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Ways of Knowing In Tijani Sufism: An Analysis of a Contemporary West African Intellectual Tradition


December 1, 2015
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm
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CIASAC Central Conference Room, Encina Hall

Lecture by Oludamini Ogunnaike, Post-doctoral Fellow, Stanford University. Sponsored by the Sohaib and Sara Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies and co-sponsored by the Center for African Studies, Stanford Global Studies, and the Department of Religious Studies.

Abstract:  Tijani Sufism is one of the most popular and prominent religious/intellectual traditions on the continent. In this talk, I will examine how this tradition answers the questions: “What is knowledge?,” “How is it acquired?,” and “How is it verified?”. Based on these answers, I will compare and contrast Tijani epistemology to certain Western theories of epistemology, both ancient and modern. I will argue that Tijani Sufism (and other non-Western traditions) offer distinct and compelling perspectives on, and approaches to, metaphysics, ontology, epistemology, psychology, and ritual practice, but that these dimensions can only emerge if we take these traditions on their own terms—that is, on the same level as our own academic theories.

Oludamini Ogunnaike is 2015-16 Postdoctoral Fellow of Islam in Africa at Stanford University. As a scholar of Islamic, African, and Religious Studies, he is most interested in exploring the intellectual and artistic dimensions of West African Sufism and Ifa, an indigenous Yoruba religious tradition. He is a graduate of Harvard College and earned his PhD from Harvard University’s Department of African and African American Studies. His research examines the postcolonial, colonial, and precolonial Islamic and indigenous religious traditions of West Africa, seeking to understand the philosophical dimensions of these traditions by approaching them and their proponents not merely as sources of ethnographic or historical data, but rather as distinct intellectual traditions and thinkers, even as sources of theory and possible inspirations for methods of scholarship in the humanities and social sciences. He is currently working on a book manuscript entitled Sufism and Ifa: Ways of Knowing in Two West African Intellectual Traditions, and an online database of West African Sufi Poetry and one of Odu Ifa (the sacred orature of Ifa). He has also begun preliminary research four projects about the seminal Africanist Amadou Hampâté Ba, the prominent North African Sufi Afif al-Din Tilimsani, the influential 18th-century Mauritanian Sufi Shaykh Muhammad al-Yadali, and the insights of contemporary babalawo (priests of Ifa) on iclimate change, extremism, wealth inequality, gender and race relations, and the role of the humanities.