The Sufi way is Islam in Senegal. Virtually all Senegalese Moslems belong to one of the three orders; Tijaniyya, Mourides and Qadiriyya. The Tijaniyya is the largest of these representing approximately half of the population.
The Tijaniyya dates back to the end of the eighteenth century, being founded by Ahmed al-Tijani in Morocco. He was born in 1737 to a black mother and a father who was a venerated man of learning.
Ahmed al-Tijani felt the call of Sufi life when he was twenty-one years old. By this time he already had a firm foundation of Islamic learning. He travelled to Fez seeking to meet Sufi sheikhs, and applied himself to the study of the Prophetic traditions. Before he returned to Algeria, he had joined three Sufi brotherhoods including the Qadiriiya and the Nasiriyya.
In 1772, he commenced his pilgrimage to Mecca during which he was initiated into the Khalwatiyya order. Once in Mecca, he came under the Indian Sufi sheikh, Ahmad b. 'Abdullah, who died two months later, at which time al-Tijani is said to have inherited his occult mystical learning.
In 1782, Ahmad al-Tijani announced to his followers that the Prophet had appeared to him in daylight and authorised him to start his work of spiritual guidance and assigned to him the wirds (litanies) of his order, marking the beginning of the Tijaniyya order.
In 1789, he moved to Fez, where he found favour with the Sultan, and inspite of the hostility of the local population towards him, the movement flourished through Algiers, Tunissia, Morocco and Mauritania. He remained there until his death in 1815. Following his death, the brotherhood split into a number of branches through leadership rivalry.
The founder of the Tijaniyya left no treatise of his teachings at his death. The beliefs and doctrines are instead taken from books written by three of his companions containing rescripts, expositions of theological questions, and aphorisms made by al-Tijani(1).
Spread Into Senegal
The Tijaniyya spread through West Africa including Senegal through a Fulani Torodbe (aristocratic warrior class) from North Senegal, Hajj 'Umar b. Sa'id al-Futi. El Hajj 'Umar (Tall) was a brilliant man whose genius enabled him to combine successfully the roles of scholar and warrior at the same time.
He came across the Tijaniyya whilst travelling through north Africa in search of learned scholars. In 1828, he arrived in Mecca where he met Muhummad al-Ghali, a close companion of al-Tijani, who completed his instruction and appointed him muqaddam of the order.
Hajj 'Umar efforts at proselytisation fell into three broad categories. Initially, by directing his efforts towards the scholarly Soudanic community in the Muslim centres of Borno, Sokoto, Masina and Futa Jalon. A second aspect was the influence of his writings, and the third phase was the influence of his jihad (holy war) during which large numbers directly affected by his power joined the Tijaniyya. He sought to establish Islam on the pagan population, and the Tijani beliefs on the non-Tijani Muslims by force. Although he did succeed in establishing a state, and gained much popularity amongst zealous Muslims because of his resistance to French rule, the state did not last long following his death in battle at the age of seventy, largely due to French expansion, but also due to local resistance to the Tijani movement by both pagan and the majority of Muslim leaders(2).
During the nineteenth century, the Tijaniyya way was spread throughout Senegal by a number of leaders, who used more peaceful means. Al-Hajj Malik Sy, who originally came from a Wolofized Fulani family, received the Tijaniyya wird when he was eighteen from his uncle, who was connected to both Hajj 'Umar and another leading Tijaniyya, Mawlud Fal. He settled in Tivaouane, built a mosque and a Tijani zawiya, and attracted students from a number of races including Tukolor, Wolof, Lebous and Sarakolle. It remains an important centre of Islamic and Arabic Studies.
Another zawiya was established at Kaolock by Abdoulaye Niasse. This branch has become prominent. Ibrahim Nayas, his son, who has established close links with the Islamic world, has many followers outside Senegal especially in Mauritania, Nigeria, Niger, Gambia and Ghana.
The third major branch is descended from al-Hajj 'Umar which is mainly centred in the Senegal River Valley, and until 1980 was headed by 'Umar's grandson, who died at the age of 101(3).
Beliefs and Practices
At the time when the Tijaniyya order was established, the belief amongst Sufi orders that their sheikhs were organised in a spiritual hierarchy, and that the holder of each rank in it had his own functions and responsibilities, was widely held. Hence a Sufi sheikh with a reputation for sanctity and learning could claim that he had attained a certain rank in this hierarchy, which his followers could only accept on trust.
Ahmad al-Tijayi claimed to occupy the two highest positions in the Sufi hierarchy, the functions and powers of which he defined himself. These positions were Qutb al-Aqtab (the Pole of the Poles) and Khatm al-Wilaya al-Muhammadiyya (the Seal of Muhammadan Sainthood.)
A great number of Sufis had claimed to be qutbs. Al-Tijani's claim was that he was their chief. Each qutb is believed to have been the predominant power in the universe during his time; but al-Tijani claimed that he was the power from which all the other qutbs drew their spiritual authority. Furthermore Qutb al-Aqtab was God's vice-regent in all affairs of the universe. Nothing can reach the creatures from God, or God from the creatures, except through him. He is the internal content or substance of all things in the universe, and the source of creative energy in it. He also has the power to bring whatsoever he wills into creation, and no aspect of creation can defy his power.
The idea behind the Khatm is that just as Muhammad was the seal of the Prophets, so al-Tijani was the seal of the walis. He was the perfect embodiment of the wilaya, and from him all the walis before and after draw their inspiration. Spiritual emanations flow from Muhammad to the other Prophets and from them to al-Tijani from where he distributes to the rest of mankind. Hence even an ignorant Tijani is supposed to belong to a spiritual rank much higher than that of a great non-Tijani wali.
One of the greatest prizes sought by Sufis, is to know 'God's most exalted name'. In the Prophetic tradition, God has ninety-nine names, but has kept one more name secret. To know the 'most exalted name' is a way of obtaining eternal bliss since God never refuses a supplicant who uses it in his invocations.
Contrary to Sufi practice, al-Tijani produced no chain or genealogy linking him to the Prophet. Rather, he claimed a direct link as the Prophet had appeared directly to him, instructing him in the words of the litanies, and conferring on him the titles he claimed for himself.
Members of the Tijaniyya order are expected to give up membership of all other orders. They are warned against leaving it as it is commonly believed that if one does so, one would apostasize some time before death. A fear of dying in a state of unbelief combined with the presumed great merits of reciting the Tijaniyya wird explains the Tijani's strict observance of the prescribed rites.
Tijani's have been forbidden to visit living walis or the shrines of dead ones.
As in all Sufi orders, Tijanis are expected to attach themselves to a muquaddam or marabout, (initiators appointed by a sheikh) and this allegiance is like a feeling for a father. Affiliation is formally expressed through the conferring of the wird, but in practise one is considered a member by virtue of birth alone. Membership is given practical expression in the offerings which a follower makes to his marabout, through which he hopes to elicit the marabout's gratitude and with it the baraka which carries with it the promise of paradise. This offering may take the form of voluntary labour in fields owned by the marabout.
In many ways the marabouts have replaced the traditional village chief. Although belonging to an international brotherhood, organisation is usually locally based around a local lodge or zawiya. Amongst other things, these act as important sources of Islamic learning, to which the Tijaniyya are more committed than the other Orders in Senegal.
There are many practices which have animistic origins. For instance, the Marabouts are the suppliers of amulets and charms into which are written Quranic verses. These charms heal sickness, curse enemies and bring good luck, protect from the spirits and are worn constantly.
The marabouts also wield a lot of political power. Due to their influence on their followers, the government constantly seek their favour. The current president, Abdou Diouf, is a member of the Tijaniyya.
All things, to the Tijani, come as a direct result of God's will and ruling in the world. Al-Tijani stressed the futility of human enterprise and striving to bring about desirable situations. He also stressed the inability of human beings to be good Muslims. However, although humans are helpless in the face of eternally prescribed fate, al-Tijani makes men responsible for the sins they commit. The doors to Paradise are still open as he taught this is by grace, and he the appointed channel of God's grace.
As an order, the Tijaniyya are characterised by a love of rich living, in contrast to the austerity of many orders. In this, they are following the example of their founder, and justify it with a theology of thanksgiving, that is, appreciating the gifts of Almighty God, which are a sign of His favour(4).
The rites of the Tijani, in addition to the religious obligations incumbent upon all Muslims are three:
• the recitation of the wirds (litanies) of the order,
• the wazifa (office),
• participation in the hadra (seance) on Friday.
The wirds are performed twice daily, (morning and evening) and consist of:
• recitation of the formula of penitence Astaghfiru Allah(5) 100 times.
• saying a prayer for the Prophet, preferably in the form of the Tijani prayer Salat al-Fatih(6) 100 times.
• reciting the formula of the Hailalah, La Ilaha illa Allah(7) 100 times.
Wirds are said to enlighten moral qualities, of justice, courtesy, and love of fellow men. It clears the moral conscience and allows a man to know himself better and by concentration reach a point where he becomes aware of his own possibilities and imperfections and his dependence on the attentions of God. It opens him up to communion with God(8).
The Tijani wazifa is performed every day at least once, but it may be performed twice, (morning and evening.) It consists of:
• reciting the formula of penitence, Astaghfiru Allah al-'Azim al-ladhi la Ilaha illa huwa al-hayy al-qayyum(9) 30 times.
• reciting Salat al-Fatih 50 times.
• saying the Hailalah 100 times.
• reciting the prayer called Jawharat al-Kamal(10) 12 times.
Jawharat al-Kamal is the most extolled of the Tijani prayers, and may not be recited without ablutions with water being performed. It is generally believed that when the Tijanis have reached the seventh recitation of Jawharat al-Kamal in the wazifa, the Prophet and the four orthodox Caliphs attend the circle of the wazifa and remain there as long as it is recited. Hence there are prescriptions regarding room size in which the wazifa may be recited. The Tijanis have come to reserve a special place in their zawiyas during the wazifa for their unseen guests which they cover with a clean, white piece of cloth.
The hadra (or dhikr) takes place on Friday after the Tijanis have communally performed the afternoon prayer, and wazifa. The Tijani hadra mainly consists of repeating in unison La Ilaha illa Allah, or merely Allah, Allah.... This may be recited between 1,000 or 1,600 times