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Cathlyn Mariscotti

Egyptian Islamic scholar and prominent writer of Arabic literature, was born on 18 November 1913 into a conservative religious household in Dumyat (Damietta) in the Egyptian Delta. She was a descendent, on her mother’s side, of a shaykh of the Al-Azhar, the prestigious mosque and university in Cairo, and her father taught at Dumyat Religious Institute. Well acquainted with her family history, ʿAbd al- Rahman sought to continue this proud tradition. She began learning basic reading and writing skills before the age of five in a kuttab in her father s village This early instruction prepared her to read the Qurʾan ʿAbd al Rahman s later education became more difficult however as her father did not believe that girls should be educated outside the home because secular education did not provide proper instruction for them As a result ʿAbd al Rahman s mother would continually intervene to help her ...

Article

David H. Anthony

Islamic scholar, Jamaican slave, and author, was born in Timbuktu, Mali. When he was two years old his family moved to Jenné in the western Sudan, another major center of Islamic learning and a renowned Sahelian trade city. Heir to a long tradition of Islamic saints and scholars claiming descent from the Prophet Muhammad, he was part of one of several dynasties designated as Sherifian or Shurfaa. Abu Bakr was trained and certified in Jenné by several ulama, the highly intellectual stratum of Islamic teachers. He was in the process of becoming a cleric when he was captured. As was true for many Islamized Africans caught in the vortex of the Atlantic slave trade, Abu Bakr's itinerant life had pre slave African and post slave black Atlantic dimensions His path shares the trajectory of many coreligionists from Muslim areas of the continent as well ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

Ahmad Baba was one of the best-known Islamic scholars and writers of his time. Born into the prestigious Aqit family near Tombouctou (Timbuktu) in 1556, he was educated in Islamic theology and law. After completing his studies, he began writing books and treatises on theology, Islamic jurisprudence, history, and Arabic grammar. Over the course of his life he wrote more than fifty-six works. More than half of these are still in existence, and several are still used by West African ulama (scholars). Ahmad Baba also was a great collector of books; he amassed a library containing thousands of volumes. At this time, Tombouctou, ruled by the Songhai empire, was renowned throughout the Islamic world as a center of learning.

In 1591 the sultan of Morocco invaded Tombouctou. Ahmad Baba and other scholars refused to serve the Moroccan rulers and, by some accounts, instigated a 1593 rebellion against ...

Article

Alessandra Vianello

Islamic mystic and scholar, and the most outstanding poetess in Chimini, the Bantu vernacular of Brava, was born in Brava, a coastal city of southern Somalia, in the second decade of the nineteenth century. Her full name was Mana Sitti Habib Jamaladdin, but she was affectionately called Dada Masiti (Grandmother Masiti) by her fellow citizens. Her family, both on the paternal and maternal side, belonged to the Mahadali Ashraf. However, through her mother’s maternal grandfather, Dada Masiti was also related to the Ali Naziri Ashraf, who were locally more numerous and influential. Both groups, who traced their lineage to the Prophet Muhammad, had settled in Brava in the early seventeenth century.

The events that marked Dada Masiti s early years and had a crucial bearing on her subsequent spiritual development are known only through different oral traditions The most widespread version would have her kidnapped as a child of six ...

Article

Efraim Barak

, Egyptian writer, journalist, politician, and intellectual, was born on 20 August 1945, to a middle-class family. The eldest of five children, Fuda spent his childhood in the village of Zarqa, which is located in the district of Dumyat, on the coast of the Mediterranean. His father, ʿAli, who was a devout Muslim and very involved in community life, studied mechanical engineering at the University of Alexandria; he then went on to a career overseeing maintenance at the iron and steel firm in Hilwan. Fuda’s mother died when he was fourteen.

Fuda finished high school in 1962 and began studying agriculture at university, at the decree of the governmental coordination office, which determined higher education placement. In 1967 he graduated with honors from ʿAin Shams University in Cairo and took a position teaching there A year later he was involved in student demonstrations and was detained for two ...

Article

Tanzanian poet and scholar, was born around 1850 on Pemba Island. His father, grandfather, and great grandfather were also poets and scholars. He lived much of his life in Tanga, in what is now Tanzania. He was married to Mwanasia Suwaka, and both were buried near a mosque built by their son Hemedi Ali el-Buhriy.

Hemedi Abdallah wrote both religious and secular poetry. His published poetry was originally written in the Swahili utenzi (“narrative”) genre and in Arabic script. His most well-known poem is Utenzi wa Vita vya Wadachi Kutamalaki Mrima. This poem describes the 1888–1889 war waged by coastal peoples against the Germans Unlike other narrative poems about the conquest that were solicited by the Germans this poem openly praises the consultative leadership of Abushiri bin Salim who led the struggle and is harshly critical of the German invaders who are described as uncivilized drunken infidels The poem ...

Article

Allen J. Fromherz

was born in Valencia, Spain in Rabi II 595 (according to the Islamic calendar), or January/February 1199, and is considered one of the greatest writers of the twelfth century. His full name, Abu ʿAbd Allah Ibn al-Abbar al QudaʿI, means “Son of the Seller of Sewing Needles,” indicating that his family was probably part of the small-scale merchant class in Muslim Spain.

As a young man Ibn al-Abbar witnessed the devastating battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212 which turned the tide against the Almohads in Muslim Spain Divided and defeated the Muslim west began to fracture His early master Ibn Mardanish ruler in Murcia converted to Christianity possibly as a means of forming an alliance with other Christian rulers and averting the capture of his city Although Ibn al Abbar did not follow his master in converting he had no scruples about working for an ...

Article

Allan D. Austin

rising member of a leading Muslim family in Senegal, a captive in Gambia, and later a slave in Maryland, was born Ayuba ibn Suleiman Diallo in Bondu, West Africa, to a prosperous family. Though little information about Job's early years is available, it is known that by the age of fifteen he was, his amanuensis wrote, well on his way to becoming an Alfa—following his father and grandfather—one of the religious leaders in an area of eastern Senegal renowned then and at the time of the explorer Mungo Park's1775 visit as a territory where Muslims at least need not fear enslavement Job not only advanced positively in his koranic and Arabic studies but he also proved to be a brave and resourceful trader His growing wealth and respectability led to a marriage with the daughter of a neighboring Alfa of gold exporting Tombut Bambuk After ...

Article

Alessandra Vianello

Somali Islamic scholar and poet both in the Arabic language and in Chimini the vernacular of his hometown was born in Brava a coastal town in southern Somalia in a family that traced its origins to the al Waʾili clan of Southern Arabia Of moderate wealth mainly acquired by trade the family belonged to the learned elite of Brava Sheikh Qasim s father Muhyiddin Maie Ali was a scholar and copyist of the Qurʾan his elder brother Mohammed was a disciple of Sheikh Aweys Mohammed al Qadiri and had accompanied his teacher on his journey to Mecca In a eulogy composed at the time of her death a sister Khadija is remembered as a scholarly woman always with a book under her arm The family tradition was continued in the next generation by the youngest of Sheikh Qasim s sons Mohammed Sheikh Mohammed Sufi who became a renowned Islamic scholar ...

Article

Ellis Goldberg

Egyptian author, literary critic, and activist who helped shape contemporary political Islam, was born in the Upper Egyptian village of Musha in Asyut province on 9 October 1906. His father, Qutb Ibrahim, was a farmer and member of the nationalist Watani party led by Mustafa Kamil. Qutb attended a state-run primary school, but had also memorized the Qurʾan in its entirety by 1916. Qutb experienced the massive 1919 revolt against British rule as a teenage activist. He left the village in 1921 and lived in the Cairo suburb of Zaytun with his mother’s brother for four years, while attending a high school associated with the modernist educational institution Dar al-ʿUlum (founded 1871). In 1929 he entered Dar al-ʿUlum itself and graduated in 1933.

After graduation Qutb first appeared on the Egyptian intellectual scene as a poet and literary critic He was then thought of as a ...