Ana Luiza de Oliveira e Silva

This article explores how the Nigerien intellectual and politician Boubou Hama (1906/09–1982) represented the relationship between Islamic and “traditional” educational ideals. Based on an understanding that Islamic education was closely linked to the historical dissemination and establishment of Islam, Hama advanced a particular interpretation of the reception and circulation of Muslim knowledge in West Africa. He argued that, first, the presence of Islam should be understood in its African historical context; second, that the foundations of African culture were equally “traditional” and Islamic; and third, that the forms of education that had shaped such culture could be used as the basis for a political plan of development. By doing so, Hama asserted that just as Islam was crucial to the continent’s history, it was a central part of Africa’s engagement with the wider world.

Insa Nolte

In West Africa, Muslim learning has historically been shaped by two key engagements: the participation in wider Islamic debates and the co-existence with non-Muslims. In the twentieth and twenty-first century, Islamic education in West Africa was transformed by the imposition of the secular state and Western education. But as Muslims encountered secularism and Christianity, they also increasingly drew on pedagogies that emanated from Middle Eastern and Asian Islam. The articles in this Special Issue illustrate that as Islamic scholars and leaders from different backgrounds engaged simultaneously with the diversity of global Islam and the growing presence of secular and Christian institutions, they developed a multiplicity of educational practices and visions. Thus learning to be Muslim in West Africa reflects both the engagement with Islamic discourse and debates about the boundaries of Islam.

Yunus Dumbe

This article explores how the revival of the Tijaniyya and the Salafi movement shaped public discourse about Islam in Ghana. Examining the debates which characterised the religious sphere in the 1990s re-democratisation, the article highlights the power struggle which shaped the relations between the contending Muslim groups. It argues that the recognition of the Tijaniyya movement as a representative for all Muslims during Ghana’s re-democratisation in the 1990s emboldened its sympathisers to adopt repressive measures against the Salafi minority. While the local success of Salafism was often linked to locally specific forms of ethnic, political or generational self-assertion, the shared experience of political disadvantage during this period led to a consolidation of Salafi activities at the national level. Thus, as the Tijaniyya influence was politicised by Government, the ensuing conflicts between Sufi and Salafi groups also led to a politicisation of Salafism from below. Illustrating that intra-Muslim debates and disagreements cannot be divorced from their political context, this study demonstrates that learning to be Muslim in Ghana is deeply embedded in political, ethnic, and intergenerational dynamics.

Sara Katz

This article discusses the debates about Islam and Muslim behavior in colonial Lagosian newspapers from the 1920s to the 1940s. It argues that the content of debates about Islam varied depending on the language in which they took place: while Islamic debates in English advocated reforming both Islam and Muslim behavior through practices that reflected British and Christian missionary values and aesthetics, Yoruba-language discourses centered on the moral obligations of the individual to the wider community.

Sakariyau Alabi Aliyu

Poised between its Emirate heritage and the mixed-religious culture of fellow Yoruba-speakers, the city of Ilorin has long served as a centre of Islamic learning in Yorubaland. In the colonial period Yoruba Muslims became strongly aware of the need to compete educationally with Christians who had access to Western education, Ilorin also became a location for the modernisation of Islamic schooling. This article explores two pedagogical models that were successfully established in Ilorin during the colonial and post-colonial period, the Adabiyya and Markaziyya. While the emergence of these madrasa-type educational systems reflects some epistemological changes away from embodied learning, the variation between different models illustrates that there are many different ways in which Islamic education can be modernised. The article also highlights that practices of embodiment continue to play an important role in Ilorin, which demonstrates the ongoing importance of Sufi values in modern Islamic education.

Ahmed Parkar

This article briefly examines the production of Swahili-Islamic manuscripts with specific reference to Swahili ink making in coastal Kenya. The Swahili scribes used organic, carbonic and carbonic-iron inks to write their manuscripts for centuries. Currently, the knowledge on what sort of ink ingredients were used and how to make the inks themselves is in the domain of a dwindling number of elderly individuals. This paper tries to explain the types of ingredients mentioned by these individuals during interviews carried by the researcher in the period of 2015–2017 in East Africa.