano state: »Hisbah must embark on re-orientation of women on virtues of polygamy … they should counter western tendency and propaganda that view polygamy as outdated.«[112]

There are many reasons why women were not happy with the current gender relations. Khadiya Umar, a lecturer at the University of Jos, gave a bitter account of old men with wealth and influence who saw it as their privilege to marry young girls: never more than four simultaneously but in swift succession. Following this principle, a man in her home town had married 24 wives without damaging his reputation.[113] Sharia will do nothing to change such practices, as it gives men the right to spurn their wives by making a simple declaration of intent. It suffices to say three times in the presence of witnesses: ›I divorce you‹, and the marriage is annulled. Women on the other hand are only divorced if a court gives its consent, though many had not chosen their husbands. According to the rules of the Maliki school, a father may give his underage daughter in marriage even against her will; among the Hausa this often happens to young children. By the age of twelve, the majority of girls are already married.[114] The proposal to set a minimum age for marriage was rejected by the parliaments, as even the Prophet, who married a nine-year old, did not specify one. Among the Hausa, a newly wedded girl moves into her husband’s home immediately, but the marriage is not usually consummated before the onset of puberty; if it does occur, it was until recently illegal. According to the old penal code, the rape of a minor in marriage was a criminal offence. However, this felony was abolished when Sharia law was introduced.[115]

About a third of all the regulations which the Koran imposes on the faithful apply to marital and family matters.[116] These include many precepts that restrict women’s freedom of movement and social contacts. As men are given the task of overseeing their wives, they are expressly permitted to beat them. Men are also favored in legal matters: when dividing an inheritance, claiming custody of children or giving evidence in court.[117] However, feminists in Northern Nigeria do not appreciate it when women from abroad highlight these discriminatory provisions. At a conference of the Heinrich-Böll Foundation in Lagos on Sharia and Women’s Human Rights, only one of the delegates mentioned the many restrictive regulations: Codou Bop from Senegal, a country with a mainly Islamic population but without state-enforced Sharia law. Her summary: »I do not believe there are Islamic foundations to support women’s human rights.«[118] But this unleashed vehement protest. She was accused of quoting passages of the Koran out of their historic context; her lecture was said to be »poorly researched« and »misleading.«[119] If »correctly understood«, Sharia was totally compatible with human rights: »all the guaranteed human rights under the modern international instruments [Universal Declaration of Human Rights etc. – J.H.] are within the purview of the general human rights that Quran has made available to all human beings regardless of orientation, belief, gender.«[120] The Koran which stated that man and woman were created from a single being, namely Adam, thus acknowledged that they had equal rights in principle.[121] Compared with the way of life of pre-Islamic Bedouins, the social status of women had definitely improved thanks to the Koran. Women had gained the right to dispose of their own property without their husband’s interference. The Prophet was obviously guided by the intention to strengthen the legal position of women. Therefore, in order to carry on his intentions, other restrictions should be abolished as well.[122]

Efforts to defend the progressive tendencies of Sharia against Western-oriented, secular critics sound strange when expressed by feminists. But how else should they deal with Sharia? A lecture by Khadijah Umar began with the blunt statement: »Sharia in Northern Nigeriahas come to stay.«[123] Anything women can achieve has to be claimed or asked for within a religiously defined framework, on the platform of Islam. A poor basis on which to negotiate better conditions for women. In order to be heard, they are forced to refer to texts that were written 1,400 years ago: »Northern Nigerian women discuss their political goals in terms of a reinterpretation of Muslim law. […] public rejection of the Sharia would be unthinkable.«[124] As women appeared as Sharia supporters before a domestic audience, they also had to play this role when attending discussions abroad. They even affirmed that Islam was in principle very accommodating to the rights of women. Zaynab Alkali, who was announced as an African feminist, when she gave a lecture at the University of Frankfurt, surprised her audience by professing: »We women have nothing against Sharia.«[125] As a sign that she acknowledged the dictates of her religion, she had put on a headscarf, just like other Muslim feminists who came toGermany to take part in Sharia debates. If they were to dress and argue differently in front of Europeans than at home, they would risk forfeiting their credibility inNigeria. Muslims would accuse them that their pious garb at home was nothing but a masquerade to conceal their pursuit of Western, secular interests.

Being compelled to base their claims on quotes from the Koran and hadith does not allow a free debate. Yet it would be wrong to assume that commitments to Sharia, when made by Western-educated women, are not meant seriously. Embracing their Islamic tradition is important to many, as it enables them to set themselves apart from unwanted cultural influences.[126] Western individualism seems to lead to a permissive, irresponsible society, which flouts the rules of decency and shame, and destroys the »African woman’s dignity.«[127] The rejection of legal and ethical concepts originating in the West is also noticeable among Sharia modernizers such as S. L. Sanusi: Human rights, as Europeans and Americans understand them, cannot be the norm for Muslims.[128] When Ruud Peters reminded him at the conference in Bayreuth that the human rights to which Europeans referred were acknowledged in the statutes of the United Nations, he replied: »And who pays for the United Nations?« For progressives like Sanusi who deconstruct the sacred traditions of Islam, it is certainly not advisable to invoke Western secular tenets. However, Sanusi was not only bowing to external pressure. In discussions with him and other opponents of the state-enforced Sharia, I had the impression that they cherished their Islamic identity, not least due to their antipathy towards Western modernity.[129]

Debates between Christians and Muslims

From a Christian point of view, Sharia politicians had broken a religious compromise that had held the multi-faith country together since independence. This compromise could not prevent religious clashes which had claimed in the 1980s and 1990s, roughly estimated, 20,000 lives. But these conflicts could be quelled, as the ruling military were more or less intent on keeping a neutral stance. With the transition to democracy, the rulers in the North openly took the side of the Muslim majority. When Governor Sani announced a far-reaching Islamization of his state and other governors followed suit, everyone anticipated an escalation of religious violence. Sunday Mbang, the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), an umbrella organization of all churches, called the introduction of full Sharia an »irresponsible madness.«[130] Wole Soyinka even feared it would be the »prelude to civil war.«[131]

Sharia prompted Muslims and Christians to fight for control of the state, with severe consequences for the unity of Nigeria. In order to prevent a religious confrontation, the Christian Association of Nigeria called on state authorities in the North to suspend their new Sharia laws and assume a religiously neutral position. Most Christians were willing to accept that Muslims continued to decide family disputes with the help of Sharia courts and that these courts were funded with taxpayers’ money. Yet they did not want the state to take on further religious obligations. The rival faiths should not try to gain influence by using the coercive instruments of the state, but should restrain their competition by relying solely on religious means: the attraction of their gospel. Christians pointed out that a secular state was not anti-religious; it only committed itself not to favor either of the two great faiths.[132] From a Christian perspective, this was a fair compromise, as it guaranteed that both sides would be treated equally. For Sharia supporters, it was an unacceptable proposal, because the separation of religion and politics, imposed by the British, was alien to Islam.[133] What Christians proposed as the basis for a mutually beneficial coexistence originated in the political and religious traditions of Europe: »this secular legal system [i]s essentially Christian.«[134] Though the British had left in 1960, there system remained in force, and this privileged Nigeria’s Christians. They could live under a constitutional arrangement that suited them, while Muslims were not allowed to revive their own legal traditions. For Dr. Datti Ahmed, the president of the Supreme Council for Sharia, it was perfectly legitimate that the people in Kano, Borno and Zamfara freed themselves from this paternalism: »Why do we have to continue to follow the common law which is based originally on Christian doctrines«?[135]

Defenders of Western constitutional principles might object that secular law was not Christian, because it had developed by overriding religious claims. When it became clear in the course of Europe’s religious wars that none of the warring parties could defeat their opponents permanently, Catholics and Protestants had to learn to coexist. And this was only possible if they based their coexistence on legal principles, which were »independent of confessional allegiance.«[136] State laws must not be determined by the doctrines of any of the faiths, otherwise they could not be recognized by all citizens. So the validity of divine commands was largely restricted to the private sphere, and the citizens became free to determine the laws of the state as they wished. In the realm of politics, the holy scriptures were replaced by the social contract: the free agreement between autonomous citizens. As the secular state acknowledged the sovereignty of men, it was not bound by biblical precepts. Adulterers were not stoned, although the Mosaic law calls on Christians to do so. Rejecting such religious demands was relatively easy in Europe, because the early Roman church had distanced itself from these archaic Biblical injunctions since its beginnings. Moreover, the New Testament did not oblige Christians to run the state on the basis of religious law: »Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.«[137] Based on this dualism of religious life and the realm of politics, which was determined by its own secular laws, Christianity in modernEurope turned into a faith that focused on the inner, personal bond with God. The faithful should follow their religious convictions; so the clergy urged them not to commit adultery and other sins, but the churches did not borrow the authority of the state and its instruments of coercion to enforce a pious life.

A religion that is largely restricted to personal piety and congregational life within the churches is not acceptable to orthodox Muslims. The umma, as it was conceived in the canonical texts, is a politically constituted community. Sunni jurists never justified in principle the separation of state and religion. The main role of the state was to be the »Custodian of the Sharia.«[138] State pressure to ensure religious conformity seemed necessary because a life pleasing to God could not be led individually, but only in a community that established a divine order:[139] »in Islam, its core is neither an inner spiritual experience nor cognitive assent to a body of doctrine. It is acceptance of the law.«[140] If Muslims rejected the letter of the law and embraced secular authorities, there religion would turn into a more private faith and approximate Christianity. Thus it would lose a central element of its self-legitimation: to be the true guardian of Mosaic laws. Moreover, the faithful would have to fear that a non-binding, liberal Islam suffered a similar decline as Christianity has in Europe.[141] Many suspected that the call by Christians to make religion a matter of personal piety was calculated at weakening Islam. Secularization was therefore seen as a strategy of religious confrontation and a continuation of the crusades by other means.[142]

Even intellectuals who would welcome the adoption of Western, secular attitudes could hardly imagine Islam undertaking such a radical departure from its main doctrines: »Secularism, is unlikely to succeed […] [A]dvocates of secularism will appear to be calling on their own societies to abandon their Islamic cultural and religious foundations.«[143] Religious authorities had never renounced Islam’s claim to shape the public sphere; this claim was just relegated to the background by secular ideologies like nationalism and socialism which dominated political debates for some decades. With the failure of these ideologies, the political aspirations of religion have again taken center-stage, and the laws of God can no longer be banished from public life: »Not only fundamentalists but all Muslims, when they take their faith seriously, must reject the idea of a secular, pluralist state in which non-Muslim parties can compete openly for power.«[144]

As long as state and religion are kept apart, Muslims cannot live the way they are instructed to by their holy scriptures. Therefore, Sharia supporters had good reason to complain that the Western-style constitution prevented them from practicing their faith freely. A constitution that promised them religious freedom and insisted at the same time on secularism contradicted itself, as the two constitutional principles were mutually exclusive.[145] While Christians praised secular law as a safeguard of religious tolerance, Muslims saw it as a means of oppression: »Christian leaders have remained […] intolerant.« »The rights of Muslims and Muslim organizations are trampled upon.«[146] For Christians it may have sounded cynical that Sharia supporters campaigned on behalf of tolerance and religious freedom. After all, Sharia aimed at a strict regimentation of religious life. By employing the instruments of the state to enforce compliance with religious laws, orthodox Muslims prevented their co-religionists from deciding themselves how to worship God. Sharia activists did not dispute that they wished to exert religious pressure on their fellow-Muslims, yet they did not see this as a breach of democracy and human rights: »The adoption of Shari’ah by any person or State that professes the Islamic faith is not a question of choice. It is compulsory especially with the advent of democracy […]. [T]he people of Zamfara State have […] insisted on their fundamental right to observe their religion as decreed by Allah.«[147] With the transition to democracy, the Muslim majority in Kano, Zamfara and Sokoto acquired the right to live in accordance with the dictates of their faith. This right is not the same as the constitutional principle that grants freedom of religion and conscience to each citizen. For Sharia supporters, freedom of religion was not a right that individuals could assert vis-à-vis the authorities, but a collective right. It authorized the Islamic community to compel its members to practice their faith correctly. What the umma called for in terms of rights, were duties from an individual’s perspective: duties owed to God and all those who exercised authority in his name. Thus, when Christians and Muslims argued about human rights, they referred to very different concepts. Governor Sani found it incomprehensible that Christians accused him of violating human rights: »Islam as a religion and a complete way of life, has made respect for human rights central to all its adherents […] this was why Allah prohibited undue interaction between men and women.«[148] »In Sharia, there are human rights for everything.«[149]

Islam’s emphasis on accepting God-given rules was not the only reason for the rejection of secular principles; Muslims had other, non-religious reasons as well. If they followed the example of European societies and confined their faith to the private sphere, a vacuum would be created: »The desire to live in an ethical world, where […] people share and realize a common understanding of the good life, remains unfulfilled.«[150] The lack of a common moral orientation posed a serious threat in a state that was incapable of halting the social and economic decline. State bureaucracies, which ought to manage social and economic progress, had become so dysfunctional that Nigerians had to look for alternatives. Even European societies have largely given up efforts to transform themselves by state-driven social engineering.[151] Once secular ideologies had lost their appeal, only religion remained as a means to regulate people’s behavior and change the social and political conditions under which they lived. In order to fulfill this function, religion had to be freed from secular constraints. It could cause a fundamental renewal, but only if it was allowed to penetrate all spheres of society.

Christian churches sought to improve men from the inside by inducing a change of heart. Thus they relied on moral appeals, not on state coercion. In particular Protestants and Evangelicals pointed out that external constraints did not lead to a religious renewal but to hypocrisy: »purity originates from the heart […] [P]iety will remove the need for external structures that still leave the heart dirty.«[152] By urging their followers to internalize Christian moral precepts, the churches wished to encourage personal virtues. But in a thoroughly corrupt world, individual efforts to behave honestly were constantly discouraged and abused.[153] Only concerted political action could overcome the system of violence and corruption that held people captive. Islam’s willingness to employ compulsion and extend it into all areas of life, was an advantage in this reform project. If society could only be transformed by unanimous, collective efforts, it made sense to hold all community members accountable and force them to meet their obligations.

Christians, who insisted on secular principles, sabotaged the project of a social renewal and hindered Muslims to liberate themselves from the burden of social decay. As Christians defended the existing irreligious order, they were blamed for all sorts of immorality. Muslim resentment was directed, above all, against migrants from the South, who had spoken out vehemently against Sharia: »these people [Southerners] have lowered our moral standards, debased our value system and introduced vices that were hitherto unknown to us, such as armed robbery.«[154] The fight against social decline was entwined with the rejection of foreign, un-Islamic influences. Muslims strengthened their religious identity to set themselves apart from infidels: »the clamour for Shari’a […] is a result of sustained resist[a]nce to the reign of looting, injustice, greed and promiscuity which southerners have taught and imposed on the North.«[155]



[The end of chapter 6 which is still to be completed will deal with Muslim-Christian dialogue and the tendency amongNigeria’s Muslims and Christians to see themselves as actors in a global conflict.]






The Sharia movement has lost political momentum. Spectacular punishments are not carried out, and the hisba vigilantes keep a low profile, yet the religious revival has entrenched the Islamic identity of most Sharia states. Sharia regulations are an effective means to stake claims over territory and to assert political dominance. Religious minorities have to accept discrimination or risk violence and expulsion. A new constitution that would circumscribe the scope of Islamic law and create legal security is not in sight. The extent to which Sharia regulations affect the lives of Muslims and non-Muslims depends on local circumstances. In Zamfara, the enthusiasm of Sharia monitors has been dampened, while the Sharia campaign inKano has received a new impetus through Governor Shekarau who was reelected in 2007.

The potential for violence in Northern Nigeriais likely to increase, and religion will play a prominent role in future conflicts. In the Middle Belt where land is getting scarce, Muslim ›settlers‹ and Christian ›indigenes‹ are fighting for control over territory and political offices. In this context, religion is attractive not as a resource for peace, but as a means to mobilize for violent conflict. Political Islam, with its claim to enforce religious laws, is well suited to mobilize for the defense of land and to assert political dominance.[156] Since the rival groups have not negotiated a treaty or a constitutional settlement, the question arises of whether future massacres can be averted. International debates focused on strategies to defuse the crisis, and in this context, the possibilities of outside intervention were discussed.

None of the parties to the conflict has called upon international organizations to intervene in the Sharia dispute. The general public in Europeand North America, however, was disquieted by the human rights violations, in particular when the news broke that Safiyya Hussaini, a widow who had taken a lover, had been sentenced to death. In Spain, 600,000 people signed an Amnesty International petition; Pope John Paul II called on the faithful to pray for Safiyya, and the mayors of Romeand Naplesdeclared the accused an honorary citizen of their cities.[157] However, once the death sentence was rescinded, interest in Sharia dissipated. Nigerians sometimes told me that the West should play a more active role in the conflict, but this opinion was only voiced by Christians. In their view, the West had a moral obligation to intervene, because Sharia threatened the freedom of religion and other human rights. The equanimity of Europeans and Americans embittered many Christians in Northern Nigeria, because they believed that their backs were to the wall: »We know, Muslims run to England and Germany and get help. Why don’t Europeans help us to survive in Nigeria?«[158] Yet the restraint of Europeans is understandable. If they intervened in the name of human rights, they would be siding with one of the parties to the conflict, and this would deepen the divide between the two camps. However, if one explores possibilities for intervention, one can choose among several options, only one of which is defending human rights. International organizations could also act as intermediaries in the conflict, or they could try to help Muslims find a more moderate form of Sharia. A closer look at these three options shows that none of them would have much of a positive impact:

1. Those who want to interfere in Nigeriaon behalf of human rights can cite good reasons for doing so. Nigeriaobligated itself to uphold these rights when it signed international treaties, such as the United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Punishments. Moreover, since May 1999 a democratic constitution has been in force, so the political actors should be reminded to stick to the rules. The Obasanjo administration has made no attempt to defend the sanctity of the constitution, because it assumed that there was no consensus in the population on constitutional principles. Some jurists, however, pointed out that the president and his minister of justice were bound to protect the constitution, even if they did not find it politically opportune.[159] Moreover, according to international law, Obasanjo’s government was responsible for all human rights violations committed by state agencies, including Sharia courts in the North.[160] Therefore, a US-based human rights organization, Freedom House, demanded thatNigeria’s government be pressured to sue the Sharia governors at the Supreme Court:

»The U.S.government should […] urge the government of Nigeriato take the following steps. […] seek constitutional rulings on the new Sharia to ensure the rights of all Nigerians under international human rights standards and the Nigerian Constitution. […] All private groups that try to enforce Sharia should be disbanded and those who attack their fellow citizens should be arrested and charged with assault.«[161]

The question is, however, whether diplomatic pressure would achieve what the experts of Freedom House hope for: constraining »extremist Islamic movements« and promoting a »moderate Islam.«[162] As soon as Europeans or Americans took the stage as advocates of human rights and of a largely secular constitution, they would be perceived hostile to Islam. Their commitment would only widen the gap between the conflicting parties, and confirm the perception of many Sharia activists that their struggle against Christian Igbo or Yoruba is also a struggle against Western influence. The Sharia dispute would look like a confrontation between Islam and the West, with grave consequences for the local actors. It would be more difficult for Christians and Muslims to discuss compromises, and it would stifle debates among Muslims. Sharia critics within the Muslim camp, such as S. L. Sanusi, who are suspected of sympathizing with the West anyway, would find it harder to plead for a milder form of Sharia: »Western interference on the basis of human rights will be absolutely counter-productive.«[163] Insisting that the democratic constitution be recognized by all actors would be futile for various reasons, not the least because the constitution does not enjoy much respect among Christians either.Nigeria’s Christians defend the freedom of speech and religion and, to some extent, the equality before the law, but otherwise they similarly ignore human rights. When fighting crime or defending their territory against ›non-indigenes‹, Christians are no less violent than Muslims. It would be erroneous to assume that the Sharia controversy divides Nigerians between opponents and supporters of human rights.

2. Instead of siding with Nigeria’s Christians, Western organizations could act as neutral go-betweens. There are several good reasons for doing so. Christians and Muslims have to find a new modus vivendi, because the present constitutional arrangements are so dysfunctional that most politicians flagrantly ignore them. Nigeria’s FourthRepublic, like its predecessors, cannot cope with ethnic and religious antagonisms. Its institutions simply were not designed to organise the relationships between communities that keep vigilantes and militias to control their territory. Therefore, community leaders will have to look for new rules that may secure a peaceful coexistence. So far, they have not entered any serious negotiations: »The opposing camps now appear to have battled each other to a standstill and retreated to their respective bunkers.«[164] Needless to say, both sides meet in various institutions, such as the Muslim-Christian Dialogue Forum, but the »[c]ontestation of power and space has generated an atmosphere of mutual distrust and suspicion, thus hampering inter-faith dialogue and peaceful coexistence.«[165] Whether Europeans or Americans would be able to overcome this mistrust is more than questionable, as the Muslim side would not consider them impartial arbiters.

A further problem is what solution Western mediators should propose. A fair compromise could only emerge if both sides accorded each other the same rights. State institutions would then have to act neutrally in religious matters. However, such a solution is unacceptable to orthodox Muslims because the »principal function« of the state is to enforce Islamic laws.[166] Muslim politicians are aware that shaping state authorities according to their divine commands goes against the principle of equality. But what is objectionable about it? The Koran says that God raised the Muslims above all other communities and gave them responsibility for society at large.[167] Christians are not forced to convert, but they have to give themselves over to the care of God-guided authorities. From a Western perspective, this political dominance of a religious group violates the principle of self-determination. But many Muslims will not consider this an injustice. When I tried to explain why Christian minorities are afraid of losing their autonomy, a lecturer of Islamic Studies at theUniversity ofJos assured me »you have nothing to fear. We will take good care of you.«

Even if both sides signed a treaty, this would not give religious minorities much security. Nobody can force the rival parties to abide by their agreements, and there are no inner convictions that would urge them to respect the interests of the other side. Sharia supporters may call for a »constant dialog« with Christians,[168] and profess their commitment to »freedom« and »democracy« in a »united Nigeria«, but in the same breath they say that Islamic principles are non-negotiable, because the »supremacy of Allah« does not allow this: »Muslims […] cannot compromise on the law of God.«[169] As long as Muslims live together with about 60 million Christians, they must of course make concessions. Sharia in its current form is full of half-measures and compromises. Yet such concessions are only valid until revoked. Nothing that Christians and Muslims agree upon could be binding upon politicians like Ahmed Sani, if it is not in line with God’s commandments: »Sharia is superior to the Constitution of Nigeria.«[170] Even if Muslim politicians are sincere in looking for a lasting solution that considers the interests of Christians, their compromises will be questioned by orthodox Muslims. What counts from an orthodox point of view are God’s instructions, which offer little protection to Christians: in the worst case the dhimmi status which is meant to humiliate infidels.[171] The forms of discrimination that the sacred law holds in store for infidels are still known from colonial times. Back then, a Muslim accused of murdering a Christian could be set free by the court if he swore his innocence on the Koran.[172]

The difficulty of reaching a reliable agreement that could generate trust is not only due to political Islam. Politicians all over Nigeriado not care about treatises, mutual obligation, and laws of reciprocity: »Part of the African tragedy is that refined and civil manners […] have been eroded.«[173] Nobody can expect his rivals to play by the rules, so legal relationships are being replaced by clientelism and other personal dependencies which are not subject to public control.[174] Moreover, political elites prefer to settle things by informal arrangements, so that written constitutions, parliamentary laws and bureaucratic rules are losing their relevance.[175]

A contract between Christians and Muslims would have little validity for yet another reason. Nigeriais not growing into a cohesive nation. Political deals brokered in Abujamatter little in the 36 states where hundreds of ethnic groups (or their elites) decide largely among themselves how to settle their conflicts. In the case of the Sharia controversy, a central solution is not feasible because there is not just one national Sharia conflict, but dozens of local conflicts, each of which involves different actors. Christians and Muslims will reach at best tenuous local compromises that are not based on mutually recognized legal principles, but on changing power relationships.

3. If the transition to an Islamic legal order is an »irreversible process«, then the main task, from a European perspective, will be »damage control.«[176] Western politicians or non-governmental organizations could try to persuade religious and political authorities in Northern Nigeria to be less stringent in applying Sharia. Talking to Muslims about how to design a moderate Islamic law, presupposes that Europeans and Americans suspend their own notions of law and justice. They have to grant that freedom of religion, equality before the law and other Western constitutional principles no longer apply. Interest could then focus on improving the legal security of Muslim citizens, for example by promoting a uniform Sharia code and by training Sharia judges and hisba vigilantes.[177] In addition, one could support Muslim intellectuals who advocate a liberal interpretation of the divine commandments. However, Muslims who renounce the letter of the law are already accused of being »agents of the West.«[178] Support from Europe or the United States would discredit them further, as the revival of religion is meant to keep Western influences at bay: »the recent re-introduction of shari’ah in Nigeria is […] because of […] the collapse of moral values, and the influence of western culture.«[179]

Western influence is part of the problem, not the solution. For this reason, the potential for European experts to influence the development of Sharia is very limited. They may present their arguments in an Islamic garb by quoting the Koran, but Nigerian Muslims do not like to take advice from unbelievers when religious matters are at stake: »Nobody should tell us how to go about our religious obligations.«[180] How can someone who does not believe in the teachings of Islam be so presumptuous as to interpret them for the faithful? In one of his many television chats, President Obasanjo raised the question whether the Prophet, were he to live in the twenty-first century, would have issued laws like those introduced by Governor Sani. Sharia supporters were indignant that a Christian was meddling in their affairs, and the magazine Hotline reminded the President that blasphemy was punishable by death.[181]

Some outside observers have exaggerated expectations in an inter-faith dialogue. John S. Pobee of the World Council of Churches assumes that Muslims and Christians are ultimately guided by the same ideas of justice. In order to create a more humane society, each religion just has to follow its own divine commandments: »build […] communities that are guided by the values of God’s rule, namely sacrificial love, truth, righteousness and justice, freedom, reconciliation, and peace. Religious human rights can be fostered when the unique claims of each and every religion are taken seriously.«[182] However, Muslims who take their religious doctrines seriously have to adopt legal principles that hinder the development of freedom and human rights. Since the cruel punishments for theft, fornication and blasphemy were ordained by God, they are unlikely to be abolished. As an Islamic High Court judge declared: »The law of hudud is a no go area.«[183] Nigeria’s Muslims will of course find ways of skirting the Sharia monitors. They take the liberty to manipulate the sacred law and pick those elements that suit them. Yet this freedom in dealing with religious doctrines is not used as Human Rights advocates in the West wish it would. How God’s will is implemented depends on power structures, so the weak and disenfranchised have little prospect of improving their fate. The Director of the Institute for Islamic Legal Studies who represents religious orthodoxy is not averse to modernizing Sharia, but he stated clearly what type of modernity he did not wish to see: paternity tests based on DNA tests, which would strengthen the legal position of women and contribute to some gender equality.[184] Advocates of women’s rights have argued that the laws of the Maliki School unduly discriminate against females. An unmarried woman or a widow who becomes pregnant can be sentenced for fornication, while the man whom she names as the father of the child can deny any involvement, unless four male Muslim witnesses come forth who observed him commit the unlawful act.[185]

Women’s rights activists and other Sharia critics who counter this biased form of justice are a small and largely isolated minority in the Islamic public sphere. In Western media they are quoted extensively, and this may give rise to the impression that the Sharia debate fosters the emergence of an Islamic civil society. Yet the public sphere is dominated by religious organizations that permit no open debate among their members. Their central message is that sincere Muslims have to bow to religious commands. T. H. Gwarzo, a Sharia advocate who knows Islamic organizations from the inside, offered a sobering account in his study onKano:

»Islamic civic associations irrespective of their principles or objectives are completely male dominated associations. […] internal democratic structures […] of almost all Islamic civic associations in Kanoare suspect. […] The member […] is not taught to think freely […]. Most groups think that an immediate, totally perfect and a purified version of Islam is achievable on demand. […] Almost all Islamic civic associations appear to stifle ideological dialogue. This is done on three levels, internally among its members, with other Islamic organizations and finally with non-Islamic groups, religious or secular. This resulted in nurturing utopian and idealistic concepts among its members and allowed theoretical and puritan ideas to remain untested«.[186]

Western experts, who seek a dialog with Muslims in order to help them formulate a moderate form of Sharia, will learn that their intervention has a very limited impact on the legal situation. This raises the question whether it is worthwhile accepting the validity of a divine legal order and giving it international legitimacy. Why should Western politicians and NGOs (or the United Nations) recognize holy texts as a legitimate basis for state legislation, when these texts call for the discrimination of women and unbelievers? When it is granted thatNigeria’s Muslims may live in keeping with their sacred law, then Muslims elsewhere, inKenya,TanzaniaorSouth Africa, will also be encouraged to claim Sharia. This would make it difficult for international organizations to denounce human-rights violations. And it would have serious consequences for the peaceful coexistence of Muslims and Christians. Even a restricted form of Sharia that waived amputations and stonings rejects the principle of equality before the law. Muslims who organize their public life by their own exclusive laws segregate themselves from their fellow citizens. At the same time they open a religious contest for state power, since they need the state apparatus to enforce their laws.

The Sharia controversy overlaps with conflicts over scarce resources, especially over land. This is an additional reason why outside intervention, in whatever form, will yield little results. Assuming responsibility for solving a crisis is not reasonable, when there is no long-term solution in sight. In former times, landless farmers could hope to find work by migrating into the cities. Yet industries have declined, especially in the North of Nigeria. At the beginning of the 1990s, Kanostill had 500 factories: a decade later 300 of them had closed.[187] Since the fast-growing population no longer has the opportunity to integrate into a modern, industrializing sector of society, people will fight more desperately for the few scraps of arable land that have not yet been cultivated.

Rules to settle these conflicts could only work if the contending parties agreed on them. Members of ethnic and religious groups would have to share moral and legal convictions that commit them to seek amicable solutions. Such convictions cannot be imposed or created by outside intervention. In Yorubaland, where Muslims and Christians want to preserve their unity, there is a wide consensus to interact on the basis of secular rules, whereas in the North, Muslims have discarded secular principles, so the religious groups have no more rules to settle their conflicts. It is unlikely that constitutional models imported from the West will be revived, since Muslims have good reasons to regard them as foreign and neocolonial. Given the failure of democracy, it is also understandable that they seek alternatives in their own religious traditions. Both Muslims and Christians want to combat a »moral meltdown[188] In such a setting, the institutions of the secular state are of little help. Where state administrations decay, the spiritual force of religion is the most effective means of enforcing conformity and compliance with rules. Many Muslims hope that the divine law will help them to discipline themselves and to restore a moral order. On this basis, state institutions would have a better chance to function. It is my impression, however, that the recourse to Sharia will not achieve this aim. As the analysis of the current conflicts suggests, the struggle for religious (and ethnic) self-determination will not promote peace and justice, neither within the Islamic society nor in Muslims’ relationships with non-Muslims:

1. Within Islamic society, the legitimacy of state authorities will probably continue to erode. The political elites of the North, discredited by their alliance with the military, gained at best some temporary legitimacy when they turned into advocates of an Islamic order. Measured against the ideals of the Caliphate, the powers-that-be hardly have a chance to establish their religious authority. The call for divine justice discredits the corrupt rulers, but it does not show a way of replacing the existing political system with a new one. The holy law can neither be consistently applied nor formally abrogated. Thus, legal insecurity increases:

»It is wrong for society to maintain a law it does not intend to enforce because people can no longer take the law as a reliable guide to permissible and impermissible conduct. To maintain a law without intending to enforce it is dangerous because it leaves too much discretion in the hands of those charged with enforcing the law, enabling them to select cases for enforcement based on selfish and other corrupt purposes.«[189]

What is permissible or forbidden depends on shifting power structures, on the influence of local politicians and emirs, on Hisba groups and militant preachers.

2. The introduction of full Sharia has made it difficult to reach a lasting agreement with non-Muslims. Observers in the South of the country are under the impression that the rejection of common constitutional principles marked the »end of an epoch.«[190] The Muslim North has bidden farewell to the project of nation building. By organizing ›their‹ states along their own religious laws, Muslims demonstrated that they wished to go their own ways in moral, legal and political matters. Of course, no one wants to pass up the oil revenues, so they have to maintain the common state as a means to redistribute resources from the South to the North. However, material interests alone will not suffice to keep Nigeria united. What may help averting disintegration is the awareness that all segments of the country would suffer. Muslims and Christians, Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa-Fulani could not sever their links peacefully.[191] They would probably resort to large-scale expulsions, and the successor states, defined in ethnic or religious terms, would become ensnared in boundary wars and conflicts over natural resources and trade routes. The problem of finding rules that allow for a peaceful coexistence would persist. Negotiating compromises might even be harder if the institutional framework of the federation fell away and the joint army were dissolved





   [1]           Richard Akinnola, Center for Free Speech, in Tell,10 April 2000, p. 25.

   [2]           Tell,26 June 2000, p. 18.

   [3]           Insider Weekly, 22 October 2001, p. 18; Tell,29 October 2001, pp. 33–34.

   [4]           Insider Weekly,22 October 2001, p. 18.

   [5]           Danfulani, Sharia Issue, p 16; Odey, Sharia, p. 99.

   [6]           Maier, This House, p. 187.

   [7]           Ibid, p. 185.

   [8]           Ibid, p. 186.

  [9]        Reno, Sectarian Violence, p. 229.

[10]           Tell,3 December 2001, p. 36.

[11]           Harnischfeger, Control over Territory, pp. 448–451.

[12]           The Week, 19 November 2001, p. 13; Newswatch,29 May 2000, p. 46.

[13]           Abubakar D. Muhammad, Muslim Responses, p. 6; Tell, 31 July 2000, p. 37; personal information in Kano and Gombe.

[14]           Yadudu, Benefits of Shariah, p. 12.

[15]           Fayemi, Religion, p. 150.

[16]           The News, 25 September 2000, p. 54; Tell,31 July 2000, p. 36.

[17]           Tell,23 September 2002, p. 46.

[18]           Bergstresser, Nigeria 2002, p. 158; Human Rights Watch, Political Shari’a?, p. 14; Yakubu, Sharia Imbroglio, pp. 54–55.

[19]           Sklar, Unity or Regionalism, p. 48.

[20]           Gaiya, Shari’ah Debate, p. 5; Ado-Kurawa, Shari’ah, pp. 184–185, 188.

[21] In Lagos, where an equal number of Muslims and Christians have to coexist, Sharia clashes could be far more destructive than in the cities of the North:»I can see the blood flowing in southern and northern Sudan being chickenfeed, compared to what will happen in this country« (Brigadier Benjamin Adekunle, in Tell, 27 March 2000, p. 17).

[22] Tell,17 April 2000, p. 48.

[23]           Hotline,9 April 2000, p. 37.

[24]           Quoted in Ado-Kurawa, Shari’ah, p. 194.

[25]           Vanguard, 7 December 2001, p. 16; cf. Ransome-Kuti, Sharia, pp. 1–2.

[26] Cf. Sklar, Unity or Regionalism, p. 48; Suberu, DemocratizingNigeria, p. 77.

[27]           Hotline,19 March 2000, p. 26.

[28] Maier, This House, p. 186. – When Sani declared his assets in October 1999, he possessed »nine houses, seven farms, […] and shares in two private companies.« (Ibid.) In 2006, when he launched his presidential campaign, he had the means to set up 112 campaign offices all over Nigeria (Guardian, 22 January 2007, p. 15).

[29]           Maier, This House, p. 187.

[30]           Finkel (Crime, p. 3), summing up what Sharia critics claimed; cf. Gwamna, Christian Reactions, p. 4. – According to Ruud Peters (Enforcement, p 125), »Islamic criminal law [is] an attractive option for political elites in the Muslim world. […] it provides an effective instrument of control and repression. […] The spectacle of public executions, amputations and floggings symbolizes the supreme power of the regime and the futility of resistance against it.«

[31]           Fwatshak, Shari’a Enforcement, p. 19; Tell, 16 Februry 2004, p. 24.

[32]           Economist,10 January 2004, p. 32.

[33]           National Review, September 2003, pp. 22–23.

[34]           Newswatch,17 September 2001, p. 27.

[35]           Newswatch, 12 March 2001, p. 42; Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Profile Nigeria 2007, p. 16.

[36]           Kappel, Nigeria, p. 10.

[37]           A lecturer at theUniversityofMaiduguri,26 January 2002.

[38]           Newswatch,24 October 1994, p. 23.

[39]           The Week, 25 March 1996, pp. 13–15; Tell, 6 May 1996, pp. 10–20; Maier, This House, pp. 157–158.

[40]           The News, 24 April 2000, p. 19; Newswatch,17 September 2001, p. 29.

[41]           Tell, 10 October 1994, p. 11.

[42]           Guardian, 24 May 1994; König, Zivilgesellschaft, pp. 82–83.

[43]           Gwarzo, Civic Associations, pp. 311–312.

[44]           Ahmed Lemu, former Grand Khadi of Niger State, in Vanguard,24 March 2002, p. 20.

[45]           Tell,5 February 2001, p. 39.

[46]           Quinn, Pride, p. 62. – »some 60 percent of northern college graduates are reportedly jobless.« (Herskovits, Nigeria, p. 119) Arab countries face a similar problem: The demand to reorganize all social and economic life according to religious law is propagated mainly by those who have little other qualifications than their knowledge of sacred texts. Their number has been growing, as schools and universities teach more Islamic Studies than ever, so the demand to Islamize state and society will not subside. In Saudi-Arabia, two out of every three Ph.D. theses are submitted in Islamic studies (Baer, Fall, p. 58).

[47]           Yakubu Yahaya, a faction leader of the Muslim Brothers, in Tell, 30 September 1996, p. 16; cf. Kalu, Religious Dimension, p. 680.

[48]           Loimeier, Islamische Erneuerung, p. 123.

[49]           Gumi, Where I Stand, p. 100.

[50]           Ibid., p. 63.

[51]           Chabal/Daloz, Africa Works, p. 26.

[52]           Garzo, Civic Associations, p. 301.

[53]           Maier, This House, p. 166.

[54]           The News, 12 June 2000, p. 25. – »only the Muslim Brothers have not come out to support states that have adopted the Shariah« (Gwarzo, Civic Associations, p. 313).

[55]           El-Zakzaky, in Maier, This House, p. 178.

[56]           Maier, This House, p. 171.

[57]           Malam Yakubu Yahaya, leader of the Muslim Brothers in Katsina, in Muhammad Dahiru Sulaiman, Shiaism, p. 191.

[58]           Newswatch, 6 February 1995, p. 25; Le Monde, 15 March 1995. They subsequently published a photo of this trophy in their magazine Al Tajdil (Best, Challenge, p. 348).

[59]           Abubakar Mujahid, leader of the Muslim Brothers in Kano, in Maier, This House, p. 168.

[60]           Muhammad Dahiru Sulaiman, Shiaism, p. 188, 194; Tell,26 August 1996, p. 11.

[61]           Gwarzo, Civic Associations, p. 306.

[62]           Fwatshak, Shari’a Enforcement, pp. 16–19; Olaniyi, Vigilantes, p. 66.

[63]           Gwarzo, Civic Associations, p. 306.

[64] A folksy form of Sharia was practiced by Lamido Sada, a Fulani leader in Gombe State, with good contacts to the political establishment. He instructed his militiamen to chop off the hands of armed robbers. In his court, he conducted»trial by ordeal after reading verses from the Holy Quran« (Tell, 30 May 2005, pp. 66–67).

[65]           Gwarzo, Civic Associations, p. 290.

[66]           Ibid., pp. 309, 314–315.

[67]           Williams, Lugard, p. 24.

[68]           The News,10 April 2000, p. 19.

[69]           Anonymous source, in Tell,10 April 2000, p. 27.

[70]           Al-Zakzaky, Shari’ah Part 2, p. 3.

[71]           Bala Bello Maru, ZamfaraStatePDP Secretary, in Newswatch,17 September 2001, p. 23.

[72]           Tell,13 November 2000, p. 30.

[73]           Abdulkadir Orire, General Secretary of Jamaatu Nasril Islam, in Vanguard,24 March 2002, p. 21.

[74]           Sanusi, Shari’a Debate, p. 10.

[75]           Mohammed/Adamu/Abba, Talakawa, pp. 8–9.

[76]           Sanusi, Shari’a Debate, p. 7. – At the Sharia conference inBayreuth, 11–12 July 2003/July 11–12, 2003, Sanusi summarized his assessment of the present Sharia law in two sentences: »Northern elites chop off the hands of goat thieves. That’s all.«

[77]           Ibraheem Sulaiman, Sharia Restoration, p. 4.

[78]           Sanusi, Islam, Probity, p. 5.

[79]           Sanusi, Shari’a Debate, p. 9.

[80]           Mohammed, Muslim Intellectuals, p. 15.

[81]           Ibid., pp. 6, 14.

[82]           Abdulkadir Orire, General Secretary of Jamaatu Nasril Islam, in Vanguard, 24 March 2002, p. 21; Mohammed, Muslim Intellectuals, p. 8.

[83]           Philip Ostien on Usman dan Fodio, in Abubakar D. Muhammad, Muslim Responses, p. 4.

[84]           Muhammad Mahmud Turi, in Tell,30 September 1996, p. 20.

[85]           Abubakar D. Muhammad, Muslim Responses, p. 7; Last, Charia, p. 147; Moumouni, Uthman dan Fodio, p. 119.

[86]           Koran 5:44, p. 107.

[87]           Koran 5:3, p. 100.

[88]           Gumi, Where I Stand, pp. 142, 92. See Koran 2:79, p. 10 and 2:85, p. 10–11: »woe to those who write the Book with their hands, then say: ›This is from God‹.« »do you believe in part of the Book, and disbelieve in part? What shall be the recompense of those of you who do that, but degradation in the present life, and on the Day of Resurrection to be returned unto the most terrible chastisement?«

[89]           Dr. Lateef Adegbite, in Vanguard, 24 March 2002, p. 21; Gumi, Where I Stand, p. 58; Oloyede, Shari’ah, p. 297.

[90]           Abubakar Gumi, in Odey, Sharia, pp. 54–55; Ibrahim Sulaiman, Shari’ah and Constitution, pp. 64–65.

[91]           Weber, Economy and Society, p. 622.

[92]           The Second Letter of Paul to the Corinthians (3:6). Similarly in Romans (7:6): »But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.« This disengagement from the Mosaic tradition was contested between Paul and the congregation in Jerusalem, yet it could prevail because Jesus had made similar statements: »Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.« (Matt. 5:38–39) From a Muslim perspective, such passages of the New Testament are falsifications of the original Biblical message. Why should Jesus, if he were sent by God, give instructions that contradict God’s previous pronouncements? »a Christian should sit down for a while […] to ponder over the possibility of God to have suddenly changed His mind and rendered the law ineffectual as if He is also a creature like us who progress by trials and error« (Saleh Dogara Muhammad, Qur’an, p. 8).

[93]           Koran 2:87–88, p. 11.

[94] »Judaism and Christianity had been true religions at the time of their advent […]. These revelations were, however, rendered obsolete by the apostolate of Muhammad. Whatever truth they contained was incorporated in his message. What was not incorporated was not true, and was the result of the distortion and corruption of these earlier scriptures by their unworthy custodians.« (Bernard Lewis, Middle East, pp. 219–220) »Muslims have historically seen Christianity as a truncated or perverted Islam« (Hodgson, Islam, pp. 28, 365–366).

[95]           Hodgson, Islam, p. 73.

[96]           Hartmann, Kalifat, p. 235; An-Na’im, Islamic Reformation, p. 77.

[97]           »If a man perishes having no children, but he has a sister, she shall receive a half of what he leaves; and he is her heir if she has no children. If there be two sisters, they shall receive two-thirds of what he leaves; if there be brothers and sisters, the male shall receive the portion of two females. God makes clear to you, lest you go astray; God has knowledge of everything« (Koran 4:176, pp. 97–98).

[98]           Hodgson, Islam, pp. 327–328; Bernard Lewis, Middle East, p. 222.

[99]           Davutoglu, Secularisation, pp. 184–185; Hodgson, Islam, pp. 324–325.

[100]          El-Affendi, Rationality, p. 156; Hodgson, Islam, pp. 327–332; Schacht, Islamic Law, pp. 34–35, 202, 211.

[101]          Schacht, Islamic Law, pp. 201, 3, 16, 29; Hodgson, Islam, pp. 336–337.

[102]          Hodgson, Islam, pp. 351, 278, 326.

[103]          Sanusi, Islam, Probity, p. 5.

[104]          Ibraheem Sulaiman, Sharia Restoration, p. 4.

[105]          Anderson, Law Reform, p. 7; Bernard Lewis, Middle East, p. 226; Tetzlaff, Islamisches Erbe, pp. 41–46.

[106]          Gumi, Where I Stand, p. 92.

[107]          Loimeier, Islamische Erneuerung, p. 143.

[108]          Ibraheem Sulaiman, Sharia Restoration, p. 4.

[109]          Mohammed, Muslim Intellectuals, pp. 5, 6.

[110]          Ladan, Legal Pluralism, pp. 35, 33; Mahdi, Shari’a, p. 4.

[111] Lecture at the University ofFrankfurt,9 December 2002.

[112]          Hisba Guidelines Kano, in Garzo, Civic Associations, p. 308.

[113]          Kahdiya Umar at the Sharia conference inBayreuth,July 11–12, 2003.

[114]          Callaway/Creevey, Islam, pp. 34, 36.

[115]          Ostien, Islamic Criminal Law, p. 4; compare section 282 of the old Penal Code with section 128 of the Sharia Penal Code in Zamfara; also Anderson, Islamic Law, p. 177. – In cases of extra-marital rape, the legal position of women is also very precarious now. If they bring a complaint of rape they risk being condemned for pre-marital or extra-marital sexual intercourse: »If a woman reports to the police that she is a victim of rape, this can easily be construed as a confession to unlawful intercourse which makes her liable to the hadd punishment, unless she can prove that intercourse took place without her consent. The burden of proof in that case is hers. Moreover, if her attacker does not confess, her accusations against him amount to defamation […], for which she can be punished by an additional eighty lashes” (Peters, Islamic Criminal Law, p. 19).

[116]          Callaway/Creevey, Islam, p. 29.

[117]          Hodgson, Islam, pp. 180–182, 341–342; Schacht, Islamic Law, pp. 161–168.

[118]          Bop, Women’s Rights, p. 97.

[119]          Haruna, Women’s Rights, p. 107; Aliyu, Development, p. 124.

[120]          Haruna, Women’s Rights, p. 104; Aliyu, Development, p. 124; Ladan, Women’s Rights, pp. 47, 49; Khadijah Abdullahi Umar, Muslim Women, p. 18.

[121]          Ladan, Women’s Rights, pp. 49, 59; Nasir, Women’s Rights, p. 24; Khadijah Abdullahi Umar, Muslim Women, p. 7; Audi, Secularism, p. 121; Hauwa Mustapha, Islamic Legal System, p. 110.

[122]          Khadijah Abdullahi Umar, Muslim Women, p. 9; Anonymous, Supreme Council, p. 15; Nasir, Women’s Rights, pp. 25–26.

[123]          At the Sharia conference in Bayreuth, in Khadijah Abdullahi Umar, Muslim Women, p. 1.

[124]          Callaway/Creevey, Islam, p. 194.

[125]          Women in the Arab world argue in a similar fashion. Based on their testimony, the idea is spreading in Western media that Islam is in principle favorably disposed to the rights of women: »Muslim feminists argue that there is nothing in Islam properly understood that requires the subordination of women« (Carens/Williams, Muslim Minorities, p. 143).

[126] O’Brien, Charia, p. 56.

[127]          Khadijah Abdullahi Umar, Muslim Women, p. 17. – The Islamic idea that men and women should play different, complementary roles is acceptable to many female Muslim activists, which is why they reject Western demands for equal rights. In their view it is more important to strengthen marital bonds and protect women against arbitrary divorce. This could secure their social status, improve their material welfare, and guarantee access to their children (Khadijah Abdullahi Umar, Muslim Women, p. 6; Callaway/Creevey, Islam, p. 194; Westerlund, Islamism, pp. 315–316).

[128]          Sanusi, Class, Gender, p. 6.

[129]          Shehu Sani, chairman of the Civil Rights Congress, whose organization was sponsored by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, Germany, told me: »People in the West are vultures.« In order to roll back Western cultural influence, he approved the government policy in Iran, where tuning into TV stations such as CNN was prohibited. (personal communication, Kaduna, 8 March 2001) Muhammed Ladan, another modernizer, suggested that the country be purged of Western law. Sharia, though in a revised form, should be established throughout Nigeria, even among Christians. The current arrangement whereby Islamic law coexists with British common law and African traditional law should only apply temporarily: »We must for now content ourselves with legal pluralism.« But in the long term, Nigeria needed a unified law based on Islam. So the introduction of Sharia in the North was only a first step, though a significant one: »the Sokoto Caliphate […] has been reborn as the nucleus of a new, powerful nation« (Ladan, Legal Pluralism, pp. 35, 5, 32, 25).

[130] Tell,6 March 2000; p. 20.

[131]          Quoted in Metan, Dilemmas, p. 290. – According to Toyin Falola, Sharia »pushed the country to the brink of a religious war and sharpened the religious divide beyond the point of healing« (quoted in Korieh, Islam, p. 118).

[132]          Committee, Report, p. 35; Ilesanmi, Constitutional Treatment, pp. 549–550; Nwabueze, Unconstitutionality of Sharia, p. 3.

[133]          Lateef Adegbite in Clarke/Linden, Islam, p. 171; Gumi, Where I Stand, p. 127; Falola, Violence in Nigeria, p. 76; Ilesanmi, Religious Pluralism, p. 180.

[134]          Birai, Tajdid, p. 193; Ahmed Bello Mahmud, Shari’ah, p. 9; Westerlund, Secularism, pp. 83–84.

[135]          The News,15 May 2000, p. 23.

[136]          Taylor, Modes of Secularism, p. 32.

[137]          Matthew 22:21.

[138]          Ladan, Legal Pluralism, p. 24; cf. Black, Religion, p. 372; Bernard Lewis, Middle East, p. 224.

[139]          Hodgson, Islam, pp. 71, 74.

[140]          Bruce, Fundamentalism, p. 107. – Islam’s strict and unequivocal monotheism does not demand complex dogmas to be considered true, only a clear commitment to Allah and his Prophet (von Grunebaum, Studien, p. 27; Weber, Economy and Society, pp. 564, 570, 625).

[141]          Ado-Kurawa, Conference, p. 22.

[142]          Mohammed, Muslim Intellectuals, p. 13; Sakpe, Terrorist, pp. 19–21, 44; Mu’azzam/Ibrahim, Religious Identity, p. 77.

[143]          An-Na’im, Political Islam, p. 119.

[144]          Black, Religion, pp. 383, 381.

[145]          Bashir Sambo, Zamfara State Chief Justice, in Abd al-Masih/Ibn Salam, Sharia, p. 11; Ilesanmi, Constitutional Treatment, p. 542.

[146]          Ado-Kurawa, Shari’ah, pp. 285, 275.

[147]          Ahmed BelloMahmud, Shari’ah, p. 9.

[148]          Tell,14 October 2002, p. 66.

[149]          Abdulkdir Orire, General Secretary of Jamaatu Nasril Islam, in Vanguard,24 March 2002, p. 21.

[150]          Bubner, Studien, p. 48.

[151]          Ellis/ter Haar, Worlds of Power, p. 187.

[152]          Committee, Report, p. 38.

[153]          Unflinching adherence to Christian morality can be a recipe for disaster. I read in a Kenyan newspaper that a reborn Christian who steadfastly refused to pay bribes failed his driving test seven times.

[154]          Hotline,3 April 2000, p. 17.

[155]          Hotline,26 March 2000, p. 32.

[156] Harnischfeger, Control over Territory, pp. 439–452; Hastings, Holy Lands, pp. 34, 47–51.

            [157]      Kalu, Safiyya, p. 399; Tell,8 April 2002, p. 40.

            [158]      A member of theECWAChurchin Zonkwa,KadunaState,5 March 2001.

            [159]      Iwobi, Sharia Controversy, p. 156.

            [160]      The International Commission of Jurists attested this responsibility of the federal government in a letter to President Obasanjo (Iwobi, Sharia Controversy, p. 162).

            [161]      Freedom House, Talibanization, pp. 11–12.

            [162]      Ibid., p. 10.

            [163]      S. L. Sanusi at the Sharia Conference inBayreuth, 11.– 2. 7. 2003.

            [164]      Iwobi, Sharia Controversy, p. 122.

[165] Adogame, Politicization of Religion, p. 136.

            [166]      Bernard Lewis, Middle East, p. 224; von Grunebaum, Studien, p. 26.

            [167]      Koran 3: 110, p. 59; Hodgson, Islam, p. 322.

            [168]      Ahmed BelloMahmud (Shari’ah, p. 9), Justice Minister of Zamfara.

            [169]      Dr. Lateef Adegbite (Political Agenda, S. 1, 2, 3), Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs.

            [170]      Gouverneur Sani, in Civil Liberties Organisation, Sharia, p. 5.

[171] »Fight those who believe not in God and the Last Day and do not forbid what God and His Messenger have forbidden – such men as practise not the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the Book [Christian and Jews – J.H.] – until they pay the tribute out of hand and have been humbled« (Koran 9:29, p. 182; cf. Firestone, Jihad, p. 53, 63–64).

            [172]      Willink Commission, Fears of Minorities, p. 126.

            [173]      Ibrahim, Democracy, p. 3.

            [174]      Chabal/Daloz, Africa Works, pp. 16, 30; Osaghae, Amoral Politics, p. 74.

            [175]      See Ellis/ter Haar, Worlds of Power, p. 184. – In the absence of public control, politicians seal their deals by secretly swearing at ancient shrines to the old deities.

            [176]      Peters, Islamic Criminal Law, p. 44.

            [177]      Fwatshak, Shari’a Enforcement, p. 19. – According to Prof. Sada, the Volkswagen Foundation co-funded the compilation of a standardized Sharia penal code. (personal communication,Zaria,29 December 2006) The Heinrich Böll Foundation inLagos was approached to support the training of Sharia judges, but declined.

            [178]      Sanusi, The West, p. 254.

            [179]      Abubakar D. Muhammad, Muslim Responses, p. 7.

            [180]      Hotline,12 March 2000, pp. 29–30.

            [181]      Hotline,19 March 2000, p. 26.

            [182]      Pobee, Religious Human Rights, p. 5.

            [183]      Peters, Islamic Criminal Law, pp. 44, 38.

            [184]      Prof. Sada of theAhmaduBelloUniversityat the Sharia Conference inBayreuth, 2003.

            [185]      Danfulani, Women, pp. 2–3, 11, 13.

            [186]      Gwarzo, Civic Associations, pp. 314–315. – For a similar argument see Jibrin Ibrahim (Democracy, p. 3): »most of civil society in Africa is located within the religious sphere. […] What has not been sufficiently emphasised is that many active religious movements have an even more effective capacity and record of inculcating intolerance, an ideology of contempt and exclusion and indeed, incitement to annihilate the other.« Susan O’Brien gives a more positive account of Kano’s »civil society« and of Sharia, which she sees as the »product of a democratic process« (O’Brien, Charia, p. 49).

            [187]      Tell, 16 December 2002, pp. 55–56. – Kano’s Minister of Trade rejected the imputation that the introduction of Sharia accelerated the disinvestment of foreign capital: »Are industries not collapsing all over Nigeria?« (Ibid., p. 57).

            [188]      Kukah, Human Rights, p. 25.

            [189]      An-Na’im, Islamic Reformation, p. 88.

            [190]      Williams, Lugard, p. 22.

            [191]      Sklar, Unity or Regionalism, p. 46.