This article explores how pilgrimage to Arabia became the catalyst for Northern Nigerian Muslim leaders to develop a kind of humanitarianism for the poor to expand their political power in the era of independence from Britain and postcolonial Afro-Arab alliance-making. Muslim elites forced the British to provide welfare for poor pilgrims who conducted the pilgrimage over land through Sudan and then undertook their own relief and reform as means to resist national integration with Southern Nigeria and bolster their reputation and influence in the Muslim world. Muslim West Africans did not simply side with Sudanese or Saudi Arabian officials in the matter of hajj but instead critiqued Arab racism and enslavement of Africans while also playing on British and American fears of communism in Africa and attempts to use Islam and religious discourse more broadly to create alliances with Muslim Nigerians. Hajj humanitarianism reveals careful Nigerian negotiations of global politics during the Cold War and non-Western involvement in international humanitarianism, which has been treated as a largely Euro-American phenomenon.

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