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“Market literature” in Arabic and ʿAjamī is a particular variety of West African Islamic book culture, which is especially strong in northern Nigerian states. Arabic-script “Nithography” (by analogy to Nollywood, the modern Nigerian film industry) represents a unique phenomenon, although it is reminiscent of the nineteenth-century Islamic lithography in the Middle East. Nigerian “market literature” in Arabic and ʿAjamī has mostly followed the pre-colonial manuscript tradition of Central Sudanic Africa, including writing styles, colophons and glosses. In contrast to Middle Eastern book culture, Nigerian typeset printing largely preceded the era of offset. The innovative elements of offset book design in Nigeria and further perspectives of “Nithography” in Arabic and ʿAjamī are discussed.

in Islamic Africa

In the past, sacred Islamic calligraphies were used strictly in sacred places, whereas profane calligraphies were used in secular spheres. However, the trend now among some Hausa artists is to extend the sacred Islamic calligraphic tradition to the social domain. Some Hausa calligraphers do so by “desacralizing” their Islamic-inspired calligraphies. This article deals with the extension of Islamic decorations to secular social domains in Kano, Northern Nigeria. Such works are produced by calligraphers like Sharu Mustapha Gabari. I show how Hausa calligraphers like Mustapha Gabari creatively extend their arts, talents, and skills to other social domains. These domains include the human body, clothing, houses, and other objects. This article describes the ways in which the sacred and the secular realms overlap, and illustrates some key processes of enrichment the Islamic arts have undergone in sub-Saharan Africa. These processes exemplify the ʿAjamization of Islamic arts in Africa, especially how sub-Saharan African Muslims continue to creatively appropriate and enrich the Islamic calligraphic and decorative traditions to fit their local realities and address their preoccupations.

in Islamic Africa
in Islamic Africa
in Islamic Africa

This paper takes a look at the odyssey of the Arabic script in Swahili hands. It shows how the distinction between the Arabic script and Swahili ʿAjamī constitutes a hyphen whose meaning is saturated with the story of Swahili society and language. The hyphen represents a non-trivial record of Swahili agency as innovative users, authors, transcribers, translators, and interpreters of the Arabic script enlarged its use and versatility as a viable medium to write Swahili, a Bantu language. The paper identifies as resilience Swahili efforts to sustain the use of the unmodified Arabic script alongside the enriched one. The Swahili wrote because they were compelled to write, everyone in their dialect, with content not divorced from script. The Swahili ʿAjamī record is a bonafide source and terminus of Africa’s knowledge.

in Islamic Africa

This paper focuses on Arabic scribal practices in a corpus of Ethiopian Islamic manuscripts from the region of Harar ascribed to the period from the eighteenth to the early nineteenth century. Two different aspects will be considered, namely the characteristic realization of specific graphemes and the methods for the justification of the text. The observations take into account the perceived sacred dimension of the texts, from copies of the Qurʾān to ʿAjamī works, and the different level of standardization of their written manifestations. This approach is intended to highlight the results of the cultural interplay between the scribal models acquired and their local reinterpretation in order to identify reference models and determine the criteria at the base of the processes of ʿAjamization of these scribal practices. I hope that the characteristics described in this article will represent the starting point for comparative studies of scribal practices between different Ethiopian regions and with other regions of the Islamic world.

in Islamic Africa
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s Tradition on the Holy Cross is a volume that combines both ancient and derived Ethiopic literature on the Cross. The work brings together all the major sources from manuscripts preserved in different monasteries and edited and translated into English. The sources include homilies by Minas bishop of Aksum, John Chrysostom, James of Sarug, as well as a number of anonymous authors, all translated from Greek during the Aksumite era.
The derived literature includes works by the famous men of the pen, including the fifteenth-century Abba Giyorgis of Sägla and Emperor Zär’a Ya‘ǝqob. Poetic hymns to the Cross constitute a part of the collection, one of these being glorification of the Cross by Abba Baḥrǝy, author of several important works.
Editors: Michael Kemper and Ralf Elger
The Piety of Learning testifies to the strong links between religious and secular scholarship in Islam, and reaffirms the role of philology for understanding Muslim societies both past and present. Senior scholars discuss Islamic teaching philosophies since the 18th century in Nigeria, Egypt, the Ottoman Empire, Central Asia, Russia, and Germany. Particular attention is paid to the power of Islamic poetry and to networks and practices of the Tijāniyya, Rifā‘iyya, Khalwatiyya, Naqshbandiyya, and Shādhiliyya Sufi brotherhoods. The final section highlights some unusual European encounters with Islam, and features a German Pietist who traveled through the Ottoman Empire, a Habsburg officer who converted to Islam in Bosnia, a Dutch colonial Islamologist who befriended a Salafi from Jeddah, and a Soviet historian who preserved Islamic manuscripts.

Contributors are: Razaq ‘Deremi Abubakre; Bekim Agai; Rainer Brunner; Alfrid K. Bustanov; Thomas Eich; Ralf Elger; Ulrike Freitag; Michael Kemper; Markus Koller; Anke von Kügelgen; Catherine Mayeur-Jaouen; Armina Omerika; Amidu Olalekan Sanni; Yaşar Sarikaya; Rüdiger Seesemann; Shamil Sh. Shikhaliev; Diliara M. Usmanova.