A History of Christianity in Africa: From Antiquity to the Present

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There are remarkable stone sculptures in the Tibesti Chad and Ahaggar Algeria Saharan mountain ranges. Before its desiccation, the Sahara was "wet" and featured elephants, giraffes, rhinoceros, horses, and other animals. The Tassili paintings also depict hunters and herders and collectively are one of the greatest displays of prehistoric art in the world. Archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians esteem these paintings and those in Libya's Fezzan as extraordinary aesthetic historical documents, especially illustrating the revolutionary change from Paleolithic to Neolithic culture and society.

In addition, Jan Vansina observed that "ancient Egyptian graphic art owes something to the great Saharan tradition that both preceded it and ran parallel to it for most of its history" Vansina , 6. The Egyptian attraction and assimilation of Saharan artistic expressions affirm the primordial significance of transcultural contact and communication with the development of civilization. Egypt is immediately recognized as one of the greatest civilizations in Western and world history.

Phoenicia's enterprising maritime city-states, located in today's Lebanon, collectively constituted a major West Asian influence upon North Africa.

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The Phoenicians established trading posts along the littoral of North Africa and Iberia. Libya featured some of the greatest Greek and later Roman colonies.

Furthermore, the Saharan Garamantes of ancient Fezzan applied remarkable hydrology and agronomy. Carthage, a former Phoenician colony in Tunisia, emerged as a great power in the western Mediterranean. After Carthage's defeat, Rome dominated, eventually taking over independent Berber kingdoms Numidia and Mauretania and Hellenistic Egypt. Establishing hundreds of cities, Roman ruins in North Africa are among the most astonishing antiquities extant. North Africa also played a significant role regarding the expansion and evolution of Christianity.

German invasions are inevitably cited in textbooks as an important cause in the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Germans also arrived in North Africa, namely the notorious Vandals, who established a kingdom stretching from Tripolitania western Libya to Morocco that lasted for about a century. Launching a task force from North Africa, the Vandals plundered Rome—hence the association of their name with pillage and destruction. The restoration of an imperial "Roman" presence in North Africa east of Egypt under continual Byzantine administration varied along the coastline and hinterland.

The Byzantines typically exercised power from strongholds along the littoral and from cities, principally Carthage. The invasion of the Arabs, beginning in the seventh century, confronted and eventually overwhelmed the redoubtable resistance of the Berbers. The Arabs, infused with their new faith, Islam, indelibly influenced the region. North Africa featured remarkable Muslim states headed by dynasties that promoted commerce and culture, including the Rustamids, the Idrisids, the Aghlabids, the Tulunids, the Fatimids, the Zirids, the Hammadids, the Ayyubids, and the Mamluks. The Berber Almoravids of the eleventh and the Almohads of the twelfth centuries were two of the most powerful states in the history of Western civilization's Middle Ages.

Egypt and the Maghrib, except for Morocco, fell under the Ottoman Empire during the course of the sixteenth century. Although nominally under the suzerainty of the sultan in Constantinople, the Ottoman Regency of Algiers exercised virtual independence as one of the most powerful states in the western Mediterranean. The Ottoman regencies in Tunis and Tripoli also asserted their autonomy. After the Reconquista , Spain systematically seized outposts on the North African littoral and still controls the presidios of Ceuta and Melilla along the Moroccan coast and offshore islets.

In addition, the Habsburgs waged war against the Ottomans, which involved significant North African campaigning. Beginning in with Napoleon's expedition to Egypt, Europe took a greater invasive and imperial interest in North Africa. France captured Algiers in and in organized northern Algeria into three departments. Tunisia and central and southern Morocco became French protectorates in and , respectively. Spain acquired Ifni along the Moroccan Atlantic coast in , Western Spanish Sahara in , and northern Morocco and the Tarfaya zone in the south in Italy seized Libya at that time called "Tripolitania" in Great Britain purchased control of the Suez Canal in and occupied Egypt in European colonialism had a manifold effect upon North African peoples.

Nevertheless, by the time Algeria acquired its independence in , North Africa had decolonized, except for Spain's territories—the Spanish Sahara, Ifni, the presidios, and islets.

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North Africa

North Africa's post-colonial history is also significant as its countries have confronted the controversial consequences of colonialism, especially regarding political, economic, and social development. In contemporary North Africa, cultural questions concerning the roles of Westernization, modernization, globalization, and Islamism are particularly provocative. Having located North Africa geographically, surveyed its prehistory, and recognized its historical significance, how has its complex recorded history been recounted, explained, and appreciated?

There are important historical surveys of North Africa that cover the period from the seventh-century Arab conquest to the modern period. Julien's book is not only an important academic contribution, but also a heroic work. It dispelled the French colonial myth regarding the vacuity of pre-colonial North African Maghribi history. Roger Le Tourneau revised Julien's work in and it was translated into English in Jamil M. Three chapters are devoted to the pre-Islamic period in A History of the Maghrib []. Julien and Abun-Nasr provide excellent coverage from the Arab conquest of the seventh century.

Abdallah Laroui, The History of the Maghrib: An Interpretive Essay ; translated into English critically assesses the historiography of North Africa from prehistory to his contemporary era. Sallust is an exception given his The Jugurthine War. Nevertheless, his work is short and limited. The encyclopedist Pliny the Elder and the geographer Strabo also provide fragmented information within their "global" perspectives. Augustine's Confessions illustrates the diverse intellectual and spiritual currents circulating between North Africa and Europe.

Procopius, while serving as secretary to the military commander Belisarius, recounts a history of the Byzantine campaign against the Vandals. In the eleventh century, Abu Ubayd al-Bakri furnishes a fascinating geographical and sociological itinerary.

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Ibn Idhari al-Marrakushi fl. Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti renders an invaluable account of Napoleon's invasion of Egypt and its political and cultural confrontations and consequences. Collectively, these contributions and others listed in the bibliography are all valuable. Nevertheless, there are three intellectuals who especially exemplify North African scholarly breadth and depth. Ibn Khaldun was born in Tunis, the capital of today's Tunisia. During his colorful and capricious career as a statesman and scholar he lived throughout the Maghrib and in al-Andalus.


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He eventually attained the position of mufti or principal judge of the Maliki School of jurisprudence in Egypt. In his Muqaddima Introduction , he distinguishes between "surface" and "inner meaning" histories: "Surface history is no more than information about political events, dynasties, and occurrences of the remote past.

It shows how changing conditions affected human affairs , how certain dynasties came to occupy an ever wider space in the world, and how they settled the earth until they heard the call and their time was up. He continues: "The inner meaning of history, on the other hand, involves speculation and an attempt to get at the truth, subtle explanation of the causes and origins of existing things, and deep knowledge of the how and why of events" Ibn Khaldun , This latter history especially interested this erudite scholar.

In addition, Ibn Khaldun presented a pluralist interpretation of history: "It should be known that history is a discipline that has a great number of different approaches. The writing of history requires numerous sources and greatly varied knowledge" Ibn Khaldun , He underscored his methodological approach with a warning:. If [the historian] trusts historical information in its plain transmitted form and has no clear knowledge of the principles resulting from custom, the fundamental facts of politics, the nature of civilization, or the conditions governing human social organization, and if, furthermore, he does not evaluate remote or ancient material through comparison with near or contemporary material, he often cannot avoid stumbling and slipping and deviating from the highroad of truth.

Ibn Khaldun , Ibn Khaldun recognized the significance of economics, sociology, psychology, religion, geography, climate, and what we call today political science, toward the development and explanation of history. According to Philip Hitti: "No Arab writer, indeed no European, had ever taken a view of history at once so comprehensive and philosophic" Hitti , He attributed the repeated rise and fall of North African states and their exercise of power and influence to a historical agent, known as asabiyya , which can be translated as a "group feeling.

Ibn Khaldun's historiography and methodology remain very valuable toward understanding North Africa's past and present. His interdisciplinary approach evinces an exceptional intellectual sophistication. Malik Bennabi, our second influential figure, imparts keen insight into the history of North African and Muslim civilizations. He insisted on the need for Muslims, especially Maghribis peoples of the Islamic West and Mashriqis peoples of the East to become historically conscious, which he viewed as an active and affirming praxis.

A prolific writer in French and Arabic, he argued that the failure of Muslims to appreciate and engage the history of their Islamic culture made them "colonizable. Hodgson's term occurred after the disintegration of the Almohad empire in the thirteenth century and not solely as a consequence of European imperialism. General intellectual and moral lassitude within an exhausted Muslim civilization characterized this "Post-Almohadean" period.

Abun-Nasr interpreted "'colonizability' as a sort of moral paralysis which leads a community to accept that its life becomes determined by the thought and values of others. Consequently it ceases to be able to contribute to world civilization" Abun-Nasr , Bennabi's critique is incisive and meant to be instructive. Influenced by Arnold Toynbee and Oswald Spengler as well as by Ibn Khaldun, Bennabi was fascinated by the development and decline of civilization. He perceived the history of Muslim civilization as proceeding through spiritual, rational, and instinctual "psycho-temporal" stages while catalyzed by the synergy of three agents: man, land soil , and time.

In that he regarded religion as foundational in a civilization Bennabi , 33 , the spiritual stage acquired special influence and importance for him. Bennabi contended that the Muslim civilization's spiritual stage ended with the divisive Battle of Siffin in , leading to the establishment of the Umayyad Caliphate. The rational stage followed as the civilization's "soul" or "spirit" leveled, albeit at a sophisticated plane.

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After centuries, ending with the life and times of Ibn Khaldun, Muslim civilization stagnated and declined toward an "instinctual primitive stage," an ancestral, regressive condition marked by torpor and superstition. Bennabi believed that the Nahda Renaissance or Islamic modernist movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries signaled a reviving and recovering Muslim civilization. Nevertheless, he also criticized the modernists for failing to "transform the Muslim soul" and realize Islam's "social function" Bennabi , Bennabi viewed Islamism as a means to regain not only a spiritual reawakening but also an appreciation for the secular contributions of Muslim civilization.

Furthermore, he considered spirituality and faith compatible with rationality and secularism see Naylor a; Christelow Subscribing to Friedrich Nietzsche's idea of an "eternal return," Bennabi anticipated an eventual restoration of a dynamic Muslim civilization. Jacques Berque is our third North African scholar-exemplar.

Like Ibn Khaldun's, Berque's life and research, especially in anthropology, sociology, and history, spanned North Africa from Morocco to Egypt. Born in Frenda in the Oranie western Algeria , Berque was significantly influenced by his father, Augustin, a colonial official and perceptive observer of Arab and Berber social relations.

The son acquired the father's appreciable acumen. Berque served in the French army in North Africa and befriended Moroccan soldiers, with whom he savored "the other side of things" Berque , The Moroccans allowed him, for example, to accompany them into native neighborhoods. Like his father, Berque eventually joined the colonial administration. His candid, critical, and courageous appraisal of French colonial policy ended, however, the possibility of a government career. Nevertheless, Berque's expertise and erudition distinguished his scholarship whether describing the ethnic customs of the peoples of the High Atlas or the consequences of colonialism and decolonization in Algeria and Egypt.

His wider interests included the history of Arabs and Islam. Sharply critical of Orientalists' presumptions, Edward Said found Berque's work exceptional.


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He admired Berque and his colleague Maxime Rodinson for "their methodological self-consciousness. What one finds in their work is always, first of all, a direct sensitivity to the material before them, and then a continual self-examination of their methodology and practice, a constant attempt to keep their work responsive to the material and not to a doctrinal preconception" Said , Berque challenged atavisms, including his own. Like Ibn Khaldun and Bennabi, Berque was an independent intellectual. Although the philosophical issue of binary "othering" was an intense interest, the description, location, and context of othering, or the condition of alterity, distinguished Berque's writing, such as the consequences of industrialism as well as colonialism in North Africa.

To quote Albert Hourani: "Berque has taught us to distinguish the different rhythms of history: that which foreign rulers have tried to impose upon the Arab Muslim countries they have ruled, and that which those peoples have produced within themselves" Hourani b, 5. His sympathy and identification with North Africans especially Algerians, Moroccans, and Egyptians characterized his work.

Berque cultivated an intimate as well as intellectual relationship with North Africa. Albert Hourani admiringly wrote: "Berque's writings indeed are full of sights and sounds, smells and tastes.

A history of Christianity in Africa : from antiquity to the present (Book, ) [jiwopumo.tk]

He has absorbed the Arab world through all his senses" Hourani b, An adept colloquial and classical Arabist, he published an acclaimed commentary of the Qur'an in Berque mirrored Ibn Khaldun's philosophy of history: "One cannot write history without exploring the deeper levels below history" Berque , He shared with Ibn Khaldun and Bennabi a fascination with the evolution of civilization. Ibn Khaldun's multidisciplinary approach mirrors postmodern methodologies.

Bennabi's studies of the "Post-Almohadean" period and the role of a genuinely redemptive Islamism are especially important in the contemporary context. Berque's remarkable ability to pass between and among North African cultures, despite his French colonialist background, conveys an inspiring personal and professional engagement. The space devoted here to Ibn Khaldun, Malik Bennabi, and Jacques Berque is not meant to suggest that they provide the conceptual framework for this book, although they will be referred to occasionally.

The objective of this book, an introductory work, is much more modest: to present a primarily political historical survey of North Africa illustrating the importance of transcultural influences. These scholars' inquisitive and acquisitive intellects epitomize the transcultural character of North Africa. Nevertheless, they represent but three notable and inspiring examples of North Africa's intellectual contributions to global civilization.

Amazing stories and detail and perspective about local African churches and mainstream leaders—a useful corrective to the missionary-based history I have usually obtained. I appreciate it and the historiography it contains and will assign some chapters to my students. View 1 comment. Martina Sally rated it really liked it Dec 06, Julianna rated it it was ok Jun 29, Vance rated it liked it Oct 15, Kevin Barron rated it liked it Aug 25, Zakri Banker rated it liked it Sep 24, Qelilah rated it it was amazing May 16, Bunza rated it really liked it Nov 20, Justin rated it liked it Nov 19, Juan Limon rated it liked it Apr 28, Hilary rated it liked it Feb 22, Mark Hawkins rated it liked it Feb 23, Nahawand Attar rated it really liked it Oct 25, Marlin Harrison rated it really liked it Aug 08, Michelle rated it really liked it May 26, Sandra rated it it was amazing Dec 24, Bradley rated it liked it Oct 29, Sam rated it liked it Apr 05, Jetamors rated it liked it Feb 26, Jen rated it liked it Mar 27, Moses Kariuki rated it it was amazing Mar 26, Thomas rated it really liked it Mar 13, Vickie M rated it it was amazing Mar 12, Pc rated it really liked it Dec 14, Rob rated it liked it Aug 10, Nicholas White rated it it was ok Oct 23, Kyle Leach rated it liked it Nov 05, Daniel rated it liked it May 31, Josh L.

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A history of Christianity in Africa : from antiquity to the present

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