In This Review

The History of Islam in Africa
The History of Islam in Africa
Edited by Nehemia Levtzion and Randall L. Pouwels
Ohio University Press, 2000, 601 pp

Going beyond the customary emphasis on West Africa as the region with the largest Muslim population, this encyclopedic anthology gives equal attention to eastern and southern Africa. The contributors trace the evolution and current influence of Islam in Ethiopia and Eritrea down through Swahili-speaking Africa to Mozambique, Malawi, and the diverse Muslim communities of South Africa. Several chapters consider the introduction of Islam into precolonial Africa via the gateways of North Africa and the Indian Ocean; others examine encounters between Islam and European colonialism and the postcolonial emergence of radical Islamic movements. The symbiotic relationships between Islamic and traditional African beliefs and practices are a theme throughout, as are the past and present attempts by Islamic reformers to purge African Islam of its unorthodox elements. The book's final section looks at the role of Sufi brotherhoods and Muslim women as well as surveying the development in Africa of Islamic law, education, healing practices, art, literature, and music. An elegantly produced and up-to-date reference work of high scholarly quality.