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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 ...

Article

Tunisian author, teacher, reformer, jurisconsult, was born in Tunis in March 1840. His mother was the daughter of Mahmoud Khouja, a minister of Ahmed Bey. His father, Mustapha Ben Mohamed Bayram Ath Thalith III, was a wealthy landowner and merchant from a family of scientists and administrators. When he died in Tunis in 1863, he left his son symbolic capital comprising precious documents, land, properties, funds, merchandise, and social contacts.

Bayram s education was centered both in the family s extensive library and in the rich Tunisian cultural milieu From an early age he studied the Qurʾan hadith and Arabic He studied with eminent professors from the Zeytouna University such as Bayram que Mustapha Bayram Ahmed Mohamed Mouaya Ben Tahar Mohamed Achour and others receiving excellent training in many subjects both Islamic and non Islamic His family was well placed in the social and intellectual circles of Tunis ...

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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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Nigerian religious leader, was born sometime between 1882 and 1885, most likely in Obonoma, a small Kalabari town in the Niger Delta region. Obonoma, in present-day Nigeria, was the home of his mother Abarigania, although some people suggested he was actually born in the nearby town of Bakana. Obonoma was known in the late nineteenth and twentieth century as a center of indigenous spirituality and the home of a powerful deity known as Oyu or Ogu. Braide was raised in Bakana, the home of his father Daketima Braide, a member of the Marian Briade house. As an adolescent, he belonged to the entourage of the paramount chief of Bakana.

Braide also shared the indigenous polytheistic beliefs of his parents and may have been initiated into the service of the deity Ogu by his mother It is unclear how or when Braide abandoned these older traditions and became a convert ...

Article

Ha-Mim  

Ness Creighton

prophet among the Madjkasa tribe of Berbers, was born Mann-Allah ibn Hafiz ibn ʿAmr; he was also known as Abu Muhammad. He first began to teach his religious beliefs in approximately 925. His religion appears to have persisted well after his death for an unknown period of time. However, it seems to have disappeared by the beginning of the eleventh century. Ha-Mim was killed in a battle against the Masmuda Berbers, in 927 or 928, just outside of Tangier. His lineage is given as Ha-Mim son of Mann Allah, son of Hariz, son of ʿAmr, son of U-Jeful, son of U-Zerual.

The Madjkasa Berber tribe is one of the Ghomara speaking Berber tribes of the Rif Atlas Mountains Specifically at this time the Madjkasa occupied territory near Tétouan Ghomara is one of the northern Berber languages and the Ghomara tribes have historically occupied an area in what is now northern ...

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Stephen Cory

founder of the Nasiriyya Sufi order in southern Morocco during the mid-seventeenth century, was born into a family of religious scholars. Though Ibn al-Nasir’s ancestors had been religious scholars for many generations, they were not well known outside of the southern Drâa River Valley. As a youth, Muhammad traveled to the northern Drâa to study with the region’s most accomplished scholars, among whom he obtained a reputation as a diligent student. He joined the zawiya of Tamgrut in 1632 and quickly gained the favor of the shaykh Ahmad ibn Brahim al Ansari who appointed Ibn al Nasir as his successor and heir to his wife and to the considerable fortune he had obtained through trade When al Ansari died in 1635 1636 his family contested Ibn al Nasir s rights to these privileges He initially chose not to press his claim but Ibn al Nasir later changed his mind ...

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Stephen Cory

Moroccan Sufi leader was an important leader of the Neo Sufi movements that arose in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries These movements tended to emphasize the example of the Prophet Muhammad and to stick more closely to qurʾanic teaching than traditional Sufis Many of them operated as well organized mass movements led by saintly lineages and they achieved their greatest success in frontier regions especially in Islamic Africa Ibn Idris differed from some of his contemporaries in that he was not a prolific writer Instead he excelled as a popular preacher and an instructor of other Sufi masters The founders of many Neo Sufi movements studied under Ibn Idris including Muhammad al Sanusi founder of the Libyan Sanusiyya order and Muhammad Uthman al Mirgani founder of the Sudanese Khatmiyya order Because of the paucity of Ibn Idris s surviving writings much of what we know about him and ...

Article

Allen J. Fromherz

was the Persian founder of the Ibadhi or Kharijite Rustamid theocracy at Tahart a city in the region now known as Algeria Kharijism arose in North Africa soon after the Arab conquest of North Africa and the conversion of Berbers to Islam Rejecting the aristocracy of Arab tribal lineage and the debasing enslavement of Muslim Berbers the Ibadhi Berbers rallied around the egalitarian ideals of Islam The Berber Kharijites or Ibadhis of North Africa threw off the control of their Arab coreligionists and proclaimed their independence from both the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates in the East The great rebellion of the Berber Kharijite chief Maysara called the vile by Arab chronicles began as early as 740 CE only decades after the campaigns of ʿUqbah ibn Nafiʿ in the 680s The Kharijites successfully repelled various attempts by the Arab Caliphate to regain control eventually establishing two independent Berber dynasties the Yellows ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Michael Twaddle

Ugandan military and religious leader claimed to have been born in the small kingdom of Koki in present day Uganda Knowledge of Kakungulu s earliest years is clouded by clan disputes in the great lakes region of East Africa Nowadays there are claims by two men to have been his father and four women to have been his mother Initially these claims arose out of the declaration by Kakungulu himself toward the end of World War I that he was no longer a member of the large and influential lungfish clan of Buganda because he had been born a prince in the neighboring kingdom of Koki Retrospectively it is easy to point to personal disappointment as being a possible explanation for this change of heart following an affair between his wife and a young brother in the lungfish clan as well as genuine uncertainty whether his actual biological father had ...

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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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Orombo  

J. C. Winter

Mangi (king) of Keny in the southern Rombo region of Kilimanjaro (in present-day Tanzania) from c. 1800 to 1837, also known as Horombo and Rombo, was famous for having initiated a socio-military revolution and religious reformation in Chagga that brought it in line with the western world at the time, thereby ending Mamba’s rule over eastern Chagga. He unified by conquest all of eastern Chagga under his rule, then met with Mangi Rengua of Machame at the Nanga River between Mochi (Old Moshi) and Kiruwa in 1823, and they agreed that each should rule unmolested over his own half of Chagga.

When Orombo became the Mangi of Keny his realm was tiny and insignificant as for the past one hundred years Mamba succeeding Ugweno had dominated eastern Chagga Each mangidom consisted of localized patrilineal clans having noble warrior and cattle keeping lineages whose male and female youths passed ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Tijaniyya Sufi shaykh, was born in Liʿgul (southwestern Mauritania/Trarza), died in 1986, and is buried beside his mosque in Baraine (Trarza). During the 1940s and 1950s he was one of the young Moorish (bidan) Sufi shaykhs famous for having established a Tijani revival movement in Mauritania known as “Fayda” (founded 1929 by the Senegalese shaykh Ibrahim Niasse [1900–1975] in Saloum/Senegal). Today it constitutes the most visible branch of the Tijaniyya, with Sufi centers all over Africa, Europe, and the United States. Generally, Shaykhani’s followers were Moors originating dominantly from his own clan (qabila), known as Idaw ʿAli.

Shaykhani was the great-grandson of Muhammad al-Hafiz Ould Mukhtar al-Tulba (c. 1758/59–1831/32), the founder of the Tijani Sufi center (zawiya in Liʿgul Shaykhani is known by several names when he was born his parents called him Ahmad Mahmud in remembrance of his recently deceased maternal grandfather ...

Article

Stephen Cory

a Sufi leader who revived the Qadiriyya Sufi order in the southwestern Sahara during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In doing so, he assured the dominance of his tribe, the Kunta, as the premier zawaya (clerical) tribe, providing religious and legal education and spiritual leadership throughout the area. His peaceful propagation of the faith led to an increased practice of Islam in the Western Sahara. In addition, his linkage of religious renewal to the promotion of trade led to a realignment of power relations among the tribes, with the Kunta at the top. Sidi al-Mukhtar sought to use the tariqa (Sufi brotherhood) structure to teach Islamic practices, reform social mores, and eliminate non-Islamic religious accretions from society. His descendants, leaders of the peaceful Qadiriyya-Mukhtariyya order, opposed the nineteenth-century jihad movements in West Africa, including the jihad of the Tijani leader Hajj ʿUmar Tal in Senegal.

The Kunta are ...

Article

Steve Howard

Sudanese philosopher, author, and Islamic religious reform leader, was born in the Blue Nile town of Rufa’a in the Gezira, the heart of Sudan’s Sufi establishment. Mahmoud Muhammad Taha, known to his followers as “Ustadh Mahmoud” (“teacher”), was the founder of Sudan’s preindependence Republican Party, which he subsequently led to become a religious reform movement known as the Republican Brotherhood. The movement advocated a moderately progressive approach to the role of Islam in the contemporary world, with an emphasis on social equality, particularly for women in the context of rethinking sharia law. His best known book, The Second Message of Islam (1968; trans. Abdullahi An-Na’im, Syracuse, 1987), detailed his understanding of a modern conceptualization of Islam. He married Amna Lotfi and had a son (deceased) and two daughters, Asma and Somaya.

Taha s education was the religious then secular mix that became increasingly common as the British introduced formal schooling ...