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Ahmadou Bamba (Wolof: Aamadu Bamba Mbàkke, Arabic: أحمد بن محمد بن حبيب الله Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad ibn Ḥabīb Allāh, 1853–1927) also known as Khādimu 'r-Rasūl (خادِم الرسول) or "The Servant of the Messenger" and Sëriñ Tuubaa or "Sheikh of Tuubaa", was a Sufi religious leader in Senegal and the founder of the large Mouride Brotherhood (the Muridiyya).
Amadou Bamba was a religious leader who produced a prodigious quantity of poems and tracts on meditation, rituals, work, and Quranic study. He led a pacifist struggle against the French colonial empire while not waging outright war on the French like several prominent Tijani marabouts had done.
Amadou Bamba was born in the village of Mbacké (Mbàkke Bawol in Wolof) in Baol, the son of a marabout from the Qadiriyya, the oldest tariqa (Sufi order) in Senegal. He was a disciple of the Qadiri sheikh Saad Bah. .
Foundation of Mouridiyya and Touba
Ahmadou Bamba founded the Mouride brotherhood in 1883.
Amadou Bamba's teachings emphasized the virtues of pacifism, hard work and good manners. As an ascetic marabout who wrote tracts on meditation, rituals, work, and Quranic study, he is perhaps best known for his emphasis on work and industriousness.
Bamba's followers call him a mujaddid ("renewer 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).
Abdoul Ahad Mbacke, the third Caliph (Mouride leader) and son of Amadou Bamba, declared that Amadou Bamba had met the prophet Muhammad in his dreams, a tale that has become an article of faith for Mouride believers. During the month of Ramadan 1895 Muhammed and his companions appeared to him in a dream in Bamba in Touba to confer upon him the rank of mujaddid of his age, and to test his faith. From this, Bamba is said to also have been conferred the rank of "Servant of the Prophet."
He founded the city of Touba in 1887. In one of his numerous writings, Matlabul Fawzeyni (the quest for happiness in both worlds), Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba describes the purpose of the city, which was intended to reconcile the spiritual and the temporal.
Facing colonial rule and exile
As Bamba's fame and influence spread, the French colonial government worried about his growing power and potential to wage war against them. He had converted a number of traditional kings and their followers and no doubt could have raised a huge military force, as Muslim leaders like Umar Tall and Samory Touré had before him.
The phobia of the colonial administration at the place of any Islamic movement made the judgements given to the Private Council often constitute lawsuits of intention to religious leaders. Stopped in Diéwol, Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba was transferred to the office of the Governor of the colonial administration in Saint-Louis (Senegal). On Thursday September 5, 1895, he appeared before the Private Council of Saint-Louis to rule on his case. Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba prayed two rakkats in the Governor's office before addressing the Council, declaring his firm intention to be subjected to God alone. With this symbolic prayer and bold stance in the sanctuary of the deniers of Islam, Bamba came to embody a new form of nonviolent resistance against the aims of colonial evangelists. As a result, the Private Council decided to deport him to "a place where its fanatic preachings would not have any effect". and exiled him to the equatorial forest of Gabon, where he remained for seven years and nine months.
From the beginning of the 19th century, the imperialist policy of France ended with the defeat of all the resistances armed to Senegal and the installation with a policy of Christianization and assimilation of new colony to the cultural values of the metropolis. This will lead to a policy of distance or systematic elimination of the Moslem spiritual guides who dared to mark their distrust. Thus, Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba, whose only wrong was to have dared to persist openly in the sermon for his religion (Islam) was, 32 years during the object of all kinds of deprivations and tests. In exile during 7 years in Gabon, 5 years in Mauritania, placed during 15 years under house arrest with Diourbel in Senegal, he did not cease, until his death in 1927, to defend, by his teaching and his behavior, the message of Muhammed.
In the political sphere, Ahmadou Bamba led a pacifist struggle against French colonialism while trying to restore a purer practice of Islam insulated from French colonial influence. In a period when successful armed resistance was impossible, Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba led a spiritual struggle against colonial culture and politics. Although he did not wage outright war on them as several prominent Tijaan marabouts had done, he taught what he called the jihād al-'akbar or "greater struggle," which fought not through weapons but through learning and fear of God.
As Bamba gathered followers, he taught that salvation comes through complete submission to God and hard work. The Mouride order has built, following this teaching, a large economic organisation, involved in many aspects of the Senegalese economy. Groundnut cultivation, the primary cash crop of the colonial period, was an early example of this. Young followers were recruited to settle marginal lands in eastern Senegal, found communities and create groundnut plantations. With the organisation and supplies provided by the Brotherhood, a portion of the proceeds were returned to Touba, while the workers, after a period of years, earned ownership over the plantations and towns.
Fearing his influence, the French sentenced him to exile in Gabon (1895–1902) and later in Mauritania (1903–1907). However, these exiles fired stories and folk tales of 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[weasel words] to have broken 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.
By 1910, the French realized that Bamba was not interested in waging violent war against them, and was in fact quite cooperative, eventually releasing him to return to his expanded community. In 1918, he won the French Legion of Honor for enlisting his followers in the First World War and the French allowed him to establish his community in Touba, believing in part that his doctrine of hard work could be made to work with French economic interests.
His movement continued to grow, and in 1926 he began work for the great mosque at Touba.
After his death in 1927, he was buried at the Mosque in Touba. He was succeeded by his descendants as hereditary leaders of the brotherhood with absolute authority over the followers.
As the founder of Mouridism, Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba is considered one of the greatest spiritual leaders in Senegalese history and of the biggest influences on contemporary Senegalese life and culture. Mouridism is today one of Senegal’s four Sufi movements, with four million devotees in Senegal alone and thousands more abroad majority of who are emigrants from Senegal. Followers of the Mouridism movement, an offshoot of traditional Sufi philosophy, aspire to live closer to God, in emulation of the Prophet Muhammad's example. Today, Ahmadou Bamba has an estimated following of more than 3 million people and parades occur around the world in his honor, including in various cities in the USA.
Every year, millions of Muslims from all over the world make a pilgrimage to Touba (Magal), worshipping at the mosque and honouring the memory of Sheikh Amadou Bamba. On one occasion during the pilgrimage, Mouride believers honour Amadou Bamba by facing the Atlantic ocean, to commemorate Bamba's legendary prayer on the water.
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.
Modern Mourides contribute earnings to the brotherhood, which provides social services, loans, and business opportunities in return.
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- David Robinson: French 'Islamic' Policy and Practice in Late Nineteenth-Century Senegal in The Journal of African History, Vol. 29, No. 3 (1988), pp. 415–435.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ahmadou Bamba.|
- (French) The wird, its role and purpose by Shaykh Ahmadu Bamba (at-tawhid.net)
- Toubatoulouse.org to download khassaides, audio sounds and pictures
- The Online Murid Library (DaarayKamil.com)
- Passport to Paradise: Sufi Arts of Senegal and Beyond: exhibition and educational program from the Fowler Museum of Cultural History of the University of California at Los Angeles.
- La Non Violence de Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba
- International Sufi School Khidmatul Khadim
- Article on Shaykh Ahmadou Bamba as Peacemaker
- Official Home Page of the Muridiyya Khidmatul Khadim School
- A modest tribute from Tidjani Négadi (Oran University, Algeria)
- A rare book bridging NY and Touba, Senegal by Peter Bogardus.
- Ways Unto Heaven by Ahmadou Bamba, translation by Abdoul Aziz Mbacke
- Jihad For Peace, about Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba, by Abdoul Aziz Mbacke