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 Format: MS WORD ::   Chapters: 1-5 ::   Pages: 56 ::   Attributes: Questionnaire, Data Analysis, Abstract ::   1,836 people found this useful

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Time in African traditional life is simply a composition of events which have occurred, those which are taking place now and those which are inevitably or immediately to occur. What is certain to occur, or what falls within the rhythm of natural phenomena, is in the category of inevitable or potential time. Actual time is therefore what is present and what is past. Time in the African sense evolves. Time moves backward rather than forward and it is against this background that the concept of life and death becomes problematic in trying to understand the time frames in which they fit in the African philosophical perspective of potential time and actual time. However, there are some contradictions by people of various religions in Africa. This is the premise of this research.

Every race across the globe has her past which constitute part of the identity to such a race. Time concept in Africa, in the distant past and in the present dispensation is intrinsically part of the identity of Africans. A reconstruction of African time concept in the distant past is no doubt a worthy endeavour for the purpose of historical reference, curiosity of how Africans lived their lives in the past and also to constitute knowledge of the philosophical ideas of the people about reality as a whole. This particular enquiry is masterminded by the beliefs of many people, especially in the advance countries that Africans do not value time, neither are they time conscious. To what extent are these submissions correct? A search into the past, pre-colonial time in Africa will go a long way to help to verify the facts about these statements.

Africans perceive the time concept as a social cultural reality in the realm of the people’s philosophical scholarship. Obviously, the Africans have their own system of thoughts. They are conscious of their environment, the nature around them and reality as a whole, including the awareness of the Divine. Their knowledge of the created order constitutes their compendium of philosophy. Time consciousness is definitely part of this wealth of knowledge. Oladipo is absolutely correct when he says African philosophers should be pre occupied with reflections on African cultural realities and traditions (Oladipo 1992:15). This research work is, therefore, a contribution to reflections on African cultural realities and tradition.

In African traditional religions the sense of time is often described in cyclical rather than linear imagery. In the cosmology of the Dagara (an ethnic group in the Niger region of West Africa), for instance, the wheel or circle represents the cyclical nature of life as well as of the Earth. The wheel contains everything found on Earth. According to the Yoruba (an ethnic group from Nigeria), the life force that pervades all phenomena exists in an eternal cycle of complex interactions between cosmic domains; these interactions should always remain in balance. In African traditional religions the cosmogony (theory of the origin of the universe) usually describes humans appearing near the end of creation. In many creation stories God is likened to a potter who creates humans out of clay and then pours the breath of life into them.

African religions rely on the memory of oral stories. Thus, doctrine tends to be more flexible than it is in text-based religions, and it changes according to the immediate needs of religious followers. African traditional religions are a communal endeavor, and it is not required that an individual believe in every element. As in any democratic system, individuals may participate in ways that benefit their interests, their community roles, or their status as religious leaders. Because religion permeates all aspects of a traditional African culture, if an individual rejects the culture's religion, he or she may become isolated from family, friends, and the community.

Narratives about the creation of the universe (cosmogony) and the nature and structure of the world (cosmology) form the core philosophy of African religions. These narratives are conveyed in a linguistic form that scholars often refer to as myth. The term "myth" in African religions means sacred stories that are believed to be true by those who hold to them. To the African people who espouse them, myths reveal significant events and episodes of the most profound and transcendent meaning. They are not fixed, because accounts may vary from generation to generation or even among individuals who tell these stories. Myths do, however, retain similar structures and purposes: to describe the way things were at the beginning of time and to explain the cosmic order. They generally involve superhuman entities, gods, demigods, spirits, and ancestors.

The notion that myth is nonrational and unscientific, while history is critical and rational, is not always accurate, nor does it represent the outlook of practitioners of traditional religions. Many African myths deal with events that devotees consider as authentic and "real" or as symbolic expressions of historical events. Furthermore, scholars today assert that the supposedly accurate records of missionaries, colonial administrators, and the indigenous elite were susceptible to distortion. The fact that myths have endured for generations gives them their authority. Each generation expresses and reinterprets the myths, making the events revealed in them relevant to contemporary conditions.

African cosmogonic narratives explain how the world was put into place by a divine personality, usually the Supreme God in collaboration with lesser supernatural beings who act on his behalf or aid in the creative process. In several cultures a supreme deity performs creation through mere thought processes. In other cases the Supreme Being instructs lesser deities on how to create by providing them with materials to undertake the process. For instance, the Yoruba believe that the Supreme Being, Olódùmarè, designated the orisa (deities) responsible for creating the universe. In the creation story of the Abaluhya of Kenya, the Supreme Being, called Wele Xakaba, created the universe in a manner that resembles the seven-day creation of the world by God in the Bible, with the seventh day being a time of rest. There are myths that say the world was created out of an existing abyss or a watery universe uninhabited by animate beings. In African cosmological narratives creation is always portrayed as a complex process, whether the universe is said to have evolved from preexisting matter or from divine thought.

The Fon of Benin, in western Africa, and their neighbors, the Yoruba of Nigeria, share many elements of a highly intricate cosmology. They worship a number of the same deities—including Sango, god of thunder and lightning; Ògún, god of war and iron; Èsù, messenger of the gods; and Ifa, the god of divination. The names given to the specific deities in Benin may vary slightly from those of the Yoruba. There are similar motifs in the cosmological narratives of both cultures, though the Fon narratives are more complex than the Yoruba's.

Another essential aspect of African traditional religion is divination, which devotees use to access the sacred knowledge of the deities and the cosmos. The process of divination allows the deities' feelings and messages to be revealed to humans. Individuals or groups of people practice divination in order to discern the meanings and consequences of past, present, and future events. Various forms of divination exist in African societies. Perhaps the most common is the appearance of signs that the elders consider to have significant meanings—for themselves, the people around them, the family, the clan, or the village. For instance, howling dogs signify the impending death of a relative. An injured toe means that a visit will be dreadful. A nightmare indicates the coming of an unpleasant event.

Although African religions have not embarked on a systematic theology, the myths, rituals, and stories of the gods and ancestors point to a profound statement on moral justice. The gods and ancestors are guardians of morality. They profess habits of truth, justice, honesty, good character, and diligence. They reward good deeds and punish bad deeds. A number of the traditions talk about judgment, through which evil deeds are punished and good deeds are rewarded. Africans believe that punishment may be communal or may pass from one generation to another. Lineage or familial misfortune signifies punishment for the past sins of members of the lineage. Certain antisocial behaviors, such as theft, witchcraft, and sorcery, are taboo, and offenders may suffer punishment of death. Because African religions focus on contemporary worldly salvation, Africans believe that bad character is punished in this world.


African concept of time is the key to our understanding of the basic religious and philosophical concepts of the people. The concept of time may help to explain beliefs, attitudes, practices, and general way of life of African people, not only in the traditional set up, but also in the modern situation (whether religion, political, economical, or educational). There is no enough literature or research on the the concept of time as regards to African tradition religion.

Africans perceive the time concept as a social cultural reality in the realm of the people’s philosophical scholarship. Obviously, the Africans have their own system of thoughts. They are conscious of their environment, the nature around them and reality as a whole, including the awareness of the Divine. Their knowledge of the created order constitutes their compendium of philosophy. Time consciousness is definitely part of this wealth of knowledge and the African tradition Religion. Oladipo is absolutely correct when he says African philosophers should be pre occupied with reflections on African cultural realities and traditions (Oladipo 1992:15).

Religion in Africa means nothing else but Christianity. Outside Christianity there is no salvation and no knowledge of God and there is no civilization this was told to Africans who already had their Traition Religion and time for every activity. They claimed that Christianity is not just a religion but the truth. As a result, Religious Education is Christocentric. There is no room for legitimate expression of traditional religious beliefs and practices. This approach has produced a dualism in the African child as the indigenous religion taught at home also functions in the mind of the child.

The introduction of Christianity to Africans has resulted in ethnocentrism where the traditional religion is judged according to Christian standards. As a result religious bigotry, "a holier than thou" attitude (Ndlovu 1991: 31 ), has been experienced. It is soothing to know that a largepercentage of Africans especially the lelna people of Zuru LGA Kebbi State have retained their links with traditional religious beliefs and practices and understand the time that  comes with it.

African Traditional Religion was not regarded as a true religion by missionaries, hence it was called heathenism, a religion of the uncivilised. On the basis of its supposedly "heathen" character, it was not included in the Religion Education syllabus. This type of education has resulted in a religious dualism which has affected black children, since both religions are regarded as important by those operating in two educational contexts, that is, the home and school.

It is as a result of these controversies that this research work will give a critical analysis to the concept of time in African tradition to give a clear understanding of the African religion using lelna people of Zuru LGA Kebbi State Nigerian as a case study.


The main aim of the study is to critically analyse the concept of time in African Tradition Religion a case study of Lelna people of Zuru LGA Kebbi State. Other specific objectives include:

  1. To examine the concept of time in African tradition religion.
  2. To determine why the African traditional religion is called a religion
  3. To examine the history of the African Tradition Religion.
  4. To determine the African Concept of Time in the Pre- Colonial Era
  1. What is the concept of time in African tradition religion?
  2. Why the African traditional religion is called a religion?
  3. What is the history of the African Tradition Religion?
  4. What is the African Concept of Time in the Pre- Colonial Era?

This research work is, therefore, a contribution to reflections on African cultural realities, tradition and religion using Lelna people of Zuru LGA kebbi State.

Therefore, this research proposes that African Religion should be taught at schools as a subject and as a religion in its own right. This approach will also enable the people of Zuru LGA to know their background and to remove the cognitive and affective dualism caused by colonization through Christianity which led black children not to differentiate between Western civilization and Christianity as well as forgetting their root.

Freedom of religion is the promise of all the leaders of political organisations. So this research will serve as a hope that the black people will be free from religious slavery and will be allowed to practice their beliefs and rituals without any mockery from the so-called "Monotheistic Religion". The study will bring to the knowledge of many that the African Traditional Religion was and is in existence and has time too.


The study will cover the concept of Time in African Tradition Religion (a case study of Lelna people of Zuru LGA Kebbi State.

  1. Financial constraint- Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).
  2. Time constraint- The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.


Time has been called an illusion, a dimension, a smooth- flowing continuum, and an expression of separation among events that occur in the same physical location.

Time is the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole.

Physicists define time as the progression of events from the past to the present into the future. Basically, if a system is unchanging, it is timeless. Time can be considered to be the fourth dimension of reality, used to describe events in three-dimensional space


Existing in or as part of a tradition long established. It is can be said to be following or belonging to the customs or ways of behaving that have continued in group of people or society for long time without changing.


Religion is the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. It is a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

African Traditional Religion

Dopamu (1991: 21) defines African Traditional Religion as: African Traditional Religion comprises the religious beliefs and practices of the Africans which have been in existence from time immemorial, and are still adhered to today by many Africans which have been handed down by their forebears.



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