The Tijaniyya Tariqa in Cape Town: the "normalization" of race relations in South Africa

Master Thesis


Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title
Link to Journal
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

University of Cape Town

"The Tijaniyya Tariqa in Cape Town: "Normalization" of Race Relations in South Africa" focuses on the spread to South Africa of the Tijaniyya order (tariqa) prominent in West Africa. Theoretically, the study aims to work within the bounds of the social sciences, while at the same time problematizing some of its assumptions. After the examination of the theoretical and methodological framework of the paper, the study turns to a historical overview of the Tijaniyya tariqa, from its foundation in Algeria, to its spread to West Africa, and finally to its characteristics in twentieth century Senegal. The paper then takes a look at the spread of the tariqa outside its 'natural' borders of North and West Africa, in particular to France and the United States. At this point, the study jumps to an overview of the history of Islam in South Africa, in order to place the spread of the Tijaniyya to this country in its appropriate religious and social context. Next, the paper focuses on the particular experience of the Tijaniyya tariqa in Cape Town, located within the larger historical and social context of the tariqa and Islam in South Africa. Through a series of interviews and visits to the Tijani zawiya, the researcher is able to describe the experiences of the Tijanis in Cape Town, including those of its Shuyukh, and Senegalese, 'Malay' and 'black' South African disciples. In particular, the research examines the different reasons for which Tijanis joined the tariqa, what the Tijaniyya means to them, which are its most essential teachings, and the issue of race relations within the tariqa. In conclusion, the study finds that the spiritual dimension of the Tijaniyya in the lives of its adepts, as well as its role as a propagator of Islam are much more significant characteristics of the tariqa than any external political or economic factors. At the same time, the Tijaniyya tariqa has a "normalizing" effect on the issues of race relations and identity, so important in South Africa today. Finally, the Tijaniyya tariqa in Cape Town offers the unique opportunity to combat racism and prejudice and bring people of all backgrounds together through spirituality.