Salafi Aesthetics: Preaching Among the Sunnance in Niamey, Niger

In: Journal of Religion in Africa
Abdoulaye Sounaye Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient Berlin Germany

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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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