InnerVisions Books

"TOTALLY Africentric!"


      African Imports          Africentric Library                Bath & Body          Black News, Views and Info

Kente cloth

Sufis in Africa http://www.israelite.net/newanim.gif (26402 bytes)
Islam is the world's largest religion with a following of over one billion people called Muslims. The word "Islam" actually means "submission to God." Therefore, a Muslim is one who strives to submit to God.

Islam has spread across the entire globe. Muslims can be found in North and South America as well as in Western Europe, but they are predominately found in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Their predominant homelands lie in the area commonly referred to as the "10/40 Window" (between 10 degrees latitudinal north and 40 degrees latitudinal north ranging from the eastern side of North Africa to the western side of Asia). About 60% of Muslims are Asian. The regional breakdown of Muslims in the rest of the world is Arab world, 22%; sub-Sahara African, 12%; Eastern Europe, 5%. The rest are scattered through the world.

Muslims believe in one God, whose name in Arabic is Allah. They believe in good and bad angels. They believe in Satan, as well. All believe in a Day of Judgment on which God will send people to either heaven or hell. They acknowledge that God has sent many prophets to earth, including Adam, Abraham, Moses, David many of the Christian holy men. They also believe that Ishmael (the father of the Arab world), not Isaac, received the promise from God through Abraham; this helps to explain why Arab Muslims feel that their claim to the Holy Land is a God-given right.

Tasawwuf:  Sufism, as it is sometimes called, is essentially a process of discipline which seeks to refine the individuals character ridding him of such constraints and weakness as will  curtail him from serving the cause of his Lord, for which he has been created.  It is significant to note that all the majaddidun that the region of West Africa has seen have gone through the discipline of  Tasawwuf.  It was Tasawwuf which tamed their character cleansed them of greed for material wealth and the fear of any other than their Lord.  Content which their austere life, fired by the fear of their Lord these Mujaddidun and their followers were able to carry the process of Tajdeed through  the numerous obstacles they had to surmount.

The majority of Senegalese Moslems belong to one of four Sufi "brotherhoods" or orders (confréries in French, tarixa in Wolof): The Mourides, the Tidjanes, the Khadirs, and the Layènes. As elsewhere in the world, one belongs to a particular religious group primarily because one's father or religious initiator was a member, although Mouridism seems at the moment to have a special appeal to young people.

KHADIR - Founded in Baghdad and very widespread in the Muslim world, this order historically in Senegal was limited to peoples of the Senegal River valley until it spread in the l9th and 20th centuries to the Casamance and Upper Gambia, where more than half of the Mandinkas belong to this brotherhood. Its teachings emphasize Islamic (including legal) learning. Its Senegalese Khalifa (head) lives in the holy town of Ndiassane, near Thiès. Another important branch is based in Mimzat, in Mauritania.

Tijani (TIDJA'NE)- A Toucouleur militant, El Hadji Omar Tall, brought this teaching to Senegal from Morocco in the l9th century. In the early 20th century, many as yet unconverted Wolof also adopted this teaching through the efforts of El Hadji Malick Sy after Tall's death. He established his headquarters at Tivaouane. It began as a form of cultural resistance against the French, especially in the trading centers and towns along the railroad line. Today there are several branches to this brotherhood, including the late Saidou Nourou Tall's following in Dakar, the Niassène in the Kaolack region who run a boarding school whose students include some African-Americans, and the Tienaba-Tienaba in the Thiès region.

MOURIDE - Amadou Bamba M'Backé, who founded this brotherhood as an offshoot of the Khadirya, is revered as a saint by his followers. He established his center at Touba where there stands today the largest mosque in Senegal, indeed it is probably the largest in sub-saharan Africa. In the late l9th century Cheikh Amadou Bamba clashed repeatedly with the French whose influence he opposed and who, in turn, were uncertain of his intentions. Thus he was exiled to Gabon for seven years, but this only enhanced his aura. His teachings emphasized hard physical work and unquestioning devotion to the marabout, as well as the standard religious observances of Islam. One particularly devout follower of Bamba was Ibra Fall, descendent of a family of "ceddo" (crown slaves and warriors). Frustrated in his knight role by the French-instigated breakup of the traditional Wolof hierarchy, Fall attracted followers to Mouridism who believed that work was a form of prayer. These "Baye Fall" formed the backbone of the peanut cultivation efforts promoted by the French and today continue in this role. They are exempt from the fasting, prayer and other exigencies of Islam and distinguish themselves by their patchwork type clothing, long dreadlocks, multiple "grisgris" (amulets) and large wooden clubs. Urban youths affecting the appearance of Baye Fall, as well as real Baye Fall displaced by the drought-related urban migration, may be seen on the streets of Dakar chanting and begging. They form a minor, but colorful faction of the Mouride brotherhood.

  • The Tijaniya, named after Shaykh Ahmad al-Tijani (1737-1815 CE) is an important Sufi order primarily in Africa. See a short biographical sketch, Shaykh Ahmed al-Tijani by Baruti M. Kamau, who is affiliated with the Tijani order. One of the most significant Tijani shaykhs was Hajj 'Umar Tal al-Futi. For him, a useful starting point is this Biography of Hajj 'Umar Tal al-Futi (1794-1863), written by the African-American Muslim writer Baruti Muhammadu D.S. Kamau. (Added, January 14, 2001.) Centers of activity are in West Africa, Morocco (where Shaykh al-Tijani's tomb is located), and Egypt. While there are a number of Tijani shaykhs today, one of the most significant is Hassan Cisse (link fixed 15 January 2002). See this Introduction to the Tariqa Tijaniyya (link fixed 15 January 2002) for a summary of the principles of the Tijani path, the most important of which are 1) Asking God for forgiveness, 2) Saying La ilaha illa 'llah (There is no god but God), and 3) Offering prayers of blessing upon the Prophet Muhammad. The Tijaniya has a significant following among African-Americans in the United States. The article The Tijaniyya, a Tariqa of the 20th century contains a short biography of Shaykh Ahmad al-Tijani and brief discussions of a few of the more important 20th century and contemoporary shaykhs. The author of the article, Muhammad ‘Isa Mavongou, is a French convert to Islam and a disciple of a Mauritanian Tijani shaykh, Sheikh El Haj ‘Abdallah ould Michry. The African American Islamic Institute, (link fixed 15 January 2002) is a Tijani institution which publishes a newsletter A center has also been established in Trieste, Italy. 


  • The Muridiyya, established by Shaykh Ahmadu Bamba (d. 1927) is an order of major importance in Senegal and has a presence in various other countries, including France, England, and the U.S. The tomb of Ahmadu Bamba in Touba, in Western Senegal, is a major pilgrimage site. There are a large number of various Muridiya websites listed here.

  • Orders in North Africa

  • Sudanic Africa is an online scholarly journal containing, among other things, numerous articles on Sufism in Islamic Africa.
  • Ibriziana a PDF file (which you can read if you have Adobe Acrobat) by Dr. Bernd Radtke from the online journal Sudanic Africa, concerns one of the most important Sufi texts, the Ibriz of Ibn Dabbagh. The Ibriz is of great significance in the development of the Tariqa Muhammadiya, a Sufi orientation emphasizing the cosmic importance of the Prophet Muhammad, and was an important work for a few North African Sufi orders. 

    Orders in East Africa

  • Sufism in the Somaliland is an academic article written by one of the chief authorities of East African Islam, I.M. Lewis. This article comes from London's Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (BSOAS), v. 17, 1955. I would be interested in an update, however, since it is over forty years old. 
  • Somali-Ethiopian Sufis and Shrines, part of a scholarly article by Ulrich BraukŠmper. (Back on-line 6/22/98)
  • The Tomb of Shaykh Abadir, the patron saint of Harer Ethiopia. 

    Orders in West Africa

  • Sufi Orders in Mauritania

    Orders in South Africa

  • "Some Religion He Must Have": Slaves, Sufism, and Conversion to Islam at the Cape a lengthy and well-documented scholarly paper written by Dr. John Edwin Mason, professor of History, University of Virginia.
  • Turning to the core: Sufism on the Rise? by Dr. Abdulkader Tayob, professor of Religious Studies, University of Cape Town, is a short survey of contemporary Sufi activity in South Africa.
  •  The Tijani tariqa

    The Tijani Sufi tariqa was founded by Ahmad al-Tijani, who lived in the 18th-19th Century C.E. in Morocco, and it has manyMarabout Mandinque followers in West Africa and Sudan. This web page is from the branch of this tariqa which is headed by Shaykh Hassan Cisse, who is based in Senegal and who also has strong ties to the USA. Shaykh Hassan is also the founder of the African American Islamic Institute which has done incredible work in many African American communities, for which Shaykh Hassan has been honored by being given the key to several US cities. He was awarded the Certificate of Merit by the city of New Orleans, which also proclaimed October 2, 1996, to be Shaykh Hassan Cisse Day.

    Superlative Sources:

    Biographical Encyclopaedia of Sufis : South Asia/N. HanifBiographical Encyclopaedia of Sufis
    Author: N. Hanif;
    highlights on the biographical outline of the prominent Sufis of Africa and Europe in alphabetical order. The Sufis maintain that the intellect gives information concerning the phenomenal world, it does not reveal the nature of infinite God and his attributes. According to the Sufis it is the mystical experience which leads to the knowledge of God (marifa). In his communion with God, the Sufi becomes one with him and the divinities disclosed. God head is directly experienced by him. Moreover, rational or intellectual knowledge is indirect. The rational proceeds with that which is different from the truth: the Gnostic begins his mystical quest for God after leaving everything which is other than God. The Sufi doctrine of unification of God is not similar to the Quranic concept of the unity of God. The follower of Islam believes in one God, however the sufi believes in the unity of God and releases his identity with God."

    West African Sufi: The Religious Heritage and Spiritual Quest of Cerno Bokar Saalif TaalWest African Sufi: The Religious Heritage and Spiritual Quest of Cerno Bokar Saalif Taal
    Author: Louis Brenner;

    Louis Brenner is Professor of the History of Religion in Africa at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. 

    African Islam and Islam in Africa: Encounters Between Sufis and Islamists
    Author: Eva Evers Rosander;
    This is a book about the various forms of Islam found in contemporary Africa and about the encounters or clashes between them. The perspective is inter-disciplinary, and the theme is elucidated from several different fields and angles.

    African Islam and Islam in Africa makes a major contribution to the literature on Islamic Africa. It is particularly welcome because the editors have eschewed the usual rubrics of “Sub-Saharan Africa” or “North Africa” and have succeeded in putting together a series of essays on Islamic Africa that treat the African Muslim world as an integrated whole.


    A Saint in the City: Sufi Arts of Urban Senegal ISBN: 0930741935 - compare prices A Saint in the City: Sufi Arts of Urban Senegal

    Author: Allen F. Roberts  Mary Nooter Roberts 
    More than four million Senegalese follow the Mouride Way, a Sufi movement based on the teachings of Sheikh Amadou Bamba, a mystic who died in 1927. A single surviving photograph of Bamba, taken around 1913 and reproduced in this fascinating monograph, has become iconic: in it, Bamba wears a startlingly white, long-sleeved robe and a loose, white wrap across his head; his features are difficult to discern, sharply in shadow and light, and his standing posture is direct and upright. Mourides believe that images of Bamba offer potency, protection and prosperity. Artists across Senegal, but mostly centered in Dakar, have taken this arresting image and infinitely reproduced it, creating devotional murals, textiles and glass art.

    Book Cover

    Sufi Women of America : Angels in the Making
    Author: Laleh Bakhtiar;

    Seven contemporary Sufi women are interviewed and their responses are compared to traditional psychology. This book has received rave reviews by main stream America because it shows how Western women come to submission to God's Will (islam) and then sought the further dimension of commitment to inner change as part of the Sufi way of purification of the soul (tazkiyah-i nafs).

    Book Cover

    The Sufi Orders in Islam,
    Author: John Spencer. Trimingham;

    Sufism, the name given to Islamic mysticism, has been the subject of many studies, but the orders through which the organizational aspect of the Sufi spirit was expressed have been neglected. Here, author J. Spencer Trimingham offers a clear and detailed account of the formation and development of the Sufi schools and orders (tariqas) from the second century of Islam until modern times. Trimingham focuses on the practical disciplines behind the mystical aspects of Sufism which initially attracted a Western audience. He shows how Sufism developed and changed, traces its relationship to the unfolding and spread of mystical ideas, and describes in sharp detail its rituals and ceremonial practices.

    kline1.gif - 4.2 K


    Tabala Wolof: Sufi Drumming Of Senegal

    MOURIDISM is a recent phenomenon in Senegal, where Islam is organized through brotherhoods, or tariqats, in the same way as it is in other West African nations, such as Nigeria and the Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast). In Senegal, however, French colonial pressure turned Islam into a means of resistance and force. A preacher of the Koran, named Ahmadou Bamba, encouraged the people to work and to persevere with the thought of salvation in the next life - an idea spread by spiritual guides, known as Marabouts. The Marabouts gained a mass popular following in desperate times, and are today extremely prominent, with their followers being called Mourides. Mourides of the Baye Fall (followers of one of Bamba's disciples) have a very distinct appearance: they are usually thin and gaunt, with a mass of dreadlock hair. The most famous musician is Cheikh Lo, fast being recognized as the new voice of African music, with two recordings so far for London-based World Circuit Records, who, fortunately for distribution to American audiences, recently forged a deal with Nonesuch, a subsidiary of Atlantic Records. Cheikh Lo has been likened to Africa's greatest pop star, Youssou N'Dour, who is also a Mouride, and, in fact, produced Lo's second album. But the spiritual aspect of Lo's music is far more prominent, although still a world away from styles such as Qawwali, or Moroccan Trance.

    This Mouridian style of music is called mbalax, and uses a complex beat not easily appreciated by Western ears. While N'Dour attempted to overcome this by using many Western instruments, Lo has chosen to record his songs acoustically, believing that this simpified approach allows for much greater public accessibility. For his own particular type of music, Lo has won numerous awards in Africa, including an Order of National Merit from the President of Senegal. He has also managed to tour successfully throughout Europe, perhaps due to the large and supportive emigrant populations of Senegalese, particularly in Italy and France, where they number over 35,000 and 60,000 respectively (Istituto Nazionale di Statistica and Recensements de la population de 1990 et 1999). Lo, however, is by no means alone in creating music distinctive of the region. He has many contemporaries, male and female, who have yet to gain any audience outside Senegal or Senegalese communities: artists such as the young female ensemble, Groupe Sope Noreyni, or Omar Pene, a male political singer.

    Another follower of Ahmadou Bamba is Musa Dieng Kala, who is considered the 'Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan' of black Africa. Kala is signed to Shanachie Records (based in New York) and sings Sufi chants mixed with African rhythms, occasionally in the local language, Wolof. Kala's style is different to Lo's. He dedicates his work to the poetry of Sufi saint, Bamba, and has played with mixed nationality Sufi ensembles world-wide. Nevertheless, he has chosen to use the pop-crossover route of Youssou N'Dour and Salif Keita, in order to broaden his horizons.

    Senegalese Sufis also perform sama, but tend to use African-style drums to induce the trance state. This is called 'Tabala Wolof', and involves a set of 3 to 5 tuned wooden kettledrums. One lead drummer uses two sticks on a bass drum, while the others use a single stick, and the ceremony takes place at night to inspire ecstatic singing and dancing. The form originates from the original Qadiriya brotherhood, which was formed in Baghdad in the 12th century, and is still prominent throughout West Africa today. In Senegal, however, it has mixed uniquely with Senegalese drumming. The only digital recording of this music that exists is entitled, Tabala Wolof: Sufi Drumming of Senegal, available on Village Pulse Records (VP1002CD). So the commercial music selection is quite thin, despite the existence of large West African populations, who can all relate to this music, throughout Europe and America. The music also has particular appeal for Western listeners, too, since it offers an African beat rather than pure religious chanting - something with which many Western listeners can already identify. A 1995 review of Tabala Wolof in Rolling Stone magazine was full of praise, pointing out that ' this field recording of an Afro-Islamic all-night ritual in Senegal' would, not so long ago, 'have languished obscurely in some ethnomusicologist's collection'. Yet today, this music, 'with more danceable beats per minute than your average 12-inch single', is commercially available (McLane, 1995).

    Mandinka Drum Master

    Artist: Mamadou Ly
    Price: $14.99
    Sufi SongsSufi Songs
    Audio CD; $17.98
    Drums of the Firdu Fula

    Artist: Amadu Bamba
    Price: $14.99
    Mandinka Drum Master

    Artist: Mamadou Ly
    Price: $14.99
    Bougarabou: Solo Drumming of Casamance

    Artist: Saikouba Badjie
    Price: $14.99
    Sabar Wolof: Dance Drumming of Senegal

    Artist: Mapathe Diop
    Price: $14.99

    Music of Islam, Vol. 5: Aissaoua Sufi Ceremony
    Audio CD; $32.98

    Gathering of EldersGathering of Elders
    Author: Al-Haji Papa Bunka Susso;
    Sotuma Sere

    Sotuma Sere

    Papa Susso


    Music of Senegal

    Morikeba Kouyate

    Ali Farka Toure
    From back cover: "This is Ali Farka Toure's first new album in five years. It was recorded in Niafunke, his village on the banks of the Niger at the edge of the Sahara - 'deep Mali, where the music belongs.'" Includes 12 tracks.
    Faso Denou
    The musicians, singers and dancers of Farafina are from Burkina Faso, West Africa. The group was formed in 1978 by Mahma Konate, who is considered to be one of Africa's finest balafon players.
    New Ancient Strings
    Toumane Diabate + Ballake Sissoko
    Africa, West Africa | | Hannibal


    Les Ballet Africains
    The African ballet of the Republic of Guinea
    A startling musical description of the initiation in the Sacred Forest by the best Guinean percussion players as well as the cristalline sound of the twenty one strings of the kora or the flashing sound of the shepherd's flute Track List: 1. Rhythms Of Africa 2. African Dawn 3. The Sacred Forest 4. The Sacred Forest (Continued) 5. Celebration 6. Final
    Truth and Light: Brief Explanations

    Truth & light: Brief  explanations
    M. R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen;


    The History of Islam in Africa is the first book to approach the role of Islam in Africa on a continent-wide basis. Until now more emphasis has been put on Islam in West Africa than any other region. The 24 contributors to the book, who all have impeccable credentials, have focused on the historical, cultural, and environmental factors which influenced diverse, local forms of Islam. This diversity has produced widely varied religious meanings, beliefs, and practices that have molded African communities which at the same time adapted Islam to its new settings.


    Book CoverMuslim Brotherhoods and Politics in Senegal
     Behrman, Lucy C. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1970).



    Book CoverThe Heritage of Islam: Women, Religion, and Politics in West Africa
    Callaway, Barbara and Lucy E. Creevy.  (Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 1994).


    Book Cover Mahdism in West Africa: The Ijebu Mahdiyya Movement
    Clark, Peter (London: Arnold, 1982).


    Book CoverMigration, Jihad, and Muslim Authority in West Africa: The Futanke Colonies in Karta 
    Hanson, John. 
    (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996).


    Book Cover   The Sword of Truth: The Life and Times of the Shehu Usuman Dan Fodio (Islam and Society in Africa)  
    Hiskett, Mervyn. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973).


    Book Cover The Sufi Brotherhoods in the Sudan (Series in Islam and Society in Africa)

    Ali Salih Karrar;


    Book CoverMuslim Brotherhoods in Nineteenth-Century Africa (African Studies)
    Author: B. G. Martin;
    Book CoverHolymen of the Blue Nile: The Making of an Arab-Islamic Community in the Nilotic Sudan, 1500-1850 (Islam and Society in Africa)

    McHugh, Neil.  (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1994).



     Book Cover
       The Society of the Muslim Brothers  Mitchell, Richart P. (London: Oxford University Press, 1969).




    Book Cover  Slaves and Slavery in Muslim Africa: The Servile Estate  2 vols.  Willis, John Ralph, ed. (London: Frank Cass, 1985).



    Book CoverGod Alone Is King : Islam and Emancipation in Senegal : The Wolof Kingdoms of Kajoor and Bawol, 1859-1914 (Social History of Africa)
    Author: James F. Searing;
     Islam's Black Slaves: The Other Black Diaspora  

    Segal, Ronald. (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001).


    The Crown and the Turban
    by Lamin O. Sanneh, Lamin Sanneh
    Image Not Available A history of Islam in West Africa (Glasgow. University. Glasgow University publications) (London: Oxford University Press, 1959).

    Trimmingham, James Spencer.


    Product image for ASIN: 0325070733God Alone Is King : Islam and Emancipation in Senegal : The Wolof Kingdoms of Kajoor and Bawol, 1859-1914 (Social History of Africa)
    Author: James F. Searing;
    ASIN : B0006S3L7AIslam from ancient African Khem to the last and final prophet 'Muhammad', as told in the ancient Khemite hieroglyphics, the Bible and the Qur'an
    Author: Ahmad Abd'Allah Muhammad;
    Book CoverWest African Secret Societies
    Author: F. W. Butt-Thompson;

    Product image for ASIN: 0521534518Muslim Brotherhoods in Nineteenth-Century Africa (African Studies)
    Author: B. G. Martin;


    Mourides of Senegal: The Political & Economic Organization of an Islamic Brotherhood (Oxford Studies in African Affairs)
    Cruise O’Brien, Donal. 
    Sufism And Religious Brotherhoods In Senegal
    Hunwick, John O.

    The advent and growth of Islam in West Africa
    Author: E. O Babalola;

    Development of Islam in West Africa (Longman studies in African history)  
    Hiskett, Mervyn. (London: Longman, 1984).

    The Wahhabiyya: Islamic Reform and Politics in French West Africa (Studies in African religion)  
    Kaba, Lansiné.  (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1974).

    Islam in West Africa: Religion, Society and Politics to 1800
    Nehemia Levtzion. 1994.  

    kline1.gif - 4.2 K

    Home | Onepeoples Ezine | African Craft Caravan | Earthly Essentials |
    | InnerVisions Bookstore | Contact  |

    kline1.gif - 4.2 K