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Non-Acceptance ofIslam in the Southern Sudan: The Case ofthe Dinkafrom the Pre-Colonial Period to Independence (1956) S. F. Beswick Michigan State University For almost 40 years a bloody civil war has raged within the Sudan. Since 1983 the primary reason for the bloodshed between the Islamic North and the non-Islamic South has been the controversial issue of Islam. The Dinka have formed the bulk of the Southern resistance to Northern Islamic hegemony, and this paper will concern the centuriesold resistance to Islam by the Dinka people. It has been argued that the swamps of the Southern Sudan formed barriers that completely prevented the penetration of Islam and that there was only a slender link with the northern network of caravan trade.1 Later, the violence of the Islamic Turkiyya and Mahdiyya2 and their sanction of the slave trade was the principal explanation for rejection of Islam by the Southern Sudanese during this period.3 During the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium,4 the most prominent assertion of existing historiography is that the Southern Policy stopped the advance of Islam into the Southern Sudan, from which that region had, until now, been isolated.5 This study holds that the Southern Sudan was never isolated from Islamic exposure and many smaller Southern groups converted to Islam. Southern Policy itself was so short and poorly enforced it did not "isolate" the south from Islam. Nevertheless, the largest Southern Sudanese group, the Dinka,6 for the most part, ignored Islam politically, culturally and religiously because the Dinka were unable to incorporate Islam politically, socially or religiously into their society. Hence, until independence in 1956, the Dinka neither rejected nor accepted Islam, but rather co-existed beside it.©Northeast African Studies (ISSN 0740-9133) Vol. 1, Nos. 2-3 (New Series) 1994, pp. 19-47 19 20 S. F. Beswick This study, which is divided into two parts, concerns the pastoral Dinka of the Western Southern Sudan in the Bahr al-Ghazal whose population in 1956 numbered approximately one million.7 Part I will demonstrate Southern exposure to Islam historically and the failure of "Southern Policy" of the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium period. Part ? will show that the Dinka political, cultural, and religious institutions, up to 1956, were not in a position to integrate with that of the Northern Sudanese Islamic state, which inherited power during this period. Historical Contact with Islam Islam, Christianity, and perhaps Judaism may have been features of Sudanese civilization from earliest times.8 There is also ample evidence that the Islamic states of Sinnar and Darfur impacted on the Southern region9 and that Dinka peoples had business, cultural, and military contacts with many Islamic peoples.10 During the Turko-Egyptian period (1820-1885) and the slave trade, the Arab dealers did not themselves engage in hunting down slaves, but relied mostly on native suppliers or middlemen.11 An example of this can be seen when in I860,12 110 armed men accompanied by 1,000 Dinka undertook extensive raids against other Dinka groups.13 Later in 1865, stations built on the Bahr El Zeraf conducted raids for slaves with the aid of Nuer clans." Certain Dinka entered into the slave trade for themselves.15 Hence, in the early years of the Turko-Egyptian expansion into the Southern Sudan, Dinka people were very much exposed to Islam by way of Muslim militiamen fighting alongside them for their own gains.16 The slave trade was not the only representation of Islam in the Southern Sudan during the Turkiyya. Islamic teachers,17 or fekis,1* also made their way into the Southern Sudan following Northern traders in order to proselytize.19 Members of the Egyptian government attempted, peacefully, to introduce Islam into the Southern region and during this period many Southern groups were converted.20 During this period a deputation of Agar Dinka chiefs traveled the long distance to Lado to complain to Emin Pasha, a European Muslim convert, that the Danagla21 had been seizing their children.22 What is more striking here is that Emin Pasha was a Muslim and trusted by the Dinka. Therefore it Non-Acceptance ofIslam in the Southern Sudan 21 can be argued the Dinka did not always...


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