A well-published expert on West African Islam and comparative religion, Sanneh (Yale) has drawn fully on this dual specialization to give us Beyond Jihad. His interpretation of the introduction and spread of Islam in West Africa over a period of more than a thousand years centers on the crucial, interrelated processes of missionary and commercial transmission, local reception and adaptation, and ultimately mutual accommodation and synthesis. Characterizing this as a “pacifist tradition” may be misleading to those who understand the term as categorical opposition to war on religious or moral grounds, and there is certainly a tradition of West African jihad. But Sanneh makes a persuasive argument that the growth of West African Islam has been, and continues to be, primarily pacific rather than coercive. The book is organized thematically within a broad chronological framework, which at times seems to diminish the sense of continuity. Nevertheless, the level of scholarship, critical use of historical and religious source material, and insightful interdisciplinary approach make this book not only a good read but an outstanding contribution to Islamic, West African, and comparative religious history.“–CHOICE

Beyond Jihad is a grand narrative of the pacifist practice of inter-generational peaceful conversion and assimilation of Islam in West Africa, masterfully told by a multilingual, intellectually honest, and scholarly rigorous native son. The unique combination of down-to-earth yet sophisticated analysis by a compassionate yet impartial narrator is to be savored in multiple readings. With its expansive and comprehensive yet integrated span of religious traditions and their rejuvenation, commerce and travel, politics and anthropology, identity formation and transformation in the ancient and recent past to the future, this book is highly instructive for undergraduate and graduate students and their teachers in a range of fields and disciplines.”-Abdullahi An-Na’im, Emory Law School, author of What is an American Muslim? and Islam and the Secular State

“This important study of Islam’s peaceful development in the history of West Africa comes as a vital antidote to the scholarly overemphasis on jihad and syncretism as its defining characteristics. Drawing upon his considerable erudition and lifelong engagement with the region, Sanneh reconstructs the everyday practices of Islamic clerical work in teaching, worship, devotion, and pastoral care, showing how these fixed the habits of Muslims, most of whom never saw jihad. At a time when our media is dominated by images of religious extremism this timely book reminds us that Islam was established in West Africa not by force but though peaceful, gradual means in the hands of traders and clerics.”-David Maxwell, Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History, University of Cambridge and Fellow of Emmanuel College

Beyond Jihad offers a welcome and much-needed alternative to much of the current alarmist discourse about religious extremism and violence in West African Islam. A distinguished scholar of West African religious practice, Lamin Sanneh offers a historically grounded and finely nuanced account of the much deeper and more significant tradition of tolerance and openness that has characterized Muslim religious practice in the region.”-Leonardo A. Villalón, Professor and Dean, University of Florida