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Muslim Societies in Africa

A Historical Anthropology

Roman Loimeier

Publication Year: 2013

Muslim Societies in Africa provides a concise overview of Muslim societies in Africa in light of their role in African history and the history of the Islamic world. Roman Loimeier identifies patterns and peculiarities in the historical, social, economic, and political development of Africa, and addresses the impact of Islam over the longue durée. To understand the movements of peoples and how they came into contact, Loimeier considers geography, ecology, and climate as well as religious conversion, trade, and slavery. This comprehensive history offers a balanced view of the complexities of the African Muslim past while looking toward Africa’s future role in the globalized Muslim world.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. 1-7


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p. vii-vii

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xiii

The above quotation from Marshall G. S. Hodgson’s 1974 work The Venture of Islam (3: 22) points to an important purpose of the present book, namely to see the history and development of African Muslim societies within African historical contexts. I do not propose, of course, to dissociate African Muslim history from European history, but I would like to look at African-European relations from a southern ...

List of Abbreviations

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p. xv-xv

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Introduction: The Geographical and Anthropological Setting

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pp. 1-10

Africa’s different habitats and ecosystems, as well as its surrounding seas and oceans, have been major formative forces in the development of societies on the continent. Before delving into the analysis of the history of Muslims in Africa, it may be helpful to have a look at the anthropo-geographic context in which Africa’s Muslim societies have developed since the mid-seventh century. Anyone coming from western Asia ...

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1. Is There an "African" Islam?

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pp. 11-34

Sometimes, old patterns of thought die hard. Even in the most recent literature on Muslim societies in Africa, such as Coulon and Cruise O’Brien (1988), Evers-Rosander and Westerlund (1997), or Quinn and Quinn (2003), it is possible to find the concept of an “African” Islam or, in French, Islam “Noir.” Th is African Islam is presented as peaceful and syncretistic, accommodating, and less orthodox than “militant Arab Islam.” The ...

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2. The Bilād al-Maghrib: Rebels, Saints, and Heretics

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pp. 35-53

Between the late seventh and thirteenth centuries, the bilād al-maghrib saw a bewildering variety of religious and political developments, including a series of efforts toward religio-political hegemony. In the thirteenth century, the last eff orts to unite the bilād al-maghrib came to an end and particularistic forces prevailed. The bilād almaghrib remained politically divided into the four major regions that we know today, ...

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3. The Sahara as Connective Space

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pp. 54-76

In both North African history and the history of sub-Saharan Africa, the Sahara has been seen as a geographical, political, and economic periphery. As a result, the Sahara and its populations have been presented as forming merely an extension of either the bilād al-maghrib or the bilād al-sūdān. Th is perspective neglects the fact that the Sahara has been a major connective space and has been as such an intrinsic part of the ...

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4. Dynamics of Islamization in the Bilād al-Sūdān

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pp. 77-107

As in the Sahara and the bilād al-maghrib, trade constituted a major factor for the development of Islam in the bilād al-sūdān, and economic and political development was consequently driven by the same dynamics as in the Sahara and in North Africa, namely, the effort to gain control over trade centers and trade routes. Oft en, the political centers of the trading empires of the bilād al-sūdān (see map 12) were ...

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5. Dynamics of Jihād in the Bilād al-Sūdān [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 108-134

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the bilād al-sūdān experienced a series of wars which led to the establishment of new states and empires that were ruled, for the first time in the history of these societies, by Muslim religious scholars. Th e wars which ended with the victory of these religious scholars were legitimated in religious terms and came to be regarded as jihāds, while the new states which arose ...

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6. Islam in Nubia and Funj

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pp. 135-153

The focus on Egypt as the paramount power on the Nile since pharaonic times has preempted a similar strong focus on the history of the lands beyond the first cataract, south of Aswan. The lands between the first cataract in the north and the sixth cataract in the south and beyond, to the confines of Ethiopia, nevertheless saw the rise and fall of great empires, from Kush in pharaonic times to Meroe in Roman times, to Nubia ...

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7. Egyptian Colonialism and the Mahdī in the Sudan

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pp. 154-171

After the collapse of the Funj empire in the early nineteenth century, the lands on the two Niles became one of the few regions in Africa not colonized by a European colonial power but by an Arabo-African empire, Egypt. As in pharaonic times, Egypt sought to secure its southern marches, to control the Nile valley, and to gain access to the natural resources of the Sudan. Egyptian power politics were linked with a program of ...

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8. Ethiopia and Islam

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pp. 172-195

In Ethiopia, interfaces between Islam, Christianity, African indigenous religions and perhaps even Judaism have been of particular intensity and longevity. However, in contrast to Egypt and Nubia, orthodox Christianity has remained the dominant faith, while Muslims have formed a powerful historical counter force. In many respects, Christianity and Islam in Ethiopia have thus come to constitute each other’s flipside...

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9. Muslims on the Horn of Africa

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pp. 196-209

The Horn of Africa forms one of the smallest regions of Islam in Africa. Th e arid lowlands of the Horn are characterized by fairly homogeneous ethnic, linguistic, and religious structures dominated by Somaal tribal groups. Th e history of the Horn has been characterized by competition over scarce resources, as well as tribal feuds. At the same time, the region has been marked by the absence of a central governmental ...

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10. The East African Coast

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pp. 210-247

Whereas seas of sand connect the northern and southern shores of the Sahara, the Indian Ocean and annual monsoon winds connect the East African coast with the shores of India and Arabia. The regional orientation toward India and southern Arabia also informed the development of East Africa’s Muslim societies. The Shāfiʿī school of law came to predominate in eastern Africa, whereas the Muslims in sub-Saharan ...

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11. Muslims on the Cape: Community and Dispute [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 248-266

In the academic discussion of the history of Muslim societies in Africa, Muslim com-munities in South Africa are oft en ignored. Th ey are usually seen as being not old and not African enough. Such a perspective omits the fact that Muslims have formed an integral part of society on the Cape since the mid-seventeenth century and came to be a decisive social force in Cape Town in the nineteenth century. In contrast to other ...

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12. Muslims under Colonial Rule

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pp. 267-294

European encounters with Africa had been confined for a long time to trading stations on the coast. In North Africa before the mid-nineteenth century, Europeans were mostly unable to travel beyond the coastal towns and their immediate hinterlands, mainly due to fears of espionage or policies of economic blockade. In sub-Saharan Africa, European endeavors to penetrate the coastal hinterlands inevitably failed, due to the toll that tropical ...

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pp. 295-298

When considering m.score than 1,300 years of historical development of Muslim societies in Africa, it is tempting to look through the lens of politics and to see Muslim societies in a longue durée perspective as primarily political bodies: after all, Muslims have built powerful empires and have inscribed Islam in African history in a way which cannot be disputed, in particular considering the emergence of the imāmates of ...


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pp. 299-308

Glossary of Arabic Terms

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pp. 309-313

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Sources for Further Reading

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pp. 315-335

For a general overview of the history of Africa as well as interfaces with nature, ecology, and epi-emics, see John Iliffe, Africans: The History of a Continent, Cambridge, 1995.Highly recommendable for both ecological and economic history are Ralph A. Austen, African Economic History, Oxford, 1987; Stephen Baier, An Economic History of the Central Sudan, Oxford, 1980; E. W. Bovill, The Golden Trade of the Moors, London, 1958; George E. Brooks, Landlords & ...


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pp. 337-358

E-ISBN-13: 9780253007971
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253007889

Page Count: 376
Illustrations: 18 maps
Publication Year: 2013