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Title:Adapting to the new path: Khatmiyya Sufi authority, the al-Mirghani family, and Eritrean nationalism during British Occupation, 1941-1949
Author:Venosa, JosephISNI
Periodical:Journal of Eastern African Studies (ISSN 1753-1063)
Geographic terms:Eritrea
Great Britain
Muslim brotherhoods
political change
External link:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17531055.2013.770677
Abstract:This article examines the relationship between Sufi authorities and political transformation in Eritrea during the mid- and late 1940s. It analyzes the role of Eritrea's largest and most influential Sufi order, the Khatmiyya, and how its leadership struggled to maintain its influence amidst the rapidly changing political and social climate initiated by the collapse of Italian colonial authority in 1941. With the arrival of the British Military Administration (BMA), much of the region comprising the Khatmiyya's historical heartland in western and northern Eritrea experienced rapid social and political transformation, as landless Tigre-speaking peasants mobilized a widespread emancipation movement to assert their economic independence, while other Muslim groups beyond the Khatmiyya's base articulated a pro-independence political platform. This article argues that Khatmiyya authorities were largely unable to transition the order from its previous role as an Italian-supported Sufi power into a legitimate authority in post-colonial Eritrea. The Khatmiyya leadership's half-hearted, compromised support for 'serf' emancipation among Tigre-speaking groups and its eventual withdrawal from the Eritrean nationalist movement signaled a major decline in the order's influence by the end of the decade. This article thus looks at the role of Khatmiyya authorities to help illuminate one of the more complex and misunderstood aspects of Eritrea's early nationalist history. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]