In a series of essays this collected volume challenges much of the conventional wisdom regarding the intellectual history of Muslim Africa. Ranging from the libraries of Early Modern Mauritania and Timbuktu to mosque lectures in contemporary Mombasa the contributors to this collection overturn many commonly accepted assumptions about Africa's Muslim learned classes. Rather than isolated, backward and out of touch, the essays in this volume reveal Muslim intellectuals as not only well aware of the intellectual currents of the wider Islamic world but also caring deeply about the issues facing their communities.
Studies of nineteenth and twentieth century Islamic reform have tended to focus more on the evolution of ideas than how those ideas emerge from local contexts or are disseminated to a broad audience. Using the urban culture of southern Somalia, known as the Benaadir, this book explores the role of local ʿulamāʾ as popular intellectuals in the early colonial period. Drawing on locally compiled hagiographies, religious poetry and Sufi manuals, it examines the place of religious discourse as social discourse and how religious leaders sought to guide society through a time of troubles through calls to greater piety but also by exhorting believers to examine their lives in the hopes of bringing society into line with their image of a proper Islamic society.