Eickelmans Moroccan Islam

Eickelman's volume also now ranks as a major modern classic of Islamic anthropology. It has been much admired. The Times Literary Supplement described the work as 'a very thoroughly researched, sensitively interpreted, elegantly and readably presented case study'.306 It was the product of fieldwork undertaken in the Moroccan pilgrimage centre of Boujad and its surrounding areas from October 196® to June 1970.307 As a study of 'popular' or 'folk' Islam, it focuses in particular on the North African phenomenon of marabouts: 'They are persons, living or dead, to whom is attributed a special relation towards God which makes them particularly well-placed to serve as intermediaries with the supernatural and to communicate God's grace (baraka) to their clients'.30® This articulation of some of the 'popular' dimensions of Islam is, of course, rejected by 'formal' Islam309 but Eickelman (born in 1942) notes:

As I discovered early in my fieldwork, the supporters of marabouts are fully aware, at least in outline, of the interpretations of Islam offered by the scripturalists; yet they continue to regard maraboutic Islam as a meaningful religious representation of reality.310

The chapters of Eickelman's volume follow a somewhat unorthodox pattern, at least from an anthropological perspective.311 The first two chapters provide a basic historical grounding in the coming of Islam to Morocco, the phenomenon of maraboutism and the Sherqawa zawiya, sufl house, in Boujad which was founded by the sixteenth-century marabout Sldl Mhammed Sherqi (d. 1601). The Sherqawa was the name given to his descendants.312 The author then goes on to provide a survey of Boujad313 and an examination of the social structure of the Sherqawa.314 This is followed by an investigation of 'The Ideology of Maraboutism'.315 In a highly significant statement, the author notes that 'the key to understanding the ideology implicit in Maraboutism is in the cultural conception of baraka as a form of causality and the means by which it can be appropriated to sustain one's own activities'.316 Here, we are clearly not far from the realms of baraka adumbrated so lucidly by Gilsenan in Recognizing Islam, to which we alluded earlier. Because of the baraka to be gained, there is a 'symbolism of closeness' whereby groups, and even individuals, assert and claim a kind of 'closeness' with the Sherqawa.

Eickelman concludes with an examination of Sherqawi identity and the fragmentation of maraboutism.317 He observes that a small number of the well-educated in Boujad have begun to reject maraboutism as they become attached to 'Islamic Reformism'. Others embrace the novelties of the latter but cling to the 'myths' of the marabout.31® His final words are instructive:

The hierarchical conception of man-God relations represented by mara-boutism is now in eclipse [his book was first published in 1976], but there is no reason to suppose that it will necessarily remain so. Islamic reformism, now ascendant, is self-consciously less compromised by the social order. But Islam, like other major world religions, constantly must face anew cycles of compromise and noncompromise with the social order. 319

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