This study explores modern Islamic messianism as a mode of tajdid, or religious renewal, during the colonial era. It analyzes the case of a nineteenth-century religious movement among the Lebou people of the Cap-Vert peninsula in French West Africa, now Senegal, known as the Layene Brotherhood (La Confrérie Layenne). The sect began when Libasse Thiaw (d. 1909), known as Mouhammadou Limamou Laye, proclaimed himself the awaited Mahdi, and his eldest son, Issa Thiaw (d. 1949), the second coming of Jesus. Most distinctively, Thiaw taught that he was the reincarnation of the Prophet Muhammad—the Black African embodiment of his soul. Through embodiment, Thiaw elided existing epistemological conflicts in modern Islam and asserted prophetic authority. In the process, he accelerated the process of tajdid for his community and nullified his lack of scholarly or ancestral credentials to join the revered ranks of the marabouts of Senegal.


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pp. 37-61
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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