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Full Access Legal Pluralism in Colonial Lagos: The 1894 Petition of the Lagos Muslims to their British Colonial Masters

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Legal Pluralism in Colonial Lagos: The 1894 Petition of the Lagos Muslims to their British Colonial Masters

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This paper is about metropolitan Lagos—under the British only a "township", though long Nigeria's capital. From early in its history the percentage of Muslims living in Lagos has been high, somewhere around fifty percent. There is a long history of attempts by activists among the Lagos Muslims, none yet successful, to persuade the authorities pro tem to establish Sharia Courts for the use of Muslims, to which they could take their civil matters for adjudication under Islamic law. After briefly introducing Lagos, we describe one of these attempts: the 1894 petition of the Lagos Muslims to their British colonial masters, and its outcome, paying particular attention to the pluralistic legal environment in which it was made. This early petition—or rather the facts that it was made, and that it failed, all context having been forgotten—lives on in the thinking of many Nigerian Muslims today as another example of British hostility to Islam, often held to be responsible for the failure of Islamic law to thrive in the predominantly Yoruba southwest of which Lagos is a part. This paper is an attempt to restore the context, and thus perhaps to help improve the analysis of the fate of Islamic law in Nigeria's southwest.

Affiliations: 1: Ile-Ife, Nigeria / Madison, WI


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