There is much ambiguity in terms of how Salafism is understood as an empirical phenomenon and how it is used as an analytical concept. This is partly because it often occurs rather uncritically in the media and in public discourses, but also due to the fact that Salafism represents a phenomenon encompassing a broad range of issues. This paper gives an overview over features and trends inherent in what I call African Salafism, focusing on issues such as the role of African agency, quests for religious purity, and processes of politicization of purity. The concept of African Salafism is obviously not unproblematic, as it may give the impression that we are dealing with a phenomenon that can neatly be delineated, and that it is characterized by a certain set of features making it distinct from other forms. It is important to recognize that African Salafism signifies the representation of Salafism on the African continent, as something shaped by African realities, and which obviously would contain significant local varieties.
Samira HajReconfiguring Islamic Tradition: Reform Rationality and Modernity (Stanford: Stanford University Press2011); Oliver Scharbrodt “The Salafiyya and Sufism: Muhammad ‘Abduh and His Treatise on Mystical Inspirations (Risalat Al-Waridat)” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 70 (2007).
Brynjar LiaThe Society of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt: The Rise of an Islamist Movement 1928–1942 (Reading: Ithaca Press1998): 114f.; Richard P. Mitchell The Society of the Muslim Brothers (New York: Oxford University Press 1969) : 14.
Spencer J. TriminghamThe Influence of Islam Upon Africa (London: Longman1968): 3f. More nuanced views have been forwarded in the contributions to the edited volume of Scott Reese The Transmission of Learning in Islamic Africa (Leiden: Brill 2004): in the works of Anne Bang Sufis and Scholars of the Sea: Family Networks in East Africa 1860–1925 (London: RoutledgeCurzon 2003); and in Jonathan Miran Red Sea Citizens: Cosmopolitan Society and Cultural Change in Massawa (Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press 2009); as well in the papers edited by Roman Loimeier & Rüdiger Seesemann The Global World of the Swahili: Interfaces of Islam Identity and Space in 19th and 20th Century East Africa (Berlin: Lit Verlag 2006).
Christian Coulon“Vers Une Sociologie Des Confréries En Afrique Orientale,” in Les Voies De L’islam En Afrique Orientaleed. Francois Constantin (Paris: Karthala 1987); Francois Constantin “Leadership Muslim Identities and East African Politics: Tradition Bureaucratization and Communication” in Muslim Identity and Social Change in Sub-Saharan Africa ed. Louis Brenner (Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press 1993); Abdin Chande “Radicalism and Reform in East Africa” in The History of Islam in Africa ed. Randall L. Pouwels and Nehemia Levtzion (Oxford: James Currey 2000).
Oliver RoyL’échec Du L’islam Du Politique (Paris: Seuil1992): 144; cf. Samadia Sadouni “New Religious Actors in South Africa: The Example of Islamic Humanitarianism” in Islam and Muslim Politics in Africa ed. Benjamin Soares and René Otayek (New York: Palgrave MacMillan 2007): 106.
Ousmane KaneMuslim Modernity in Postcolonial Nigeria: A Study of the Society for the Removal of Innovation and Reinstatement of Tradition (Leiden: Brill2003): 66 123f.; Sirriyeh Sufis and Anti Sufis: The Defence Rethinking and Rejection of Sufism in the Modern World: 158f.; John Hunwick “Sub-Saharan Africa and the Wider World of Islam: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives” in African Islam and Islam in Africa: Encounters between Sufis and Islamists ed. David Westerlund and Eva Evers Rosander (London: Hurst & Company 1997).
Louis BrennerControlling Knowledge: Religion Power and Schooling in a West African Muslim Society (Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press2001): 89f.; Lansine Kaba The Wahhabiyya: Islamic Reform and Politics in French West Africa (Evanston: Northwestern University Press 1974): 64f.; Ousman Kobo “The Development of Wahhabi Reforms in Ghana and Burkina Faso 1960–1990: Elective Affinities between Western-Educated Muslims and Islamic Scholars” Comparative Studies in Society and History 51 no. 3 (2009).
Robert LaunayBeyond the Stream: Islam and Society in a West African Town (Berkeley: University of California Press1992): 182f. The need to view African Muslim practices outside the lenses of Sufi orders has been emphasized by Benjamin Soares who argues that the continued preoccupation with Sufi orders is an inaccurate analytical approach to Islam in Africa which goes back to an out-dated structuralist perspective (Benjamin F. Soares “Rethinking Islam and Muslim Societies in Africa” African Affairs 106 no. 432 (2007): 320).
Rüdiger Seesemann“Kenyan Muslims, the Aftermath of 9/11, and the “War on Terror”,” in Islam and Muslim Politics in Africaed. Benjamin Soares and René Otayek (New York: Palgrave 2007); Kai Kresse “Debating Maulidi: Ambiguities and Transformations of Muslim Identity Along the Kenyan Swahili Coast” in The Global Worlds of the Swahili: Interfaces of Islam Identity and Space in the 19th and 20th-Century East Africa ed. Rüdiger Seesemann and Roman Loimeier (Berlin: Lit Verlag 2007).
Benjamin F. SoaresIslam and the Prayer Economy: History and Authority in a Malian Town (Edinburgh: Ann Arbor2005): 186; Kobo “The Development of Wahhabi Reforms in Ghana and Burkina Faso 1960–1990: Elective Affinities between Western-Educated Muslims and Islamic Scholars”: 523.
Yunus Dumbe“The Salafi Praxis of Constructing Religious Identity in Africa: A Comparative Perspective of the Growth of the Movements in Accra and Cape Town,”Islamic Africa2 no. 2 (2011): 113; Østebø Localising Salafism: Religious Change among Oromo Muslims in Bale Ethiopia: 111f.
Terje Østebø“Une Économie Salafi De La Prière Dans La Région Du Balé En Éthiopie,”Afrique Contemporaineno. 231 (2009); Kobo “The Development of Wahhabi Reforms in Ghana and Burkina Faso 1960–1990: Elective Affinities between Western-Educated Muslims and Islamic Scholars”; Kaba The Wahhabiyya: Islamic Reform and Politics in French West Africa: 113f.; Brenner Controlling Knowledge: Religion Power and Schooling in a West African Muslim Society: 67 148f.; Muhammed Sani Umar “Changing Islamic Identity in Nigeria from the 1960s to the 1980s: From Sufism to Anti-Sufism” in Muslim Identity and Social Change in Sub-Saharan Africa ed. Louis Brenner (Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press 1993): 176f.; Adeline Masquelier “Debating Muslims Disputed Practices: Struggles for the Realization of an Alternative Moral Order in Niger” in Civil Society and the Political Imagination in Africa ed. Jean Comaroff and John L. Comaroff (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1999): 222 fn 7; Loimeier Islamic Reform and Political Change in Northern Nigeria: 255f.
Thomas Hegghammer“Jihadi-Salafis or Revolutionaries? On Religion and Politics in the Study of Militant Islamism,” in Global Salafism: Islam’s New Religious Movemented. Roel Meijer (London: Hurst & Company 2009): 247.
Stéphane Lacroix“Between Revolution and Apoliticism: Nasir Al-Din Al-Albani and His Impact on the Shaping of Contemporary Salafism,” in Global Salafism: Islam’s New Religious Movemented. Roel Meijer (London: Hurst & Company 2009): 69f.