While census data in Africa are often inconclusive, Africa may well be the only continent in the world with a Muslim majority. Even conservative estimates suggest that more than 40% of the continent's population is Muslim. It is well known that Islam is the majority religion in Africa north of the Sahara; this part of Africa is, in the West, often detached from Africa and assimilated to the Middle East or the Arab World. It is much less well known that today Islam may be the most widely professed faith south of the desert, in what westerners have often called Black Africa, as well. Roughly 1/6th of the world’s Muslim population can be found in sub-Saharan Africa. How did this come to be? How has the adoption of Islam by Africans shaped their history? And, conversely, how have Africans shaped Islam?
The goal of this course is to begin to provide answers to these questions. We will examine African Islamic history beginning with the earliest Muslim migrants from Arabia to Ethiopia in the early 7th century CE, until the dawn of the 21st century. No prior knowledge of Islam is presumed or required, and much of the course will be dedicated to using historical methods to understand Islam as a system of religious meaning.
Covering fourteen centuries of Islamic history on the African continent could never be accomplished in an exhaustive fashion in fourteen weeks, so our approach will be to draw an outline of the historical development of Islam on the African continent, and then
focus more intensively on specific regions and particular themes.
These themes include-but are not limited to:
- Intellectual, theological, and doctrinal history
- Islam and interfaith relations in Africa
- Sufism or mystical Islam
- Islamic scholarship, education, and Arabic literacy in Africa
- Women and Gender in Islamic thought and Practice
- Islamic healing and medicine in Africa
- Islamic "magic", charms, and talismans
- Race and Slavery in Islamic Africa
- The rise of modernist Islam, and
- Islamism in the 19th and 20th centuries.
- David Robinson, Muslim Societies in African History
- Cheikh Hamidou Kane, Ambiguous Adventure
- Sachiko Murata & William Chittick, The Vision of Islam
- Jean Boyd & Beverly Mack, One Woman’s Jihad: Nana Asma’U Scholar and Scribe