Traditional Islamic Scholarly Culture in Northern Cameroon, 1900 to the Present


Dr. Ahmed Khalid Ayong

Research Area:


This dissertation examines how the jauleru (lit. vestibule, entrance hall), also known as the majlissa (scholarly circle), a deep-rooted institution of Islamic advanced learning in the old Adamawa region, has achieved a remarkable level of influence in Northern Cameroon. Drawing on social, historical, biographical, religious and ethnographic research, it provides an account of Islamic scholarship in the region. The study traces several networks of religious knowledge acquisition back to Yola, the capital of the ancient Islamic Emirate of Adamawa under the charismatic leadership of Modibbo Adama (1771–1847). The study also gives due credit to the môdibbo (Muslim scholar), as the most vital asset in shaping scholarly and spiritual authority in Northern Cameroon. It analyzes the question of whether the jauleru has been able to evolve and adapt to meet the challenges posed by the rise of the madrasa (Islamic school) and its precursors, the ustādhs trained in Middle-Eastern institutions of learning. The findings further demonstrate that, in this region, the emergence of the madrasa paved the way for a scholarly generation referred to in this dissertation by the coinage môdi-ustādhs, combining the words môdibbo and ustādh to reflect the “hybrid pedagogies” and “hybrid epistemologies” that this study argues they practice, blurring the lines between the two institutions of learning, each borrowing from the other for pragmatic reasons. It is argued throughout the dissertation that the aim of the madrasa-trained reformists in this region was only ever to “Wahhabize” the jauleru, and not, as others have argued, to wholly erase it as an old and outdated institution, due to the conviction that the traditional (jauleru) way of learning is still the most arduous, thorough and genuine way to acquire Islamic knowledge in the region and the Muslim world in general.