Mythological Knowledge and the Secularization of Africa


“We believe that Islamic society has been held back by an unwillingness to subject its beliefs, laws and practices to critical examination, by a lack of respect for the rights of the individual, and by an unwillingness to tolerate alternative viewpoints or to engage in constructive dialogue”  

The Institute for the Secularisation of Islamic Society


Amongst indigenous knowledge, mythological knowledge determine life-long beliefs and lifestyles and is often linked to the spirit of the dead (pan-vitalism) through temple-less ancestors worshiping, veneration, divinizing, cult and reverence for ancestors’ sacred places and environments. All this is closely associated with the world of death, after death and the spirits and closely associated to the environment through the preservation of the land of the ancestors.


Many Africans organize their lives by following the guiding beliefs and principles of animist or similar knowledge. This keep them close to the environment, with the environment, inside the environment, fitting in the environment and respectful of its providence (and its spirits). They tend to adapt to the environment and to adopt the environment. For them the natural environment is god.


On the other hand, the evangelization and islamization of knowledge, which influence the lives of a majority of Africans, is impacting and transforming the environment and its sustainability in many subtle ways. At the fundamental level many Africans, particularly those in difficulty, may have somewhat surrendered their fates, fortunes and development prospects to a mythical ‘higher power’ and may see themselves above or outside the environment, created in the image of their imaginary mystical God (hegemonic, monopolistic, imperialistic, superior) and thus supernatural in some ways or at least not part of the environment but separated from it. Attitudes like these have, perhaps, contributed to the economic successes and the environmental failures of the industrialized North.


In the African context, however, strong Evangelical and Islamic undercurrents with enormous funds and power have been proliferating on the fertile grounds of poverty, illiteracy, despair, innocence, credulity, trustfulness, anxieties and vulnerabilities. This strong faith-based knowledge is changing the environment-economy equation in many ways.