Shaykh Ahmad Tijani b. Sayyidi Ali Cisse (or Cheikh Tidiane Cisse) holds the Imamate of the Grand Mosque in Medina-Baye, Senegal. As Imam of the spiritual heart for the followers of Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse (RA), Shaykh Tijani Cisse represents some one-hundred million Muslims around the world. He succeeds to the position after a lifetime of personal instruction and companionship with some of the twentieth century’s most eminent Tijani scholars: Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse (d. 1975), Shaykh Sayyidi ‘Ali Cisse (d. 1982), and Shaykh Hassan b. ‘Ali Cisse (d. 2008). Shaykh Tijani Cisse is a renowned scholar, a consummate gnostic, a spiritual trainer endowed with startling insight into the aspirant’s condition, a committed humanitarian, and a Sufi ascetic whose heart never leaves the presence of the Real but whose existence in the world follows the movement of time. He is the reviver of the Muhammadan Sunnah, the khalifa of Shaykh Ahmad Tijani al-Hasani, the bearer of the Tijani Flood in this generation and the paradigmatic servant of Allah (’Abd-Allah) of the time. May Allah be pleased with him and be pleased with us on account of him.
Shaykh Tijani Cisse (b. 1955) is the second son of Shaykh Ibrahim’s most beloved student, Shaykh ‘Ali Cisse (RA), and his first daughter, Fatima Zahra Niasse (RA). After memorizing Qur’an in Medina-Baye, Shaykh Tijani himself became a Qur’an teacher in Medina Baye while continuing his Islamic studies. In his late teens, he devoted himself full-time to personalized instruction (majalis al-ilm), first under his father, Shaykh Ali (1971-1972); and then under his grandfather, Shaykh Ibrahim (1973). He was the last to be personally instructed by Shaykh Ibrahim in the classical texts, focusing mostly on Arabic literature and poetry. He would later receive the highest of licenses from his father, Shaykh ‘Ali Cisse, who told him: “Whatever Shaykh Ibrahim gave me, I am giving you.”
After completing his early education in Senegal, he traveled to Egypt where he lived with Shaykh Hassan Cisse (RA) during his elder brother’s last year of study in Cairo. Like his brother, Shaykh Tijani excelled in his formal studies in Egypt; the result, he says, of the rigor of the informal instruction given him in Senegal. He graduated first in his class in the Azhar preparatory school, receiving his diploma in Arabic language in 1974. He received his Baccalaureate in 1977 in Arabic Language, graduating fourth in his class. By 1981, he had distinguished himself at the University of Azhar with a degree in the faculty of Usul al-Din (theology), department of Hadith (Prophetic Traditions).
After finishing his studies in Egypt, he traveled extensively throughout Africa, the Middle East and America attending conferences, participating in religious debates, and calling people to Islam. He took time to edit and publish several important works, including Shaykh Ibrahim’s Kashif al-Ilbas and a collection of Shaykh Ibrahim’s writings, which he named Sa’adat al-Anam. He also aided the publication of a comprehensive collection of Shaykh Ibrahim’s supplications, Kanz al-Masun. One Azhar scholar reportedly told him that his work identifying hadith citations in the 2001 publication of Kashif al-Ilbas would have been enough to complete a doctorate at Azhar University. In the introduction to Shaykh Tijani’s reprinting of the Kashif, Shaykh Hassan Cisse wrote: “I thank my dear brother, the master, the Shaykh Tijani ‘Ali Cisse, who spent of his efforts for the success of this pious work and much appreciated endeavor…”
The high scholarship of Shaykh Tijani Cisse was recognized by the Senegalese government in 2001, when he was appointed Senegal’s General Commissioner for the Hajj. In 2006, he was again recognized by Senegalese President Aboulaye Wade and appointed a Senegalese “Special Missions Ambassador”, a position he holds until the present time. He has also received Senegal’s distinguished award, the Ordre de Merite (1993). His country’s high esteem for his scholarship was revealed most recently by a personal visit of President Abdoulaye Wade to the Shaykh’s home in Medina-Baye (2008).
Shaykh Tijani Cisse was the closest confidant and traveling companion of his brother, Shaykh Hassan Cisse. Many of the illustrious representatives at his inauguration recalled how whoever was speaking with Shaykh Hassan Cisse when Shaykh Tijani came into the room – even if it was a government minister – he would have to go out in order to leave the two of them alone if they had something to discuss. Many of the miraculous occurrences during Shaykh Hassan’s travels were shared by his brother, Shaykh Tijani. For example, when a great scholar in Medina (Saudi Arabia) gave Shaykh Hassan an ijaza to teach select hadith by command of the Prophet in a visionary encounter, Shaykh Tijani received from him the same ijaza. The extent of his intimacy with Shaykh Hassan is proven by Shaykh Hassan’s calling his younger brother to his bedside to be the last person with him before he passed.
Their noble mother, Sayyida Fatima Zahra Niasse, revealed that some people of insight in Nigeria repeatedly used to tell her that since Shaykh Ibrahim, like the Prophet Muhammad, had a father named ‘Abd Allah, a son-in-law and closest companion named ‘Ali, a daughter named Fatima, a grandson named Hassan, her second son Shaykh Tijani was in reality a “Husayn” similar to the Prophet’s second beloved grandson.
Shaykh Tijani Cisse’s installation as Imam was unanimously agreed upon by the leading representatives of the legacy of Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse. His August 15, 2008 inauguration was attended by delegations from Nigeria, Mauritania, Ghana, South Africa and America; and by Shaykh Ibrahim’s most eminent sons: Shaykh Ahmad Dame Ibrahim Niasse (current Khalifa of Shaykh Ibrahim’s family), Shaykh Ahmad Tijani Niasse, Shaykh Muhammad Ma’mun Niasse (public representative of the Shaykh Ibrahim’s family), Shaykh Muhammad Mahi Niasse, Shaykh Muhammad Maki Niasse and Shaykh Muhammad al-Amin Niasse (also known as Baba Lamine). Other significant figures to confirm his appointment included Ibrahim Diop (former travelling companion and secretary of Shaykh Ibrahim), Shaykh Muhammad al-Hafiz al-Nahwi (Mauritania), al-Hajj b. Muhammad al-Mishry (Mauritania), Shaykh Tahir al-Bauchi (Nigeria), Shaykh Muhammad al-Mahi Cisse (younger brother to Shaykh Tijani Cisse and director of the Islamic school founded by Shaykh Hassan) and Jere Cisse (traveling companion and secretary of Shaykh Hassan Cisse). The occasion of his installation as Imam also marked Shaykh Tijani’s assumption of the presidency of the African American Islamic Institute, the UN-recognized humanitarian organization founded by Shaykh Hassan for the sake of health care, education and cross-cultural communication.
Shaykh Ibrahim’s will designated leadership of Medina-Baye’s Grand Mosque to his closest disciple Shaykh ‘Ali Cisse, to be passed next to his eldest son Shaykh Hassan, and after “to whomever Allah wills.” The unanimous validation of Shaykh Tijani Cisse as the community’s new Imam proved him to be he “whom Allah wills” according to the will of Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse. May Allah prolong his life, and allow his himma, his lofty aspiration, to lift the hearts of those in need.