Boko Haram

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  • Title: Boko Haram: History, Ideology, and Goal
  • Author(s): Jude Aguwa
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: Religion in Society
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society
  • Keywords: Boko Haram, Islam, Jihad, Nigeria, Maitatsine
  • Volume: 7
  • Issue: 2
  • Year: 2017
  • ISSN: 2154-8633 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2154-8641 (Online)
  • DOI:
  • Citation: Aguwa, Jude. 2017. "Boko Haram: History, Ideology, and Goal." The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society 7 (2): 11-23. doi:10.18848/2154-8633/CGP/v07i02/11-23.
  • Extent: 13 pages


Boko Haram is an Islamist movement founded in 2002 by Yusuf Muhammad in Borno State of northeast Nigeria. Yusuf Muhammad’s teaching propagated hatred toward Western civilization. It vehemently affirmed the infallibility of the Qur’an as the uncreated and eternal word of Allah. Yusuf also demanded the full implementation of the Sharia in Nigeria to usher in the perfect Islamic State. By 2009 the group had evolved into a jihadist movement with the goal of using military campaigns to create an Islamic State in northern Nigeria. In further developments, it declared a caliphate in the territories of northern Nigeria under its control and pledged support for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). It has been argued that Boko Haram originated as a reaction to underdevelopment and poverty in the Muslim-dominated northeast Nigeria. This argument is founded on perceived injustices and corruption in democratic Nigeria. It is important to note that the theory of underdeveloped public welfare functions is constantly invoked in most cases of Islamist insurgency and sectarian conflicts. Another theory of origin of Boko Haram focuses on Islamic jihadist movements. From this perspective Boko Haram falls within the tradition of jihadism in Nigeria, although it is the most radical form. This theory resonates with statements attributed to the leader of the Boko Haram, which claims that Boko Haram is fighting a religious war against unbelievers with the goal of turning Nigeria into an Islamic theocratic state. But Boko Haram fighters have killed Christians and Muslims alike. This article seeks to untangle the social, economic, political, religious, and radical ideological elements manifested in Boko Haram rhetoric and activities.