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February 6, 2017. Q&A. This talk explored—in the context of Islamic West Africa—these two primary (and inter-related) senses of the meaning of the word ‘visionary’: a person who experiences ‘visions’ in dreams, trances, and waking states and a person who provides inspirational leadership for social change. In short, it is an examination of the relationship between the ‘extra-sensory’ sensorium of religious experiences and social action in the Islamic tradition of the African West. For visionary African Muslims, 'visions' were often more real than reality itself and thus had the capacity to transform it. But these visions were not limited to seeing; they were also experiences of sound and smell, touch and taste. The English language—which favors sight among its five culturally constructed senses—offers no better word to describe such all-encompassing sensory experiences than ‘vision.’

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