March 27 to April 29, 2009

Shaykh Tijani Cisse with the Emir of Kano

The Emir of Kano welcomes Shaykh Tijani Cisse

The second international tour of Shaykh Tijani Cisse since his installation as Imam in Medina-Baye proved to be another shining testament to the continued spread of the Tijaniyya’s spiritual flood (Fayḍa). The Shaykh’s month long tour of some of West Africa’s most significant Muslim populations raised the flag of Islam and the Tariqa Tijaniyya throughout the region. Many thousands came to visit the Shaykh, some entering Islam, some taking the Tariqa, some renewing their spiritual affiliation through the chain of Shaykh al-Islam Ibrahim Niasse, and some just for the blessing of seeing him. The Shaykh’s presence was sought from all directions: to attend conferences, to meet with dignitaries and scholars, and to address thousands of hopeful followers.

Shaykh Tijani first visited Timbuktu, Mali. There he attended a conference entitled the “Timbuktu Summit: Gathered for Change,” sponsored by several Muslim organizations in Mali, as well as the Radical Middle Way, a London-based network of Muslim scholars committed to “the need to be united and to re-affirm the pristine message of Islam: that of peace, co-existence, tolerance and justice.” Here is an excerpt from the British paper, the Telegraph, concerning the Shaykh’s participation in the conference:

    Leaders such as those attending the conference in Timbuktu have the moral authority to challenge such (al-Qaeda) propaganda. As the conference delegates started arriving in Bamako, the extent of their influence became clear. Shaykh Tijane Cisse from Senegal commands the devotion of over 50 million people in West Africa. Fifteen minutes after he arrived at the hotel without prior announcement, word spread around the city of his presence and a steady flow of followers formed a line leading to his room.

Shaykh Tijani was one of the conference’s featured speakers, alongside renowned scholars such as Habib Umar b. Hafiz (of Hadramawt, Yemen) and Abdal Hakim Murad (England). Shaykh Tijani’s speech recounted the history of Islam in West Africa, a history of largely peaceful coexistence whereby “Islam came to influence African languages, customs, dress, social manners, arts, music, architecture, philosophy and morality.” He highlighted the role of Sufi scholars such as Shehu Usman dan Fodio, al-Hajj Umar al-Futi Tal and Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse in integrating diverse African cultures. Shaykh Ibrahim, he said, “made all of Africa one nation (ummah); and after him his children and grandchildren have continued the mission.”

Shaykh Tijani went on to speak of Islam’s doctrinal and historical orientation toward peace, salam. Those who associated Islam with violence and terrorism, whether non-Muslims or Muslims themselves, were ignorant of Islam’s true worth. “Islam is a religion of unity, of justice, of equality, of love, and it is a religion of peace.” He cited the verse of the Qur’an, “There is no compulsion in religion” (2:256) and censured extremism by saying: “If there is no violent compulsion towards the religion, how can there be compulsion to force people to accept a certain way of life?” The Shaykh criticized “those who accuse the Muslims of disbelief and heretical innovation, who make the religion into a hardship by obsession with the externals without reference to the essence.” He concluded with a Prophetic tradition characterizing the spread of Islam of Africa: “Make (the religion) easy, do not make it difficult; spread the good news, do not chase people away.” It was thus no accident, he said, that today the African continent has a larger percentage of Muslims than any other continent in the world.

Following the conference, he met with the large Tijani community in Timbuktu, where poems were composed in his honor. Here are a few sample verses:

(Shaykh) Tijani, welcome!

For you are the full moon, complete

The Imam of Kaolack, the Shaykh

And there is none like him

On him shines such brilliant beauty!

The spiritual support from the Owner of Majesty …

While in Mali, the Shaykh also visited the capital Bamako, as well as the historically significant towns of Segou and Fana. Among the distinguished scholars of the Tijaniyya with whom he met were Shaykh Muhammad al-Munir Haydara. Wherever he went, stirring speeches were delivered welcoming him, attesting to Malian Tijani community’s high degree of Arabic eloquence as well as their love of Shaykh Ahmad Tijani al-Sharif and his Fayda, Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse. Here is an excerpt from the speech of Shaykh Muhammad Isma’il Kawlibali welcoming the Shaykh to Fana:

    Imam of the best of mosques, companion of the highest of minbars, our direction (qibla) and our sacred house (ka’ba), locus of our love, the focus of attention for the spirit of the Fayda … May Allah not prevent us from the blessing of your companionship and saintly gaze (naẓr).

In Bamako he was praised by Shaykh ‘Ali b. Isma’il Kalubal as the “Imam of the people of the Fayda.” In Segou, Shaykh Muhammad al-Hashimi Mansur Haydara spoke in praise of Shaykh Tijani Cisse as follows:

    Goodness and happiness have come to visit us, the flood (fayda) and elevation (tarqiyya) have arrived. Over all heads is the magnanimous Imam, owner of the most exalted and splendid qualities, inheritor of the Shaykh and his eternal secret in the entirety of its manifestations, Sidi al-Shaykh al-Tijani Cisse, may Allah be pleased with him …
    You did not enter any house except that the remembrance and gnosis of Allah came to permeate it; and you did not touch down in our land except that Islam and the Tariqa became spread far and wide.

After Mali, Shaykh Tijani visited Abidjan, Ivory Coast. He was accorded a lively reception. Among the words which greeted him were the following:

    Welcome in Abidjan, a land that has become exalted and splendid by your visit. You have collected in one person whatever had been scattered among the saints, so today we are in the presence of all their secrets in one person …
    We have pitched our tent at your door. We have placed our heads beneath your feet. We have no hope except in your good pleasure, for surely the pleasure of Allah is in the pleasure of the parents. The sphere of the saints and the Prophets is wide; and the spiritual father is the real father. This indication suffices for the intelligent one.

Before returning to Senegal, Shaykh Tijani took the opportunity to visit several of the important Muslim centers in Nigeria. In Kano, he was received as a guest of honor by the Emir, Ado Bayero, an ardent disciple of Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse and the Tijaniyya.