Muhammad Yusuf’s Theological Views: Understanding Tripartite Salafism in Boko Haram

A Nigerian-born Muhammad Yusuf (1970–2009), a founder of Boko Haram, declares his Islamic theological views in his Published creed, Hādhihī ‘Aqidatunā Wa-Minhāj Da‘Watinā (This is our Creed and Method of Proclamation). His declaration expresses a Sunni Salafi thought that comprises theological views I consider “Tripartite Salafism.” This concept develops through uncovering the historicity of Muhammad Yusuf and his exposure to the writings of Ibn Taymiyyah (1263–1328), Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703–1792), and the teachings of Abubakar Mahmud Gumi (1924–1992). The historical antecedents of Muhammad Yusuf reveal his interaction with the materials and teachings of the staunch Sunni Salafi scholars, suggesting a form of theology and ideology that appears tripartite. Hence, a form of Salafism formed and practiced by Muhammad Yusuf is “Tripartite Salafism,” which combines Classical Salafism, Wahhabism, and Izalaism. However, there is a shift in the ideology of Boko Haram from mainstream Islamism to Salafi Jihadism. In this paper, I consider “Tripartite Salafism” as Muhammad Yusuf’s theological views in Boko Haram. The paper is a historical analysis of Muhammad Yusuf’s theological views in his creed. A critical exposition of his interaction with Salafism begins with theological views, followed by a critical assessment of his interaction with Salafism, Wahhabism, and Izalaism—lastly, a discourse on Tripartite Salafism in Boko Haram.

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