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Zahia Smail Salhi

Algerian emir and anticolonialist leader, was born on 6 September 1808 near Mascara in the west of Algeria. His full name was ʿAbd al-Qadir bin Muhieddine; he is known in the Arab east as ʿAbdel-Kader al-Jazaʾiri and in Algeria as al-Amir ʿAbd El-Kader.

His father, Muhieddine al-Hassani, was a Sufi shaykh who followed the Qadiriyya religious order and claimed to be a Hasani (sharif ) descendent of the Prophet with family ties with the Idrisi dynasty of Morocco. As a young boy, ʿAbdel-Kader trained in horsemanship, and from this he developed his love for horses, about which he wrote some beautiful poetry. He was also trained in religious sciences; he memorized the Qurʾan and read in theology and philology. He was also known as a poet who recited classical poetry and wrote his own poetry, mostly centering on war and chivalry.

In 1825 ʿAbdel Kader set out with ...

Article

Geoffrey Roper

Egyptian Muslim theologian, modernist, and reformer, was born in the Gharbiya Province of Lower Egypt, the son of ʿAbduh ibn Hasan Khayr Allah, a peasant farmer, and his wife, who was descended from the Bani ʿAdl clan. He grew up in the village of Mahallat Nasr and received a traditional education, learning the Qurʾan by heart. In 1862 he was sent to the madrasa (Islamic college) in Tanta. There, he perfected his Qurʾan recitation and started to learn Arabic grammar, by the then normal method of memorizing texts and commentaries without explanation from his teachers.

Reacting against this, according to his own account, he ran away from the college and returned to his village, intending to become a peasant rather than a scholar. In this condition he married in 1865 at the age of sixteen But after various vicissitudes he resorted to his great uncle Shaykh Darwish Khadr who ...

Article

African peoples have created hundreds of distinct religions that, despite centuries of contact with Islam and Christianity, remain important both in Africa itself and to followers in the Americas and in Europe. Approximately half of Africa's current population identify themselves as Muslim. A smaller number identify themselves as Christian or as followers of indigenous African religions, and small groups (under one million each) identify themselves as Jewish or Hindu. This essay focuses on those religions created by African peoples south of the Sahara. While there is considerable diversity in African religions, this essay will emphasize their commonalities.

Article

James J. O'Donnell

Christian bishop and theologian, was born Aurelius Augustinus on 13 November 354 CE in Tagaste (mod. Souk Ahras, Algeria) in Roman Africa, the son of Patricius and Monnica. The names of father and son are marked by emphatic affiliation with Rome (echoing the imperial title of Augustus and the high dignity of “patrician”), while the mother’s name echoes the traditional Punic culture of Africa and one of its leading deities. Augustine died as bishop of Hippo Regius (mod. Annaba, Algeria) on 28 August 430. He never ceased to surprise his contemporaries, and he has astonished many more to this day.

As the older son in a family of some social pretensions but limited resources Augustine should have grown to manhood as a country squire of narrow horizons But his parents were ambitious and found the money from an influential friend to send him away for education He studied first at ...

Article

Bahia  

Aaron Myers

Of all the states in Brazil, Bahia has maintained the strongest ties with Africa and African culture. During the first two centuries of the colonial era, Bahia absorbed most of the slaves imported to Brazil. At this time, the slaves came to constitute a majority of Bahia's population and exerted a proportional effect on the developing character of the state. Today, Bahia's traditions and customs are living testimony to the enormous influence of Africans and their descendants.

Article

Aaron Myers

Scholars distinguish three major types of Candomblé in Brazil, each of which is associated with different nações (literally “nations,” which refer to the African ethnic group origins of the Candomblé): the Gêgê-Nagô Candomblé, the Angola-Congo Candomblé, and the Candomblé de Caboclo. The first is based on Yoruba and Fon religious traditions and languages, while the others are based on diverse Bantu and Brazilian sources. There is a great deal of variation both between and within these three types of Candomblé, but all are strongly influenced by Yoruba beliefs and rituals. This article attempts to discuss the elements common to all three variants of Candomblé.

Large numbers of Yoruba slaves from Nigeria and Benin were brought to Brazil during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. They believed in one Supreme Being, known as Olorun or Olodumaré, and numerous intermediary spiritual beings, known as orixás which were in broad ...

Article

For five centuries, throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, the relationship between the Catholic Church and people of African ancestry has been fraught with contradiction. The Church's complicity in slavery, its Eurocentric cosmology, and its bouts of inquisitorial zeal have rendered it an uninviting space for Afro-Latin identity. Yet the Church's need to attract converts, its overall tolerance of heterodoxy, and its public recognition of black saints, have over time made major contributions to Afro-Latin cultures. To this day this contradiction, far from being resolved, has inner potentialities that are yet to be fully realized.

Article

In 1704 a gravely ill Kongolese woman named Dona Beatrice had a miraculous vision. Saint Anthony appeared to her, calling for the restoration of the Kingdom of Kongo which had been destroyed through years of internal wars Portuguese interference and the slave trade The young Beatrice was a former nganga marimba or medium and her claim to have died and arisen when Saint Anthony entered her head was in keeping with patterns of Kongo spirit possession and mediumship The revelations received by Beatrice and her followers came from the Christian saints alone however and the vision her so called Antonian movement articulated was decidedly nationalist in scope The Antonians established their headquarters among the ruins of the old capital of São Salvador next to the abandoned cathedral They called for the repopulation of the city the reunification of the Kongo people and the return of a divinely sanctioned ruler ...

Article

Jeffrey Haynes

The initials AIC generally designate a genre of various African expressions of Christian faith, meaning churches that came into existence following Africans’ initiatives (AIC stands variously for African Independent Churches, African Indigenous Churches, African Initiated Churches, or African Instituted Churches). There is agreement that they are Christian bodies in Africa that were established as a result of African initiative, rather than on the initiative of foreign missionary organizations, but less consensus on what the initials stand for or what the variations mean.

African Christians began to form independent congregations and denominations at the end of the nineteenth century. While their early history is often difficult to document precisely, it is clear that some of the AICs are among the fastest-growing Christian groups in Africa today. AICs were founded in great numbers between about 1914 and 1925, with a second wave of growth from the 1930s to the 1950 ...

Article

Michael R. Mahoney

first Anglican bishop of Natal, theologian, and political activist, was born in Saint Austell, Cornwall, on 24 January 1814, the eldest of four children of a mineral agent to the Duchy of Cornwall. He began attending Saint John’s College, Cambridge University, in 1832, and in 1836 he graduated as a second wrangler in the mathematical tripos and a second Smith’s prizeman. A year later he was elected a fellow at Saint John’s. In 1839 he took up holy orders in the Church of England but worked as a mathematics tutor at Harrow, where he gained some notoriety as an author of mathematics texts. During this period Colenso also became increasingly active in the Church of England and in 1846 became rector of Forncett Saint Mary Church in Norfolk County. That same year he married Sarah Frances Bunyon, with whom he had five children.

In 1853 at the ...

Article

Cajetan Nnaocha

educator, linguist, and first African Anglican bishop in Nigeria, was born in about 1809 at Oshogun, Yorubaland, in today’s Iseyin Local Government Area of Oyo State, Nigeria.

Crowther was captured in 1821 at the age of thirteen and sold into slavery when Oshogun was raided by Fulani and Oyo Muslims. Crowther, along with other enslaved persons, was marched away to Iseyin, where he was exchanged for English wine and tobacco and handed over to Portuguese merchants engaged in the transatlantic slave trade and put on board the Experanza Feliz, bound for the New World. Fortunately, the ship was intercepted and boarded by British naval patrol ship, the Myrmidon and everyone onboard was rescued The Portuguese ship was then taken by its British captors to Sierra Leone and Crowther and the other slaves were released by them and put ashore When they arrived in Freetown rather than being treated ...

Article

Dance  

Omofolabo Ajayi-Soyinka

Dance in Africa is as diverse and as complex as the myriad of cultures and peoples on the continent. An art form, it is a product of, and part of, the engendering culture. Albeit nonverbal, dance is especially valued on the African continent for its expressiveness and dynamic form, and features prominently as a medium of communication during religious worships and at instructional levels. Whether in ancient times or in more contemporary times, dance retains its popularity among African peoples as a creative outlet at numerous levels—from the sublime to the predictable, from the sacred to the secular.

All embracing all encompassing dance in the African context quite often becomes a focal point of display and repository for other art forms enhancing them with its dynamic attributes The claim can be made that many other African art forms have been created expressly with dance in mind it is essentially through ...

Article

Because it is non-verbal, dance has often been perceived by Western observers as a relatively insignificant cultural medium, capable of communicating only abstract thought or emotion. In the African diaspora, however, bodily movement can be a form of prayer, or of protest. Sometimes it is both. In some cases, the brutal repression of verbal expressions of religious or political beliefs has necessitated this other, more discreet means of communication. Meaningful motion is an important and continuous aspect of diasporic culture, which assumes no necessary division between the mind and the body.

The worship of African deities in the Caribbean and Latin America continues to be performed through dance, and the choreographies of these religious ceremonies bear an uncanny resemblance to those of West African ceremonies. Vodou in Haiti, Santería in Cuba, and Candomblé in Brazil are all African diasporic religions in which dance is used to invoke ...

Article

Alexis Tengan

Ghanaian Roman Catholic cardinal, was born around 1918 on the border between present-day Ghana and Burkina Faso. He was born into a Dagara noble priestly family, and started his career at an early age, as an assistant fetish priest in the Dagara traditional religion. At birth he was given the name Poreku Dery because he was thought to be a spirit incarnate and because his father was called Poreku (Dery, 2001 p 20 The Dagara assign the personal name Dery to a male child if that child is believed to have already experienced a brief moment of human life and death at an early age If a child dies before he is weaned he is buried with a mark on his body if the next child born to the same family is of the same gender and also bears this particular mark he is considered the reincarnation of that ...

Article

Èshù  

Phillips Jr. Stevens

Èshù (also Eshu-e.légbá, Eshu-e.légbára, and Le.gba), a character or concept in the cosmology of Yoruba and related peoples in southern Benin (formerly Dahomey) and Togo, has been called by non-Yoruba a “trickster” or “trickster god,” and by early missionaries, a “devil.” In fact, Èshù is an extremely complex concept, both a deity (òrìshà) and a principle, combining elements of deception, ambivalence, and social conscience.

The Western misunderstanding of Èshù s role probably derives from the efforts of early missionaries to find a counterpart to Satan in African cosmologies and to confirm the general European assumption that African peoples had been subverted by Satan were destined for hell and needed saving through conversion to Christianity They readily found such a character in Èshù He does indeed display some elements of the standard trickster character of folklore but Yoruba have such a character Àjàpá or Ìjàpá the tortoise and there ...

Article

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is a branch of Christianity native to the East African nation of Ethiopia, where it has played a central role in the culture of the Amhara and Tigre peoples. Although the church no longer wields the power it once held, it continues to have significant influence in Ethiopia.

Scholars are uncertain about the origins of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. One traditional story states that two brothers from Tyre, in modern Lebanon, Christianized Ethiopia in the fourth century c.e.. The brothers—Frumentius (later a saint and Ethiopia’s first bishop) and Aedesius—won the support of King Ezana of Aksum and converted his subjects Another tradition says that three followers of Jesus Matthew Bartholomew and Andrew traveled to Ethiopia and spread Christianity while the New Testament book Acts of the Apostles states that the apostle Philip converted an Ethiopian eunuch Whatever truth may lie in these traditions ...

Article

Aaron Myers

Filhos de Gandhi (Portuguese for “Sons of Gandhi”) is part of a long tradition of black socioreligious organizations called afoxés that began in the late nineteenth century. Pândegos da África (Revelers of Africa) was one of the first afoxés to parade in Salvador's Carnival, bringing the ceremonial songs and dances of the Candomblés to the street celebration. With the advent of the Getúlio Vargas dictatorship in 1930, however, the Brazilian government repressed afoxés and other manifestations of Afro-Brazilian religion. By the beginning of the 1970s the only remaining afoxé was Filhos de Gandhi, and it was almost defunct. The growth of black pride during that decade, however, breathed new life into Filhos de Gandhi and, following their example, several more afoxés began to appear at Salvador's Carnival.

Filhos de Gandhi was founded on February 18, 1949, and named after India's famous independence leader Mahatma Gandhi who ...

Article

Idris  

Ronald Bruce St John

king of Libya, Libyan religious and political leader, descendant of a distinguished North African family that traced its ancestry to the Prophet Muhammad, was the first head of state after Libya won independence in 1951. Born at Jaghbub in eastern Libya, Sayyid Muhammad Idris al-Mahdi al-Sanusi was the eldest son of Sayyid Muhammad al-Mahdi al-Sanusi, in turn the eldest son and successor to Sayyid Muhammad bin ʿAli al-Sanusi, the founder of the Sanusi Order, a strictly orthodox order of Sufis established in Libya in 1842. Idris was schooled in traditional Islamic studies at the Kufrah Oasis, a Sanusi center in southeastern Libya, where he earned a reputation for piety and scholarship. After Italy invaded Libya in 1911, an occupation the Sanusi Order resisted with force, Idris assumed leadership of the order in 1916 Idris tried to reach a peaceful accommodation with the Italians but when his ...

Article

The person who laid down the principle of tradition as an important part of the Muslim heritage was al-Shá’fí (d. 820), the great Muslim lawyer of Cairo. He believed that the community was central to maintaining tradition. Community for al-Shá’fí meant a group of recognized leaders and experts who use their knowledge to agree on something that affects public and personal life. Al-Shá’fi believed that such agreements carried the weight of truth, for in his view it was impossible for the community to agree in error. Error, he said, arose from separation, and not from collective decision making. For al-Shá’fí, then, a living community was responsible for maintaining sound tradition.

However al Shá fí was not just interested in tradition simply for the sake of protecting community interests Rather he defended the community because he saw it as necessary to preserving the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad That tradition called ...

Article

Lansana Gberie

Sierra Leone’s third elected President and the first Muslim to become leader of the West African state, was born in Pendembu, Kailahun District, in eastern Sierra Leone, on 16 February 1932. His father, Abu Bakr Sidique Kabbah, was an ethnic Mandingo businessman who had migrated to the predominantly Mende and Kissi town from Kambia District, in northern Sierra Leone. His mother was from a prominent Mende ruling family, the Coomber family of the Mandu chiefdom, Kailahun District. The family later relocated to Freetown, allowing Kabbah, a member of a devout Muslim family, to attend the Catholic St. Edward’s Secondary School in Freetown. Cosmopolitanism and religious tolerance came naturally: Kabbah later married Patricia Tucker, a Catholic who was of the Sherbro/Mende ethnic group.

On completion of secondary school, Kabbah’s father sent him to the University of Wales, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1959 He joined ...