Abstract : This study discusses the vital roles that religion and language played in the transition and transformation of education in northern Nigeria during British colonial rule, 1900-1960. It traces the history of early contacts between European explorers and traders with the people of northern Nigeria and the Sokoto Caliphate before the establishment of colonial rule. In particular, the study discusses the colonial administration’s policies on religion and language and how they were used as instruments of power and social stability. It probes the effectiveness of the Lugardian policy of non-interference in religious affairs in which Qurʾanic schools and missionary schools were left to function independently to serve the interests of the colonial government. It also explores the issue of language, especially of writing Hausa and other Nigerian languages in Arabic script, called Ajamiwhich was scrapped by the British colonial administration and its effects on the Islamic religious education and mass adult literacy in northern Nigeria.