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Non-Europhone Intellectuals

Ousmane Oumar Kane

Publication Year: 2016

The history of Arabic writing spans a period of eight hundred years in sub-Saharan Africa. Hundreds of thousands of manuscripts in Arabic or Ajami (African languages written with the Arabic script) are preserved in public libraries and private collections in sub-Saharan Africa. This ëIslamic Libraryí includes historical, devotional, pedagogical, polemical and political writings, most of which have not yet been adequately studied. This book, Non-Europhone Intellectuals, studies the research carried out on the Islamic library and shows that Muslim intellectuals, in West Africa in particular, have produced huge literature in Arabic and Ajami. It is impossible to reconstitute this library completely. As the texts have existed for centuries and are mostly in the form of unpublished manuscripts, only some of them have been transmitted to us while others have perished because of poor conservation. Efforts toward collecting them continues and the documents collected thus far attest to an intense intellectual life and important debates on society that have been completely ignored by the overwhelming majority of Europhone intellectuals. During European colonial rule and after the independence of African nations, Islamic education experienced some neglect, but the Islamic scholarly tradition did not decline. On the contrary, it has prospered with the proliferation of modern Islamic schools and the rise of dozens of Islamic institutions of higher learning. In recent years, the field of Islamic studies in West Africa has continued to attract the attention of erudite scholars, notably in anthropology and history, who are investing in learning the languages and working on this Islamic archive. As more analytical works are done on this archive, there will be continued modification in terms of the debate on knowledge production in West Africa.

Published by: African Books Collective

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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pp. vii

This book was written as a working paper when I was Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Islamic Thought in Africa at Northwestern University. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to Professor John Hunwick, Director of the Institute, who introduced me to the study of the Arab-Islamic intellectual...

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Note on Transliteration

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pp. ix

As this book refers to materials in many languages (Arabic, Hausa, English and French), I have opted for a simplified method of transliteration. The emphatic letters and the lengthy vowels in Arabic words and names are not indicated. When they are proper nouns, I have kept their usual spelling. In general, I have not...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-4

In the early 1990s, two books deeply influenced the intellectual debate on the production of knowledge on Africa, on Africanism and Pan-Africanism (Mudimbe 1988 and Appiah 1992), so much so that their authors received, in 1989 and 1993 respectively, the Melville Herskovits Prize from the African Studies...

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2. The Islamic Library in Sub-Saharan Africa

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pp. 5-17

Spoken only in the Arabian peninsula, Arabic was, in the pre-Islamic period, the language of the tribe of the Prophet Muhammad. With the expansion of Islam, it became in 2009 the language of 300 million Arabs, from Arabia to North Africa, and the liturgical language of a billion and a half Muslims from Indonesia...

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3. Origins of the Islamic Scholarly Tradition in Sub-Saharan Africa

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pp. 19-22

The growth of the trans-Saharan trade and the expansion of Islam brought about a transformation of the West African societies that were subjected to their influence. The process was reinforced by a new form of state that developed in West Africa from the eighth to the sixteenth centuries. It was described by Bathily...

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4. The Development of ďjami Literature

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pp. 23-26

The growth of writing in this form has very often been a process by which speakers of vernacular languages, in contact with the written foreign language, appropriated it to transcribe their own language. In Western Europe, Latin was for a long time the language of learning par excellence. Towards the end of the...

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5. Esoteric Knowledge and Exoteric Knowledge

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pp. 27-30

Based on a teaching model that started in Mamluk Egypt (Hiskett 1985:16-17), and spread throughout the Muslim world, a two-tier system of Islamic education was set up in Muslim Africa to promote the expansion of Islam. At the lower level, there are the Koranic schools (kuttab, plural katatib in Arabic) and at the...

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6. Political/Intellectual Revolutions

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pp. 31-34

During the pre-colonial period, jihads had led to the creation of theocratic states in different parts of West Africa. These jihads had certain common denominators. For one thing, they were started by learned scholars. So profoundly were they influenced by this tradition that they were frustrated by the syncretism that affected...

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7. European Colonization and the Transformation of Islamic Education

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pp. 35-36

The second half of the nineteenth century was a turning point in the history of Africa and that of Islam in Africa, as well as that of the Islamic scholarly tradition. Europeans had been present in the region for three centuries but they had been limited to the coastal areas. In 1880, they hardly occupied more than a tenth...

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8. Modernization of the Islamic Educational System

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pp. 37-41

After the colonial conquest of Africa, Muslim populations were reluctant to attend secular schools. Given the need for sufficiently qualified staff to run the administration, the colonial state created modernized Arab-Islamic schools. Such was the case of the French medersa of Timbuktu. However, as Brenner...

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9. Sub-Saharan African Arabists and Higher Education in the Arab World

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pp. 43-49

The theocratic Muslim states of the nineteenth century, from the Umarian state of Ségou to the Mahdist state of Sudan, not forgetting the Sokoto Caliphate in Northern Nigeria, were fiercely opposed to European colonization. Hence, following the consolidation of European colonial rule, the British and the...

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10. Arabists and Islamism

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pp. 51-52

After the colonial conquest, colonial administrations transformed the juridical system in Muslim countries with a view to modernizing it. Much of Islamic penal law, and harsh bodily punishments in particular (such as the amputation of thieves’ hands, the stoning of adulterers), were abolished everywhere...

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11. Conclusion

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pp. 53-56

Mudimbe’s interpretation of what he calls the African gnosis, ‘the ideological and scientific discourse on Africa’, is based essentially on a Western epistemological order. This is also true of Appiah’s analysis of African intellectuals. However, while there is little doubt that there is a Western epistemological order in...

Appendix I: A Research Project

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pp. 57-60

Appendix II: Some Elements of the Corpus of Traditional Arab-Islamic Teaching

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pp. 61-62


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pp. 63


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pp. 65-75

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9782869785496
Print-ISBN-13: 9782869785069

Page Count: 86
Publication Year: 2016