Grand Mosque of Touba, Senegal
One of the largest and most prominent Sufi orders in Senegal, Murīdiyya (Murid), is based in the city of Touba.
The Mouride brotherhood was founded in 1883 by Shaykh Ahmadu Bàmba Mbàkke (1850-1927) (Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Habīb Allāh, also called Khadīmu r-Rasūl or "Servant of the Prophet" in Arabic and Sëriñ Tuubaa or "Holy Man of Touba" in Wolof). He was born in the village of Mbacké (Mbàkke Bawol in Wolof) in the Kingdom of Baol, the son of a marabout from the Xaadir (Qadiriyya) brotherhood (the oldest in Senegal).
tomb of Amadou Bamba
Amadou Bamba was a Muslim mystic and ascetic marabout who wrote tracts on meditation, rituals, work, and Qur'anic study. He is perhaps best known for his emphasis on work, and his disciples are known for their industriousness. Although he did not support the French conquest, he did not wage outright war on them as several prominent Tijaan marabouts had done. He taught, instead, what he called the jihād al-'akbar or "greater struggle," which fought not through weapons but through learning and fear of God.
Bamba's followers call him a "renewer" (mujaddid in Arabic) of Islam, citing a hadith that implies that God will send renewers of the faith every 100 years (the members of all the Senegalese brotherhoods claim that their founders were such renewers). Bamba's fame spread through his followers, and people joined him to receive the salvation that he promised. Salvation, he said, comes through submission to the marabout and hard work, a departure from conventional Islamic teaching.
Amadou Bamba has only one surviving photograph, in which he wears a flowing white robe and his face is mostly covered by a scarf. This picture is venerated and reproduced in paintings on walls, buses, taxis, etc. all over Senegal.
The French colonial rule worried about Bamba's growing power and potential to wage war against them. He had converted various kings and their followers and probably could have raised an army if he had wanted. The French sentenced him to exile in Gabon (1895-1902) and later in Mauritania (1903-1907). However, these exiles fired wild legends about Bamba's miraculous survival of torture, deprivation, and attempted executions, and thousands more flocked to his organization. On the ship to Gabon, forbidden from praying, Bamba is said to have broke his leg-irons, leapt overboard into the ocean and prayed on a prayer rug that appeared on the surface of the water, so devout was he. Or, when the French put him in a furnace, he simply sat down in it and drank tea with Muhammad. In a den of hungry lions, the lions slept beside him, etc.
By 1910, the French realized that Bamba was not waging war against them, and was in fact quite cooperative. His doctrine of hard work served French economic interests. His movement was allowed to grow, and in 1926 he began work for the great mosque at Touba where he is buried. After his death in 1927, he has been succeeded by his descendants as hereditary leaders of the brotherhood with absolute authority over the followers.
One famous disciple of Bamba, Ibra Fall, was known for his dedication to God, but Qu'ranic studies proved difficult for him. Amadou Bamba finally decided he should show his dedication to God purely through manual labor. Ibra Fall founded a sub-group of the Muridiyya called the Baye Fall (Baay Faal in Wolof), many of whom substitute hard labor and dedication to their marabout for the usual Muslim pieties like prayer and fasting.
The members of Baye Fall dress in colorful ragged cloths, wear their hair in dreadlocks, carry clubs, and act as security guards in the annual Grand Magal pilgrimages to Touba. Baye Fall are unusual in that some of them freely drink alcohol and smoke cannabis, things forbidden by orthodox Islam. In modern times the hard labor is often replaced by members roaming the streets asking for financial donations for their marabout. They are very noticeable, and somewhat pushy, features of Senegalese society. A prominent member of the Baye Fall is the Senegalese Musician Cheikh Lo.
Grand Mosque of Touba, Senegal
Many mainstream Muslims consider the Mourides' extreme adulation of Amadou Bamba, and his lineage of successors, to be blasphemous, since the latter gets more attention than the Prophet Muhammad, and Touba is ranked over Mecca.
The Mouride brotherhood has attempted, with considerable success over the years, to dominate politics in Senegal. In Paris and New York City, its followers are mostly small street merchants. They send large sums of money back to the brotherhood leaders in Touba. Recent prominent Mourides include Abdoulaye Wade who is the current president of Senegal. Wade is a devout Mouride (while his defeated opponent Abdou Diouf belongs to the Tijaniyya movement). The day after his election, Wade traveled to Touba to seek the blessing of the Grand Marabout, Serigne Saliou Mbacke.
washing in preparation for prayer
doors to inner mosque
residence of Grand Marabout, Serigne Saliou Mbacke.
People and Places