The Muslims constitute about 13% of the total population of the Ondo people whereas Christians constitute 73% as revealed by the population census of 1952. Gbadamosi notes that the first record of the presence of Islam in Ondo is contained in Phillips’ diary of 26th Nov. 1880. In comparison with the rise of Christianity in Ondo, the conversion to the Muslim religion was less successful. Muslim traders were probably the most significant contributors to the growth of Islam in Ondo.
The Muslims gained easy access through the eastern route to Ondo and they were able to disseminate Islamic ideas and doctrines to the people. It is worthy of note that the Muslim traders’ main purpose was business but some of the traders considered themselves as instruments of conversion and as Islamic missionaries in addition to their normal business vocation.
This phenomenon, as revealed in Mukti Ali’s observation is not peculiar to Ondo. Says Ali: “Islam does not preach an exhaustive magical charisma-to borrow Max Weber’s term –belonging to the priest alone, as Christianity teaches, but it is by its nature a missionary community. Because of the expansive missionary nature of Islam, every Muslim is a propagandist of the faith.
The Ondo High Chiefs played important roles in the spread of Islam. It is interesting to note that despite the small numerical strength of the Muslim community in Ondo, Christians and Muslims are equally represented in the Chieftain class because they embraced both religions.
According to Olupona, unlike the Christian religion, the Islamic religion did not clash with the already existing socio-cultural ethics and norms of the traditional religion in Ondo. They were allocated a piece of land where small pox victims were ritually buried. The place was however purified by Alfa Alimi. The year 1888 marked the official beginning of Islam in Ondo. Because this religion did not clash with the traditional religion, it enjoyed the support of the nobles and chiefs of Ondo.
This gesture enhanced and encouraged the general tolerance of the people. Olupona pointed out that Chiefs Sasere Ayotilerewa Awosika and Lisa Anjanu Fawehinmi, though not Muslims directed the course of Islam right from its very beginning. These chiefs prepared the basis for the cordial relationship between Islam and the traditional structure in Ondo community.
Source From: Ondo Development Committee Achieve.