Islamic Africa is a peer-reviewed, multidisciplinary, academic journal published online and in print. Incorporating the journal Sudanic Africa, Islamic Africa publishes original research concerning Islam in Africa from the social sciences and the humanities, as well as primary source material and commentary essays related to Islamic Studies in Africa. The journal’s geographic scope includes the entire African continent and adjacent islands. Islamic Africa encourages intellectual excellence and seeks to promote scholarly interaction between Africa-based scholars and those located institutionally outside the continent.

The New York Times website has a short documentary about Jacob Mach, a refugee from Sudan who became a police officer in Atlanta, Georgia. Check it out here.

General Charles Gordon, left; Muhammad Ahmad, the Sudanese mahdi, right

The current crisis in Mali, which has now spilled over into neighboring Algeria, is the latest outbreak of mahdi madness on the African continent. In Islamic eschatology, the mahdi is a savior of the Muslim community near the time of the apocalypse. The British colonial empire faced several mad mullahs when they tried to rule Sudan. One such infamous mahdi was Muhammad Ahmad, who proclaimed himself the leader of the Muslims against the Turkish oppressors in the 1870s. On January 26, 1885 the Mahdists following Abdullah Taashi took control of Khartoum, slaughtering the entire British garrison, including General Charles Gordon, before a relief force could reach the besieged city. These were the days in which a mahdi could inspire an army, over 50,000 men in the case of the force that overran Khartoum. In 1898 Lord Kitchener led a British invasion force of over 8,000 men assisted by 17,600 Sudanese and Egyptian troops. The British gunboat diplomacy resulted in a resounding defeat for the Mahdists at the Battle of Omdurman. Kitchener lost 47 men with 340 wounded, while the the Mahdists suffered 9,700 killed, 13,000 wounded, and 5,000 captured.

The Sudanese mahdi and the mad mullahs the British encountered in 19th century Afghanistan were not pietist reformers, but leaders of jihad against the hated occupier, whether fellow Muslim Ottoman Turks or infidel Europeans. The current crisis in Mali is an echo of past mahdis, but with a modern twist. The twist is how we now define a never-ending war on terrorism. Western views of the entire region entrapped by al-Qaeda confuse the situation on the ground. (more…)

A View of Abdullahi Gallab’s A CIVIL SOCIETY DEFERRED from a precolonial perspective

By Jay Spaulding, African Arguments, November 28, 2011,

“Men make their own history, “ wrote a famous individual long ago, “but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.” Subsequent historians have endeavored to elaborate hierarchies of historical causation within which diverse material, socioeconomic and conceptual entities are seen to constrain the exercise of free will. Nowhere has the examination of constraint received greater attention than among the colonized communities of the not-so-distant past, including the Sudan. One of the virtues of Abdullahi Gallab’s A CIVIL SOCIETY DEFERRED lies in the author’s mastery of a wide variety of theorists of historical causation and colonial constraint. The wealth of their insights has allowed him to rearrange largely familiar information about the Sudan into an original and impressive interpretive architecture. His approach, the opposite of reductionist, resonates at many levels of understanding. A second virtue of A CIVIL SOCIETY DEFERRED is that the author knows, profits from, and builds upon the efforts of previous Sudan scholarship. The book consciously joins and illuminates an extended ongoing discussion.

The author’s central effort is to discern the colonial origins of the current Sudanese state. Few will challenge this thesis, and other contributors to this discussion will undoubtedly address the theme at length. But is there anything that one might add to perhaps embellish A CIVIL SOCIETY DEFERRED from the remote perspective of precolonial Sudanese history? I would like to propose two ideas for possible consideration. (more…)

Building southern Sudan through promotion of our history and culture

Dr. Jok Madut Jok, New Sudan Vision, October 15, 2010

(New York) – To be a nation means having a citizenry that takes pride in citizenship in “South Sudan” first and in tribal citizenship second. Such a nation can no longer assume that shared interests alone will continue to unite us. So far, our struggle to wrestle our freedom from the grips of the Khartoum-based successive governments has been the most unifying force for South Sudan. Now that this struggle has seen some success, what will unite us is the desire to build a strong nation together, and such a nation will need a shared identity. Such a shared identity will need to be harnessed, it needs to be politically constructed, and it is our task to forge it.

To this end, I envision my task as undersecretary of the Ministry of Culture and Heritage as joining a collective effort with the minister, the staff of the ministry and other branches of GOSS to set a policy for constructing our nation’s identity.

A solution begins with the correct identification of the nature of the problem. The most significant enemy of South Sudan’s cohesion, national loyalty and the citizens’ pride in their nation will be a growing sense of exclusion from the national platform, media, government programs and access to services. Any citizen who will feel excluded will never develop that important sense of pride in his/her nation. A starting point to addressing the feeling of exclusion is to state the obvious, that South Sudan belongs to all South Sudanese; it does not belong to any ethnic, religious or political group. (more…)

The Sudan Open Archive offers free digital access to knowledge about all regions of Sudan. It is an expanding, word-searchable, full-text database of historical and contemporary books and documents. The current version, SOA 2.0, incorporates a comprehensive, interactive guide to internet resources on Sudan.

The Sudan Open Archive (SOA) is designed and implemented by the Kenya and UK-based Rift Valley Institute, working with institutional partners in the north and south of Sudan. The Archive was created by DL Consulting using open-source Greenstone archive software developed by the New Zealand Digital Library project at the University of Waikato. It is maintained with support from the J.M. Kaplan Fund. Other partners include UNICEF, UNEP and the Southern Sudan Centre for Census, Statistics and Evaluation.

Kimball Tobacco Company Factory (1846-1905) in Rochester, New York, published a series of “Dancing Girls of the World.” These appear to be from the late 1880s. Several of these purport to depict women dancing in the Middle East. But it seems the artist had never actually seen ladies of the exotic harem. Take a peek for yourself.


Acclaimed Sudanese novelist Al-Tayeb Saleh dies
The Associated Press, February 18, 2009

KHARTOUM, Sudan: Al-Tayeb Saleh, one of the Arab world’s top novelists who excelled at portraying characters torn between East and West, died Wednesday in London, Sudan’s official news agency said. He was 80.

Saleh was born in 1929 in the northern Sudanese town of Marawi to a poor family and was educated first in Islamic schools and then later British institutions. He left Sudan to pursue graduate studies in the U.K. and went on to live in various European and Arab capitals, rarely returning home.

His works reflected the Arab and African quest for identity, especially in the period of 1960s, which were marked by the end of colonialism and the rise of nationalism across the region.

His 1966 masterpiece, The Season of Migration to the North, can be described as one of the earlier writings about the idea of a clash of civilizations. (more…)

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