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Published in: Contemporary Islam 1/2014

01-01-2014

The revenge of the Jinns: spirits, Salafi reform, and the continuity in change in contemporary Ethiopia

Author: Terje Østebø

Published in: Contemporary Islam | Issue 1/2014

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Abstract

The point of departure for this article is a story about jinns taking revenge upon people who have abandoned earlier religious practices. It is a powerful account of their attempt to free themselves from a past viewed as inhabited by evil forces and about the encounter between contemporary Salafi reformism and a presumed disappearing religious universe. It serves to prove how a novel version of Islam has superseded former practices; delegitimized and categorized as belonging to the past. The story is, however, also an important source and an interesting entry-point to examine the continued relevance of past practices within processes of reform. Analyzing the story about the jinns and the trajectory of Salafi reform in Bale, this contribution demonstrates how the past remains intersected with present reformism, and how both former practices and novel impetuses are reconfigured through this process. The article pays attention to the dialectics of negotiations inherent to processes of reform and points to the manner in which the involvement of a range of different actors produces idiosyncratic results. It challenges notions of contemporary Islamic reform as something linear and fixed and argues that such processes are multifaceted and open-ended.
Footnotes
1
Because jinn has become common word in English, I have chosen to use the English plural “s” instead of the Arabic plural form.
 
2
Field-log, 7 August 2005.
 
3
This refers to the Prophet, his immediate companions and their successors until the third century of the Islamic calendar.
 
4
For details on the early history of Islam in Bale, see Østebø (2005, 2012).
 
5
For details on the pilgrimage to Sheikh Hussein, see Østebø (2012, pp. 66, 94).
 
6
The ateetee has been understood as a divinity, spirit, or cult or as a “female spirit”. For more details, see Østebø (2012, p. 89).
 
7
See Janice Boddy (1989, p. 131f.) for an overview.
 
8
This is also the case among the Oromo of western Ethiopia (Bartels 1983,p. 196). See also Leus and Salvadori (2006).
 
9
By comparison, the Gujji Oromo were said to distinguish between the indigenous Waaqa spirits (Waaqa sinbirra (bird), Waaqa boro (household), Waaqa mendisu (lightning)) and a new type of spirit arriving from the outside. This latter type was sub-divided into ayaanaa, jinn and shetana. The ayaanaas were moreover said to be “Muslim spirits” associated with the cult of Shaykh Husayn of Bale (Hinnant 1990, p. 70f.).
 
10
Oral interview, 7 August 2005.
 
11
While karaama in Arabic signifies miracles performed by those who possess baraka, karaama is in Bale commonly used instead of baraka and understood as the ability or power to perform miracles (cf. Ishihara 1996).
 
12
See Østebø (2012) for more details on the history of Salafism in Bale.
 
13
Oral interview, 17 August 2005.
 
14
Oral interview, 17 May 2005.
 
15
Oral interview, 5 June 2006.
 
16
Coffee ceremonies are connected to broader notions in which coffee had clear religious overtones among a number of different groups in Ethiopia. Eike Haberland (1963) has noted that coffee was viewed as medicine against illness, and Tubiana refers to the drinking of coffee in connection to zar rituals, claiming that coffee was a “ritual zar drink” (1991, p. 21).
 
17
At this point the victim will fall unconscious, and appears “normal” when he or she wakes up. A similar usage of ashes in connection with spirit healings is found among the Christians in Sidamo (Vecchiato 1993).
 
18
Oral interview, August 26, 2005.
 
19
Oral interview, August 15, 2005.
 
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Metadata
Title
The revenge of the Jinns: spirits, Salafi reform, and the continuity in change in contemporary Ethiopia
Author
Terje Østebø
Publication date
01-01-2014
Publisher
Springer Netherlands
Published in
Contemporary Islam / Issue 1/2014
Print ISSN: 1872-0218
Electronic ISSN: 1872-0226
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11562-013-0282-7

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