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philosopher, pioneer of Islamic reformist thought, pan-Islamic nationalist as well as a staunch opponent of British penetration in the East, also known as al-Asadaabadi and al-Husayni, Afghani, was born in October/November 1839 in the Iranian village of Asadaabad. However, he endeavored to hide his origins so as to conceal his Shiite identity. It was with this in mind that he assumed the surname al-Afghani (of Afghan origin).

His father, Sayyid Safdar, is said to have been a modest farmer, but a learned Muslim. From the age of five to ten, Afghani was apparently educated at home, focusing on Arabic and the Qurʾan. Thereafter, he was sent to school in Qazvin and later Tehran, where he received the standard Shiite education.

After several years of study in the holy city of Najaf, Afghani moved to India in approximately 1855 where he first encountered British colonialism By the time he reached ...

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Thiven Reddy

South African religious figure and antiapartheid activist, was born to Sarah and Willem Boesak in Kakamas, Northern Cape. When Boesak was young, his father, a teacher, passed away. His family moved to Somerset West, where, at age 14, Boesak became active in the Dutch Reformed Church. He studied at the Bellville Theological Seminary, graduating as a priest in 1967. He went on to obtain a doctorate in Holland at the Kampen Theological Institute and then returned to South Africa to assume an active role in the struggle against apartheid.

As leader of the Afrikaner-dominated Dutch Reformed Church (DRC), he was the major force in getting the World Alliance of Reformed Churches to declare apartheid a heresy in 1982 At the time that body had not questioned South Africa s membership or the supportive stand of the DRC and the Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk NHK toward apartheid and the ruling ...

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Diane L. Barnes

William Goodell was born in Coventry, New York, to the Connecticut natives Frederick Goodell and Rhoda Guernsey. A childhood illness left Goodell bedridden for several years but also sparked a lifelong interest in learning. Although his meager circumstances precluded the attainment of formal education beyond common school, he developed an interest in writing and embarked on a career as an author and journalist. Goodell's editing work was closely tied to the reform agendas of his day: in 1827 he began to edit a general reform weekly from Providence, Rhode Island, and over his career was associated with such periodicals as the Genius of Temperance, the Emancipator, the Friend of Man, the Christian Investigator, the American Jubilee, the Radical Abolitionist, and the National Principia. By 1830 Goodell had returned to New York and for the remainder of his career as an editor ...

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Allen J. Fromherz

charismatic religious reformer, Mahdi, founder of the Almohad movement, is one of the most important but almost the most enigmatic of medieval North Africans. The basic details of the life of Muhammad ibn Tumart were contested within the sources. Estimates of the date of his birth in the Berber, Moroccan village of Igilliz-n-Warghan or Numarkan in the Anti-Atlas Mountains south of the Sus Valley vary between 1078 and 1098. His name, “Tumart,” is Berber. When he was born, his parents proclaimed, “a tumart inu issak ayiwi,” which means, “Oh my joy comes from you child.” Born into a noble line of Berber chiefs or ugallids, and able to claim Arab heritage as a sharif a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad Ibn Tumart s claimed dual identity would help him later in life as he preached a fundamental interpretation of the Arabic Qurʾan to the Berber Masmuda Mountain ...

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Jeremy Rich

pioneering religious leader and political activist in Sierra Leone and Nigeria, also known as James “Holy” Johnson, was born around 1835 in the town of Kakanda, near Waterloo on the coast of Sierra Leone. The incessant conflicts that tore Yoruba communities apart in the early nineteenth century brought his parents to Sierra Leone, as they had been enslaved and sold to Europeans. Johnson’s mother told him as a child of the horrors of the Middle Passage and the willingness of slaves to commit suicide rather than endure the voyage into bondage. Luckily, Johnson’s father and mother were liberated from slave ships by British naval anti-slave patrols. His father belonged to the Ijesha community, while Johnson’s mother came from an Ijebu kingdom and claimed to be related to the Awujale royal family. Details about Johnson’s parents are scant, and Johnson’s short 1908 autobiography did not mention his father at all ...

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Jeremy Rich

Kongolese religious and political reformer, was born to a wealthy noble Kongo-speaking family in Kibangu, a mountainous region located in present-day Angola. Little is known of Kimpa Vita’s immediate family, but she grew up during a period of fragmentation and civil war. The relative stability of the Kongo kingdom in the sixteenth century had collapsed in the wake of the Portuguese invasion from Angola to its south in the 1660s. By the late seventeenth century, the old kingdom had divided into a range of competing noble families, each claiming to be the rightful dynasty that could rebuild the shattered fragments of Kongo into a single state. Kimpa Vita’s father served as an officer in the army of King Álvaro X, whose pretentions of being the true monarch of Kongo did not correspond with the tiny amount of territory around Kibangu that he actually controlled.

Amid this chaotic political landscape Kimpa ...

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Yuusuf Caruso

Islamic reformer, scholar, teacher, and jurist, was born in the island town of Mombasa, on the Indian Ocean coast of East Africa, in what is now southeastern Kenya. Sheikh al-Amin’s family belonged to the Omani Arab clan that ruled Mombasa for almost two centuries. The Mazruʿi first emigrated from the Imamate of Oman in the Arabian peninsula to the east coast of Africa during the second half of the seventeenth century. Since the early 1500s, Portuguese soldiers and traders at Mombasa and Malindi had been engaged in an intermittent struggle against the indigenous Swahili merchant elite and the Omani Arabs. In the early eighteenth century, the Portuguese were finally driven out. In 1735 the Mazruʿi liwalis governors came to power in Mombasa and extended their rule over an area stretching from Ras Ngomeni north of Malindi to the Pangani River south of Tanga in what is now northeastern Tanzania ...

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Jeremy Rich

religious leader and political reformer, was born in the region that would later become southern Mauritania sometime in the seventeenth century. There is some controversy regarding basic chronological facts about his life. Later sources from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries contended that al-Din began his movement in 1644, which would have placed his birth sometime in the early seventeenth century. However, historians such as Philip Curtin contended the movement only became active in the 1670s, which may mean al-Din was born later in the seventeenth century.

In any event al Din belonged to the Banu Dayman community This group was a member of the zwaya Berber ethnic groups that together were known as the Tashumsha After completing an advanced education in Islamic law and theology with various Muslim clerics al Din proclaimed himself to be a successor to the great early Islamic caliphs of the past such as the ...

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Michael West

South African religious figure embodied the connection between Ethiopianism and African nationalism in Zimbabwe previously called Rhodesia and before then Southern Rhodesia Ethiopianism was African Christian independence a descriptor for colonized Africans who left religious bodies dominated by European or Euro American missionaries and formed independent churches The term Ethiopianism was inspired by Psalms 68 31 which predicted Princes shall come out of Egypt Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God In the areas of colonial Africa where western notably Protestant missionaries were most active and where consequently Ethiopianism was most common African religious and political independence were often closely linked The emergence of an African national consciousness which everywhere preceded the emergence of an anticolonial African nationalist movement paralleled the rise of Ethiopianism Princes were coming out of Egypt and Ethiopia to the Ethiopianists a metaphor for Africa as a whole was stretching out her hands unto ...

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Geoffrey Roper

Lebanese Muslim reformer and journalist in Egypt, was born on 23 September 1865 in the village of Qalamun in northern Lebanon, into a Sunni family that claimed descent from the Prophet Muhammad. He received a traditional education in the local Qurʾan school (kuttab) and then went on to the Madrasa Wataniyya (National College), a new Ottoman state college in Tripoli (Lebanon), where he also learned about modern sciences and nontraditional interpretations.

At the end of 1897 he went to Egypt, where he immediately became a disciple of Muhammad ʿAbduh, the celebrated Egyptian theologian and reformer. He proposed to him the establishment of a periodical to expound and advocate the cause of religious and political reform. ʿAbduh endorsed the idea, and Rashid Rida brought out the first issue of al-Manar (The Lighthouse) in March 1898 He remained the editor until he died thirty seven years later ...