Ceremony and Symbols of Authority: 1882-1898
The forces of the Sudanese Mahdī captured Khartoum in 1885 and brought an end to sixty-four years of Turco-Egyptian occupation of the Sudan. The Mahdī’s revolt—from the perspective of many scholars of the period, such as P. M. Holt—was launched because of the Egyptian government’s attempts to end slavery in the Sudan. This article analyzes the extant proclamations, sermons, and rulings of the Mahdī in order to identify his attitudes on slavery and emancipation. It argues that, contrary to what previous scholars have concluded, the Mahdī’s revolt against the Turco-Egyptian forces was not motivated primarily by the suppression of the slave trade. Rather, the Mahdī responded to the occupation’s imposition of poll taxes as a corrupted form of government divorced from the pure Islamic state he envisioned founding.