Authority and piety, writing and print: a preliminary study of the circulation of Islamic texts in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Zanzibar

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Author: Anne K. Bang
Date: Feb. 2011
From: Africa(Vol. 81, Issue 1)
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Document Type: Report
Length: 9,904 words
Lexile Measure: 1490L

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ABSTRACT

This article is a preliminary discussion of the circulation of textual material in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Zanzibar. Three main contentions are made in the article. First, that this corpus of texts constituted a public sphere that was intimately connected with the western Indian Ocean, primarily Arabia, but with branches to Egypt where much of the material was printed. Second, that the transition from manuscript mode of transmission to printed texts upheld the same principles for circulation. Finally, the article also points to how the use of this scriptural material as a basis for Islamic learning was expanded into new types of reading, reference, interpretation and copying. The article examines cases from Zanzibar, both manuscripts and printed books, from the point of view of the lifespan of the texts.

RESUME

Cet article est une discussion preliminaire de la circulation de materiel textuel a Zanzibar a la fin du dix-neuvieme siecle et debut du vingtieme. I1 pose trois grandes affirmations. Premierement, que ce corpus de textes constituait une sphere publique intimement liee a l'ocean Indien occidental, principalement l'Arabie, mais avec des ramifications en Egypte ou etait imprime l'essentiel du materiel. Deuxiemement, que la transition du mode de transmission manuscrit au texte imprime respectait les memes principes de circulation. Troisiemement, l'article montre egalement de quelle maniere l'usage de ce materiel scriptural comme base d'apprentissage islamique a ete etendu a de nouveaux types de lecture, de reference, d'interpretation et de copie. L'article examine descas de Zanzibar, melant manuscrits et livres imprimes, du point de vue de la duree de vie des textes.

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On the nineteenth of Rabi II 1269/29 January 1853 in Zanzibar, one Khalfan b. cAbd Allah b. Muhammad finished copying a massive 600-page tome of Ibadi fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) composed by the eleventh-century Omani Ibadi scholar Abu Muhammad b. cAbd Allah b. Muhammad b. Barka al-Bahlawi, known as Ibn Barka.1 Some 26 years later, in 1879, the first Arabic printing press was established in Zanzibar under the auspices of Sultan Barghash. Although this particular volume was not printed by the Sultanic Press of Zanzibar, many others were, thus establishing a corpus of Ibadi scholarly literature underpinning the Bu Sacidi state. A decade or so later, the manuscript laboriously copied by Khalfan b. cAbd Allah was carefully made a waqf (pious endowment as defined in Islamic law) by cAali b. Muhammad al-Mundhiri, 2 later to become chief Ibadi qada of Zanzibar. In an inscription on the frontispiece he recorded that he had received the manuscript from his father, Muhammad b. cAli al-Mundhiri, who had said that the volume should be made a waqf for the benefit of all Muslims) Thereafter, the manuscript was used as a reference work by al-Mundhiri himself or by other Ibadi scholars well into the twentieth century. Like other manuscripts, it was used alongside the printed works produced by the Sultanic Printing Press and those imported from the burgeoning Ibadi publishing ventures overseas.

As this brief story shows, the establishment of a printing press in late nineteenth-century Zanzibar did not mean an end to the circulation and daily use of manuscripts. This article will examine a sample of the corpus of Islamic literature that circulated on the coast in the period ca. 1870-1930-both manuscript and printed literature. The focus will be on the use, re-use and ownership of the books, rather than their actual content.4 Thus, manuscripts and books will be viewed as the foundation for a multifaceted Islamic public sphere that in this period expanded to encompass large parts of the western Indian Ocean.

By the late nineteenth century, this was a sphere of Islamic learning that encompassed the Indian Ocean shores, from the East African coast to the archipelago of South-East Asia. As has been emphasized, amongst others by Engseng Ho, the books produced and reproduced by manuscript copies in total created an awareness of a learned Muslim community, but from a vantage point which was everywhere and nowhere in particular. This vantage point nullified the centre-periphery axis and created instead a transoceanic space that formed the framework of the texts. This space was held together 'by a skein of common reference books in religion, language and law; by scholars whose itineraries and generations span the space, in their writings of abridgements, commentaries and copies; and by intellectual genealogies of teachers licensing students to teach those texts' (Ho 2006: 120; and see also passim).

Within this space, reformist ideas spread during the late nineteenth century, mostly through the emergence of Sufi orders. Reform, including any type of Islamic reform, is not an object that can be weighed and measured. This is specifically so in cases like that described by van Bruinessen (1990) in Indonesia, when reform takes place within Sufi parameters, involving neither the 'modernists' nor the Wahhabis. Instead, Sufi reformist ideas emerged as neither traditionalist nor modernist, but a counterbalance to both.

Evidence of this may be found in the coastal regions of East Africa from the middle of the nineteenth century, visible in books written, published, read and used for instruction; teachers sought out and travel patterns repeated; opinions publicly voiced and schools founded. In sum, this information may indicate cases of real ideological shifts and social change. This, in turn, may be linked to a broader, more widely oriented reform of Islamic Sufism, which has been dated back at least as far as the eighteenth century. A specific feature was a shift from inward-looking, mystical exercises to a more outward orientation-most noticeable in teaching and education. In Sufi reformist literature, the word dacwa-literally, to summon or call by the late nineteenth century had taken on the distinctive meaning of missionary or teaching activity.

As has been demonstrated in previous studies, East African Islam in the early twentieth century showed several instances of change - both within the Sufi orders (especially within the Shadhiliyya, Qadiriyya and cAlawiyya orders, which were the most prominent on the coast) and in the formal application of Islamic law in the courts (see, for example, Purpura 1997; Stiles 2002; Bang 2003).

THE CIRCULATION OF TEXTS

Textual material in manuscript and print form will be discussed from the point of view of circulation, in the lifetimes of individual scholars and the lifetime of the book itself. I am therefore working toward an hypothesis concerning the formation of what Engseng Ho (2006) has termed an 'ecumenical Islam' but which may also be called a consensus-based canon (a set of core texts), agreed upon by local 'ulama', that formed the basis for an Islamic public sphere in the region and within which reform could take place. (5) This public sphere has only recently been eclipsed by the rise of new media, whereby, as Dale Eickelmann (2003) has phrased it, 'voiced Islam' (al-Islam al-sawti) has thus become a force rivalling 'print Islam'.

The analysis has three strands. First, the presence of books and manuscripts in Zanzibar from the 1850s onwards will be analysed in the context of religious authority and the emergence of an Islamic textual orientation in East Africa. Second, the lives of a sample of manuscripts and printed books in the period will be traced, thus focusing on the use of textual material in various historical contexts. Third, the various modes by which texts came to represent religious authority will be investigated, thus focusing on the political economy of the texts.

The body of literature under survey here is but a limited portion of the corpus of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century books and manuscripts that exist in public and private collections in Zanzibar. The samples are from the collection of Arabic manuscripts and books presently held by Maalim Muhammad Idris Muhammad Saleh of Zanzibar. (6) I have also drawn on the registration work undertaken by Prof. R. Sean O'Fahey and others for a volume on The Writings of the Muslim Peoples of Eastern Africa now in preparation (O'Fahey et al., forthcoming) - but not on the actual texts themselves. In other words, the conclusions drawn from this article may well be modified by a wider and more detailed study.

THE LIFE OF MANUSCRIPTS AND BOOKS IN ZANZIBAR IN A TRANSITIONAL PERIOD: TEXTUAL AUTHORITY IN THE AGE OF PRINT

In the period c. 1880-1930 East African Islam experienced a renewed orientation towards text, in the sense that religious authority came to be based on text reference rather than local status. (7) Ideas of 'right' or 'correct' Islam were increasingly expressed with reference to written words, and often to texts originating from the Middle East or elsewhere in the Islamic world, thus undermining previous notions of 'right' Islam asserted by the traditional urban aristocracy of the Swahili towns. In other words, this was a transition period when the use of textual material as a basis for Islamic learning was expanding and becoming an integrated component of religious authority. What took place was a 'textualization of charisma' (8) in the sense that authority no longer rested solely in a person or persons, but rather in the person's ability to access text.

By the late nineteenth century, Islamic expertise on the coast was also becoming Arabized, buoyed by the Bu Sacidi state and by what B.G. Martin (1971) has called the 'flywheels' of that state, a stratum of scholars who (to varying degrees) were fully trained in Arabic and the Islamic sciences and who could function as qadis, liwalis, court secretaries, scribes and other cogs in the wheel. This class was not necessarily Arab by birth, in the sense of recent immigrants from Yemen or Oman or their immediate offspring. Rather, it consisted of a combination of both Arabs directly from Yemen or Oman and individuals from families that had resided in East Africa for generations.

This article takes the emerging emphasis on text in East Africa as a starting point, but attempts to point at yet another factor in the process whereby text came to be an important source of authority. Scholarly links to the Middle East have been emphasized in previous research, but here the focus will be more narrowly on textual practices in Zanzibar in the light of publishing activities in the Middle East. In this respect, too, the passage from the late nineteenth into the early decades of the twentieth century was a transition period, in which textual dissemination gradually shifted from manuscript to print form. As Reinhard Schulze (1997) has pointed out, the transition from manuscript transmission to print implied also a transition in the role of the Islamic text in the public sphere. According to Schulze, the emergence of a printed Islamic public sphere created 'a social discourse in which the new reading public came to distinguish between what was regarded as "tradition" (manuscripts without a use value in the market) and what was considered "modern" (printed books)' (ibid.: 29). Schulze's examples are taken, for the most part, from the printing presses introduced in Istanbul during the reign of Sultan Abdulhamid II and exemplify the double identity of Islamic texts during the transition. On the one hand, there are the manuscripts, which are old, rare, private, and without use value (but later of great material value). On the other hand, there are the books, which are understood as being new, widely spread, belonging to the public realm, and having high use value (but generally low material value).

In the East African context, the establishing of a printing press in Zanzibar has already been mentioned. This press mainly published classic Ibadi legal works. Only one publication was by a contemporary Zanzibari--this was an account of a journey undertaken by the son of Sultan cAli to the East African coast, authored by the qadi and scholar Abu Muslim al-Bahlani al-Rawwahi and published in 1899. (9) From at least 1914, occasional works were also printed by the two men behind the journal al-Najah--the aforementioned Abu Muslim al-Rawwahi and Nasir b. Sulayman al-Lamki. These occasional publications (mostly of poetry) carried the label Matbacat al-Najah.

However, printed books were also imported from elsewhere. The Bu Sacidi sultans and their court of scholars nursed close contact, not only with Ibadi co-religionists but also with the emerging nahda (awakening) in the Middle East and with the pan-Islamic movement centred on Istanbul. Through these contacts, journals and printed books started to circulate in the scholarly milieu in Zanzibar (see Ghazal 2010 for a thorough account).

In addition, East African scholars (and particularly scholars based in Zanzibar) were starting to have their own works printed in publishing houses in the Middle East. Before 1915, a handful of Zanzibari scholars had seen their works published overseas. Among them was Ahmad b. Abi Bakr b. Sumayt, whose work was published both in Mecca and in Cairo. (10)

THE ROLE AND INTERPRETATION OF TEXT IN ISLAMIC PRACTICES: SAME WORDS--NEW PRACTICES? OR NEW AUTHORITIES?

The manuscripts and printed books under scrutiny here are exclusively in Arabic and of a religious nature. The contention is often made that Islam as a religion and Islamic practice have their core in text first and foremost in the Qur'an itself and the collected volumes of the Sunna. However, as has been pointed out by amongst others Michael Lambek (1990: 23-40), texts themselves are, as he puts it, 'silent'. He notes further that texts 'become[s] socially relevant through their enunciation, through acts of reading, reference and interpretation'. Therefore, Lambek continues, 'we need to examine how texts are used and by whom, when recourse is made to textual authority, and what kinds of entailments such actions bring' (1990: 23). In other words, we need to consider the relationship between the texts and the knowledge that they are purported to provide, or the local hermeneutics of the texts.

Finally, meaning (or knowledge)--and thereby authority-are appropriated through texts, and this appropriation is defined by Lambek as a political act. Hence what knowledge is to be derived from a text is ultimately shaped by an existing political economy of knowledge. This is determined by factors including who can read, who has access to books, who has the knowledge needed to produce or reproduce books, and who has the authority to interpret. It also depends on the nature of the text itself; the Qur'an for example holds power over both those who can read and those who cannot. In Lambek's example-a Malagasy-speaking community on Mayotte--the Qur'an as a textual authority is interpreted and negotiated in different ways both by those who can read, understand and even interpret it, those who can recite it without understanding, and those who can only relate to the book as a sacred object. (11)

In the East African context, Lambek's emphasis on local hermeneutics can also be applied historically. Several corresponding questions can be raised for the period under scrutiny here. As Arabic manuscripts were being copied in the pre-print era, what meanings were ascribed to the actual object (the bound paper) and to the textual content? In a society where reading was for the few, and reading Arabic either a specialization or a consequence of birth, we can only assume that a variety of meanings were ascribed to text. How did the attached meaning of a text change as readers became slightly more numerous and more specialized? Let alone when reading and interpreting these texts became the topic of organized education? The issue of authority is also closely connected to the question of use; as texts rather than orally transmitted traditions came to form the basis of religious authority, the question to be raised is what factors shaped this process? And by what acts of textual copying--whether actual writing, recitation, ritual performance--or by interpretation? Or, as Lambek's example shows, by the power of the book as an object? And how, if at all, did this change as words gradually emerged in printed form?

CASE 1: THE LIFE OF A MANUSCRIPT, c. 1850-1930

The manuscript under scrutiny here is a volume of prayers in praise of the Prophet Muhammad, to be recited during evening time in the month of Ramadan. It is a compilation of texts that are possibly of different dates, bound in one volume. There are several inscriptions concerning acquisition and ownership. The inscriptions are very unclear, as the ink has faded and the paper has been eaten by insects. However, by tracing them one can make out at least some parts of the manuscript's history.

The final lines of the manuscript give the name of the copyist, Imam Ahmad b. al-Rafic al-Hatimi al-Barawi, but unfortunately without a date. Although we cannot be certain, this Ahmad al-Hatimi is likely to have been either the father or uncle of Muhammad b. Ahmad al-Hatimi, who in 1853 endowed one of the longest-lasting waqfs in Zanzibar Stone Town. (12) This would date the manuscript to some time around 1850, which in fact fits well with the first inscription on page 7 of the manuscript.

First inscription

   This is the book Madh al-Mustafa [praise for the Prophet], SAWS,
   taken from me by the walad Jumca b. Khamis [unclear] and I am
   al-Nacim [benefactor?] Qasim b. CAbd Allah b. Fadl 1 on Tuesday 26
   Safar 1263 [12 February 1847].

As the inscription is very damaged and thus difficult to read, it remains unclear whether this means that this text was actually copied in 1847 and exactly how it was copied. The most likely possibility is that Jumca 'took' the prayers from Qasim b. cAbd Allah orally and that the inscription in effect is an ijaza (certificate of proficiency in the particular text), given by Qasim to Jumca to the effect that Jumca now knows this prayer. Whether the actual text was written in 1847 or later, it is an interesting example of transmission from one scholar to another which further demonstrates the emphasis on text among Zanzibari Muslim scholars in the period. In effect, the prayer was no longer 'copied' by recitation only, but by handwriting, either by one of the leading Imams of Zanzibar Stone Town or endorsed by him.

The following pages give a schedule for when and how the various prayers are to be recited, on which nights of Ramadan and in combination with what Suras from the Qur'an. The schedule indicates that this is a devotional text, meant to be performed in a more or less communal setting, if not in the mosque then usually in the company of others. In other words, the text itself gives an authoritative and detailed account of how it is to be used. It prescribes how it is to be performed--or 'orally copied' to follow Michael Lambek's terminology. The knowledge of how and when to recite the poem no longer resided with any single person or group, but with the text itself. However, the knowledge of how to read the text now resided with a new group of people--those who could read and understand Arabic. The act of reciting, though, did not necessarily become irrelevant. Recitation would still be the prerogative of those present on the occasion, and they would either read from the copy or learn by heart--as expressions of devotion, irrespective of whether they actually understood the text or not.

This inscription, in other words, demonstrates the move towards a textual basis for religious authority in Zanzibar by the mid-nineteenth century. At the same time, it also demonstrates the continuous importance of oral performance, whereby text was made socially relevant through communal recitation. Finally, the more obvious point is also demonstrated, that by the mid-nineteenth century, textual transmission in East Africa took place in the form of manuscript copying or orally. The age of print had not yet arrived.

We do not know who owned and kept the manuscript for the rest of the nineteenth century. Most likely, it was kept either in a private home or in the mosque frequented by the Hatimi family (possibly the al-Hatimi mosque in Kiponda known to have been a centre for Brawanese in Zanzibar, presently known as the Halwa Mosque). It may also have been kept by one or several of the shaykhs of the Qadiriyya Sufi order with which the al-Hatimi family came to be affiliated. In Zanzibar, the Qadiriyya at first was very much associated with the Brawanese community, being propagated by Brawanese scholars--like Shaykh al-Uways b. Muhammad al-Barawi (1847-1909) and even such high-profile figures as cAbd al-aAziz b. cAbd al-Ghani al-Amawi (1838-96). (13) However, the Qadiriyya was only introduced to Zanzibar as late as the 1870s; thus the manuscript must have resided elsewhere in the meantime.

Second inscription

   The late Muza [?] b. Hamad [or Jamal?] made waqf this book
   [al-Madhi al-Mustafawa, SAWS] for the madrasa of the late Sayyid
   Shaykh Abd Allah b. Muhammad Ba Kathir, to be read/recited by its
   students among the Muslims. It was given as an eternal waqf not to
   be bought nor sold until God inherits the earth and that which is
   upon it, and He is the best of inheritors. Whosoever changes this
   after having heard it, the guilt is upon him, as God sees
   everything and hears everything. He [the late Muza] appointed
   Shaykh Muhammad b. cUmar al-Khatib as responsible [mutawalli] and
   thereafter whosoever is entitled to it.

This inscription shows that, by the twentieth century, this particular manuscript came to have new uses. Now it was given as waqf to one of the main institutions of higher Islamic learning in Zanzibar, the Madrasa BaKathir in Ukutani, Zanzibar Town. By contextual evidence, the second inscription must date from some time after 1925, when cAbd Allah Ba Kathir died (he is clearly referred to as al-Marhum--the late--in the inscription). We do not know who the donor Muza was--most likely he was an affiliate of the Madrasa Ba Kathir, and possibly also a descendant of the Qasim of the first inscription or of the al-Hatimi family.

The Madrasa Ba Kathir, founded by cAbd Allah Ba Kathir (1860-1925) in the 1890s, would come to be called the 'qibla' (the point of orientation to Mecca for prayer, here used metaphorically as the place to turn towards for learning) for education in East Africa. (14) The school was the product of the educational efforts of another Sufi order, the cAlawiyya, which originated in the Hadramawt, Yemen.

The cAlawiyya was propagated by the descendants of the Prophet, through one Ahmad b. cIsa al-Muhajir (the emigrant) who arrived in Hadramawt around 950 AD. This group has since formed a special stratum in Hadramawt. Over the centuries, the sada (indicating descendants of the Prophet Muhammed) of Hadramawt have maintained a unity and cohesion primarily based on their understanding of their own bloodline combined with Sufi spirituality. cAlawi Sufism as it came to be formulated around the fifteenth century rests on the claim that both their bloodline and their transmission chain of spiritual methods and secrets go back to the Prophet.

At the same time, the sada of Hadramawt, like the rest of the Hadrami population, had a strong tendency towards migration, mostly as traders. Migration as a coping strategy has ancient roots in South Arabia. The monsoon winds made for predictable travel to India, the Malay world and East Africa in times of trouble. To read the family tree of a Hadrami lineage is like reading a map of the Indian Ocean. From about the thirteenth century one will find the notes on each individual: he died in Java, he died in Pate, he died in Lamu, he died in Calicut.

By the nineteenth century, young sons of cAlawis in the Indian Ocean diaspora tended to be brought up with the idea of the ancestral homeland as a place where spiritual boons were to be found--an idea of 'origin' expressed both spiritually and in terms of lineage. The homeland was 'poor but pure'. The diaspora, on the other hand, was rich but potentially corrupting. The only remedy was to go 'home'--to Hadramawt and Arabia--for periods of learning.

Upon arrival in the ancestral land, returnees would meet a Sufi order in reform. The reform can be said to have started in the eighteenth century, with scholars such as cAbd Allah b. cAlawi al-Haddad (1634-1719) and his student, Ahmad b. Zayn al-Hibshi (1658-1733). The shift was not so much in doctrine as in action. From being an inwardly looking Sufi order, quietist and focused on retreat and mystical exercises, it now turned towards the world. Sada took on the roles as teachers, some even offering Islamic teaching to women (most notably the scholar Ahmad b. cUmar b. Sumayt). They were writing textbooks and engaging in politics to promote Islamic rule in matters of state. The cAlawi tariqa remained a Sufi order, but its orientation turned outwards, towards the world beyond its genealogical limits. It became, in short, dacwa-oriented. (15) The missionary emphasis was clear and unambiguous, focusing on 'inner mission' and hence on teaching Islam to people who were already Muslims. Ahmad b. Zayn al-Hibshi, for example, wrote a short treatise called Risalat al-Jamiyya, a basic instruction on how to live a Muslim life, including the observation of prayer, fasting, zakat and other precepts. The booklet was used to teach Bedouin youth in improvised lessons when they came to town for trading.

Later, in the nineteenth century, the same treatise was reprinted repeatedly, precisely for dacwa purposes, in other parts of the Indian Ocean where Hadrami cAlawis lived--where the pupils were not bedu but young Malays, Swahilis or 'Cape Malays'. A Malay translation was first printed in Batavia in 1875 and has since been reprinted numerous times. An English/Swahili translation was completed in Zanzibar in 1925 by Ahmad b. Abi Bakr b. Sumayt. In fact, tracing the translations of the Risalat al-Jamica gives an indication of the extent of the dacwa-oriented cAlawi educational efforts.

The full consolidation of the cAlawi reform process came in the nineteenth century, when renowned cAlawi scholars in Hadramawt founded schools with housing for students--ribat, pl. arbita[??]--designed precisely to teach Islam in combination with Sufi tenets. These schools offered teaching in a structured and organized fashion. The new system differed from the classical tradition by which a student sought out a teacher and sat with him at his 'circle' for an indefinite period. The most famous was the Riyad. mosque college in Say[??]un, Hadramawt, established in 1878 by cAli b. Muhammad al-Hibshi--teacher to a whole generation of scholars.

The educational efforts of the cAlawiyya in East Africa reflected closely developments both in Hadramawt and elsewhere, and the Madrasa Ba Kathir was a clear exponent of this drive (see, for example, Bang 2007). One of the most important students--and later teacher and close affiliate of the school was Muhammad b. cUmar al-Khatib (1876-1957), who is named as the mutawalli (trustee) of the waqf. He studied with cAbd Allah BaKathir from 1898, and later gave instruction in the madrasa. He is also known to have accompanied Ba Kathir on a journey to Cape Town in 1913/14. Later, he was appointed reciter in the Gofu Mosque where the madrasa was located, and where he was especially known for leading the supererogatory prayers during Ramadan. Finally he was also khatib (the person delivering the sermon during the Friday prayers) in the Malindi Friday mosque in Zanzibar Town. His activities reached beyond the city, however, as he also taught in madrasas in the countryside (Farsy 1989: 108-10; Loimeier 2009: 106-9). Thus, the manuscript now became part of an institutional setting, very much in the hands of precisely the agents who had emphasized scripturalism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Its continued presence around 1930 shows an enduring emphasis on the written word as authority.

Furthermore, the new inscription is quite unambiguous about what the text is to be used for; the word qira[??]a can only mean reading or recitation. Thus, the text is still to be used to convey the words of a devotional act. The text is still to be read, out loud, but now in an institutional setting, for the purpose of devotion, but also for the purpose of learning devotion. Have the hermeneutics of the texts changed from the time when it was read in a more private setting, among the Hatimis, Brawanese or Qadiris in Zanzibar? Could we say that the text (both as physical object, as text and as recited sound) has moved from the private towards the public sphere, in line with the increased emphasis on text in Islamic practice in East Africa? The answer is a tentative yes, as the access to the book clearly has increased by its being deposited as waqf in a school, and one can also say with some confidence that the number of people able to read Arabic had increased after almost a century of Bu Sacidi rule. One can also assume that by this time, after having been present (if not actively performed) in Zanzibar for some 80 years, its devotional meaning would be known among--and probably well beyond--the scholarly community, after having been subject to multiple rounds of 'copying', both orally through copying by hand, and most likely also printing. Thus, the staff and students (and most certainly Muhammad al-Khatib) of the Madrasa Ba Kathir knew very well what they were receiving. The question is if they used it in the same way--and attributed the same sort of meaning to it--as the earlier owners in the 1860s? This question, obviously, is hard to answer with any certainty. Nevertheless, the fact that the unknown Muza chose to donate this manuscript as waqf indicates how traditions that were previously transmitted orally had become incorporated into a new script-based canon.

Finally, the donation of an old manuscript as a waqf to the Madrasa Ba Kathir in the 1930s should be discussed in the light of the emergence of printed books and pamphlets in the same period. One could argue that the book was given away simply because it had little of what Schulze called 'use value'. Another, and more persuasive interpretation is that it was donated as an artifact of heritage, thus documenting the historical roots of the school. Finally, it is also possible that there was a real shortage of written material that upheld the role of manuscripts like this as important founts for textual reference. The best interpretation comes when we combine all three arguments and see the manuscript as evidence for the incorporation of previously orally transmitted rituals into a text-based public sphere. In this context, the very age of the manuscript and its explicit local history would be powerful arguments for the continuation of the practice for the staff of the Madrasa BaKathir of the 1930s.

At some point in time, the manuscript passed from the Madrasa BaKathir to the possession of Burhan Mkelle (see below). By the 1980s, it was stored on the premises of the Comorian Association in Zanzibar, before it came into the possession of Muhammad Idris. Now, it plays no part in any public sphere, having made the complete transition described by Schulze; from being of use to being primarily of material (or 'collector's') value.

CASE 2: THE LIFE OF PRINTED BOOKS--PRIVATE CIRCULATION, WAQF ENDOWMENT AND THE MKELLE COLLECTION

In the collection of Muhammad Idris can be found a series of red, bound, printed books that originally belonged to the Zanzibari qadi and scholar Sacid b. Dahman (d. 1926). (16) From him, the books passed on to another Zanzibari scholar, Burhan Mkelle (1884-1949).

Burhan Mkelle was one of the foremost public intellectuals in Zanzibar in the first three decades of the twentieth century (for a basic biography, see Farsy 1989: 168-70). He was born in Zanzibar in 1884, to a father (Muhammad b. cAdam) who had immigrated from Grande Comore (Swahili: Ngazija/Arabic: Injazaja) to join the service of Sayyid Barghash, Sultan of Zanzibar (r. 1870-88)--most likely in the military or the bureaucracy, the professions of choice for the many Comorians who gravitated toward Zanzibar during this period.

Burhan Mkelle was a Sufi shaykh of the Shadhiliyya order, and a student of several of Zanzibar's scholarly elite, including Ahmad b. Sumayt. From 1908 until his retirement in 1939, he was a teacher in the Zanzibar government schools, established by the colonial government between 1905 and 1914 (see Loimeier 2009; Bang 2007). There he taught Arabic and also wrote primers for the Arabic language, including the widely used Tamrin al-Atfal. In the introduction to the Tamrin, Mkelle emphasized the fact that Arabic was not used as a spoken language in Zanzibar; children with Arab fathers literally grew up speaking their mother tongue--Swahili--while carrying Arab nisba names. Burhan Mkelle was also an accomplished and widely read poet, whose collection of poems (known as the Burhaniyat) contains poetic recitals on a whole range of occasions in Zanzibar history, as well as religious verses and more Sufi-oriented poetry. (17) A few years before his death, in 1945-6, Burhan Mkelle endowed an unknown portion of his library as waqf, for his children and for their children in turn, with the explicit purpose that they should seek what can only be termed 'bookish' knowledge. (18)

Sample A: Manhal al-Wurrad

The case of inscription I consider here concerns the book Manhal al-Wurrad, a commentary by Burhan Mkelle's teacher and fellow Comorian-Zanzibari, the aforementioned Ahmad b. Abi Bakr b. Sumayt. (19) The book was published in 1315/1897, by the Miriyya Publishers in Mecca. There are two separate inscriptions:

(1) To the one hoping for the mercy of his Lord and forgiveness for sins, His servant Burhan Muhammad Mkelle b. Adam al-Ingaziji 5 Shawwal 1325 [11 November 1907].

(2) Then I made this book waqf for my children Muhammad, cAbduh, cAbd Allah, Ahmad and Jahiyya.

We do not know who wrote the first inscription, where the book is given to Burhan Mkelle. The best guess is that Mkelle received the book from its author, his friend and teacher Ahmad b. Sumayt, (20) or from another colleague in Zanzibar. It is also worth noting that the copy was printed about ten years before Mkelle got it--it was, in other words, far from new, especially by the standards of the growing printing activities in the Middle East. Given the status of Ahmad b. Sumayt in Zanzibar, and of the poetry of al-Haddad which is the subject of the treatise, one would imagine that this particular work would be circulating widely among the Zanzibari scholarly class. In 1907, Burhan Mkelle was a mere 23 years old; it is likely that he only received the copy when he was intellectually able to read it, or after having been properly instructed and receiving an ijaza (certificate) for it.

The second inscription is clearly written much later, probably at the same time as the donation of the rest of the books in the 1940s. The donation of his library as a waqf for his children is exactly what one would expect from a lifelong teacher nearing the end of his life. It is noteworthy that Burhan Mkelle chose to include his daughter Jahiyya in the waqf, evidently on the same grounds as her brothers: that she should seek knowledge. (21)

Sample B: Hashiyyat al-Jalalayn (22)

These inscriptions are found in each of four volumes of an eighteenth-century hashiyya (commentary) on the Jalalayn (the 'two Jalals') (23)--a much-used reference work in Qur'anic exegesis. The books were printed by Mustafa al-Babi al-Halabi & Sons (see below). Each book in the collection carries three separate inscriptions:

(1) These are the books of Sulayman b. Sacid al-Humayri and they consist of the four volumes which are part of it. 13 Rabic II 1329 [3 April 1911].

(2) This is volume one of the commentary on the Jalalayn. I bought it from Hilal b. Sulayman b. Sayf al-Humayri on 21 Ramadan 1348 [20 February 1930]. Burhan b. Muhammad Mkelle b. Adam al-Qumri, in his own hand on the above-mentioned date.

(3) I gave this book (Hashiyyat al-Jalalayn) as a waqf for my children Muhammad, Abduh, cAbd Allah, Ahmad and Jahiyya, and their children who will follow, so that they may seek knowledge from the people of the Sunna. Not to be bought, not to be sold and not to be given away until God inherits the earth and that which is upon it, and He is the best of inheritors. Burhan b. Muhammad Mkelle al-Qumri, 17 Dhu al-Hijja, 1364 [22 November 1945].

The history of these books can be outlined quite neatly. No year of publication is given on the books, but we can assume that they were printed around the turn of century. In 1911, they were acquired (whether through purchase or gift) by Sulayman b. Sacid al-Humayri, whose identity remains unknown. In 1929/30, Burhan Mkelle bought them, presumably from Sulayman's son Hilal b. Sulayman al-Humayri. Finally, in 1945, he decided to the make the books waqf for his children. From that point on, we cannot trace the lives of these books with certainty, but some time after the death of Burhan (and possibly also after the death of his children), the books ended up in the Comorian Association where Burhan Mkelle was once president, and from there they entered the collection of Muhammad Idris.

Sample C: Nayl al-Awtar (24)

This waqf endowment concerns the book Nayl al-Awtar by the renowned Yemeni Zaydi/Sunni scholar Muhammad b. cAli al-Shawkani (1759-1834). It was printed in Rajab 1347/early 1929, again by Mustafa al-Babi al-Halabi & Sons (see above and discussion below).

   I have made waqf this book and the eight volumes that follow known
   as the Nayl al-Awtar for my children. They are Muhammad, cAbduh,
   cAbd Allah, Ahmad and Jahiyya. Then [it shall be] for the poor
   among the Muslims and for the Ahl al-Sunna. Burhan b. Muhammad
   Mkelle al-Qumri, 24 Safar 1365 [28 January 1946].

Here, there is no acquisition note, simply the waqfiyya by Burhan Mkelle. It is safe to assume that this book was acquired by Burhan at some point after its publication in 1929, and that it remained with him the whole time.

THE LIFE OF PRINTED BOOKS: A DISCUSSION

The books endowed as waqf by Burhan Mkelle certainly demonstrate an awareness of and emphasis on the textual basis for learning that is not unexpected in Zanzibar in the 1940s. Book collections had existed in scholarly households for decades--a good example is a similar collection, but consisting of manuscripts, which had been endowed by the Mundhiri family--another Zanzibari scholarly family by late nineteenth century. (25) Here, one can only assume that the circulation of printed books further underpinned scriptural notions of religious expertise.

Furthermore, the samples analysed here were printed between 1897 and 1929, thus demonstrating the gradual incorporation of printed books into the scriptural basis of Zanzibari Islam. Their presence in the private library of Burhan Mkelle indicates the various ways (buying, gifting, buying second hand) in which Zanzibari scholars acquired books printed in the Middle East, probably primarily for their own use, but most likely also for use in educational settings. By the 1940s, printed books had become the main source of Islamic knowledge for the Zanzibari scholarly class. However, as we have seen, at least by the 1930s, manuscripts were still living their lives quietly alongside printed books whether directly used or kept as testimonies to long-lived traditions. At the same time, new manuscripts were being produced all the time, as printed texts (and most likely also words transmitted orally) were copied by hand in madrasas and Sufi settings and later used directly. (26)

The transitional phase between manuscript copying and print thus lasted for at least 80 years, from around the 1870s well into the 1940s. One can assume here that despite Schulze's statement that books had relatively low material value, they were still expensive enough to prohibit all potential students and scholars in Zanzibar from acquiring their own copies. Copying by hand still remained an option, only overturned in the last decades of the twentieth century by Xerox copying and digitalization and--as noted by Eickelmann--by audiovisual media.

Was there any difference between the hermeneutics of words-in-handwriting and words-in-print? Retrospectively, the manuscripts are the ones that have been preserved in archives and collectors' homes, thus supporting Schulze's observation that manuscripts gradually came to have little use value but potentially great material value. However, by the 1930s, it seems to have made little or no difference if a text was learnt, recited or performed from a printed or a handwritten page. To follow Lambek's terminology: is it the case that, although the political economy of the printed book was different, authority was still established with reference to the same texts in the Zanzibari print age? It seems that reference to script as authoritative in itself seems to have been the overriding issue, rather than the actual form. The exception was manuscripts in the author's own hand (or copies made by venerated scholars) which tended (and still tend) to be viewed as more authoritative, and also more valuable from a material point of view.

As discussed above, access to books and access to the Arabic language were the two factors that determined who could interpret and thus achieve positions of authority. Generally, the arrival of printed books is usually perceived as a democratization process whereby knowledge was spread wider and thus potentially beyond traditional authorities, typically the culam[??]. (27) However, in the East African context, this was not necessarily so. First of all, the prolonged presence of manuscripts indicates that in reality books were not readily available. Secondly, the issue of language is significant. Even if Arabic books would have been widely distributed (as indeed they are today, in the form of cheap prints and pamphlets), the linguistic barrier itself was an obstacle.

A note on publishers and booksellers

In the above discussion, a picture emerges of a scholarly stratum that gradually adopted scriptural reference as authoritative, but that also incorporated elements of previous oral transmissions into their canon. This core of texts was then gradually supplanted by printed versions of the same--and new--books. In this picture, one final question must be raised which deserves further study. How did printed books reach Zanzibar, who paid for it, and who financed the printing when a Zanzibari author had his book printed? Equally important is the situation of publishers themselves: did East Africa constitute a 'market', in the parlance of present-day publishing houses? Was East Africa a place to recruit new authors, and thus new markets? Research from this angle is very scanty, and what follows is merely a note pointing to some interesting leads.

It is worth noting that two of the three titles presented were printed by the religious publishers Mustafa al-Babi al-Halabi whose imprint also features on about 40 per cent of the books in the Muhammad Idris collection, and especially frequently in the books deriving from the period e. 1910-30.

Mustafa al-Babi al-Halabi publishers were established in Cairo in 1276/1859. (28) The company owes its origin to (at least) one al-Babi al-Halabi (cIsa or Mustafa), presumably from Aleppo in Syria, who appears to have moved to Egypt in about 1850 as part of the considerable migration of Syrian (here meaning both from Syria and Lebanon) intellectuals, scholars and artists. According to the family's own recounting, the 'greatest service of their lives' was to 'print and distribute books of Islamic learning throughout the world'. (29) They were, in other words, active in the entire period under scrutiny here through their publishing and dissemination of Islamic religious works in Arabic and several African languages (and seemingly in India and South-East Asia). The company appears to have played a very important role in the 'modernizing' of African Islamic literary production in the period. Its role invites further research on the mechanics and financing of such publishing, relations between local authors or compilers, and the modalities of production and distribution. It also raises issues concerning the interaction between literacy, education and popular devotional literature and its use; and it thus concerns vernacularity--the use of African and other languages and Arabic (and what is meant by literacy in the latter language). It may also serve as a 'preface' to the use of the cassette and the interaction between orality and literacy and, more recently, the use of the DVD and the Web.

Taking a wider look at the books circulating in coastal East Africa (including the Comoros and northern Madagascar), we find that a large number of the most popular books were also printed by al-Halabi. Among them is the manaqib (hagiography) of Muhammad b. Abi Bakr al-Macruf (1853-1905), (30) the Comorian-born Hadrami sayyid who was the main propagator of the Shadhiliyya tariqa in East Africa--from the Kenyan coast all the way to Mozambique and Madagascar. How did these books come into print? Why would a Cairo publisher consider printing the hagiography of a saint who, viewed from outside his region, spent most of his life in very remote locations? The answer suggested by Constance Padwick (1996) is that a shaykh, for example a former student of al-Macruf in this case, en route to the Hajj or other journeys, would stop by in Cairo and contact publishers like al-Halabi. Another, and equally likely possibility, is that the Yashrutis (the family of the founder of the Palestinian branch of the Shadhiliyya) paid for it. The publisher would then run off, say, 2,000 copies of a manuscript into print, which would be paid for up front by the shaykh. The money provided for this type of printing would come from wealthy businessmen, typically members of the tariqa or in other ways connected to the author. The book would then be published, carrying the name of the donor as 'bi-nafaqa'--'by the care of', or 'a cura'--to make the sponsorship known. This procedure begs the question as to whether publishers like al--Halabi acted as publishers (in the twentieth-century European sense of the word) or more like eighteenth-century printshops, running off copies on demand for advance payment.

Much has been said in this article about distribution and redistribution of manuscripts and books. Inscriptions demonstrate how both books and manuscripts were given second lives, and even third and fourth lives through buying, selling, giving and endowment as waqf. However, very little has been said about the most obvious arena for book distribution: the bookshop or vending place for books. As has been pointed out in a recent article by Ami Ayalon, scarce attention has been given to the presence of books in the public domain through regular sales, despite the fact that several of the leading figures of the Arabic nahda were themselves writer, editors, publishers and booksellers (Ayalon 2008). As far as can be ascertained, the first bookseller in East Africa was Jevanjee Bookshop in Mombasa, established some time around 1875. (31)

CONCLUSIONS

The preliminary findings presented here indicate that the Zanzibari scholarly strata, in line with the emerging textual emphasis of Zanzibari Muslim scholars, by the late nineteenth century increasingly turned to written material as the source of authority--an authority that was grounded beyond local hierarchies. This is evident in the collection of books, both manuscript and print. That these books were considered important over long periods of time is evident from the inscriptions that in various ways circulate them among the scholarly community or within a family.

In Zanzibar up to c. 1940, the transition from manuscript to print seems to have created few changes in the way text was perceived as authoritative for 'right' or 'correct' Islam. Access to the texts, and thus authority to interpret them, may have increased, but the linguistic obstacle of Arabic in a primarily Swahili-speaking population remained. Only in the 1950s did East African scholars really start translating core Islamic texts into Swahili, thus making them more widely accessible. However, mass access to core Islamic texts cannot be said to have been achieved up to the present, mainly reflecting the failure of higher education systems in Zanzibar in particular. Nonetheless, as R. Loimeier (2009) has pointed out, a substantial number of graduates have come through educational facilities like the Muslim Academy to constitute a new generation of scholars. This new generation (from the 1970s onwards) may have read (at least some of) the same texts that are discussed in this article, but their perception of the role of text altered. In the Middle Eastern context, D. Eickelmann links this to the advent of mass higher education and has called the culmination of this process an 'objectification' of Islam (Eickelmann 2004: 165-6). Since the 1970s, the textual tradition (understood as a canon) itself has been transformed into an object to which the individual turns to seek advice for personal conduct or ethical dilemmas. To the Zanzibar scholarly elite in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the texts were not necessarily a place to turn for answers, but the foundations of a common sphere, a shared knowledge that allowed for communication as well as social regulation including the regulation of access to authority.

doi: 10.1017/S0001972010000057

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Ahmad, b. Abi Bakr, b. Sumayt (1315/1897-8) Manhal al-Wurrad min fayd. al-amdad bi-sharh abyat al-Qutb cAbd Allah b. cAlawi al-Hadad. Mecca: M. al-Miriyya.

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(1) On Ibn Barka, see Wilkinson (1987: 368).

(2) cAli b. Muhammad al-Mundhiri (d. 1925) and his father Muhammad b. cAli (d. 1869) were both prominent qadis of the Bu Sacidi state, both serving at various times as chief qadis. The Mundhiri family was a scholarly family hailing from Oman, and in Zanzibar they became known also for their library. See O'Fahey and Vikor (1996). The waqf described here is not included among those listed by O'Fahey and Vikor, most likely because the manuscript described here has remained in private ownership.

(3) Inscription on frontispiece of original manuscript, in the possession of Maalim Muhammad Idris Muhammad Saleh, Zanzibar.

(4) In addition, this article will not be concerned with the original meaning, intention, contextual situation or reception of the original text that is, the classical Islamic works written (as in the case of Ibn Barka) several centuries earlier. J. van Ess has noted that 'The original intention may disappear, but it is still the best background for observing changes.' This article takes a perspective more akin to reception history, whereby changes are analysed with reference to the preceding use or practice, rather than any distant, original meaning. See van Ess (2004).

(5) The same texts obviously had an important role in the various educational facilities in Zanzibar. This will not be dealt with here as it has been covered thoroughly by Loimeier (2009).

(6) The collection consists of some 40 manuscripts deriving from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as well as over a hundred books printed in the period ca. 1900 30.

(7) This process has been described by several authors and will not be dealt with in detail here. See, amongst others, Farsy 1989; Bang 2003; Sadgrove 2004; Kresse 2007.

(8) Here in the sense that charisma came to be embedded in text and the interpretation of text, rather than 'routinized' in the sense described by Weber.

(9) Sadgrove 2004: 193. On the life and career of Abu Muslim, see Ghazal 2010.

(10) See Bang 2003: Appendix, 204-8. His first printed work was a 283-page commentary on a poem by the renowned CAlawi shaykh cAbd Allah al-Haddad-Manhal al-wurrad min fayd. al-amdad bi-sharh abyat al-Qutb CAbd Allah b. cAlawi al-Haddfad. This was published by the Matbacat al-Miriyya in 1315/1897-8. Another commentary on al- .Haddad was published in Cairo (publisher not given, probably privately printed) in 1320/1902--al-Kawkab al-zahir bi-sharh Nasim al-hajir. His next printed publication was his main work, an elaboration on the tariqa cAlawiyya--Tuhfat al-labib sharh, lamiyyat al-Habib. This was printed by the Dar al-Kutub al-CArabiyya al-Kubra in 1332/1913-14.

(11) It should be noted that Lambek (1990: 26) understands recitation, even without comprehension, as a form of 'copying' the text orally. To this I would add that a text is also made socially relevant by any act of copying, whether orally, in the form of manuscript copying, by printing or by today's Xerox or digital means.

(12) Letter from Shaykh Tahir al-Amawi to Salih. b Abi Bakr Shatta, 21 Shawwal 1348/22 April 1930. Amawi File I, Doc. No. 34, Maktaba Ahmad Al Bu Saidi, Muscat, Oman. See also an English reproduction of the waqfiyya in ZA-HD6/108. In this document, al-Hatimi made waqf parts of his house in Kiponda, Stone Town, and three shambas in Kianga, north of the town. The waqf lasted until at least the 1940s when it was contested by the Wakf Commission, hence the presence of the documents in the Zanzibar National Archives.

(13) See Martin 1969; 1976. Amina Ameir Issa (2006) gives an alternative introduction of the Qadiriyya to Zanzibar, by yet another Brawanese, Husayn b. cAbd Allah al-Mucin, also in the 1870s.

(14) Al-Falaq, 20 May 1939, here quoted from Loimeier (2009).

(15) It should be noted that the word dacwa is used explicitly with the meaning of educational efforts in the writings of Ahmad b. cUmar b. Sumayt and Ahmad b. Zayn al-Hibshi

(16) Sacid b. Muhammad Dahman was a student and close associate of the leading Zanzibari scholar and qadi Ahmad b. Sumayt (1860-1925). On the death of Ahmad b. Sumayt, Sacid b. Dahman was asked to take the position of his teacher as chief qadi of Zanzibar, but he refused on the grounds that it would be insulting the memory of his master. On the life of Sacid b. Dahman, see Bang 2003: 227.

(17) See al-Burhaniyat, original MS in the possession of Muhammad Idris Muhammad Saleh in Zanzibar (copy in Bergen).

(18) In the present collection, six works carry a waqfiyya from Burhan Mkelle, a total of 12 volumes. It is unknown whether this constituted the whole endowment, and also what portion this constituted of Mkelle's total library.

(19) Ahmad b. Abi Bakr b. Sumayt (1315/1897-8). In the margin is printed Ahmad b. Zayn al-Hibshi (d. 1733), Sharh al-c Ayniyya, a commentary on a qasida ra[??]iyya by cAbd Allah b. cAlawi al-Haddad. This poem, like many of al-Haddad's compositions, is known as a Qasidat al-Wasiyya (a poem of advice). The commentary runs to 283 pages. The final section states that the work was completed 11 Jumada II 1313/28 November 1895.

(20) The inscription has been compared to other documents known to be in the handwriting of Ahmad b. Sumayt--but as the inscription is unclear the comparison was inconclusive.

(21) It is unclear if Jahiyya was Mkelle's only daughter.

(22) Sulayman al-Jamal (No date: ca. 1920?) Futuhat al-ilahiyya bi-tawdih tafsir al-Jalalayn [commonly known by the title given in the main text], printed in Egypt, Volumes 1, 2, 3, 4.

(23) The 'two Jalals' is a reference to Jalal al-Din al-Mahalli (d. 864/1459) and his pupil Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti (d. 911/1505).

(24) Muhammad b. cAli al-Shawkani, Nayl al-Awtar (min asrar fi sharh) Muntaqa al-Akhbar.

(25) O'Fahey and Vikor 1996. The Mundhiri waqf was endowed by Muhammad b. cAli al-Mundhiri (d. 1869) and more actively by his son cAli b. Muhammad (d. 1925) in the course of their lives. It is noteworthy that this seems to have consisted entirely of manuscripts. However, printed works are very likely to have been included, especially given the Mundhiris' close connection with the Bu Sacidi Sultanate and their printing press, as well as with co-religionists in Oman and elsewhere. We can only assume that the printed works were not among those included when the collection finally made the transition to collectors' items and became incorporated into the world of historical artifacts, as part of the EACROTONAL collection, and later in the vaults of the Zanzibar National Archives. Following Schulze's argument, the printed books may have had too much use value to become archive items.

(26) In the collection of Maalim Muhammad Idris Muhammad Saleh can be found several handwritten copies of prayers, short legal texts and poetry copied in the 1940s and 1950s onto lined notebooks. They bear marks of being used frequently.

(27) D. F. Eickelman describes this process in one of his essays (2004) and notes how both print and the new media have opened the domain of Islamic legal tradition in the Middle East to new groups--to 'a chemist, an engineer, an economist'.

(28) The date comes from Catalogue no. 202, 1412/1992 (Maktabat al-Mustafa al-Babi al-Halabi wa-awladuhu, Cairo). However, there are indications that the company was in existence as early as 1809, then as a bookshop (personal communication, Professor Phillip Sadgrove).

(29) Ibid., 2.

(30) See Ahmad b. cAbd al-Rahman b. Sultan cAli (1354/1933).

(31) Personal communication, R. Sean O'Fahey.

ANNE K. BANG is currently a senior researcher at Chr. Michelsen Institute in Bergen, Norway. Her research interests include Islam, the Indian Ocean, East Africa, Zanzibar, cosmopolitanism and migration. She has written several books and articles on these subjects. She is the co-editor of the Indian Ocean series at Hurst and Co. Email: anne.bang@cmi.no

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|A254402105