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Localising salafism : Religious Change among Oromo Muslims in Bale, Ethiopia

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Abstract

Whether or not one agrees with this informant's suggestions for why Salafism grew, it remains a fact that it has become the dominating Islamic movement in today's Bale. It has penetrated into all corners of the region and into every segment of society. Following this development, this study has argued for the need to understand Salafism in its particularity, in which the different features of an increasingly heterogeneous phenomenon are recognised. The second chapter, addressing this issue, has also conceptualised religious change, arguing for the need to apply a localised approach and to recognise the important role of human agency in such processes. It has emphasised the religious change as complex dialectic interactions between impetus and response, between agents and audiences. Underscoring the issue of localisation, the chapter moreover points to de-localisation and localisation as two complementary processes in the emergence and development of Salafism in Bale. I have also critically discussed Asad's "discursive tradition" of Islam as a relevant approach, arguing for the need to view this "discursive tradition" in a more inclusive manner, recognising the discourses about traditions particular for the locality.

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... The case of the Siltie also helps to reflect on some major issue regarding Islam and ethnicity in the wider Ethiopian context. First, a number of writers have asked whether Islam will serve as the main mobilizing identity against ethnicity in the Ethiopian context (Abbink 1998;Østebø 2012). My findings demonstrate that since Islam is relevant to the Siltie in as much as it serves to legitimize their distinct ethnic identity vis-à-vis the non-Siltie (whether they are Muslim or non-Muslim), and as far as this process is systematically and institutionally supported by formal ethnicism means there is less possibility for the immediate prominence of a transethnic Islamic identity over ethnicity. ...
... For example to abuse a woman, to downplay elders and etc are breach of Safuu. Hence it is a norm that everybody should respect and its breach may result in social exclusion and tortfeasors are regarded as alien (Østebø 2009: 1050, Workineh Kelbessa 2005. "Safuu is a moral category based on Oromo notion of distance respect for all things. ...
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Article
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https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1057%2F9781137322098_7
... This inevitably allowed activists to build bridges, provide scholarships, and construct mosques throughout the world -a process well documented in the work of Meijer (2009), but also within analyses pertaining to Salafism in Germany (Wurger, 2013), Ethiopia (Ostebo, 2011), and Yemen (Bonnefoy, 2011). Underlining the aesthetical and referential similarities amongst Salafis -all of whom reference similar religious scholars and sport either jalabiyaa (robes), beards, or the niqab (full veil) if they are women while avoiding isbal (trousers beyond the ankle) -such studies emphasized the commonalities and shared imaginative power of a 'global umma' utilized by a variety of actors throughout the world. ...
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Thesis
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Thesis
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Construction of ethnic and religious identity is often described in academic works as being closely linked to the notion of othering (Jensen 2011). Lister (2004:102) notes on the signification of othering in identity formation mentioning, '... othering helps to define the self and to affirm identity'. Jensen (2009) in a similar manner describes that the notion is a quintessential one for understanding the power structures as well as the historic symbolic meanings of conditioning identity formation with variation in agency of different actors. In the political environment of post-1991 Ethiopia where ethnic federalism has made ethnicity the main organizing principle in forming, framing, and contesting different identity and resource claims in the country, the growing ethno-religious tensions in different parts of the country are often described as disputes arising from differences (Asnake 2013). Differences in religious ideologies, in political opinions, clash of interest in claims of political entitlements, in rights questions and more factors are identified as being the catalyst for inter-religious and inter group disputes in the country (IPSS 2012). On the other hand, faith institutions in some parts of Ethiopia are hosting people across ethnic and religious boundaries, a practice that at least contradicts to the dominant thesis of the escalation of social bordering and conflictual relations in the country. Examining the gap between local realities and macro level representation by political actors and scholars is beyond the scope of this article. The article rather explores and explains the social construction of religious boundary in contemporary Ethiopia by addressing how religious otherness is claimed or constructed at the local level. The article presents the emic accounts on defining and redefining religious boundaries and analyzing the local perceptions and definitions of what a religious boundary is and what crossing the boundary entails.
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This article provides insights into particular aspects of contemporary Islamic reformism in Ethiopia, focusing on what we have labelled the Intellectualist movement. Analysing the trajectory and the ideological underpinnings of the movement from the early 1990s to the present, the study interrogates the assertion that Ethiopian Islam has moved in a radical direction and argues that the Intellectualist movement has been a significant force moderating the domestic political-religious discourses. We demonstrate that it contributed to the production of political awareness among generations of young Ethiopian Muslims, which rather than contesting the existing political system, moved in a direction of a strengthened belief in secularism and democratic values. What is important here is that this took place in an increasingly constraining political environment, which, as often assumed, did not trigger any reaction of radicalization, but rather reinforced the adherence to a moderating discourse.
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After 1975, the International Women’s Year, discussions on gender and on women disempowerment have become the dominant discourse in different parts of the globe (Baxter 2003; Cornwall 2005). The dominant gender discourse in classical African studies concentrates on the socioeconomic and political status of “the disadvantaged women,” overemphasizing the relations of dominance embedded in the principles of social organization that centers on patriarchy (Elinami 2010; Oyewumi 2011).
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This postscript does not intend to summarize the preceding chapters, nor does it intend to forward any conclusions. The present volume has provided new empirical data and refreshing perspectives on a neglected field within Ethiopian studies, which, at the same time, have identified areas in need of further investigation—areas which would enhance both our understanding of the region and of Islam in Africa more in general. First presented at workshop in Bergen, Norway in September 2010, the chapters have not been able to capture some very recent and crucial developments with regard to Islam, politics, and the Ethiopian state. This postscript will address this by discussing these events and analyzing their significance for the development of Ethiopian politics and for relations between the Muslim population and the state.
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One of my friends in Robe—the capital of Bale zone (Oromia National Regional State)—was once a zealous and devout Salafi. By that time a senior high school student, he was constantly bringing me books and pamphlets about Islam, trying to convert me. After a while he stopped talking about religion and was instead sharing with me his poems, all encrypted with metaphors celebrating the greatness of the Oromo people and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). Then after some time, he lost track of this too and became just an “ordinary Muslim.”
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In March 2011, news about the forced flight of Christians from western Ethiopia stirred a highly charged controversy—both within and beyond Ethiopia—about the role of Islam in the Horn of Africa. According to a Fox News report,1 Ethiopian Muslims set ablaze about 50 churches and dozens of Christian homes. This incident was a consequence of the desecration of the Qur’an by an Ethiopian Christian earlier that month. The violence escalated but was quickly controlled by federal police. Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi blamed an obscure religious group called Kawarij2 for inciting the violence by preaching religious intolerance in the region. The events in the Jimma region seem not to be an isolated case, as indicated by similar incidents mentioned at the end of the news report.
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Compared with the other nations studied Ethiopia entered the modern world of independent nations with a head start. Although invaded by Italy for a brief period, Ethiopia survived the ills of colonialism, was one of four African member states of the League of Nations, and was a founding member of the United Nations and the Organization of African Union. However, neither its independence nor its head start allowed it to establish a democratic system. Ethiopia remained at the back of the pack when it came to education, industrialization, and urbanization, and a grassroots democratic movement would not emerge until the 1960s. Like many African nations, Ethiopia would become a victim of the cold war and suffer through a communist dictatorship which nationalized everything in the country including civil society. Ethiopia’s progress towards democratization began at the end of the cold war only to be sharply curtailed in 2005. This chapter follows Ethiopian civil society from Imperial rule to military dictatorship, democratic transition, and regression to electoral dictatorship.
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More than a study of Qur'an schooling in Senegambia, Rudolph Ware's The Walking Qur'an offers a new reading of West African history and a compelling argument about Islamic epistemologies. According to Ware, the embodied knowledge practices preserved in Senegambian Qur'an schools up to the present day have their roots in the early days of Islam. This article focuses on Ware's intervention in the debate about epistemology and engages with his distinction between embodied knowledge, which he uses to characterize the knowledge practices in the Qur'an schools, and disembodied knowledge, which Ware sees as predominant among modern Muslims. Expanding on Ware's exceptional study, the article argues that the embodied knowledge paradigm is closely connected to a wider Islamic tradition that can be labeled the Maliki-Ash'ari complex. Further, the article raises questions about Ware's depiction of the disembodied knowledge paradigm and calls for further research into Salafi epistemology.
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The 2011-2014 controversies between the Ethiopian Government and Muslim communities on the role of Islam in Ethiopia have highlighted the precarious nature of religious relations in Ethiopia. Statements by public figures and religious leaders recently have drawn attention to the nature and scope of the Ethiopian secular state order. This paper describes the recent Muslim protest movement and the response to it by the government in the light of the secular state model. While the challenges to it also extend to the large Christian community in Ethiopia, the problems became prominent mainly in the case of the Muslims, who contest perceived government interference' in their community life and self-organization. I present an overview of key recent events and of factors inducing conflict between state and religion. The discussion makes reference to more general debates on the secular model' in Ethiopia and to the familiar though somewhat worn-out paradigm of identity politics'. State repression of Muslim civic protest in Ethiopia revealed insecurities of the state: rather than an instance of the process of othering' a religious community, we see a case of political crisis, and a search for new modes of governance of diversity and communal religiosity in Ethiopia. As a result of the contestations, however, the secular order of the country will not be threatened, but modified.
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The point of departure for this article is a story about jinns taking revenge upon people who have abandoned earlier religious practices. It is a powerful account of their attempt to free themselves from a past viewed as inhabited by evil forces and about the encounter between contemporary Salafi reformism and a presumed disappearing religious universe. It serves to prove how a novel version of Islam has superseded former practices; delegitimized and categorized as belonging to the past. The story is, however, also an important source and an interesting entry-point to examine the continued relevance of past practices within processes of reform. Analyzing the story about the jinns and the trajectory of Salafi reform in Bale, this contribution demonstrates how the past remains intersected with present reformism, and how both former practices and novel impetuses are reconfigured through this process. The article pays attention to the dialectics of negotiations inherent to processes of reform and points to the manner in which the involvement of a range of different actors produces idiosyncratic results. It challenges notions of contemporary Islamic reform as something linear and fixed and argues that such processes are multifaceted and open-ended.
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In 1991 the Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) introduced policies aimed at recognizing the country's long-standing religious diversity, providing a public arena for religious groups, and maintaining a sharp division between religion and the state. This further eroded the traditionally dominant position of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, strengthened Protestant Christian and Muslim communities, and created a more fluid and competitive configuration among the religious communities. Seeking to maintain its political power, the EPRDF has at the same time made efforts to monitor and control the different religious communities. Therefore, the last 20 years have been marked by uneven developments, in which the government's accommodating attitudes have been interlaced with efforts to curtail the influence of the religious communities. This article surveys the intersection and reciprocal influences between EPRDF policies and religious communities over the last 20 years, and discusses how Muslims and Christians (Orthodox and Protestant) have negotiated their roles in relation to politics and public life. These developments have, the article argues, led to the emergence of divergent and competing narratives, reconfiguring self-understanding, political aspirations and views of the religious other. The EPRDF ideology of “revolutionary democracy” has, in this sense, enabled religion to surface as a force for social mobilization and as a point of reference for attempting to define nationhood in Ethiopia.
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Since 1991 Salafism has gained renewed strength in Ethiopia, spurred increased tensions within the Muslim community, and created concern among the Christian population. This contribution focuses on the early emergence of Salafism in the area of Bale, currently one of the movement's strongholds. It discusses its initial arrival in south-eastern Ethiopia, and pays particular attention to the developments in Bale during the 1960s. Challenging the notion that treats Islamic reform as seemingly homogeneous and as 'foreign' - distinctly separated from 'local' Islam - the contribution explores the arrival of the Salafi teaching from Saudi Arabia, and follows the process of reform embodied in an emerging group of local merchants and in graduates returning from studies in Saudi Arabia. The contribution highlights how socio-economic changes and developments of infrastructure facilitated the emergence of new groups of actors, transcending local boundaries and actively generating novel discourses about religious symbols and practices. It also demonstrates how a diversified body of situated actors was crucial for the appropriation and domestication of the Salafi message, and points to the trajectory of reform as a dialectical process of moulding that related such influences to the local context.
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Have women in third-world societies been made second-class citizens by colonialism, incorporation into the capitalist world economy, and class formation? Or are women relegated to less prestigious and less economically rewarding roles by patriarchal ideologies and practices the origins of which lie in indigenous cultures? Much of the anthropological scholarship on women can be divided between those who emphasize the relative importance of capitalism (for example, Leacock 1981; Nash and Fernandez-Kelly 1983; Boserup 1970) and those who emphasize culture (for example, Ortner and Whitehead 1981; Schlegel 1990; Rosaldo 1974) as determinants of gender roles and relations.
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Islam's influence on political values and, as a result on the political behavior of the Muslim state, has traditionally been analyzed in terms of two general categories. These categories were the purely religious and the purely temporal, which in turn identified the interests of theological beliefs and transcendentally fixed ethical duties on the one hand and the interests of ruling dynasties, military and financial affairs on the other. The influence pattern, however, is more complex than the one suggested by the traditional approach.
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THIS study presents a reconstruction of the origins and major movements of the Galla and Somali of Northeast Africa which departs from most of the previous literature on the subject. The traditional view has been that the Galla occupied most of the Horn of Africa until the Somali, beginning about the tenth century, swept south and south-west from the shores of the Gulf of Aden driving the Galla before them.1 The pressure of the Somali has also been considered the major impetus to the Galla invasions of Ethiopia in the sixteenth century. It is the thesis of this paper that both the Galla and the Somali originated in southern Ethiopia, that the Somali expanded to the east and north much earlier than the Galla, and that the Galla lived only in southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya until their migrations began about I530. These hypotheses were presented in brief form in 1962 and have since been strengthened by Fleming's work on the comparative linguistics of the Somali and by Haberland's rather similar conclusions about Galla history.2 The traditional reconstruction has a considerable corpus of supporting literature, however, and therefore I shall critically examine this literature as well as present further evidence in support of the new reconstruction. At the same time, I hope this will serve to emphasize the value of historical linguistic data and methods for the reconstruction of population movements.
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Shows how by manipulating Islamic ideology, Islam has been central to the establishment of the kingdom and the maintenance of the regime. Present measures the Sauds have undertaken to assuage the religious conservatives; but the author argues that because the Sauds claim to be so Islamic, the decisive field of action may yet be that of ideology, not in the sense of whether it is compatible with the modern age, but whether the Sauds are seen to be faithful to it.-from Author
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During the decade and a half since the end of the cold war, Africa has seen momentous changes. Indeed, since the early 1990s, economic and political reform and liberalization, the weakening of the state (or even in some cases its collapse), and increased global interconnections have all had dramatic impacts on the continent. Such processes have also influenced Muslim societies and the practice of Islam in Africa in ways that are still not well understood. The contributors to this collection explore the intersecting dynamics of Islam, society, and the state in sub-Saharan Africa. They address the gap in our understanding of contemporary Africa and also challenge us to rethink many of our assumptions about Islam and Muslim societies in Africa and elsewhere in the world.
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Starting from notions of 'great' and 'little' traditions, the author looks for continuity in religious expression through class, and then for the roots and conditions of progress of major transformations. Examples are drawn from many parts of the Muslim community, but particularly from Indonesia.-F.Leeming
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The Oromo, the largest single national group in Ethiopia, follow Islam and Christianity since the middle of the 19th Century particularly after the conquest of the Ethiopian State, which triggered, directly or indirectly, a massive conversion. This article highlights the relationship between the Orthodox Church and Islam vis-à-vis the nascent but rapidly developing Oromo nationalism. Based on the analysis of Oromo ethnography, history, the system of thought and their contemporary political movements, the paper argues that Oromo nationalism is the antithesis of the Ethiopian state/official nationalism supported by the Orthodox Church. It also demonstrates that Islam is not a driving ideological force of Oromo’s political struggle. On one the hand, it is in contradiction with many aspects of the pre-existing culture such as Gadaa-Qaaluu and other values from which the nationalists try to take inspiration to build their future. On the other hand, from the strategic perspective, the adoption of Islam or Christianity as an ideological tool of their nationalism would be a factor of more division and fragmentation. Thus Oromo mainstream nationalism is evolving on a secular political trajectory.
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Opening Paragraph The most significant movement of population in Ethiopia within the last 100 years has been the southward advance of northern Christians into areas inhabited predominantly by Muslim or pagan peoples. The initial impetus to this movement was given by the expansion of the Amhara Kingdom of Shoa in the 19th century when officers and men of the conquering armies were given land in the annexed territories. They were followed by a variety of adventurers, merchants and administrators all of whom benefited from their association with the Amhara rulers to carve a niche for themselves in the south. In these circumstances, it is understandable that analyses of inter-ethnic contact in Ethiopia have been dominated by the discussion of the relations between the Amhara and one or the other of the subordinate groups of the Empire.
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Introduction In the first part of this paper I began by dealing with those of Fisher's objections to the Intellectualist Theory which seemed to me to require short, sharp, and destructive answers. I then went on to consider an objection which seemed to require a longer and more constructive answer. This was the objection that the Theory did not account adequately for variation in the concept and cult of the supreme being in settings uninfluenced by Islam and Christianity. I suggested that, although the evidence was probably insufficient for a decisive verdict, the Theory appeared to give a rather good account of religious dynamics in such settings. A demonstration of its plausibility in this context was, as I pointed out, an important preliminary to my main argument. For it was crucial to the credibility of the thesis that Islam and Christianity were more than anything else catalysts for changes that were ‘in the air’ anyway.
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Les Gē usu', habitants de la fabuleuse ville musulmane de Harar dans les montagnes de l'Ethiopie orientale, n'ont commence a etre connus en Occident qu'a partir de 1970. Le sujet de discussion de cet article concerne l'orthodoxie religieuse locale qui est souple et heterogene, et fournit une structure a travers laquelle la menace de la difference et de l'annihilation d'un groupe est transformee et souvent supprimee. L'A. soutient que la source du prestige continu des 'Gē usu'' n'est pas tant fondee sur des strategies sociales et economiques rigoureuses concues pour garder une distance entre des groupes, que rendue possible par des procedes de comprehension et des strategies d'adaptation dans lesquels la difference est absorbee dans des structures religieuses et des termes symboliques.
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The Buna Qalla ceremony is a central ritual practice of the Oromo peoples of East Africa. In the case of the Muslim Waso Boorana the ritual has been transferred to a domestic sphere of local settlements. It is in that context that the ritual can be related to public statements of Boorana identity, and the social importance of women; the ritual being performed so as to create communal ties and to instruct younger generations on the Waso Boorana religious past and traditions. This article explores such ritual statements in the context of the historical and religious changes of the Waso Boorana since 1934.
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The Boorana of the Waso area of north-eastern Kenya settled there in the 1930s. Upon the settling of colonial administrative boundaries in 1934 they became isolated from the rest of the Boorana in northern Kenya and Ethiopia. Thereafter a process of 'somalisation' took place through which they replaced their Oromo ritual moments with Islamic practices. By the 1950s most of the Waso Boorana had converted to Islam, and since then have been considered Muslims by the rest of Kenya. Nevertheless recent research has shown that there has been a revival of traditional religious practices among them. The article divides the history of the Waso Boorana into two periods: (1) from their settlement in the Waso area to the events leading to Kenya's independence (1932-62) and (2) from Kenya's independence to the 1990s (1963-92). It is in this second period in their history that the Waso Boorana began a process of religious diversification. Traditional religious practices revived in their settlements and distrust emerged of Islam. The article argues that there has been a reconversion to traditional practices, based on a local principle, the Waso Boorana division of herds.
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The district of Belā Shangul, in the northwestern corner of the present Governorate-General of Wallaggā, Ethiopia, has played a crucial role in the introduction of Islam in western Ethiopia. The present paper attempts to show how the commercial potential of Belā Shangul was the reason for the peaceful penetration of Islam in the region in the nineteenth century, thus creating the basis for the ready acceptance of the Mahdia by the Islamized ruling families of the region later. It is due to the considerable inroads that Islam had made in the region that the first Mahdist envoys were welcomed there, and that they could operate freely from 1882 onwards. The paper further discusses the importance of Mahdist presence in the region, its impact on local society, and its attempts to penetrate the Oromo countries south and east of Belā Shangul. It argues that Mahdist rule over the region was effective until about 1890, and that the favourable attitude shown towards the Mahdia by the region's ruling families became more hostile mainly because of the harsh rule established in Belā Shangul by the Mahdist commander, Khalīl al-Khuzāni, and of the new militant Islam he introduced in the region. Khalīl's campaign of 1886 and Mahdist raids in 1888–90 further alienated the local rulers, who rebelled under the leadership of ʿAbd ar-Raḥmān of Belā Shangul proper. The reported cession of this district by the Khalifa to Menilek of Ethiopia must be seen in the political context of the time: the border district had become too burdensome for Omdurman to rule, yet its commercial and mineral resources made it too valuable to remain a no man's land.
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W ITH the publication of these two volumes, the historical study of Islam in sub-Saharan Africa has reached its maturity. Drawing on five decades of scholarship since the professionalization of African history, and the long traditions of Islamic and African studies before that, these works – one the first truly usable textbook survey of the field, the other the first comprehensive reference – are both a successful culmination of what has gone before and guides to the paths ahead. In some cases the authors' and editors' careers are virtually synonymous with the field as a whole, as with the late Nehemia Levtzion, and all are among the acknowledged authorities on their specialties. David Robinson, author of Muslim Societies in African History , is one of the few who have established themselves as authorities on both the precolonial and colonial periods, and his work is central to active debates in each subfield. The individual and collective stature of Levtzion and Randall L. Pouwels, editors of The History of Islam in Africa , along with that of the twenty-two other contributors, makes the authority of the volume unprecedented.
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At some time towards the middle of the twelfth/eighteenth century, the young Najdī scholar Muḥammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb (1115–1206/1703f–92) experienced something like a conversion. From that point on, his understanding of monotheism seems to have been such that he considered most of the professed Muslims of his day to be polytheists who should be fought till they accepted Islam. The first Wahhābī state (1158–1233/1745f–1818) was the product of the fusion of this radical vision with the political fortunes of the Āl Sa'ūd, until then the petty chiefs of the Najdī oasis of Dir'iyya.
Transformations of Islam and communal relations in Wallo, Ethiopia
  • Abbink J.