Sufi shrines as material space

Authored by: Eric Ross

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 discusses the various types of built structures which serve Islamic piety beyond the confines of mosques, the main loci of Islamic devotion to God. Shrines may consist of zawiyas (lodges), tombs, mausolea and cemeteries, and are often associated with mosques and other structures to form religious complexes. In Africa, Muslim shrines are mostly associated with Sufi sheikhs (spiritual masters) and the activities of Sufi orders (institutions sometimes also referred to as brotherhoods). The chapter also discusses the social functions of Sufi shrines in local communities where they complement, and on occasion replace, mosques and Quranic schools. It describes the personnel employed in shrines and the kinds of activities that take place in them. Finally, the chapter explains how in modern times, particularly in Senegal, Sufi shrines have come to dominate the life of entire localities and, in some cases, have developed into full-fledged shrine-towns.

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