Dancing in Duality: Exploring the Comparative Relationship of Swahili Culture with Islamic and Liberal Paradigms

Authors

  • Inayatullah Din Aligarh Muslim University

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.58575/ki.v3i1.32

Keywords:

Swahili, Cosmopolitan, Culture, Islamization, Swahilization, Liberalism.

Abstract

This paper examines the crucial role of Islam on the Swahili coast, using it as a case study to explore the intriguing transformations Islam underwent during its spread in the region. It aims to shed light on the cosmopolitan nature of the Swahili space before colonialism, focusing on the reciprocal processes of Islamization and the Swahilization of Islam. By doing so, it aims to enhance our understanding of the significant role of Islam in fostering globalization. Moreover, it explores the expansion of Islam beyond the Arabian Peninsula, particularly through trade conducted by Muslim merchants. This exchange resulted in a dynamic interaction as local leaders embraced the faith, facilitated trade, and supported the growth of Islamic intellectual, artistic, and cultural endeavours. Building upon this case study, the paper conducts a comparative analysis of the legal systems of Islam and liberalism and explores the potential for envisioning a world transcending colonial national racial logics. Embracing Islam as a major signifier, this essay draws on a diverse array of critical scholarship, contending that Islam, unlike liberalism, inherently embraces diverse cultural knowledge, making it a faith that is inherently receptive to different cultures and their unique contributions.

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

References

See, Salman Sayyid, A Fundamental Fear: Eurocentrism and the Emergence of Islamism, (London and New York: Zed Books Ltd., 1997).

Talal Asad, The Idea of an Anthropology of Islam (Washington, DC: Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, Georgetown University, 1986).

See, for instance, Wael B. Hallaq, Restating Orientalism: A Critique of Modern Knowledge, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018).

I borrowed this phrase from Ovamir Anjum’s article “Who Wants the Caliphate”, Yaqeen, 31 October 2019, https://yaqeeninstitute.org/read/paper/who-wants-the-caliphate

The person who makes the call to prayer. See, Omar H. Ali, Islam in the Indian Ocean World A Brief History with Documents, (New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2016).

Edward A. Alpers, The Indian Ocean in World History, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), p. 49.

It is a collection of sailor’s tales compiled between the periods 900 and 953 C.E. and authored by Buzurg Ibn Shahriyar Al-Ramhorumzi. (see G. S. P. Freeman Grenville, "Some Thoughts on Buzurg Ibn Shahriyar Al Ramhormuzi: The Book of the Wonders of India", Paideuma, Vol. 28, 1982, pp. 63–70.

Cited in Michael Pearson, The Indian Ocean, (London: Routledge, 2003).

Michael Pearson, The Indian Ocean, (London: Routledge, 2003), p. 78.

See, David Robinson, Muslim Societies in African History, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004) and Omar H. Ali, Islam in the Indian Ocean World: A Brief History with Documents, (New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2016).

The Bantu languages and the Cushitic languages are both families of languages spoken in the southern half of Africa and in the Horn of Africa, respectively.

Maria Jose Noain Maura, “This abandoned East African city once controlled the medieval gold trade”, National Geography, 7 September 2020,

https://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/history-andcivilisation/2020/09/this-abandoned-east-african-city-once-controlled-the-medieval-gold

Randall L. Pouwels, Horn and Crescent: Cultural Change and Traditional Islam on the East African Coast, 800–1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987).

See David Robinson, Muslim Societies in African History, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004) and Omar H. Ali, Islam in the Indian Ocean World: A Brief History with Documents, (New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2016).

See Lyndon Harries, “The Arabs and Swahili Culture”, Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, Vol 34, No 3, (1964), pp 224-229. Randall L. Pouwels, Horn and Crescent: Cultural Change and Traditional Islam on the East African Coast, 800-1900, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987).

For more, see Basil Davidson, Africa in History: Themes and Outlines, (New York: Collier, 1974); David Robinson, Muslim Societies in African History, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004); Beverly E. Coleman, "A History of Swahili", The Black Scholar, Vol. 2, No. 6, (1971), pp. 13–25.

The Shāfi'ī school, considered one of the principal Sunni schools of jurisprudence, traces its doctrinal origins to the teachings of Muḥammad ibn Idrīs al-Shāfiʿī (767-820 CE).

For a detailed discussion on the principles of jurisprudence and Islamic laws (see Marghinani’s 12th-century work The Hidaya).

An illustrative instance can be observed in the grand palace of the 14th century, known as Husuni Kubwa, commissioned by Sultan al-Hasan ibn Sulaiman. This remarkable edifice holds the notable distinction of being the most expansive singular structure across the entire sub-Saharan African region.

This raises the significant question of why Islam did not abolish slavery. The phrasing of this question itself highlights the problem with its framing. In Islam, there is no equivalent concept of "slavery." Instead, there is the concept of riq, which differs in both terminology and underlying principles. It is essential to recognize that translation between languages cannot assume identical meanings. Therefore, when we use the term "slavery" in English, it evokes specific imagery. Particularly for those from the West, this conjures images of the horrific, unjust, racist system of servitude and bondage that characterized the North American experience and is widely regarded as one of the worst forms of subjugation in human history.

G. S. P. Freeman Grenville, The East African Coast: Select Documents from the First to the Earlier Nineteenth Century, (ed.) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1962).

Cited in David Robinson’s Muslim Societies in African History.

See David Robinson, Muslim Societies in African History; Martin Frishman and Hasan Uddin Khan, The Mosque: History, Architectural Development and Regional Diversity, (eds.) (London: Thames and Hudson, 1994).

David Robinson, The Holy War of Umar Tal: The Western Sudan in the Mid-Nineteenth Century, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985).

See Burjor Avari, Islamic Civilization in South Asia, (Routledge: London, 2013). G.F. Hourani, Arab Seafaring in the Indian Ocean in Ancient and Early Medieval Times, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press 1979). S.D. Goitein, Jews and Arabs: Their Contacts through the Ages, (New York: Schocken Books 1955)

A state of consciousness and mindfulness, often translated as "piety" or "God-consciousness.

Central principle of Islamic monotheism, emphasizing the absolute oneness and unity of God

The term " jāhiliyyah" in Islam refers to the historical era preceding the revelation of the Quran to the Prophet ﷺ. It represents a significant period in Islamic history characterized by ignorance, moral and social decadence, and the absence of divine guidance.

For more, see N.A. Khan, and S. Randhawa, Divine Speech: Exploring the Quran as Literature, (Dallas: Bayyinah Institute, 2016).

Wael B. Hallaq, An Introduction to Islamic Law, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp. 163-164.

Wael B. Hallaq, Restating Orientalism: A Critique of Modern Knowledge, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018), p. 164.

See Patrick J. Deneen, Why Liberalism Failed, (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2018). Aria Nakissa, “Reconceptualizing the Global Transformation of Islam in the Colonial Period: Early Islamic Reform in British-Ruled India and Egypt”, Brill, Arabica 69 (2022), p. 146-230.

R. Coupland, The Exploitation of East Africa, 1856-1890, (London: Faber and Faber, Limited, 1939).

Wael B. Hallaq’s Restating Orientalism: A Critique of Modern Knowledge, p. 164 – 165.

F. B. Pearce, Zanzibar, The Island Metropolis of East Africa (London, 1920), 220.

See, Wael B. Hallaq, Restating Orientalism: A Critique of Modern Knowledge, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018); Talal Asad, Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003).

See Talal Asad, Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003).

For more see Mohammad Asad, The Road to Makkah (Noida: Islamic Book Service, 2000). Salman Sayyid, A Fundamental Fear: Eurocentrism and the Emergence of Islamism (London and New York: Zed Books Ltd., 1997). Salman Sayyid, Recalling the Caliphate: Decolonisation and World Order (London: Hurst, 2014).

Downloads

Published

30-06-2023

How to Cite

Inayatullah Din. (2023). Dancing in Duality: Exploring the Comparative Relationship of Swahili Culture with Islamic and Liberal Paradigms. Karachi Islamicus, 3(1). https://doi.org/10.58575/ki.v3i1.32
Abstract views: 1034 / PDF downloads: 168