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The History of Mam Bamba and Mouridism

Jul 17, 2009, 7:10 AM

Sufism and Jihad in Modern Senegal: the Mouride Order, John Glover, 2007, 236 Pages

This is one of the most  recent books on the history of the illustrious Islamic scholar and servant of Allah, Mam Bamba Mbacke, of Touba, the founder of the Mouride sect. Since Marty's book on the Mouride in 1917, this sect of Islam found mainly in Senegal but with adherents or talibes throughout the world, has elicited a huge and growing literature. In the 1970s scholars like Conor O'Brien wrote on the subject to much acclaim, and many Senegalese scholars like Amad Babou have also written on the Mouride and their founder Mam Bamba Mbacke. John Glover, who teaches history in the USA, therefore is treading a well beaten path; but he is not repeating any of the previous scholars on the subject.
His story is fresh and seminal in that he tackles the history of the Mouride from the periphery and not from the centre of Touba and Mam Bamba. He traces the rise of the Mouride from the clerical town of Darou Mousty, near Touba, and the career of one of Seringe Mam Bamba's brothers and faithful assiatants Mam Cherno Mbacke. This new approach is one reason why this book is highly acclaimed by critics and historians of the Mouride and Mam Bamba Mbacke.

John Glover writes in page 69 that Mam Ahmadu Bamba Mbacke's father Momar Anta Saly died in 1881, bur not before he had formed his son into a redoubtable scholar and mystic. MaM Bamba began to renounce all forms of political power and temporal affairs and focusing on the worship of Allah. Soon this won Mam Bamba Mbacke a lot of disciples or talibes and a also a lot of enemies.

The French colonial rulers feared his fame and growing disciples, and the local ruling elite, the canton chiefs like lat Suokabe, Amar Ngone Fal, also hated him for his renunciation of all forms of political power. Mam Bamba told them 'God Alone is King', page 97.

Soon Mam Bamba was arrested; first in 1895 charged with fomenting an uprising against colonial rule and sentenced to exile in Gabon. He returned in 1902, and was again arrested and sent into exile to Mauretania. In 1907, he returned and was forced into house arrest in Jollof until 1912.  From 1912 until he passed away in 1927 Mam Bamba Mbacke remained in house arrest in Diourbel, page 93.

The author then reflects on the career of Mam Cherno Mbacke, who took care of Mam Bamba's family and dara while his brother was away in Exiles. Mama Cherno contributed greatly to the development of the Mouride brotherhood.

This is a well-researched book, well argued; it explores the tales, stories, anecdotes about the Mouride and their founder. It tells of how Mouridsim was a powerful tool against colonial rule; an early form of anti colonial struggle, which paved the way for the later nationalism.

The author uses oral and secondary sources, and even other primary sources like letters written by Mam Bamba Mbacke when he was away in exile.
It is clear from this book that Mam Bamba rejected both the authority of the Wollof rulers and aristocrats like Lat Jor and even the activities of early jihadists, as well as colonial rule. He forged a new path of labour and search for knowledge and prayers as the way to salvation.

The book is illustrated with rare photos of the Mouride founder and some of the memorable Mouride mosques and architecture.

Highly recommended for historians and those interested in the history of Mam Bamba Mbacke, Borom Touba, boroom Jamano.
The book is available at Timbooktoo.4494345