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Religion of the Wolof of Senegal

Links to general information on Religion in Senegal
What is Islam Links to further information on Islam
The Mourides of Senegal   Mouride Brotherhood   Links to further information on the Mourides
The Tijanis of West Africa   Tijaniyya Brotherhood   Links to further information on the Tijani

Links to general information on Religion in Senegal

Islam in Senegal   An overview as part of the orientation of Lewis & Clark University overseas program to Senegal.
Religion in Senegal from an anonymous blogspot on Senegal.
Moslem festivals in Senegal Also from the orientation of Lewis & Clark University
Changing Lifestyles   A 1995 newspaper article from the Los Angeles Times on attempts to make Islam more orthodox in Senegal.
Website on religious freedom in Senegal and a 2009 US government report on religious freedom

What is Islam

Islam is the world's second 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.

WHERE IS ISLAM FOUND? 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.

WHEN DID ISLAM BEGIN, AND WHO FOUNDED IT? Islam was founded in 600 A.D. by a man named Mohammed. During Mohammed's time, polytheism reigned. His people were worshipping multiple gods. During one of Mohammed's trips as a trader, he had a vision from a being he perceived to be an angel who said, "There is only one God, and His name is Allah. Worship Him."

WHAT IS THEIR HOLY BOOK? Just as Christians have the Bible, Muslims have the Quran. They believe the Quran was dictated to Mohammed by God through the angel Gabriel. Muslims are also told in the Quran to read three other holy books: the Torah (which are the first five books of the Old Testament), the Zabur (which are the Psalms of David), and the Injeel (the gospel of Christ).

WHERE DO THEY MEET? Muslims around the world gather on Fridays in mosques. Mosques are buildings where men (and sometimes women, depending upon the country) pray to God. In a mosque during prayer time, all Muslims face toward Mecca, the birthplace of Islam, where Mohammed had his vision. Where men and women pray together, usually the men are in the front and women in the back.

WHAT DO MUSLIMS BELIEVE IN? 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.

IT SOUNDS AS THOUGH ISLAM IS MUCH LIKE CHRISTIANITY. IS THIS TRUE? Although the two religions share some terminology and even some theology (such as God is One), Islam is fundamentally different from Christianity. Islam is a works-oriented religion, while Christian faith is based on salvation by grace through faith as a result of the shed blood of Christ. In Islam, if God wants to forgive sin, He simply says, "It is forgiven." Christianity recognizes the necessity of the shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sin. (Hebrews 9:22)

WHAT DO MUSLIMS THINK ABOUT JESUS? All Muslims believe Jesus was born of a virgin and that he was a great prophet--yet he was only a man. They believe he was sent by God to help people obey God. Islam claims Jesus spoke as a baby, healed the sick, and raised the dead. The Quran refers to Jesus as the breath of God, the spirit of God, the life of God and the word of God. Muslims do not think Jesus died on the cross. They believe that right before he was to be killed, God took him up to heaven and someone else (probably Judas) replaced him on the cross. They trust that Jesus will return to the earth again to usher in the final judgment from God and confirm that Islam is the true and final religion for all mankind. (Yes, Muslims believe in the second coming of Christ!)

HOW DO MUSLIMS THINK THEY ARE SAVED? As a works-oriented religion, Islam requires that its adherents earn their way to heaven by performing the five pillars of the faith. (1) Say the confession of faith. A Muslim must confess, "There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is the prophet of God." (2) Pray. Muslims are supposed to pray five times a day: shortly before sunrise, mid-morning, noon, mid-afternoon, and after sunset. (3) Give alms. Muslims are to give about 2.5 percent of their wealth. (4) Fast during Ramadan. For one lunar month, from sunrise to sunset, Muslims are not to allow anything to pass down their throat. (Theoretically, a good Muslim would even spit out his or her saliva.) Then from sunset to sunrise, they are permitted to eat as little or as much as they want. This is their way of developing discipline and relating to the poor. (Travelers, young children and pregnant or nursing mothers do not need to keep the fast.) (5) Make a pilgrimage to Mecca. Every Muslim who is financially able is supposed to travel to the birthplace of Islam once in his or her lifetime.

DO MUSLIMS HAVE ANY GUARANTEE OF SALVATION? Muslims have no guarantee of being saved. They will tell you that you have a good angel on one shoulder and a bad angel on the other shoulder. These angels are keeping tabs of your good and bad works. On Judgment Day, if your bad works outweigh your good works, you are going to go to hell. But if your good works outweigh your bad works, you'll probably go to heaven. (Since God is all-powerful, they concede that He may do with you as He pleases, even if you have been very righteous. They hope He won't be having a "bad day" at Judgment.) A third possibility is that you could go to hell and burn your sins off for a while and then be allowed into heaven. The only way Muslims can be guaranteed to go to heaven is through "jihad." Although it is often translated "holy war," "jihad" literally means "exerting force for God." One could be in "jihad" by writing a book about Islam, or by sharing his faith to bring others to Islam, or by physically fighting for the cause of Islam. If a Muslim dies in "jihad," he is guaranteed to go to heaven.

IS ISLAM GROWING? Yes, Islam is growing at an annual rate of about 3 percent. In 1900 Muslims comprised about 12.4 percent of the world's population. By the year 2000, estimates put the figure at about 21.5 percent of the world's population. This growth is largely due to biological expansion; Muslims usually have large families.

DOES ISLAM VARY? Yes, Islam varies greatly around the world. Although Muslims take pains to describe themselves as members of the brotherhood of "one religion," the Islam practiced in Indonesia is very different than the Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia, which is different from that in Kazakhastan, or Iran, or Morocco.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SHI'ITE ISLAM AND SUNNI ISLAM? The difference between these two major sects is that they disagree about the legitimate successors of Mohammed. About 85 percent of all Muslims are Sunni and only 10 percent of the Muslim world is Shi'ite. (The remaining 5 percent are affiliated with other, minor sects.)

ARE ALL MUSLIMS RADICALS? No. Although Shi'ites tend to be more radical, the average Muslim is like the average Christian. They know enough to call themselves Muslims, but basically they are materialistic, want a good job, and hope to live a good comfortable life.

DO MUSLIMS UNDERSTAND WHAT CHRISTIANITY IS ALL ABOUT? The average Muslim around the world has a tremendous misunderstanding of Christianity. This is largely due to fact that their only understanding of Christianity comes from movies and television shows such as "90210," "Dallas," "Dynasty," etc. Because they believe America is a Christian nation, they assume everything that comes out of America is Christian.

HOW DO THEY VIEW CHRISTIANITY? Muslims think Christians believe in three gods: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Mother (Mary). They believe that Christians and Jews have changed the Bible; therefore, although the Quran acknowledges the Gospel of Christ, the Torah of Moses and the Psalms of David, the existing copies can't be trusted. In any case, they are all superseded by the Quran. Because of pornography from the West and the Western media, they equate Christianity with free sex, drugs, alcohol, rape, divorce ... all the evils of the West. This misconception confirms their belief that Islam is the true and final religion for all mankind.

IS MUCH BEING DONE TO BRING MUSLIMS TO THE ONE TRUE GOD THROUGH CHRIST? Although in recent years there has been a tremendous increase in the number of Christians working among Muslims, much has yet to be done. In North Africa, there is still roughly one missionary for every two million Muslims. In northern India, it is roughly one missionary for every five million Muslims. Globally, it averages out to be one missionary for every one million Muslims.

WHY IS IT SO HARD TO HELP MUSLIMS COME TO KNOW CHRIST? The factors that hold a Muslim to his religion are usually only about 10 percent theological and 90 percent cultural. Muslims have to fit into a larger group of people in order to feel secure and "belong." This could be an extended family, a network of friends, etc. In this "community" (the Muslim term for this is, "umma") there is tremendous security and safety. If they ever lose their job, no problem! Their "community" will help them out until a new job is found. When Muslims are confronted with the claims of Christ, they may know it to be truth, but they are more worried about leaving their "community" than they are about not having the truth. Muslims need to first find a "community" of Christians that they can belong to before they will leave their "community" of Muslims. And in most Muslim areas, there are no acceptable Christian "communities," which makes it very difficult for Muslims to follow Christ.

ARE MUSLIMS COMING TO KNOW CHRIST? Absolutely Yes! More Muslims have come to faith in Christ since 1970 than in the entire previous history of outreach to the Muslim world. God is doing a new work among Muslims as He writes a new chapter in the history of His church.

How can I reach out to Muslims with the love of Jesus Christ? For more information on how to reach out to Muslims around the world, contact:

Frontiers Director of Team Formation Internet: / or call: 1-800-GO-2-THEM

Author: Frontiers, provided by Eden Communications. Copyright © 1996, All Rights Reserved - except as noted on attached "Usage and Copyright" page that grants ChristianAnswers.Net users generous rights for putting this page to work in their homes, personal witnessing, churches and schools.


Links to further information on the Islam

Sufism, Sufis, and Sufi Orders Sufism's Many Paths   An website with many articles on Sufi Islam and its various brotherhoods.
Answering Islam     Answering Islam was set up to provide a forum for Muslim Christian dialogue. It provides a huge amount of information and many links on Islam.
FIU Libraries Islam Internet Resources   A not too large link site.
Wabash Center - Islam   A very comprehensive link site from the Wabash center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion.
Muslim-Christian Debate Website   The name says it all.
Muhammadanism   Various good articles, some of a polemic nature written by Christians.
Towards an Understanding of Muhammad: Some Notes for Christian Reflection

The Mourides of Senegal

The air of Touba was choking in 42 C heat, and the dust stirred up by the feet of half a million faithful Mourides. It was the great festival commemorating the death of Amadou Bamba who founded the Sufi brotherhood about a century ago. The crowd parted for a man dressed in a patchwork cassock, wielding a bludgeon high over his head. Mahmadou, a former soccer star had left fame and fortune to join the Bay Fall, the zealots of Mouridism. His bare feet bleeding after walking the 170 km from Dakar to Touba, he paused, then abruptly crouched and lashed the club against his back to the awe and approval of the crowd. Other men, dressed like him chanted in a circle while he repeatedly clubbed his back, his foot, his hand. When asked "why?" he smiled and replied "For paradise and for my marabout (guide)." Islam as you see it in Senegal is very different to what you would see in the Middle East. Wolof nationalism, African traditional religion, and Sufi Islam have all been combined together in the hothouse of French Colonialism to produce the unique folk Islam of Senegal. It is a revived and vibrant religion which has grown from having a following of less than half, to involvement of 92% of the population during this century. It is a truly African adaption of the Islamic faith which has contributed to the resistance of the Senegalese, especially the Wolof, to the gospel.

Virtually all Senegalese belong to one of the three major Sufi brotherhoods; the Tijaniyya, the Mourides, or the Qadiriyya. Sufism is the mystical side of Islam. It shifts the emphasis from the external rituals of religion to one closer to the heart. God is not so much a distant ruler but a close friend, and He is to be found through submission to a guide.

The founder of each Brotherhood becomes an intermediary between the followers and God. He is thought to have traversed the highest stages of spiritual development, and is said to be the possessor of extraordinary spiritual powers, baraka, which can be transmitted to others through physical contact, direct or indirect. Hence to eat the food which the sheikh has left, to touch his clothes or to receive his saliva is to benefit from this form of grace which is believed not only to have benefits for the next life, but also to bring success in worldly enterprise.

The founder is often attributed extraordinary powers. For instance, Amadou Bamba is believed to have performed many miracles. Stories abound about extraordinary trials at the hands of the French and miraculous escapes. He was said to have been imprisoned in a cell with a hungry lion, cast into a fiery furnace, buried for seven days in a deep well, and kept on an island inhabited by snakes and devils. One of the most popular legends concerns his voyage of exile to Gabon, when the captain is said to have refused him permission to pray; Bamba jumped overboard and laid his prayer mat on the ocean floor to pray in peace before the astonished crew.

Let us briefly look at life through their eyes.

Today was an exciting day for Yasmin. In a few hours he would be submitting to his marabout, who would be his guarantee of paradise. His father had taught him carefully that it was impossible to reach heaven without the help of an intermediary. To be attached to a shaikh is to be attached to a chain of salvation: The shaikh is a link with Amadou Bamba, who is the intermediary with the Prophet and through the Prophet with God. When the time came, Yasmin removed his shoes and on his knees approached the grand old man. "I submit my body and soul to you. I will do everything you order me, and abstain from anything you forbid me." The sheikh chanted the briefest of prayers, and spat into Yasmin's upturned hands, who then passed them over his face. As Yasmin moved away he left the goat he had brought as a gift.

Eighteen months later Yasmin found himself working on his marabout's cooperative farm, cultivating peanuts. He was almost completely cut off from his friends and family on the outside world, and so he made many friends from among the other disciples. Some of his new found friends had been there for 7 or 8 years, but most came for only a few weeks or months like Yasmin. Those who had been there a long time found the absence of women difficult. Women are completely forbidden from most farms. Many of these were to become important contacts in Yasmin's later life. The work was hard and no pay was expected, although they were fed and housed; this was part of their service for their marabout, and for the promise of the certainty of paradise.

Yasmin enjoyed the evenings the best. Often he would join the disciples, chanting poems written by Bamba at the top of his voice for hour after hour with his head thrown back, his eyes closed, his hands over his ears, and his body swaying with the rhythm of the singing until he becomes almost delirious.

After three months of this Yasmin left but he stills goes back for a few days once a year. This work is important to salvation but he does not consider it sufficient in itself, and so he performs the five daily Muslim prayers most of the time and is careful to keep the fast of Ramadan.

One day Yasmin was working his own farm and had a series of accidents. Realising that the spirits must be angry he went to his marabout with a chicken as a gift to obtain an amulet. On this amulet were written words from the quran in Arabic, and he was instructed to wear it around his neck at all times.

The people of Senegal are in bondage to the Prince of Darkness. Their lives are ruled by the fear of spirits, of evil eye, of bondage to ritual practices and fatalism. God can free them but He is waiting for the Church to win the battle in the heavenlies through prayer. Will you join us in this battle?

See the Mouride Brotherhood for a more detailed article.


Links to further information on the Mourides

It seems that several good sites in English devoted to the Mourides have disappeared recently.

Wikipedia article on the Mourides
VisualWikipedia article on the Mourides
Majalis A site which seeks to diffuse the teachings of Sheikh Amadou Bamba. The site is available in English, French, Arabic and Wolof.
Murid Islamic Community in America Contains a variety of articles on Mouridism.
Wurzel:eu page on the Mourides
Sect follows different brand of Islamic Law Reuters news article about the Mouride economic empire.
Touba Mosque   The impressions of an American French professor, a non-Mouride, of the mosque at Touba.
Passport to Paradise   A virtual gallery of a Mouride artist.
Mouride perfumes and incense   Website of a maker of perfumes and incense who have developed a specific Mouride line of perfumes and incenses!


The Tijanis of West Africa

Sufi Islam is about receiving the blessing (baraka) of God which is possessed by Muhammad and flows from Muhammad to Muslim saints, and then onto the followers who follow the prescribed way. Listen as one Muslim saint of importance to the Senegalese describes himself. "I am the Pole of the Poles of the Universe; the chief of all the Muslim saints (or friends of God). The Pole of the Poles is God's vice-regent in all the affairs of the Universe. Nothing can reach the creatures from God, or God from the creatures except through him. Furthermore, the Pole of the Poles, as the Prophet's deputy is the substance of the objects of the Universe. The world endures because of the flow of my spirituality in it, and no event in the whole Universe would take place if I did not will it. God has bestowed on me the 'word of creation' and the Pole of the Poles can order whatsoever he desires into being and no aspect of creation can defy his power. I am the Seal of Muslim Sainthood, just as Muhammad was the seal of the Prophets. I am the complete and perfect embodiment of Muslim sainthood and from me all the saints who came before me have derived, and all the saints who will come after will derive, their inspiration. The spiritual emanations which proceed from the person of the Master of Existence (Muhammad) are received by the other prophets; and whatever flows from them is received by me, and from me it is distributed amongst all the creatures of God, from the beginning until the end of time. These things are true, for the Prophet appeared to me in daylight to tell me. Therefore, even the most ignorant of my followers is greater than any of the non-Tijani Muslims saints. All things are by God's decree, and all men sin continually. Entrance to Paradise is an act of grace, and I am the channel of that grace. Furthermore, any follower who joins my Order is warned against leaving it. He will certainly apostatise before he dies and suffer the punishment of Hell. " These are the grandiose claims of Ahmed al-Tijani (1737-1815AD) of Morocco, who founded the Sufi order to which an estimated 45% of Senegalese belong. Although disputed by non-Tijani Muslims, this is the firmly-held basis of the lives of many Senegalese who live in great darkness. But this is only one side of the coin.

Abdou rose and began to chant the wirds (litanies) he had been initiated with by his marabout. Over and over again he said the words "I beg forgiveness of God" until he had said it 100 times. His chanting changed as he began to repeat the Salat al-Fatih. "O God, bless our master Muhammad, who opened what had been closed, and who is the seal of what had gone before; he who makes the Truth victorious by the Truth, the guide to Thy straight path, and bless his household as is the due of his immense position and grandeur" also 100 times. After repeating "There is no God but Allah" 100 times he was finished, and he went out into the fields to work, confident in the power of the wird to forgive sins. Today was Friday and Abdou looked forward to prayers. About midday all the men would gather for prayers. After ablutions, they chanted the traditional communal prayers. A clean white cloth was placed on the ground to welcome the Prophet and the four Caliphs who would soon be present. Following this, all sat in a circle and they began to recite the wazifa (office) together. Thirty times the words "I ask forgiveness of Allah, the Great, than whom there is no other God, the living and self-subsisting" descended from their lips. There was no hesitation as they changed to chant the Salat al-Fatih fifty times. Abdou's mouth was beginning to get a little dry as they began to repeat "There is no God but Allah", but he thought little of it as got caught up in the atmosphere. Over and over again until they had chanted it 100 times. Abdou was getting excited as they came to the most extolled of the Tijani prayers which they would recite a dozen times. "O God, send benediction upon and salute the source of divine mercy, a true ruby which encompasses the centre of comprehension and meanings, the son of Adam, the possessor of divine Truth; the most luminous lightning in the profitable rain-clouds which fill all the intervening seas as receptacles; Thy bright light with which Thou has filled Thy universe and which surrounds the places of existence. O God, bless and salute the source of Truth from which are manifested the tabernacles of realities; the source of knowledge, the most upright; Thy complete and most straight path. O God, bless and salute the advent of the Truth of the Truth; the greatest treasure, Thy mysterious Light. May God bless the Prophet and his household, a prayer which brings us to knowledge of him. After the walzifa was over, there was a short break while everyone lined up in straight lines seated on the floor. It was time to start the hadra or dhikr (remembrance). This was the highlight of Abdou's week. Over and over again they chanted in unison "There is no God but Allah." One hundred, 200, 300, ... they continued on and on .... 1000, 1200 times. Everything else was lost as they became consumed with Allah. There are three rites which the Tijanis are required to perform apart from the religious obligations incumbent upon all Muslims: to perform the wirds twice daily; the wazifa once or twice daily; and to participate in the hadra. The Tijanis are far more strict in their observance of their prescribed rites than members of other Sufi orders (such as the Mourides). Yet, this does not free them from their fear of evil eye, of spirits, or of God. They remain in deep bondage. The message of hope and freedom that we bring has the power to deliver them. However, when they hear it they are not freed. Their eyes are closed by Satan so that they cannot see the light of the gospel. It takes your prayers to bind the Evil one, and our gospel of hope. Then they WILL be freed. Will you pray for the Senegalese?

See the Tijaniyya Brotherhood for a more detailed article.


Links to further information on the Tijaniyya Brotherhood

Wikipedia article on the Tijaniyyah
You can read the book West African Sufi. The religious heritage & spiritual search of Cerno Bokar Saalif Taal by Louis Brenner online. It provides a lot of detailed informaton on the beliefs and practices of Tijani muslims in Senegal.
The Tariqa Tijaniyya. An extensive site on Tijani Islam by the African American Islamic Institute
Tidjaniyah Tariqa A site with a collection of essays and lectures on Tijani Sufi Islam
Portal to the Tijani Sufi Path. Website on Maroccon Tijani Islam A site is designed to share information on The Tariqa Tijaniyyah, Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse, Shaykh Hassan Cisse, and Islam in General
Islamic Community Center Site of an Tijani community in Atlanta, Georgia which includes information about their education activities, articles and news, and a collection of speeches of Shaykh Hassan Cisse.
Notes on the Tijaniyyah Order  One page from an article on Sufi Islam from the Qur'an and Sunnah Society.

Tijani Teaching

Messages from Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse:
Spirit of Good Morals
The Stars of the Good Road
The Eternal Islam

Speeches of Shayhk Hassan Cisse
An article on the Salawat Al-Fatih in the Tijani order. Also found here.