Sultan of Sokoto, Religious Leader of Nigeria’s Muslim Community, to Visit Harvard
Sultan of Sokoto
Sultan of Sokoto

His Eminence Alhaji Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar III, the Sultan of Sokoto, will make his first visit to Harvard University on October 2–3, 2011. He will deliver the Samuel L. and Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture, one of the most distinguished lectures at the University, on October 3.

The Sultan of Sokoto is the religious leader of Nigeria's Muslim community, which consists of approximately half of the country's nearly 160 million inhabitants, and of millions of Muslims in adjoining countries in West Africa. He serves Nigeria as president-general of the National Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs. His role continues the leadership of the Sokoto Caliphate that unified the region under Islamic law in the early nineteenth century.

He is the younger son of the 17th Sultan of Sokoto, Siddiq Abu Bakar dan Usuman (1903–1988), who held the sultanate for 50 years, and he is a descendent of Imam Usman dan Fodio (1754–1817), the first Sultan of Sokoto. He began his military career in 1975 and has been primarily involved in leading missions focused on peacekeeping and conflict resolution. Prior to his appointment as sultan in 2006, he was Nigeria's defense adviser in Pakistan, with concurrent accreditation to Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States.

The Jodidi Lecture, jointly sponsored by the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and Harvard Divinity School (HDS), is titled "Islam and Peace-Building in West Africa." It will take place at the Sackler Lecture Hall, located at 485 Broadway (at the corner of Quincy Street), from 4:30 to 6 p.m., on October 3. The lecture is open to the public, but seating is limited to 275 people. For information, contact Megan Countey.

Established in 1955, the Jodidi Lecture Series provides for the "delivery of lectures by eminent and well-qualified persons . . . for the promotion of tolerance, understanding, and good will among nations, and the peace of the world." The lecture has been given at Harvard by 22 individuals, including Andreas Papandreou, Prince Norodom Sihanouk, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Abba Eban, Corazon Aquino, and Rajiv Gandhi.

"This is an extraordinary opportunity for the Harvard community to engage one of the most important Muslim leaders in Africa," said William A. Graham, Dean of Harvard Divinity School. "Anyone interested in peacekeeping, religious leadership, women’s leadership in Islam, the postcolonial experience, African religions, or a host of other issues, will find the sultan a fascinating figure who confounds many American stereotypes of both sub-Saharan Africa and the Islamic tradition."

In addition to delivering the Jodidi Lecture, the sultan will contribute to the panel discussion "Muslim Women's Religious Literacy: The Legacy of Nana Asma'u in the Twenty-first Century and Beyond." The panel is sponsored by the Women’s Studies in Religion Program at HDS and will take place on Sunday, October 2, from 1 to 3:30 p.m., in Andover Hall, 45 Francis Avenue.

Other panelists will include Ousseina Alidou, director of the African Studies Center, Rutgers University, and Zainab Alwani, Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies, Howard University School of Divinity, and the first female jurist on the Fiqh Council of North America. For more information, contact Celene Ayat Lizzio.     

The sultan will also participate in "Nigeria and the World," a seminar convened by Jacob Olupona, Professor of African Religious Traditions at HDS, on Monday, October 3, noon–1:30 p.m., Andover Hall, at HDS. 

To prepare for his visit, the Center for the Study of World Religions at HDS is sponsoring "Islam in Nigeria: A Conversation in Preparation for the Visit of the Sultan of Sokoto," Monday, September 26, from 5:15 to 7 p.m., in the Common Room, CSWR, 42 Francis Avenue.

Presenters will include: Hauwa Ibrahim, Visiting Lecturer on Women's Studies and Islamic Law at HDS; Professor Jacob Olupona; Benjamin Soares, senior researcher, African Studies Centre, University of Leiden, Leiden, Netherlands; and M. Sani Umar, Professor of Religion at Northwestern University. For more information, contact Lexi Gewertz at 617.495.4476.