SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Haustein, Jörg (2020) 'Religion, Politics and an Apocryphal Admonition: The German East African “Mecca Letter” of 1908 in Historical-Critical Analysis.' Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 83 (1). pp. 95-125.

Text - Accepted Version
Download (411kB) | Preview


This article analyses a Muslim missive, which was circulated in German East Africa in 1908. Erroneously dubbed the “Mecca letter,” it called believers to repentance and sparked a religious revival, which alarmed the German administration. Their primarily political interpretation of the letter was retained in subsequent scholarship, which has overlooked two important textual resources for a better understanding of the missive: the presence of similar letters elsewhere and the extant fourteen specimens in the Tanzanian National Archive. Presenting the first text-critical edition of the letter, together with a historical introduction of the extant specimens and a textual comparison to similar missives elsewhere, the article argues that the East African “Mecca letter” of 1908 was nothing more than a local circulation of a global chain letter. As such, its rapid transmission was not connected to a single political agency, but was likely prompted by a large variety of motivations.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Islam, German East Africa, Mecca Letter, Colonialism, Dream, Politics, Millennialism
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of History, Religions & Philosophies > Department of Religions & Philosophies
ISSN: 0041977X
Copyright Statement: © SOAS University of London, 2020. This is the accepted manuscript of an article published by Cambridge University Press in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, available online:
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 17 Jun 2019 08:29
Related URLs: ... african-studies

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item