Philosophical Sufism in the Sokoto Caliphate: The Case of Shaykh Dan Tafa – Oludamini Ogunnaike


It has long been assumed that the discipline of falsafa (Islamic philosophy) died out in the Western lands of the Islamic world after the fall of Andalusia, and that philosophical intellectual work was largely limited to the disciplines of theology (kalām) and Sufism (taṣawwuf). Moreover, the more creative and discursive tradition of theoretical of philosophical Sufism is also supposed to have migrated East in the 13th-C along with figures such as Ibn al-‘Arabi (d. 1240) and Ibn Sab‘in (d. 1271). However, the oeuvre of the Sokoto scholar Shaykh ‘abd al-Qādir ibn Muṣṭafā (d. 1864) (better known as dan Tafa, the grandson of Shaykh ‘Uthmān dan Fodio) poses a significant challenge to these assumptions.  Shaykh Dan Tafa’s works include a defense of philosophy, a treatise on universals (kulliyāt), a versified introduction to the study of philosophy, a critical evaluation of materialist and naturalist philosophies, as well as several works of philosophical Sufism, including a treatise on certain topics from ‘abd al-Karīm al-Jīlī’s masterpiece of Philosophical Sufism, al-Insān al-Kāmil. It seems unlikely that Shaykh Dan Tafa studied and produced these works entirely on his own, indicating the existence of little-known West African traditions of Islamic philosophy and philosophical Sufism. This chapter evaluates some of Shaykh Dan Tafa’s works and their ramifications for our understanding of the history of Islamic philosophy and philosophical Sufism in West Africa, and the role of these two traditions in the intellectual history the region.


Journal of Sufi Studies Review of Poetry in Praise of Prophetic Perfection


“Scholarship on Islam in Africa has long been in need of comprehensive work on West African madīḥ (i.e. Arabic poetry in praise of the Prophet Muhammad).Recent articles have explicitly called for such an endeavor,󰀱 and the time has come to fully exorcise the “Islam noir” specter󰀲 that has compelled those who write on West African madīḥ to characterize it pejoratively as, in the words of John Hunwick, “often highly stylized, deeply stamped with the metaphors and clichés of Arabic models of former ages … sometimes managing] to rise above the merely imitative or artificial.” Oludamini Ogunnaike’s Poetry in Praise of Prophetic Perfection is remarkably brief, but as the first monograph on the subject in English, it does the necessary work of sketching out the contours of the corpus and demonstrating how it should be understood and appreciated”


Poised on the Higher Horizon: Seeing God in the Sahara – Ariela Marcus-Sells


“This article presents an Arabic transcription and complete English translation of an untitled text – labelled “Khalwa ” in the manuscript catalogue – attributed to S ī d ī  al-Mukhtār al-Kunt ī , a Saharan scholar and Suteacher of the late-eighteenth century. In the accompanying commentary, I demonstrate how this textdraws together two passages in the Qur’ān: the ambiguous visionary encounters of 53:1-18 and Moses’srequest to see God in 7:142-143 to argue that, unlike Moses, Muḥammad received a direct vision of God. I further argue that, for S ī di al-Mukhtār al-Kunt ī , the question of seeing God was linked to his concern over legitimate and illegitimate knowledge from the realm of the unseen (ʿālam al-ghayb ). Intertextual references demonstrate that S ī d ī  al-Mukhtār understood the friends of God to occupy the same role in thespiritual hierarchy as Muḥammad and the prophets. Read in this context, “Khalwa ” suggests that the friends of God might be able to follow Muḥammad’s example, see God with their own eyes, and thus master the sciences of the unseen”