Ibadi Muslim Scholars and the Confrontation with Sunni Islam in Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Zanzibar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Ibāḍī Islam, practiced by the sultans who ruled Zanzibar from 1832-1964, is a moderate sect that emerged out of Khārijism. Like the Khārijites, Ibāḍīs recognize as Muslims only those who belong to their own sect; unlike the Khārijites, they do not support violence against non-members. Although they advocate ‘dissociation’ (barā’a) from non-Ibāḍīs, this is an attitude of withholding religious ‘friendship’ (walāya) and not one of hostility. Ibāḍism emerged during the heated political disputes of early Islam and was nurtured in the relative isolation of Oman’s mountainous interior and of remote areas of North Africa. The sultans of Zanzibar ruled over a highly diverse population, mainly Sunni Muslims. Bū Sa‘īdī rulers sponsored the development of Zanzibar as a centre of Islamic scholarship for both Ibāḍīs and Sunnīs. In practice, Ibāḍī-Sunnī relations were very friendly and Sunnī scholars were among the sultans’ closest confidants. During the reign of Sayyid Barghash (1870-88), some conversions of Ibāḍīs to Sunnī Ilsam provoked a severe reaction from the monarch; Ibāḍī scholars of the time also felt threatened by the attraction of Sunnī Islam. Nonetheless, Ibāḍī and Sunnī scholars had cordial and collegiate relations and crossed sectarian lines for the purposes of study and adjudication.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-118
Number of pages28
JournalBulletin of the Royal Institute of Inter-Faith Studies
Volume7
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2005

Keywords

  • Islam
  • Ibadism
  • Zanzibar
  • East Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)

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