The vast area of Sudan, covering about 1,886,068 sq.km, allowed for considerable diversity geographically and culturally.
With its considerable area, it was and is still exposed for human movement from different directions and not from the north and east as guesstimated before. Thus the sway of Islam in Sudan has to be envisioned as coming from numerous directions at different times, as displayed in art and architecture. Another factor that influenced material culture is that Islam in Sudan bore two faces; the orthodox and the ecstatic (Sufi). Each brought a distinctive set of institutions. The first emphasized mosques and schools while the second emphasized the khalwa in which the teacher is a holy man, who possesses Baraka (blessing), received through ascetic practices and spiritual exercises. Sufism brought to Sudan the orders which dictated a new form of social organization. Consequently, popular Islam can be seen as a harmonious blending of old cultures and many non-Islamic traits were sealed in the context of the new religion, which itself had an innate flexibility sufficient to accommodate local beliefs. The present day Sudanese identity can be inferred from the non-Islamic beliefs practiced today especially at cemeteries.
Sidi alHassan Khalwa, River Nile State
Remains of khalwa, Magasir Island, Northern State
Muslim cemeteries have long been neglected as devoid of valuable information. It became obvious from recent researches that cemeteries can reflect identity of the people. There were many traditional practices at the burials and domed tombs which were observed by the 18th and 19th travellers e.g. the spread of pebbles on the surface of the grave, placing pots filled with water, dhura cones rubbing of famous sheikhs’ tombstone to use the powder for blessing and medication.
Al Hassanab cemetery , al Khandaq , Northern State
The sheikhs’ burial places are regarded as holy and safe place to store objects. Infants and foetus are usually buried either next to a qubba or a sheikhs grave, females graves in certain areas are indicated by three tombstones
Al Hassanab cemetery , showing infants burial, al Khandaq, northern State
The position of these qubbas relative to Islamic archaeology is highly important, since a greater number of them are still standing. They present an architectural legacy whereby archaeology can trace origins and influences relative to earlier periods. This helps in clarifying the continuity and persistence of cultures in the Sudan, it shows Kushite, Meroitic , Christian and Islamic elements blended to the benefit of Islam. They can be used to demonstrate the power of imported ideas, their sources and the circumstances associated with the importation of the new style.
Tha Qubba of Hamad , al khandaq, northern state
The Qubba of sheikh Ibrahim, Sinkat, Red Sea state
The qubba of Sorkati, Argo, Northern State
A Gubba, kerma vicinity, Nortern State
Qubbas at Wad Nemeiri, Northern State
Qubbas at Hameed, Northern State
The lesser shrines
Lesser shrines may be a simple mud or stone building, with or without roof, or a ring of crudely piled stones are of equal importance to qubbas when it comes to research and analysis, some of them were once mosques and khalwas in the neighbourhood before being turned into burial areas. The process of transformation starts when a sheikh dies. He will be buried without hesitation either in his khalwa room or next to it, and then a dome will be erected over the grave by his followers. His successor will follow in either inside the same gubba or a new one will be erected next to it. Other less important members of the family and close followers will be buried around the qubba, henceforth a cemetery is in the making and a khalwa is waning. Some of these simple shrines are also said to be the tombs. While a greater number commemorate places where a saint is reputed to have gone into retreat or to have performed a miracle or perhaps where he revealed himself in a dream (bayan).
They are cultural indicators as well as they bear decorative elements, verses from the Quran, Sufi poems or supplications and prayers. They can tell us about people literacy and where there was a strong Sufi influence and which areas were strictly Sunni