The ʿAjamization of Islam in Ethiopia through Esoteric Textual Manifestations in Two Collections of Ethiopian Arabic Manuscripts

in Islamic Africa
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While the word ʿAjamī traditionally refers to texts in many languages written with the modified Arabic script, the meaning has been expanded in the concept of ʿAjamization used in this volume. ʿAjamization is construed in this article, as it is operationalized in the volume, to refer to the various tangible and subtle enrichments of Islam, its culture, and its written and artistic traditions in Africa.1 In this sense, it is not only the modification (enrichment) of the Arabic script that defines ʿAjamization, but also other features such as the content and the aesthetics of the texts. This paper focuses on the cultural dimension of ʿAjamization in two collections of Ethiopian Islamic texts written in Arabic.2 These texts encompass magic-related materials, including theurgic texts and invocations to jinn. 3 I will examine these texts to ascertain whether they reflect a local cosmology, even if they are not written in ʿAjamī but in Arabic.4



  • Abjad. ies01853 (fol. 3r). In this sample the letters of the abjad are ordered according to the modern alphabet instead of following the traditional order.31

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  • Magic Square. weiner00053 (loose folio)

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  • Secret alphabets. ies00280

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  • Fātiḥa with abjad letters in the frame. ies04589 (fol. 1v)

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  • Instructions for an amulet to ease difficult births in the ms. weiner00013 (fol. 97r)

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  • Instructions for an amulet to avoid bedbugs in the ms. ies04562 (fol. 1v)

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  • Magic scrolls (mss. ies00647 and ies00648).

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  • Invocation to Kabīkaj in the ms. weiner00020 (fol. 182v)

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  • African shields as juzʾ markers of the Qurʾān in the ms. weiner00201 (fol. 14r)

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  • Fragment of a Takhmīs in ʿAjamī in the ms. weiner00141 (fol. 1v)

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