Divorce is not uncommon among Muslims in Senegal and tends to take place outside of court, even if the Senegalese Family Code has made out-of-court divorce illegal. Yet little is known about how women in particular may obtain divorce outside of the court. This article provides ethnographic material on the way women divorce out-of-court, and the repertoires of justification they draw on. In line with scholarly work on women’s use of Islamic courts in other countries the article foregrounds women’s agency, yet in a different out-of-court context. First, it is shown that women draw on multiple, gendered, repertoires. Second, it is argued that because family members play a central role in the divorces studied, the analysis of women’s agency requires an attentiveness to kin and women’s “kinwork”.
Although Islam has a long history in coastal northern Mozambique, the question of how Muslims manage family life there is little understood. Based on the analysis of historical, ethnographic and legal records, and a case study of a bairro (Port., ward) called Paquitequete in the contemporary coastal city of Pemba in Cabo Delgado province, this article focuses on Muslim family and gender relations in northern Mozambique. It argues that Muslims of this region maintain concurrent legal identities as Muslims, matrilineal Africans and citizens of the modern state. While women benefitted from matriliny by accessing the land and support from their maternal side, upon widowhood and divorce they lost access to their husband’s or common assets because the husbands’ matriclan claimed them. The perseverance of matriliny made local Muslims seem to abide less by Islamic norms, but historically they have combined the Shāfiʿī madhhab (Islamic legal school) with matrilineal custom. In contemporary Pemba, family and gender relations are regulated not only by Sharīʿa or by African ‘traditions’, but by a blend of elements from these two alongside modern legislations. Moreover, it could be said that this arrangement is endorsed by a kind of popular consensus, which is particularly salient in the Community Courts.
The Sokoto Caliphate, which was based on Islamic law, depended considerably on widespread systematic slavery in political, economic, and social spheres. According to Islamic law, it is only permitted, in principle, to enslave non-Muslims or unbelievers, and ʿUthmān b. Fūdī, the founder of the Caliphate, labeled his principal enemies (i.e. the rulers of the Hausa states and Bornu and their followers) as apostate unbelievers. However, Muslim jurists historically presented conflicting views regarding the permissibility of enslaving apostates. Faced with this legal disagreement, ʿUthmān, referring to numerous preceding scholars, argued that it was permissible to choose any one of several juristic views regarding a legal issue on which scholars disagreed. By the employment of this “free choice theory”, he justified the enslavement of those whom he labeled as apostates and consequently authorized the enslavement of all kinds of people whom he had categorized as unbelievers living in and around Hausaland.
This article examines the origins and development of colonial Franco-Muslim education, with specific reference to the Médersa of Saint-Louis in Senegal. Often described as a failed experiment on the part of the French administration, the médersa nevertheless marked the first effort to “modernize” Islamic education in West Africa. This article argues that the médersa evolved, and eventually closed, in tandem with local engagement and the establishment of the racist idea of islam noir. It also highlights the role of Algerians and the Algerian médersa system in West Africa to argue for the importance of a trans-Saharan approach to Islamic education in the colonial period.
In recent decades, the halal certification logo has emerged as a global phenomenon. Halal certification is an attempt to produce a new discursive and material basis for the practice of halal. Halal is extended into new places and products. In South Africa Muslim consumers now query the halal status of tomato sauce, bottled water and even food consumed at the homes of friends and family. Certification is a technology of halal whereby consumers self-regulate practice in new ways. However, the transformations of halal certification have not been complete. Documentary inspection and molecular investigation linked to new kinds of information and new technology have not necessarily eclipsed the importance of intra-Muslim trade, niyya (orientation/intention) and trust for the practice of halal. This paper considers the narratives and practices of middle-class Muslims in South Africa towards an understanding of the complex ways in which halal is practiced and transformed.
Reflecting on thoughts by Talal Asad, this paper suggests an approach to theorizing Sunniyat – the approach to Islam taken by those commonly called “Barelvis” – in South Africa by focusing on sensibilities and dispositions. It specifically examines the kinds of sensibilities that are cultivated by adherents in their relationship to the Prophet as well as in their practice of everyday ethics. The aim is to shed light on the embodied nature of these sensibilities and not just their discursive context. In Asad’s work, both dimensions are important, but discourse is a prelude to embodiment, with the latter constituting one’s mode of being in the world. In thinking about Sunniyat in this way, the works of Abdulkader Tayob and Seraj Hendricks provide important precedents for navigating both discursiveness and embodiment in a South African Muslim context.