The Boko Haram Reader

From Nigerian Preachers to the Islamic State

Edited by
May 2018 9781849048842 384pp


Since it erupted onto the world stage in 2009, people have asked, what is Boko Haram, and what does it stand for? Is there a coherent vision or set of beliefs behind it? Despite the growing literature about the group, few if any attempts have been made to answer these questions, even though Boko Haram is but the latest in a long line of millenarian Muslim reform groups to emerge in Northern Nigeria over the last two centuries.

The Boko Haram Reader offers an unprecedented collection of essential texts, documents, videos, audio, and nashids (martial hymns), translated into English from Hausa, Arabic and Kanuri, tracing the group’s origins, history, and evolution. Its editors, two Nigerian scholars, reveal how Boko Haram’s leaders manipulate Islamic theology for the legitimisation, radicalisation, indoctrination and dissemination of their ideas across West Africa.

Mandatory reading for anyone wishing to grasp the underpinnings of Boko Haram’s insurgency, particularly how the group strives to delegitimise its rivals and establish its beliefs as a dominant strand of Islamic thought in West Africa’s religious marketplace.


‘A veritable goldmine of primary source material—much of it published for the first time—and a reminder that if researchers would only take the time to analyse what militant groups actually communicate to their adherents, they would be less inclined to misread them and the threat they pose.’ — Atlantic Council

‘Until now, understanding of Boko Haram has been poor, but that is about to change. This volume provides an essential tool for understanding what drives the movement. A highly important scholarly contribution.’ — John Campbell, former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria; Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

‘This is, without doubt, the most comprehensive compilation of original materials on Boko Haram that exists to date – profound, brave and transformative. A gripping and extraordinarily timely book.’ — Abiodun Alao, Professor of African Studies, King’s College London

‘The most useful book on the insurgency in north-eastern Nigeria that I have seen.’ — Murray Last, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, University College London

‘A unique and indispensable resource. Thanks to these brilliant translations, it will finally be possible to establish Boko Haram’s authentic raison d’être.’ — Amidu Sanni, Professor of African & Middle Eastern Studies, Lagos State University, Nigeria

‘This veritable goldmine of primary source material will finally allow scholars to analyze Boko Haram through its own lenses. An invaluable resource.’ — J Peter Pham, Vice President for Research & Regional Initiatives and Director of the Africa Center, Atlantic Council

‘Vitally important. The Boko Haram Reader fills a major lacuna in the existing literature, finally making it possible to understand the group’s ideological development over time.’ — Jeffrey M. Bale, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey


Abdulbasit Kassim is a PhD student at Rice University, focusing on African Islamic movements and international relations in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Michael Nwankpa has a PhD in Sociology from the University of Roehampton. His main areas of interest are conflict and development, human rights, counterinsurgency and counterterrorism.

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