This collection of essays based on first-hand anthropological field research spanning many years, brings together in a single volume the author's collected material on characteristics of popular Islam amongst the Somali of the Horn of Africa.
The tension between mystically mediated views of man's relation to God and more ritualistic interpretations of region provides the main focus of this book-Sufism on the one hand, and skeptical criticism of this mystical understanding of Islam on the other.
A universal religion here, as elsewhere, Islam has its own local emphasis and special features, and in these investigations of the cult of saints, the reader is introduced to an array of Somali saints and holy men, their reputation for mystical powers, and the pathways to veneration. The repertoire includes clan ancestors, local holy men of outstanding piety, and famous pan-Islamic figures.
These essays also look at some popular practices which are at the margins of orthodox religion, such as spirit possession cults associated primarily with women.
Lewis' introductory essay to this volume deserves special attention. In it he challenges single strand theories on the cult of saints espoused by some scholars and non scholars, and sets the stage for the presentation of an intricate and integrated picture of Muslim beliefs and practice among the Somali.
Rigorous, outspoken, and backing his arguments with reflections based on a lifetime of research and scholarship, Lewis makes a major contribution to understanding the place and role of religion in Somali society.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
IOAN M. LEWIS is a leading British social anthropologist and widely regarded as a world authority on Somali culture and society. He was a Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics for almost 25 years until his recent retirement as Emeritus Professor. He is the author or co-author of more than twenty books, and for over three decades his prolific writings have been a constant feature in academic journals and the wider press. He is a former director of the International African Institute, and is chairman of the board of the Africa Educational Trust and a Fellow of the British Academy.
Anthropology, Religion, History/AFRICA