Research Project (to be discussed at the Winter Academy) by Sakariyau Alabi Aliyu.
Sakariyau Alabi Aliyu is currently a PhD candidate at the Institute for History at the University of Leiden (Netherlands). His research interests include muslim education (particularly in the Nigerian context), Nigerian intellectual history and the philosophy of history.
Established as a citadel of Islam in the nineteenth century, Ilorin came under the colonial hegemony of the British at the end of the nineteenth century. Thenceforth the history of Islamic education became an unending dynamic of engagement with the challenges that the rival system of Western education has posed to Islamic education. Starting in the colonial period within Ilorin and lasting into the early decades of independence, also from outside Ilorin, the ulama responded to this challenge mainly in three ways, corresponding to schools of thought of Islamic education in Ilorin.
First, there is the tolerant Adabiyyah School favoring western education in conjunction with Islamic education, then there is the Zumratu Muminina (makondoro) school that was strictly against western education. The third school, Markaziyya, privileged Arabic/Islamic education as a standalone system; it tolerated Western education only independent from the Islamic system. From the colonial period thenceforth Islamic education followed this trifurcate system to a greater or lesser extent, even when a scholar does not categorically belong to any of these schools.
Although the ultimate aim of a positive hereafter for Islamic education, against material benefit, plays a crucial role in limiting the material strength of the system, this thesis argues that society’s attitude towards the system, absence of state support and the financial wherewithal unlike the Western system has been a major hindrance to progress in the system. Despite this limited capacity the scholars have been unrelenting, continuously adapting the system to the needs of the society, for example by transforming of the traditional Quranic schools into madaris from the colonial period, reforming the methods, curriculum and routes to be followed to running of the two systems with their madaris (sing. madrasah), especially since the government withdrawal from the provision of Western education from the late twentieth century. More than is credited to them the scholars have actually contributed to the development of western education even as the attention given to the Western system of education by the government and the society has been detrimental to its own development.