During the colonial era, Islam was introduced into southeast Nigeria, specifically Igboland. Through extensive research utilizing oral traditions, historical records, and written sources, we have examined the progression of Islam in this region.
From our findings, we have concluded that the earliest identified Muslim migrant to arrive in Igboland was Ibrahim Aduku, who originated from Bida in Nupeland. His purpose for journeying to Enugu-Ezike, located in northern Igboland, was to engage in horse trading with local communities.
According to Aduku’s grandson, his visits to Enugu-Ezike commenced around the time when the British outpost was established in the town. By comparing colonial records, trade reports, and interviews conducted between 2003 and 2009, we have estimated that Aduku would have reached the area approximately in 1909.
Aduku facilitated the entry of Muslim traders and Islamic marabouts into northern Igboland from north-central Nigeria. Another group of Muslim migrants started arriving in 1918 from the Yoruba town of Oshogbo in southwest Nigeria.
Additional migrants also came from Ilorin in north central Nigeria. These individuals established their settlement in Ibagwa. The Igbo witnessed their first group conversion to Islam in Enohia, Abakiliki Division, southeastern Nigeria in 1958.
This conversion was facilitated by Okpani Nwagui, who had previously converted from Roman Catholicism to Islam and now took on the name Ibrahim Niasse Nwagui. Approximately 200 individuals from the Igbo community had embraced Islam by the onset of the Nigeria-Biafra conflict in July 1967.
According to Abdurahman Doi, a scholar who wrote in 1984, the population of indigenous Igbo Muslims was 3,450. However, based on the most recent data from hajj records in 2013, the number has increased to 13,500.
Islam in Igboland experienced a crisis as Boko Haram’s emergence and fight heightened in Nigeria. Consequently, there was a notable increase in people abandoning Islam. However, amidst these desertions, there are also individuals converting to Islam.