Islam in West African History

Episode 329

hosted by Shireen Hamza and Abdul Latif

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In this interview, we explore the early history of Islam in West Africa with Professor Ousmane Kane, who has mapped out the networks of Islamic learning in the region. We discuss intellectual history, the curricula of madrasas and a day in the life of a 16th-century student in Sankore. We then turn to the role of language in West African Muslim intellectual production, and the effects of colonialism on education, broadly. West African Islam is neglected by both Islamic Studies and African studies, despite its rich history, from the first centuries of Islam to the present. We end with a discussion of how these disciplines draw boundaries that have thus far discouraged many from looking beyond material exchange in Timbuktu to the broader study of Islamic intellectual history in West Africa.

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Contributor Bios

Ousmane Oumar Kane holds the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Chair on Contemporary Islamic Religion and Society at the Harvard Divinity School and the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization at Harvard University. Kane studies the history of Islamic religious institutions and organizations, and he is engaged in documenting the intellectual history of Islam in Africa. Kane has also focused on the phenomenon of Muslim globalization.
Shireen Hamza is a doctoral student in the History of Science department at Harvard University. Her research focuses broadly on the history of science and medicine in the Islamicate Middle Ages, and more specifically, in medieval South Asia.
Abdul Latif is an MTS student at Harvard Divinity School focusing on Islamic Studies.


Episode No. 329
Release Date: 21 August 2017
Recording Location: Harvard Divinity School
Audio editing by Shireen Hamza
Music: Harmandali - Recep Efendi, Cemal Efendi

Bibliography courtesy of Shireen Hamza

Select Bibliography

Beyond Timbuktu: An Intellectual History of Muslim West Africa
By Ousmane Kane
Harvard University Press, 2016
Bâ, Abdourhamane. Le Takrur: Des Origines à La Conquète Par Le Mali, VIe -XIIIe Siècles (Dakar: CRIAA, Université De Nouakchott, IFAN/UCAD, 2002).

Baba, Ahmad. Tuḥfat Al-fuḍalāʾ Bi-baʻḍ Faḍāʾil Al-ʻulamā. Manshūrāt Maʻhad Al-Dirāsāt Al-Afrīqīyah, ed. Sāmī, Saʻīd, and Zunaybar, Muḥammad. (Al-Rabāṭ: Maʻhad Al-Dirāsāt Al-Afrīqīyah, 1992).

Bello, Muḥammad, and Shādhlī, Bahījah. Infāq Al-maysūr Fī Tārīkh Bilād Al-takrūr. Manshūrāt Maʻhad Al-Dirāsāt Al-Afrīqīyah (Al-Rabāṭ: Mamlakah Al-Maghribīyah, Jāmiʻat Muḥammad Al-Khāmis, Mahad Al-Dirāsāt Al-Ifrīqīyah, 1996).

Diallo, Ibrahima. "Qur'anic and ‘Ajami’ Literacies in Pre-Colonial West Africa." Current Issues in Language Planning 13, no. 2 (2012): 91-104.

Hall, Bruce S. A History of Race in Muslim West Africa, 1600-1960 (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011).

Hunwick, John O., and Davidson, Basil. West Africa, Islam, and the Arab World : Studies in Honor of Basil Davidson. Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers, 2006.

Jeppie, Shamil, and Diagne, Souleymane Bachir. The Meanings of Timbuktu (Cape Town: HSRC Press in Association with CODESRIA: Distributed in North America by IPG, 2008).

Kane, Ousmane. Beyond Timbuktu: An Intellectual History of Muslim West Africa (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2016).

Krätli, Graziano, and Ghislaine Lydon. The Trans-Saharan Book Trade: Manuscript Culture, Arabic Literacy and Intellectual History in Muslim Africa (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2011).

Lydon, Ghislaine. On Trans-Saharan Trails: Islamic Law, Trade Networks, and Cross-cultural Exchange in Nineteenth-century Western Africa (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

Zeghal, Malika. Gardiens De L'Islam : Les Oulémas D'Al Azhar Dans L'Egypte Contemporaine. Paris: Presses De La Fondation Nationale Des Sciences Politiques, 1996.


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