|Harnischfeger, Johannes 2008
Frankfurt/New York, Campus Verlag, 244 pp.
Reviewed by Prof Françoise Parent-Ugochukwu who is currently attached to the Open University in the United Kingdom (UK)
This book is the fruit of a three-year research mission in Nigeria (1993–1996) followed by three research trips in 2001, 2002 and 2006, during which the twelve States of the Federation which adopted Sharia in various degrees were covered: Zamfara, Kaduna, Sokoto, Kano, Bauchi, Katsina, Kebbi, Jigawa, Borno, Yobe, Niger and Gombe. It is a precious first-hand account of the implementation of Sharia in the north of the country, prompted by the fact that ‘observers in Europe and North America paid little attention to the political implications of Sharia’ (p. 17). It is based on interviews with local informants, personal observations, and the scrutiny of archive documents, media articles, religious tracts, the Quran, the Bible and academic publications. Central to the book are the effects of Sharia both on the Muslim community and on Muslim-Christian relations. The author first attempts to ‘reconstruct some of the reasons that led to the Sharia campaign’ (p. 28), going back into history up to Usman Dan Fodio’s jihad in 1804 (p. 42), which presented Islam as the only unifying factor between Fulani, Hausa, Nupe and Yoruba. For Harnischfeger, the colonial period which followed was ‘a blessing for the spreading of Islam’ (p. 54), as the British closed the region to Christian missionaries, a move which, while facilitating the rapid Christianisation of the south, led to positive discrimination in favour of northerners and to the present educational imbalance between North and South. Sharia remained in force in all Emirates until the Independence, with non-Muslim settlers – mainly Igbo and Yoruba – discriminated against.