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    Knut S. Vikør:

    Sources for Sanusi Studies

    About this volume

    This is a companion volume to my Sufi and Scholar on the Desert Edge: Muhammad b. 'Ali al-Sanusi and his Brotherhood. [1] Both are based on my 1991 Dr. philos. thesis on the founder of this famous nineteenth-century Islamic brotherhood of the Sahara and neighbouring regions. [2] When I was revising the thesis for publication, I found that it mostly entailed trimming away material which had a place in a thesis, but not in a publication for a wider audience. This included various biographical detail of people more or less marginal to the life of the protagonist, inventories of the material contained in his writings, and listings of various sorts related to the topic. All of this was reduced to brief references or deleted altogether.

    However, I did feel that this material might be of interest to a more specialist audience, who might want to take the story in other directions, or perchance check my tracks more closely­the original thesis being obsolete with the publication of the book. For this reason, I made sure that the deletions I made from the thesis material was in more or less manageable chucks of texts, which could then be presented in a separate volume with a more limited circulation. This is thus what you have in front of you. The present book does probably not make much sense without Sufi and Scholar (although several of the parts can be read as self-contained units), but together that book and this one contain all the material that was in the original theses (with one exception, below).

    To complement this, I have added some research notes that were not included in the thesis and is presented here in a fairly compressed form, taken more or less directly from my various databases or note files. With some hesitation, I have also included two Arabic texts, one by Hasan al-'Attar, discussed in Chapter Ten of Sufi and Scholar, the other by Ahmad al-Sharif al-Sanusi on his grandfather and the brotherhood. I did so because I happened to have these two texts in computer readable format from my preparations for the thesis. The hesitation was because for the same reason the texts are basically unedited. Photocopying not being allowed, I was forced to write them down by hand while sitting in Cairo's Dar al-kutub. Back in Bergen, it became­my handwriting being unreadable in any script­much easier to have them typed into the computer and then trying (with my Arabic-speaking friends) at one single time to decide or guess at what my scrawls might possibly represent, rather than having to do so repeatedly every time I had to consult these texts. For a proper edition, I should of course have returned to Cairo, where both texts are easily available­one of them even being a printed book­and check my versions with what they really say, but I have not had occasion to do so. Thus these are Hasan al-'Attar and Ahmad al-Sharif in the recension of Knut S. Vikør, and should not taken as more. Still, having stated this as clearly as I can, and until proper editions/reprints exist, the enclosed versions should give a reasonably fair representation of these texts, which some may find useful.

    All of this makes for a somewhat disjointed volume, and I would suggest the numbered entities are considered as 'sections' or 'parts' rather than chapters. These may be summarized as follows:

    * The first three sections are all elements taken out from the text of Sufi and Scholar. The first contains everything I know about each of al-Sanusi's teachers. [3] Since he lists most of the most notable scholars of his regions among his teachers, this is in essence a biographical survey of the major 'ulama` in Fez, and in part also of the Hijaz, between 1800 and 1820. I include also a table with al-Sanusi's genealogy, as presented in the internal sources, in this section.

    The second section inventorizes in some detail the topics discussed in al-Sanusi's known books. This part is fairly closely linked to Chapter Nine of Sufi and Scholar and should best be read with that book. Even so, I have tried to make the presentation cohesive, at the cost of some slight repetition. The third section does the same thing for the three fatwas discussed in Chapter Ten of the book, and again more or less presumes knowledge of this chapter. To this I have, then, appended the Arabic text of the only of the three fatwas that has not previously been published, the Risala of al-'Attar.

    * The second block of this book contains the appendixes to the original thesis, which were removed from the published work and are here reprinted unchanged from the thesis. That is a survey of the fifty-three Sufi turuq that he lists in his two summaries of Sufi Ways­each of these, the Manhal al-rawi and the Salsabil al-ma'in herald 'forty Ways', but the two selections do not quite overlap, so in total fifty-three are listed.

    In addition, I have included a bibliographical survey of the books al-Sanusi lists in his 'manual of learning' in the same Manhal al-rawi. These are all books al-Sanusi read with an accredited master, and is ample testimony both to his own learning and to the level of scholarship in the milieu where he was trained and later worked. To this block, I have added another bibliography, this one from the Nasiriya tariqa, again meant primarily to illustrate a level of learning among the Sufi scholars of the Maghreb far from any romantic image of illiterate rural marabouts.

    The one appendix I have not included here, and thus the only element of the thesis neither in Sufi and Scholar nor here is one containing some letters from al-Sanusi with text and translation. These are to be included in a separate volume of letters to and from al-Sanusi and his collaborators, hopefully to be published in this series or a companion one.

    * The last part of this book contains brief listings from my databases related to al-Sanusi. First, there is a list of all his students and what I know of them, mostly from internal sources discussing al-Sanusi's own life-time. The biographical detail is probably not exhaustive, as my primary focus was not this generation of Sanusi leaders but only their relations with the founder. However, it may perhaps aid studies on the later period of Sanusi history in Cyrenaica and elsewhere.

    Following this is a list of the Sanusi lodges that were founded before 1860, with any information about who were their shaykhs in that period. There are several other such lists, the most well-known probably the one published by E.E. Evans-Pritchard in his Sanusi of Cyrenaica, [4] but because of my temporal focus I have tried to isolate only those founded in life-time of al-Sanusi. Certainty is evidently elusive in such an effort, as the foundation dates of lodges vary considerably between sources and are often given very roughly (I was of course hindered from going to the field to study these questions by the political situation in Libya). However, while it may be impossible to be accurate, this list­mostly based on the internal Sanusi studies by Muhammad al-Tayyib al-Ashhab and 'Abd al-Malik al-Libi­may give an indication, and may again hopefully be useful as a basis for further studies.

    At the end, then, is the text by the founder's grandson, Ahmad al-Sharif al-Sanusi. It is similar in scope to al-Sanusi's two manuals of learning, the Salsabil and the Manhal, and al-Sharif's own al-Anwar al-qudsiya, but shorter than any of these. As described above, the reason this text in particular is included is haphazard in that it was the only one which I had in machine-readable form; but from its length and content it may give a useful impression of this kind of writing. As a bonus, it repeats a crucial element from the Manhal, but in a more correct and readable form, thus solving some problems we have had with the Manhal and allowing me to modify the text of Sufi and Scholar on this one point.

    Disparate as they are, I hope that these texts together may furnish further support for the discussion in my main Sanusi book, as well as giving further insight into the intellectual world of the Sufi brotherhoods of the nineteenth century, and provide some pointers for further research into Sanusi, Libyan and Saharan history.


    1. London: Chr. Hurst and Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press 1995. [*]

    2. Sufi and Scholar on the Desert Edge: Muhammad b. 'Ali al-Sanusi (1787-1859), University of Bergen. [*]

    3. With the exception of Ahmad b. Idris, his main master! Ibn Idris is more fully discussed in a separate chapter of the book, as well as in numerous other volumes from the 'Bergen school' of Sufi studies. Thus he does not fit into the framework of this survey. [*]

    4. Oxford 1949, 24-5.[*]

    (From the Introduction)

    Read the Contents page this volume

    This book is distributed outside Scandinavia by

    C. Hurst & Co (Publishers) Ltd.,
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    Publication date: Already published (1996)
    ix, 247 pp.; £ 25. ISBN 185065-310-0


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