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Editor: Umar Ryad
The present volume focuses on the political perceptions of the Hajj, its global religious appeal to Muslims, and the European struggle for influence and supremacy in the Muslim world in the age of pre-colonial and colonial empires. In the late fifteenth century and early sixteenth century, a pivotal change in seafaring occurred, through which western Europeans played important roles in politics, trade, and culture. Viewing this age of empires through the lens of the Hajj puts it into a different perspective, by focusing on how increasing European dominance of the globe in pre-colonial and colonial times was entangled with Muslim religious action, mobility, and agency. The study of Europe’s connections with the Hajj therefore tests the hypothesis that the concept of agency is not limited to isolated parts of the globe. By adopting the “tools of empires,” the Hajj, in itself a global activity, would become part of global and trans-cultural history.

With contributions by: Aldo D’Agostini; Josep Lluís Mateo Dieste; Ulrike Freitag; Mahmood Kooria; Michael Christopher Low; Adam Mestyan; Umar Ryad; John Slight and Bogusław R. Zagórski.


In: Islamic Africa

The powerful call (daʿwa) of Muḥammad Aḥmad, the self-styled Mahdī, and his ensuing jihad against Ottoman-Egyptian rule in Sudan provoked a variety of responses within the larger Muslim community. The ʿulamāʾ, al-Azhar-trained orthodox legal and religious scholars in Khartoum and Cairo, responded with outrage and detailed legal arguments, challenging the credentials of an individual they insisted was an impostor, and rehearsing instead the legitimacy of the Ottoman Sultan as the bona fide leader of the faithful. Beyond the establishment hierarchy, politically- and religiously-motivated activists and propagandists, in Sudan, Egypt and beyond, joined the debate over Muḥammad Aḥmad’s credibility: at stake was a substantial body of susceptible Muslim opinion, in the Ottoman provinces of the Hejaz and Syria and as far away as British-ruled India. This article describes in detail the spiritual and legal arguments over a personality whose claimed mandate had implications for two of the world’s largest empires.

In: Islamic Africa
In: Islamic Africa

The systemic silence surrounding the legacy of the trans-Saharan Slave trade in Morocco and the power of personal narratives in dismantling this silence.

In: Islamic Africa

This paper examines how visibility and legitimacy have been defined and achieved by Muslim women who have contributed to the development of Islam in Burkina Faso since the 1970s. We undertake a transversal study of the trajectories of women belonging to different cohorts of Arabic- and French-educated Muslims. In doing so, we highlight identity markers closely associated with key moments in their lives (activism through associations or personal initiatives, religious studies, the pilgrimage to Mecca, and media activities). Through the lens of performativity, we show how women have progressively gained visibility within the Muslim community. And although figures of religious authority remain uniformly male, women are increasingly able to claim legitimacy thanks to their flexible approach.

In: Islamic Africa

In this article, I provide one example of how a careful engagement with poetry can enrich our understanding of West African history. In 1852, al-ḤājjʿUmar Fūtī Tāl (d.1864) completed his panegyric of the Prophet Muḥammad—Safīnat al-saʿāda li-ahl ḍuʿf wa-l-najāda or The Vessel of Happiness and Assistance for the Weak. Through an analysis of Safīnat al-saʿāda, I explain Tāl’s creative use of two older poems that were widespread in West Africa—al-ʿIshrīniyyāt—The Twenties—of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Fāzāzī (d. 1230), and its takhmīs (pentastich) by Abū Bakr ibn Muhīb (n.d.). Though Safīnat al-saʿāda was primarily meant for devotion, it also reflected Tāl’s scholarly prestige and claims he made about his religious authority. In the long prose introduction to the poem, Tāl claimed that he was a vicegerent of the Prophet, and therefore had authority to guide and lead the Muslims of West Africa. His composition of Safīnat al-saʿāda was partly meant to prove this point.

In: Islamic Africa