Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba

Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba was born in 1853 in the village of Mbacké (Mbàkke Bawol in Wolof) in Baol, the son of Habibullah Bouso, a Marabout from the Qadiriyya, the oldest tariqa (Sufi order) in Senegal, and Maryam Bousso

Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba founded the Mouride brotherhood in 1883, and its capital is Touba, Senegal, which also serves as the location of the sub-Saharan Africa’s largest mosque, which was built by the Mourides. He founded the city of Touba in 1887.

Fearing his influence, the French sentenced him to exile in Gabon (1895–1902) and later in Mauritania (1903–1907). However, these exiles inspired stories and folk tales of Bamba’s miraculous survival of torture, deprivation, and attempted executions, and thousands more flocked to his organization.

By 1910, the French realized that Bamba was not interested in waging violent war against them, and was in fact quite cooperative, eventually releasing him to return to his expanded community. Ahmadou Bamba did not cease to defend the message of Islam until his death in 1927.

As the founder of Mouridism, Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba is considered one of the greatest spiritual leaders in Senegalese history and of the biggest influences on contemporary Senegalese life and culture. Mouridism is today one of Senegal’s four Sufi movements, with four million devotees in Senegal alone and thousands more abroad, the majority of whom are emigrants from Senegal. Followers of the Mouride movement, an offshoot of traditional Sufi philosophy, aspire to live closer to God, in emulation of the Prophet Muhammad’s example. Today, Ahmadou Bamba has an estimated following of more than 3 million people and parades occur around the world in his honor, including in various cities in the USA. One such city is New York, where Muslims of West African descent have ordanized an “annual Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba Day parade” for over twenty years. Celebrations like these create platforms to “redefine the boundaries of their African identities, cope with the stigma of blackness, and counteract an anti-Muslim backlash”.