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In recent years, the relationship between Islam and other religions has deteriorated. Non-Muslims in Islamic regimes face numerous limitations in practising their beliefs. Furthermore, the ongoing carnages and destruction of property by Islamic fundamentalists in Nigeria draw attention to Islam’s view of religious freedom.

Islam, like Christianity and Judaism, traces its history to Abraham and recognises the Prophets from Abraham to Jesus, believing that each Prophet came to refresh God’s word in a way that was particularly intended and allocated for his culture and period.

However, despite passages from the Holy Qur’an and significant evidence from Islamic history advocating tolerance of other religions, particularly Christianity and Judaism, Islam has been accused of being intolerant and hostile to other religions.

It is also documented that Muslims’ attitudes towards Christians have been distinguished by forbearance and cordiality over the centuries, albeit with a modicum of strife. The Qur’an frequently mentions stories from Jewish and Christian sacred history, all of which are thought to have influenced Islamic doctrines.

Blasphemy, such as Christian beliefs in the divinity of Jesus and His authority to forgive our sins, the virgin birth of Jesus, and the theory of Trinity, appear to be the root of Muslims’ opposition to religious freedom. The religion appears to be hostile towards other religions on the basis of safeguarding Islam from syncretism.

Furthermore, Islam has been accused of using military force not only to protect its beliefs, but also for growth and expansion, which is contrary to the concept of religious freedom. Despite its status as a multi-religious state, Nigeria has seen its fair share of religious tension and violence from Islamic fundamentalists whose ultimate goal is to establish an Islamic state.

The consequences of these confrontations are massive. Many families have been devastated, and communities have been shattered. Given this predicament, it is prudent to investigate Islam and religious freedom in a multi-faith society like Nigeria.



1.1 Introduction to the Research

The connection between Islam and other religions is awful. This is evident in the rise in religious rights violations, despite several international documents advocating for the right to religious freedom and the conviction that every human being, by virtue of his or her existence, has the inalienable right to seek truth and practise his or her religion freely.

The relationship between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria, particularly in the north, is rapidly deteriorating. Furthermore, the intention to convert all Nigerians to Islam has given rise to some Islamic fundamentalism that appears hostile to Christianity.

Although most Islamic leaders have condemned these extremist acts, the lack of proactive steps towards such condemnation has led many people to question whether Islam recognises the concept of religious freedom. Furthermore, there appears to be some divergence in temperament among Muslims of different ethnic groups in Nigeria when it comes to religious freedom.

On this basis, the study will examine the Hausa/Fulani Muslims’ perspective of religious freedom as well as the Yoruba Muslims’ sense of religious freedom. This is because Nigeria has a comparable amount of Muslims.

1.2 Statement Of The Problem

Religious intolerance has persisted despite the international community’s progressive efforts to curtail it. Despite the claim that respect for other religions is mandatory for all Muslims, Islam has been accused of being intolerant of other religions.

Furthermore, the unambiguous statement in the Qur’an that there should be no compulsion in religion draws attention to why Islam appears to be ambivalent about religious freedom.

Even other Muslim countries that appear to provide some religious freedom do so under strict control and scrutiny. Historically, Muslims considered Christians and Jews to be people of the book. Nonetheless, in some Muslim communities, tolerance had given way to hostility.

Calls for religious freedom are frequently rejected by hostile Muslim regimes, who believe it is really a cover for Western brainwashing of their culture.

In Nigeria, the recent activities of the Boko Haram Islamist sect, pushed by the conviction to kill followers of other religions in the name of God, have highlighted the mind-boggling question of why violence may be directed against defenceless civilians in the name of God.

Churches have been targeted by this Islamic group, and the verses of the Qur’an that inspired Muslims to battle Christians and Unbelievers have persuaded people that Islam is hostile to religious freedom.

It is important to note that religious violence and intolerance are not exclusive to Islam; they affect numerous religions, including Christianity. The study’s focus, however, is on Islam since many individuals believe that Islam is inherently violent and unfriendly to religious freedom.

In this regard, Islam and religious freedom will be studied objectively by examining Islam’s historical roots, which may reveal why some Muslim groups, primarily fundamentalists, defend violence and religious intolerance as theological necessities.

As a result, it is the position of this work that avoiding religious extremism is a remedy for religious freedom and that religious freedom is a true means of combating religious violence.

1.3 Scope of the Research

The study looks at how Muslims in Nigeria perceive religious freedom. It begins by outlining the background of Prophet Mohammad, Peace be upon him, as well as the circumstances surrounding the emergence and spread of Islam.

Also taken into account are the origins of Islam in Nigeria, as well as the perception of Islam as a religion of peace and the fundamental teachings of Islam.

The notion of religious freedom will be examined in order to show its historical origins as well as the many international documents that recognise religious freedom. Because of the differences in Islam’s definition of religious freedom, the viewpoints of Hausa-Fulani Muslims and Yoruba Muslims on religious freedom will be considered.

The research will critically investigate the notion of Religious Freedom in the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s constitution on this basis. Nonetheless, factors that restrict religious freedom will be investigated in order to explain why some Muslims are hostile to other religions and how these Muslims justify violence as a necessary religious obligation to obliterate the society of infidels.

Understanding the historical roots of religious violence and intolerance in Islam, on the other hand, may provide insight into the social and cultural causes for animosity and intolerance towards other religions.

1.4 Objectives of the Research

The purpose of this study is to present the concept of religious freedom in Islam and its application in Nigeria. It aims to make recommendations for resolving the periodic religious issues that have jeopardised Nigeria’s stability over the past three decades.

It is merely acceptable for everyone to recognise and respect religious diversity. In this light, the study demonstrates how religious freedom is connected with fundamental human rights and democratic values. The violation of fundamental right is one of the causes of Nigeria’s social instability.

Furthermore, the hermeneutics applied to Qur’anic verses play critical roles in Muslims’ perceptions of religious freedom. This could explain why Yoruba Muslims have a distinct understanding of religious freedom than Hausa/Fulani Muslims.

Because the majority of the religion’s adherents are illiterates who are prone to accepting whatever explanation is given to them, it is the duty of the Ulama to be unbiased in their interpretation of the Qur’an. It is also the position of this research that certain injunctions in the Holy Qur’an were based on circumstances at the time; implementing such in the twenty-first century would be anachronistic.

Religious freedom is based on and dependent on people’s diversity, and it is through knowledge that religion may encourage cross-cultural understanding, which is the remedy for national stability.

As a result, this paper contends that recognising and respecting religious freedom in Nigeria is a precondition for reducing religious violence and safeguarding individuals from injustice.

1.5 Importance of the Research

Islam has had a profound impact on human culture. It has generated literary, intellectual, and philosophical works that have had a significant impact on the evolution of ideas and philosophies. Algebra, for example, was invented by Islamic mathematicians.

Islamic scholars have also worked on medicine, astronomy, history, and other fields, raising these studies to new heights. However, in recent years, Islam has had a wide-ranging impact on human lives, including conflicts with other religions, particularly in Nigeria.

On this note, Islam and religious freedom must be studied. Furthermore, the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria and fundamentalists’ targeting of churches make the research a critical topic. Religious freedom is one of the Fundamental Human Rights that everyone must recognise. Many rights are dependent on religious freedom.

In a democratic society, it is consequently important for public safety, public order, and public morality.

Despite the Qur’anic command to “Let there be no compulsion in religion” (Sura 2:256). Non-Muslims in Northern Nigeria have faced religious intolerance in one form or another.

This study also contends that the Ulama’s hermeneutics of the Qur’an have a significant impact on Muslims’ perceptions of religious freedom. Religious freedom is essential because of its close link to social stability. The goal of religious freedom is to avoid religious extremism and social instability.

1.6 Justification for the Study

In recent years, religious antagonism has taken on a disturbing new dimension. Today, Islamic extremists frequently justify their heinous actions by claiming to be restoring theocracy and protecting Islam from apostasy. As a result, many Muslim governments restrict religious liberty by enacting blasphemy laws that make religious freedom illegal.

Even among Muslim countries that recognise religious freedom, few really respect it. Furthermore, their often subtle mission of hegemony over people of other faiths violates humanity’s Fundamental Human Rights.

Furthermore, the Boko Haram sect’s primary goal of Islamizing Nigeria, a multi-religious nation, calls into question the concepts of Islam and Religious Freedom. Many people regard Islam as fundamentally incompatible with religious freedom because of this. Regardless, the study’s goal is to demonstrate the importance of religious freedom.

1.7 Research Methodology

Essentially, the study is concerned with the concept of Islam and religious freedom as it pertains to Nigerian society. In light of this, the sociological inquiry approach will be used, as it deals with the functions of religion in society and its effects on humanity. The paper makes heavy use of the library research approach.

1.8 Definitions of Terms

Some concepts in this work require contextual explanation. Nigeria: religious demography, Islam, religious freedom, religious tolerance


Islam is frequently interpreted as “surrender” or “submission” to God. “Islam” also means “peace” (Toropov and Buckles 111). According to Toropov and Buckles, it derives from an Arabic word that signifies “whole”, “safe”, and “intact” (111).

It is the religion of Muslims, a monotheistic faith revealed via Muhammad as Allah’s (God’s) prophet. Muslims regard Islam as the most perfect method of life. It is thought that it is not a new religion, but rather the same truth that God revealed to all people via his prophets.

Islam first appeared in Arabia in the seventh century AD. It is a religion practised by Muslims, and these Muslims frequently communicate with Allah (God) through the faith’s teachings as described in the Qur’an. According to Muslims, the Qur’an is the infallible Holy Book from which Muslims get knowledge of Allah (God) and the prophet Muhammad.

Religious Liberty

According to Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article (18), freedom of religion is a value that promotes the right of an individual or community, in public or private, to exhibit religion or belief in teaching, practise, worship, and observance. The freedom to shift religions or not follow any religion is widely accepted as part of the notion.

It also includes the right to leave or cease membership in a religion or any group. Religious freedom encompasses the concept of human equality and the universal right to practise one’s faith without discrimination (Okon 77). It is the belief that religious individuals can freely practise their faith without interference. It must fall under the purview of the government.

Farr defines religious freedom as “the right of every human being, regardless of region or culture, to follow the dictates of his or her conscience in matters of fundamental truth, worship, and morality, within the bounds of international norms” (9). This demonstrates that religious freedom must be exercised within the parameters established by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, which includes the right to manifest a religion or belief in worship, observance, practise, and teaching, either individually or in community with others, and in private or public. On this note, religious freedom can be viewed as granting the right for other religions to exist as well as the ability to freely convert from one religion to another.

Religious Tolerance

Religious freedom and religious tolerance are frequently used interchangeably. Religious tolerance is the acceptance of other religious views and practises that differ from one’s own. The difference between religious tolerance and religious freedom is that the former allows people to practise their faith outside of the purview of the government.

Nigeria: Religious Demography

According to a report on International Religious Freedom in Nigeria, the country’s population is believed to be 50 percent Muslim, 45 percent Christian, and 5 percent adherents of indigenous religious beliefs. The majority of Muslims in Nigeria are Sunnis, with diverse factions such as Tijaniyah, Qadiriyyah, and Sufi, as well as growing Shia and Izala (Salafist) minority.

Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, non-traditional evangelical and Pentecostal Christians, and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) are all Christians. Nigeria had around 250 ethnic groups and almost 300 languages.

Northern Nigeria is dominated by the Hausa-Fulani and Kanuri ethnic groups, both of which are primarily Muslim. In the north, however, sizable Christian groups have lived and intermarried with Muslims for more than 50 years. Muslims and Christians coexist in about similar numbers in the country’s “Middle Belt,” which includes the Federal Capital Territory and the Southwest, where the Yoruba ethnic group predominates.

While most Yorubas follow Christianity or Islam, traditional Yoruba religious beliefs continue to be practised. The Igbo of Southeast Nigeria practise Christianity as well as their traditional beliefs. In the South-South, which includes the Niger Delta Region, where the Ogoni, Ijaw, Efiks, and Ibibio, among others, Christians are the majority; Muslims make up an estimated 1% of the population.

Pentecostal Christianity is also fast increasing throughout the country’s Middle Belt and South. Despite this, Ahmadi Muslims have a small presence in Lagos and Abuja and face no apparent discrimination.

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