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Islam and the Prayer Economy

History and Authority in a Malian Town

Benjamin Soares

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At a time when so-called fundamentalism has become the privileged analytical frame for understanding Muslim societies past and present, this study offers an alternative perspective on Islam. In an innovative combination of anthropology, history, and social theory, Benjamin Soares explores Islam and Muslim practice in an important Islamic religious centre in West Africa from the late nineteenth century to the present. Drawing on ethnography, archival research, and written sources, Soares provides a richly detailed discussion of Sufism, Islamic reform, and other contemporary ways of being Muslim in Mali and offers an original analytical perspective for understanding changes in the practice of Islam more generally.


Illustrations (Maps, Photos)ii
Acknowledgements iii
Notes on Orthography and Translation v
List of Abbreviations vi
Glossary vii
Part I History
Islam and Authority before the Colonial Period
Colonialism and After
Saints and Sufi Orders I - the Hamawiyya
Saints and Sufi Orders II - the Tijaniyya
Part II Authority
The Esoteric Sciences
The Prayer Economy
The Public Sphere and the Postcolony
Conclusion: The Market, the Public, and Islam

About the Author

Benjamin F. Soares is Senior Researcher, African Studies Centre, Leiden, The Netherlands.

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