The Tijāniyyah (Arabic: الطريقة التجانية, transliterated: Al-Ṭarīqah al-Tijāniyyah, or “The Tijānī Path”) is a sufi tariqa (order, path) originating in North Africa but now more widespread in West Africa, particularly in Senegal, The Gambia, Mauritania, Mali, and Northern Nigeria and Sudan. Its adherents are called Tijānī (spelled Tijaan or Tiijaan in Wolof, Tidiane or Tidjane in French). Tijānī attach a large importance to culture and education, and emphasize the individual adhesion of the disciple (murīd). To become a member of the order, one must receive the Tijānī wird, or a sequence of holy phrases to be repeated twice daily, from a muqaddam, or representative of the order.
Foundation of the order
Sīdī ‘Aḥmad al-Tijānī (1737–1815), who was born in Algeria and died in Fes, Morocco, founded the Tijānī order around 1781 (see Triaud, 2000). Tijānī Islam, an “Islam for the poor,” reacted against the conservative, hierarchical Qadiriyyah brotherhood then dominant, focusing on social reform and grass-roots Islamic revival.
Expansion in West Africa
Although several other Sufi orders overshadow the Tijāniyyah in its birthplace of North Africa, the order has become the largest Sufi order in West Africa and continues to expand rapidly. It was brought to southern Mauritania around 1789 by Muḥammad al-Ḥāfiẓ of the ‘Idaw `Ali tribe, which was known for its many Islamic scholars and leaders and was predominantly Qādirī at the time. Nearly the entire tribe became Tijānī during Muḥammad al-Ḥāfiẓ’s lifetime, and the tribe’s influence would facilitate the Tijāniyya’s rapid expansion to sub-Saharan Africa.
Muḥammad al-Ḥāfiẓ’s disciple Mawlūd Vāl initiated the 19th-century Fulbe leader Al-Ḥājj Omar Tall (Allaaji Omar Taal) and the Fulbe cleric `Abd al-Karīm an-Nāqil from Futa Jalon (modern Guinea) into the order. After receiving instruction from Muḥammad al-Ghālī from 1828 to 1830 in Makka, Omar Tall was appointed Khalīfa (successor or head representative) of Aḥmed at-Tijānī for all of the Western Sudan (Western sub-Saharan Africa). Umar Tall then led a holy war against what he saw as corrupt regimes in the area, resulting in a large but fleeting empire in Eastern Senegal and Mali. While Omar Tall’s political empire soon gave way to French colonialism, the more long-standing result was to spread Islam and the Tijānī Order through much of what is now Senegal, Guinea, and Mali (see Robinson, 1985).
In Senegal’s Wolof country, especially the northern regions of Kajoor and Jolof, the Tijānī Order was spread primarily by El-Hajj Malick Sy (spelled “El-Hadji Malick Sy” in French, “Allaaji Maalig Si” in Wolof), born in 1855 near Dagana. In 1902, he founded a zāwiya (religious center) in Tivaouane (Tiwaawan), which became a center for Islamic education and culture under his leadership. Upon Malick Sy’s death in 1922, his son Ababacar Sy (Abaabakar Sy) became the first Caliph (Xaliifa). Serigne Mansour Sy became the present Caliph in 1997, upon the death of Abdoul Aziz Sy. The Gàmmu (Mawlid in Arabic, the celebration of the birth of Muḥammad) of Tivaouane gathers many followers each year.
The “house” or branch of Tivaouane is not the only branch of the Tijānī order in Senegal. The Tijānī order was spread to the south by another jihadist, Màbba Jaxu Ba, a contemporary of Umar Tall who founded a similar Islamic state in Senegal’s Saalum area. After Màbba’s death, his state crumbled but the Tijāniyya remained the predominant Sufi order in the region, and Abdoulaye Niass (1840–1922) became the most important representative of the order in the Saalum, having immigrated southward from the Jolof and, after exile in Gambia due to tensions with the French, returned to establish a zāwiya in the city of Kaolack.
The branch founded by Abdoulaye Niass’s son, Al-Hadj Ibrahima Niass (Allaaji Ibrayima Ñas, often called “Baye” or “Baay”, which is “father” in Wolof), in the Kaolack suburb of Medina Baye in 1930, has become by far the largest and most visible Tijānī branch around the world today. Ibrahima Niass’s teaching that all disciples, and not only specialists, can attain a direct mystical knowledge of God through tarbiyyah rūhiyyah (mystical education) has struck a chord with millions worldwide. This branch, known as the Tijāniyyah Ibrāhīmiyyah or the Fayḍah (“Flood”), is most concentrated in Senegal, Nigeria, Niger, and Mauritania, and has a growing presence in the United States and Europe. Most Tijānī web sites and international organizations are part of this movement. Niass’s grandson and current Imam of Medina Baye, Shaykh Hassan Cisse, has thousands of American disciples and has founded a large educational and developmental organization, the African American Islamic Institute, in Medina Baye with branches in other parts of the world.
Another Senegalese “house,” in Medina-Gounass, Senegal (to the east of the Niokolo Koba park) was created by Mamadou Saidou Ba.
Still another in Thienaba, near Thies, was founded by the disciple of a famous marabout of Fouta, Amadou Sekhou.
The Hamawiyyah branch, founded by Shaykh Hamallah, is centered in Nioro, Mali, and is also present in Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and Niger. One of its most prominent members is the novelist and historian Amadou Hampâté Bâ, who preserved and advocated the teachings of Thierno Bokar (Cerno Bokar), the “Sage of Banjagara”. (See Brenner, 2000.)
Also another scholar and sufi of the tariqa tijani was Cherno Alieu Dem of Njai Kunda (Koalack) Senegal. He was well known for his work when he performs ‘wirrda’ 1000 Salatul Fatiha for each grain of maize. Cherno Alieu Dem’s work was later reveal in the next generation by his grandson Shieck Ahmad Tijan Dem of ‘casaville’ Kaolack Senegal. The Tariqa Tijani was giving to Cherno Momodou Jallow by Alhajie Omar Futi Tall directly. It was Cherno Momodou Jallow that spread the Tariqa in the Senegambian region. He passed it on to many scholars of the region like Mam Mass Kah who’s grand son Imam Cherno Kah is the current Imam of Banjul. Cherno Momodou Jallow’s work was also revealed by his grandson Cherno Baba Jallow of Kerr Cherno in Nuimi The Gambia.
Tijaniyah jihad states
While the term “Jihad State” (a territory that was established by political and religious Muslim leaders, often fittingly titled Emir, who conquer a region by offensive war, invoking Jihad bin saif in the sense of holy war to establish an Islamic rule in accordance with Qur’anic injunctions) most often refers to Fulbe jihad states in and around Nigeria, the order also gave rise to a few elsewhere in Western Africa, notably in present Mali.
the Tijaniyya Jihad state was founded on 10 March 1861 by `Umar ibn Sa`id in Segu (the traditional ruler style Fama was continued by the autochthonous dynasty in part of the state until the 1893 French takeover), using the ruler title Imam, also styled Amir al-Muslimin; in 1862 Masina (ruler title Ardo) is incorporated into Tijaniyya Jihad state; 1864 the rulership split between Segu (styled Amir al-Mu`minin from 1869) and Masina (title Amir al-Mu´minin); 1888 Segu lost to Tijaniyya Jihad state; 29 April 1893 Tijaniyya Jihad state extinguished.
Dina (the Sise Jihad state), in 1818 founded by Shaykhu Ahmadu, ruler title Imam (also styled Amir al-Mu´minin); on 16 May 1862 conquered by the Tijaniyya Jihad state.
Members of the Tijānī order distinguish themselves by a number of practices. Upon entering the order, one receives the Tijānī wird from a muqaddam or representative of the order. The muqaddam explains to the initiate the duties of the order, which include keeping the basic tenets of Islam (including the five pillars of Islam), to honor and respect one’s parents, and not to follow another Sufi order in addition to the Tijāniyya. Initiates are to pronounce the Tijānī wird (a process that usually takes ten to fifteen minutes) every morning and afternoon. The wird is a formula that includes repetitions of “Lā ‘ilāha ‘ilā Llāh” (“There is no God but Allah”), “Astaghfiru Llāh” (“I ask God for forgiveness”), and a prayer for Muḥammad called the Ṣalātu l-Fātiḥ (Prayer of the Opener). They are also to participate in the Waẓīfah, a similar formula that is chanted as a group, often at a mosque, after the sundown prayer (maghrib), as well as in the Ḥaḍarat al-Jumʿah, another formula chanted among other disciples on Friday afternoon.
Additionally, disciples in many areas organize regular meetings, often on Thursday evenings or before or after Waẓīfa and Ḥaḍarat al-Jumʿah, to engage in dhikr Allāh, or mentioning God. This consists in repeating the phrase “Lā ‘ilāha ‘ilā Llāh” or simply “Allāh” as a group. In such meetings, poems praising God, Muḥammad, Aḥmed at-Tijānī, or another religious leader may be interspersed with the dhikr. Such meetings may involve simple repetition as a group or call-response, in which one or more leaders lead the chant and others repeat or otherwise respond.
Occasionally, a group of disciples (known in Senegal as a daayira, from Arabic dā’irah, or “circle”) may organize a religious conference, where they will invite one or more well known speakers or chanters to speak on a given theme, such as the life of Muḥammad or another religious leader, a particular religious obligation such as fasting during Ramadan, or the nature of God.
The most important communal event of the year for most Tijānī groups is the Mawlid an-nabawī (known in Wolof as the Gàmmu, spelled Gamou in French), or the celebration of the birth of Muḥammad, which falls on the night of the 12th of the Islamic month of Rabīʿ al-‘Awwal (which means the night before the 12th, as Islamic dates start at sundown and not at midnight). Most major Tijānī religious centers organize a large Mawlid event once a year, and hundreds of thousands of disciples attend the largest ones (in Tivaouane, Kaolack, Kano, etc.) Throughout the year, local communities organize smaller Mawlid celebrations. These meetings usually go from about midnight until shortly after dawn and include hours of dhikr and poetry and speeches about the life of Muḥammad.