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Prof. Dr. Mukhtar Umar Bunza

BUNZA180x180 Prof. Dr. Mukhtar Umar Bunza

Personal Information

Mukhtar Umar Bunza is a Professor of Social History, Department of History Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, Nigeria. He obtained a PhD in History the from Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, Nigeria. He was a Fellow of LEVENTIS Postdoctoral Research, SOAS, University of London, ISITA Fellow, Northwestern University, Evanston, USA, and SACRI Fellow for Summer School at Babes Bolyai University, Cluj. Romania. 

To access the lecture by Prof. Bunza, please click here.


Project Description

The Learning Factors and Vectors in Islamic Education in Muslim West Africa:  The Northern Nigerian Case Study

For more than five centuries ago the Islamic education and learning forms and methods of north Africa and the Mediterranean Europe made their headways into the West African sub-region especially through the ancient empires of Ghana, Mali, Songhay, Hausa States and Borno. The most fascinating aspect of the diffusion and transmission of the Islamic knowledge and learning into the regions was its assimilation into the culture and tradition of the people. Muslim traders, and African rulers who realized the indispensability of literacy in governance and commercial transactions, (Book keeping) collaborated and supported the spread of Islamic education through hosting of visiting ulama’ and financially assisting the talaba, students. These important historical realities were the secrets behind the self-sustaining, survival and resilience of Islamic learning among Muslims in West Africa, and Northern Nigeria in particular.

The Islamic Learning and emergence of indigenous Ulama’ in Northern Nigeria

The pliability and malleability of Islamic learning methods and process had an indelible impact on the Muslim societies of West Africa. One of the most remarkable consequences was the emergence of indigenous scholars who took the responsibility of teaching and educating their own people in their own local languages. These Ulama’a established schools and Madrasas which were hitherto established and manned by itinerant scholars during their seasonal visit and tutelage.

The Ajami-Indigenous Scripts and learning methodology for mass literacy

In addition to the remarkable contributions of the indigenous Ulama’a in the educational development and learning was inventing local scripts in Arabic letters known as Ajami with which the study and learning of Islamic education was made faster and easier. This is also a very important area for further investigation and corroboration.   

Gender and learning in Islamic Circles among Muslim Northern Nigeria

Following the Maghribi – Moroccan tradition as exemplified by Fatima Fihriyah the founder of the famous al-Qairawan University, and the later female scholars that followed her footsteps, the education and learning opportunities especially in the 18th and 19th centuries Northern Nigeria, women were allowed to pursue education after serious debates and engagements with opposing scholars in the region. Finally, the tradition has been established since Nana Asmau the daughter of Shehu Usmanu Danfodiyo, (d. 1864) and her women wing of the movement, the Yantaru, has left a lasting legacy in the formation of the present-day Federation of Muslim Women in Nigeria, FOMWAN, Muslim Sisters Organization, MSO, Women in Da’awa and host of others, which makes the Islamic awareness among Women in northern Nigeria a unique phenomenon in West Africa. Indeed, the women Islamiyya schools are most consistent and stable model system of learning among adults Muslims in the region, that what may possibly be responsible for women being the most religious in Northern Nigeria.

Resettlement and Movement of learning and learned in the Muslim Northern Nigeria

The movement of Ulama’a from one place to another contributed significantly in the diffusion of literature and transfer of learning techniques and method of teaching in the region. Similarly, the transnational and even transcontinental experiences were shared and interconnected for advancement of Islamic learning in the region. Through the pilgrimage also, which still is practiced, literature was imported and exported, and also transiting Ulama’a left behind them books, experiences and legacies which were peculiar to other areas in the Muslim World. This is also prevalent to date, although in a difference way.

Colonial impact, modern education and crises of Islamic Learning in Northern Nigeria

The colonial subjugation of the Muslim areas in Africa and Asia has exposed the Islamic learning system, and indeed, the entire Islamic tenets to an unprecedented challenge. The fundamental problem facing Islamic learning process was that of relevance, conformity, patronage, sponsorship and conflict with the new mode of western education introduced by Europeans due changing pattern of state and society. In order to conform to certain level with Modern Education, new forms of learning regulations such as use of uniform, pencil, biro and exercise books, table and chairs (instead of wooden tablet, locally prepared in bottle, leather cases and mats) etc. are the now the new outlook of Islamic teaching models in northern Nigeria. These challenges have had far-reaching consequences on the society ravaged with Alamjiri(street begging students in the name of Islamic education practice and pursuit) and Boko Haram phenomena, which may be enthused due  to  alienation and deprivation. This is a very serious matter which has not received adequate attention from researchers. 

These form the major componenets of the propsed project during the duration oft he Fellowship.

Selected Publications

Bunza, M. U., “Islamism vs. Secularism: A Religious-political Struggle in Modern Nigeria”, Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, Republic of Romania (available on line, http://hiphi.ubbcluj.ro /JSRI) No.2, Summer, 2002, pp.49-65. (ISSN: 1583-0039)

 Bunza, M. U., “Muslims and the Modern State in Nigeria: A Study of the Impact of Foreign Religious Literature, 1980s- 1990s”, Islam Et Societes Au Sud Du Sahara, 17-18, 2004, Paris, pp.49-63. (ISSN: 0984-7685 & ISBN:2-7351-1055-9).

 Bunza, M. U., “The North African Factor in Tajdeed Tradition in Hausaland, Northern Nigeria” in The Journal of North African Studies, Taylor & Francis Group Oxford, United Kingdom, Vol. 10, No. 3-4, September-December, 2005, pp. 325-338. (ISSN: 1362-9387)

Bunza, M. U., “The Iranian Model of Political Islamic Movement in Nigeria, (1979-2002)” in Gomez-Perez, M. (ed.) L’islam Politique au sud du Sahara: Identities, Discourse et Enjeux, Karthala, Paris 2005, pp. 227-242. ISBN: 2-84586-615-1

 Bunza, M.U., “Migration and Itinerancy among the Ulama’a in West Africa: The Making of Trans-National Muslim Intelligentsia in Nigeria”, in Harrak F., Ross E., and Anegay, S., (eds.), Religion et Migration, Publication de L’ Institute des Etudes Africaines, Rabat, Morocco, 2012, pp. 65-80. ISBN:978-9981-37-064-7

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