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7 Egyptian Colonialism and the Mahdī in the Sudan

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Egyptian Colonialism and the Mahdī in the Sudan

Historical Themes and Patterns

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 modernization in Egypt as well as in the new Egyptian provinces in the Sudan. While the Egyptian colonial conquest of the Sudan succeeded, Egyptian efforts to modernize the Sudan remained superficial and created unrest and instability. The new administration, often based on a bureaucracy staffed by Copts, turned social structures upside down, and marginalized established authorities while pampering new social and religious movements, especially among the Sufi orders and religious scholars. The extension of the Egyptian administration into the southern and western marches of the

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9 Muslims on the Horn of Africa

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9

Muslims on the Horn of Africa

Historical and Thematic Patterns

The Horn of Africa forms one of the smallest regions of Islam in Africa. The arid lowlands of the Horn are characterized by fairly homogeneous ethnic, linguistic, and religious structures dominated by Somaal tribal groups. The 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 government until the early twentieth century. As such, the Horn can be seen as a huge bilād al-sība, where tribal self-governance has historically prevailed over processes of state formation.

While Ethiopia was linked with the lands on the Nile and those on the Red Sea, the

Horn of Africa formed links with southern Arabia in the north and the East African coast in the south. Islam in the Horn originated in three regions: the ports of Zaylaʿ and

Berbera in the north; Harär and other centers of Islamic learning in the eastern Ethio˙ pian highlands; and the ports of the Banādir coast, namely Mogadishu, Brawa, Marka, and Kismayu. From at least the thirteenth century, these market places, harbors, and trading places had sizeable settlements of traders and scholars from Hadramawt in

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11 Muslims on the Cape: Community and Dispute

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11

Muslims on the Cape

Community and Dispute

Historical Themes and Patterns

In the academic discussion of the history of Muslim societies in Africa, Muslim communities in South Africa are often ignored. They 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 regions of Africa, Cape Muslim history was always intrinsically linked with the colonial history of the Cape. From the very beginnings of the community in the 1660s, the community of Cape Muslims had to come to terms with religious, political, legal, and social structures dictated by a Christian majority population, the Afrikaaner settlers, organized by the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC) and the Nederduitse

Gereformeerde Kerk (NGK). Despite the restrictions imposed by the VOC and the

NGK, the Cape Muslim community developed into a growing and thriving community in the eighteenth century. In the nineteenth century, when the restrictions imposed by

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4 Dynamics of Islamization in the Bilād al-S#363;dān

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4

Dynamics of Islamization in the Bilād al-Sūdān

Historical Themes and Patterns

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. Often, the political centers of the trading empires of the bilād al-sūdān (see map 12) were identical with major emporia of trade, and Muslim trading communities came to coexist with the courts of local rulers. Regional economies and trade networks expanded and contracted, as will be shown in the case of Kano, in response to the capacity of

Sudanese states to create and maintain favorable conditions for commercial activities and investment. In the late 1860s, the French explorer Réné Caillié thus observed that war between Masina and Segu had disrupted trade routes, and that trade had consequently shifted from Jenné to Nyamina, Sinsani, and Bamako to the southwest. What has been observed as a general pattern of trans-Saharan trade remained valid for the bilād al-sūdān until the nineteenth century: war and economic instability had negative effects for all parties and triggered the shift of trade routes to safer lands and port cities. Trade, economy, and politics in the bilād al-sūdān were not dominated, however, by Imasighen or Arab tribal populations, but by a multitude of Sudanese populations and Sudanese trade networks. Also, trade was not based on camels, but on riverboats and caravans of oxen and donkeys, as well as human porterage, and thus involved different logistics that were based on seasonal constraints.

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1 Is There an "African" Islam?

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Is There an “African” Islam?

The Diversity of Islam in Africa

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.” This African Islam is presented as peaceful and syncretistic, accommodating, and less orthodox than “militant Arab Islam.” The discussion of Muslim societies and Islam in Africa has to take into account, however, that there is no uniform and singularly “orthodox” form of Islam, either in Africa or in the Islamic world as a whole. The continent is not only much too vast to harbor just one continental expression of Islam, but African historical experiences with Islam have also been much too diverse to support the notion of a single, African Islam. When visualizing the expansion of Muslim societies in Africa in geographical terms and their multiple entanglements, the force of this argument becomes immediately clear.

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