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Rhiannon Grant

Abstract

In British Quakers and Religious Language, Rhiannon Grant explores the ways in which this community discusses the Divine. She identifies characteristic patterns of language use and, through a detailed analysis of examples from published sources, uncovers the philosophical and theological claims which support these patterns. These claims are not always explicit within the Quaker community, which does not have written creeds. Instead, implicit claims are often being made with community functions in mind. These can include a desire to balance potentially conflicting needs, such as the wish to have a single unified community that simultaneously welcomes diversity of belief. Having examined these factors, Grant connects the claims made to wider developments in the disciplines of theology, philosophy of religion, and religious studies, especially to the increase in multiple religious belonging, the work of nonrealist theologians such as Don Cupitt, and pluralist philosophers of religion such as John Hick.

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Stephanie Zehnle

This paper is devoted to geographical knowledge of the world and the definition of homeland and outland among the elite of the early Sokoto Caliphate (ca. 1800–1840). It argues that with the creation of a territorial jihadist state, geography became an important tool within religious and political discourses because in Sokoto warfare was predicated upon a precise mapping of the “Land of Islam” and the “Land of Unbelief”. The circulation of contradictory accounts about landscapes and rivers in the Sahel via medieval Arabic books, traders, pilgrims and soldiers, will receive special attention. The key argument is that written geographical accounts and cartography from Sokoto were not only restricted by the information available for this task, but also by the characteristics of the genres: texts can express uncertainties about concepts of space, in contrast, cartography requires geographical definition and spatial exactitude. This article is thus dedicated to the analysis of content and form of geographical discourses in the early Sokoto State by the comparison of texts and a map.

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Jeremy Dell

Thanks to the work of scholars on both sides of the Atlantic, the orthographic practice known as “ʿajami,” or the writing of non-Arabic languages in Arabic script, is better known today than ever before, expanding alongside scholarly efforts to understand it. This article contributes to this renewed interest by examining the first known commentary on the Qur’an written entirely in Wolofal, or Wolof in modified Arabic script. Contra the prevailing populist spirit of contemporary ʿajami scholarship, it argues that ʿajami texts were not always intended for an audience of non-Arabophones. In the case of Mawridu al-ẓamān fī tafsīr al-qurān, a Wolofal commentary written by the Murid scholar Muhammadu Dem (d. 1965), ʿajami techniques were employed to produce a text explicitly intended for a specialized audience already literate in Arabic. Dem’s commentary therefore qualifies the argument that ʿajami texts necessarily reached non-Arabophone audiences.

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Zachary Wright

The eighteenth century witnessed a flurry of Islamic scholarly exchange, connecting North and West Africa to the Middle East and even India. The Islamic sciences transmitted through these networks have had lasting resonance in Africa, particularly in chains transmitting Ḥadīth and Sufi affiliations. Academics have been justly skeptical as to the actual content of these often short meetings between scholars, suggesting such meetings tell us little about shared scholarly understandings. Study of unpublished manuscripts detailing the acquisition of “secrets” (asrār), apparently widespread in these eighteenth-century networks, can add new understanding to the affinities between scholarly legacies emerging in the period. This paper considers such questions in relationship to Aḥmad al-Tijānī (d. 1815, Fez), the founder of the Tijāniyya Sufi order prominent in West Africa today.