African Islam and Islam in Africa — 1997

Encounters between Sufis and Islamists

Edited by Eva Evers Rosander and David Westerlund

“The book offers important insights and as such is a welcome addition to the debate on the role of Islam in Africa. It is a must for those interested in Islamic studies, African Politics, and African International Relations.”

Korwa G. Adar, Rhodes University, South Africa — Journal of Third World Studies

“[T]his volume deserves a wide readership. Specialists will find worthwhile contributions in their particular fields and generalists may read this volume with confidence that the authors are discussing important issues pertaining to the emergence of Islamism in Africa.”

John Hanson, history department, Indiana University — African Studies Quarterly

This interdisciplinary book focuses primarily on Sufism (“African Islam”), Islamism (“Islam in Africa”) and, in particular, on the interaction between these different forms of Islam. Previously, much interest has been concentrated on the critical Islamist views of Western or Western–influenced ideas and patterns of life, while the intra–Muslim relationship between Sufis and Islamists has attracted less attention.

Some of the contributions concentrate mainly on Sufism, to which the majority of African Muslims belong, others focus essentially on the increasingly important impact of Islamism; yet others deal more intensively with the encounter between sufis and Islamists. The regional focus is on areas where Muslims form the majority of the population, mainly in North and West Africa. In some of the essays special attention is paid to gender issues. The book will be a valuable addition to earlier studies of Muslims in Africa.

Conflicts between adherents of locally contextualized forms of Sufi Islam and more universally–oriented reformist Muslims are not new. However intra–Muslim tensions in North and West Africa have increased in recent decades, largely because of the rise of radical Islamist movements in countries such as Egypt, Algeria and the Sudan. Modernizing Islamists are critical of ‘African Islam’ and aim to ‘purify’ if of pre–Islamic African beliefs and practices. However, there is a revival within Sufism too, and a concomitant tendency among Sufi Muslims to adhere more closely to Islamic law. This intriguing example of intra–Islamic debate is the principal theme addressed in the book.


Eva Evers Rosander is senior research fellow in social anthropology at the Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala, Sweden. Her main scholarly interests are Islam, gender and development, currently with a focus on Senegal. She has done extensive field work in Morocco and Ceuta and is the author of Women in a Borderland: Managing Muslim identity where Morocco meets Spain (1991).


David Westerlund is associate professor at the department of comparative religion, Stockholm University, and senior lecturer in the history of religions at the faculty of theology, Uppsala University. His main scholarly interests are indigenous African religions, Islam in Africa, and issues of religion and politics. His recent publications include Questioning the Secular State: The Worldwide Resurgence of Religion in Politics, which he edited in 1996.

Cover of 'African Islam and Islam in Africa'

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