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Alex Thurston

Al-͑Aqīda al-Ṣaḥīḥa bi-Muwāfaqat al-Sharī͑a, published by the Nigerian scholar Abubakar Gumi in 1972, caused controversy within the Northern Nigerian Muslim community due to the book’s fierce attacks on Sufi beliefs and practices. Building on previous analyses of the text that address its role within theological debates in West Africa, this article situates al Aqida al Sahiha with regard to global intellectual currents in Salafism, a loose movement that aims to base Islamic life and thought strictly in the Qurʾan and the Sunna of the Prophet Muhammad. The article identifies key Salafi themes that appear in the text and argues that Gumi’s concerns focused largely on religious and political struggles in Nigeria. This interaction between global discourses and local debates gives insight into the intellectual contributions that Arab-educated Muslims like Gumi have made to religious change in West Africa.

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Alex Thurston

This article examines northern Nigeria’s mainstream Salafis – figures who advocate exclusive, literalist, exoterically-minded readings of scripture, but who oppose the violence of the fringe Salafi sect Boko Haram. The article argues that the emergence of Boko Haram has placed mainstream Salafis in a complicated position vis-à-vis both Salafi-leaning audiences and the state. In the face of accusations by state and society that all Salafis are connected to Boko Haram, mainstream Salafis have worked to undermine Boko Haram’s messages and Salafi credentials in order to maintain influence over Salafi-leaning youth. Along with other voices in northern Nigeria, mainstream Salafis have also externalized blame for Boko Haram’s violence, attributing Boko Haram’s existence to the state, to Christians and Jews, and/or to Western powers. They have also criticized the state’s response to Boko Haram. Finally, they advocate for perceived northern Muslim interests but attempt to avoid being seen as pro-government.