Pathways and formations of “African Sufism”

Authored by: Knut S. Vikør

Routledge Handbook of Islam in Africa

Print publication date:  December  2021
Online publication date:  December  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367144234
eBook ISBN: 9780367144241
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter will map the development of Sufism south of the Sahara. It will discuss how Muslims on the continent began integrating with the developing traditions of Sufi thought and theology, as part of their interaction with Muslim theology in the central lands of Islam. At the same time, Sufism was adapted into the social structure of the various regions of Africa, be it through the interaction between Sufi scholarship and so-called holy families in some regions, or with the strategies of zwaya tribes and similar in desert regions. These social interactions eventually led to the transitions from pious intellectual activity individually or within a family group to the growth of larger organizations, brotherhoods that mobilized larger following. The chapter will discuss what the “African” element of these various formation processes were, to what degree Sufism in Sub-Saharan Africa is a mere replication of Sufi developments in the wider Muslim worlds, and whether there are aspects of it that are uniquely African.

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