The Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies was founded in 1961. It was established to meet the growing needs and desires of Nigerian students to learn the Arabic Language and to study the religion and culture of Islam. Islam has been, and is still playing a very important role in shaping the life and outlook of millions of Nigerians, particularly in areas now known as the Northern Nigeria, a well as Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Ekiti, Delta and Edo States. 

It opened with Dr. B.G. Martins (now Professor Martins, in the U.S.A.), Mr. J.O. Hunwick (now Professor Hunwick also in the U.S.A.) and Mr. F.H. El-Masri (now Professor El-Masri in the University of Nairobi, Kenya). They were joined in 1963 by Mr. A.R. Dehaini (a Lecturer seconded and paid by the Lebanese government). In 1964, Mr. M.O.A. Abdul (later Professor and Head of Department, who passed away in February 1986) joined as the first Nigerian member of the academic staff.

In addition to the B.A. Honours Degree offered by the Department, a Certificate course in Arabic Studies was introduced in the 1963/64 session. This is a one-year intensive course for Arabic teachers some of whom had had many years of experience in the teaching of the language. Two years later, the course was expanded to include Islamic Studies. In 1975/76 session, a Diploma course in Arabic and Islamic Studies was also introduced. It was specially designed to cater for Grade Two Certified teachers who had taken Islamic religious Knowledge as one of their subjects at the Teachers’ Certificate examination. However, holders of the WASC/G.C.E. (five credits) were also admitted into the programme. This course was introduced as an interim measure for the provision of qualified teachers of Arabic and Islamic Religious Knowledge in Secondary School where there had been a dire need for qualified teachers of the subjects. The two Sub-Degree programmes, among others, have been scrapped by the University although the need still persists.