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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

Emad Abdul-Latif

university professor and Imam, was born in 1885 in Abu Gerg village in Minya, Upper Egypt, to a wealthy and prestigious family. His father, Hassan Abdul Razik Pasha, was a prominent politician, and his mother, Khadooja Abdul Salam Al Shureiy, descended from a famous family in Upper Egypt. He studied at Al-Azhar under Sheikh Muhammad Abdou, who deeply influenced his ideologies. After obtaining his Alamyya certificate in 1908, he traveled to France to complete his studies at the Sorbonne University and then the University of Lyon. Upon receiving his doctorate, he settled in Lyon to teach the Arabic language and Islamic Law. World War I put an end to his stay in France. By the end of 1914 he returned to Egypt, where he worked as an employee at Al-Azhar and then a judge in the Islamic courts. Upon his appointment in 1927 as an associate professor at ...

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

Charles C. Stewart

Malian political leader and notable Muslim scholar, was the political head of the Timbuktu-area lineage, the Kunta confederation, during the years 1847–1865. He inherited this role from his brother, Sidi al-Mukhtar al-Saghir bin Sidi Muhammad (d. 1847), who had assumed the position from his father in 1824, himself heritor of the influence of the family’s patriarch, his father, Sidi al-Mukhtar al-Kunti (d. 1811). His education in the Azaouad region of Timbuktu encompassed the Islamic disciplines including Arabic language, jurisprudence, and theology. The database of West African writings, West African Manuscripts, provides us with a sense of his intellectual literary productivity: in a sample of 180 manuscript titles there are 47 poems or collections, 41 devotional writings, 33 letters of political polemics, 15 works on Sufism, mainly attacking the Tijaniyya, and 10 juridical decisions. At some point, probably in the late 1820s or early 1830s we know he ...

Article

religious teacher and expert in Islamic law in Timbuktu, was born 26 October 1556 in the village of Araouane, a few days north of Timbuktu by camel caravan. His full name was Abu al-Abbas Ahmad Baba ibn Ahmad ibn Ahmad ibn ʿUmar ibn Muhammad Aqit al-Sinhaji, al-Tinbukti. His father was Ahmad (1522–1583), his grandfather al hajj Ahmad (1458–1535), and his great grandfather Umar, the son of Muhammad Aqit, the celebrated patriarch of the Masufa Tuareg clan of Aqit (one of the most powerful families of Timbuktu).

Ahmad Baba was raised in Timbuktu, where he studied the hadith and Islamic law with his father and other Aqit family members. His most influential teacher was the famous scholar and historical figure Mahmud Bagayogo, author of numerous qurʾanic commentaries, whose acts of courage are recorded in al hajj Mahmud Kati’s Tarikh al fattash Prior to the Moroccan invasion ...

Article

Islamic scholar and historian from present-day Mauritania. His name is also spelled Sidi Ahmed ould al-Amin al-Shinqiti. The nisba (name extension indicating place of origin) al-Shinqiti does not refer to the town Chinguetti (Shinqit), but was given to him during his stay in the Arab world. All bidan (Moors) going abroad to the Arab world have the nisba al-Shiniqiti added to their names, no matter from which region or town of the so-called Bilad Shinqit (“The lands of Chinguetti”; present-day Mauritania, Western Sahara, and the Azawad region in northern Mali) they come from. In the Arab world they are generally called shanaqita and their country is known as Bilad Shinqit, even if locally different names were circulating in precolonial times.

Ahmad was born around 1863 64 in the Gibla region of what is today southwestern Mauritania Trarza and belonged to a scholarly family He was from one of the Idaw ...

Article

Cheikh Babou

Islamic religious scholar, was born Muhammad Ben Muhammad Ben Habib Allah in Khuru Mbacke, near the village of Mbacke Bawol in west- central Senegal in the early 1850s (1853 is the most commonly cited date). Bamba originated from a family of Fulbe ancestry with a long tradition of Islamic learning. The Mbacke clan left their ancestral land of Futa Tooro in northern Senegal and settled in the kingdom of Jolof among the Wolof (the majority ethnic group in Senegal) sometime in the second half of the seventeenth century. This migration affected the family in two major ways: first, the Mbacke gradually abandoned the nomadic lifestyle of Fulbe herders for that of sedentary Wolof farmers; second, they showed greater inclination toward Islamic learning and increasing assimilation to Wolof culture.

Amadu Bamba was the fourth child of Momar Anta Sali Mbacke and the second son of his mother Jaara Buso He ...

Article

Beverly Mack

the most prominent female Muslim scholar of the Sokoto caliphate in West Africa was born a twin to a learned Fulani family in what is now northern Nigeria Her full name was Nana Asma u bint Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio At the time of her birth her father a Qadiriyya Sufi scholar and preacher was undergoing deep spiritual experiences It is said that these conditions led him to give his twin infants names other than the traditional gender appropriate versions of Hassan and Hussein after the twin grandsons of the Prophet Muhammad Instead Asma u s name harkens back to Asma the daughter of the first caliph the Prophet s close friend Abubakar To many in the nineteenth century Asma u s name was a clear indication that the Shehu anticipated his daughter s adult role to be as important in promoting the cause of a just Islam in the ...

Article

Mohammed Hassen Ali

Islamic scholar in the Oromo region of Ethiopia, was born in the village of Saphalo in Harerge. His real name was Abubakar Usman Oda. He was destined to make the village of his birth the most famous place in Harerge. In fact, “Bakrii,” the root form of which is cognate with “Abubakar,” came to be inseparably linked with the name of his village. Thus, he was generally known as Shaykh Bakrii Saphalo, and indeed, few of his admirers ever knew his real name.

He received twenty years of advanced Islamic education, becoming a shaykh (scholar-teacher). He opened his first center of teaching in Saphalo in 1927 Eventually he opened five centers of teaching in several places becoming the most famous teacher in eastern Ethiopia In addition to religious education and philosophy his teaching ranged over geography history mathematics astronomy Arabic and composition in the Oromo language During his long ...

Article

Beth Ann Buggenhagen

In his lifetime Ahmadou Bamba acquired a following of disciples who would become known after his death as the Muridiyya, a Muslim Sufi way. Sufism is an esoteric dimension of Muslim practice and thought in which disciples seek the path to divine union in this life. The Senegalese historian Cheikh Anta Babou suggests that at the time of Bamba’s death in 1927, estimates of Murid disciples totaled about 100,000. The Murid path is founded on the teachings of Bamba, who is said to have produced over seven tons of scholarship, which is now housed in the Murid library in Tuba, Senegal. During his lifetime Bamba demonstrated qualities of waliyat (saintliness) and developed considerable spiritual authority. Bamba was a student of the Qur’anic sciences, which he studied with his maternal uncles. Local qadis (Qur’anic scholars) recognized that he was a master scholar. Bamba’s biography, Les Bienfaits de l'eternal ...

Article

Tamba M'bayo

Cheikh Amadou Bamba, founder of the Murid order (Muridiyya), whose disciples consider him a saintly personage, is one of the most revered Muslim leaders in Senegal. The descendants of Bamba have kept the Muridiyya alive, and it continues to win devotees among Senegalese, both at home and abroad. The Murids command a large following among ordinary Senegalese as well as the country’s political elite. An annual pilgrimage to the brotherhood’s capital, Touba, the site of Bamba’s tomb, attracts thousands of Murid pilgrims who come to pay homage to their spiritual founder.

The fourth child of Momar Anta Sali and second son of his third wife, Jaara Buso, Amadou Bamba was born around 1853 in Mbakke Bawol located in the central part of Senegal At age seven Bamba was put under the care of his maternal uncle Muhamadu Baso a k a Serin Mbusoobe a well known Islamic scholar ...

Article

Joel Gordon

founder and martyred leader of the Egyptian Muslim Brothers, the archetypical modern Islamist mass movement, was born in Mahmudiyya, a Delta town not far from Alexandria, in October 1906. His father, a devotee of a mystical Sufi order and graduate of the prestigious al-Azhar seminar in Cairo, owned a watch repair shop and sold gramophones, but he gave religious lessons by day. He oversaw young Hasan’s memorization of the Qurʾan and taught him the watch business. Hasan attended Qurʾan school in the provincial city of Damanhur, but in keeping with his father’s modernist religious sensibilities, he went on to government preparatory school, then, at age 14, enrolled in a junior teachers school in the Delta city of Damanhur. In 1924 he entered Dar al-Ulum, the teacher training college in Cairo.

Banna went on to pursue a career in the state educational sector but his life became dominated by a ...

Article

Mauritanian teacher and Muslim scholar, was born to a scholarly family and reared in Walata, an oasis town in present-day eastern Mauritania. His full name was Muhammad abu ʿAbd Allah ibn abu Bakr as-Siddiq al-Bartili al-Walati. The main lineages that claim descent from the Bartili (or Barittayl) are the at-Talib Jibril, the ʿAli Diggan, and the at-Talib ʿAli Bannan, who formed a network of scholarly families. All of these groups have played an important role in the cultural and political life of the region of Takrur, serving as muftis (Muslim scholars qualified to formulate legal opinions on matters of Islamic law), imams, and especially teachers. In al-Bartili’s time, the name “Takrur” came to signify a Muslim cultural region stretching from the mouth of the Senegal River in the west to the Niger River bend in the east, including much of present-day Mauritania, Mali, and Senegal.

Walata was situated on a ...

Article

Alessandro Gori

originally an African slave, is universally known in the Muslim world as the first muezzin (muʿaddin) in the history of Islam and a close companion of the Prophet Muhammad. The biography of Bilal can be reconstructed thanks to many different Islamic traditional sources.

Bilal was born in Mecca in the late sixth century He was most probably the property of the rich Meccan trader Umayya b Khalaf head of the Jumah clan whose goats and sheeps he used to pasture He had an Ethiopian or more generally a black African origin which explains his nickname al Habashi the Abyssinian From his mother Hamama he is also frequently called Ibn Hamama the son of Hamama Bilal came to know Islam at its first inception and was one of the earliest converts to the new faith His religious conversion provoked the wrath of his master who brutally tortured him to ...

Article

Jeremy Berndt

Thierno Bokar Salif Tal (b. 1875–1886, d. 1940) was a Muslim scholar and Sufi who spent most of his life teaching in the central Malian town of Bandiagara. Although Thierno left no written works of his own, his ideas have reached a wide international audience through the efforts of one of his disciples, the prolific writer and colonial/postcolonial government official Amadou Hampaté Bâ. Thierno’s “parables,” a series of philosophical remarks Bâ recorded in 1933, have attracted particular attention from Western intellectuals, who have seen in him a symbol of African Muslim spirituality, tolerance, and open-mindedness. The admiration his memory ultimately inspired in the French colonial figures Marcel Cardaire and Théodore Monod is not without irony, for at the end of his life Thierno suffered from a colonial campaign of repression then directed at followers of the controversial Sufi leader Shaykh Hamallah.

Thierno Bokar was born in Ségou ...

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

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

Russell Hopley

Egyptian Islamic theologian and traditionist, was born in Cairo. His full name was ʿAbd Allah bin Wahb bin Muslim al-Qurashi ibn Wahb. Ibn Wahb received his early training in the Islamic sciences under the tutelage of the Egyptian scholar ʿUthman ibn ʿAbd al-Hakam al-Judhami (d. 779), and he traveled thereupon to Medina to study with Malik ibn Anas (d. 795), the eponymous founder of the Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence. Ibn Wahb is said to have spent some twenty years in Medina studying at the hand of Malik, and this latter figure was sufficiently impressed with him that he gave the young man the title faqih reportedly the only student upon whom he bestowed this honorific Despite the esteem these two figures felt for one another they did have points of dispute between them over for example whether a Muslim should receive instruction from a non Muslim Malik reportedly ...

Article

Jonathan Miran

scholar of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), Muslim community leader, prolific writer, and first Italian-appointed Grand Mufti of Eritrea, was born in Anuqtu (on Mount Kindid in Akkele Guzay) in 1909. Shaykh Ibrahim belonged to the Saho-speaking Minifere group and more precisely the Faqih Harak clan. His father, Shaykh Ahmad Umar Kuri (d. 1924), received advanced religious education in the Hijaz (Arabia) and was a specialist in the Islamic legal sciences and the director of an Islamic school in eastern Akkele Guzay in Eritrea. Shaykh Ibrahim traveled to the Sudan in 1925 and studied in Omdurman before continuing on to Cairo in 1926 to pursue an advanced religious education. In the Egyptian capital he studied in several Al-Azhar secondary institutes (1926–1931) before enrolling at al-Azhar University. He graduated from al-Azhar in 1937 with a specialization in Hanafi jurisprudence and worked in various editorial capacities for Cairene publishers specializing ...