By Max Gluckman
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2001. Prayer has Spoiled Everything: Possession, Power, and Identity in an Islamic Town of Niger. Durham, NC, and London: Duke University Press. Perrino, S. M. 2002. ‘Intimate Hierarchies and Qur’anic Saliva (Tëfli): Textuality in a Senegalese Ethnomedical Encounter’. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 12, no. 2: 225–59. Roberts, A. , and M. Nooter Roberts. 2003. A Saint in the City: Sufi Arts of Urban Senegal. Los Angeles: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History. Samson, F. 2005. Les marabouts de l’islam politique: le Dahiratoul Moustarchidina wal Moustarchidaty, un mouvement néo-confrériques sénégalais.
Michael Jackson’s seminal introduction to Things As They Are (Jackson 1996) provides a fruitful approach to understanding the lives of these people. Jackson argues that ‘phenomenology calls into question … the long-standing division in Western discourse between the knowledge of philosophers or scientists and the opinions of ordinary mortals’ (1996: 7). He suggests that it is our task ‘to revalidate the everyday life of ordinary people, to tell their stories in their own words, to recover their names’ (36).
Despite the official discourse prescribing that children pray from an early age, most of them don’t do it as a regular daily practice. However, as Hamidou said, some young adults remember their parents’ influence on their prayer practice and regret not having the same structure and prayer-inducing environment in their adult age. In my host compound, young unmarried women in their twenties were always told off for not praying regularly, and upon hearing such remarks they often got up, however grudgingly, and performed a prayer.