Salafi transformations: Aden and the changing voices of religious reform in the interwar Indian ocean

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The Islamic reformist movement known as Salafism is generally portrayed as a relentlessly literalist and rigid school of religious thought. This article pursues a more nuanced picture of a historical Salafism that is less a movement with a single, linear origin than a dynamic intellectual milieu continually shaped by local contexts. Using 1930s Aden as a case study, the article examines how a transregional reformist discourse could be vulnerable to local interpretation and begins to unpack the transformation of Salafi activism from a broad, doctrinaire, and, above all, foreign ideology to an integral part of local religious discourse. It situates reform within an evolving Islamic discursive tradition that in part developed as a result of its own theological logic but was equally shaped by local and historically contingent institutions, social practices, and power structures. It thus explores Salafism as a dynamic tradition that could be adapted by local intellectuals to engage the problems facing their own communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-92
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Middle East Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2012


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science

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