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Book chapter Book chapter Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The frontiers of prophecy: healing, the cosmos & Islam on the East African coast in the nineteenth century
Author:Sperling, David
Book title:Revealing prophets: prophecy in eastern African history
Editors:Anderson, David
Johnson, Douglas H.
City of publisher:London
Publisher:James Currey
Geographic term:Kenya
African religions
Abstract:This chapter examines the nature of mantic activity as practised by the Mijikenda of Kenya in the middle of the 19th century. It is based on the observations made by Johann Ludwig Krapf, an ordained minister of the Church Missionary Society, who travelled through Mijikenda country from 1844 to 1853. The Mijikenda had by this time been in contact with Muslims (mainly the Swahili) for several centuries, but very few Mijikenda had become Muslim. Evidently, the ability of the Swahili and the Mijikenda to share diagnostic and predictive practices was based on a common cosmology, in spite of having contrasting religious beliefs. For Muslims the power of God was never absent from diagnosis and healing, yet prediction by itself had never been essential to Muslim prophecy, and here cannot be interpreted as forming part of a local Muslim prophetic tradition. For the Mijikenda, prediction was part of a matter-of-fact approach to any number of problems of the unknown, both spiritual and natural. On the whole, we are left with the impression that most forms of 19th-century divination and diagnosis were essentially technical rather than inspirational, involving learned methods of assessment rather than inspired interpretations. Notes, ref.