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The Mouride brotherhood (Muride brotherhood in Wolof, الطريقة المريدية, Aṭ-Ṭarīqat al-Murīdiyya or simply مريدية, Murīdiyya in Arabic) is a large Islamic Sufi order most prominent in Senegal and The Gambia, with headquarters in the holy city of Touba, Senegal. The followers are called Mourides, from the Arabic word murīd (literally "one who desires"), a term used generally in Sufism to designate a disciple of a spiritual guide. The beliefs and practices of the Mourides constitute Mouridism.




Amadou Bamba

The Mouride brotherhood was founded in 1883 in Senegal by Shaykh Aḥmadu Bàmba Mbàkke, commonly known as Amadou Bamba (1850-1927). In Arabic he is known as Aḥmad ibn Muhammad ibn Habīb Allāh, or Khadīmu r-Rasūl, "Servant of the Prophet". In the Wolof language he is called Sëriñ Tuubaa, "Holy Man of Touba". He was born in the village of Mbacké in the Kingdom of Baol, the son of a marabout from the Qadiriyya brotherhood, the oldest of the muslim brotherhoods in Senegal.

Amadou Bamba was a Muslim mystic and ascetic marabout, a spiritual leader 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 of West Africa 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. 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.

There is only one surviving photograph of Amadou Bamba, 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 modern-day Senegal.

French colonial rule

French West Africa around 1913 CE.

At the time of the foundation of the Mouride brotherhood in 1883 the French were in control of Senegal and most of West and North Africa, as their empire continued to expand. Though it had shared in the horrors of the pre-colonial slave trade, French West Africa was managed relatively better than other African regions of the colonial era, enjoying small measures of self-rule in many areas. However, French rule still discouraged the development of local industry, preferring to force the exchange of raw materials for European finished goods, and a large number of taxation measures were instituted.

At the end of the 19th century the French colonial rule began to worry about the growing power of the Mouride brotherhood and their potential to wage war against them. Bamba 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 legends about Bamba's miraculous survival of torture, deprivation, and attempted executions, and thousands more flocked to his organization. For example, on the ship to Gabon, forbidden from praying, Bamba is said to have broken his leg-irons, leapt overboard into the ocean, and prayed on a prayer rug that miraculously appeared on the surface of the water. 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 waging war against them, and was in fact quite cooperative. The Mouride doctrine of hard work served French economic interests. After World War I Amadou Bamba was awarded the prestigious French Légion d'honneur for his help in recruiting soldiers from West Africa for the war. The Mouride brotherhood was allowed to grow and in 1926 Bamba began work for the great mosque at Touba where he would be buried one year later.

Mouride brotherhood

The Great Mosque of Touba, Senegal.
Interior of the Great Mosque.


Amadou Bamba was buried in 1927 at the great mosque in Touba, the holy city of Mouridism and the heart of the Mouride movement. After his death Bamba has been succeeded by his descendants as hereditary leaders of the brotherhood with absolute authority over the followers. The leader (caliph) of the Mouride brotherhood is known as the Grand Marabout and has his seat in Touba. The caliphs up to Saliou have all been sons of Bamba, starting with his oldest son:

  • Serigne Mouhamadou Moustapha Mbacké (1927)
  • Serigne Mouhamadou Fallilou Mbacké (1968
  • Serigne Abdoul Ahad Mbacké, (1988)
  • Serigne Abdou Khadre Mbacké, (1989)
  • Serigne Saliou Mbacké (born in 1915), caliph from 1990 until his death on 28 December 2007
  • Serigne Mouhamadou Lamine Bara Mbacké, current caliph and first grandson of the Ahmadou Bamba to become caliph

The Grand Marabout is a direct descendant of Amadou Bamba himself and is considered the spiritual leader of all Mourides. There is a descending hierarchy of lower-rank marabouts, each with a regional following.

Mouride beliefs

Amadou Bamba is considered a "renewer" (mujaddid in Arabic) of Islam by his followers, 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. The Mouride beliefs are based on Qur'anic and Sufi traditions and influenced by the Qadiriyya and Tijaan brotherhoods, as well as the Islamic scholar Al-Ghazali.

Mourides sometimes call their order the "Way of Imitation of the Prophet". Parents sometimes send their sons to live with the marabout as Talibes rather than giving them a conventional education. These boys receive Islamic training and are instilled with the doctrine of hard work.[1]

Some Muslims consider the Mourides' extreme adulation of Amadou Bamba, and his lineage of successors, to be blasphemous, claiming the latter gets more attention than the Prophet Muhammad, and that Touba is ranked over Mecca.[2]

Modern following

Mural on a wall in Dakar, Senegal, showing Amadou Bamba, Ibra Fall and Malick Sy.


Because of their emphasis on work the Mouride brotherhood is economically well-established in parts of Africa, especially in Senegal and The Gambia. In Senegal the brotherhood controls significant sections of the nation's economy, for example the transportation sector and the peanut plantations. Ordinary followers donate part of their income to the Mouridiya.

The Mouride brotherhood has been courted by Senegalese politicians over the years. Recent prominent Mourides include Abdoulaye Wade who is the current president of Senegal and a devout Mouride. The day after his election in 2000 Wade travelled to Touba to seek the blessing of the Grand Marabout, Serigne Saliou Mbacke.

Influence outside Senegal

The brotherhood has a sizeable representation in certain large cities in Europe and the United States. Most of these cities with a large Senegalese immigrant population have a Keur Serigne Touba (Residence of the Master of Touba), a seat for the community which accommodates meetings and prayers while also being used as a provisional residence for newcomers. In Paris and New York City, a number of the Mouride followers are small street merchants. They often send money back to the brotherhood leaders in Touba.

In 2004 Senegalese musician Youssou N'Dour released his Grammy Award winning album Egypt, which documents his Mouride beliefs and retells the story of Amadou Bamba and the Mouridiya.

Baye Fall

One famous disciple of Bamba, Ibra Fall, was known for his dedication to God, and considered work as a form of adoration. Amadou Bamba finally decided that Ibra Fall should show his dedication to God purely through manual labor. Ibra Fall founded a sub-group of the Mouride brotherhood 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.

Sheikh Ibrahima Fall was one of the first of Amadou Bamba's disciples and one of the most illustrious[3]. He catalysed the Mouride movement and led all the labour work in the Mouride brotherhood. Fall reshaped the relation between Mouride Talibes (Mouride disciples) and their guide, Amadou Bamba. Fall instituted the culture of work among Mourides with his concept of Dieuf Dieul, ("you reap what you sow").[4] Ibra Fall helped Sheikh Amadou Bamba to expand Mouridism, in particular with Fall's establishment of the Baye Fall movement. For this contribution, Serigne Fallou, the 2nd Caliph after Amadou Bamba, named him "Lamp Fall" (the light of Mouridism)[5]. In addition, Ibrahima Fall earned the title of Babul Mouridina, "the entrance in Mouridism."

The members of the Baye Fall dress in colorful ragged clothes, wear their hair in dreadlocks which are called ndiange or 'strong hair' , carry clubs, and act as security guards in the annual Grand Magal pilgrimages to Touba. In modern times the hard labor is often replaced by members roaming the streets asking for financial donations for their marabout. Several Baye Fall are talented musicians. A prominent member of the Baye Fall is the Senegalese Musician Cheikh Lo.



  1. ^
  2. ^ Mourides Celebrate 19 Years in North America By Ayesha Attah. The African Magazine. (n.d.) Retrieved 2007-11-13.
  3. ^ Savishinsky, J. N. (1994) The Baye Fall of Senegambia: Muslim Rastas in the Promised Land? Africa: Journal International African Institute, 64, 211-219
  4. ^ Les origines de Cheikh Ibra Fall (2000, December). Touba', Bimestriel Islamique d'Informations Générales. Retrieved May 25, 2007 from
  5. ^ Ngom, F.(2002) Linguistic Resistance in the Murid speech community. Retrieved June 14, 2007 from


External links

See also


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