In the period c. 1880-1940, organized Sufism spread rapidly in the western Indian Ocean. New communities turned to Islam, and Muslim communities turned to new texts, practices and religious leaders. On the East African coast, the orders were both a vehicle for conversion to Islam and for reform of Islamic practice. The impact of Sufism on local communities is here traced geographically as a ripple reaching beyond the Swahili cultural zone southwards to Mozambique, Madagascar and Cape Town. Through an investigation of the texts, ritual practices and scholarly networks that went alongside Sufi expansion, this book places religious change in the western Indian Ocean within the wider framework of Islamic reform.
This book presents fifty-one didactic and devotional Sufi poems (with English translations) composed by the ulama of Brava, on Somalia’s Benadir coast, in Chimiini, a Bantu language related to Swahili and unique to the town. Because the six ulama-poets, among whom two women, guided local believers towards correct beliefs and behaviours in reference to specific authoritative religious texts, the poems allow insight into their authors’ religious education, affiliations, in which the Qādiriyyah and Aḥmadiyyah took pride of place, and regional connections. Because the poems refer to local people, places, events, and livelihoods, they also bring into view the uniquely local dimension of Islam in this small East African port city in this time-period.