Changing of the Guards: Politico-Religious Authority and Islamic Education in Mogadishu, Somalia

In: Islamic Africa

This article analyzes the impact of “modern”1 education on Shari’a practice and authority in Mogadishu, Somalia. More specifically, the article looks at the influence of graduates from modern Islamic universities on the Shari’a court movement in Mogadishu. The Shari’a Courts of Mogadishu, as they are now known, began to emerge in the Somali capital after the disintegration of the previous regime in early 1991. The Courts were formed in various neighborhoods in the city at different times throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. They were organized and run by neighborhood religious authorities and traditional elders. The Courts were thus independent of each other. When the Courts began to unify starting in 2003, a new group of elites educated in modern Islamic universities played an important role in their unification. This article looks at the education and socialization of these elites and how their rise to power changed Shari’a practice and authority.