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Marwa, Muhammad (D. 1980)


Muhammad Marwa (Maitatsine) was a Qur˒anic teacher from Cameroon in West Africa who followed shari a (Islamic law). After he moved to Nigeria, his teachings inspired a religious, millennial revolt against the government in the northern province of Kano in 1980. A mystic, he resembled the Mahdi of Sudan in that he claimed revelatory knowledge, which supplemented, and even superseded, the teachings of the prophet Muhammad. In 1979, he apparently declared himself a prophet greater than Muhammad. The movement, also known as Yan Tatsine (the followers of Maitatsine), was nominally Muslim but unorthodox, rejecting established authorities, both religious and secular. It had a strong element of political protest in it, attracting mostly the urban poor, young men who had moved to the city and could not fit in with established groups.

Marwa recruited from Qur˒anic schools, rejecting the authority of all books aside from the Qur˒an, including the hadiths. Followers kept their own mosques and schools. The movement was hostile to women, many of whom were kidnapped and kept in Marwa's compound for months. Tensions with the government exploded in a series of riots, apparently instigated by attacks that Marwa's followers made on members of the local Muslim community in December 1980 in Kano (resulting in 4,177 deaths) and again in 1982 in Kaduna and Maiduguri, after which the movement was suppressed. It was blamed for further uprisings in the early 1980s, which the government used as an excuse to increase state control. Marwa was among those killed in the 1980 riots.

See alsoAfrica, Islam in ; Kano ; Mahdi .


Callaway, Barbara, and Creevey, Lucy. The Heritage of Islam:Women, Religion and Politics in West Africa. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1994.

Kastfelt, Niels. "Rumours of Maitatsine: A Note on Political Culture in Northern Nigeria." African Affairs 88, no. 350 (1989): 83–90.

Paula Stiles

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