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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Al-Hajj Salim Suwari and the Suwarians: a search for sources
Author:Wilks, IvorISNI
Periodical:Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana (ISSN 0855-191X)
Geographic term:West Africa
About person:al-Hajj Salim Suwari
Abstract:Conflict between proponents and opponents of jihad as a means of economic, social and religious change can be traced back, in the West African context, to early Maliki jurists. Al-Hajj Salim Suwari, a Malian subject of Soninke (Serakhulle) origins, a revered holy man, renowned jurist and teacher though not a prolific writer, lived in the second half of the 15th to early in the 16th century. Suwari rejected jihad as an instrument of social and political change. His views on jihad and the nature of 'kurf', the state of paganism, constitute what the author calls the 'Wangara Learning'. His life is contrasted to that of his contemporary Muhammad al-Masghili, born in Tlemsen (Algeria) sometime between 1425-1440, who did much to inspire militant Islam in the parts of West Africa dominated by the Fulani. Salim Suwari's memory is firmly ensconced in the traditions of the Jakhanke (or Jahanke) people of the Upper Senegal basin. The birth of the University College of the Gold Coast, now the University of Ghana, led to a renewed interest in the history of Ghana, in particular that of its little known northern regions. The Muslim population of Ghana had been virtually ignored under successive colonial administrations and the first part of the present paper deals with the University's project to develop an understanding of the history of Islam in the Volta Basin, which involved research in Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso. The author collected Muslim works in Arabic by writers in the region and through the analysis of teaching licences ('isnads'), travel charms and local history, knowledge of Salim Suwari was greatly expanded. The second part of the paper is concerned with the 'Suwarians', the men and women who followed Suwari's teachings and spread them over a considerable part of West Africa. The final part describes a mid-19th century jihad that occurred in Mossiland during the reign of Moro Naba Kutu of Ouagadougou. The jihad was crushed by Muslim warlords who were advised by Muslim clerics in the service of Naba Kutu. Bibliogr., notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]