Learning, Gnosis and Exegesis: Public tafsir and Sufi Revival in the City of Kano (Northern Nigeria), 1950-1970
This article explores the transformation of the study of tafsīr in Kano city (Northern Nigeria) during the twentieth century, highlighting the role of a Sufi phenomenon of revival (al-fayda, the 'flood') within an established order (the Tijāniyya) in promoting intellectual change. The historical background to the Nigerian 'flood' is the encounter between the Senegalese Shaykh Ibrāhīm Niasse (d. 1975) and a dynamic sector of the scholarly class of Kano. Two case-studies of local tafsīr networks are presented here in order to assess the position that the studying, the teaching and the public performing of tafsīr had in the broader edifice of Islamic knowledge of the West African city before and after the 'flood'. The article emphasizes the intensity of the participation of the West African Muslim scholars to the intellectual tradition of tafsīr, and looks at the links between a contemporary Sufi revival, local traditions of Qur'ānic exegesis, and wider bodies of Islamic knowledge.