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African Writing No. 11
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Elliott Colla



Colla is chair of the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University. He is author of Conflicted Antiquities: Egyptology, Egyptomania, Egyptian Modernity (Duke University Press, 2007). He also translates works of contemporary Arabic literature, including Ibrahim Aslan's novel, The Heron, Idris Ali's Poor, and Ibrahim al-Koni's Gold Dustas well as works by Yahya al-Tahir Abdallah, Ghada Abdel Meniem and others. He is currently working on a study entitled, 9/1001: Readings in the Arabian Nights.

Elliott Colla





In African Writing:


The Teacher, by Ibrahim al-Koni  11 (Fiction)
(Translated from the Arabic by Elliott Colla)

To plant the seeds of Truth, the Sufi teacher launched a campaign against the astrologers, soothsayers and followers of the animist rites.

He arrived from Merzuq with a caravan headed toward his home in Touat. He said he belonged to the Qadiri Brotherhood and that his goal was to guide the people to the path of Freedom. When describing himself, he never failed to stress his dissent from the clerics of orthodoxy. As he told the tribe’s chief, Ádda, who had hosted him, ‘I am not playing up my dispute with other clerics in order to insinuate myself with you or to prove my sincerity. I know how much the desert tribes have suffered from them and from the thievery they perform in the name of religion. I reject their school and their methods. First they wrench faith from the language of living revelation. Then they replace divine inspiration with dead letters and dogma. They conjure Satan from his confines in the souls of men and then leave the idiots to give him chase, as if they could actually kill him in this world! And so, Satan comes to rule over men and they lose the most precious gem God ever gives to His creations, the thing he places at the heart of every religion — Freedom. Revelation is turned on its head by such error—it makes Satan men’s Lord and their Guide through life. Here is the source for the brash corruption of men. And the faith returns to being as foreign and strange as it ever was in the past.’


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