Week 7: Defining Islamic practice

Who has the Power?

Who has the Power?

This week in section, we discussed the Beggar’s Strike, a Senegalese satire of the transactional relationship between the common people of the town, the beggars and the marabouts. We discussed the interesting dynamic of who was really the most powerful force in the story, whether it was God, the citizens, the beggars, or the marabouts. In general, this week, we discussed how certain ritualistic practices of Islam would always be influenced by the context and culture they are practiced in. This story deals with the practice of charity and the duty of all Muslims to help those that are less fortunate. The main character Mour Ndaiye, was solely preoccupied with advancing in society and used every avenue he could to accomplish his goal of becoming Vice President. In my drawing, I depict him being pulled in different directions by the other characters in the narrative and how his relationship with God is weakened due to his lack of sincerity in the intent of giving to the poor. One part of the story that stuck with me was when one of the beggars noted that he knew that the wealthier townspeople didn’t really care to improve their condition, but rather, they cared more about their self-preservation and the fact that they were getting prayers and blessing in return for their money. The marabouts are also somewhat satirized, especially Serigne Birama, who gets jealous that Mour is consulting another marabout about how he should deal with the beggars and therefore increase his status.

Interestingly, the transactional relationship between beggars and townspeople had already existed prior to the application of an Islamic lens of giving charity. Also, the powerful role of marabout, as a sort of intercessor or intermediary between God and the people, gets critiqued because there is a tension between whether this person is advising people for the sake of Islam or whether they are more interested in profiting from the transactional relationship with their followers due to their charismatic and powerful personalities. I also include the influence of postcolonial structures on the reasons for Mour even wanting to deal with the beggars in the first place. The are also a powerful force in the community. I show that Mour is being tugged to one side for all these reasons, but on the other side, the bigger hand represents God’s power, which is believed to ultimately be the underlying force of his fate.

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