Great find from KishorCariappa.com:
October 23, 2009
October 22, 2009
As a new feature of the site, I will post some Omani proverbs in Arabic culled from the web as well a book in the Sultan Qaboos Library's Omani Room. Hope you enjoy them:
For these two I owe Ayna from the Sabla Forums
ماعندها جدر تطبخ وثوبها من الزّري يرطخ
Translation: She doesn't have a pot to cook with, but her dress sparkles with crystals.
ثيابه مصقولة وجيوبه منخولة
Translation: His clothes are fresh and ironed. His pockets are empty.
The connotations of both Proverbs are the same.
Its truly a pleasure to bring to your attention this award-winning website about Indian communities, specifically Shi'a Indian communities in Zanzibar. check it here
Another interesting and well-designed resource for Swahili culture. The layout is clean and easy to navigate. Their section also include a good section on Swahili language. Check it here
October 15, 2009
Check it OUT! A whole issue from Pambazuka devoted to the life and thought of Mwalimu Nyerere. Great stuff here.
Pambazuka - How we wish you were here: a tribute to Mwalimu Nyerere
Shared via AddThis
October 13, 2009
Hongera sana kwa Baba wa Taifa, Julius Nyerere. Kwenye siku kuu Watanzania wansherehekea maisha ya Rais ya Kwanza Tanzania. Amefariki tarehe October 14, 1999.
Inna Lillahi wa inna ilayhi Rajiun.
Here you can read Mwalimu Nyerere's "Arusha Declaration," a very inspiring statement of the principles Nyerere believed an independent Tanzania should move forward with in order to develop.
October 12, 2009
Good suggestions. I definitely concur with supporting by donating to the Zanzibar Indian Ocean Research Institute, run by Dr. Sheriff (see below)
From: Martin Klein
On the subject of books for Africa, I am responding to the list instead
of just to the author of the original query. Any university in Africa
needs books. Most have no budget for book purchases. They especially
need books that do not deal with Africa. I have for over ten years been
shipping books to Africa. The biggest problem is the cost of shipping.
Even with the resources of the internet available, it is important that
African universities and the broader intellectual communities of which
they are part have access to books. Unfortunately, in Canada, there is
no institution that will to help with shipping costs. I have simply seen
the cost of shipping as payback for the warmth and hospitality with
which I have been received in various African countries. There is in
some cases a question of the postal system. In one case, I had no
evidence that a shipment to Mali actually arrived. In another case, a
friend suggested that security at a small university library was
inadequate. Still, there are many recipients who inspire great
confidence. There are many conscientious librarians all over Africa, and
most post offices seem reliable.
My suggestion to anyone is that they check either check a library out
with a friend, former student or one-time colleague or that they write
the library. My current favorite is a research institute run by Abdul
Sheriff in Zanzibar (email@example.com). (He established the The Zanzibar Indian Ocean Research Institute
(ZIORI - http://www.ziori.org/) a couple of years ago, to which he
donated his own quite substantial library, and which promises to
become a focal point for researchers in East Africa.) If the books are not
appropriate to his library, he forwards them to the University of
Zanzibar Library. I have also given books to the University of Western
Cape, the University of Zambia and the University of the Zambia, but in
some cases, the greatest need is in newer or smaller libraries.
I started giving when I retired and had to move my library home. I gave
away about 16 to 18 boxes of books. Then shortly before I arrived in
Australia, the chair of the history department died. Neither his wife,
nor the Australian National University library were interested in his
library, the majority of which consisted of general works on American
history. I wrote friends and after confirming that they taught American
history, arranged shipments to four African universities. Though I was
willing to pay, the ANU history programme generously took on the costs
The heart of a university humanities is books and teachers. Most African
universities have teachers. They are often hungry for books.
October 7, 2009
Monk brings us a dope piece of history through art. I told him he ought to call this one "They Came Before Columbus." You can also check out more of Monk's work.
October 6, 2009
Paradise is a little book about a boy named Yusuf who grows into manhood in East Africa. As a coming of age story it is remarkably simple and straightforward, but the way in which Abdulrazak Gurnah illuminates the tremendous historical changes sweeping around Yusuf, and does so while still maintaining the narrative integrity of his man-child protagonist, is simply breathtaking.
Yusuf starts out in a provincial town in the East African interior, the son of a poor hotel owner. He is mortgaged by his father to pay his deepening debt to a man Yusuf knows only as Uncle Aziz. Yusuf travels in the care of Uncle Aziz to the coast, where he befriends Khalil, another debt-slave whose has secrets Yusuf will eventually discover.
Yusuf is an exceptionally beautiful boy and a very sensitive observer who cries at visions he sees in his dreams. His journeys in Paradise mirror two processes which bound the interiors of Eastern Africa to the Western Indian Ocean--one a process of the migration (often via slavery) and subsequent Islamization of upcountry Africans, and the other a venturing into the interior as far as Eastern Congo by armed bands of Swahili-Arab traders.
Gurnah's description of life on the caravan road is illuminative and he vividly portrays the 'utani' relationship of sly joking and storytelling by which the porters structured the monotony of the march. He also gives one of the richest explorations (through dialogue) of the fantastic dimensions of East African Islamic mythology, in which the 'washenzi' lurk in the lands of Gog and Magog waiting to destroy the believers and dragons, birds, jinns, and ghosts all inhabit a universe in intimate interaction with humans. Finally in the background are the Germans, a brooding silent foreboding force who everyone around Yusuf speaks of with trepidation, and who intervene at a key point in the novel. Gurnah accurately captures the ambigous status of Yusuf as grows up on the eve of European colonial rule, and searches for a way out of his dependency. His unexpected decision ends the book abruptly, almost breathlessly, but somehow completely appropriately. In this single last sentence, Gurnah has somehow captured what Jonathan Glassman calls "the contradictory dimensions of slave resistance," the moral dilemma through which Yusuf will shape an independent destiny for himself. Paradise more than lives up to his name and will offer students of East African history and literature a beautiful and compelling read.
October 3, 2009
This is my new JAM!
October 1, 2009
More materials towards a historical understanding of Islam in Tanzania. Please click the title to be taken to the full article. The latest book from Felicitas Becker called Being Muslim In Mainland Tanzania is the latest scholarly entry I know of to take up the topic of Islam and Muslims in Tanzania. We hope to review that book here in the future.
African Islam in Tanzania
By Abdulaziz Y. Lodhi and David Westerlund (March 1997)
Islam in society
Mainly on account of the leading role of the Catholic president Julius Nyerere several Western researchers have underestimated the importance of the Moslems in shaping the Tanzanian socialism in the 1960's. Because of the Christians having better access to higher education they became overrepresented in the administration. But Moslems constituted a majority in TANU, called CCM (Chama cha Mapinduzi = The Revolutionary Party) after the 1977 merger with its sister party ASP (Afro-Shirazi Party) on Zanzibar. After the introduction of the one-party system, CCM was the major political factor in societal change. The socialism of Tanzania has many similarities with Islamic Socialism, and especially Nasserism influenced many Moslems in Tanzania.
The few Moslems who turned against the socialist politics were mostly of Asian origin. Some of the Moslem resistance was in the beginning channeled through the East African Muslim Welfare Society (EAMWS). It was founded in Mombasa in 1945 by the then Aga Khan with the aim of promoting Islam and raising the standard of living for the East African Moslems. Asian Shiites, especially Ismaili, dominated and financed the organisation, but Aga Khan recommended that all Moslems regard EAMWS as an organization with pan-Islamic ambitions. When its headquarters were moved from Mombasa to Daressalaam in 1961, the Nyamwezi chief and TANU opponent Abdallah Fundikira, regarded as Nyerere's principal political rival in the 60's, became the president of the organization. EAMWS concentrated on building schools and mosques, providing scholarships and spreading literature. There were also plans for founding an Islamic university in Zanzibar or Mombasa, but they were never realized. However, the Muslim Academy founded in Zanzibar in early 50s continued to exist as a training college for teachers of Arabic and Islamic education until it was closed down by the autonomous Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar in 1966. In regard to this it is interesting to note that Zanzibar has several times since January 1993 announced plans for a separate Islamic university and high schools connected to the University of Daressalaam; and since the middle of the 70s the Muslim Academy has been reopened, a new Muslim Secondary School has been built and Arabic has been adopted as the third official language of Zanzibar.
Because of the pan-Islamic tendencies and the capitalist oriented leadership of EAMWS, pro-TANU Moslems opposed it. The organization, it was claimed, constituted a threat to the ruling party. The antagonism culminated in 1968, when the organization was declared illegal in Tanzania. Other Moslem organizations were dissolved as well. Instead the pro-TANU Moslems, with several leading Qadiriyya sheikhs playing important roles, formed with the support of TANU the new national organization Baraza Kuu la Waislam wa Tanzania (Tanzania Muslim Council), BAKWATA, whose constitution was in large parts a copy of the TANU constitution. Because of the close connection to the ruling party and many leading Moslem politicians' interference in BAKWATA's activities, the role of the organization has been controversial. Its achievements have been limited due to poor finances. Criticism against BAKWATA increased during the 1980's, when the opposition to the socialist politics of Tanzania grew and liberalization started.
Under internal Moslem pressure and international Islamic tendencies BAKWATA has lately become somewhat more profiled. The organization has arranged lectures on Islam in different parts of the country and in 1987 it called on the government to reinstall the system of Moslem courts that existed in colonial and post-colonial times. With the increased profile international Islamic contacts are on the rise. Some Arab countries have financed new mosques, schools, scholarships, dispensaries and provided teachers to the newly established schools.
The question of schools and Islamic education has for a long time been Tanzanian Moslems' main issue. They had few equivalents to the mission schools whose activities not only spread Christianity but also led to a higher educational level among Christians. The decision by the TANU government to nationalize the schools in 1969 was therefore warmly welcomed by the Moslems. The Islamic schools which have been founded lately in a political climate more favorable to private initiatives, for example Kunduchi Islamic High School, seem to have an uneven standard but constitute an interesting development for the Moslems of Tanzania.
The proposal to reinstate separate Moslem courts is very controversial. Under the slogan "Don't mix religion with politics!" the governments of Tanzania have endeavored to "privatize" Islam or marginalize the effects of Islamic law. An example of religious conflicts involving legal matters is the discussions about a government proposal to a new marriage law which was presented in 1967. The implementation of the law in 1971 was preceded by two years of intense discussions particularly regarding the position of sharia in the judicial system of the country were debated.
Before 1971 Moslems, as well as Christians and Hindus, followed their own marriage and divorce laws. Traditional judiciary systems of the different ethnic groups practising customary law were also in force. In addition, one could marry monogamously in a civil marriage. To counteract religious and ethnic exclusivism in favour of increased national consciousness, the government presented its aim in its 1969 White Book to create more uniformity in the sphere of family laws. The other important aim was to improve the position of the woman. One of the tangible proposals was that the minimum marital age for boys was to be eighteen and for girls fifteen. The fifteen-year limit for girls was presented with reference to UN recommendations. According to sharia puberty decides when a girl is marriageable.
The proposal that caused the most serious debate was the idea that a man who wanted to marry a second wife had to get permission from his first wife. The proposal that would forbid men to punish their wives corporally was also met with some resistance as well as the installation of an obligatory reconciliation agency for couples on the verge of divorce. If the agency failed to reconcile the parties concerned the husband in a Moslem marriage would legally be able to pronounce the divorce formula talaka (Ar. talaq).
Many Moslems who were taking part in the discussions opposed the idea of creating a more unified marriage law, especially where the proposed marriage law was in conflict with sharia. Since family laws are a central part of the Islamic law, any change which does not conform to them is particularly sensitive and controversial. Despite the criticism from the Moslems the government's proposed law was passed in 1971 with only minor changes.
The proposals of BAKWATA in 1987 to reinstate separate Islamic courts is only one example which demonstrates that the question of the position of sharia in Tanzania is still a burning issue. In 1988 Sofia Kawawa, leader of the Tanzania Women's Union, UWT, (Umoja wa Wanawake wa Tanzania, closely affiliated to CCM), came under fire after having publicly criticized Islamic rules that she felt were oppressive to women. According to Sofia Kawawa polygyny should be forbidden and women should have the same right of inheritance as men. Her statements caused protest and some riots. A group of young Moslems wrote an open letter which demanded that the secular regime refrain from interfering with religious matters. In Zanzibar two men died in the riots against the leader of the UWT. The Moslem president Ali Hassan Mwinyi, who a few years earlier had succeeded the Catholic Nyerere, hurried to explain that Kawawa had expressed her personal views and not the views of CCM or the government. Mwinyi saw no need to change the law, while Kawawa and other Moslem women continued to argue against certain Islamic laws. In some of her statements in 1990 Kawawa provocatively claimed that polygyny helped to spread AIDS.
In questions concerning for example polygyny, Moslem critics like Kawawa have gained some support from the Christian quarter. Christian criticism is, to some degree however, part of a wider propaganda campaign against Islam. It may be noted that many Christian men, especially outside the circles of leadership, actually have defended polygyny, albeit with reference to traditional African culture rather than to Christian belief. This was especially obvious during the parliamentary debates preceding the law changes in 1971. Many Christian men and women also support female circumcision which is practised rather widely, even by fourth or fifth generation Christians, and which is forbidden in law; but nobody talks about it. Female circumcision does not exist among Tanzanian Moslems other than those of Somali origin, and a mild form of it is secretly practised among the few Asian Shia Bohra.
The relationship between Moslems and Christians has by and large been harmonious in Tanzania. A certain tension has certainly existed under the surface, but it has seldom led to open conflict. In his valedictory address in 1985, Nyerere stressed the fact that the risk of religious conflict in Tanzania has been greater than ethnic strife. According to him large religious conflicts have been avoided not least because most Moslems have set national interests ahead of religious concerns. Lately however a tendency toward increasing conflict between Moslems and Christians has been discerned in Tanzania. One of the reasons for this is growing Christian fundamentalism. To many fundamentalist Christians Islam is considered the archenemy, particularly since Communism is no longer perceived as a threat.
New organizations and tendencies
New Islamic organizations have also added to the increased polarization between Christians and Moslems. Few of these organizations are officially registered. More rigid Islamic groups spreading propaganda for the surrection of an Islamic government in Tanzania are few and small, but less far-reaching signs of revitalization of Islam are evident. Zanzibar constitutes a special problem with its deeply rooted Islam and some Moslems who emphasize the importance of Islam want to see the Union dissolved. This is also desired by the Christian fundamentalists, particularly the unregistered Democratic Party led by the Rev. Mtikila.
One of the Islamic congregations which more or less openly has criticized the "official" BAKWATA is Warsha ya Waandishi wa Kiislam (Islamic Writers' Workshop). Warsha was founded in 1975 as a unit within BAKWATA, its main concern being educational issues. The unit had many young and well-educated members, some of whom were Shiites. This radical group was supported by the BAKWATA secreterary general sheikh Muhammed Ali and demanded Islamic education alongside secular subjects in the Islamic secondary schools run by the organization. Moslems faithful to the regime argued that this went against the secular foundation of the state and after some conflict the Warsha group was excluded from BAKWATA in 1982 and its members were forbidden to work at BAKWATA institutions.
The young Warsha members have however continued striving for their goal. In their simple headquarters at Daressalaam's Quba mosque, courses are arranged and literature is published. One of the Swahili publications, Uchumi Katika Uislamu (Economy In Islam), which deals with Islamic economy, has drawn attention due to its severe criticism of the Tanzanian socialist system Ujamaa, which they consider Communist. Most of the publications however deal with the so called Pillars of Islam, for example Sala with the horary prayer and Falsafa ya Funga ya Ramdhani with fasting during Ramadan. Warsha also tries to reform the old and mosque based Quranic schools where education is still largely based on memorizing parts of the Quran.
Another organization is Baraza la Uendelazaji Koran Tanzania (Tanzania Quranic Council), BALUKTA, whose 1987 constitution states that its main aim is promoting the reading of the Quran and spreading of Islam through financial and material support to Moslem schools. The organization is also making an effort to establish and run Islamic centers and institutes for Islamic higher education. Other constitutional aims within the educational field are among others publishing and conferences. Business projects like hotels and restaurants have also been announced. Holders of positions of trust are expected to have a sound knowledge of Islam. Compared to Warsha, characterized by its young members, BALUKTA seems somewhat old-fashioned. In April 1993 some BALUKTA members under the leadership of its president, sheikh Yahya Hussein, were involved in attacks against butcheries selling pork in Daressalaam. Three slaughterhouses were destroyed and some thirty people, including sheikh Hussein, were arrested. The background to this is that rearing and slaughtering of pigs have become common in religiously mixed areas and some Moslems have reacted vehemently.
The Daressalaam University Muslim Trusteeship is another organization striving to protect Moslem interests in higher education; it has produced statistics which point to the much publicised under-representation of Moslems at the universities and in the administration. (A parliamentary commission of inquiery has also come to a similar conclusion, followed by a report of the Roman Catholic Church of Tanzania in 1992 which confirms the political and educational imbalance between Christians and Moslems. A book in 1994 by Aboud Jumbe, a former president of Zanzibar, further describes the dominance of the Christians and the underprivileged position of the Moslems in the country.) The members of the Trusteeship try to promote a better understanding of Islam as a way of life. Another organization, Baraza Kuu la Jumuia na Taasisi za Kiislam (The Supreme Council of Islamic Organizations), founded in 1992, has a strikingly large number of university employees among its membership. This new council tries to take over the leading role of BAKWATA as a unified organization for all the Moslems of the country, and its activities are closely monitored by the government.
Islamic renewal in Tanzania has been supported by organizations abroad. The World Council of Mosques, with its headquarters in Jeddah, has opened an office in Daressalaam to facilitate its work in Tanzania. Some foreign organizations have supported minor domestic Islamic movements which aim to change the country into an Islamic state. The Iranian Revolution has inspired some Tanzanian Moslems, among others Khamis Muhammed, who is the editor of the new Islamic magazine Mizani. In a 1990 interview he said that the Islamic Revolution should be followed by all Moslems in the world. Khamis Muhammed has also been influenced by, and has written about, Wahhabism.
Embassies of some Islamic countries have in different ways tried to support the radicalization of the Moslem forces in Tanzania. Some Moslem heads of state have also supported the Moslem aspirations. Through the embassies, means have been provided for the building or renovation of several mosques, Moslem secondary schools, hospitals and clinics. Favorable loans have been given through these channels to Moslems engaged in commercial activities. But the activities of the embassies has caused divisions among Moslem groupings in the country.
In connection with a visit by the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury in 1993, president Mwinyi, adhering to the secular stance towards religious issues of his predecessor Nyerere, complained about some extremely religious individuals abusing freedom of speech to create chaos in the country. Archbishop Carey talked about the fundamentalist threat. Zanzibar's becoming a member of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) was heavily criticized by Christian leaders, who argued that this contravened the secular constitution of Tanzania. The sharp criticism and the risk of a dissolution of the Union resulted in the Zanzibari government decision to leave OIC.
On some occasions, as in connection with the government crisis in Zanzibar in 1988 ( the year when the demonstrations against Sofia Kawawa took place ( Mwinyi and other representatives of the regime have pointed to Moslem groups in Zanzibar and in exile who, despite the great autonomy of the island state, are disputing the Union. One of the controversial groups is the Pemba based Bismillahi who want a referendum on the Union between Zanzibar and Mainland Tanzania. A visitor to Zanzibar soon realizes that Islam is not only a private matter, although the authorities nowadays are less concerned with for example public eating and drinking during Ramadan, which have become more common because of the influx of tourists and Westerners.
For many years organs critical of the regime, among others Warsha and the magazine Mizani, issued propaganda for a multi-party system. When Tanzania in 1992 introduced multi-partyism it was understood that all parties should have a national profile and that religion and ethnicity must not constitute the base for new parties. Especially Moslems were warned not to use the multi-party system for religious purposes. Besides the usually limited political demands, Moslem revival in Tanzania, as in other parts of Africa, has been noticeable in the growing number of mosque goers and that Islamic style clothing has become more popular. In the propaganda activities some Christian influences are descernible. Public Moslem sermons are being held in streets and squares. The practice of inviting foreign "revivalists", spreading tracts and pamphlets, as well as putting stickers on vehicles and distributing cassettes and videos has become more common among Moslems.
This sister over at Reality in Oman has a great blog about religion, racism, women, and just life in general in Muscat and surrounding.
In the piece I read most recently, she took on racial classes in Oman, but she has also discussed young people meeting through the internet, Islamic tolerance, marriage and dating and a lot of other interesting topics. Check it out!
full interview here.
Asad discusses modernity, religion, what agency is, Islamic reform, the difference between dependency theory and postcolonialism, and much much more. This is one of the best 'summations' of the various nature of Asad's intellectual pursuits and it maps out a great 'space' for scholars to follow up on his work in local contexts. Although its from 1996, over ten years ago, it is still a great read.
modern power and the reconfiguration of religious traditions
Contemporary politico-religious movements, such as Islamism, are often understood by social scientists as expressions of tradition hampering the progress of modernity. But given the recent intellectual challenges posed against dualistic and static conceptions of modernity/tradition, and calls for parochializing Western European experiences of modernity, do you think the religio-political movements (such as Islamism) force us to rethink our conceptions of modernity? If so, how?
Well, I think they should force us to rethink many things. There has been a certain amount of response from people in Western universities who are interested in analyzing these movements. But many of them still make assumptions that prevent them from questioning aspects of Western modernity. For example, they call these movements "reactionary" or "invented," making the assumption that Western modernity is not only the standard by which all contemporary developments must be judged, but also the only authentic trajectory for every tradition. One of the things the existence of such movements ought to bring into question is the old opposition between modernity and tradition, which is still fashionable. For example, many writers describe the movements in Iran and Egypt as only partly modern and suggest that its their mixing of tradition and modernity that accounts for their "pathological" character. This kind of description paints Islamic movements as being somehow inauthentically traditional on the assumption that "real tradition" is unchanging, repetitive, and non-rational. In this way, these movements cannot be understood on their own terms as being at once modern and traditional, both authentic and creative at the same time. The development of politico-religious movements ought to force people to rethink the uniquely Western model of secular modernity. One may want to challenge aspects of these movements, but this ought to be done on specific grounds. It won't do to measure everything by grand conceptions of authentic modernity. But that's precisely the kind of a priori thinking that many people indulge in when analyzing contemporary religious movements.
It has often been argued that the tradition of liberalism is based upon principles of pluralism and tolerance in ways that Islamic tradition is not, and that the concept of plurality remains foreign to Islam. How would you respond to that?
Well, I would say that it is certainly not a modern, liberal invention. The plurality of individual interests is what the liberal tradition has theorized best of all. On the other hand, the attempt to get some kind of representation for ethnic groups and minorities in Western countries has been difficult for liberalism to theorize. Liberalism has theories of tolerance by which spaces can be created for individuals to do what they wish, so long as they don't obstruct the ability of others to do likewise. But these aren't theories of pluralism in the sense we are beginning to understand the term today. Liberalism has theories of multiple "interests," interests which can be equalized, aggregated, and calculated through the electoral process and then negotiated in the process of formulating and applying governmental policies. But that is a very different kind of pluralism from the different ways of life which are (a) the preconditions and not the objects of individual interests, and which are, (b) in the final analysis, incommensurable.
Now the Islamic tradition, like many other non-liberal traditions, is based on the notion of plural social groupings and plural religious traditions--especially (but not only) of the Abrahamic traditions [ahl al-kitab]. And, of course, it has always accommodated a plurality of scriptural interpretations. There is a well- known dictum in the shari`a: ikhtilaf al-umma rahma [difference within the Islamic tradition is a blessing]. This is where the notions of ijtihad and ijm`a come in. As modes of developing and sustaining the Islamic tradition, they authorize the construction of coherent differences, not the imposition of homogeneity.
Of course there are always limits to difference if coherence is to be aimed at. If tolerance is not merely another name for indifference, there comes a point in every tradition beyond which difference cannot be tolerated. That simply means that there are differences which can't be accommodated within the tradition without threatening its very coherence. But there are, of course, many moments and conditions of such intolerance. One must not, therefore, equate intolerance with violence and cruelty.
On the whole, Muslim societies in the past have been much more accommodating of pluralism in the sense I have tried to outline than have European societies. It does not follow that they are therefore necessarily better. And I certainly don't wish to imply that Muslim rulers and populations were never prejudiced, that they never persecuted non-Muslims in their midst. My point is only that "the concept of plurality," as you put it, is not foreign to Islam.