Salafi Aesthetics: Preaching Among the Sunnance in Niamey, Niger

in Journal of Religion in Africa
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Abstract

In their effort to contribute to Islamic reform in Niamey, young Salafi (Sunnance) have embraced preaching and have made it part of their religious practice. As preachers or audience members, they invest time and energy to imagine various ways to popularize the Sunna, the tradition of the prophet Muhammad. Because of the jokes, mimicry, and theatrics that characterize their preaching style, their critics have rejected their initiatives, claiming they are unqualified and therefore should not be allowed to preach. In response, Sunnance have argued that an effective sermon (wazu) requires art, skills, ingenuity and know-how (iyawa, hikma in Hausa). By examining how aesthetics are central to Sunnance popular and street preaching, this article invites a reexamination of Salafism through its aesthetic forms. Wazu is not just a gathering that seeks to deliver a message, be it divine; it is also a way to promote religiosity through particular cultural and aesthetic performances.

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Figures

  • Young women having a conversation in a street in Saga, Niamey.
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  • Sunnance sisters in Quartier Abidjan, Niamey.
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  • Sunnance young women participating in a wazu in Yantala, Niamey.
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  • A group of men in wazu at Djado Sekou, a cultural center in Niamey.
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  • Alarama, a popular preacher in his home office in Niamey.
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  • A group of women participating in a wazu at Djado Sekou, one of the cultural centers in Niamey.
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  • Men participating in a wazu in the open air.
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