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Chapter Summary

This introductory chapter of this book examines the link between religion and politics in Islam through an analysis of the Sudanese Mahdiyya, specifically the ways in which the Mahdiyya's leaders employed religious symbols and ritual in order to shape, legitimate, renew, and inform their society. European historians have long examined how ritual articulates power and authority, primarily directing their analysis to the context of ancient, medieval, and early modern European societies. The book analyzes the evolution of the political culture of a movement that became a body politic. A core concern of this study is the insignias and symbols of the Mahdists: how did they imbue these with a meaning that was uniquely Mahdist and Sudanese. The Mahdists intended their message to be a universal one, but invested their symbols and ceremonies with meanings that could be understood only by those conversant in Sudanese religious lore.

Keywords: European societies; Islam; Sudanese Mahdiyya



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