Touba Michigan

Conference Serigne Aliou Mbacke
    Magal 2009 - Detroit Michigan
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27500 franklin rd suite 200
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Waxtaan Serigne Khadim Lo Touba Michigan mosque on July 13th, 2009
At the time when the French colonial power was weary of its attempts to physically eliminate the peaceful and forgiving Sheikh (Ahmadou Bamba) in the painful and iniquitous exile that they took him in Gabon, Central Africa, they decided to bring him back to Senegal thus acknowledged their failure to being able to extinguish him and his ideas. However, the colonizers did not disarm themselves completely: instead, their new strategy of combatting him was to transpose their attempts to physically destroy him into an intellectual and cultural war so as to erase his teachings and ideas from the minds of his disciples. In this, they introduced school systems that were fundamentally aimed at brainwashing, culturally uprooting, and Europeanizing Murids and the Senegalese people in general by assimilating them with the French manners. Their hopes were that Muridism would break down and disappear as soon as the disappearance of its founder occurred.

They believed that with their new system, that was mined by the dissensions and successoral quarrels and the seduction of the material life among Murids, would extinguish the lights of Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba. Fortunately, all their hopes lamentably collapsed thereafter because Sheikh Ahmadou BAMBA left after him Valiant Paladins of Muridism who defensively preserved and illustrated all the propagation of his immensely remarkable work. The first among them was Sheikh Mouhammadou Mustapha MBACKE (his firs t son and caliph) who was characterized by an incommensurable courage, an uncommon intelligence, immense qualities of an assembler, organizer, builder, and all other good qualities in the very sense of the expression, that were hard to find in a leader particularly in the context of the colonial time, and in one of the most tragic periods of the French colonizers i.e. between two wars (World War I & II).

This valiant yet peaceful soldier of Muridism, who lit the path that his well-known father and founder of Muridism paved, was born in 1888 in Darou Salam. His mother Sokhna Aminata Lo was a descendent of a great family of scholars. His maternal uncle, Serigne Ndam Abdou Rahman LÔ, a great teacher and very close companion of Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba taught him the Koran in Daroul Alim or Ndam (where the new Al Azhar Touba University is located now), while Mame Thierno Birahim MBACKE, his paternal uncle ensured his training and mastery of theological and other Islamic sciences. Thereafter, his father, the greatest Sheikh himself guided him to the mysteries of a mystical background. Never a student was so gifted. He excelled to a point that his father designated him as his successor, with a mission of strengthening the sticking together of the Murid community so they would thrive, and also the construction of the grand mosque of Touba for the glory of the Almighty. Although, he was perhaps not superfluous to say what contemporaries reported, that his father showed abundant affection towards him and invested his confidence in him. The first occasion, during which Sheikh Mouhammadou Moustapha
MBACKE had to show that he was at the height of his father’s expectation, was in 1927, when Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba passed away. The quickness and relevance of his reaction, self-control, discretion and courage with which he managed to transfer the illustrious body of the great Sheikh to Touba was indeed not an easy task during the colonial days, without neither authorization nor permission from the French colonizers.

With the contempt of the obvious risks, he fulfilled the last wills of his father i.e. to ensure him a burial in conformity of his wishes, according to the procedure which the Sheikh, himself, had indicated and especially by making sure that his body was not “spotted,” by even a glance of a member of the colonial administration. Another demonstration of his full capacity to play the part that his father had reserved for him was the way in which he has put an end to the inclinations of dissidence of certain Sheikhs after the passing away of his father, the founder. With his willingness as a great leader and his qualities of a great assembler, he succeeded in reuniting around him all the dignitaries and Talibés (disciples). Besides, to ensure the oneness and collective force of the Murid community, he, with his uncommon intelligence, chose the idea of dialogue and discussion, making him a peaceful valiant paladin of Muridism. First of all, starting with his brothers and sisters, who actually looked and loved him as they did their venerable father Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba, Sheikh Mouhammadou Moustapha ensured, even though he was the only master with the supreme authority to demand for the strict obedience of his younger siblings, he preferred, out of all, to consult them in consideration of their opinions.

Moreover, it is of public notoriety that he venerated his brothers and sisters and cherished them, because he also saw in each one of them his beloved father. In regards to his relationship with his siblings, Sokhna Maimouna MBACKE (his youngest sister) did a particularly edifying testimony on him. In fact, she was always very passionate of telling, at a young age, that her father was still alive because by then she was not yet aware of her family ties with Sheikh Mouhammadou Moustapha, and his brother’s eagerness to satisfy and take excellent care of her and her other siblings attracted her attention and made all of them feel as if the Sheikh has never left. She had noticed in him such a zeal and devotion to satisfy and look after them (Sokhna Maimouna and her other siblings) that went as far as him offering his clothes to them to wipe their hands after meals. As a result, Sokhna Maimouna said to her brothers: “He (Sheikh Mouhammadou Moustapha) is a great man, this disciple of our father!” In addition, he had a good relationship with the other Sheikhs and Murid Dignitaries: following his father’s footsteps, he had enormous consideration and respect for them. As a matter of fact, he never neglected their opinion or advice during big decision making and all that concerned the development of the community. He conferred to them certain prerogatives that were intended to develop and strengthen the community.

As his Father did, he created Daaras (school & developmet centers) for them where, apart from teaching the Koran and liturgy, a productive work system was set up with the row of true priesthood. Consequently, in order to equip the Sheikhs, he had established many villages such as: Tindody, Taïf, Naïdé, Darou Naïm, Kaél, and Bayla, just to mention but a few. It is perhaps useful to recall that all the income generated of the productions from Taif and Bayla were exclusively devoted to the financing of the large construction projects such as the Grand Mosque of Touba and the railway that joined Diourbel and the Holy city of Touba. As a comparison, those Daaras prefigure the ones in Khelcome now established by the current Caliph, Sheikh Salihou Mbacke, which do not aim at anything else, regardless of the amount of the income that they generate, but to finance the work of Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba. Finally, with the rest of the Uma, he spent all his life worshiping God, serving Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba, and weaving close links of fraternity and collaboration (interfaith dialogue) with other religious leaders, not only those from Senegal but also of the neighboring countries such as Mauritania and etc. It is reported that Seydou Nourou TALL, the then representative of the Omarian family often visited him. Besides, he received, in Touba, the King of the TRARZA who came from Mauritania to pay a visit to him, his brother in Islam. As diplomatic and tolerant as he was, Sheikh Mouhammadou Moustapha succeeded in establishing a good relationship with everyone even the colonial administration to a point that even the Governor of the AOF himself once visited him in Touba and stayed there for three days.

The greatest success of Sheikh Mouhammadou Moustapha that one cannot neglect to mention is his construction of the Grand Mosque of TOUBA. Indeed, the construction of the Grand Mosque of Touba was such a dear project to Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba himself, to an extent that he said, years before it was thought by any, “The Eternal (referring to God) has honored me for eternity, with an indestructible building that will stand up until Paradise," i.e. until the day we go to paradise. The Sheikh has made the following prayers for those who, either by near or far had or would happily collaborate or take part in the construction of his dear project (the Grand Mosque of Touba): “Absolve the volunteers who built the so high building of my dwelling-place, the blessed land of TOUBA, for their past and future sins; absolve all those who had the load of financing the building for their first and last sins.” “Also absolve all those who came to them in assistance in this building which, by Your Glory is raised - O! How Majestic - their sins before and after. ” It is important to recall that Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba didn’t assign Murids to construct the Grand Mosque of Touba for any other purpose but only with the intention of opening their ways to redemption.

Indeed, the Mosque was a plan of God to make it happen, and the Sheikh in his utterance to his disciples to imply themselves in its construction, cautioned them about it. He said: “If you undertake it (the construction of the Grand Mosque), God will be much glorified but in the event of renunciation, God will send beings to do it, ” i.e. other beings will do the constructions if Murids don't. The time came and Sheikh Mouhammadou Moustapha obligated himself to fulfil his father’s wishes. As a result, he faced many obstacles on his way, but courageously, obstinately, and with determination, he succeeded in overcoming them one after the other. On Friday the 17th Day of Dhul-Qadah 1350(March 25, 1932), Sheikh Mouhammadou Moustapha carried out the installation of the first stone (i.e. the first piece of groundwork)of the Grand Mosque in the presence of Murid dignitaries and an enthusiastic crowd of disciples. Indeed, he had to come over the obstacles in order to make things happen. He fought strongly to obtain the registration of the land that the constructions were to be done on, as well as the authorization to build it. The colonial authorities then imposed a condition upon him which, in its logic, was supposed to definitely put an end to the project( construction of the Grand Mosque). It was for him to, first of all, build about 50 km (31 miles) of railway connecting Diourbel and Touba in order for them to be able to transport heavy construction materials for the project.

On the regular, only a government or a powerful and wealthy company could take up such a challenge. But with the courage and determination of Sheikh Mouhammadou Moustapha, both the human and financial resources needed to meet the requirement of the colonial authorities were gathered by the Murids themselves within a time frame that was way shorter than the deadline that Sheikh Mouhammadou Moustapha had been given. Finally, he had to thwart the fraudulent schemes of a colonial administrator named Pierre TAIILERIE, the colonial administrator who attempted to void the contract that was agreed upon for the construction of the Grand Mosque. In a very short time, it was obvious that TAIILERIE was just a swindler who wanted to financially enrich himself of the murids, assuming that they were all ignorant of their rights and would never dare taking a white man to either colonial or metropolitan justice. With his determination, Sheikh Mouhammadou Moustapha was able to bring TAIILERIE to justice and later on TAIILERIE was convicted. Then constructions of the beautiful Grand Mosque of Touba began and Murids competed one another, with all their efforts, for the success of the work. On Friday June 7, 1963, during the inauguration day of the Grand Mosque by Sheikh Mouhammadou Falilou Mbacke, the worthy successor of Sheik Mouhammadou Moustapha, all murids unanimoulsy remembered, with all their hearts and emotion, the first Caliph of Khadimou Rassoul (Sheikh Mouhammadou Moustapha), who passed away on July 13, 1945, after the construction had already picked up. The building of the foundation was completed by him and so were the walls.

He was a true icon of an untiring hard worker, a scholar who had mastered the Koran, religious sciences, and the Arabic language, just for assistance. We still keep in memory the year of 1928 during which the first Magal, after the passing away of Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba, was celebrated (in the wake of the founder of Muridism who used to organize it himself). Indeed, it was the starting point of a firmly established tradition that, nowadays, becomes one of the most important events in the Muslim world. Taking a glance of the stature of Sheikh Mouhammadou Mustapha, one can see that he helped make Touba the religious metropolis, the Holy City, and Murid capital that it is now, thus we all owe him a lot of gratitude. He installed the first water supply system in the holy city in Daroul Alim (Ndam), where the Al Azhar Touba University is today. It is him who imparted in Murids the belief in hard work, and the determination to honestly earn one’s living in conformity with the Sheikh’s teachings. With such momentum, it was not by chance that Baol became the principal groundnut producer in Senegal because Sheikh Mustapha himself has once been awarded the Agricultural Merit Medal. In spite of the crisis of the 1930’s and the negative economic effects of the Second World war, the Murid world and spirit remained rich, prosperous, irreparably graved in a logic of hard work, discipline, and religious enthusiasm, thanks to the teachings of Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba that was spread by Sheikh Mouhammadou Mustapha.

It was him that Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba had instructed to donate the sum of 500, 000 francs to the Colonial Administration at that time when money was scarce, to help them maintain the value of the French currency that was threatened to collapse. What a beautiful example of generosity, wisdom, and warm heartedness that Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba has given to his followers. He extended his big heart and sympathy to his openly known enemies that were determined to destroy him and his community. We cannot look at the railway in Touba, gather together in the Grand Mosque, or pass by Darou Khoudoss, the heart of Touba, without talking about this great figure of Islam whom the younger generations may not know about except through photographs. His face marks the kindness and serenity drenched in the light of Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba, with his head wrapped with a turban, all that corroborate testimonies of his contemporaries describing him as an untiring worker who decisively diverted the social life of Murids (imparted the values of hard work and discipline in them) and whose only concern was the precepts of Islam and the memory of his father. He personally led the constructions of the Grand Mosque and never hesitated, in any chance, to put his hands on it. It is this man who is reputed for his fairness, his sense of humanitarianism that never differentiate the rich and the poor, that Murids are still talking about today and affectionately remembering him by his nicknames: Amdy or Ndigne (referring to his abundant hair).

There is no doubt that his remarkable work has been approved by Allah and that his father is totally satisfied with him, as much as his valiant siblings who, by his example, carried and pass the “light” transmitted by the founder himself. Sheikh Mouhammadou Moustapha Mbacke was the Caliph of Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba from 1927-1945.

Al Azhar Editorial

Magal of Daroul Khoudoss 2010: Who Was Serigne Mouhammadoul Moustapha Mbacke?