Can Sudan, one of Africa's most diverse countries, function as an Islamic state? Mahmud Muhammad Taha posed an original answer to this question. Taha was the charismatic leader of the 'Republican Brothers and Sisters', a small group of Sudanese nationalists who called for a mystical, inclusive reinterpretation of Islam that ended traditional legal discriminations against women and non-Muslims. Taha's followers pitched his sometimes controversial mix of law and mysticism on Sudanese street corners in the 1970s. Sudanese Islamist politicians, who used a more divisive interpretation of Islam, opposed him vigorously. When they gained control of the state in the chaotic 1980s, Taha was executed. In Taha's first biography, Edward Thomas explores the life and ideas of an important Sudanese reformer who has become a symbol for resistance, tolerance and human rights.
Edward Thomas completed his PhD at Edinburgh University. He has worked in the Middle East and Sudan for the last 10 years. He is currently Child Protection Adviser for UNMIS in Sudan.