by M ISHIHARA · 2010 · Cited by 7 — Examples given in the article are my experiences of collecting historical infor- mation on three religious figures, Al-Faki Ahmad Umar, Hajj Bushra and Sitti.

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81African Study Monographs, Suppl.41: 81-89, March 2010BEYOND AUTHENTICITY: DIVERSE IMAGES OF M USLIM AWLIYA IN ETHIOPIAMinako ISHIHARADepartment of Anthropology and Philosophy, Nanzan Universit yABSTRACT Historians and anthropologists studying local customs of venerating awliya(Muslim holymen) are likely to encounter difÞ culties in collecting their life histories from sources contemporary and remote, consanguineous and unrelated. This article presents exam- ples of my attempts to collect historical information on three awliyaand discusses approachesthat may be viable in accommodating diverse images of awliya without denying authenticity of some inf ormation in favor of others. Th e consideration of various oral and written lifehistories begins with Al-Faki Ahmad Umar (d.1953), a Tijani shaykh from Bornu, who is widely venerated amon g Muslim Oromos in western Ethiopia. Accounts of Ha jj Bushra, a well-known Muslim reformer in 18th centur y Wollo who is widel y venerated toda y in Wollo (northeast Ethiopia), are also explored, as are chronicles of Sitti Momina (d.1929), a highlyvenerated Muslim holywoman from Wollo well-known for her spiritual powers. Based on personal experiences in facing the challenges of collecting oral and written histories of awliya, this stud y su ggests that researchers can approach historical information as ‚localknowledge,™ which uses a variety of media to express diverse experiences and beliefs in the cult of awliya.Key Words: Ethiopia; Wali veneration; Muslim; Authenticit y; Life history.INTRODUCTIONHistorians and anthropologists interested in Muslim local customs of veneratingawliya (hol ymen, plural form of wali) are likely to encounter dif Þ culties in obtain- ing either oral or written information on life histories of awliya. Th ere ar eseveralreasons why people involved in the custom, descendants, admirers and followersof awliya, tend to hide or distort what information they have .The present investigation found that descendants of awliya, des pite their wishto inform historical ‚facts,™ often expressed their fear that they could pass on information that would allow Islamic reformists (locally called Wahabi ya(1)) to attack their venerated ancestor for exercising bid™a(deviatory local customs inno-vated after the establishment of Islam). And at the same time, the descendants claim they have access to the most authentic version of historical facts and some- times deny the authenticity of versions presented by unrelated admirers of thewali, whom they believe have the tendency to overstate what they have heard and seen because of their devotion and conÞ dence toward th eir venerated wali.Contrastingly, there are followers of the venerated wali who ar e cautious about exaggerating or expressing their knowledge for fear of divine punishment, in casethey failed to tell the truth. These followers, unrelated to the wali, are learned disciples to their mystical master, well-informed in religious matters, having ample

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82M. ISHIHARAknowledge and experience of writing religious manuscripts. Some of these prom-inent followers believe they are responsible for leavin g written manuscripts con- cerning the deeds and words of their venerated wali. These manuscripts, usually written in Arabic, are regarded as a way to express their devotion to their reli- gious master, the most familiar model for them to the ideal man, Prophet Muham- mad. Although some of these manuscripts become publicized, others are kept safely guarded from outsiders because they contain subjects believed to havemagical potency.The issue at stake here is whether the researcher should give priority to thoseversions presented by some people and deny other versions on the basis of lack of ‚authenticity.™ Do we have the ri ght to deny value of some versions transmitted among admirers in favor of other versions presented by descendants? I argue here that if we treat ‚local knowledge,™ whether oral or written, as historical information,we may be able to incorporate both versions. Local knowled ge, in this respect,should be treated as something that is created and recreated by the local people,and is a valuable resource in aiding our understanding of religious devotion.Comparing experiences of collection of oral and written life histories, this article deals with differences in how informants react to the researcher™s re quest for historical information. As comprehensive life histories of the awliyaare onlycompiled in collaboration with the descendants, admirers and followers of thewali, it is im portant to consider possible resolution to the above-stated dif Þ culties that one encounters in the process of the research.Examples given in the article are my experiences of collectin g historical infor- mation on three religious Þ gures, Al-Faki Ahmad Umar, Hajj Bushra and Sitti Momina.(2)These are charismatic Þ gures venerated as awliya, with a wide rangeof followers in different parts of Ethiopia, whose mausoleums are pil grimagecenters and nodal points of the veneration cult. In the course of gathering data,I found that informants™ reactions to my inquiries into the historical information varied according to a number of factors. These included their knowled ge of thelength of my own involvement in the respective cults related to theawliya, the connections through which I gained access to the informants, and relations theinformants ha d with the awliya.THE CASE OF AL-FAKI AHMAD UMAR (d.1953)Al-Faki Ahmad Umar, a Tijani (3)leader from Bornu,(4)is widely venerated among the Muslim Oromo of western Ethiopia (Ishihara, 1997; 2007). The Ti janicult, its origin dating back to 1920s when Al-Faki came out as a prominent waliin western Wollega, has its centers in Ya™a, Jimma and western Wollega (western Ethiopia).The main part of my research on Al-Faki was conducted in the early 1990s(i.e., 40 years after the death of Al-Faki), yet I still had the chance to interview informants who knew and met him contemporarily. Many of those informants who used to live close to him were initially perplexed when requested to talk about him and even when they began their narratives they were often overwhelmed

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83Beyond Authenticity: Diverse Images of Muslim Awliyain Ethiopiaby their emotions to the point that they shed tears. Some recollected anecdotesrelated to Al-Faki, how he saved them from dif Þ culties, how he helped the poor, and how the environment altered according to his wish. These episodes were carefully related not to give an impression that Al-Faki was a ‚miracle-maker,™ so-to-speak. Even if they believed he caused a certain extraordinar y phenomenon, the cause-and-effect relationship was discreetly omitted. ‚Only God knows,™ they would say. These contemporaries were sources of information, considered ‚authentic™ b ythe descendants, which contributed to the establishment of a number of versions of oral tradition. Thus , I collected several versions of anecdotes related to Al-Faki™s attempt to protect the local people from Italian hostilities, from exploitation bythe Amhara, and anecdotes regarding his trip to Mecca, and so forth. These oral traditions were narrated at locally held weekly gatherings where followers alter- nated between chewingat (tCatha edulis) and giving supplication ( du™a) in between. The historical authenticity of the accounts was not argued on such occasions; the audience would accept them with a unanimous recognition that Al-Fakiwas a wali, and therefore it was likel y that the accounts did, in fact, happen. However, when I (as a researcher) participated as audience, my questions occasionally prompted discussions of the historical authenticity and people debated over the knowledge that was being presented as the historical ‚facts.™ It seems that the audience considered what should be ‚written down™ as history as some- thing slightly different from what people ‚orally transmit™ as history because the former is destined to become an authorized reference, whereas the latter , with its dramatized tone, is expected to have an impressive effect u pon the audience.Descendants of Al-Faki , who now number over a hundred , did not offer more insight about the history of Al-Faki than the contemporaries, but descendants usually had connections with these contemporaries and other learned persons who possess written material and authentic sources of oral tradition, i.e. ‚authentic™ according to the descendants. Other than these ‚authentic™ sources, there are numerous followers/admirers of Al-Faki, who almost blindly venerate him as wali.These followers include younger generations who never had contact with him directly when he was alive, but still revere and love him because the y believe him to be awalibased on their own personal experiences, being saved fromtroubles and pain by supplicating aid from him.There are two Arabic manuscripts about the life of Al-Faki, one of them published in Cairo, and the other one unpublished. The published manuscript,Jala™ al-Fikr (1953), written by Shaykh Mahmud bin Sulayman (alias Sheekota rAbba Maca of Dedo),(5) a learned Muslim scholar from the ro yal clan (Diggo)of Jimma, is composed as a set of verses and the contents are comparativelyabstracted. The unpublished, hand-written manuscript, Bab al-Wusul (1943), writ-ten by Ha jj Ali bin Ahmad (alias Ha jj Abba Ganda) is in the possession of one of his disciples(6) and contains historical details of the life of Al-Faki , as well as his miraculous deeds and magical formula. Because of the detailed informationin this manuscript, it took much patience and time for me to persuade the owner of the manuscript that I had no intention to use it for purposes other than academic interest in the life history of Al-Faki .

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84M. ISHIHARAManzumas an d qasidas (religious verses) (7) composed in admiration of Al-Faki, are chanted at hadras (reli gious gatherings)held both at local communities an d at pilgrimage centers in Ya™a, Sedi, and Minko (Ishihara, 1996). Popular themes of verses include the composers™ personal experiences of dependence and emo- tional attachment toward Al-Faki. Some of these are recorded on the spot b y the participants for their own entertainment and some popular ones are sold at musicshops. There are a number of well-known manzumacomposers, mainly Oromo,whosemanzumasare composed in a mixture of Oromo and Arabic lan guages,and their recordings are favored by the followers who choose to listen to thecassettes while they give their supplications at home as they chew at.These manzumasare valued because th e contents ar e educational and in struc-tive in the sense that they teach Islamic history (and/or scriptural interpretation)(Ishihara, 1996). The literary aspect is also a point of admiration among follow- ers. When the combination of words and the use of metaphors emotionall y impress the audience and stimulate their imagination, they express their admiration and sympathy by making clicking sounds with their tongues. However from thehistoriographical point of view, manzumasand qasidashardly contain an y infor- mation on ‚historical facts™ regarding the life of awliya.THE CASE OF HAJJ BUSHRA (d. 1863)Hajj Bushra of Gata, Wollo in northeast Ethiopia has a dual ima ge: known onthe one hand as a scholar with an fiuncompromising position on a strict obser- vance of Islamic law,fl and on the other hand, as a walibelieved to ha ve fi efÞ caciouspower of intercession with Godfl (Hussein, 2001: 89). The main tar gets of HajjBushra™s objections to unorthodox practices were to certain local customs such as th ezar(spirit possession) ritual and rgobadan (the ceremonial site where sac-riÞ ces were offered ) (Hussein, 2001: 110 ).In November 2006, I had the chance to visit Gata to meet the descendant of Hajj Bushra who is in charge of the mosque and guardian of the qubba(mau-soleum) after I was introduced to him through a friend of his, a well-knownChristian spirit medium stationed in Harar. At the meeting, the friend from Hara r functioned as a medium; he informed the guardian of Gata of our arrival in advance by his cell phone and advised us how to approach the descendants. Thanks to his advice, although it was our Þ rst time to visit Gata, the descendants accepted us quite warmly, showed us videotape-recorded Mawlid (birthday of dProphet Muhammad) festivals celebrated at the site and generously let us take photographs of the Arabic manuscript of the life history of the Hajj written by one his descendants and handed us an Amharic version of his life history type-written on nine pages. These included extracted details of his birth in Ifat (8)and education in Sudan, and names of places where he caused miraculous deeds.These anecdotes are probably summaries of transcripts, initially transmitted orally and written down after a screening process b y the descendants .In the text we Þ nd, for example, that after stating that Hajj Bushra stayed at Sudan and Mecca for 25 years, his life history is listed with a sequence of

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85Beyond Authenticity: Diverse Images of Muslim Awliyain Ethiopiamiracles. Upon his departure back to Ethiopia, his religious master, Sayyid (9)Muhammad Uthman gave him and his servants an ox for provision. One daythey slaughtered the ox and consumed its meat. Then, he wrapped the bones with the cowhide and beat it with a club. This brought the ox back to life. Hajj Bushra repeated this practice 30 times, and when they reached Gata, the y ate the ox fo r the la st time an d it s bones ar e buried in fr ont of his qubba.This Amharic version of his life history produces an image of a learned man who is granted the spiritual power to make miracles. The fact that this life histor yis written in Amharic is remarkable because this represents an attempt among the younger generation(10)of reframing in their own convincible ways the religiousdeeds of their forefather, the source of their presti ge as heirs of a charismaticÞ gure .THE CASE OF SITTI MOMINA (d. 1929)Sitti Momina, a highly venerated Muslim hol y woman born to a Christian family in Sanqa (Wollo), is well-known for her spiritual powers. Faraqasa, situated in Arsi, southeastern Ethiopia, where he r qubba(mausoleum) is found today, is regarded as a magical place in itself, and is a pilgrimage center for both Muslims and Christians. I visited Faraqasa four times, twice on St. Gabriel™s festival in the end of October 2006 and 2007, and also twice on the Pagwme festival (seebelow) in 2007 and 2008. I approached the descendants of Sitti Momina withthe assistance of a friend of mine whose father happened to be a close friend tothe descendants.The manner in which the followers and descendants treated her life historywas quite different from the afore-mentioned awliya cults. The original version of her life history, The Munaqib, written in Amharic by a convert and ex- clergyman onberhanna (sheep skin), disappeared durin g the Der g era (1974Œ1991). The local administration under the Mengistu regime of that time exercised radicalmeans against the cult of Sitti Momina and sacrileged the sacred area at Faraqasaby allowin g the local residence to rob the private propert y of the descendants. This act was part of an effort by the administration to prevent people from gathering for religious purposes considered ‚anti-revolutionary™ by the regime. The then representative of Faraqasa, who was himself a wali, Hajj Nur Ahmad (o r Qennyazmach Taye) was arrested for groundless reasons and The Munaqib of Sitti Momina was robbed by a local ofÞ cer and its whereabouts are still unknown. According to contemporaries, in Ha jj Nur Ahmad™s da ys,The Munaqib was recited at hadra gatherings and the contents were copied on paper by elders frequenting Faraqasa. After the collapse of the Derg regime, Hajj Siraj, one of the sons of Nur Ahmad, became guardian of the mausoleum and took on the responsibilityin reconstructing the ritual and its paraphernalia, virtually suspended during theDerg regime. The Munaqibthat is now recited at hadra gatherings is a recovered version of one of the transcriptions made during the former gatherings. AlthoughThe Munaqibis not the original version, it is safely kept in the northern corner of thehadrahall, where most of the ritual paraphernalia are stored. Thus the

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87Beyond Authenticity: Diverse Images of Muslim Awliyain Ethiopiacustomarily gather at Faraqasa to attend thishadra.Despite variations in recollections of aspects of Sitti Momina™s life amon g he r descendants and followers/admirers from different areas , it has not caused frictions probably because there has rarely been an occasion whereby different sections sit together to discuss the authenticity of her life histor y. The descendants are well-aware of the existence of diverse versions, but seem to accept them as localways of perceiving her wali-ness.CONCLUSIONThe image of the awliyamay be controversial because of the diverse sectionsrelated to each cult. This diversity comes from the wide distribution where the cult is accepted, the distance between each locality contributin g to the co- existence of diverse versions.Another factor related to the making of this controversial image is the variousmedia by which the ima ge is created. It is important to realize that the cult of the awliyais sustained by the local people, and it is therefore created and recre-ated through such variety of media according to local needs. Manuscripts, either hand-written, typed or printed, tend to gain authority in the historio graphical sense.The belief in the mystical power of manuscripts seems to depend not only onthe contents of it, but also on how the manuscripts are used in rituals and medical treatment. In the case of Al-Faki Ahmad Umar , the Bab al-Wusul manuscript written by HajjAli Abba Ganda contained formulas of medicinal use, which gave the manuscript a mystical feature. In the case of Sitti Momina, TheMunaqibisconsidered to retain spiritual powers, and was prohibited from being photocopied. On the other hand, Jala™ al-Fikr , the printed version of the life history of Al-Faki Ahmad Umar and the Amharic type-written life history of Hajj Bushra was expressly written for public exposure and wider distribution .Oral traditions, despite occasionally carrying important information, tend to berecited with additional facts and interpretation, thus need to be treated with care,with sufÞ cient information on the back ground of the transmitter. This reminds us of a similar type of argument done regarding the hadiths, wherein each tradition related with the Prophet Muhammad is attached a list of people who took part in the transmission of the tradition and who these transmitters were is the point at stake.Manzumas, mainly composed impromptu by followers/admirers, have a large r effect than manuscripts and oral traditions because the y are easil y available b ythe public since recorded manzumasare sold in cassette tapes at music shopsclose to the pilgrimage centers of the cult. The rhythmical element and literary feature are factors that not only entertain the followers of the cult but also facilitate people outside the circle of the cult to get to know the wali. Th esemanzumasare attributed with artistic characteristics intended to impress the audience, express-ing the composers™ love and veneration towards the wali.Through comparison of three awliya, I have attem pted to show that the various media (text, prose and recordings of chanted verses) are used to express diverse

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88M. ISHIHARAexperiences and belief in the wali in their own speci Þ c ways. Researchers need to keep in mind the diverse ways these media are put to use. It is only when we acknowledge this aspect that we can approach the cult of awliyawith a balanced view without denying authenticity of one in favor of another .NOTES(1) Originally, Wahhabiya was a name given by the opponents to those following the teachings of Muhammad ‚Abdu al-Wahhab (1703Œ1792), a Hanbali reformist who criticized local customs including the cult of saints ( awliya), interpreted as bid™a(innovation)™ (Margoliouth, 1993: 1086). In the Ethiopian context, the appellation, Wahhabiya, has become a general name referring to those people opposing the widespread local custom of venerating awliya and SuÞ stic practices .(2) Al-Faki, Ha jj, and Sitti are titles for Muslims regarded as religiously prominent. ‚Ha jj™ is a title for men that accomplished the hajj(pilgrimage) to Mecca. ‚Al-Faki™ is a title jmainly used in Sudanese Arabic and western Ethiopia, and applied for learned men with juristic as well as mystical knowledge (McHugh, 1994: 17). ‚Sitti™ is a title used fo r women.(3) Ti janiya is a SuÞ order founded in Northwest Africa b y Ahmad al-Ti jani, an 18th centur ymystic. It is widely accepted among Muslims in West Africa (Abun-Nasr, 1965) .(4) Bornu is a region located in the northeastern part of the present Nigeria. Al-Faki Ahmad Umar was born there in 1891, just before the Islamic state of Bornu (1396Œ1893) wasconquered by a Sudanese warlord.(5) Shaykh is an Arabic word used as general title for learned Muslim men. ‚Sheekota™ is the reverential form in Oromo language of ‚shaykh.™ The difference made between ‚Sheekota™ and ‚Shaykh™ is that the former is usually used either with the location where he is regarded inß uencial (e. g. Sheekota Dedo, indicating the learned man is stationed in Dedo) or with his formal name (which is granted by the societ y when he gets married according to the Oromo custom, e.g. Sheekota Abba Maca), while the latter is used with his name given by his parents in his childhood (like Shaykh Mahmud).(6) The copy I obtained was not the original version written by Hajj Ali Abba Ganda himself (the whereabouts of which I do not know) but a transcribed version written by (the late)Hajj Ahmadzein of Addis Ababa. I am grateful for Hajj Ahmadzein for his generosity fo r granting me permission to photocopy the manuscript.(7) In western Ethiopia, Muslim Oromo followers/admirers of awliya compose verses in either in the Oromo language or Arabic, which are customaril y referred to as manzuma(or qasida).(8) Ifat refers to historical region, in central Ethiopia where the sultanate of Ifat was formed. Ifat was known for its central role in spreading Islam to south and central Ethiopia until the 19thcentury (Ahmed Hassen Omer & Nosnitsin, 2007).(9) Sayyid is a title, similar to Shaykh (for men), applied to those who are revered asawliya.(10) By ‚younger generation,™ I do not suggest that the translator, whom I do not exactly know, was necessarily a youth. It must have been a person who had good command of both Arabic and Amharic, and who had a clear intention of displa ying the life of Ha jjBushra as a wali. This latter point gave me the impression that the Amharic version of the life history of Hajj Bushra, was prepared after the collapse of the Derg regime (1974 Œ1991), because it was only after it that religious activities in general were revitalized.(11) The Ethiopian calendar, which begins on September 11 of the Gregorian calendar,

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89Beyond Authenticity: Diverse Images of Muslim Awliyain Ethiopiaconsists of 13thmonths, each month consisting of 30 days. Each day of a month isdedicated to a particular saint, martyr or angel.(12) In Ethiopia, there are a number of places, most of them located in southeastern Ethiopia, where pilgrimage is conducted pertaining to the cult of Sitti Momina. These pil grimagecenters are places where Sitti Momina (or Nur Ahmad ) is believed to have set u presidence during her (or his) lifetime.(13)Dhikr is an institutionalized verse generally in Arabic, expressing surrender to and piety rfor Allah and Prophet Muhammad. Each tariqa(Islamic mystic order) has its own set of dhikrs, instituted by its founder and succeeded by his disciples/followers.REFERENCESAbun-Nasr, J.M. 1965. The Tijaniya: A Su Þ Order in the Modern World . Oxford UniversityPress, London.Ahmed Hassen Omer & D. Nosnitsin 2007. Ifat. In (S. Uhlig, ed.)Encyclopaedia Aethiopica3: 118-119, Harrassowitz Verla g, Wiesbaden. Gamachu Jemel Geda 2007.The Faraqasa Indigenous Pilgrimage Center: History and Ritual Practices. M.A. thesis, University of Tromso, Norway. Hajj Ali bin Ahmad 1943. Bab al-Wusul. Unpublished.Hussein Ahmed 2001. Islam in Nineteenth-Century Wallo, Ethiopia . Brill, Leiden.Ishihara, M. 1996. Textual analysis of a poetic verse in a Muslim Oromo society in Jimma area, southwestern Ethiopia. In (S. Sato & E. Kurimoto, eds.)Essays in Northeast African Studies ,(Senri Ethnological Studies No. 43). National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka .Š 1997. The life history of a Muslim Holyman: Al-Faki Ahmad Umar. In (K. Fukui, ŠM. Shigeta & E. Kurimoto, eds.)Ethiopia in Broader Perspective Vol. II . ShokadoIIBooksellers, Kyoto.Š 2007. ŠSpirit Possession and Pilgrimage: The Formation and ConÞ guration of the Tijj n Cult in Western Oromoland . Paper presented at the 1 6thInternational Conferenceof Ethiopian Studies. Unpublished.Margoliouth, D.S. 1993. Wahhabiya. In (M.Th. Houtsma, A.J. Wensinck & T.W. Arnold, eds.) E.J. Brill™s First Encyclopaedia of Islam 1913-193 6, 8: 1086-1090. E.J. Brill, Leiden.McHugh, N. 1994. Holymen of the Blue Nile. Northwestern University Press, Evanston,Illinois.Morton, A. 1977. Dawit: Competition and inte gration in an Ethiopian wuqabi cult group. In (V. Crapanzano & V. Garrison, eds.) Case Studies in Spirit Possession. Wiley & Sons, New York.Shaykh Mahmud bin Sulayman 1953.Jala™ al-Fikr . M. Mustafa al-Babi al-Halabi, Cairo.Š Accepted ŠNovember 30, 2009Author™s Name and Address: Minako ISHIHARA ,Department of Anthropolo gy and Philoso- phy, Nanzan University, 8 Yamazato-cho, Showa-ku, Na goya, Aichi 466-8673, JAPAN. E-mail:

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