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Book Sections Year : 2016

Styles of Islamic Education: Perspectives from Mali, Guinea, and The Gambia

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Tal Tamari
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Abstract

This chapter seeks to summarize my field observations on Islamic education, made primarily in Mali but also in Guinea and The Gambia. Whereas in earlier publications, I stressed features common to several, primarily Manding-speaking areas in Mali, in this presentation, based on research within a wider geographical region, I would also like to recognize diversity. Research in Mali was conducted in Segou and nearby villages, San and nearby villages (1998), Touba (Cercle de Banamba; 2005), Dia and several villages of the Masina region (2004-2008), Diakhaba (2010), Djenné (2007, 2011) and Timbuktu (2006) as well as Bamako. It has thus involved areas with Bamana-, Maninka-, Dyula-, Soninke-, Bozo-, Fulfulde-, Songhay-, Moorish-, and Tamachek-speaking majorities. Briefer inquiries took place in Mandenka-speaking areas of The Gambia (2004) and the Kankan (Maninka-speaking) area of Guinea (2005, 2011). 1 This, then, is an updated but still interim report on ongoing fieldwork. My recent observations, as well as an analysis of the literature, strongly suggest that two traits of the educational process, identified in my earlier publications, are very widespread in West Africa (and beyond). As first shown by Renaud Santerre (1973), there is a distinction between two educational levels or cycles: the elementary one, consecrated to the recitation, reading, copying, and memorization of the Qur'an; and the complementary or advanced level, consecrated to the study, with comprehension, of Arabic books. However, certain types of Qur'an memorization and recitation are constitutive of advanced rather than elementary study. The second common trait is the use of local languages - rather than classical Arabic - for oral communication in the instructional context. Thus, nearly all reading and writing take place in Arabic, while nearly all oral explanation and discussion are conducted in a local language (or, in some situations, several local languages). Oral translation into local languages appears to be the basic pedagogical tool of advanced-level Islamic education in West Africa: in the course of oral reading, the Arabic text is parsed into syntactical units, each unit being followed by one of equivalent meaning in a local language. Thus, brief strings of Arabic words alternate with ones in the African language. Translation is based neither on the isolated word (except when - infrequently - it constitutes a syntagm unto itself) nor the whole sentence, but on the syntactical unit.
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halshs-03837413 , version 1 (02-11-2022)

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Tal Tamari. Styles of Islamic Education: Perspectives from Mali, Guinea, and The Gambia. Robert Launay. Islamic Education in Africa: Writing Boards and Blackboards, Indiana University Press, pp.29-60, 2016, 9780253022707. ⟨halshs-03837413⟩
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