January 16-18, 2008
Cheikh Tidiane Cisse (or Shaykh Tijani Cisse) made his international debut as Imam of the Grand Mosque in Medina-Baye Kaolack with a three day whirl-wind tour of the Gambia. Cheikh Tidiane met with high government officials, sat with the respected Muslim scholars of the country, and visited mosques, homes and entire villages thronging with followers of his grandfather, Shaykh al-Islam Ibrahim Niasse (RA). Cheikh Tidiane was accompanied by a large delegation from Senegal which included sons of Shaykh Ibrahim, Muhammad al-‘Arabi Niasse and Abd al-Malik Niasse, a Moroccan Sharif descendent of al-Shaykh al-Khatim Ahmad al-Tijani, a daughter (Ruqiyyah) of Shaykh Hassan Cisse, and representatives from Nigeria, Ghana, Mauritania, South Africa and America.
Gambian President Yahya Jammeh received Cheikh Tidiane for an official visit on Friday morning (January 16), and spoke of reviving the good relations he had maintained with the followers of Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse under the leadership of the late Shaykh Hassan Cisse (RA). The President expressed his gratitude that the same respect he maintained for Shaykh Hassan as his friend and advisor would be continued with Cheikh Tidiane. Prayers were offered for peace and good relations between Senegal and the Gambia. See President Jammeh’s official website for more information on the visit.
Cheikh Tidiane also visited the former speaker of the Gambian parliament, Sir Aliou Jack, who had studied directly with Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse and been appointed a muqaddam (licensed instructor) of the Tijaniyya in the Gambia. Later he visited another government official, the prodigy Minister Fatima Baje Janneh, a 21-year-old woman wise beyond her years also with a marked commitment to the mission and teachings of Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse.
The Senegalese Imam led the Friday prayer in the historic Independence Avenue mosque (the first Juma’ mosque in the Gambian capital, Banjul). Later he was joined by over two thousand worshippers at the new King Fahd Mosque for the congregational remembrance. This was followed a series of speeches by the scholars present.
On Saturday, Chiekh Tidiane visited the Imam al-Ratib (chief Imam) of the King Fahd mosque, Thierno Ali Mass Kah. There he was met by the Gambian Muslim Elders Association, also headed by Thierno Kah. Thierno Kah, who like his father before him is a fervent disciple of Shaykh Ibrahim, is a descendent of Mass Kah, an Islamic scholar of great renown who was among the first to propagate the Tijaniyya in the Gambia in the nineteenth century.
Cheikh Tidiane paid a special visit to the first zawiya of the “Talibe Baye” in the Gambia, that of Shaykh Umar Faye (d. 1957) currently led by Imam Muntaqa Faye. Serin Muntaqa is the Imam of the Independence Avenue mosque in Banjul and vice president of the influential Federation of Ansaroudine of the Gambia. It was this organization, representing the collective will of all the associations (da’ira) of Shaykh Ibrahim’s followers in the Gambia, which was primarily responsible for hosting Cheikh Tidiane and his delegation.
The weekend also witnessed several other high-profile visits to villages outside of Banjul. Of special note was a visit to the villages of Naima al-Kalo and Naima al-Nazir, primarily Fulani villages south of Banjul. Naima al-Nazir boasts an impressive mosque, a smaller replica of the Grand Mosque in Medina Baye, and is led by Imam Abdoulaye Ba. Imam Ba was trained by Shaykh Muhammad Nazir Ibrahim Niasse, who himself inaugurated the mosque in 1986. The village has witnessed impressive growth and was clearly teeming with enthusiastic disciples of Shaykh Ibrahim. Other noteworthy visits included the homes of Ibrahim Thiam and Serin Aliou Thiam, the latter who studied with Shaykh Ali Cisse (the father of Cheikh Tidiane) and is currently an Imam in Serekunda.
The delegation from Medina Baye returned to Senegal on Monday, January 19, exhausted, but well pleased with the gracious hospitality of its Gambian hosts and the unity and mobilization of the disciples of Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse. On the whole, the visit gave witness to the ascendency of the Talibe-Baye in the Gambia. The Shaykh’s picture is seen nearly everywhere throughout the country. It was clear that the country’s most prominent scholars, many villages outside Banjul and some government officials besides were ardent supporters of Shaykh Ibrahim. And everywhere Cheikh Tidiane went, he was lauded and hailed as the true inheritor and Imam of the community of Shaykh Ibrahim. As Imam Muntaqa Faye reminded the large assembly in the King Fahd Mosque, “whoever Allah wills to be the Imam of mosque in Medina Baye is the Imam not only of the mosque, but of the entire community.”