Profile: Boko Haram

Boko Haram, responsible for Friday’s terror attacks in Kano, Nigeria, are coming back into the spotlight of African politics as the latest threat to democratic stability.

‘Boko Haram’ in the local Hausa language translates to ‘Western education is a sin’. A Salafist jihadist organisation, Boko Haram is based in north-eastern Nigeria and was founded in 2003. Their aim is to abolish the secular Nigerian government and reinstate Sharia law.

The group was formed in 2003 in Maiduguri, northeastern Nigeria, by Mohammed Yusuf. Yusuf died in police custody during the largest of the group’s clashes with government forces in 2009.

A Salafi follows the Sunni Muslim Salafiyyah sect. Salafis view the first three generations of Muslims as the model by which all Muslims should practice, especially in their beliefs, worship, mannerisms, piety, morality, conduct and understanding of texts. They base this thinking around a passage of the Qur’an which quotes the Prophet Mohammed as saying

The best people are those of my generation, and then those who will come after them, and then those who will come after them.


Salafis believe that the Islam preached by the Prophet and practiced by his Companions (the first generation of his followers) and the Tabi‘un (the second generation of Muslims) and the Tabi‘ al-Tabi‘in (the third) was pure, and therefore the ultimate authority regarding the practice of Islam.

The fundamental beliefs of Islam, or Aqeedah, as held by these three generations, forms the basis of Salafiyyah.


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