Alhaji Yusuf Soalihu Ajura (Afa Ajura)

Reflections on Continued Islamic Renewal in Ghana, 1890–2010

Alhaji Abdulai Iddrisu


This article interrogates the long history of continued Islamic renewal in the north of Ghana that privileges continuous reinterpretation of the Islamic ideal. It contextualizes three approaches at renewal: (a) the non-pacifist approach of Mahdi Musa, and (b) the pacifist jihad of al-Hajj Umar Abi Bakr of Kete-Krachi (1850–1934), both of which anticipated (c) the activities of Afa Ajura from the 1950s. But then, as significant as Alhaji Yusuf Soalihu Afa Ajura is in the dynamics of religious change in mid-twentieth-century Ghana, research on Afa Ajura is still embryonic. The article thus examines the poems of Afa Ajura (recently made available) and his da’wa activities in contesting Niasse Tijaniyya, the maltreatment of women, and his insistence on the common good, the sum of which often led to open conflagrations and turned Afa Ajura into a religious phenomenon. The poems represent as much of Afa Ajura’s patterns of thought as those of his followers and serve as a vehicle for popularizing their worldview. The paper concludes that the claim to legitimacy at the level of the faithful is not restricted to abusive denunciations but an interplay of social and political sensibilities.

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