Blacks of Tunis in al-Timbuktāwī’s Hatk al-Sitr

A West African Jihadist’s Perspectives on Bori, Religious Deviance, and Race and Enslavement in Ottoman Tunisia. With Translation and Critical Annotation


While in the Ottoman Regency of Tunis after returning from pilgrimage around 1809 C.E., the Timbuktu cleric and religious puritanist, Aḥmad b. al-Qādī b. Yūsuf b. Ibrāhīm al-Fulānī al-Timbuktāwī wrote Hatk al-Sitr ʿammā ʿalayhi sūdān Tūnis min al-kufr (Piercing the Veil: Being an Account of the Infidel Religion of the Blacks of Tunis), which he dedicated to the ruler of the Beylic, Ḥammūda Pāsha (r. 1782-1814 C.E.)
In this treatise, al-Timbuktāwī provided a vivid account of the Hausa Bori cult and entreated Tunisian authorities to imprison or even re-enslave its practitioners whom he distinguished from the heterogeneous Black population in the Regency.
This critical edition and complete translation of Hatk al-Sitr places the story of al-Timbuktāwī’s encounter with the Bori practitioners not just in their Maghribi and Sudanic African contexts, but also in the environment of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Jihad and Islamic revivalism. The result is an insight into a discourse on Bori, jihad, and race and enslavement in the context of the African Diaspora to the Islamic World.

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Ismael M. Montana, Ph.D. (2007), is an Associate Professor of History at Northern Illinois University and a historian of slavery in Ottoman-Tunisia and the western Mediterranean rim. He is the author of The Abolition of Slavery in Ottoman Tunisia (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2013) and a co-editor of Slavery, Islam and Diaspora (Trenton: Africa World Press in 2009).
All interested in the history of the Ottoman Regency of Tunis, slavery, social and religious history of sub-Saharan African Diaspora communities in North Africa and the western Mediterranean rim in general.
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