Monday, 14 March 2011

Rise of Islam in the Gambia:Forms of Islam/ Hostility Part 2

Suntou Touray
Quinn (1972) reveals that, orthodox scholar clearly termed some of the form of Islam that was preached in the Gambia as the mystical 'sufi Qadiriya order'. The essential teachings she said was buried under 'layers of mystical pantheism'. Some preachers who themselves understood Islam very little could not emphasise the first pillar in Islam, which is the oneness of God without any partners.
They preached the “presence of God in all aspects of life tolerated much of the pre-Islamic background of belief in the African communities.” (Quinn, 1972)
Jobson (1621) a Christian observe that the king of Kachan in Niani a Soninke touches his amulet on the first drink of his alcoholic drink. He commented that, the mixing of Islamic and Soninke tradition was common. Alveres D’Almada (1594) a Portuguese explorer states of seeing varied literatures with the Muslims dwelling the river Gambia and he also writes of seeing a Muslims group calling themselves the ‘zawiya’ who insist on following the strict form of Islam ie observing their prayer on time, eating only lawful food and fasting during Ramadan.

These facts above reveal to us that, Muslims have lived with powerful Soninke or pagan communities and even serve them in their courts. That Muslims weren’t the marauding armed militants hell-bent on forcing the religion of Islam down the throat of Senegambians. Fulla travellers, Mandingo traders, Arab and Berber preachers all did their best in propagating Islam to the people by appealing to their conscience and exposing the errors in idol worship.

The point of open hostility between the Marabouts and the Soninkes

Historians documented evidence of marabouts and soninkes living side by side in the same villages or dwellings separated by small partitions. Until the 1860’s, no open hostility existed between the marabouts and the soninkes and along the long history of coexistence, European missionaries also transverses and preaching Christianity to people settling along the river.
Some Muslims later decided to create their own settlement since the old Soninke hierarchy was such that, Muslims are not allowed to hold high office and cannot become the Alkalo or Mansa. And also the open display of pagan rituals which sometimes involve customs that Islam forbid like loose dressing and rituals of binge drinking created a contrasting world view.
The manners the soninkes execute their judicial system runs counter to that of the Muslim, which was a point of difference.

Yves Person (1962) an expert in Mandingo secret cult declared that, the relevance of traditional cult and secret society starts to lose it role with an alternative form of sufi magic. The interaction of Islam with traditional religion affected both faiths to some extent. But significantly, the traditional secret society practises was assimilated into some Islamic rituals especially in male circumcisions. The cult of hore, scared groves which subtleness made them less un-Islamic were utilised in festivals but other practices of ancestor worship, and human sacrifices were abandoned.

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