Shaykh Ahmadou Bamba’s Lessons for Today

The American Mouride Blog

Amidst the heightened state of turmoil in the world today, associated with the apparent clash between Islamic and Western cultures, the life of one Muslim peacemaker warrants recognition – a Muslim saint who led a successful and completely nonviolent struggle for peace within the last century. His life of teaching, amidst 33 years of imprisonment was spent in western Africa, but his profound message is global and continues today in the vibrant tradition he transmitted.

Shaykh Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Habiballah, commonly known as Shaykh Ahmadou Bamba (1854–1927) left an impressive collection of musical odes, litanies, poems and rich texts of spiritual and religious instruction. Bamba’s writings can be placed in 7 categories, most of which are in rhyming meter: poetic verse and adab (spiritual etiquette); reminders of practices and Islamic orthodox principles; writings from exile; writings glorifying God and in praise of the Prophet*; initiatic orisons, chants, and mystical chants; teaching lessons; and invocations. Bamba writes, “I came to teach, to infuse knowledge in the spirits of all desirous of avoiding the darkness (of ignorance).” “The Saint’s texts are both outwardly instructional and deeply esoteric. Attentive study is required to penetrate their secrets,” as his followers aver and European scholars, such as Louis Massignon, have concluded.

Bamba’s sacred, literary and musical legacy remains for the most part, untranslated into Western languages from Arabic and Wolof. The total number of works on Bamba in English are relatively few, even though, as David Robinson writes, Bamba became one of the outstanding poets and mystical leaders of the last 100 years.


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