other Murid shrines

The Murid heartland

Touba lies at the center of a regional landscape of its own manufacture. In the decades following the city’s foundation, the forests and pasture within a radius of about 40 km of the holy site were cleared to make way for a network of Murid villages. Many of the key figures of the early Murid movement, Ahmadu Bamba’s brothers, sons and disciples, participated in this process of internal agricultural colonization. Each was instructed by Ahmadu Bamba to settle a specific zone or spot. The villages they created have remained in the jurisdiction of their direct descendants ever since.

Murid villages were usually called Darou (“Abode of…”) followed by a Divine Name, a Divine Attribute, or an eschatological entity from the Koran. These darous were first of all schools (daaras) where disciples were instructed in religion. They were also sites of agricultural production. The disciples cultivated grain and vegetables for internal consumption and exchange as well as peanuts as an export cash crop. Revenues generated by the daraas provided the funds for construction of Touba’s Mosque and, later, for building the city. This region, centered on Touba, thus constitutes the Murid “heartland,” the historic hearth of the Sufi order and home to its spiritual, social and cultural life.

Mouride heartland 2009

Map of the Murid Heartland

The emergence and growth of Touba, at the center of the heartland, has created a converging network of roads and tracks which have served to reinforce the city’s central spiritual function in the Murid universe. In practical terms, today, seven paved roads radiate from Touba, placing it in a central position with regard to Senegal ‘s national road network.

Since the late 1960s Senegal’s agricultural production, and peanut production in particular, has stagnated and even declined. The Murid heartland has increasingly become an urban base for the Muridiya. Apart from the Touba-Mbacké agglomeration, which has over half a million inhabitants, the heartland includes two important Murid centers: the city of Diourbel (100 000 people) and the town of Darou Mousty (over 15 000 inhabitants). Other Murid settlements, like Darou Marnane  and Mbacké Kayor in Mbacol, Touba Bélel and Taïf are also emerging as urban nodes.

All the sites discussed on this page, and others across Senegal, are included in this Google Earth (kmz) file.

Khourou Mbacké

Khourou Mbacké is about 18 km west of Mbacké, near Ndoulo off the road to Diourbel. The place is associated with the early life of Sheikh Ahmadu Bamba. He lived there with his parents and siblings as a child, learning the Koran with his father. He may even have been born there.

Foreground, the mosque laid out by Sheikh Ahmadu Bamba also contains the mausoleum of Sëriñ Mbaye Diakhaté. Background, the mausoleum over the graves of Sheikh Ahmadu Bamba’s children. (ph. Eric Ross)

The Mbacké clan had settled in this mostly uncultivated part of eastern Baol in 1796. That is the year Ahmadu Bamba’s great-grandfather, Mame Maram Ba (d. 1802), obtain the district as a royal grant (lew in Wolof) from Damel-Ten Amari Ngoné (King of both Baol and Kayor). Since then, various Mbacké sheikhs and offspring had created villages like Khourou Mbacké, opening new land to agriculture. The pioneer culture which marked the era of the Murid darous was thus already part of Mbacké practice. The ancestral land of the Mbacké, centered on the town of that name, is the core from which the Murid heartland can be said to have developed.

The Mbacké district was ravaged during Maba Diakou’s 1865 campaign through the kingdoms of Saloum and Baol. Ahmadu Bamba must have been about twelve years old when his father, Momar Anta Saly Mbacké (1822-1882), decided to take his family to Porokhane, but he remained deeply attached to Khourou Mbacké for the remainder of his life. It is in Khourou Mbacké that he buried those of his children who died in infancy. Later, while living under house arrest in Diourbel (see below), he ordered Mbaye Diakhaté, a trusted taalibe (disciple) and panegyrist, establish a daara (Koranic school) in Khourou Mbacké, thus reviving the abandoned village of his childhood. Since Sëriñ Mbaye Diakhaté’s death ca. 1954 Khourou Mbacké has remained under the jurisdiction of his sons. The current caliph is Sëriñ Moustapha Diakhaté. A magal in memory of Mbaye Diakhaté is held annually on the 7th of Sha’ban.

Khourou Mbacke

Plan of Khourou Mbacké

Khourou Mbacké is ordered around a central square (the pénc) where most of its shrines are clustered. Some of these mark the locations of the houses where Ahmadu Bamba’s parents had lived. Others mark burial sites. The location of Ahmadu Bamba’s father’s house is now marked by a mosque (#3 on the plan above). Momar Anta Saly Mbacké is buried in the cemetery at Derkhlé and his last place of residence, Mbacké Kayor, is also a shrine (see below). The other mosque (#2) on Khourou Mbacké’s square is purported to have been laid out by Sheikh Ahmadu Bamba himself. The building contains the mausoleum of Sëriñ Mbaye Diakhaté. Next to it is the cemetery where he had his children buried (#1). The graves are now contained within a large mausoleum.

The location of the house where Ahmadu Bamba’s mother, Mame Diarra Bousso, had lived is marked by a memorial building called Kër Mame Diarra (#4). Mame Diarra Bousso (1833-1866) is buried in Porokhane and her mausoleum complex there has developed into a major Murid shrine (see below).

Foreground, Kër Mame Diarra. Background, mausoleum of Sëriñ Habibou Mbacké. (ph. Eric Ross)

Next to the Kër Mame Diarra is the mausoleum of Sëriñ Habibou Mbacké (#5).

Two blocks south of the pénc is a blessed well, the Aïn Shukri. The water in this well was blessed by Sheikh Ahmadu Bamba in circumstances described on a panel on-site.

For a more complete account of Khourou Mbacké, see this post about a morning of field work I spent there.

Boukhatoul Moubaraka in Diourbel

Detail of 1:50 000 topographical map (ND-28XIV Thiès 4b, 1991) showing city of Diourbel

When, in 1912, Sheikh Ahmadu Bamba Mbacké was placed under house arrest in Diourbel the town was an emerging center of colonial administration and commerce. The town had been promoted to the rank of administrative seat for the entire Baol region in 1903, the railroad to Kaolack had recently opened (1908) and the Escale (colonial quarter) had just been allotted (1911). Peanut production across Baol was booming. This was the proper ordering of infrastructure in the unfolding colonial project in which Ahmadu Bamba was now physically constrained.

The sheikh occupied a large compound on the eastern outskirts of the town, across the dry valley of the Sine from the Escale. Sheikh Ahmadu Bamba’s great compound is still called Kër-gu Mak, “Great House,” or “House of the Master.” In his day it was crowded with students, members of his extended family and others. It is also where the single photo of the sheikh, which has acquired an iconic character in Murid visual culture and piety, was taken. Kër-gu Mak is also important because it is from there that Ahmadu Bamba, despite the colonial control to which he was subject, regained direct leadership of the Murid movement after many years of exile. It is from there that he sent instructions to his network of disciples and kin across Senegal. Many were instructed to establish daaras in what was to become the heartland. There are several first-hand accounts of life in Kër-gu Mak in Ahmadu Bamba’s day, all of them very fond.

Satellite image of Kër-gu Mak and the Diourbel Mosque (source: Google Earth, image dated: 5 April 2005)

Keur Goumak center

Plan of the center of Boukhatoul Moubaraka, showing the mosque and the large Kër-gu Mak compound.

Today, Kër-gu Mak serves mostly as a memorial to the sheikh. It consists of numerous courtyards, kiosks and mosques. I have yet to visit the compound, but it appears from the satellite image to be meticulously maintained.

View of the qibla side the Friday Mosque in Boukhatoul Moubaraka ward. The large mosque sits in a very spacious square. (ph Eric Ross)

During WWI Sheikh Ahmadu Bamba had a Great Mosque built on the square facing Kër-gu Mak. This was the first mosque built by the Murids, before work began in Touba itself, and it was built according to the Ottoman plan, with a central dome and four corner minarets. Its rapid completion amidst the financial constraints of the war effort was seen as a victory by the Murid movement. The Diourbel Mosque is also the first architectural accomplishment of the movement. The building is highly regarded, second only to Touba’s Mosque perhaps, but contrary to the one in Touba, every effort has been made to maintain the original architecture of the Diourbel Mosque. The exterior has recently been restored.

Plan of the center of Boukhatoul Moubaraka ward in Diourbel, showing the Kër-gu Mak compound and the Friday MosqueThe Kër-gu Mak compound was the nucleus of an entire Murid neighborhood, which Ahmadu Bamba himself named Boukhatoul Moubaraka (after Al-Buq’at al-Mubaraka, the “blessed spot,” a reference to Mount Sinai mentioned in Koran 28:30). Boukhatoul Moubaraka neighborhood (“Boukhatoul” in short-talk) kept up a reputation for Koranic instruction long after the departure of its saintly founder. Like the Great Compound itself, the neighborhood is kept clean and orderly, the two quintessential qualities of Murid management of public space.

The prestige of Kër-gu Mak and the Mosque in Boukhatoul Moubaraka means that Diourbel (population approximately 100,000) is a major urban center for the Murids. Diourbel is also important to the Muridiyya because it is the capital of the administrative region which covers most of the Murid heartland, including the Touba agglomeration. Its dual urban functions: civil/territorial administration and religion, are interlocked. In recent decades various state agencies based in Diourbel, including the Department of Urban Planning, have been called upon by the tarîqa to assist with some of the problems related to Touba’s phenomenal growth.

More recently, another manifestation of Murid architecture has emerged in Diourbel, On January 5th 2002 I visited the compound of Sëriñ Omar Sy, a Murid Sufi who masters the esoteric dimensions of architecture. He calls his compound, erected at the southern entrance to Diourbel near the slaughterhouse, Yaminoullah (from amîn Allâh, “Trust God”). Sëriñ Omar Sy has built it entirely of reeds, sticks and bundles of straw. This is because, in the realm of archetypes, the Reed is the Qalam (the Pen) which transcribes God’s Word. Because reeds in the material world share the same essence as the archetypal Reed, the residents of Yaminoullah reside in the Word (the archetypal Reed “spoke” to Rumi as well, through the music of reed flutes).

View of the gate to Yaminoullah from the road (ph Eric Ross)

View of one of the pavilions in Yaminoullah (ph Eric Ross)

Sëriñ Omar Sy has arranged the courtyards, gateways, and chambers of Yaminoullah so that residents (and visitors like me) can benefit from God’s Benefaction. Though the compound has been entirely rebuilt at least twice (once after an arson attack), and never to the same design, it is always designed as a place of healing.

Satellite image of Yaminoullah, Sëriñ Omar Sy’s compound south of Diourbel (source: Google Earth, image dated 21 March 2009)

Both the design of Sëriñ Omar Sy’s compound and the iconic nature of the single photo of Sheikh Ahmadu Bamba in contemporary visual culture have been studied, by Allen Roberts and Polly Nooter Roberts. See A Saint in the City, the subject of their exhibition at UCLA’s Fowler Museum of Cultural History and of a publication. Allen and Polly invited me to see the exhibition, and to give a lecture at UCLA’s James S. Coleman African Studies Center in March 2003.

Darou Mousty

Dâr al-Mu’ tî (“Abode of The Giver,” a Divine Name, Koran 20:50), 28 km northwest of Touba, was founded in 1912 by Mame Tierno Birahim Mbacké (1866-1943), one of Sheikh Ahmadu Bamba’s younger brothers and a Sufi in his own right. Mame Tierno was instructed to create the daara by his brother and Master, and he selected the site through istikhâra, recourse to God’s guidance as manifest by His signs in the material world. In this case it consisted of setting his horse at a normal trot in a certain direction and disembarking for mid-day prayer. The place the horse stopped turned out to be a grove of baobab trees. These great trees still tower over the center of the town today.

Detail of 1:50 000 topographical map (ND-28-XX Louga 2b, 1991) showing the town of Darou Mousty

Once settled, Mame Tierno Birahim turned the area around Darou Mousty into the breadbasket and granary of the Muridiya. Like Ahmadu Bamba, he sent his sons out into the surrounding savanna to establish daaras of their own. Living conditions remained harsh despite the success in agriculture. Darou Mousty only began to acquire infrastructure (a well with a pump) and masonry buildings after Mame Tierno’s death. An escale neighborhood for government services and commercial establishments was allotted east of the central square. It harbors the post office, a health center and several markets, including one for livestock.

Darou Mousty 2009 color

Darou Mousty 2012 colorDarou Mousty 2012 legendMame Tierno’s original compound, called Baïti, contains the family’s necropolis. This consist of the mausoleum of the founder (called the Bayt al-Ma’mûr, the “House of Fulfillment”) as well as those his successors. This necropolis is preceded by a court harboring two kiosks which mark important moments on Mame Tierno Birahim’s spiritual path. The Maqâmat Ibrâhîm (named after the Prophet Abraham’s kiosk in the harâm Mecca) marks the place where his namesake, Mame Tierno Birahim habitually prayed. His personal objects of prayer are kept in the kiosk. The other kiosk, Dâr al-Kâmil (the “Consummate Place”) marks the place Mame Tierno Birahim experienced consummate fulfillment. Like the mausolea, these kiosks are interspersed between baobab trunks, the densest cluster in the grove. One of these trees is a guy mbind, a baobab whose trunk serves for the inscription of names of those who wish to go to paradise. In front of the entrance to the Baïty compound, on the town’s central square, there is another guy mind and a Mawlid hall. Every Monday night, to mark the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, people congregate in it to sing hymns in his praise. An annual màggal (pilgrimage) is held in Darou Mousty on the 15th of the month of Sha’bân.

Satellite image of the Baïti compound with Darou Mousty’s Friday Mosque to its east. The leafless trees visible on this image are baobabs (source: Google Earth, image dated 8 April 2003)

View of Bayt al-Ma’mûr, the mausoleum of Mame Tierno Birahim Mbacké (ph Eric Ross)

View of the Dâr al-Kâmil (foreground) and Mâqâmat Ibrâhîm (behind it) among the baobabs (ph Eric Ross)

Mame Tierno’s lineage constitutes an important subgroup within the Murid order and Darou Mousty is an important Murid sanctuary. With approximately 15 000 inhabitants, it is considered the “second city” of the Murids. It is the administrative seat of a “rural community” which extends to the daaras of its hinterland. Mame Tierno Birahim had successfully maintained the autonomy of Darou Mousty, not just from the colonial administration (which was happy enough to let this peaceful breadbasket alone), but from the khalif in Touba. Still today the district lies in Louga Region, not in Diourbel with Touba. The current khalif is Mame Tierno’s son, Sëriñ Sheikh Mbacké Hady.

View of Darou Mousty Mosque from the south (ph Eric Ross)

Construction on Darou Mousty’s Friday Mosque got underway in the late 60s, after the one in Touba had been completed. It was undergoing renovation when I last visited (Jan. 2007).

On Darou Mousty and Mame Tierno Birahim Mbacké

  • Cissé, Ousseynou (2001), Mame Thierno Birahim (1862-1943): Frère et disciple de Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba, L’Harmattan, Paris.
  • Glover, John (2007), Sufism and Jihad in Modern Senegal: The Murid Order, Rochester: University of Rochester Press.

Mbacol Province

North and west of Darou Mousty, the Murid heartland extends across the historic province of Mbacol into Kayor, areas of ancient settlement. While Murids are dominant, Mbacol also harbors Tijâni and Qâdiri communities. Fas in particular, named for the Moroccan city so dear to Tijânis, has been home to the influential Touré sheikhs since 1894. Fas harbors a large Islamic high school run by the Touré.

The Murid presence in Mbacol centers on cluster of Murid shrines in Darou Mousty and Mbacké Kayor.

Mbacol agglomeration

Murid shrines in Mbacol province: Darou Marnane and Mbacké Kayor

Darou Marnane, Mbacol

Darou Marnane Mbacol 2012 color

Plan of Darou Marnane in Mbacol

This Darou Marnane shares the same name (Marnane derives from al-Mannân, “the Benefactor”) as Sheikh Ahmadu Bamba’s khalwa near Touba. It was established in Mbacol province, some 18 kilometers west-northwest of Darou Mousty, by Sëriñ Awa Balla Mbacké (d. 1976), son of Mame Tierno Birahim. Its layout resembles that of its mother city, with the market located one block east of the central square and the mosque.

View of the qibla facade of the Mosque-mausoleum complex in Darou Marnane Mbacol. The complex was built in the late 1990s. The new mosque’s minaret rises to an impressive height, whereas the conical mausoleum resembles that of Rumi in Konya. (ph Eric Ross)

Mbacké Kayor

Mbacké Kayor, three kilometers west of Darou Marnane Mbacol, has long been in the family. It was established by Sheikh Ahmadu Bamba’s father, Momar Anta Sali Mbacké (1822-1882) in the late 1870s, after the latter had resigned from the position of dî (chief justice) at the court of Damel Lat Dior, the last king of Kayor. Momar Anta Sali Mbacké is buried in Dékhelé cemetery, 8 km to the south, as is Lat Dior (d. 1886). Dékhelé is a “national” shrine. Lat Dior is celebrated for his resistance to colonialism. His tomb in Dékhelé is known to every school child. I have not been there but I understand the Ministry of Culture has erected a monument in the vicinity. The Mbacké were actors in this chapter of Senegalese history. It is not just that Momar Anta Sali was Lat Dior’s dî during some of the regime’s most tumultuous years, Sheikh Ahmadu Bamba too had direct dealings with Lat Dior which are described in his hagiographies. Some of Lat Dior’s sons became his disciples while others worked to turn the colonial authorities against him.

Mbacke Kayor 2012 color

Map of Mbacké Kayor showing the “elder” (Boumak) and “junior” (Boundaw) wards

It is Sheikh Ahmadu Bamba’s son Sëriñ Lamine Bara (1891-1936) who revived Mbacké Kayor when he moved there following his father’s death. Momar Anta Sali’s settlement is now known as the “big” one, “Boumak.” Though Lamine Bara’s neighborhood has grown bigger than his grandfather’s older one, it is known  as Mbacké-Kayor Boundaw (the “little” Mbacké-Kayor). A small mosque stands on Mbacké-Kayor Boumak’s public square, in front of a loro tree which marks an event from the Lat Dior years (I am sorry, I cannot remember exactly what). The space under the tree is demarcated with wooden stakes.

View of the Mbacké Kayor Boundaw Mosque, with the sacralized loro tree standing before it (ph Eric Ross)

On December 30th 2001 I was invited to visit Sëriñ Lamine Bara’s compound in Mbacké Kayor Boundaw by his grandson, Cheikh Oumy Mbacké Diallo, a longtime friend and indispensable research associate in the field (see post on the mosque in Bogué). Cheikh Oumy showed my some of Lamine Bara’s books and documents, including correspondences and accounts, preserved in a chest. Many such troves of primary sources are scattered across the shrine towns, preserved in chests but accessible enough that resourceful researchers can consult them.

Sëriñ Lamine Bara Mbacké’s personal effects, many of them leather-bound, are preserved in a chest in his compound in Mbacké Kayor Boumak (ph Eric Ross)

Touba Bogo

East and north of Touba the Murid heartland extends across areas that were settled by Ahmadu Bamba’s sons and grandsons, rather than his brother. The settlements of Tindody, Ndindi Abdou and Touba Bagdad are described on the “Touba” page as this inner “arc” lies within the Touba agglomeration. While this may well be the destiny of settlements further out, in the mean time some of them are acquiring local urban functions.

While ordinarily I refrain from posting about places I have never been, I have done so in the cases here. I could not resist the temptation to map them in advance of prospective field work. Thank you Google Earth for providing all those delightfully high-resolution images of the parts of Senegal I am most interested in.

Touba Bogo, 25 km east of Touba, was the homestead of Sëriñ Falilou Mbacké, second Khalif-General of the Murids (1945-1968). It is connected to his older daara, Ndindi Abdou, by an all-weather track. The khalif-general liked to retire there from the run of official functions in Touba.

Touba Bogo color

Map of Touba Bogo

The satellite image shows that Touba Bogo remains a village to this day. The initial allotment, south of Sëriñ Falilou Mbacké’s compound along the road to Touba, has not been added to and some of the lots in it appear to be abandoned. There is a small market place at the entrance crossroads.

Touba Bélel

Touba Bélel, 25 km north of Touba, was the homestead of Sëriñ Abdoul Ahad Mbacké, third Khalif-General of the Murids (1968-1989). During his califate he used Touba Bélel as a country residence, a relief from the exhausting schedule of audiences which is the lot of khalifs when they are in Touba.

Touba Belel color

Sëriñ Abdoul Ahad’s compound in Touba Bélel is huge, about four hectares, and a reserved space in the back extends it yet further. Residential compounds throughout Touba Bélel are also spacious, often taking an entire block. Large family compounds on straight wide street have been hallmarks of Murid settlements since the beginning. During his caliphate Sëriñ Abdoul Ahad acquired the sobriquet le batisseure because of his urban policies in Touba. He appears to have implemented “best practices” in Touba Bélel as well. The settlement’s first mosque was built in the first courtyard of Abdoul Ahad’s compound. A much larger mosque now stands in the middle of the square.

Taïf

Taïf, named for the city in Hijaz, lies 25 km east-south-east of Touba. It was the daara of Cheikh Mbacké (1905-1978), eldest son of Sëriñ Mamadou Moustafa, first Khalif of the Murids (1927-1945). Though Cheikh Mbacké did not succeed his father as supreme leader of the Muridiya, he did inherit much of the latter’s personal assets and disciples. He remained an important and dynamic figure within the tarîqa and definitely earned the sobriquet Gaïnde Fatma, the “Lion of Fatma.” As Touba’s Great Mosque neared completion in the late 1950s it was Cheikh Mbacké who was called upon by the Khalif-General to take charge of reordering the urban fabric at the city’s center. Touba’s distinctive plan consisting of converging avenues and integrated grids is largely his legacy.

Taif color

When Cheikh Mbacké died his son Sëriñ Mbacké Soxna Lo (d. 2005) inherited Taïf. The satellite image shows a the settlement growing into a little town. A large new Friday Mosque stands on the square in front of Cheikh Mbacké’s compound. Beyond the initial allotment, marked at the east by the market, there is evidence of compounds at every stage of construction. Construction is especially evident in the northern allotments, around a large new palace-square complex. Rather than a mosque this new square has just been adorned with a public fountain. Innovative urban design on the part of Gaïnde Fatma’s sons? the grounds of the palace on the west side of the square also has a fountain, and gardens à l’italienne.

Satellite image of the palace-square complex in the northern part of Taïf, showing what appears to be a newly built mausoleum on the square and the Italianate garden in the compound. This is the first time such an overtly Western element is used in Murid urban design (source: Google Earth, image dated 7 April 2009)

Touba Bogo, Touba Bélel and Taïf constitute an outer arc of Mbacké-Mbacké daaras surrounding Touba. Yet, despite the greater distance separating them from the metropolis, they are just as much a part of Touba as those of the inner arc. Like them, they were set up through the agency of majors Mbacké sheikhs, many devoted disciples, and the institutions of the Murid Califate. They have thus been entirely inscribed within the greater Touba project since their inception. Of the lot, only Taïf has a cemetery, and quite a small one at that. I am presuming that, even living 25 km from Touba, people in Taïf are buried in its cemeteries rather than locally.

Porokhane

Porokhane is an exceptional shrine town in that the shrine is devoted to a woman, namely Mama Diarra Bousso, Ahmadu Bamba’s mother. Mame Diarra Bousso (1833-1866), also known by the sobriquet Diarratoullah (Jârat Allâh, or “neighbor of Allâh”), was a member of the clerical Bousso family which had long maintained matrimonial relations with the Mbacké (see Guédé Bousso in Touba). While she was certainly an educated women, little is really known about her life. She has nonetheless become the object of ever greater devotion among Murids. She has been sung about, praised in poems and written about in missives. Mame Diarra is presented as the exemplary daughter, wife and mother. In effect, she is a paragon of all the classical feminine virtues: piety, fidelity, decency, discretion, sobriety and obedience. Murid women are especially devoted to her. Not only do they like to name their daughters after her, they give her name to their dahiras (prayer and recitation circles) and to their businesses as well.

Variety of sous-verre painted glass images of Mame Diarra Bousso I shamelessly downloaded from the web

Porokhane is also exceptional in that it is not located in the Murid heartland. Rather, it is located in the Rip, south of the Saloum River near the Gambian border. The Mbacké family was forced to move to the Rip in 1864, when Tijânî jihadist Maba Diakhou destroyed the settlement of Mbacké in Baol. Ahmadu Bamba’s father, Momar Anta Sali settled the family in Porokhane, 8 kilometers southwest of Nioro, Maba Diakhou’s capital. When Mame Diarra died, at a young age, she was buried there.

Porokhane 2011 color

Map of Porokhane

It was in the 1952 that the Murid order began investing in the place. That is when Ahmadu Bamba’s son Sëriñ Bassirou Mbacké (1895-1966, see Darou Minam in Touba) organized the first gàmmu (pilgrimage) to Mame Diarra’s tomb. After Bassirou’s death his son and khalif, Moustapha Bassirou (1928-2007) took charge of the annual event. Sëriñ Moustapha Bassirou is the one who initiated construction on the site. A mausoleum was erected over Mame Diarra’s grave in 1971. This mausoleum has been rebuilt and enlarged twice: in 1983 (when the neighboring mosque was erected) and again in the late 2000s.

Satelitte image showing the Porokhane mosque-mausoleum complex before reconstruction (source: Google Earth, image dated 21 December 2002)

Satellite image showing the enlarged mausoleum of Mame Diarra Bousso nearing completion. Work on enlarging the mosque has not yet begun (source: Google Earth, image dated 18 April 2009)

The latest image available on Google Earth shows the mausoleum very near completion. The external decorative architectural elements: dual portals, multiple domes, are unprecedented in the treatment of Murid mausoleums. Since the completion of the mausoleum renovation has begun on the adjacent mosque. According to a photo of the architectural rendering posted on this Murid website, the new mosque will feature Mamluk-style domes and minarets. The first time such an “indo-sarassin” style was imported into Senegalese mosque architecture was in the mid-nineteenth century, by the French for the Friday Mosque in Saint Louis. That attempt failed.

Clearly, whatever the outcome of the rebuilding, great emphasis is being placed on the architecture of this shrine complex. Porokhane may well become the “third city” of the Muridiyya. Other sacralized elements in Porokhane include the well where Mame Diarra drew ablution water for her husband, her gënn (kitchen mortar), and the stump of a tree beneath which Ahmadu Bamba learned the Koran as a child. These past few years the Màggal de Porokhane in commemoration of Mame Diarra Bousso has been held on the 7th of Jûmâda Awal. The date has fluctuated over sixty years.

The Daara Mame Diarra, a large residency school for girls, opened on the outskirts of Porokhane in 2005. The school is run by Sëriñ Bassirou’s lineage through a foundation and the plan is to expand capacity from 500 to 1200 pupils.

As with many of the places mapped towards the end of this post, I have not, yet, visited Porokhane. As you have probably guessed, it is at the very top of my “to do” list.

On Porokhane and Mame Diarra Bousso

  • Evers Rosander, Eva. (2003). “Mam Diarra Bousso-The Mourid Mother of Porokhane, Senegal”, in Jenda: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies, #4.

Iyakhine Temple, Thiès

Another exceptional Murid shrine is the Iyakhine Temple in Thiès (also posted separately here). Abdoulaye Iyakhine Niakhité Diop (1886-1943) was a Baye Fall Murid who claimed to be the mahdi (the messianic leader some Muslims believe will come at the end of time). Abdoulaye Iyakhine established his community of followers in the rail hub city of Thiès, in a neighborhood now called Keur Iyakhine. Having no surviving sons, at his death it was his eldest daughter who inherited his baraka and the leadership role within the Iyakhine community. In her day, Soxna Magat Diop (1917-2004) was among Senegal’s most famous women Sufis. She taught the Koran to both male and female students. When she died, leadership of the Iyakhine passed to two other women: her younger sister Soxna Seybata Aïdara, and her eldest daughter Soxna Bintou Massamba Mbacké.

Yakhine temple colorIt is the Iyakhines who use the French term “temple” to designate the mausoleum of Abdoulaye Iyakhine. This mausoleum stands as an island in the middle of the neighborhood’s main thoroughfare. To its east is a sacred well. The community’s mosque is located one street away, behind the compound Abdoulaye Iyakhine had occupied. The community’s cemetery, where many of Abdoulaye Iyakhine’s “companions” are buried, lies at the southern limit of the neighborhood (just off this map).

On the Iyakines of Thiès

  • Lake, Rose (1997), “The Making of a Mouride Mahdi: Serigne Abdoulaye Yakhine Diop of Thies” in African Islam and Islam in Africa: Encounters between Sufis and Islamists, edited by David Westerlund & Eva Evers Rosander, London: Hurst & Co.
  • Coulon, Christian (1988) “Women, Islam, and Baraka” in Charisma and Brotherhood in African Islam, Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Saint Louis

The sacralization of places, and of urban spaces in particular, is proceeding beyond the confines of historic Murid settlements in the heartland. Saint Louis for instance, which was the capital of the colony at the time when Cheikh Ahmadu Bamba was caught up in its politico-legal apparatus and which is historically associated with the Tijaniya order, has lately emerged as a Murid lieu de memoire. It was in Saint Louis, in the Governor’s compound (still  referred to as “la Gouvernance”), that Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba was tried for sedition and sentenced to exile in 1895.

Painting depicting Cheikh Ahmadu Bamba facing an accuser before the Privy Council in the Governor’s Palace, Saint Louis. (source: Majalis website)

Since the 1970s, Murids commemorate this event by celebrating the “Magal of the Two Rakkas” (under constraint, Cheikh Ahmadu Bamba performed the abridged two-prostration prayer while standing before the colonial tribunal). Though this annual religious celebration (held on the 5th of September) does not enjoy the full support of the Murid leadership in Touba, it does manage to temporarily transform what is still the most important government bureau of this provincial capital into a Sufi shrine.

Murid identity in Saint Louis is also displayed visually, in a gallery of carved tree trunks along the river embankment just north of the Gouvernance and the Faidherbe Bridge. All the founding figures of the Murid movement are represented in painted bas relief images.

Bas relief image of Shaykh Ahmadu Bamba carved into a tree trunk  along the Senegal River embankment. (ph. John Shoup)

Image of Mame Tierno Briahim, Ahmadu Bamba’s brother (ph. John Shoup)

Image of Shaykh Ibra Fall receiving a fresh coat of paint (ph. John Shoup)

Second image of Shaykh Ibra Fall. The western entrance to the Pont Faidherbe is directly behind the tree. (ph. John Shoup)

Bas relief image of Lamp Fall, Touba’s famous minaret, carved in a tree trunk. Lamp Fall was named for Shaykh Ibra. (ph. John Shoup)

In Dakar too, Murid identity is being consolidated in specific places and commemorations. For instance, a “Magal du Port” (commemorating Ahmadu Bamba’s boarding of the ship which transported him to exile in Gabon in 1895) is held near the port each year on 11th of November, while another Murid maggal is held near Sandaga Market on September 18th to 20th. Also, A large new Murid Friday Mosque, destined to be the premier Murid monument in Senegal’s capital city, is under construction in Nari Tally neighborhood.

On Murid commemorations in Saint Louis and Dakar, see:

  • Babou, Cheikh Anta (2007), “Urbanizing Mystical Islam: Making Murid Space in the Cities of Senegal”, in International Journal of African Historical Studies, vol. 40, #2, pp. 197-223.

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