Reese, Scott. Renewers of the Age: Holy Men and Social Discourse in Colonial Benaadir.

Author:Acquah, Lady Jane
Position:Book review
 
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Reese, Scott. Renewers of the Age. Holy Men and Social Discourse in Colonial Benaadir. Leiden: Koninklijke Brill NV, 2008.

Renewers of the Age examines local Islamic intellectual orders (Sufism) and dialogue in the Benaadir region of modern day Somalia. The Benaadir region is the land mass encompassing present day Mogadishu, Marka, Barawe and Kismayu. The central idea of this book is the place of the Islamic religion among the supremacy of God, Benaadir, its subsequent reward in the form of blessing to the faithful adherents and the supremacy of God all woven around the intellectual orders. This study of Islamic intellectual orders traces the rise of the Ulama in the Benaadir region and the social milieu in which they operated, the role played by the Ulama, and, the impact of Ulama activities on Benaadir society. It concurrently offers very interesting and rare biographical data on some renowned members of the Ulama.

The three main Sufi (intellectual) orders: Ahmadiyya, Sahiliyya and Qadiriyya, are discussed. However, emphasis is placed on the Qadiriyya who had the most following in urban and rural communities. The main characteristics of the Qadiriyya Sufi were their knowledge in Islamic science and the ability to write manuscripts, poetry and hagiographies that could be relied upon for generations to come. The analysis of such texts woven into the larger history of the Benaadiri provides a better understanding of the Sufi orders and the important role they played in Benaadiri society.

The book is divided into six chapters, each dealing with a theme that connects to the previous chapter. The first chapter undertakes a historiographic synthesis of some of the works that have been done on Islam in Somalia and concludes that the study of the Islamic orders has been shelved. Scott Reese employs a story telling approach in his analysis and to convey his ideas. He readily admits the limitations associated with the sources he drew upon in his analysis 3/4 oral history, oral tradition, Arabic hagiographies, published works and archival documents.

Chapter two gives a broad overview of Benaadiri history and the evolution of the Ulama. Here, almost all the accounts of the stories of origin of towns were linked to Islam and the author recognizes the discrepancy as Islam came later to the Benaadir region. This reinforces the conception of the Benaadiri about the central role that the Islamic religion plays in their daily lives. The thrust of this...

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