• Esoteric authority and Sufi networks of the hajj. East African hajj accounts, 1898-1951



Esoteric authority and Sufi networks of the hajj. East African hajj accounts, 1898-1951

Lecture by Anne K. Bang (University of Bergen)

This talk presents a selection of East African travel- and hajj accounts and takes note of how the hajj itself is described.The pilgrimage, besides it’s religious value for the traveller, if often stated to have two evident social and potentially also political effects: Enhancing the status of the pilgrim upon return (becoming haji) and expanding the network of the haji to include fellow Muslims beyond his or her immediate community. This talk explores how these two aspects of the pilgrimage is expressed in East African accounts. It argues that travellers tended to emphasize the esoteric authority they had obtained on their journey (encounters with shaykhs dead and alive) over normative rituals such as the hajj. This will be discussed in the context of the Sufi paradigm that governed East African Islamic scholarship well into the 20th century. The second part of the talk explores the “networking” side of the hajj in the era when travel changed from dhows to steamships to air travel. It argues that that while impact of modern transport (steamship, airplane) did speed up the actual travel, long-standing religious-, scholarly- and family networks were still maintained in the age of modern transport.

Anne K. Bang is professor of Middle Eastern and African Islamic history at the University of Bergen. She has worked extensively on the Islamic intellectual history of East Africa and its links with the broader Muslim world. Her recent publications include “Islamic Incantations in a Colonial Notebook. A case from Interwar Zanzibar” (Cahiers d’Études Africaines, 2019). Her forthcoming book is entitled "Muslim Moderns. Islamic Paths to Progress in Interwar Zanzibar". She has also worked on the documentation of Islamic sources to East African history, and is currently starting a new project that will document the manuscript-to-print transition in East Africa and investigate how oral and ritual transmission worked towards both reform and continuity. 

The event will be held via Zoom. Please register at registration@zmo.de.

This event is part of the lecture series:

Summer semester 2021

ZMO Colloquium