Ajami Literacy, class, and Portuguese pre-colonial administration in Northern Mozambique
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AbstractIncludes bibliographical references.
This thesis, based on archival and fieldwork research, provides an historical analysis of the northern Mozambique ajami manuscripts held in the Mozambique Historical Archives (AHM). The main focus is on the role played by ajami literacy in the creation of a local Muslim intellectual class that played a significant role in the establishment of a Portuguese pre-colonial administration in northern Mozambique. The history of Islam in northern Mozambique is viewed as a constant struggle against the Portuguese establishment in the region. Through an examination of ajami correspondence held in the AHM and focusing on two of the main northern Mozambique Swahili centres of the nineteenth century (Quissanga and Sancul), this thesis offers a more nuanced interpretation of the relations between the Portuguese and the Swahili Muslim rulers of the region. On the one hand, it views Quissanga-Ibo Island relations based on systematic and relatively loyal collaboration expressed in more than two hundred letters found in the collection of AHM. On the other hand, it presents Sancul-Mozambique Island relations based on ambiguous collaboration and constant betrayals, expressed in forty letters of the collection. The AHM ajami manuscripts collection numbers a total of 665 letters which were first revealed in the context of the pilot study of northern Mozambique Arabic Manuscripts, held in the Mozambique Historical Archives, under the leadership of Professors Liazzat Bonate and Joel Tembe. The pilot study ended with the selection, translation and transliteration of sixty letters from this collection. For the present study I have read, summarized and translated the whole collection (excluding the 60 letters mentioned above). However, only 266 letters which are more relevant for the analysis and argument of my thesis, I have listed in the appendix of this dissertation; and nine of them I have closely examined and cited as the main sources for the construction of local history and as documentary witness of the historical facts I discuss. The use of ajami literacy in northern Mozambique is analysed in the context of global and regional phenomena. In this sense, it is viewed as a result of a longue dur? process which integrated the region into the western Indian Ocean?s cultural, political and economic dynamics. It is argued that the spread of ajami literacy in the region was framed in the context of regional Islamic education and an intellectual network. Both were also part of the process of expansion of Islam in East Africa. xiQuissanga (in Cabo Delgado) and Sancul (in Nampula) represent the two main regional settlements from which most of the manuscripts originated. The ruling elites of both regions represent suitable examples of the integration of northern Mozambique into the Swahili political, economic and intellectual networks. They also offer examples of two different dynamics of the process of integration of northern Mozambique rulers into the Portuguese pre-colonial administration. Through an analysis of the spread of Islamic education and the use of Arabic script in the above-mentioned region, this thesis sought to establish the connection of coastal societies in northern Mozambique to the Swahili world (most specifically to Comoros Islands, Zanzibar and western Madagascar). It was through this connection that the Muslim intellectual class was created in northern Mozambique and played an important intermediary role in the process of the establishment of the Portuguese administration in the second half of the nineteenth century. Through their correspondence and reports, this local intellectual elite produced a body of manuscripts in Kiswahili and other local languages (in the Arabic script), which are now an important source for the history of the region.