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Lecture | LUCIS Keynotes

Religiosity and Knowledge in Muslim Context in West Africa: Reconfiguring the Relationship between Boko and Adini

Thursday 11 May 2023
Kamerlingh Onnes Building
Steenschuur 25
2311 ES Leiden
Photo taken by Abdoulaye Sounaye during fieldwork in northern Nigeria, 2021

The Hausa concept Boko has been usually translated in terms of western style of education. In many Muslim contexts across West Africa, the concept has also signified an opposition to an Islamic episteme, even connoting a rejection of an Islam-informed morality and social order. Boko was opposed to adini - religion and religiosity in Hausa - and as such problematic in many regards. Boko Haram, the organization that has disrupted social order and threatened the postcolonial state found in this equation some of its justifications. Challenging the terms of social coexistence and political orders in many communities in West Africa, Boko Haram could be understood as simply continuing a critique of political regimes and social philosophies that were ingrained in political projects dating from the colonial encounter. While boko emerged within the encounter with European colonialism, its making as a local concept i.e., part of an episteme, its deployment as a political concept and its appropriation as a social category still need to be historicized. Its value also needs to be reassessed, especially in a context where as a social category, it has been contested and often deemed morally corrupt and politically corruptive.

This lecture discusses contemporary Islamic dynamics in West Africa, especially the wide appeal of Islamic learning (ilimi, in Hausa) and religiosity (adini, in Hausa) in the ways in which they reconfigure the relationship between boko and adini, and inspire Muslim intellectual culture across the region. Taking examples from Niger and Nigeria, the lecture will show how, in a major shift, wedding boko and adini has produced the socio-Intellectual model of Sheik-Doctor and became even more crucial for achieving individual life goals and responding to the imperatives of social life. This process, I argue, illustrates the dialogical and overlapping nature of epistemologies. The production of a dialogical concept of life and being such as Sheik-Doctor, I will further argue, makes a case for a reexamination of current challenges and models of decolonization, especially in Muslim context.

About Abdoulaye Sounaye

Abdoulaye Sounaye leads the research unit “Contested Religion and Intellectual Culture” at the Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin. His research and publications have so far focused on the complex State, Religion and Society, dealing particularly with urban dynamics, media practices, Islamic reform, West Africans in Germany, Salafi preaching, and religiosity on university campuses in West Africa. He is the author of Islam et modernité: Contribution à l’analyse de la ré-islamisation au Niger (l’Harmattan 2016) and co-edited  Islam and Muslim Life in West Africa: Practices, Trajectories, and Influences (2022) and Thinking the Re-Thinking of the World: Decolonial Challenges to the Humanities and Social Sciences from Africa, Asia and the Middle East (2022).

This event is organised by the African Studies Centre (ASCL) and the Leiden University Centre for the Study of Islam and Society (LUCIS), in collaboration with the Bachelor Students of International Studies (BASIS).

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