This book is a study of the evidence that exists to this day in the Niger Republic, and in the adjacent regions of Saharan and non-Saharan Africa, about the life of Sidi Mahmud al-Baghdadi, who, it is believed, introduced new doctrines of Oriental Sufism into the Air Massif during the 16th century. He was slain by the then Sultan of the city of Agades, though the Sufi order that he had founded survived amongst his Tuareg and non-Tuareg followers of whom a number were scholars of note and who emanated from a tradition of Saharan scholarship that dates back to the post-Almoravid age, from the 12th and 13th centuries. Some of the sources that tell of the life and death of this saint and religious teacher are oral traditions. However, by far the most comprehensive account of his teachings is to be found in the 17th-century text of "Qudwat al-Muctaqid" which was allegedly written by Shaykh Ahmad B.Uwayis, the Lamtuna Tuareg. The teachings of Sidi Mahmud were to reappear recently in the Khalwatiyya Sufi order ("Tariqa") in Niger. They are still important for contemporary Islam in that republic which is a bridge between the Arab world and the Muslim states of the African Sahel.
There is also evidence to suggest that initiated members of the "Mahmudiyya" Sufi order were once to be found throughout the entire Southern Sahara, from Timbuctoo in the West to Borno and Lake Chad in the East. This Sufi order was one of the earliest to be founded in the area of Air which was a crossroads of African trade and of rival empires and of conflicting tribes and peoples.
`As elegantly written as all the author's previous books, this work is an important contribution to the study of Sahelian Islam, of which H.T. Norris is undoubtedly one of the finest specialists'.
Dominique Casajus, Bulletin, School of Oriental and African Studies, LIV, 3, 1990.
'With the publication of this book Professor Norris once again offers the promise of a useful controbution to an often neglected field that, over the years, has become largely his own - the cultural and intellectual history of Saharan Islam ... Norris's translation of the Qudwa is interesting ... and competently done throughout ... the work ... is clearly the product of a high degree of scholarly expertise.'
Vincent J. Cornell, Duke University, North Carolina, Journal of Islamic Studies, Vol. IV, No. 1, 1993
'H. T. Norris's book contains a useful description of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Sufism in the Nigerian mountains and an important translation of fragments of the Qudwa referring to the history and practice of Mahmudiyya Sufism.'
Ioan P. Culianu, University of Chicago, The Journal of Religion
The visit of Shaykh Ahmad as-Yamani to the city of Agades; the Daghughiyyun Sharifs and scholars of the family of al-Hajj settle in Central Sahara; Shaykh Sidi al-Mahmud al-Baghdadi and his arrival in Air in the 16th century; the followers of Sidi Mahmud and their disciples; doctrines of the "Mahmudiyya"; rules for the hermitages in Air; the martyrdom of Sidi Mahmud; the later history of the "Mahmudiyya".