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Christopher Wise

Malian diplomat, ethnographer, devout Muslim, and defender of traditional African culture, was born in 1901 in Bandiagara, Mali, capital of the Toucouleur Empire of the Macina Fulani, which was founded by the Tidjaniya jihadist al-Hajj ʿUmar Tal. At the time of Bâ’s birth, the French had been in control of Bandiagara for nearly a decade. His father, Hampâté, a Fulani militant from Fakala, died two years after Bâ was born. His mother, Kadidja Pâté, was the daughter of Pâté Poullou, a close personal companion of al-Hajj ʿUmar Tal. After her husband’s death, Kadidja remarried Tidjani Amadou Ali Thiam, a Toucouleur Fulani and Louta chief, who became Bâ’s adoptive father. At an early age, Bâ became intimate with Tierno Bokar Tall, the renowned “sage of Bandiagara,” who was his lifelong teacher, spiritual guide, and personal mentor. In 1912 Bâ was enrolled in the French colonialist School of the Hostages remaining ...

Article

Kenneth Harrow

Amadou Hampâté Bâ once wrote that every time an elderly man dies in Africa it is as if a library has burned down. Bâ was the most effective advocate, spokesperson, and writer of what we have come to associate with traditional Africa; that is, the Africa whose texts were oral creations, whose authors were performers of epics as well as tales, whose heroes were both rulers and tricksters, and whose religions encompassed both Islam and those of the Bambara or Mande, Fulbe, Soninke, and other West African communities.

Born in Mali around 1900 Bâ was raised in the region of Bandiagara where the influence of El Hadj Omar s conquests were still being felt having marked much of the Sahel with a strong Islamic character El Hadj Omar was the major figure of resistance to the French during the period of early colonialism in the second half of the ...

Article

Richard Watts

Amadou Hampaté Bâ was born in the town of Bandiagara, approximately 500 km (300 mi) northeast of Bamako, Mali, and belonged to an important family of Marabouts (Muslim religious leaders). Bâ’s father died when he was two years old, and he was adopted and raised by a chief in the region. Educated at French schools in Bandiagara and Djenné, about 200 km (124 mi) from Bandiagara, Bâ nonetheless managed to continue his traditional Islamic education with famed Islamic teacher Tierno Bokar, a man whose wisdom Bâ later immortalized in Vie et enseignement de Tierno Bokar (The Life and Teachings of Tierno Bokar, 1980 It was also at this time that Bâ encountered Kullel a storyteller and traditional educator who gave Bâ his first lessons in the African oral tradition Bâ later earned the nickname Amkullel Little Kullel and he honored his teacher by titling the first volume ...

Article

Raymond Pierre Hylton

minister, author, and educator, was born near Burgess in Northumberland County, Virginia, to Robert, a fisherman, and Maggie Ellison, a homemaker. Coming from an impoverished background, he received a rudimentary education and had to work at age fourteen as a farm laborer earning seven dollars per month. His first stroke of good fortune occurred in 1906 when he entered the Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute (later Virginia State College and still later Virginia State University) in Ettrick, Virginia. Getting into Virginia Union University in Richmond was not so easy; there was initial skepticism on the part of its president, Dr. George Rice Hovey, who saw no academic promise in the young man. In 1909 Hovey reluctantly admitted Ellison to the Wayland Academy (as Virginia Union's high school program was then called), and he then went on to the collegiate undergraduate program, graduating in 1917 ...

Article

Allen J. Fromherz

philosopher, scientist, and theologian, was born Abu al Walid Muhammad bin Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Rushd. Known in the Medieval Latin West as Averroes, he was one of the most influential commentators on Aristotle and on Plato’s Republic. A philosopher, scientist, and theologian of remarkable ability, Ibn Rushd famously stated that there was no inherent inconsistency between Greek rational thought and Islam. Born in 1120 in Cordoba Ibn Rushd wrote and studied in North Africa as well as in Muslim Spain al Andalus Although his life has often been portrayed as a struggle between rational thought and the tyranny of the African Almohad rulers who reigned in al Andalus Ibn Rushd s thinking was influenced as much by his time in Africa as his time in Spain Popular depictions of Ibn Rushd as an oppressed liberal thinker and as a European stifled by the close mindedness of the ...

Article

Allen J. Fromherz

known in Latin as Raimundus Lullus, Ramon Llull was a Catalan intellectual, translator, doctor, mathematician, theologian, and missionary born in 1232 or 1233 in Palma, the capital of the island of Majorca in the western Mediterranean south of Barcelona. The Catalans had almost suddenly become masters of the western Mediterranean, and the conquest of Majorca by King James I from the Berber North African Almohad Empire in 1229 three years before his death was still fresh in 1232. Ramon Llull would spend most of his life at a crossroads between the Christian powers of Europe and the Muslim powers of North Africa, absorbing the influence of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian traditions. Having experienced an Augustinian conversion from a life licentiousness to one of spiritual contemplation, the first decades of his life from a biography, Vita coaetanea are described as given to ...

Article

North African scholar of Islamic law, theology, and mysticism, and leader and founder of the Sanusiyya brotherhood (tariqa), was born on 22 December 1787 in Wasita, near Mostaghanem in western Algeria. He was a sharif, or descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. Orphaned at an early age, he was raised and educated in his early years by his paternal aunt Fatima, and then by the leading scholars of nearby Mazuna and Mascara.

Sometime between 1805 and 1809 al-Sanusi moved to Fez, Morocco, to pursue more advanced studies at the Qarawiyyin Mosque, the celebrated university. There he studied the traditional curriculum with many of Morocco’s most prominent scholars of the time and quickly achieved academic distinction in their courses. He became an avid practitioner of Sufism and an active member in a number of several turuq (Ar. sing. tariqa mystical way or organization including the Shadhiliyya the Nasiriyya ...

Article

David B. McCarthy

Presbyterian theologian and ethicist, was born in Alcolu, South Carolina, the son of Anderson James Williams and Bertha Bell McRae. He spent his early years on the farm his family had purchased soon after emancipation, where nearby the Westminster Presbyterian Church stood on a corner of the family property. But he spent most of his youth growing up in racially mixed Homestead, in metropolitan Pittsburgh, where he attended Grace Memorial Presbyterian Church.

Williams graduated Phi Beta Kappa with an AB from Washington and Jefferson College in 1947, and he earned his master's degree from the same institution in 1948. He enrolled in Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he earned his bachelor of divinity in 1950. Later that same year the Pittsburgh Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (USA) ordained Williams as a minister.

In 1954 Williams received his master of sacred ...

Article

The little information known about Zara Yacob’s life is derived from the autobiographical nature of his philosophical treatise, which he wrote in the mid-seventeenth century. Yacob was born in 1599 (or 1592 in the Julian calendar) near Aksum, the ancient capital and center of religious learning in present-day Ethiopia. He followed a traditional training within the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, a Christian church. Yacob studied music, qene (poetry or hymns), and especially the biblical Psalms of King David.

After studying the scriptures for ten years Yacob taught for four years in Aksum Living as a monk he acquainted himself with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church which had been introduced to Ethiopia by Portuguese Jesuit missionaries beginning in the middle of the sixteenth century During this period the competition between the Catholic and the Ethiopian church was fierce and many people linked adherence to the Orthodox Church with the very ...