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date: 19 November 2019

The History of Islam in East Africa

Summary and Keywords

The history of Islam in East Africa stretches back to around 1000 CE. Until the mid-20th century, it remained largely confined to the coast and closely bound up with the history of the Swahili towns situated on it. The Swahili language remains central to many East African Muslims, hence the occasionally heard phrase, “Swahili Islam.” East African Muslims are mostly Shafiites and some belong to Sufi orders, especially Qadiriyya and Shadhiliyya. Since c. 1850, Islam, with many variations in ritual, has become the religion of speakers of a multitude of languages across the region, second only to Christianity. The region’s independent nation-states initially promised equality for all religions within a secular order. Since c. 1990, though, the minority status of East African Muslims has fed into a multitude of grievances related to the region’s economic and political impasses. This situation has led to growing movements of Islamic preaching and activism, supported by increased contacts with congregations elsewhere in the Indian Ocean. At times, they have influenced electoral politics, especially in Zanzibar, where Islamic activism resonates with fear of marginalization by the mainland. In Kenya, Somali-influenced Islamist terrorists committed a series of atrocities in the 2010s. East African governments, in turn, have been proactive in tracking and disrupting such networks, and in Kenya, the government engaged in targeted assassination. Nevertheless, peaceful coexistence between Muslims and adherents of other religions remains the norm in East Africa, and its dynamics are often poorly understood.

Keywords: Swahili Islam, East African Islam, East African Islamism, Muslim discontent, Islam and postcolonial politics, Islam and nation-states

Early Islamic History in East Africa and the Swahili

The history of Islam in East Africa covers more than a millennium: archaeological evidence for the presence of mosques begins shortly before the year 1000, and archaeologists agree that coastal settlements had well-established Muslim identities by the 13th century.1 Until the mid-19th century, the history of Islam in the region remained tightly bound up with that of the coastal culture that since the 14th century has been referred to as Swahili.2 As the precolonial history of Swahili society is dealt with at length in Abdul Sheriff’s article, “The Swahili in the African and Indian Ocean Worlds to c. 1500” in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia, the present discussion limits itself to briefly tracing out the role of Islam within it, and then moves on to the period from c. 1830, when Muslim congregations came into being well beyond the coast. This change was driven by expanding long-distance trade, slave trading and slave plantations, immigration from the Western Indian Ocean, especially Southern Arabia, and by the politics of the African societies interacting with these forces.3 It also involved specifically religious actors in the representatives of the Qadiriyya and Shadhiliyya Sufi orders (tarika), who increased recruitment of adherents, while the nonproselytizing Alawiyya tarika expanded its role in teaching.4

The precolonial expansion of Islam was followed by a colonial period, c. 1890–1960, when Muslims found themselves under European colonial rule. During these years, old Muslim elites occupied an ambiguous status as privileged intermediaries but stripped of hard political power and losing both economic clout and social influence as trade networks and plantations disintegrated.5 Nevertheless, the growth of Muslim communities beyond the coast continued, especially in Tanzania. It was driven by a wide array of actors, many of them far removed, socially and spatially, from coastal patricians. Next, the early postindependence period, c. 1960–1990, is characterized by Muslim congregations’ efforts to claim a place in the region’s emerging territorial nation-states and to define their relationship to these officially secular and majority Christian states. On the whole, these efforts were characterized by gradual alienation from the postcolonial political project, though, as far as we can make out, less so in Uganda than in Kenya and Tanzania.6 Lastly, since about 1990, Muslims in East Africa have been grappling with a wave of Islamic political activism and religious reformism that has both energized and divided Muslim congregations, while making their relations to the state yet more problematic. It intersects in many ways with the broader economic malaise and entrenchment of authoritarian politics in the region and is given particular attention here as information on it has so far remained very scattered.7

Note on Sources

Our understanding of these different phases is deeply shaped by the nature, extent, and limitations of the available evidence and by broader problems and debates in both African and Islamic history. Until the 19th century, much of the evidence on Islam in East Africa is archaeological or literary and open to very diverse interpretations.8 Written evidence, meanwhile, comes in the form of Swahili-language chronicles and poetry, as well as European, Arab, and (rarely) Chinese travelers’ accounts. While some cover medieval and early modern periods, most of them are set in the 19th century.9 All of them are shaped by challenging contexts and many are highly partisan.10 Both colonial and postcolonial administrative records are very patchy on matters pertaining to Muslims, while mission archives can be informative but are inevitably also judgmental. Meanwhile, Muslim scholarly networks, sites of learning and worship, lack the sort of bureaucracies that produce written records for churches. Consequently, oral records remain central right up to the present. Yet oral informants, too, are socially positioned in ways that make their testimony controversial, and oral evidence is subject to an ongoing debate about its entangled relationships with both the past and the present.11 Similarly, anthropological work, which has provided increasingly important evidence since the mid-20th century, is closely bound up with both the interpretive intellectual currents at work in academia and the social positioning of its informants.

As concerns the interpretation of these sources, there are questions surrounding the interrelations of religious, racial, and ethnic identity, the social dynamics of conversion to Islam (and later, from “mainstream” to reformist Islam), and the social roles of Islam within East Africa’s diverse communities.12 Central to them is a question relevant to Islamic history everywhere, namely, how and to what extent Islamic allegiance defined the mentalities, choices, and actions of adherents.13 The narrative outline of Islamic history in East Africa that follows seeks to do justice to the long-standing cultural, intellectual, and political dynamism of the Islamic discursive tradition without making strong assumptions about its ability to determine social action or outcomes.14 These issues are considered further in the section on “Historiographic and Methodological Problems” below.

Islam on the Swahili Coast until c. 1850

The term Swahili coast refers to an area that stretches north to south from the southern Somali coast, around the town of Kismayu, to the Ruvuma River that forms the border between Tanzania and Mozambique. At both ends, Swahili culture blends gradually into that of neighboring ethnic groups, Somali in the north and Makua/Makonde in the south.15 Swahili speakers themselves began to use the term Swahili as a marker of ethnic identity only in the colonial period; in the deeper past, they tended to use narrower terms referring to towns, town quarters, and lineage.16 Whatever the designation used, Islam is generally considered a foundational feature of these towns: as an ethnography published in 1992 puts it, “all Swahili are Muslim.”17 From their emergence, Swahili towns featured mosques and Muslim religious specialists.18 Islamic rituals were an intrinsic part of their social life. Islamic law and notions of propriety informed gender relations and the conduct of business.

The earliest written confirmation of these observations comes from the Muslim traveler Ibn Battuta, who visited the East African coast in 1331: he was welcomed by Muslim rulers he described as sheikhs or sultans, honored as an Islamic scholar, and performed his prayers in mosques.19 Then, as in 2018, he found most Muslims on the coast to be Shafiites. Some religious officials in the towns were immigrants from locations closer to the Islamic heartlands, such as the Benadir Coast of Somalia; the garments worn by high-status citizens to the mosque were also imported. Trade links with Muslim-majority countries in the Indian Ocean are evident also from the records of Portuguese raids on Swahili towns in the early 16th century: their loot included textiles from India and Persia. Long-standing notions of material refinement involving such goods are invoked, for instance, in the poem Al-Inkishafi. Written around 1800, it is a meditation on the transience of life that invokes the finery once gracing a currently ruined palace.20 Another long-standing topic in Swahili intellectual life is the relationship of dini (“religion,” or in Loimeier’s phrase, “religion proper”) to mila, (“custom”), which can be construed antagonistically or symbiotically, and structures debates over ritual and doctrinal correctness.21

Texts such as Al-Inkishafi, most of them poetry, in the Swahili language in Arabic script, help trace the presence of Islam in intellectual life. The oldest extant Swahili prose manuscript we have dates from c. 1728, but writing may have been used for many years before then.22 Some of the poems have explicitly religious subject matter, such as chuo cha herkal, about the Byzantine emperor Heraklion’s defeat at the hands of a Muslim army.23 Others refer to Muslim notions of propriety in social contexts. For example, Mwana Kupona is a poem of instructions given by a mother to a daughter about to get married and promises divine reward for obedience and piety.24 All precolonial Swahili poems, whatever the subject matter, start with religious incantations, asking divine blessing for the writer’s endeavor. Drawing on such written sources, which are most informative on elite ways of life, and inspired by a philological Orientalist tradition, much literature on precolonial Swahili Islam treats it as a rarely challenged, hegemonic source of uncontroversial social norms and practices.25 This contrasts with the focus on social conflict in literature on the run-up to and the process of colonization, which places Islamic practice and Muslim identity among the many sites of social struggle in this period.26

A change in quality in the relations between the East African coast and the wider world began in the late 18th century, with increasing French demand for slaves to be taken to Mauritius and strengthening British ties to Southern Arabia.27 The latter were part of what motivated the Sultan of Oman to transfer his main seat from Muscat to the island of Zanzibar, on the south-central Swahili coast, in 1833. Liaising closely with British advisers and businessmen from a number of European nations, he worked to establish Zanzibar as the commercial clearing house for a rapidly expanding trade in ivory, slaves, cloves produced by slave labor, and gathered products such as tortoiseshell, copal, and ambergris.28 From then on until the end of the 19th century, the Swahili coast became the site of an intense struggle for commercial and social opportunity, and for the mainland African participants, against enslavement and social marginalization.29

Islamic legal norms partly shaped the practice of slavery, though they could be bent to economic or social convenience.30 The strongly patrilineal patterns, likewise informed by Islamic law, of Omani immigrant families underpinned the formation of family-cum-commercial networks over large distances.31 As Muslim entrepreneurs, both Arab immigrant and coastal Swahili, began to move up country in pursuit of ivory and slaves, the first Islamic sites of worship sprang up in places like Tabora, currently in central Tanzania, for use by these expatriates.32 From the 1870s, Muslim traders professing allegiance to Zanzibar increasingly found themselves confronted with European explorers, adventurers, imperial emissaries, and missionaries.33 The resulting tension took on its most clearly religious expression in the far northwestern reaches of Zanzibar’s sphere of influence: the Kingdom of Buganda.

Islam in Uganda, c. 1850–1990

Nineteenth-century Buganda was an expansive territorial state with a standing army and a royal court that formed the site of fierce political contests among the elite.34 The increasing role of Islam in these contests from the 1850s is known predominantly through partisan European sources, some of them produced by individuals who were themselves involved in efforts to weaken the Muslim party.35 Nevertheless, a chronology emerges fairly clearly. Coastal traders had reached the Bugandan court in the 1840s. They quickly became influential at the royal court, and for some years around 1870, the Bugandan Kabaka (King) Mutesa treated Islam as the state religion.36 The apparent missionary activity of the traders in Buganda contrasts with their disinterest in recruiting converts in other areas. Its causes are unclear. Perhaps the Kabaka himself showed more interest than other leaders; perhaps his unusual concentration of power motivated the traders to deepen their ties to him. Michael Twaddle has argued that the Muslims at the court pursued a coherent political project.37 It is also possible that the missionaries, our main source for these events, overstated the Muslim traders’ efforts to validate their own counteraction.38

What is clear is that the missionaries who arrived in increasing numbers from the late 1860s quickly identified the Muslim traders as an enemy and took up a confrontational position toward them. As both sides expanded the number of their adherents, all of them known as “readers” to other Bugandans, the parties were drawn into the fractious politics of the court and of a succession of mercurial, manipulative, and at times brutal kings.39 Intermittent prosecutions of religious factions the Kabakas considered insubordinate were followed by a civil war from 1888 to 1893, which first pitted Muslims against a Christian coalition, then Catholics against Anglicans.40 It ended in defeat for the Muslim party, as their Christian (more precisely, Anglican) opponents were reinforced by the fire power of a British expeditionary force. The so-called Uganda agreements, signed in 1900 and 1902 between the Bugandan court and the British crown, effectively elevated Anglican Christianity to something close to a state religion. All but one of Buganda’s counties were attributed to Christian (mostly Anglican) leadership, and the remaining Muslim county was small and isolated. The settlement ended the expansion of Islamic allegiance in Buganda.41

Also during the late 19th century, the north and northwest of the country saw an increasing presence of Muslims who had moved down the Nile River from Egypt, leading to the establishment of the only Sunni Muslim community in East Africa that followed Maliki, rather than Shafii, ritual and legal practice.42 It was reinforced by so-called “Nubian” Muslims, many of them Sudanese who had arrived in Uganda as mercenaries hired by the Austrian explorer Emin Pasha, who settled in northern Uganda, and attracted some converts also from among established local populations. While diverse and geographically widespread, then, Ugandan Muslims became a politically marginalized minority in a country where Christian churches were deeply involved in politics, and the Muslims had attracted limited research interest. Nevertheless, the Bugandan Muslim congregation retained links to the royal family and their status as a minority was secure.

The enduring links to Bugandan elite politics also shaped the fortunes of Ugandan Muslims after independence. As a “floating vote,” they exerted influence in excess of their numbers during the transition to independence.43 Yet this also meant that Muslims were drawn into the intense factional conflicts that blighted Uganda’s postcolonial politics. Idi Amin, military dictator from 1972 to 1979, sought to exploit his Muslim identity for support from regimes such as Muammar Gaddafi’s. While he raised the profile of Islam in the country, his disastrous tenure did little to raise its status. Nevertheless, Schulz has argued recently that international links forged during the Amin years have contributed to expanding schooling for Muslims.44 To many of its inhabitants, Uganda continues to have a strongly Christian identity, reinforced in recent years by intensifying exchange with conservative Christian denominations, particularly from the United States. Members of the Muslim minority have labored in relative obscurity. In recent years, it has been interrupted by unfriendly scrutiny connected to the increasing divisiveness of Muslim politics elsewhere in the region, an issue that is considered in “Islam across the Region since c. 1990.”

Islam in Kenya, c. 1850–1990

Although some traders who reached Buganda did so via present-day Kenyan territory, Muslim communities in the area between Uganda and the Kenyan coast have remained small. There are Luo Muslims in Kisumu, the regional capital of Western Kenya near Lake Victoria, and there is an active Muslim congregation, drawn from many ethnic groups, in the capital of Nairobi.45 The majority of Kenyan Muslims, however, remain of either Swahili or Somali extraction, hailing either from the coast or from the Somali-speaking region in the far northeast of the country. The reasons for this (albeit mild) contrast with Tanzania are not entirely clear. One identifiable factor is that settlements along the caravan routes remained smaller and more precarious than further south, though they attend further research. Another is the strong missionary presence, on the heels of European settlement, in south-central Kenya where Kikuyu and Taita populations became overwhelmingly Christian under colonial rule.46

Another possible but again underresearched factor is the distinctive legal status of Kenya’s coastal Muslim communities in the colonial period. Britain had acquired control of the Kenyan coast via a treaty with the Sultan of Zanzibar, according to which the Sultan technically remained the sovereign of the coast and received an annual stipend in recognition of his residual rights. Concomitantly, British rule on the coast drew very heavily on the existing Muslim elites loyal to the Sultan, bolstering their status by conferring on some of them the privilege of “nonnative” legal status. Similar legal privileges were accorded to some Somali Muslims.47 This form of accommodation to colonial rule proved comfortable and remunerative for elite Muslims, especially in economically expansive Mombasa, but it also led to status contests with neighboring communities among coastal Muslims, officially classified as “native,” who saw themselves deprived of a similar privilege.48 Possibly, this status reinforced perceptions of Muslims as separate and not quite African, which may have limited interest in conversion among “mainlanders.”

Yet elite accommodation to colonialism did not preclude participation in scholarly networks that were formulating critical responses to colonialism and advocating religious reform. A central figure in this process was Sheikh Al-Amin Mazrui (d. 1947). He served as chief kadhi [Muslim judge], appointed and salaried by the British government. At the same time, his publishing and editorializing aimed at remedying what he saw as coastal Muslims’ inadequate understanding of their religion.49 It initiated a concern with unjustified innovations in ritual practice (Swahili bidaa) that has only grown since, inspired by the transnational political-cum-reform movement known as Salafism. Core Salafist publications circulated freely among Mazrui and his peers in Mombasa, Zanzibar, and other coastal towns.50

Events around independence and in the first postcolonial decades show that many coastal Muslims, too, thought of themselves as a separate, partly ethnically defined community. The prospect of severing the vestigial political ties with Zanzibar by becoming a Kenyan province like any other led to a resistance movement demanding reunification with Zanzibar instead.51 Muslim intellectuals from this period, studied by Kresse, chided their congregations for allowing the historical supremacy of the coast over the interior to erode.52 The “Mwambao” separatist movement subsided after independence, as Kenyan politics were dominated by efforts to defuse anticolonial violence, and by tensions between different ethnically defined coalitions in which the coast remained marginal. Meanwhile, Muslim Somalis in the northeast made a violent bid for independence in the so-called Shifta conflict of 1962–1968 but subsequently found themselves marginalized from national politics and struggling to cope with the aftermath of conflict in their fragile environment.53

In Kenya, as in Uganda and Tanzania, efforts by Muslims to participate in the civic life of the newly independent state entailed some rapprochement between the African and the South Asian Muslim communities. Until the run-up to independence, there had been little interaction between the two, but as Indian minorities sought to demonstrate their commitment to the new nation-states, cooperation in religious charity became a way to do so.54 The most important institution to arise from these efforts was the East African Muslim Welfare Society (EAMWS), which brought together Muslims of all backgrounds and channeled the considerable financial clout of the Indian minority.55 It was dissolved at the behest of Tanzania’s president, Julius Nyerere, in 1967, indicating the mistrust of nationalist politicians against transnational Muslim networks as well as the increasingly insecure political status of the region’s South Asians.56

Some of its functions were subsumed in those of the Supreme Council of Kenyan Muslims (SUPKEM), registered in 1973, which remains an important public voice of Kenyan Muslims despite critical commentary on its closeness to government.57 Since the 1990s, these relations have been much complicated by the rise of Islamic reformism and political Islam. Mombasa has emerged as arguably the main site of incitement to Islamist violence in present-day East Africa. To understand how this happened, though, it is useful to first consider events further south.

Islam in Tanzania, c. 1850–1990

The Mainland

The distinctive feature of the late precolonial and colonial history of Islam in mainland Tanzania is its expansion, geographically and demographically. While reliable figures are unavailable, it is clear that by the end of the colonial period Islam was second only to Christianity (all denominations combined). Besides the coast, by c. 1950 Muslims also formed the majority of the population in a number of inland districts, especially in the southeast near Kilwa, around Tabora, in central and Ujiji in western Tanzania. The geography of Tanzanian Islam, then, echoes that of 19th-century trade routes. Sources, however, indicate that Muslim traders played a minor role in proselytization, which was more often facilitated by African religious specialists, self-taught or returning from study at the coast, and occasionally by colonial chiefs.58 As some informants put it, villagers “fetched” Islam.

Nineteenth-century trade nevertheless prepared the ground for the acceptance of Islam by making it more familiar, and also by contributing to the emergence of unsettled, marginal populations. For them, Islam, much like Christianity, became a way to claim an unspoiled, nonslave identity.59 Moreover, the social ferment of the 19th century had also encouraged the growth of Sufi congregations of both the Shadhiliyya and the Qadiriyya orders. While claiming coastal and patrician identity themselves, these Sufi leaders were often more welcoming to plebeian converts than their peers, facilitating conversion and training religious teachers who took up residence up country.60

Given the plebeian, rural, and low-key character of these new Muslim communities, the colonial government largely ignored them, focusing its interest on the old Muslim elites near the coast. Muslims were rarely heard from in colonial politics. Nevertheless, colonial rule prepared the ground for one of the thorniest issues between Muslims and postcolonial states. By leaving education largely to missionaries, British rule discouraged the participation of Muslims in secondary and higher education.61 This first became an issue in the 1950s in connection with the campaign for independence. While sources agree that most Muslims embraced the independence movement eagerly, less culturally conflicted than Christians, a minority of Muslims near the coast founded a party that campaigned for delaying Tanzania’s independence until such a time when Muslims would have caught up with Christians in higher education.62 This party gained no traction in elections, but it first expressed a grievance that has since become a focal point for Muslim discontent.


In the islands of Zanzibar, the situation was very different: Islam had long been the dominant religion, and the British protectorate after 1896 enshrined the use of Islamic law to settle family and inheritance disputes.63 Despite efforts by missionaries, recent arrivals to the islands, ex-slaves in particular, quickly adopted Islam.64 As Glassman has shown, in colonial Zanzibar local intellectuals and British officials cooperated in elaborating a narrative of the islands as a harbinger of Islamic civilization on the edge of barbaric Africa, which served as a legitimating discourse for the colonial rulers’ continuing reliance on the Omani sultans’ dynasty and officials of Arab extraction.65 But this discursive and political edifice came crashing down in 1964 when a revolution brought a Pan-Africanist populist party to power, while killing many members of the Omani-dominated establishment and driving others into exile.66 The postrevolutionary government was not explicitly anti-Islamic, but it acted aggressively against social institutions beyond its control, including those of Islamic learning, and it cemented the old elites’ fall from power.67

The revolution was quickly followed by a political union between Zanzibar and mainland Tanganyika, to form Tanzania. The economic malaise that followed in the islands had many causes, including the narrow focus of the economy on clove exports as well as mishandled interventionist policies.68 But Zanzibaris soon began to suspect that the union with the mainland channeled resources away from them. Amid exacerbating livelihood crises, many of them began to identify with the sense of loss that the revolution and union with the mainland had caused among the old elites.69 In the process, they recast the colonial narrative of Zanzibar as a center of Islamic civilization, describing it as a cosmopolitan Muslim civilization threatened by mainland exploitation, contempt, and control.70 Combined with the intolerance of the postrevolutionary elites toward political dissent in general and separatist sentiment in particular, this situation set the scene for the emergence of Zanzibar as the focal point of Islamic political discontent, with Islamist rhetoric doubling as the language of separatism. In this way, Zanzibar exemplifies a point that applies across the region: the universalist, transregional rhetoric of Islamism has become relevant to East Africa’s states and societies in very context-bound, place-specific ways.71 The section “Islamism across the Region since c. 1990” explores different genealogies and geographic and thematic foci of Islamism in East Africa.

Islamism across the Region since c. 1990

To start with, the term Islamism itself deserves unpacking. It is typically used to denote appeals to Islam as a means for political mobilization. In this sense, it is an approximate synonym of “political Islam.”72 The content of the political programs proposed, however, while invoking Islam, has varied greatly between times and places. Moreover, not all the activism that stirred among Muslims since c. 1990 was focused on political claims-making. Rather, the political language is closely intertwined with calls for reform in religious practice: for closer attention to ritual correctness, the expansion of religious education, and reference to religious precepts in the conduct of everyday life.73 Together, political appeals to Islam (Islamism) and efforts at religious reform (reformism) make up an untidy and unstable scene, strongly shaped by place-specific histories and the distinctive characteristics of local leaders.

At the global level, the first stirrings of the still rolling wave of contemporary Islamism have been connected with the loss of promise and legitimacy suffered by the twin ideologies of socialism and nationalism in the 1970s, especially in the Middle East.74 East Africa, then, was a relative latecomer to the scene, and albeit clearly connected to global debates, events in this region drew also on distinctive place-specific dynamics. Anthropological work from the 1980s captures early stirrings of generational conflict among rural Muslims in Tanzania, with the younger generation questioning their elders’ understanding of ritual practice, while on the Kenyan coast Kresse has traced the struggles of living on a “double periphery”: that of East Africa’s nation- states and that of the Arabophone Middle East.75

This kind of disquiet is likely to have been widespread at the time as the generation of leaders installed around independence aged. It was reinforced by the increasing efforts of Muslim-majority countries, Saudi Arabia and Sudan in particular, to recruit students in East Africa.76 They started in the mid-1970s but took until the early 1990s to show their full effects. The students returned with greater knowledge of Arabic and Middle Eastern lifeways than their elders. They had also encountered the reigning religious orthodoxies of countries whose understanding of Islam was shot through with the politics of their own regimes.77 At the same time, political liberalization across the region, with multipartyism reintroduced in Tanzania and Kenya, and in principle, competitive elections (albeit without formal parties) also in Uganda, meant that religious activism now also became of interest to political entrepreneurs.78

Although this history of religious activism spans only about a generation, it has already gone through several stages, closely connected to events elsewhere. The 1990s were characterized by the exploration of newfound political freedoms, with Islamic parties, expanding Islamic media, and the high-profile activities of a handful of political and religious entrepreneurs. The embassy bombings orchestrated by Al Qaeda in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in August 1998, with the loss of over 200 lives, combined with the events of September 11, 2001 put an end to this phase.79 They refocused governments’ attention on assumed and actual connections between East African Islamists and global terror networks, encouraging repressive measures and closer oversight of financial flows from the Middle East. The subsequent invasion of Iraq in 2003 further reinforced Muslims’ self-perception as part of a globally persecuted community and fed conflicts among Muslims about the proper way to relate to their governments.80 The catastrophic toll taken by the AIDS epidemic in the mid-2000s, widely seen as a moral crisis due to the mode of transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus, also fed into a sense of deep crisis.81

Despite these pervasive influences, the paths taken by different factions of Muslim activists have diverged significantly since then in ways deeply shaped by place-specific grievances, transregional influences, and the differing responses of different security apparatuses. In consequence, Muslim radicals in Mombasa have experienced a series of extrajudicial killings, while those in northern Kenya have been drawn into the Somali civil war. Zanzibar, in its turn, has experienced a series of violent street protests that ended only when their leaders were imprisoned. In mainland Tanzania, by contrast, religiously inspired violence has remained relatively rare and processes of accommodation between different Muslim factions have calmed some tensions.82 In Uganda, too, violence has remained rare and closely connected with Kenyan influence. “Divergent Paths: Regional and Political Differences in the Development of Islamist Networks” unfolds these different trajectories further.

Divergent Paths: Regional and Political Differences in the Development of Islamist Networks


With its nearly all-Muslim population and its close relationship with mainland Tanzanian Muslim congregations, Zanzibar arguably forms the most important center of Islamic innovation and protest in East Africa (though Mombasans, as ever, would contest its primacy). Although Zanzibar’s postcolonial experience is quite distinctive, it has come, in effect, to provide a narrative of Muslim marginalization that resonates far beyond the isles. Its starting point was the sense of disconnection from other centers of Islamic learning in the western Indian Ocean that followed the 1964 revolution. Despite the efforts of the postrevolutionary government to increase oversight, reform content, and introduce a vaguely socialist political language in state schools, Islamic schooling continued after 1964.83 So did the role of Muslim community leaders as educators and settlers of disputes, traceable, for example, in Stiles’s work on marriage disputes.84 The problem was rather that the traditional Muslim learned men lost status and power to government technocrats, who often flaunted their disdain for the former’s notions of propriety. Moreover, the government undermined its legitimacy through police brutality, random arrests, and economic policies that at times appeared to show active disdain for the well-being and livelihoods of its citizens.

Vague and whispered discontent coalesced into a political program with the emergence of the Civic United Front (CUF), one of two among Tanzania’s many opposition parties to pose a serious threat to the governing party in the run-up to the first multiparty elections in 1995. The man who led it to prominence, Seif Sheriff Hamad, was a former employee of Zanzibar’s ministry of education.85 The party’s motto was haki sawa kwa wote [equal rights for all]: by appearances, an uncontroversial claim. But the narrative that underlaid this motto was that it was the rights of “indigenous” Zanzibaris that needed restoring, having been reduced by the dominance of the mainland political establishment and immigration to Zanzibar from the mainland.86 Such immigrants were often more highly educated, and in particular more competent in English. This allowed them privileged access to jobs in the expanding tourism sector. In this narrative, the Islamist overtones could be muted or strident, depending on context. They were clear, for example, in connection with Zanzibar’s bid to join the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC): CUF cast the mainland government’s successful opposition to it as an attack on Zanzibar’s Islamic identity. The association of CUF with Muslims was evident also in its electoral support on the mainland, which was heavily concentrated in predominantly Muslim districts, such as Temeke in southern Dar es Salaam.87

During elections in 1995, 2000, and 2005, the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM)-led government countered CUF’s electoral success with fairly obvious manipulation. In Zanzibar, such methods led to protests that quickly turned violent and were repressed with even greater violence.88 Yet CCM retains considerable popular support on Unguja, the larger island, among, for example, those who profited from postrevolutionary land reform. Moreover, the president from 2000, Abeid Karume, moved discreetly to address some of the grievances that had bolstered CUF, especially in Pemba, and to pursue political accommodation with CUF.89 This bore fruit in 2010 when CUF and CCM negotiated a government of national unity, subsequently endorsed in a referendum in which both sides invoked reconciliation and patriotism. The elections in late 2010 became the first ones to pass without significant violence.90 Yet CUF’s move toward the center ground quickly led to the emergence of a new radical voice, more assertively secessionist and Islamist than CUF had been. This faction was known as uamsho, roughly, “awakening”: an association of Islamic preachers who had labored in relative obscurity since the 1990s.91 It profited from efficient use of new media, including DVDs youtube and Whatsapp, and from the rhetorical skill of an emergent generation of leaders, most prominently Sheikh Farid Hadi Ahmed and Sheikh Mselem Ali Mselem (sometimes also spelled “Msellem”).

Uamsho combined calls for the renewal of Zanzibari Islam in the mold of restrictive Middle Eastern versions with insistence on full independence for Zanzibar.92 In 2012, the Zanzibar government prohibited their public meetings, and when this led to riots, the security forces moved aggressively against their leadership.93 Sheikh Mselem was placed in prison, accused of terrorism-related offences.94 Meanwhile, the government of national unity fell apart after the 2015 elections when Seif Sheriff Hamad of the CUF declared himself the winner without waiting for an official endorsement, and the electoral commission took this as an excuse to nullify the election. A rerun in March 2016, boycotted by the CUF, returned the CCM incumbent to office.95 While CUF apparently seek to renew their appeal to the radicals attracted by uamsho, it is currently not clear whether they will succeed or who will inherit the leadership of this faction if they don’t.

Zanzibar remains a politically highly repressive environment in which debates about Islam, its perceived decline, its demands on individual lifeways and its relationship to state institutions are highly polarized and inseparable from the political impasse surrounding the elusiveness of economic progress and secessionism.96 Amid these pressures, the islands have seen an efflorescence of Islamic preaching, ranging from politically quiescent and socially relatively liberal, in the person of Othman Maalim, to politically quiescent and socially conservative, in the person of Hassan Nyundo, to separatist and politically highly polarizing, in the person of Mselem and his associates.97 Notwithstanding the divisiveness of some preachers, their diversity and the way Zanzibari audiences pick and choose between them also indicate the continuing diversity of Muslim practice in Zanzibar and the acceptance of this diversity among its people. Meanwhile, preachers’ products constantly travel to the mainland, where they resonate with people whose own experience of postcolonial history is at first sight quite different.

Dar es Salaam and the Tanzanian Mainland, c. 1990 to 2018

Mainland Tanzania presents a complicated picture of affinities and contrasts with the Zanzibari situation. At first sight, the contrasts predominate: Muslims here are a minority; they cannot easily adopt a narrative of victimhood based on historical separateness from the African continent, and violent unrest has remained small-scale and sporadic.98 Mainland Tanzania has thereby defied some predictions by concerned observers in the 1990s who foresaw a tearing of the social fabric along religious lines. These concerns were inspired particularly by the violent confrontation at the Mwembechai mosque, Dar es Salaam, in 1998, which led to two deaths, multiple injuries, and a three-digit number of arrests.99 It had started as a struggle between reformist and traditionalist Muslim factions but escalated when the police became involved. The “Mwembechai killings,” as Muslim activists called them, followed on the heels of riots in religiously mixed suburbs of Dar es Salaam during which Muslim youths destroyed the premises of butchers offering pork for sale.100 They provided a worrying indication of the potential for unrest in Tanzania’s many religiously mixed neighborhoods.

Mainland Muslim discontent is partly animated by the fact that the narrative of Zanzibar’s threatened maritime Muslim civilization has become more evocative on the mainland than the recent and solidly landlocked history of many of its Muslim congregations would suggest. The hierarchical distinction between the coast and the hinterland lingers in places like Dar es Salaam, where some Muslim men complain of prejudice against dark-skinned suitors.101 But it can be interpreted inclusively. For example, in the old central neighborhood of Kariakoo, the heart of Muslim Dar es Salaam which retains strong commercial ties to Zanzibar, recent arrivals of mainland origin may identify with the narrative of Zanzibari Muslim victimhood.102 Muslim leaders from landlocked western and central Tanzania rhetorically emphasize the precolonial roots of their congregations, subtly drawing a contrast with Christianity’s colonial antecedents.103

Meanwhile, a small but active milieu of Islamist writers and intellectuals has elaborated on a more mainland-centric version of the narrative of Muslim victimhood. Their most prominent representative is the Tanga-based, partly Sudanese-trained Mohamed Said, in his day job an employee of the Tanga harbor authority.104 This narrative focuses on Julius Nyerere’s assumed determination to obscure Muslims’ leading role in the independence struggle and make Tanzania a Christian country through the underrepresentation of Muslim students in institutions of higher learning, which is said to be programmatic rather than accidental, and through the perceived marginalization or cooptation of Muslims in the higher echelons of the administration. Said and others have come to use the term mfumokristo, roughly translated as “the Christian system,” to describe this conspiratory establishment, and to assert the need for Muslims to dismantle it by any means necessary.105

Yet the debates provoked by the likes of Said were only a part of the ferment among Muslims. Centrally, the history of Tanzanian Muslims since c. 1990 has been that of a massive diversification of institutions. Muslim activists have founded competitors to the government-endorsed Central Council of Tanzanian Muslims (Bakwata, after its Swahili acronym), the successor organization of the shuttered EAMWS (see “Islam in Kenya, c. 1850–1990”). They have sought electoral representation through CUF and obtained both private and state sponsorship from a variety of Muslim nations for the foundation of schools, universities, and medical centers.106 These contacts also entailed encounters with a great variety of different interpretations of Islam. Often, the fiercest debates that ensued focused away from politics (e.g., on prayer posture and funerary rites).107 Here, the critics of the status quo became known as the Ahl as Sunna, “the people of the way of the Prophet.” Their central concern was to rid Muslim congregation of bidaa [innovation].108 In this, they indicated their kinship with other reform movements similarly perched between religious, social, and political agendas. Their detractors, well aware of this, occasionally referred to them as Wahhabi (i.e., Saudi-inspired) or Salafi (referencing a dispersed reformist movement with Egyptian roots).109

The reformists, in their turn, rejected this identification with “foreign” agendas. Some, like the Dar es Salaam-based preacher and educator Nuruddin Kishk, emphasized their commitment to the Swahili language as a medium for the cultivation of Islam, and their stance on Islamic practices in the Middle East was far from uncritical endorsement.110 While the reformists’ claim to authority often rested partly on learning obtained abroad, their ability to find an audience derived from their determination to address the place-specific concerns of their audiences. Most mainland Tanzanians, Muslim or Christian, were poor and had lived through the postcolonial period amidst an economic crisis no less protracted than Zanzibar’s.111 How to live a good life and confront its many hardships, then, was an urgent question. Searching, earnestly moral overtones was often more pronounced in religious debates than political ones, even if the moral stances taken could have had complex political implications.112 There was some willingness among disputants to recognize opponents as honestly mistaken and, compared to the anxiety that reigned amid the war on terror in the early 2000s, doctrinal diversity had become somewhat more routine 10 years later.113

Thus the failure of the ferment among Tanzanian Muslims to lead to more open confrontations reflected the layered nature of these debates. It also reflected the close intertwinement of Muslims’ and Christians’ lives in a country where many extended families were multireligious, as well as the social skills of a population accustomed to dealing with cultural and linguistic diversity. Yet the Tanzanian state’s effective use of a mixture of cooptation, repression, and accommodation also played a central role.114 As Westerlund has shown, Nyerere’s government had adopted a distinctive rhetorical strategy of extolling “religion” as a moral force while insisting that all religious congregations had to equally defer to a state cast as supreme and religiously neutral. In Tanzanian political culture, this form of tolerance had become woven into a broader discourse that cast stability and nonviolence as distinctively Tanzanian political virtues.115

In fact, the Tanzanian security apparatus itself had shown itself capable of vicious violence, some of which was quite gratuitous, but it had refrained from the targeted assassinations that had become almost routine in Kenya, focusing instead on judicial sanctions, close monitoring, and inducements to accommodation.116 Across East Africa, branches of Middle Eastern charities accused of terror links were shut down after September 2001. In Tanzania, the government subsequently discreetly directed funds from government-friendly Muslim donors toward “mainstream” religious networks and congregations.117 The posts and prestige resulting from such funding streams were used to nudge young radicals toward settling down as notables. Meanwhile, “nonreformist,” liberal, and traditionalist Muslims also began to organize themselves against restrictive reformists. Sufi orders, a frequent target of reformist criticism, started youth organizations; some sheikhs collaborated with AIDS education efforts; and educated Muslim women founded professional organizations.118

Mombasa, the Kenyan Coast, Nairobi, and the Northeastern Frontier

In Kenya, the history of the rise of reformist Islamism has been considerably bloodier and more polarizing than south of the border. In part, this history reflected the closer ties of the situation of Kenya’s Muslim congregation to Zanzibar’s, with more pronounced slippages between religion and ethnicity and between ethnic difference and communal violence.119 It also reflected the violent contempt of the Kenyan security apparatus for the life and physical well-being of its Islamist challengers.120 Islamist agitation here started with the so-called Islamic Party of Kenya, led by Sheikh Khalid Balala, which became one of the focal points of a series of riots in and around Mombasa in the early 1990s before it was outlawed.121 From the start, political agitation on the Kenyan coast hearkened back to the arguments made in the 1950s concerning the distinct status of the Kenyan coast as part of the Sultan of Zanzibar’s realm. As Willis and Gongo have shown, this line of reasoning had been further elaborated since, with conspiracy theorizing and misreading of legal documents.122

Since the aftermath of 9/11, the differences between Kenya and mainland Tanzania became more pronounced. In Kenya, the habitual brutality of the state was heightened not only by the discourse of the global war on terror, but also by events to the north in Somalia. Here, the civil war raging since 1992 was taking on a religious dimension and spilling over into Kenyan territory. The violent response by the Kenyan state was shaped by memories of Kenyan Somalis’ separatist insurgency in the 1960s, while broader mistrust against Somali Muslims found an easy target in the growing Somali diaspora in Kenya.123 The ramifications can be traced in the life and death of Sheikh Aboud Rogo, Mombasa’s most emblematic jihadi radical.124 He spent three years in jail in the early 2000s, accused of terrorist sympathies and contacts in the wake of an Al-Qaeda-linked attack on tourist facilities near Mombasa. Unsurprisingly, the experience only radicalized him further. When the jihadi militia, known as al-Shabaab, emerged as a main party in the Somali civil war from 2007, Rogo endorsed them and encouraged Kenyan youth to join their ranks. In this manner, the grievances of Swahili-speaking and Somali-speaking Muslims in Kenya became fused, and the Swahili-speaking networks also moved into the visor of military counterinsurgency.125

Over the following years, al-Shabaab succeeded in recruiting not only Kenyan Somalis, but also other Kenyan youths adrift in Nairobi’s slums or around the underused tourist facilities on the coast.126 Rogo and others, meanwhile, elaborated a fiery rhetoric, extolling very restrictive readings of Islamic gender relations as well as jihadist violence. One excerpt from Rogo’s preaching, still available on YouTube at the time of writing, is entitled, Kuchinja kafiri ni mawaidha [killing unbelievers is a form of prayer].”127 In 2012, he was shot dead while driving his car. His followers buried him unwashed and in his bloodstained clothes to mark him as a martyr, and several days of rioting followed.128 While the identity of the killers was unknown, it was one of four such assassinations that year in Kenya, and it is safe to assume that elements in the state security apparatus had grown weary of trying to control Rogo by policing and restraining his movements. The assassinations did little to counter al-Shabaab, who mounted attacks, each with dozens of casualties, on a Nairobi shopping mall, Westgate, in 2013 and a provincial university campus, Garissa, in 2015, as well as numerous smaller attacks.129

While these events were very conspicuous, everyday coexistence between Muslims of different persuasions and between Muslims and Christians had continued on the Kenyan coast, as elsewhere in the region. Not enough has been published on the ways of reasoning and forms of sociability whereby people in Muslim congregations such as Mombasa’s accommodate both the jihadis in their midst and the Christian-dominated state in which they live, but Diepeveen’s account of a “people’s parliament” in the city gives an impression of the complexity and dynamism of popular politics.130 In a recent article, scholarly observers of the Kenyan coast trace out the long-term processes whereby both Christianity and Islam in Kenya have provided space, physical and social, for political commentary and criticism. They argue that Islam, unlike Christianity, has come to be associated with opposition to government. Yet they also show convincingly that this distinction is the result of contingent political processes rather than of diverging political orientations intrinsic to the different religions.131

Islam in Uganda since c. 1990

In Uganda, changes in the period since 1990 are even less well understood than in Kenya or Tanzania. A bomb attack on a bar in Kampala crammed with people watching a football world cup game in 2010, the responsibility for which was claimed by Somalia’s al-Shabaab, made evident that a support network for Islamic radicalism existed. The country, then, participated in the ferment that had characterized Muslim congregations elsewhere in the region. Yet many of the people eventually put on trial for the Kampala bombing were from Kenya, and since then the security services have succeeded in foiling further attacks despite recurrent warnings of their imminence by a variety of intelligence services.132 Moreover, anthropological work by Schulz suggests that the early and decisive political marginalization of Muslims in Uganda in the course of colonial conquest had led them to come to terms with their minority status in more conclusive ways than had been open to the old coastal congregations. She describes Muslims pursuing the opportunities offered by the marketization of education since the 1990s to insert themselves firmly into Uganda’s Christian-dominated middle class, enunciating ideals of self-improvement that chimed with the ethos of the country’s influential born-again Christian movements.133

Historiographic and Methodological Problems

Located at the intersection of several fields of historical enquiry, including but not limited to African history, the history of Islam, Indian Ocean history, and colonial and postcolonial history, the number of historiographic debates relevant to the history of Islam in Africa is great. Rather than try to list them all, we focus here on a handful of core issues traceable in different guises and in different approaches to the topic. Perhaps the most persistent one is the difficulty of clarifying the relationship between religion, race, and ethnicity, and in particular, of not tying religious affiliation too closely to either of the others.134

When Westerners began to study Islam in East Africa, this difficulty derived from colonial racism: European observers hesitated to recognize Africans professing Islam as “genuine” Muslims (rather than as naïve “natives” clumsily imitating urbane Arabs).135 Dismissiveness toward black Muslims, cultivated as well by African elites on the coast, underlies the dearth of colonial sources regarding them. While the explicit racism faded after the Second World War, the tendency to think of African Muslims as a (possibly inauthentic) “special case,” and of Islamic knowledge as differentiated by ethnic background, has lingered.136 The importance of ethnicity in Kenyan politics and of the islander and mainlander distinction in Zanzibari means that emic accounts tend to perpetuate it.137 Indirectly, these distinctions feed into the positioning of Islam as a “unifying factor” on the coast, obscuring its diversity and its role in framing, rather than dampening, social contests and overemphasizing the contrast between the coast and the interior.138

Combined with coastal elites’ stories of origins elsewhere, this mapping of religious differences onto ethnic differences encourages the assumption that Islam consisted of a bundle of hegemonic civilizational traits, spread into Africa from the outside and drawing parts of Africa into the orbit of a civilization whose center of gravity lay elsewhere, thereby separating these parts from “indigenous” African ways. This view has a number of problematic consequences. One is the marginal way in which Africa at large, and East Africa in particular, figures in some large-scale treatments of Islamic history. Lapidus’s go-to history of Islamic societies dismisses the region in a couple of pages.139 A less dismissive but still underexamined assumption that allegiance to Islam implies what could be called “Middle-Easternization” is evident in the framing of recent work on Muslims in East Africa. Again, this framing carries a problematic implication that Africans somehow became less African by becoming Muslim.140 Overall, the “diffusionist” approach encourages a bias toward the study of urban sites and literate actors at the expense of sorely understudied villagers and plebeians. An ironic consequence is the misrepresentation of practices of Middle Eastern origin as the effects of the “Africanization” of Islam.141

While these problems are widely acknowledged in the recent historical literature, their persistence is evident in recent political science writing on Islam, terror, and security in East Africa.142 Here, it takes the form of the claim that East African Muslims are “moderates,” but at risk of being radicalized by forces from the outside. While this description appears correct, if superficial, there are two problems with it. First, it treats Muslims’ “moderation” as a stable ethnographic characteristic, with echoes of older Orientalist assumptions about African Islam’s heterodoxy. Yet this moderation is the outcome of complicated and fluid social processes that may be upended by things quite different from explicit Islamist propaganda. Second, it treats Islamism much like older diffusionist literature treated Islam: as an alien ideological force in the process of taking over East Africans’ minds.143 Both these implicit assumptions discourage what is needed, namely, close attention to the multiple, possibly contradictory, and indirect ways in which Islamists’ claims have become relevant in the specific social settings of East Africa. It is crucial to balance transregional processes and place specificity in understanding the recent history of Islam so as to avoid fueling perceptions of political Islam as a uniform, global, and something of a contagious agent gearing up for a clash of civilizations.144

In the recrudescence of the focus on foreign influence, we encounter another problem that recurs in many guises: the difficulties with fitting Africa into the narratives of global exchange and connectivity where much of the recent growth in historical enquiry has taken place.145 The cosmopolitan networks of urban Muslim notables adapt themselves well to this approach, and through them, East Africa has been fully inserted into the study of Indian Ocean history. Nonetheless, in a continent characterized by the evanescence of written sources and great difficulties with movement, thus exchange, this approach again risks narrowing the focus to elites, especially urban ones, and of missing the social and intellectual dynamics of larger Muslim congregations. This problem hearkens back to earlier debates about the need to focus on African initiatives in writing African history (bound up with the very nationalist politics that left coastal Muslims feeling under siege) and leads on to large-scale debates about what is distinctive regarding African history and its relations to the rest of the world.146

In all these ways, the literature bears the traces of colonial and postcolonial history—much like academic literature on Islam anywhere.147 Historians of Islam struggle with the heritage of hierarchical views on racial, religious, and civilizational differences and with the inherent difficulty of conceptualizing a religious tradition. These debates involve the question of who has the power to define Islam (Is Islam what Western orientalists learn from classic Arabic texts? Is it what Muslim scholars in particular societies say it is? Is it what ordinary Muslims do?) and the implications of being Muslim for understanding the people so described: given the diversity of Muslim societies and congregations, does it make sense to assume that Muslims act in a particular way because they are Muslim?148 Does the term Muslim world make any more sense than its analogue Christian world, which academics would find too broad to be useful?

Those delving into the history of Islam in East Africa have their challenges cut out for them. Yet there is much to discover. We still do not have histories of any of the many rural centers of Islam other than Pokomo (Kenya) and Lindi (Tanzania).149 We lack histories of Islamic institutions such as the East African Muslim Welfare Society, the different national councils of Muslims, and the Sufi networks “up country.” The recent past and current predicament of Muslims, with the rise of political Islam overshadowing their long history of peaceful coexistence, raise further urgent questions. Just how did Muslims end up in such an impasse, always falling short of expectations, their own and others’, their spokespeople sanctimonious yet contrite, morally smug yet dissatisfied, their activists restless in the present but without direction? Meanwhile, the continuance of everyday tolerance is typically verbalized in the fairly bland rhetoric of tolerance and secularism, but arguably involves much more complicated intellectual and social operations than this language lets on. Researchers in this field, then, need to be willing to be surprised, to define their terms carefully, and to question and adapt their categories.

Primary Sources

Primary sources on the history of East African Islam are scattered, limited, and multilingual. The most important groups of sources include Swahili-language writings, the published writings of colonial-era explorers, officials and missionaries, and administrative records. The latter are very uneven: German paranoia in their colony produced two large, fascinating volumes on “religious movements” in the Tanzanian National Archives, and the Arabic and Kiajemi (Swahili in Arabic script) records of the Sultan’s court in Zanzibar have in recent years been used to great effect. Records from British and postcolonial East Africa, by contrast, are either thin, reflecting disinterest, or partisan and restricted, reflecting security concerns. The archives of missions active in East Africa tend to contain revealing, but scattered and partisan references to Islam. The linguistic work of the early missionaries Krapf, Rebmann, and Sacleux remains important. For the recent past, there is an untidy proliferation of easily accessible online sermons and pamphlets.

To start with published (albeit often still hard to find) Swahili-language sources, O’Fahy’s Arabic Sources gathers much scattered material, and Abdallah Saleh al-Farsy’s The Shafii ulamaa is a rare emic view of East African Islamic scholars from the 19th and early 20th centuries.150 Among independence-era collections of Swahili poetry by Swahilist scholars with a very philological focus, Allen’s Tendi stands out for presenting a rare poem by a woman: Mwana Kupona’s advice to her daughter on marriage. Knappert’s Four Centuries of Swahili Verse is particularly voluminous, and Hichens produced an important collection of the work of the polarizing and opinionated Mombasan poet, Muyaka (on which see also Prestholdt in “Further Readings”).151 Collections produced more recently have more of a social history focus and sometimes critique the Orientalist assumptions of older scholarship: see Miehe et al., Kala Shairi, collecting poetic reflections on German colonial conquest; and Miehe et al., Muhamadi Kijuma.152 For the late- and postcolonial period, Barwani’s Maisha Yetu presents rare personal views of the Zanzibari revolution, and Mazrui and Kresse’s Uwongozi documents a Mombasan intellectual’s educational work.153 Among travelers’ accounts, Burton’s Zanzibar stands out for length and detail, though his obvious dislike for Africans is wearisome.154 Velten was a German colonial linguist who worked closely with Swahili informants, and his Sitten und Gebraeuche [Manners and Customs] is indispensable.155 Elton’s work stands out because it contains some early references to the adoption of Muslim practices off the coast.156 As for library collections, the African Studies Centre in Leiden holds a growing collection of Swahili-language publishing on Islamic topics, curated by Gerard van de Bruinhorst. The School of Oriental and African Studies, London, has digitized its Swahili manuscripts, and the papers of the Riyadha Mosque in Lamu, an important center of socially inclusive Sufism in the postslavery era, have been digitized with help from Bergen University.157 For those interested in Swahili-language jihadism, one place to start is the online magazine published by Somalia’s al-Shabaab, called Gaidi Mtaani, or, “The Terrorist in the Neighborhood.”158 A relatively sedate example of an online sermon is Nassor Bachu’s Haki za mume na mke [The Rights of Husbands and Wives]; a more political bent is found in mihadhara recordings documenting the activities of Zanzibar’s uamsho.159

Further Reading

al-Farsy, Abdalla Saleh. The Shafi’i ulama of East Africa, c. 1830–1870: A Hagiographic Account. Translated and edited by Randall L. Pouwels. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989.Find this resource:

Bang, Anne. Sufis and Scholars of the Sea: Family Networks in East Africa, 1860–1925. London: Routledge, 2003.Find this resource:

Bang, Anne. Islamic Sufi Networks in the Western Indian Ocean (c. 1880–1940): Ripples of Reform. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2015.Find this resource:

Becker, Felicitas. Becoming Muslim in Mainland Tanzania, c. 1880–2000. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.Find this resource:

Burgess, Thomas. Race, Revolution and the Struggle for Human Rights in Zanzibar. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2009.Find this resource:

Caplan, Pat. African Voices, African Lives: Personal Narratives from a Swahili Village. London: Routledge, 1997.Find this resource:

Chanfi, Ahmed. Les conversions a l’Islam fondamentaliste: le cas de la Tanzanie et du Kenya. Paris: L’Harmattan, 2004.Find this resource:

Constantin, Francois. Les voies d’Islam en Afrique Orientale. Paris: Karthala, 1987.Find this resource:

El Zein, and Abdul Hamid M. The Sacred Meadows. A Structural Analysis of Religious Symbolism in an East African Town. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1974.Find this resource:

Glassman, Jonathon. Feasts and Riot: Revelry, Rebellion and Popular Consciousness on the Swahili Coast, 1856–1888. Oxford: James Currey, 1995.Find this resource:

Glassman, Jonathon. War of Words, War of Stones: Racial Thought and Violence in Colonial Zanzibar. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012.Find this resource:

Kresse, Kai. Philosophising in Mombasa: Knowledge, Islam and Intellectual Practice on the Swahili Coast. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007.Find this resource:

Kresse, Kai, and Hassan Mwakimako (eds.). Uwongozi (Guidance) by Sheikh Al-Amin bin Ali Mazrui: Selections from the First Swahili Islamic Newspaper. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2017.Find this resource:

Levtzion, Nehemia, and Randall L. Pouwels. The History of Islam in Africa. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2000.Find this resource:

Loimeier, Roman. Between Social Skills and Marketable Skills: The Politics of Education in 20th Century Zanzibar. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2009.Find this resource:

Loimeier, Roman, and Ruediger Seesemann. The Global Worlds of the Swahili: Interfaces of Islam, Identity and Space in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century East Africa. Münster, Germany: LIT Verlag, 2006.Find this resource:

Martin, B. G. “Muslim Politics and Resistance to Colonial Rule: Shaikh Uways b. Muhammad al-Barawi and the Qadiriya Brotherhood in East Africa.” Journal of African History 10 (1969): 471–486.Find this resource:

Martin, B. G. “The Qadiri and Shadili Brotherhoods in East Africa, 1880–1910.” In Muslim Brotherhoods in Nineteenth-Century Africa, 152–176. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1976.Find this resource:

McIntosh, Janet. The Edge of Islam: Power, Personhood and Ethnoreligious Boundaries on the Kenya Coast. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009.Find this resource:

McMahon, Elizabeth. Slavery and Emancipation in Islamic East Africa: From Honour to Respectability. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Mugane, John M. The Story of Swahili. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Mwakimako, Hassan. “Encounters with the Colonial State: The Making of Qadis and Not-Quite-Qadis in Nairobi, c. 1945.” Journal for Islamic Studies 22 (2002): 35–65.Find this resource:

Nimtz, August. Islam and Politics in East Africa. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1981.Find this resource:

Njozi, Hamza. The Mwembechai Killings and the Political Future of Tanzania. Ottawa, ON: Globalink, 2000.Find this resource:

Oded, Arye. Islam and Politics in Kenya. Boulder, CO: Rienner, 2000.Find this resource:

Parkin David, and Stephen Headly. Islamic Prayer across the Indian Ocean: Inside and Outside the Mosque. London: Curzon, 2000.Find this resource:

Pouwels, Randall L. “Sheikh Al-Amin b. Ali Mazrui and Islamic Modernism in East Africa.” International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 13 (1981): 329–345.Find this resource:

Pouwels, Randall L. Horn and Crescent: Cultural Change and Traditional Islam on the East African Coast, 800–1900. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987.Find this resource:

Prestholdt, Jeremy. Domesticating the World: African Consumerism and the Genealogies of Globalization. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2008.Find this resource:

Romero, Patricia. Lamu: History, Society and Family in an East African Port City. New York: Markus Wiener, 1997.Find this resource:

Stockreiter, Elke. Islamic Law, Gender and Social Change in Post-Abolition Zanzibar. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Westerlund, David. Ujamaa na dini. A Study of Some Aspects of Society and Religion in Tanzania, 1961–1977. Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell International, 1980.Find this resource:


(1.) Mark Horton, “Primitive Islam and Architecture in East Africa,” Muqarnas 8 (1991): 103–116; for the move away from assumptions about Arab colonization, see James de Vere Allen, Swahili Origins: Swahili Culture and the Shungwaya Phenomenon (Oxford: James Currey, 1993); and Jeffrey Fleisher et al., “When Did the Swahili Become Maritime?” American Anthropologist 117 (2015): 100–115.

(2.) Ibn Battuta, in The Rihla, used this term when visiting the coast in 1331. See Said Hamdun and Noel King, Ibn Battuta in Black Africa (New York: Markus Wiener, 1994).

(3.) On these developments, see John Iliffe, A Modern History of Tanganyika (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1979); Abdul Sheriff, Slaves, Spices and Ivory in Zanzibar: Integration of an East African Commercial Empire into the World Economy, 1770–1873 (Oxford: James Currey, 1987); Christine Stephanie Nicholls, The Swahili Coast: Politics, Diplomacy and Trade on the East African Littoral, 1798–1856 (London: Allen and Unwin, 1971); Jeremy Prestholdt, Domesticating the World: African Consumerism and the Genealogies of Globalization (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2008); and Jonathon Glassman, Feasts and Riot: Revelry, Rebellion and Popular Consciousness on the Swahili Coast, 1856–1888 (Oxford: James Currey, 1995).

(4.) Bradley G. Martin, Muslim Brotherhoods in Nineteenth-Century Africa (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1976); Felicitas Becker, Becoming Muslim in Mainland Tanzania (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008); and Anne Bang, Sufis and Scholars of the Sea: The Alawiyya Tarika in East Africa (London: Taylor and Francis, 2004).

(5.) Justin Willis, Mombasa, the Swahili, and the Making of the Mijikend (Oxford: Clarendon, 1993); Becker, Becoming Muslim; and Jonathon Glassman, War of Words, War of Stones: Racial Thought and Violence in Late-Colonial Zanzibar (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012).

(6.) For Tanzania, see Becker, Becoming Muslim;Roman Loimeier, “Perceptions of Marginalisation: Muslims in Contemporary Tanzania,” in Islam and Muslim Politics in Africa, ed. Benjamin Soares and Rene Otayek (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 137–156; for Kenya, see Kai Kresse, Philosophising in Mombasa: Knowledge, Islam and Intellectual Practice on the Swahili Coast (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007); for the Ugandan experience, see Dorothea Schulz, “What Makes a Good Minority Muslim? Educational Policy and the Paradoxes of Muslim Schooling in Uganda,” Contemporary Islam 7 (2013): 53–70.

(7.) Felicitas Becker, “Rural Islamism during the “War on Terror”: A Tanzanian Case Study,” African Affairs 105 (2006): 583–603; and Kai Kresse, “Muslim Politics in Postcolonial Kenya: Negotiating Knowledge on the Double-Periphery,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 15 (2009): 76–94.

(8.) Timothy Insoll, The Archaeology of Islam in Africa (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003), chap. 4.

(9.) Carl H. Becker, “Materials for the Understanding of Islam in German East Africa,” trans. and ed. B. G. Martin, in Tanzania Notes and Records 68 (1968): 31–61; “Islam in Tanzania: An Annotated Bibliography,” Tanganyika Notes and Records 72 (1973): 57–74; a rare source from within the region’s congregations is Abdalla Saleh al-Farsy, The Shafi’i ulama of East Africa, ca. 1830–1870: A Hagiographic Account, trans. and ed. Randall L. Pouwels (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989).

(10.) A notorious example is the Arabophile Richard Burton’s contempt for, to his mind, the inferior Islamic culture of the Swahili coast. See Richard Burton, Zanzibar: City, Island and Coast (London: Tinsley, 1872).

(11.) As is only too obvious from the criticisms traded by Randall Pouwels and Patricia Romero concerning informants from Lamu on the northern Kenyan coast. See Patricia Romero, “Review of Randall Pouwels, Horn and Crescent,” Canadian Journal of African Studies 22 (1988): 368–370; Randall L. Pouwels, “Review of Patricia Romero, Lamu,” International Journal of African Historical Studies 32 (1999). For the broader debate on whether oral sources relate to past, present, or both, see Jan Vansina, Oral Tradition as History, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985); and Elizabeth Tonkin, Narrating Our Pasts: The Social Construction of Oral History (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995).

(12.) For a discussion of elite vs. popular initiatives in conversion, see Felicitas Becker, “Commoners in the History of Gradual Islamization: Re-examining Their Role in the Light of Evidence from Southeast Tanzania,” Journal of Global History 3 (2008): 227–249.

(13.) For a widely discussed recent effort to tackle these issues in the different but closely related forms of the problems of diversity, contradiction, and commonality between Muslim societies, see Shahab Ahmed, What Is Islam? The Importance of Being Islamic (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015).

(14.) The notion of the “discursive tradition” has become a widely used means to accommodate the tension between diversity and unity in Muslim societies. The term was coined by Talal Asad, “The Idea of an Anthropology of Islam,” Qui Parle 17 (2009): 1–30. For a critique, see Ahmed, What Is Islam, chap. 4.

(15.) For the interconnections between Somali and Swahili Muslims, see Valerie Hoffmann, “In His (Arab) Majesty’s Service: The Career of a Somali Scholar and Diplomat in Nineteenth-Century Zanzibar,” in The Global Worlds of the Swahili: Interfaces of Islam, Identity and Space in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century East Africa, ed. Roman Loimeier and Ruediger Seesemann (Munich: LIT Verlag, 2006), 251–272; on Islam in Northern Mozambique, see Liazzat Bonate, “Islam in Northern Mozambique: A Historical Overview,” History Compass 8 (2010): 573–593; and Edward Alpers, “East Central Africa,” in The History of Islam in Africa, ed. Nehemia Levtzion and Randall L. Pouwels (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2000), 303–327.

(16.) On the social dynamics of the adoption and elaboration of Swahili identity in the colonial period, see Laura Fair, Pastime and Politics: Culture, Community and Identity in Post-Abolition Zanzibar (1890–1945) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).

(17.) John Middleton, The World of the Swahili: An African Mercantile Civilization (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994), quoted after Roman Loimeier and Ruediger Seesemann, “Introduction,” Hoffmann, The global worlds of the Swahili: interfaces of Islam, identity and space in nineteenth- and twentieth-century East Africa.

(18.) The go-to synthesis of precolonial Swahili history and the role of Islam in it remains. See Randall Pouwels, Horn and Crescent: Cultural Change and Traditional Islam on the East African Coast, 800–1900 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987).

(19.) Ibn Battuta, The Rihla.

(20.) Abdallah Ibn Ali bin Nasir, Al-Inkishafi: The Soul’s Awakening, ed. William Hichens (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972).

(21.) Loimeier and Seesemann, “Introduction,” Hoffmann, The global worlds of the Swahili: interfaces of Islam, identity and space in nineteenth- and twentieth-century East Africa.

(22.) The letters were found by Edward Alpers in a Goanese archive. See William Whiteley, Swahili: The Rise of a National Language (London: Methuen, 1969), 38.

(23.) Carl Buettner, “Chuo cha Herkal: das Buch von Herkal,” Zeitschrift fuer Kolonialsprachen 2 (1911): 2–23.

(24.) Alice Werner and William Hichens, The Advice of Mwana Kupona upon the Wifely Duty (Medstead, UK: Azania Press, 1934).

(25.) Pouwels, Horn and Crescent, by and large follows this approach.

(26.) The go-to account is Jonathon Glassman, Feasts and Riot: Revelry, Rebellion and Popular Consciousness on the Swahili Coast, 1856–88 (Oxford: James Currey, 1995); also Prestholdt, Domesticating the World.

(27.) Greville Stewart Parker Freeman-Grenville, The French at Kilwa Island: An Episode in Eighteenth-Century East African History (Oxford: Clarendon, 1965).

(28.) Abdul Sheriff, Slaves, Spices and Ivory in Zanzibar.

(29.) The go-to studies are Glassman, Feasts and Riot, and Prestholdt, Domesticating the World.

(30.) Frederick Cooper, “Islam and Cultural Hegemony: the Ideology of Slave Owners on the East African Coast”, in The Ideology of Slavery in Africa, ed. Paul Lovejoy (Beverley Hills: SAGE, 1981), 271–307.

(31.) Thomas McDow, Buying Time: Debt and Mobility in the Western Indian Ocean (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2017); Bradley G. Martin, “The Qadiri and Shadili Brotherhoods in East Africa, 1880–1910,” in Muslim Brotherhoods, 152–176; for the perspective of a man directly involved, see the autobiography of the ivory and slave hunter Tippu Tip, Maisha ya Hamed bin Mohammed el Murjebi yaani Tippu Tip (Nairobi: East African Literature Bureau, 1974).

(32.) On cultural exchange along these roads, see Stephen Rockel, Carriers of Culture: Labour on the Road in Nineteenth-Century East Africa (London: Heinemann, 2006); on the relative scarcity of proselytization by traders, see Jonathon Glassman, “Stolen Knowledge: Struggles for Popular Islam on the Swahili Coast, 1870–1963,” in Islam in East Africa, ed. Biancamaria Scarcia Amoretti (Rome: Herder, 2001), 209–225.

(33.) Bradley G. Martin, “Muslim Politics and Resistance to Colonial Rule: Shaikh Uways b. Muhammad al-Barawi and the Qadiriya Brotherhood in East Africa,” Journal of African History 10 (1969): 471–486.

(34.) On 19th-century Buganda, see Holly Hanson, Landed Obligation: The Practice of Power in Bugand (London: Heinemann, 2003); and Richard Reid, Political Power in Precolonial Buganda: Economy, Society and Warfare (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002).

(35.) The go-to study remains Arye Oded, Islam in Uganda: Islamization through a Centralised State in Precolonial Africa (London: Wiley, 1974).

(36.) Oded, Islam in Uganda, chap. 3.

(37.) Michael Twaddle, “The Muslim Revolution in Buganda,” African Affairs 71 (1972): 54–72.

(38.) On the missionaries’ concerns and interventions, see Oded, Islam in Uganda.

(39.) Michael Twaddle, “The Emergence of Politico-religious Groupings in Late Nineteenth-Century Buganda,” Journal of African History 29 (1988): 81–92.

(40.) A recent retelling of these events is in Anthony Low, Fabrication of Empire: The British and the Ugandan Kingdoms, 1890–1902 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009), chap. 3.

(41.) David Sperling and Jose Kagabo, “The Coastal Hinterland and Interior of East Africa,” in The History of Islam in Africa, ed. Nehemia Levtzion and Randall Pouwels (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2000), 173–202.

(42.) Sperling and Kagabo, “Coastal Hinterland.”

(43.) Oded, Islam in Uganda, 312.

(44.) Dorothea Schulz, “(En)gendering Muslim Self-Assertiveness: Muslim Schooling and Female Elite Formation in Uganda,” Journal of Religion in Africa 43 (2013): 396–435.

(45.) On Muslims in Kenya generally, see Islam in Kenya: Proceedings of the Nairobi Seminar on Contemporary Islam in Kenya, ed. Muhammad Bakari and Saad Yahya (Nairobi: Mewa, 1995). Kenyan Muslims “off the coast” are badly underrepresented in the literature, but see Jonas Svensson, “Muslims Have Instructions: HIV/AIDS, Modernity and Islamic Religious Education in Kisumu, Kenya,” in AIDS and Religious Practice in Africa, ed. Felicitas Becker and Wenzel Geissler (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2009), 189–222. See also the literature on al-Shabaab in Kenya, cited in notes 125, 126 and 129.

(46.) William Bravman, Making Ethnic Ways: Communities and their Transformation in Taita, Kenya, c. 1800–1950 (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1998); Derek Peterson, Creative Writing: Translation, Bookkeeping and the Work of the Imagination in Colonial Kenya (London: Heinemann, 2004); and John Lonsdale, “Kikuyu Christianities: A History of Intimate Diversity,” in Christianity and the African Imagination: Essays in Honour of Adrian Hastings, ed. David Mawell and Ingrid Laurien (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2013), 157–198.

(47.) For details on the Muslim coast under colonial rule, see Ahmed Idha Salim, The Swahili-Speaking People of Kenya’s Coast, 1895–1965 (Nairobi: East African Publishing House, 1973); for elite Muslims’ role in administering it, see Hassan Mwakimako, “Encounters with the Colonial State: The making of Qadis and Not-Quite-Qadis in Nairobi, c. 1945,” Journal for Islamic Studies 22 (2002): 35–65; and Hassan Mwakimako, “The Historical Development of Muslim Courts,” Journal of Eastern African Studies 5 (2011): 329–343.

(48.) Justin Willis, Mombasa, the Swahili and the Making of the Mijikenda (Oxford: Clarendon, 1993); for how these issues have been parsed more recently, see Kai Kresse, Philosophising in Mombasa: Knowledge, Islam and intellectual practice on the Swahili coast; and Janet McIntosh, The Edge of Islam: Power, Personhood and Ethnoreligious Boundaries on the Kenya Coast (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009).

(49.) Recently explored by Kai Kresse with Hassan Mwakimako (eds.), Uwongozi (Guidance) by Sheikh Al-Amin bin Ali Mazrui: Selections from the First Swahili Islamic Newspaper (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2017).

(50.) Anne Bang, Islamic Sufi Networks in the Western Indian Ocean (c. 1880–1940): Ripples of Reform (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2015); and Randall L. Pouwels, “Sheikh Al-Amin b. Ali Mazrui and Islamic Modernism in East Africa,” International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 13 (1981): 329–345. On the controversial genealogies of Salafism, see Henri Lauziere, The Making of Salafism: Islamic Reform in the Twentieth Century (New York: Columbia University Press, 2017).

(51.) James Brennan, “Lowering the Sultan’s Flag: Sovereignty and Decolonization in Colonial Kenya,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 50 (2008): 831–861.

(52.) Kai Kresse, “Muslim Politics in Postcolonial Kenya: Negotiating Knowledge on the Double-Periphery,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (2009): 76–94; see also Kresse, Philosophising.

(53.) Hannah Whittaker, Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in Kenya: A Social History of the Shifta Conflict, c. 1962–68 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2014).

(54.) The religious aspect of South Asians’ increasing engagement with national politics at this time is, again, underresearched, but for the broader phenomenon, see Sana Aiyar, Indian in Kenya: The Politics of Diaspora (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015); Ned Bertz, Diaspora and Nation in the Indian Ocean: Transnational Histories of Race and Urban Space in Tanzania (Maui: University of Hawaii Press, 2014); and James Brennan, Taifa: Making Race and Nation in Urban Tanzania (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2013).

(55.) The EAMWS, too, awaits further research. On responses to its closing down on the orders of Julius Nyerere, see August Nimtz, Islam and Politics in East Africa (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1981).

(56.) The chill that the dissolution of the EAMWS caused in relations between Muslim notables and the government was noted by Nimtz, Islam and Politics.

(57.) Arye Oded, Islam and Politics in Kenya (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2000).

(58.) Joseph T. Gallagher, “Islam and the Emergence of the Ndendeuli” (PhD diss., Boston University, 1976); Felicitas Becker, Becoming Muslim in Mainland Tanzania, 1880–2000 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008); and Felicitas Becker, “Commoners in the Process of Gradual Islamisation,” Journal of Global History 3 (2008): 227–249.

(59.) On Islamic respectability and the aftermath of slavery, see Elizabeth McMahon, Slavery and Emancipation in Islamic East Africa: From Honour to Respectability (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

(60.) One of these populist Sufis is discussed as an opponent of the Mazruis in Randall L. Pouwels, “Sheikh Al-Amin b. Ali Mazrui and Islamic modernism in East Africa.”; Bradley Martin, “Muslim Politics and Resistance to Colonial Rule: Shaikh Uways b. Muhammad al-Barawi and the Qadiriya Brotherhood in East Africa,” JAH 10 (1969): 471–486; Becker, Becoming Muslim, chap. 6 and passim; on the educational role of the (nonproselytizing) Alawiyya Sufi order, see Bang, Sufis and Scholars of the Sea; on the intellectual connections of the Sufis, see Bang, Islamic Sufi Networks.

(61.) For a case study of this dynamic in a rural region, see Becker, Becoming Muslim, chap. 4.

(62.) James Brennan, “The Short History of Political Opposition and Multi-party Democracy in Tanzania, 1958–1964,” in In Search of a Nation: Histories of Authority and Dissidence in Tanzania, ed. James Giblin and Gregory Maddox (Oxford: James Currey, 2005), 250–276.

(63.) Elke Stockreiter, Islamic Law, Gender and Social Change in Post-Abolition Zanzibar (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

(64.) Michelle Greenfield Liebst, “Livelihood and Status Struggles in the Mission Stations of the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa (UMCA), North-eastern Tanzania and Zanzibar, 1864–1926” (PhD diss., University of Cambridge, 2016).

(65.) Jonathon Glassman, “Slower than a Massacre: The Multiple Sources of Racial Thought in Colonial Africa,” American Historical Review 109 (2004): 720–754.

(66.) Jonathon Glassman, War of Words, War of Stones: Racial Thought and Violence in Colonial Zanzibar (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011); Thomas Burgess, Race, Revolution and the Struggle for Human Rights in Zanzibar (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2009); on human rights abuses in the course of the revolution, see Sauda Barwani, Ludwig Gerhardt, Regina Feindt et al., Unser Leben vor der Revolution und danach/Maisha yetu kabla ya mapinduzi na baadaye: autobiografische Dokumentartexte Zanzibarischer Zeitzeugen (Cologne: Ruediger Koeppe Verlag, 2003).

(67.) Roman Loimeier, Between Social Skills and Marketable Skills: The Politics of Education in 20th Century Zanzibar (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2009).

(68.) On postrevolutionary problems of living standards, see Burgess, Race, Revolution; see also the grievances discussed in Andrea Brown, “Political Tensions in Zanzibar: Echoes from the Revolution?,” Canadian Journal of African Studies 30 (2010): 615–633.

(69.) For this kind of nostalgia, see Ali Muhsin al-Barwani, Conflicts and Harmony in Zanzibar: Memoirs (Muscat: Self-published, 1997).

(70.) For an outline of the form resentment takes in the present, see Loimeier, “Perceptions of Marginalisation”; Becker, Becoming Muslim, chap. 8. The resonances between the colonial-era and the present-day narratives of Zanzibari exceptionalism are acknowledged in Bernadeta Kilian, “The State and Identity Politics in Zanzibar: Challenges to Democratic Consolidation in Tanzania,” African Identities 6 (2008): 99–125, albeit while taking many of the ethnic categories involved at face value; Brown, “Political Tensions in Zanzibar,” is perceptive on the differences between the present and the past. Becker expects to further explore the shifting role of appeals to Islam in this context in a future monograph.

(71.) As set out, for example, in Felicitas Becker “Rural Islamism during the War on Terror: A Tanzanian Case Study,” African Affairs 105 (2006): 583–603.

(72.) On the invocation of Islam for political ends generally, see Dale Eickelman and James Piscatori, Muslim Politics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004).

(73.) This ambiguity is explored in Kresse, “Muslim Politics”; and Becker, Becoming Muslim, chap. 7.

(74.) From a vast literature, see, for example, Roxane Euben and Muhammad Qasim Zaman, Princeton Readings in Islamist Thought: Texts and Contexts from al-Banna to Bin Laden (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009); and Gilles Kepel, The Revenge of God: The Resurgence of Islam, Christianity and Judaism in the Modern World (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994).

(75.) See Graham Thompson, “The Merchants and Merchandise of Religious Change: The New Orthodoxies of Religious Belief and Economic Behaviour among the Shambaa People of Mlalo, Tanzania” (PhD diss., Cambridge University, 1984); and Kresse, “Muslim Politics.”

(76.) Kresse, “Muslim Politics”; and Becker, Becoming Muslim, chaps. 7–8.

(77.) Becker, “Rural Islamism.”

(78.) Arye Oded, “Islamic Extremism in Kenya: The Rise and Fall of Sheikh Khalid Balala,” Journal of Religion in Africa 26 (1996): 406–415.

(79.) On the effects of 9/11, see Jeremy Prestholdt, “Counterterrorism in Kenya: Impunity, Security Aid and Muslim Alienation,” in Non-Western Responses to Terrorism, ed. Michael J Boyle (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2018).

(80.) Loimeier, “Marginalisation”; and Becker, “Rural Islamism.”

(81.) See Felicitas Becker and Wenzel Geissler, AIDS and Religious Practice in Africa (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2009).

(82.) Bruce Heilman and Paul Kaiser, “Religion, Identity and Politics in Tanzania,” Third World Quarterly 23 (2002): 609–709.

(83.) Loimeier, Between Social Skills and Marketable Skills.

(84.) Erin Stiles, An Islamic Court in Context: an Ethnographic Study of Judicial Reasoning (London: Routledge, 2009).

(85.) On CUF and Hamad, see Burgess, Race, Revolution and the Struggle for Human Rights.

(86.) On the slipperiness of CUF rhetoric, see Brown, “Political Tension in Zanzibar.”

(87.) On the early years of CUF in general, see The Political Plight of Zanzibar, ed. Thomas Maliyamkono (Dar es Salaam: TEMA, 2000). Becker briefly discusses the presence of CUF on the mainland in Becoming Muslim, chap. 8, but the topic is underresearched.

(88.) Loimeier, “Zanzibar’s Geography of Evil.”

(89.) Brown, “Political Tensions.”

(90.) The way academic observers characterized this process appears at times a bit starry-eyed in hindsight, reflecting perhaps the sense of surprise and optimism that accompanied the apparent end of the stalemate. Nevertheless, it also provides information on the peaceful everyday negotiation of diversity that gets lost when focusing on conflict. See Sigrun Marie Moss and Kjetil Tronvoll, “We Are All Zanzibari: Identity Formation and Political Reconciliation in Zanzibar,” Journal of Eastern African Studies 9 (2015): 91–109; and Archie Matheson, “Maridhiano: Zanzibar’s Remarkable Reconciliation and Government of National Unity,” Journal of Eastern African Studies 6 (2012): 591–612.

(91.) There is nothing published on uamsho’s stint as the leading voice of secessionism, but its earlier role is discussed in Simon Turner, “‘These Young Men Show No Respect for Local Customs’: Globalization and Islamic Revival in Zanzibar,” Journal of Religion in Africa 39 (2009): 237–261; and Roman Loimeier, “Zanzibar’s Geography of Evil: The Moral Discourse of the Ansar al-Sunna in Contemporary Zanzibar,” Journal for Islamic Studies 41 (2011): 4–28.

(92.) Sheikh Farid Hadi’s secessionist stance is on display in the video “Muhadhara Mbuyuni. When viewed on September 13, 2017, it had accumulated a modest 19,900 views over five years, but short extracts are likely to have been spread via social media.

(93.) On the prohibition, see the newspaper article from Dar es Salaam Guardian, May 30, 2012. On the detention of the leadership, see Munir Zakaria, “Zanzibar Separatist Group Leaders Charged with Inciting Violence,” Reuters World News, October 22, 2012.

(94.) On this drawn-out trial, see, for example, Seif Msengakamba, “Kesi ya ugaidi: serikali yabisha hodi mahakama ya rufaa,” Dar es Salaam: An-Nuur, January 23–29, 2015, 16.

(95.) On this election, see Marie-Aude Fouere and Cyrielle Maingraud-Martinaud, “Une hegemonie competitive contre vents et marees: les elections presidentielles de 2015 en Tanzanie et Zanzibar,” Politique Africaine 140 (2015): 145–163.

(96.) On political repressiveness, see Fouere, “Competitive Hegemony”; Maliyamkono, Political Plight. On the negotiation of repressive social mores, see Nadine Beckmann, “Pleasure and Danger. Muslim Views on Sex and Gender in Zanzibar,” in Gendered Lives in the Western Indian Ocean: Islam, Marriage, and Sexuality on the Swahili Coast, ed. Erin Stiles and Katrina Daly-Thompson (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2015), chap. 5.

(97.) On recorded sermonizing in Zanzibar, see Felicitas Becker, “Patriarchal Masculinity in Recent Swahili-Language Muslim Sermons,” Journal of Religion in Africa, 158–186; Becker, “The Pursuit of a Just Life: Muslim Views on Law and Justice in East Africa,” in Pursuing Justice in Africa, ed. Jessica Johnson and George Karekwavanane (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, out November 2018).

(98.) Heilman and Kaiser, “Religion, Identity and Politics.”

(99.) For concerns about Tanzania in the 1990s, see Paul Kaiser, “Structural Adjustment and the Fragile Nation: The Demise of Social Unity in Tanzania,” Journal of Modern African Studies 34 (1996): 227–237; for a partisan analysis of the Mwembechai events, see Hamza Njozi, Mwembechai Killings.

(100.) This incident was common knowledge in subsequent years. For a detailed, if partisan, account, see the blog by Tanzania’s prime Islamist intellectual, Mohamed Said, who discusses the riots in connection with the biography of an activist sheikh.

(101.) Interview with Anwar Awadh, conducted by Abshir Warsame, Dar es Salaam, July 2016.

(102.) Conversations at the Shadhili Centre, Udoe Street, Dar es Salaam, April 2012.

(103.) As the author observed at a meeting discussed in Felicitas Becker, “Obscuring and Revealing: Tanzanian Muslims’ Engagement with the Aid Sector,” African Studies Review 58 (2015): 111–133.

(104.) See his aforementioned blog and his book-length statement of his views, The Life and Times of Abdulwahid Said (1924–1968): The Untold Story of the Muslim Struggle against British Colonialism in Tanganyika (London: Minerva Press, 1998). For the antecedents of Tanzania’s Islamist intellectuals, see John Chesworth, “Fundamentalism and Outreach Strategies in East Africa: Christian Evangelism and Muslim Da’wa,” in Christian-Muslim Encounters in Africa, ed. Benjamin Soares (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2006), 159–186.

(105.) For the use of the term mfumokristo and responses to it, see, for example, this article, “Dar es Salaam and the Tanzanian Mainland, c. 1990 to 2018”; and “Kadhis’ Courts: Tanzania Reaps the Fruits of Rejecting Its Own History,” Raia Mwema, February 4, 2015.

(106.) Interview with Bakari Ali, Sheikat Issa Mosque, Magomeni, Dar es Salaam, July 24, 2012, and discussed in Becker, “Obscuring and Revealing”; Hansjoerg Dilger, “Religion and the Formation of an Urban Educational Market: Transnational Reform Processes and Social Inequalities in Christian and Muslim Schooling in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania,” Journal of Religion in Africa 43 (2013): 451–479; and Hansjoerg Dilger, “Embodying Values and Socio-religious Difference: New Markets of Moral Learning in Christian and Muslim Schools in Urban Tanzania,” Africa 87 (2017): 513–536.

(107.) Felicitas Becker, “Islamic Reform and Historical Change in the Care of the Dead: Conflicts over Funerary Practice among Tanzanian Muslims,” Africa 79 (2009): 416–424.

(108.) As in Kenya, see Kresse, “Muslim Politics.” and Kresse, Philosophising.

(109.) See Lauziere, Making of Salafism.

(110.) Interview with Nuruddin Kishk, Dar es Salaam, July 2012, conducted by Ida Hadjivayanis.

(111.) On everyday coping strategies, see Aili Mari Tripp, Changing the Rules: The Politics of Liberalization and the Informal Urban Economy in Tanzania (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1997).

(112.) Public debates also tend to emphasize the moral nature of politics: see Felicitas Becker, “Remembering Nyerere: Political Rhetoric and Dissent in Contemporary Tanzania,” African Affairs 112 (2013): 234–261.

(113.) Interview with Muhammad Hamisi Saidi, Bakwata head office, Dar es Salaam, July 2012. See also the routine appeals for tolerance of religious diversity in publications such as the weekly Raia Mwema.

(114.) David Westerlund, Ujamaa na dini. A Study of Some Aspects of Society and Religion in Tanzania, 1961–1977 (Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell International, 1980).

(115.) Invoked, for example, in the introduction to Kilian, “Democratic Consolidation.”

(116.) See, for example, the near-murder of Dr. Ulimboka, discussed in Becker, “Nyerere.”

(117.) The author discusses one such case, a reformist Imam bought off with a post at a new Kuwaiti-funded mosque, in Becker, Becoming Muslim, chap. 8. On government efforts to shut down radicals’ funding, see Jeff Haynes, Third World Quarterly.

(118.) For example, Zanzibar Female Lawyers’ association, mentioned in Joseph Mihangwa, “Tanzania in the Shadow of the Kadhis’ Courts,” Raia Mwema, March 18, 2015; Sufi “youth wing” discussed in Becker, “Islamic Reform and Historic Change in the Care of the Dead”; the Shadhili Centre in Udoe Street, Kariakoo; for Muslim representatives in HIV/AIDS prevention, see Becker, “Obscuring and Revealing.”

(119.) McIntosh, Edge of Islam, on the intertwinement of hierarchical ethnic and religious differences; Brennan, “Sultan’s Flag”; on the ethnicization of political competition in Kenya more widely, see, for example, Daniel Branch, Kenya: between Hope and Despair, 1963–2011 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011).

(120.) As amply documented in Prestholdt, “Counterterrorism in Kenya.”

(121.) Oded, “Sheikh Khalid Balala.”

(122.) Justin Willian and George Gona, “Pwani C Kenya? Memory, Documents and Secessionist Politics on the Kenyan Coast,” African Affairs 112 (2013): 48–71.

(123.) Hannah Whittaker, Insurgency and Counter-insurgency in Kenya: A Social History of the Shifta Conflict, 1963–68 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2014); and Neil Carrier, Little Mogadishu: Nairobi’s Global Somali Hub (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016).

(124.) David Ochami, “How Fiery Cleric Rogo Developed, Propagated Extremism,” The Standard, September 2, 2012.

(125.) David Anderson, “Understanding al-Shabaab: Clan, Islam and Insurgency in Kenya,” Journal of Eastern African Studies 9 (2016): 536–567.

(126.) Anneli Botha, “Political Socialization and Terrorist Radicalization among Individuals Who Joined al-Shabaab in Kenya,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 37 (2014): 895–919. While informative, the presentation contains a highly problematic discussion of supposed gender traits.

(127.) Published in 2015, this less than three-minute clip had accumulated almost 30,000 views by September 13, 2017.

(128.) Anonymous (“National Correspondent”), “Muslim Scholars Fault Rogo Martyrs’ Funeral,” Daily Nation, September 16, 2012.

(129.) On Westgate, see Anderson, “Understanding al-Shabaab”; anonymous, “Live Updates: Westgate Death Toll at 67; at Least Ten Attackers Involved,” Daily Nation, September 22, 2013; on Garissa, see Anderson, see anonymous (“joint report”), “147 Killed as Gunmen Attack Garissa University College,” Daily Nation, April 2, 2015. The details, including death tolls, often remain somewhat unclear or contested due to poor information sharing by authorities and the routine mistrust between police and the public. See anonymous, “Another Atrocity, Another Intelligence Failure,” The East African, April 4, 2015; and Stephen Partington, “Westgate Questions,” The East African, October 5, 2013.

(130.) Stephanie Diepeveen, “Politics in Everyday Kenyan Street Life: The People’s Parliament in Mombasa,” Journal of Eastern African Studies 10 (2016): 266–283.

(131.) Gregory Deacon, George Gona, Hassan Mwakimako, and Justin Willis, “Preaching Politics: Islam and Christianity on the Kenyan Coast,” Journal of Contemporary African Studies 35 (2017): 148–167.

(132.) See, for example, AFP, “USA Warns of Terror Attack in Kampala,” The East African, March 26, 2015; AFP, “United States Warns against Threat to Entebbe Airport,” The East African, July 3, 2014; Gaaki Kigambo, “Uganda Turns to Community Policing to Deal with Changing Face of Terrorism,” The East African, October 26, 2013; on the Kenyan connections of the 2010 bombing, see Anderson, “al-Shabaab.”

(133.) Dorothea Schulz, “(En)gendering Muslim Self-Assertiveness: Muslim Schooling and Female Elite Formation in Uganda,” Journal of Religion in Africa 43 (2013): 396–435; and Dorothea Schulz, “What Makes a Good Minority Muslim? Educational Policy and the Paradoxes of Muslim Schooling in Uganda,” Contemporary Islam 7 (2013): 53–70.

(134.) Glassman, “Slower than a Massacre”; Seesemann, “African Islam”; on related unexamined assumptions about the leadership of (partly ethnically defined) elites in Islamisation, see Becker, “Commoners.”

(135.) On such dismissive assumptions in the colonial period, see Becker, Becoming Muslim, chap. 3.

(136.) This phenomenon recurs in West Africa in assumptions about “Islam Noir”; see Seesemann, “African Islam” and Rudoph Ware, The Walking Quran: Islamic Education, Embodied Knowledge and History in West Africa (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014), Introduction, for recent critiques.

(137.) Glassman, War of Words, War of Stones; and Kilian, “Democratic Consolidation.”

(138.) There are hints of this, for example, in Moss and Kjetil Tronvoll, “We Are All Zanzibari”; and Matheson, “Maridhiano.”

(139.) Such as Ira Lapidus, A History of Islamic Societies (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002).

(140.) See the special issue on East Africa of the MIT Electronic Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, vol. 5 (2006).

(141.) Seesemann, “Islam in Africa”; and Ware, “Walking Quran.”

(142.) This kind of reasoning can be found in Jeffrey Haynes, “Islamic Militancy in East Africa,” Third World Quarterly 26 (2005): 1321–1339; Jodi Vittori, Karin Bremer, and Pasquale Vittori, “Islam in East Africa: Ally or Threat in the War on Terror?,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 32 (2009): 1075–1099; and Ioannis Gatsiounis, “After al-Shabaab,” Current Trends in Islamist Ideology 13 (2014): 74–89.

(143.) For critiques of this approach, see Seesemann, “Islam in Africa”; and Becker, “Rural Islamism.”

(144.) The influential “clash of civilizations” trope derives from Samuel Huntingdon, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997).

(145.) From among a profusion of recent books, for an overview that does not elide problems, see Sebastian Conrad, What Is Global History? (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015).

(146.) For example, Megan Vaughan, “Africa and the Birth of the Modern World,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 16 (2006): 143–162.

(147.) The classical, if since much qualified statement is Edward Said, Orientalism (London: Penguin, 1985).

(148.) Ahmed, What Is Islam; and Bernard Haykel, Revival and Reform in Islam.

(149.) Robert Louis Bunger, Jr, Islamization among the Upper Pokomo (Syracuse, NY: Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, 1979); and Becker, Becoming Muslim.

(150.) Rex Sean O’Fahey (ed.), Arabic Literature of Africa, Vol. 1: Writings of Eastern Sudanic Africa to ca. 1900 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1993); and Abdallah Saleh al Farsy, The Shafii ulamaa of East Africa: A Hagiographic Account, trans. Randall L. Pouwels (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989).

(151.) John W. T. Allen, Tendi: Six Examples of a Swahili Classical Verse Form (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1971); Jan Knappert, Four Centuries of Swahili Verse: A Literary History and Anthology (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1979); and Muyaka bin Haji al-Ghassaniy and William Hichens, Diwani ya Muyaka bin Haji al-Ghassaniy. Swahili Poems of Muyaka, trans. William Hichens (Johannesburg: University of the Witwatersrand Press, 1940).

(152.) Gudrun Miehe et al., Muhamadi Kijuma: Texts from the Dammann Papers and Other Collections (Cologne: Ruediger Koeppe, 2010); and Gudrun Miehe et al., Kala Shairi: German East Africa in Swahili Poems (Cologne: Ruediger Koeppe, 2002).

(153.) Sauda Sheikh Barwani and Ludger Wimmelbuecker, Unser Leben vor der Revolution und danachMaisha yetu kabla ya Mapinduzi na baadaye (Cologne: Ruediger Koeppe, 2003); and Kai Kresse, Hassan Mwakimako and Sheikh Al-Amin Mazrui, Guidance (uwongozi) by Sheikh Al-Amin Mazrui: Selections from the First Swahili Islamic Newspaper (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2016).

(154.) Richard Burton, Zanzibar: City, Island and Coast (London: Tinsley, 1872).

(155.) Carl Velten, Sitten und Gebraeuche der Suaheli (Goettingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1903).

(156.) John Frederick Elton, “On the Coast Country of East Africa, South of Zanzibar,” Royal Geographical Society Journal 44 (1874); and John Frederick Elton, Travels and Researches among the Lakes and Mountains of Eastern and Central Africa, ed. H. B. Cotterill (London: John Murray, 1919).

(158.) Partly accessible at Somalia News Room, December 15, 2014.

(159.) See incendiary comments from uamsho emissaries on the inseparability of religion from politics.