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Islam and the West African Novel: The Politics of Representation

Ahmed Sheikh Bangura
ISBN: 978-0-89410-863-1
2000/176 pages/LC: 99-056007

"Bangura has produced an original and pioneering study that is likely to define the critical tradition of African literature of Islamic orientation for many years to come."—Alamin Mazrui, Journal of Islamic Studies

"An original and provocative narrative.... [Bangura's] book offers a rich panoply of themes and issues to consider in the analysis of Islam in African fiction."—Roberta Ann Dunbar, African Studies Review

"Bangura has produced a pioneering study of unmistakable strength."—Alamin Mazrui,Research in African Literatures

"Bangura's argument is focused and compelling. It presents an insightful perspective from which to reassess the way Francophone Muslim writers relate textually to Islam and articulate their composite identities."—Adeline Masquelier, Religious Studies Review


Ahmed Bangura argues that a deeply ingrained pattern of prejudice toward Islam in European-language writing on Africa has led to serious misreadings of many West African novels.

Extending Edward Said's study of the orientalist tradition in Western scholarship, Bangura traces the origins of contemporary misunderstandings of African Islam to the discourse of colonial literature. Western critics and writers, he observes, typically without access to Islam except through the colonialist tradition, have perpetuated unfounded, politically motivated themes.

Bangura discusses the historical and sociological contexts of Islam in sub-Saharan Africa, providing a framework for the study of West African novels with an Islamic subtext. Contrasting his own reading of the novels of Sembene Ousmane, Aminata Sow Fall, and Ibrahim Tahir with that of traditional Western critics, his analysis also features Wole Soyinka, Deborah Boyd-Buggs, Mohamadou Kane, Ali Mazrui, Cheikh Hamidou Kane, Ahmadou Kourouma, Mbaye Cham, and Kenneth Harrow.


Ahmed Sheikh Bangura is associate professor of modern languages at the University of San Francisco.


  • Introduction.
  • Africa, Islam, and the Legacies of Colonialism.
  • Islam and Africanist Literary Criticism.
  • Critica (Mis)Readings of Sembene Ousmane.
  • Taming Islam: Aminata Sow Fall.
  • The Quest for Orthodoxy in Ibrahim Tahir's The Last Imam.
  • Conclusion.