Siku ya Arafa and the Idd el-Hajj: Knowledge, Ritual and Renewal in Tanzania

TitleSiku ya Arafa and the Idd el-Hajj: Knowledge, Ritual and Renewal in Tanzania
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsG.C. van de Bruinhorst
EditorK. Larsen
Secondary TitleKnowledge, Renewal and Religion: Repositioning and changing ideological and material circumstances among the Swahili on the East African Coast
Date Published2009///
PublisherNordiska Afrikainstitutet
Place PublishedUppsala
Publication Languageeng
KeywordsIslam, protest, sacrifical rites, Tanzania

This chapter describes how an Islamic ritual linked to the hajj (the annual pilgrimage to Mecca) is used to express and to deal with deeply felt political and social unease among Muslims in Tanzania. The Day of Arafa is together with the Day of Sacrifice the most important part of the Islamic pilgrimage. The rituals performed on this day consist of contemplation and prayers while standing on the plains of Arafa, near the Mouintain of Mercy to the north east of Mecca.In 2001 a large group of Tanzanian Muslims in Dar es Salaam organized a political rally simultaneously with the religious rituals on Arafa.The speeches and prayers focused on the marginalization of Muslims in the current Tanzanian society, and remembered the victims of a series of clashes between riot police and protestors in the the period 1998-2001. This contribution shows how textual knowledge is essential to understand the symbolic idiom of Islamic rituals but at the same time the meaning of ritual performances cannot be reduced to texts.The protest meeting on the Day of Arafa can only be understood if the hajj rituals including sacrifices taking place near Mecca are taken in to account as well as the sociopolitical context of state-religion relations in Tanzania. Islamic ritual rather than being the expression of obedience to textual prescriptions, is shown to be a counter narrative in which Muslims are able to redefine their social identity in terms of membership of the global Muslim community, while at the same time they express local concerns carrying out local agendas.

Citation Key460