IMAM SHEIKH AL-HASSAN SEYDI ALI CISSE (RA)
Imamul Akbar Sheikh Al Hassan Seydi Ali Cisse (RA) [1945-2008] was the preeminent spokesmen of the Tariqa Tijaniyya in recent times. He was an accomplished Islamic scholar, emerging from a long and vibrant legacy of Islamic learning in West Africa. The grandson and spiritual heir of Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse, he was designated by Sheikh Ibrahim as Imam of the Jama’at Nasr al-Ilm (“Community of Helping Knowledge”), the folleiers of Sheikh Ibrahim who are historically the largest single Muslim movement in twentieth-century West Africa.
Sheikh Hassan was a consummate scholar and spiritual guide. He received a complete training in the traditional Islamic sciences: the Qur’an and its exegesis (tafsir), Prophetic traditions (hadith) and history (seerah), jurisprudence and its sources (fiqh and usul), literature (adab), poetry, grammar and Sufism (tasawwuf ). After memorizing the Qur’an at a young age in Mauritania, he was educated mostly in Senegal under the personal supervision of Sheikh Ibrahim Niasse, who had gathered in Kaolack, Senegal, some of the most renowned scholars from Senegal, Mauritania, Nigeria, and beyond. These included Shaykh Hassan’s own father, Seydi Ali Cisse, and his mother, Sayyida Fatima Zahra Niasse. The Cisse lineage, originally Mande speakers, is one of the most ancient scholarly groups in West Africa, tracing its conversion to Islam back 1000 years to Kumbe Saleh, one of the great cities of West Africa’s proud history. In many places in West Africa, “Cisse” used to be simply synonymous with “scholar.”
Sheikh Hassan’s own scholarly reputation earned him the respect of Muslim ‘ulama around the world. For example, Sheikh Yasin al-Fadani (d. 1990), the Indonesian musnid of the Hijaz, sent him a personal diploma (ijaza) transmitting the some 700 diplomas Sheikh Yasin had collected from prominent scholars throughout the Islamic world. Similarly, the great Hadith scholar of Medina, Sheikh Ahmad Muhammad Abd al-Jawwad, presented him with an ijaza after being instructed to do so in a visionary encounter with the Prophet Muhammad. Sheikh Hassan Cisse himself possessed more than 600 ijazas from Muslim scholar all around the world, the most cherished of which remains that from his grandfather, Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse.
Although Sheikh Hassan was only thirty at the time of his grandfather’s passing, Sheikh Ibrahim was said to show him special favor from the time of his birth in 1945. In Sheikh Ibrahim’s last will and testament, he recommended his own children to his closest disciple and lifelong companion, Seydi Ali Cisse, and said that they should “be with him as they are with me now.” The will mentions Sheikh Hassan by name as the community’s Imam after his father. Sheikh Hassan was the last to see Sheikh Ibrahim alive.
Besides the “traditional” sciences, Sheikh Hassan also attained high merit in later academic education, completing a B.A. in Islamic Studies and Arabic Literature from Ain Shams University (Cairo, Egypt) and an M.A. in English from the University of London. Near completion of his PhD in Islamic Studies at Northwestern University (Chicago, IL), his father passed, and Sheikh Hassan was obliged to return to Senegal to assume the imamate in Kaolack. Sheikh Hassan is fluent in Arabic, English, French, Hausa and his native Wolof language.
Sheikh Hassan Cisse continued the work of his grandfather, introducing Islam to thousands and unifying diverse cultures under the banner of Islam. The Sheikh positively affected the lives of many in societies rife with ethnic and religious tensions, such as Nigeria, Mauritania, South Africa and the United States. Sheikh Hassan first came to America in 1976, and since worked tirelessly to promote good-will and positive exchange between Americans and the international Muslim community, emphasizing the essential spirituality and etiquette (Sufism) of Islam to promote individual betterment and real brotherhood. These efforts bore fruit through the founding of the African American Islamic Institute, a UN recognized non-governmental organization (NGO) which promotes education, health care, women’s rights, and international exchange and dialogue between America and West Africa.
Sheikh Hassan’s social efforts were recognized by several international organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Rotary International. He frequently participated in the United Nations annual conference for the world-wide NGO community. He participated in annual United Nations conferences for NGOs and was a frequently invited guest speaker at UNICEF and other UN-sponsored events. His role as an eminent Islamic scholar committed to the real needs of humanity also occasioned his election as President of the recently formed Network of African Islamic Organizations for Population and Development. For an example of his address of international humanitarian concerns from the perspective of an Islamic scholar, see his speech delivered at a 2007 meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia:The Role of Religious Leaders in Polio Eradication.
His credentials as an Islamic scholar made him a frequently invited teacher in places such as Nigeria, Mauritania, Morocco, Ghana, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, South Africa, France, Germany, England, the United States and beyond. The famous Azhar University in Egypt honored the Sheikh with an award of “highest distinction” for his activities as a world-renowned Muslim scholar. We thank Allah for his presence among us. As has been said of Sheikh Hassan by a disciple:
Through him the Sunnah has been revived
Through him the flood of Divine grace has remained among us
And people have set out for God group upon group
In him we have grasped a handhold that never breaks.
Sheikh Hassan passed from this world on August 14, 2008. His furneral in Medina-Baye, Kaolack, was attended by over two million people and his departure was mourned by many more around the world. He has been succeeded by his brother and companion, Sheikh Tijani Cisse.
1251 persons convert to the Islam: Imam Hassan CISSE confirms.
In the Region of Marwa to the North of Cameroon, 1251 people embraced the religion of Allah in a single meeting on Friday, February 22, 2008. This collective conversion was the fruit of the preaching efforts bringing Sheikh Hassan CISSE, Imam of the Grand Mosque of Medina-Baye Senegal, to the northern Cameroonian city of Dongrossé, February 21 to 23, 2008.The place of gathering for this massive conversion could not contain the number of people coming to witness the entrance to Islam of five traditional “Grand Chiefs,” of whom the most famous was Chief Yandandi. Henceforth, these chiefs will carry the title of “Emir” within their respective communities.Delegations came from Chad and Nigeria to attend this solemn ceremony. In particular, the Chadian delegation was distinguished by the presence of high-ranking military personnel, who came bringing riverside populations despite the instability in their country. Dongrossé is only 50 km from the Chadian border.During a previous visit to the Chadian city of Pala, 560 km to the south of N’Djamena near the border with Cameroon, 883 people converted to Islam at the hand of Imam Hassan Cisse in July, 2006.In such a manner, Sheikh Hassan Cisse continues to honor the invitations and requests from communities who find in him an excellent communicator and successful philanthropic interlocutor.With this “Turning Point of 2008,” the Imam of Medina-Baye has once again taken up the pilgrim’s banner, carrying the Word of Allah the Exalted and of the Prophet, peace and blessings on him, to the corners of the world, especially in Africa. He thus continues the work of his venerable grand-father, Sheikh al-Islam, al-Hajj Ibrahim Niass.
The “Forum for the Followers of the Tijania Order,” convened in Fes, Morocco, under the royal patronage of the His Majesty Muhammad VI, was a stunning testament to the depth and breadth of Tijani scholarship around the world. Scholars and eminent shaykhs came from such diverse places as Senegal, Nigeria, Mauritania, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Dubai, Sudan, South Africa and America to present and discuss the significant historical and present-day role of the Tariqa Tijaniyya in spreading Islam, in guarding the peaceful and expansive essence of the religion, and in actualizing spiritual and ethical training for Muslims around the world. In an open letter to the Forum’s participants dated 25 June 2007 and read aloud by the Minister of Endowments and Religious Affairs, Dr. Ahmad Tawfiq, Sultan Muhammad VI welcomed his distinguished guests in the following manner:
Morocco is delighted to welcome today this distinguished elite of Tijani leaders, disciples and supporters, who have come from different parts of the world, carrying the shining torch of piety and righteousness under divine guidance. This country is determined to remain true to its spiritual and civilizational heritage, and to its commitment to stay the focal rallying point of the Tariqa Tijania. You can count on Morocco’s support in your effort to disseminate its radiant message and expand its scope for the sake of Islamic, Maghrebian and African solidarity. We want the Tariqa Tijania to emerge as a pillar of African unity, playing a pivotal role in the continent’s educational systems … I shall endeavor to strengthen the bonds which unite Morocco to your sister nations and enlightened leaders. Our sole objective is to shield Sunni, tolerant Islam and keep it pure and immune to heretical views, blind extremism and biased politicization … There is no doubt that the Tariqa Tijania, whether in Africa or in the Islamic world as a whole, has a key role to play in rekindling and enhancing the fervor of moral and spiritual education, and in cleansing the souls from the evil temptations of discord and division, boosting, instead, their propensity to forge union and harmony … This is the golden rule for building a cohesive, healthy, solidarity-based society. It is a fundamental prerequisite for the emergence of a Muslim Umma which was ordained by God, as a moderate community guided by the eternal light of
The highlights of the four-day event included a key-note address by the Senegalese Imam Sheikh Hassan Cisse, which concerned the personality of Sheikh Ahmad Tijani, the special characteristics of his Muhammadan Path (Tariqa Muhammadia) and the later emergence of such eminent personalities as El-Hajj Umar Futi, El-Hajj Abdoulaye Niasse, El-Hajj Malik Sy and Sheikh Ibrahim Niass. Sheikh Hassan also was asked to give the concluding remarks for the conference. Other significant addresses included introductory remarks given by Sharif Ibrahim Salih al-Husseini (Nigeria), remarks on the future of the Tijania given by Professor Ibrahim Diop (Senegal), a letter from Sheikh Mansour Sy (Senegal) read by his representative, and a discussion of the Tijania’s role in fostering African unity by Shaykh Uthman Tahir Bauchi (Nigeria). Other primary presenters included Sharif Sidi Tijani Muhammad al-Kabir (Morocco), Shaykh Abdullah al-Mishry (Mauritania), Shaykh Abdussalam Ali Husseini (Egypt), Shaykh Muhammad Kabir al-Ba’aqili (Morocco), Dr. Abd al-Qadir Abu Akri (Sudan), Shaykh Muhammad al-Eid al-Tamasini (Algeria) and Shaykh Zine al-Abidine (Sudan).
Interlocutors (mutadakhilin) also called on to speak included Sheikha Maryam Niass (Senegal), who spoke on women’s education, Sheikh Muhammad al-Amine Niass (Senegal), Sheikh Munir al-Khaydari (Mali), Sheikh Muhammad al-Hafiz al-Nahwi (Mauritania), Sheikh Khalid Sana (Burkina Faso), Sheikh Ahmad Tijani Ben Omar (Ghana), Hajja Ashaki Taha-Cisse (America), Dr. Aoua Bocar Ly-Tall (Canada), Zakariya Wright (America) and Sheikh Fakhruddin Owaisi (South Africa).
The conference was also blessed by the attendance of many noble descendents of the Prophet Muhammad through Sheikh Ahmad Tijani. Other notable scholars in attendance included Sheikh Ahmad bin Muhammad al-Hafiz (Egypt), Sheikh Ahmad Khidr Mahmud (Sudan), Sheikh al-Tayyib Basalaman (Indonesia), Idris al-Busiti (Morocco), Sheikh Hamid Abd al-Rahman (Sudan), Sheikh Abd al-Samad Urizzi (Italy), Imam Sayyid Abdussalam (America) and Muhammad Naveed Tijani (Pakistan), to name but a few.
Sheikh Hassan introduced this address by reminding the reader that the Tariqa Tijania is based on the Qur’an and the Hadith, or narrations of the Prophet, peace be upon him. The Sheikh then sited the famous hadith of three stations of religion: Islam (submission), Iman (faith) and Ihsan (spiritual excellence) as justification for the “intent, substance and development of the Tariqa Tijania.” Since Islam, as a religion suited for the lofty spiritual aspirations of the human soul, contains within it Ihsan, the religion also includes the Sufi tariqa, or the path of self-purification: the path of contemplating God, “until you worship Him as if you see Him; and if you do not see Him, know that He is seeing you” (the Prophet’s description of Ihsan from the aforementioned hadith). Sheikh Hassan continued: It should be obvious from this Hadith that a human being has greater needs than an animal. In the same way he needs food for his body, he also needs food for his spirit; and the best food for the spirit is the remembrance of Allah (dhikr). Dhikr provides the direct link between the servant and Allah. Surely there is wise counsel in the saying, “The remembrance of Allah is the means to acquire sainthood, to be one of the awliya‘ (saints or friends of God).”The Tariqa Tijaniyya is based on three principles:
- Asking Allah for forgiveness (astaghfirullah). It is forbidden for a Muslim to stop his brother in Islam from saying astaghfirullah. None of us are infallible. The same way we do something right today, we may do it wrong tomorrow. Consequently, the Prophet has directed us by saying, “Your sickness is the sins and the remedy of your sickness is to say astaghfirullah.” In addition, there are many verses in the Qur’an advising us to say astaghfirullah. For example, in Sura Hadid (57:21), we are told, “Be foremost (in seeking) forgiveness from your Lord…” And then there is the example of our most excellent guide, the Prophet, peace be upon him. In spite of the infallibility of his station, and what Allah has stated clearly in Sura Fath (48:2), that He has forgiven all his sins – the first and the last – the Prophet asked Allah’s forgiveness more than one hundred times every day. If that is the case with him, what about those of us who live in this corrupt time of disbelief and sin?
- The second principle is to say la ilaha illallah, “There is nothing worthy of worship but God.” In a Hadith, the Prophet said, “The best words I have ever said together with the previous Prophets are the words la ilaha illallah.” And, again, in Sura Baqara (2:152): “Then if you remember Me; I will remember you.” And in Surah Imran (3:191): “Men who celebrate the praises of Allah, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides…” And, again, in Sura Jumu’a (62:10), “and celebrate the Praises of Allah often (and without stint): that ye may prosper.” Surely, when Allah, who has no limit, says to remember Him “often”, it is not to be taken lightly.
- And the third principle is Salat ‘ala Nabi, the offering of prayers upon the Prophet. Allah has ordered the community of the believers to offer prayers upon the Prophet just as He has himself done together with His angels, (Qur’an, 33:56). Moreover, the Prophet said in another Hadith, “Whoever offers one prayer upon me, Allah will offer ten upon him.” In another report, the Prophet said, “Whoever offers one prayer on me, Allah will offer ten on him; if he makes it ten, Allah will make it one hundred for him; if he makes it one hundred, Allah will make it one thousand for him; if he makes it a thousand, he will enter Paradise shoulder-to-shoulder together with me.”
Support for the dhikr of the Tariqa Tijaniyya thus is solely derived from Qur’an and Hadith. We are Muslims looking for the Truth, and wherever we see the Truth, we shall follow.
The Tariqa Tijania: its Characteristics and Merits Part 1
By Imam Sheikh Al Hassan Seydi Ali Cisse
Address at the Forum for the Followers of the Tijania, Fes, Morocco, June 28, 2007. (Part I)Translated by Dr. Abdullahi Elokene (Nigeria) and Zakariya Wright (America)In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful. Praise is to Allah by whose Blessing and Majesty righteous deeds are realized, the One who said: “O believers! Fear Allah and seek the means to Him” (5:35). He also said: “And follow the path of the one who has turned towards Me” (31:15). And He has said: “And content yourself with those who call on their Lord morning and evening seeking His countenance” (18:28).May the Blessings and Peace of Allah be upon our master Muhammad, owner of the banner of praise and of the praiseworthy station, who said: “The best of worship is that which is constant even if little.” And peace on his family and companions, the guides and those guided. And may Allah be pleased with our Sheikh and Mawlana, Sheikh Ahmad b. Muhammad al-Tijani al-Hassani; and may He be pleased with the manifestations of this saintly sublimity, and with his inheritors by whom we seek access to the Divine Presence. Surely we have held fast with them to the unbreakable rope of Allah.Your Excellency, the Minister of Endowments and Islamic Affairs; Your Excellencies, the distinguished descendants of the Hidden Pole and Renowned Isthmus (barzakh); Your Excellencies, representatives (khulafa’) and teachers (muqadamin): peace be upon you and the mercy and blessing of Allah.First and foremost, I express my sincere appreciation for the efforts of the Minister in putting together this conference under the directives of His Majesty, the Commander of the Believers, Muhammad VI, King of Morocco. May Allah strengthen, assist him and may Islam and the Muslims be helped through him. Surely organizing this kind of conference serves to affirm the love in the hearts of the Tijani brothers for the Kingdom of Morocco as it has existed for a long time now. It was this same noble Alawi kingdom who had a strong relationship with Sheikh Tijani and the sons of the Tariqa Tijania from the time of Sultan Mawlay Muhammad bin Abd-Allah until today. Such was Sheikh Tijani’s relationship with Mawlay Sulayman: a spiritual relationship established through mutual cooperation in piety and righteousness, a cooperation in strengthening the fundamentals of the Islamic Religion, spreading its teachings, and raising high the word of Truth. This conference therefore comes as a result of these singular efforts, which has born fruit in the reign of Mawlana, Amir al-Mu’minin, King Muhammad VI, may Allah help and strengthen him. And the taste (of this fruit) will come in his righteous reign if Allah wills.We are indeed very glad to attend this brotherly gathering which is unique in its kind. Surely in such meetings there is abundant harvest. It has come from the (Sufi) people that, “Whoever has realized a (spiritual) state, it will not be lost on those in his presence.” Among the precepts of the Tariqa Tijania is gathering together: “The meeting of the beloveds is better than recitation of the litanies (awrad) and the remembrances (adhkar), for the remembrances can be made up if missed, but the meeting of beloveds cannot be made up.”Today, delegations of loved ones from different nations have come to this sacrosanct city, Fez, wherein lies the tomb of Sheikh Ahmad Tijani, caressed by Heavenly zephyrs and Divine effulgence. As has been related in Hadith: “Indeed among the days of your lifespan, there are certain fragrant breezes belonging to Allah: would that you be touched by them, for if you should catch just one scent, you will be without complaint forever.”There is no doubt that this conference is one of these fragrant breezes. Since its sunrise at the hand of our master, Abu Abbas Sheikh Ahmad Tijani (may Allah be pleased with him) up to this day of ours, the Tariqa has never ceased illuminating for mankind the path to Allah, and directing them to the way of guidance and righteousness, and guiding the aspirants to the best of paths by which they obtain the happiness of this world and the next. The Tijani brothers and sisters are a fraternity in Allah, and they are beloveds in Allah. It has been related from the Sheikh (RA) that the Prophet (SAW) said to him: “Tell your companions not to harm each other, for surely this harms me.” The Most High has said: “Those who hurt believing men and women without just cause, bear on themselves calumny and manifest sins” (33:58).If you find the Tariqa Tijania actualizing the brotherhood of Islam, its success lies in rending apart the walls of the ego-selves, penetrating into its depths and illuminating its hidden recesses with beneficial Divine knowledge. In a similar way, this Tariqa has nullified the borders of nations and erased the differences between the servants of Allah.So here we are in this conference hall meeting with representatives from all parts of Africa: west, central, and north. And here we have Americans from all different areas: New York, Chicago, Memphis, Atlanta, Detroit … So they (these delegations) are one community, and what is between them is (only) love in Allah, and they have freed themselves of worshiping other than Allah so that by the Oneness of Allah, the veils have been lifted from them and they have been brought to extinction (fana‘) and substantiation (baqa‘) in Allah. They have refused to concern themselves with anything other than Allah. These are indeed true, vigorous Sufis, clothed in the Sunnah. Their secret thoughts have been made pure and their external selves have remained steadfast on the Book and the Sunnah. They have escaped from the frivolities of the ego-self and become immersed in Truth’s baptism: “the baptism of Allah – and who is better than Allah to baptize” (2:138)?“Sufism,” said Sheikh Tijani (may Allah be pleased with him), “is carrying out the Divine command and avoiding the prohibitions, externally and internally, with regards to what pleases Him, not what pleases you.” And this cannot be realized except through compliance with the pure Shari’a. The people of the Tariqa are the people of remembrance (dhikr), the people of prayer (salat), those who seek the forgiveness of Allah throughout the night and at both ends of the day. Incumbent upon them is offering prayer upon the greatest means of access (wasila), the Prophet, and obeying the command of Allah. With this they become enlightened. The Most High has said: “It is He who prays on you, along with the angels, in order to bring you forth from darkness into the light.” (33:43).Thus our Tariqa is a Muhammadan Path (Tariqa Muhammadiyya); its companions are they who hold firmly to the Sunnah, extinguishing themselves in love for the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. They are wedded to the emulation of him, in both his words and deeds, and they have molded themselves with his characteristics; for surely the bases of these characteristics are the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Within these two things is found the abode of the Tariqa, and outside the Qur’an and the Sunnah there is nothing called the Tijaniyya. Long ago, Imam Junayd (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “Surely all the paths (turuq) are choked off by the creation except those following the footsteps of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah upon him, those following his Sunnah and his Tariqa.”Our Mawlana Sheikh Tijani, may Allah be pleased with him, has declared his innocence of everything at variance with the pure Shari’a and demonstrated the orthodoxy of his Tariqa with the statement: “If you hear something from me, weigh it on the scale of the Shari’a. Whatever is in conformity, take it; whatever is at variance, leave it.” So were all his actions and pure conduct based in the Book and the Sunnah. His disciple Sidi Muhammad bin Mishry (may Allah be pleased with him) said:“Despite what you have heard of the miracles of this Sheikh of exalted rank, he was of extreme humility, and whoever did not know him could not distinguish him from his companions. Among his attributes was that he was an ascetic; one longing (for Allah); one who has obtained; one who has abandoned all injustice. He overlooked the (unclean) states of the people but worked ardently on his own self. And he was stern in following the Sunnah, nor would he indulge anyone in relaxing its observance except for those who would not obey his command. He (RA) was always urging us to pray in rank. If we traveled, he would say, ‘Whoever does not pray with you in rank, do not keep him as your companion.’ And he said, ‘By guarding the straight line in prayer, Allah will avert from you most afflictions.’”Among the things in which he persevered was the love for the Prophet’s household (ahl al-bayt), and encouraging others to reverence and exalt them, for this itself is evidence of following the Prophet (SAW) and of enforcing the commandments of the Qur’an. The Most High has said: “Say (O Prophet): ‘I do not ask any reward of you, except the love for the relatives (al-qurba).’” (42:23). The Sheikh also used to enjoin obedience to the teachers (muqadamin) with what they required in accordance with the truth. He said, “You must obey the teachers so long as they command you with the known religious obligations or work to reconcile the differences between you.” And he warned them in this against being enamored of the worldly goods of their brethren, and to only see such possession as the bestowal of Allah, for it is He who gives, withholds, lowers and elevates. It was with this righteous method that the Sheikh trained his disciples, and it is this righteous manner that has been the inheritance of his successors (khulifa‘) generation after generation, for they have been keen to guard this foundation. In emphasizing the orthodoxy of the Tariqa Tijania, Sheikh Ibrahim Niass said:
The Sheikh of Islam of Tunis, Ibrahim Riyahi, made a similar statement as the above:
You must hold firm to the rope of Allah,
For a method which deviates from the Qur’anic Remembrance is a path of misery.
If you should ask, is this litany (wird) the method of Muhammad?
I will say yes, my wird is for attaining purity.
The wird is nothing but the remembrance belonging to Allah, and He alone,
(And) offering prayer on the chosen one, the best without comparison.
In it there is no mention of the Shaykh or any other
My wird is the source of medicine for the servant’s disease.
Tread lightly so as not to deny out of ignorance
For injustice and enmity are the sources of estrangement.
The Tariqa is not an innovation from orthodox Sufism, which has been described in the Kashif al-Ilbas (of Sheikh Ibrahim Niass) as follows: “(Sufism) is the expression of a knowledge flaring forth from the hearts of the saints until their hearts have obtained enlightenment through acting on the Qur’an and the Sunnah. And all who act in this way, for him will be kindled sciences, secrets and realities impossible for tongues to describe. This is analogous to what has been sparked in the scholars of the Shari’a with respect to their rulings until they come to know what they know in regards to the rulings of the Shari’a. And Sufism is surely the cream of the servant’s work in accordance with the rulings of the Shari’a, so long as his work is free from defect and self-contentment, just as the science of meanings and explanations is the cream of the science of grammar. So who would classify Sufism as an independent science is correct; and who would classify it as the source of rulings for the Shari’a is also correct.”The Tariqa is built on sincerity in the truthful attention to Allah, by expelling anything else in one’s dealing with the Truth. This is not possible for him who secretly delights in his ego-self, plunging it into lusts and wicked desires. The Sufis are the true servants, they are the ascetics in every age. It has been related from Hassan al-Basri: “I saw a Sufi circumambulating the Ka’aba, and I gave him something; but he said, ‘I have naught with me but four coins, but whatever Allah has placed with me is sufficient.” This is simply pointing to the fact that the generation succeeding the companions of the Prophet was one of Sufi ascetics, for they were scholars in the sciences of the diseases and intrigues of the ego-self. Hassan al-Basri reports Sufyan al-Thawri as saying, “Had it not been for Abu Hisham al-Sufi, I would not have become aware of the subtle hypocrisies of the ego’s subjectivity (riya‘).”The Sheikhs, as has been related from Sheikh Tijani, may Allah be pleased with him, are the ropes that Allah has extended to the creation, whoever holds fast to them will be saved. Sheikh Ibrahim Niass, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “Know that the purpose of the Sheikhs is that they are links to the Prophet (SAW), who is the greatest means of access to Allah. Seyidi Abdullah bin al-Hajj al-Alawi, may Allah be pleased with him, once said to me, ‘What is desired of the Tijani litanies is to smell the fragrance of the Muhammadan Reality (Haqiqa Muhammadiyya), upon it blessings and peace.’”It is worth mentioning that the people of the Tariqa, they, men and women, are the ones remembering Allah often. They sit for the remembrance in every place and in all states. Remembrance (dhikr) is the sacred means of emulating the Messenger of Allah (SAW): “Surely in the Messenger of Allah there is for you a beautiful example, for those who hope for Allah and the Last Day, and who remember Allah often” (33:21). The people of the Tariqa are the living example of this: they come together from diverse ethnicities, gathering for the love of Allah and His Messenger, extinguishing themselves in the pursuit and victory of the truth, with asceticism and humility in the emulation of the greatest means of access, Mawlana Shaykh Tijani, may Allah be pleased with him. Sheikh Ibrahim Niasse wrote in the Risalat al-Tawba: “Despite being absorbed and extinguished in Allah, the people of Tariqa have not abandoned the affairs of the creation nor their role as vicegerents on the earth. Rather they compete in every sphere of life and they are found in diverse professions and specialties, desiring to obtain what is lawful and to expose themselves to the zephyrs of the Lord, exalted is He. May Allah bless them, shield them from the schemes of their enemies and protect them with what He has protected His Wise Remembrance, and such is not difficult for Allah.” So these are the scholars and the shaykhs and the leaders of people; and they are also business men, executives, engineers, doctors, journalists and professors …If it is understood that the purpose of the Tijani litanies is to smell the fragrance of the Haqiqa Muhammadiyya, such a fragrance leads one to act according to the Qur’an and the Sunnah, both of which provide the capacity for security and the foundation of faith. The Prophet has said: “I am leaving with you two things, to which if you hold fast, you will never be misguided: the Book of Allah and my Sunnah.” On this foundation this Tariqa has spread to all horizons, for it is a Tariqa of truth, and the truth prevails and is not prevailed upon. Sheikh Tijani, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “This seal (taaba’) of ours will gain ascendancy over every other type of (Sufi) mark (taaba’), and none will gain ascendancy over us.” This Tariqa thus has the capacity to spread without limit, since it is grounded in magnanimity and tolerance, nor is it contrary to the flawless natural disposition (al-fitra al-salim).Sheikh Tijani was praised by many of the exalted scholars of his time. Among them by way of example was Seydi Hamdun bin al-Hajj, whose son wrote in his book, al-Ashraf, that his father had praised the Sheikh in both knowledge of the Islamic sciences and Divine gnosis. Shaykh Hamdun, who was of the consummate scholars, praised the Sheikh in one of his poems as follows:
As for your thoughts about the organization of the wird;
(Linked to) the hand of Prophecy, can it be without foundation?
What would you think of a method
Which secures for its practitioner safety from the fire and its turmoil?
In addition, numerous scholars apprenticed themselves to him, but mentioning them here all would take us too long. Needless to say, each is like the full moon. In every corner they are the leaders of men, in every time and place. Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse indicated this in one of his poems:
I commend you to the resplendent, light-giving moon,
Abu al-Abbas, I mean Ahmad at-Tijani.
The sun of sovereignty and the axis of the circle of guidance,
The moon of felicity and star of spiritual excellence.
Sea of generosity, our elucidator of heavenly wisdom,
Like rare gems in a necklace or crown (tījān).
The best of imams who has risen in ascension,
In righteousness without lethargy.
To him belong companions like moons,
Possessors of illumination and secrets.
Of investiture and of gnosis,
And each one a spring among springs.
The Tariqa Tijania: its Characteristics and Merits Part 2
By Imam Sheikh Al Hassan Seydi Ali Cisse
President of the Islamic African Organization for Population and Development
Concerning the Seal of Sainthood and his Exemplary Successors. Among the accomplished scholars, the (Sufi) people have widely confirmed (the reality) of seeing the Prophet, Allah’s peace and blessing upon him, in a waking state. Through the grace of Allah, Sheikh (Ahmad) al-Tijani, may Allah be pleased with him, attained this rank, and it was the Prophet (S.A.W.) who so gave him his Tariqa (in a waking vision). The Shaykh continued to climb the peaks of sainthood until he attained the ranks of Khatmiyya (Seal of Sainthood) and Katmiyya (The concealed station).Some of the saints (awliya’), such as al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi, Ibn-al-Arabi and Abd-al-Wahhab al-Sha’rani, have spoken about the position of Khatmiyya. In fact, Sidi Sheikh al-Mukhtar al-Kunti mentioned (in his Kitab al-Tara’iq) that the Seal of Sainthood would appear in the 12 century (hijri); and indeed that is the century in which Sheikh Tijani lived. In a citation reproduced in the Tanbih al-Azkiya fi Kawn al–Sheikh al-Tijani Khatam al-Awliya of Sheikh al-Islam Ibrahim Niass, Sheikh Kunti said:
If we ponder over the words of this exalted pole (Mukhtar al-Kunti), we find them applying very clearly to the followers of the Seal (Sidi Ahmad) al-Tijani. Indeed, the most perfect guides to Allah graduated from his school (of spiritual training). They were men who guided towards Allah with their states and statements, and trained generations (of men) who became lamps of guidance, and sources and criterions for understanding the Divine realities (haqa’iq). Countless people benefited from them, as they called to Allah with His permission, and they trained and raised people (in spiritual ranks) through (following) the character of the Chosen Prophet (S.A.W.). Indeed, following him (the Prophet) is sufficient (for such training), adhering to his guidance grants one complete contentment, and to arrive in his presence is the greatest of goals.Without attempting to be exhaustive, I mention here by way of example such men as the great striver (in the path of Allah), the renowned pole, Shaykh Umar ibn Sa’id al-Futi, who took (the Tariqa) from Abd al-Karim al-Naqil, who took from Sidi Mawlud Fal, who took from Sheikh Muhammad al-Hafiz, who took from the Seal, Shaykh (Ahmad) Tijani, may Allah be pleased with them. He (Sheikh Umar) also took (the Tariqa) from al-Sharif Muhammad al-Ghali, and accompanied him until Shaykh Ghali testified to his attainment of the position of Khilafa (Successorship) of Sheikh Tijani, may Allah be pleased with him. Through Sheikh Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, the Tariqa spread widely, especially in Africa, where his school (madrasa) produced several spiritual schools that shined in (the realization of spiritual) heights, and illuminated the paths (for seekers of the Divine presence).Also to be mentioned in this regard was the school of the knowledgeable one of Allah, the divinely supported pole, al-Hajj Abd-Allahi Niass of Kaolack, who was known, as he was described by the great (Moroccan) scholar, Sidi Ahmad Sukayrij al-Ayyashi, to exercise authority over humans and jinn (spirits). And there was also the school of the hard-working scholar and righteous saint, Sheikh al-Hajj Malik Sy, may Allah be pleased with them all.These two Mujaddids (Revivers of the Faith) established the pillars of the Religion, and their teachings remain as sources of light that revive bodies and souls through the remembrance (of Allah) and adherence to the Qur’an and the Sunnah (the Prophetic way). They exerted tremendous efforts, playing a major role in the spread of the Tariqa and (in enforcing) the practice of its ethics. Moreover, they trained their distinguished children and followers to follow this straight path. And surely, Sheikh Tijani was always with them in all circumstances.When they (al-Hajj Abd-Allah and al-Hajj Malik) passed away in 1922 – which corresponds with the ‘year of the Sun,’ or 1340 A.H. – the Senegalese scholar Sheikh Mbacke Boussou memorialized their death with the following couplet:
Among the characteristics of the century in which the Seal of Sainthood will appear is that it will be similar to the century of the Prophet (S.A.W.) in a number of ways. For example, the Seal of the Saints will appear in it just as the Seal of the Prophets appeared in his century. Also, the followers of this Saint, Reviver and Seal will call towards goodness, enjoin virtue, forbid evil, believe in Allah only and strive against the misguided people. They will also fight the Greater Jihad against the lower self, vain desires and Satan. For when the Companions asked the Prophet (S.A.W.), “What is the greatest Jihad?” He replied, “To fight the lower self”. Thirdly, there is an indication that this century (i.e. the 12 century) is more virtuous than all centuries before it with the exception of the first three centuries, as their virtuousness has been confirmed by the words of the Prophet (SAW): “The best of eras is my century, then the one that follows it…” But the Prophet also pointed to this (12) century when he said, “The best of this community is the first of it and the last of it. (But) There will be some crookedness in between them, neither am I of them nor are they of me.”
The Qadi (chief Justice) of Nouakchott (Mauritania), al-Mukhtar Walad al-Mahbubi similarly marked their passing with the following couplet:
A Sun and a Sun disappeared in the ‘year of the Sun’
And mankind cried for the overwhelming Darkness.
The noble children and students of al-Hajj Abd-Allahi Niass continued to carry the torch of enlightenment for Creation, guiding and training others in the disciplines of this blessed Tariqa. The learned scholar (Ahmad) Sukayrij, may Allah be pleased with him, testified to this in the beautiful verses of his travelogue named Taj al-Ru’us fi al-Tafassuh bi-Nawahi Sus. He stated:
And in it (the year 1340), the two performers of the Hajj passed away
Malik and Niass; and they left behind a great reputation.
And a similar statement was made by our affectionate friend
(Muhammad Khalifa) Niass, and others from the fair-skinned ones (Arab scholars)
An honorable scholar indeed, from Kaolack
Well-versed in knowledge, in the land of blacks (al-Sudan)
A worthy khalifa indeed in the Tariqa of our Shaykh (Tijani)
On behalf of us and the distinguished ones before us
He has excelled over others in the knowledge of the Shari’a
And the Haqiqa (Divine Reality), truly without doubt
I praise and thank him
And thank all his brothers, possessors of divine knowledge.
Among of them is Abu-Ishaq, Ibrahim, who,
I have given residence in my heart as long as I live
Admirable are they! Noble masters who have guided
To the Truth in private and in public
They knew the path and remained steadfast in the journey
Seeking by it to attain (Allah’s) pleasure and forgiveness
They drew from the (divine) secrets with which they learned
The wherewithal of the arrival (in the Divine Presence), so as to obtain every safety
And their father Abd-Allahi – mercy be upon him – was for me,
The most pious of my brothers
He used to refer to me in private as ‘his father’
And through him, I have (extended) two hands (of favor) in the Senegal
With one hand I gave him the pledge (of the Tariqa) and Ijazah
An Ijazah Mutlaqah (complete unrestricted license), with certainty
With the other I (spiritually) shook hands with my loved one,
In his absence, through a divine introduction
Indeed I thank him (al-Haj Abd-Allahi), and I thank my Lord,
For the increase in spiritual excellence (ihsan) in his country
(And) al-Haj Malik Sy, son of Uthman, with whom I am pleased
So he shares with him (al-Hajj Abd-Allahi) these praises
The Continuation of Spiritual Training in this Tariqa and the appearance of the Fayda through Sheikh Ibrahim Niass
Through the Bounty of Allah, the Tariqa remains a shore of safety for the seekers. Spiritual genius and complete Muhammadan inheritance continue to manifest themselves among its adherents. Its blessings will persist until the arrival of Judgment Day, for it is a Tariqa that is based upon Divine selection. It is the shortest and best of pathways to reach Allah, and the closest to the way of the righteous predecessors (al-salaf al-salih).Spiritual training (tarbiya) in this Tariqa is based on two poles, as stated in the Kashif al-Ilbas (by Sheikh al-Islam Ibrahim Niass):
Sheikh Ibrahim Niass, the Owner of the Flood (Fayda), may Allah be pleased with him, has further explained tarbiya in the Jawahir al-Rasa’il:
Firstly: To establish the five obligatory prayers with all their conditions.
Secondly: To offer salutationson the Prophet (SAW), during the night and day, with the intention of carrying out the command (in the Qur’an to send salutationson him), and this in veneration, honor and love for the Messenger of Allah (SAW).
It was only due to the grace of Allah to the people of this Tariqa, and the continued flow of Divine assistance in the Tijania, that the Tijani Flood (Fayda) has become manifest. And this simply proves true the words of Sheikh Tijani himself:
Spiritual education (tarbiya) in our Tariqa is by the zeal of Sheikh Tijani, who said, “Who would know me, must know me by me alone.” There is no instruction incumbent upon the authorized teacher (muqaddam) except the instruction (talqin, i.e., of the litanies) and informing them of what has been duly ordained concerning the conditions (sharut) and proper manners (adab). As for the disciple, there is nothing for him to do except to guard the known religious obligations. The exigencies of the litany (wird) are necessary and critically important, along with the belief that the requisite wird is the greatest of the secrets of the Tijaniyya, so he should run (nafar) to it (in refuge). Thereafter, the disciple may practice what he can of the supererogatory litanies to the extent he has been authorized. He should desire nothing by them except the countenance of Allah, the Bountiful; neither this world nor the next, and no rank among the ranks, for he should witness the favor (as it is). He should have the best of thoughts (of Allah), and he must entrust his affairs completely to Him. If he persists in this, without any other goal, then he should thank Allah always.
In fact, mention of the Fayda has been widely transmitted among the followers of Sheikh Tijani, and they used to wait for it and watch out for its emergence. It is stated in Kashif al-Ilbas (by Sheikh Ibrahim Niass) that:
A flood (fayda) will descend on my followers, so that people will enter the Tariqa in droves. This fayda will appear when people will be in a state of extreme suffering and difficulty.
If we ponder upon the words of the Owner of the Fayda, it will be clear to us that the signs of the emergence of this Fayda did not appear in anyone but Sheikh Ibrahim Niass, may Allah be pleased with him. Indeed, through him, people entered the Tariqa in droves and multitudes, from all races, Arabs and non-Arabs; all of whom arrived at the gnosis of Allah, through (direct) witnessing and beholding (the Presence of Allah), and not by the way of (deductive) evidence (dalil) or (material) proof (burhan).The author of al-Durra al-Kharida, Sheikh Muhammad bin Abd-al-Wahid al-Nazifi stated:
The wisdom for the emergence of the Faydah in this age of corruption is the weakness of Faith in the hearts of people as well as the abundance of misguided sects that are misguiding others. However, this ummah has been endowed with Mercy (from Allah), therefore, the (divine) sciences and realities (of Allah) have been poured on them (through the Faydah), so that they may return to the natural state of Iman“.
By Allah, most of the great Tijani scholars of Sheikh Ibrahim’s era testified to his being the Owner of the Fayda. Indeed, Allah honored him with that which we never heard before from our Sheikhs; (for example) 8000 people entered into Islam at his hands in one gathering in Ghana. The thanks is to Allah for this great blessing, for the Prophet has said, “For Allah to guide one man through you is better for you than to posses the red camels (the most expensive camels, i.e. all the wealth of the world).” Shaykh Ibrahim related the circumstances of this event in his “Travelogue of Ghana,” saying,
The Tariqa Tijania will persist, remaining through the ages
And in the later times, it will bring forth a fayda
Then mankind will enter it in droves, (awakened) in longing
For what they witness of Divine connection blossoming (before them).
He also stated in one of his letters reflecting on Allah’s bounty in this instance:
I instructed thousands, too many to count,
With the words of Divine Oneness (tawhid), loosing count of their numbers
And the unbelievers and nature worshippers (majusre) peated the words
As well as their leaders; so the souls became content.
Sheikh Ibrahim also related about this incident:
And I, and all praise is for Allah, know of tens of millions of Muslims who took this Tariqa through me; and even more who were unbelievers, idol-worshippers and Christians before coming in contact with us; and even more who attained the Opening (of the Knowledge of Allah) through witnessing and beholding (the Presence of Allah) without any proof or reasoning. And it is as if I beheld Sheikh (Ahmad) Tijani reciting: “They have chosen you for a matter if you only understood (its importance), so beware of your ego, lest you indulge in negligence.”
The manifestation of the Fayda brought forth in the souls (of men) the fruits of piety (taqwa), abstinence (zuhd), sincerity (ikhlas), serenity (itmi’nan), and immersion (istighraq) in the love of Allah, of His Prophet, and of the Sheikh (Tijani) and his secret. The people of Fayda do not do anything except by Allah, and they are the ones keeping up the zawiyas through the remembrance of Allah throughout the night and day; (and this) through the remembrance of and salutation upon their shining exemplar (the Prophet Muhammad), following his Sunnah, his ethics, his traditions and his manners.The Owner of the Fayda (Sheikh Ibrahim Niass) did not stray even a finger’s breadth from the teachings of Sheikh Tijani. He always made clear that his own popularity was through the continued spiritual support of Sheikh Tijani, may Allah be pleased with him. When mentioning the names of the tribes that took (the Tariqa) from him, he said:
I said, ‘There is none worthy of worship but Allah;
Muhammad (SAW) has been sent by Allah’
Then from me overflowed His Secret, so there is no one
Who follows me and does not know Allah, the Self-Subsisting.
And he ended by saying:
The first among them were the Hausa and the people of Zarma
As well as the Dagomba; all of whom were overwhelmed with blessing.
Sheikh Ibrahim’s conduct and words have provided evidence that the Tariqa is among the schools for the soul’s refinement. He, may Allah be pleased with him, said:
Bassa, Ra’adar, these were the tribes
Whom the Seal (Ahmad) Tijani gave to drink, the one who said:
‘The heavy cannon hits its mark from afar’
Such explains his hidden and unique spiritual station
So these were the teachings of the Owner of the Fayda. He has indeed spread Islam and the Tariqa throughout the world in an unparalleled manner. The Tariqa has continued to spread around the world, thanks and praise belong to Allah, by means of his children, descendents and disciples, until it has reached America, Trinidad, Indonesia, Pakistan, Malaysia, Moscow and elsewhere.Today, the number of Tijanis in Nigeria alone exceeds forty million and the initiatory chain (silsila) for most of them passes through Sheikh Ibrahim, either directly or indirectly. The historian Amir Shakib Arsalan wrote about the nineteenth century, “Had the Tijani armies not been defeated by the end of the 19 century, the whole of Africa would have become part of a Tijani empire.” But despite this defeat, and despite its rejecters and enemies, the Tariqa has continued to spread, finding its way to every corner of the world. Indeed, through its Ahmadan, Muhammadan teachings, the Tariqa has penetrated the hearts of people from all races and nations. Long ago, the Owner of the Tijani Fayda, Sheikh Ibrahim Niass, said that his call would encompass the horizons and spread all over the earth. And he had predicted this at a time when his community was only a few people living in the village of Ko'si, a farm outside of Kaolack, Senegal. Thirty years after his passing, we witness today that the Tariqa has indeed reached every corner of the world, as he said it would, may Allah be pleased with him.As for our own role – only in rehearsing the bounties of Allah, as He said, “As for the bounties of your Lord, proclaim them” – I have introduced the Tariqa in America: in New York, Washington, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, California, Memphis, and even Bermuda and Trinidad. I have also introduced the Tariqa in other places, such as South Africa, in its capital of Johannesburg, as well as Durban and Cape Town; and zawiyas have started to multiply in all these places. Recently there has been established an organization for the Tijaniyya in South Africa, the muqaddam in Cape Town being Imam Fakhruddin (Owaisi). And all praise is due to Allah, from the beginning to the end.There is nothing surprising about the continued flow of this spiritual grace (within the Tijania), if we are firmly convinced that Shaykh Tijani is the ultimate provider (of spiritual sustenance) for all the saints and gnostics (of Allah), and that no saint drinks (of spiritual knowledge) or is given drink except from his ocean.He (Sheikh Ahmad Tijani), may Allah be pleased with him, said: “And what you have heard (from me) about the extraordinary benefits of the Wird; they will be fulfilled without doubt. So beware of neglecting the Wird, even if once in your life.” The desire to extinguish the Light of Allah will remain, but Allah’s guarding of His Light will also remain. As He said, “And they desire to extinguish the Light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah will not allow it, except that His Light be fulfilled, even if the unbelievers detest it.” Allah has also said:
Let the humans and jinn be witness that we hold fast to the rope of the Muhammadan Sunnah, that we hold fast to the path of the Prophet, the master of the first ones and the last. We walk in the light of his teachings, and vie in following his guidance, which is the savior from calamities. The Tariqa is one of the schools of purification, spiritual training and refinement of character, so praise be to Allah, who guided me to hold fast to it, to adopt its discipline, to draw from it lights, to benefit from its blessings, and to work with its pioneers and men of distinction. Within this Tariqa I live, and within it I will die, and I will be resurrected with my master, Abu al-Abbas Ahmad bin Muhammad al-Tijani al-Hasani, may Allah be pleased with him. May He grant him His pleasure, and may He be pleased with us through him. Amen. And this Tariqa Tijania is the Tariqa of the scholars and righteous ones: a school that produces the guardians of the religion and the sacred law (shari’a), beginning with Sheikh Tijani himself, who declared in his famous statement: “If you hear anything attributed to me, weigh it on the scale of the Shari’a. Whatever is in conformity with it, take it; whatever contravenes it, leave it.”
O You who believe! Respond to Allah and His Messenger when they call you towards that which will give you life. And know that Allah intervenes between a man and his heart, and that unto Him you shall all be gathered.
And fear trials that will not afflict only those amongst you who do wrong! And know that Allah is severe in His punishments.
And remember when you were only few and oppressed in the land, scared that people would snatch you away. So He sheltered you, aided you with His support, and provided you with all good things, so that you may be grateful!
O You who believe! Do not betray Allah and His Messenger, and do not knowingly betray your own trusts.
Surely, Allah the Exalted speaks the Truth.
We have come to this blessed conference at the head of many delegations. Here are our brothers from Nigeria, Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and from every corner of the world, and most of them share with us the connection to our Sheikh and Master, Shaykh Ibrahim Niass, may Allah be pleased with him, who in turn connects us to the Greatest Sheikh, the Seal of Muhammadan Sainthood, our master Sheikh (Ahmad) Tijani, may Allah be pleased with him.We thank the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs (of Morocco) that made it possible for us to meet up with such large numbers of fellow Tijanis in such a distinguished conference.We have mentioned here the names of the pious men, for the mercy of Allah descends upon us with their mention. Their mention brings comfort to the hearts, awakening in them yearning for the Unseen World, and curing them from negligence, in order to do good deeds with complete sincerity. The mention of such pious people creates fresh determination (in the heart) and strength to take stock of the self regarding every matter, small or large. Indeed, these people did not give space for their lower selves, except (in helping) to reach out for the highest of aims, to rush towards that which would secure them the Abode of Bliss (Paradise), and to protect their limbs from being tainted by acts of disobedience and from committing sins. They fulfilled the duties of their Faith by carrying out the Commands (of Allah) and shunning forbidden matters.About this, Sheikh Ibrahim Niass, may Allah be pleased with him, said:
Whoever wishes to be with me, he should follow my path in both word and deed; by fulfilling the obligations (of the religion) and avoiding the forbidden matters, with a constant desire for gaining the Pleasure of Allah and His Messenger. As for the one who identifies himself with us, but disregards the pure Shari’a by committing forbidden acts, then I call Allah and you as witness that I have nothing to do with him.
This is our Tariqa: it is the seeking and the arriving to Allah Most High, “And to your Lord is the ultimate end.” The Sheikh (Ibrahim Niass) said in a lecture delivered in Khartoum: “We do not concern ourselves with miracles, nor do we make claims. Rather, our business is sincere servitude (to Allah) and the fulfillment of the rights of His Lordship.”We cannot conclude our speech without expressing our heartfelt gratitude to the Commander of the Faithful, King Muhammad VI, King of Morocco, for his enormous efforts in uniting the (Muslim) community (ummah). May Allah support him and bring fame to his name. And we request from the brothers present here and all beloved brothers (in the Tariqa) to continuously pray for his protection and triumph, and that he sees what pleases him from his blessed crown prince Mawlay al-Hasan and from his entire noble family. We also request the brothers to pray for the Kingdom of Morocco, this generous and hospitable nation; that it continue to flourish and progress, in peace and safety, under his majesty’s able rule. We commend the exceptional care that the King shows for the Tijani order and its zawiyas. Lastly, we thank him for his much-appreciated policies concerning (the development of) our African continent.We also thank our noble masters, the descendants of the Sheikh (Sidi Ahmad) al-Tijani, may Allah be pleased with him. And wewill continue to uphold the pacts (of love between us).Andwe also thank the noble delegates from all the countries.Finally, I advise myself and you to be conscious of Allah in private and in public, to adhere to the vow (of the Tariqa), to work together in clearing the pathway (of guidance), uniting (our) aims and entrenching the values promoted by our pure Religion. This should be done by promoting brotherhood, equality and purposeful dialogue to demonstrate the universality of Islam and that it is a religion of compassion (rahma), a religion of civility (insaniya) that does not recognize fanaticism or terrorism.From the fruits of this blessed conference has been the establishment of familiarity between the (Tijani) brothers from the East, West and every corner of the world. Allah willing, this will result in the mutual cooperation in piety (birr)and righteousness (taqwa), in fulfillment of the verse of the Qur’an where the Almighty says: “And cooperate with one another in piety and righteousness.” We ask Allah, Blessed and Exalted is He, to continue showering His blessings on us, on you and on this nation. May He facilitate all that brings us together and remove all obstacles. May He grant you even more than what we or you might hope. And the last of our prayers is to praise Allah, the Lord of the worlds.May the Peace, Mercy and Blessing of Allah be upon you all.
Subheadings in the text have been altered or added from the original speech to facilitate reading. Sheikh al-Kunti (d. 1811), the great scholar and Qadiri Sheikh of Timbuktu, Mali, who was the Sheikh of Uthman b. Fudi (d. 1817).
Also known as al-Haj Umar Taal. Sidi al-Sharif Muhammad al-Ghali Bu-Talib was the Khalifah of Sheikh Ahmad Tijani in the Holy Land. According to the ancient science of abjad, every letter of the Arabic language has a precise numerical value, and consequently, numbers have the potential of having corresponding words being derived from them. In the case at hand, the number 1340 corresponded with the words, ‘year of the sun’. Sheikh Muhammad al-Khalifah Niass was the eldest son of al-Hajj Abd-Allahi Niass. Sheikh Sukayrij was actually quoting from Sheikh Muhammad’s fatwa regarding to the controversial issue of paying Zakat on peanuts; at which point he interjected to praise the whole Niass family and El-Hajj Malik Sy, the learned leaders of the Tijaniyya in Senegal. This is line referring to Sheikh al-Islam Ibrahim Niass, who was al-Hajj Abd-Allahi Niass’s ninth son. This is line referring El-Hajj Abd-Allahi Niass. The two “hands” here are meant symbolically and figuratively. They refer to ‘two favors’ that Sheikh Ahmad Sukayrij granted to the land of Senegal, through El-Hajj Abd-Allahi Niass. These favors were the granting of Ijazah Mutlaqah (the highest form of Ijazah in the Tijani Tariqah) to El-Hajj Abd-Allahi Niass and El-Hajj Malik Sy. It was the first time after al-Hajj Umar Tal’s era, that Sheikhs from the Senegal had received such a high-ranking and rarely-granted Ijazah. In the above mentioned couplets, Sheikh Sukayrij considers El-Hajj Abd-Allahi Niass as the ‘channel’ for these Ijazahs (which were great favors from him on the Senegal) as al-Hajj Abd-Allahi Niass had personally received it from him during his visit to Fez, and it was al-Hajj Abd-Allahi also who had gained and carried the Ijazah for al-Haj Malik Sy in Senegal, who used to communicate with Sheikh Sukayrij through letters but had not met him. This is referring to El-Haj Malik Sy as Shaykh Sukayrij also sent him an Ijazah Mutlaqah, through El-Haj Abd-Allahi Niass. Sheikh Sidi Ahmad al-Tijani (R.A.) made this important statement when some disciples who had taken the Tariqah from two different muqaddams of his were arguing as to who is better. Sheikh Ibrahim originally wrote these words in a letter to the Mauritanian Shaykh Manna-Abba in 1935. The full letter can be found in the Jawahir al-Rasa’il, v. I, p. 24-25. Sheikh Sidi Muhammad bin Abd-al-Wahid al-Nazifi (1853-1947) was a renowned Tijani scholar from Marrakech who had a large following in southern Morocco, especially the region of Sus. The majus, or Magians, were an ancient sect of nature worshippers that preceded Zorastrians in Iran (though sometimes the name is applied to the Zorastrians themselves). The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) included them in the same category as the ahl al-kitab (people of the Book). The Zarma are a major ethno-linguistic group in southwestern Niger whose language is closely related to ancient Songhay. The Dogamba is the largest “tribe” in northern Ghana. The Bassa are a language group originating in Mozambique, who have become established minority groups in Nigeria, Cameroon and Liberia. Perhaps also spelled ‘Adar. The reference has yet to be verified. Amir Shakib was referring here to the holy Jihad movement of the Tijani warrior-saint al-Haj Umar Tal (d.1864), who conquered large areas of West Africa and incorporated them in his Tijaniyyah Islamic State. The French colonialist armies finally defeated and dismantled this African Islamic state in 1893.
The Concept of the Spiritual Flood (Fayda) in Tijani Doctrine
By Zakariya Wright
The concept of fayda, meaning “flood”, “effusion”, “inundation” or “superabundance”, came to personify the community – early on known as the Jama’at al-Fayda al-Tijaniyya - of Sheikh Ibrahim Niass. But the word, and certainly its root fa’-ya’-dad, was used long before in Tijani circles, as well as in wider Sufi and Muslim discourse. Certainly, the articulation of fayda attained unparalleled articulation with the emergence of its owner, the Sahib al-Fayda Sheikh Ibrahim Niasse. This paper tracks the earlier uses of the concept of fayda and then discusses the meaning of fayda for Sheikh Ibrahim and his followers. I am deeply indebted in this effort to the guidance and explanation of Sheikh Hassan Cisse, and to Muhammad Andrea Brigaglia, who wrote an earlier article on the subject. To begin with a more precise meaning of the word:
The root occurs in both the Qur’an and Hadith. F-Y-D is mentioned in the Qur’an in the context of tears overflowing (tafidu) for the sake of Allah (5:83, 9:92) or hastening with the multitude of pilgrims from Arafat (thumma afidu min haythu afada-n-nas) for the sake of Allah’s forgiveness (2:199). Sayings of the Prophet provide more explicit association between this concept of “overflowing”, “flooding” and “throngs” in the Qur’an and Divine grace. According to Hadith, “God created the world in darkness, then He poured (afada) on to it His light.” Sufi tradition, especially under Ibn al-‘Arabi, later developed the meaning of fayd. Thus the fayd al-aqdas – the most sanctified effusion – came to be defined as “the self-revelation of God, manifesting Himself from all eternity to Himself.” The primary text of the Tijani order, Jawahir al-Ma’ani, opens with the words: “Praise be to God, Who poured out (afada) Ahmadan lights on His saints, His beloved ones, His pure ones.” Sheikh Ahmad Tijani associated his own spiritual position (maqam) with the concept of fayd.
The Arabic word fa’-ya’-dad, from which some terms recurring very often in the language used by Ibrahim Niass are derived (such as fayda, afada, mufid), literally means “to overflow”, “to flood”, “to gush out”, “to pour out abundantly”, “to emanate”, “to spread out”, “to shed”. It suggests an urgent outward movement, implying also the idea of exuberance, superabundance.
Sheikh Tijani endowed fayd with a meaning comprehensive of the spiritual abundance (fadl) Allah bestows on the saint:
The spiritual emanations (fuyud) which proceed from the person of the master of existence are received by the prophets; and whatever flows from the prophets is received by me, and from me it is distributed amongst the creatures of God from the beginning of the world till the horn is blown.
Early Tijani scholars thus associated fayd with the high spiritual ranks attained by the inheritors of Sheikh Ahmad Tijani. When Sidi Ali Tamasin, the designated khalifa of the Tijania after the passing of Sheikh Tijani, ascended to the station of “polehood” (qutbania), it is said “an ecstatic flood (fayadan wijdani) appeared on him such that his like was not found among the perfected shaykhs, and people came to him from the farthest horizons to take (the Tariqa) from him and get blessing from him.” Other Tijani scholars, such as El-Hajj Umar Tal, Sidi al-‘Arabi b. Sa’ih, Muhammad ibn Khair al-Alawi and Muhammad al-Nazifi, commented extensively on the concept of fayd and fayda (which grammatically is simply a specified version of the general term fayd; meaning a flood that can be possessed or embodied). Especially provocative was a saying attributed to Sheikh Ahmad Tijani himself: “A flood (fayda) will come upon my companions, so that people will enter into our way group upon group. This fayda will come when mankind will be in the depths of pain and despair.” The Mauritanian saint Muhammad al-Hafiz ibn Khair al-Alawi associated fayda with superior knowledge of the Qur’an and the ability to “awaken the hearts from slumber.” The Moroccan scholar Muhammad al-Nazifi (1853-1947) explained further, “The Tariqa Tijania will persist, remaining through the ages. And in later times, it will bring forth a fayda. Then mankind will enter it in droves, (awakened) in longing for what they witness of Divine connection blossoming (before them).” According to Sheikh Ibrahim’s Kashif al-Ilbas, many of the Tijani notables prior to him, including El-Hajj Umar and his own father, had actively sought to attain the fayda, but had realized its time was not yet ripe. As Brigaglia summarizes, “The fayd, depicted with the metaphors of water and/or light, played a rather important role within the mystical language of the Tijaniyya well before the ‘explosion’ of Ibrahim Nyass’ Jama’at al-Fayda.” In 1930, at the time of the world-wide Great Depression, Sheikh Ibrahim publicized his claim to possess the Faydat al-Tijania. Essentially the idea seems to closely mirror Sheikh Ahmad Tijani’s own ideas about the flux of Divine grace, mercy and love passing through the Prophet to God’s creation. Of course the highest expression of this love was God’s permitting His creation to know Him. Sheikh Ibrahim presented a parable to conceptualize the flow of Divine gnosis to the creation through the intermediary of the Prophet and the saints. God is said to be a well, “whose Being is continuous and without end;” knowledge of God is the water, “so precious it cannot be thrown away and yet cannot be put back into a well already overflowing;” the Prophet is a bucket “that never wants repair” drawing the water from the well; Sheikh Ahmad Tijani is the “tireless worker who continually draws water from the well;” and Sheikh Ibrahim himself is a basin next to the well, “an extraordinary spiritual adept who has received so much in the way of Divine Gnosis that he must communicate this Gnosis to others or it will overflow.” The emergence of Sheikh Ibrahim also drew on Sheikh Ahmad Tijani’s own vision of his order’s role of historical distinction in a corrupt age. Sheikh Hassan Cisse thus describes Sheikh Ibrahim as manifesting “the possibility of attaining spiritual perfection in the modern age.” In his first public, written defense of his claim to Fayda in Kashif al-Ilbas, Shaykh Ibrahim explicitly associated the possession of fayda to his ability to provide followers with Tarbiya, the spiritual training to attain illumination (fath) and Divine gnosis (ma’rifa). Certainly the scope of Sheikh Ibrahim’s activities and the number of followers whom he initiated in the knowledge of God were unprecedented since the time of Sheikh Ahmad Tijani.
The illumination (fath) consists in the vanishing of the veil, and in the disclosure of meanings already mentioned. This is called the “flood” (fayd), because it overflows (fada) after having been embanked. The fayd includes sciences (ulum), secrets (asrar), realities (haqa’iq), gnosis (ma’arif) and lights (anwar).
As Sheikh Hassan explains, “If we ponder upon the words of the Owner of the Fayda, it will be clear to us that the signs of the emergence of this Fayda did not appear in anyone but Sheikh Ibrahim Niass, may Allah be pleased with him. Indeed, through him, people entered the Tariqa in droves and multitudes, from all races, Arabs and non-Arabs; all of whom arrived at the gnosis of Allah, through (direct) witnessing and beholding (the Presence of Allah), and not by the way of (deductive) evidence (dalil) or (material) proof (burhan).” Seydi Ali Cisse, the closest disciple of Sheikh Ibrahim and father of Sheikh Hassan, likewise associated the possession of Fayda with the ability provide spiritual instruction to large amounts of people.
I maintain that people have now entered the Tariqa in crowds; and perhaps the other Sufi orders have indeed been abrogated, if one considers that none of them is still able to provide Tarbiya; and we have watched in this age difficulties and despair never seen by the distinguished men of the past. As far as I know, there has never occurred in our tariqa, since the days of its appearance until now, such a deep illumination among the Sheikh’s followers, such a gnosis and such a profound absorption into God, renouncing everything but Him: ‘This is the favor of God that He gives to whoever He pleases, and God has great bounties to offer.’”
Allah established him (Sheikh Ibrahim) as a watering-place for the spiritual wayfarers, one who provides hope for the seekers, help for those in need, support for the destitute, nourishment for the starving. Allah endowed him with the fayda mentioned by the Hidden Pole, the renowned Muhammadan Seal, our Sheikh and our assistance, the owner of the effusion (fayd), our master Ahmad b. Muhammad al-Tijani. For it (the fayda) has spread and continued without interruption, since it is occurring near the End of Time. At his hand, thousands upon thousands attained to the perfection of experientially-witnessed gnosis (al-ma’rifa al-‘ayaniyya al-shahudiyya). Many, both white and black, would come to him each day in droves from all regions of the earth. They would enter into our Tariqa Tijania, the repository of Divine favor and gifts of gnosis. No one who received from him this prodigious litany (wird) would ever fail to gain from it the benefit of Divine aid and access to the realms of gnosis.”
Sheikh Ibrahim expressed similar ideas in verse, and here notice the clear social implications of the doctrine of fayda.
Sheikh Hassan Cisse explained that the “fracture” refers to the separation between man and God and the stagnation of religion. Sheikh Ibrahim said in another poem: “And by me has the great oppression (jawr) been lifted; And surely it is by my flood that the religion has obtained an elevated position.” Sheikh Hassan continued that this verse (written after independence), preceded by the Sheikh’s assurances that he is not speaking out of bewilderment or intoxication, refers to the oppression of colonial rule. Most significant for our times perhaps is Sheikh Ibrahim’s association of fayda with a strengthening of faith for all Muslims.
[I had given myself] as an offering, and He had singled me out as His friend.
I said: “There is no god but God, and Muhammad has been sent by God.”
Then from me overflowed his secret
Nobody comes to me
And does not know God, the Eternal Sustainer
Young or old –
Since the Beloved, the Sanctuary, has come close –
Men or women
Tramp beggars or sovereigns
Had I wished, his flood (Fayda) would have permeated all the dry lands
The oceans would have held His mysteries
Everybody would have known them
Each one, but to hear
Is not the same as to see.
And next time you will see miracles
[Proceeding] from the flood of this Seal, leader of the noble ones
All this is al-Tijani’s Fayda:
It is the assistance from the Elected of the world, al-‘Adnani [the Prophet]
All this is a favor from the Benefactor,
Whom I praise secretly and openly,
Who indeed created me to heal the fracture,
For I am indeed the deputy (wakil) of the Secret of the Secret.
In possessing fayda, Shaykh Ibrahim thus embodied Allah’s overflowing grace and assistance to the human race; most especially to those who wanted to know God, but also to those whose faith had been tested or who were suffering from various forms of social and political fracture. In a beautiful poem in Sirr al-Akbar, Shaykh Ibrahim wrote,
The wisdom for the emergence of the fayda in this age of corruption is the weakness of faith in the hearts of people as well as the abundance of misguided sects that are misguiding others. However, this ummah has been endowed with Mercy (from Allah), therefore, the (divine) sciences and realities (of Allah) have been poured on them (through the fayda), so that they may return to the natural state of Iman.
The Fayda, it must be emphasized in conclusion, is a Divine affair. The idea was not innovated by Sheikh Ibrahim, nor is it separable from his historical mission. Sheiykh Ibrahim’s practical advice concerning Fayda to one of his disciples provides useful advice to all Tijani aspirants:
And I became a man of fountains (‘ayun), and his (the Prophet’s) essence (‘ayn)
And I became the spiritual support of the Arabs and the non-Arabs
By my flood, the land and sea were completely inundated.
Allah the Most High decided from his beforehand wisdom on the pouring out of this flood (Fayda) in the Tariqa Tijaniyya at the hand of its owner (Sheikh Ahmad Tijani), may Allah be pleased with him. It is he who is the owner of the flood, he places it where he wills, by the power of the Mighty, the Compeller. This flood encompasses the horizons by the strength and power of Allah. No one grasps it, no one stops it, and nothing confines it. It must flow over the earth wherever the Tijania is found.
In explaining the historical elaboration of Fayda through Sheikh Ibrahim Niasse, the present-day embodiment of the Tijani Fayda, Sheikh Hassan Cisse, gives some provocative observations on the historical mission of fayda:
Allah has tested some of the shaykhs and some of the chief muqaddams, by their making plots and false claims, (they are) asking to extinguish the light of Allah, but Allah refuses ought except the completion of His light … I caution you against being one of those wishing to extinguish the light of Allah, out of sympathy for you, not (because I am) bent on the manifestation of the flood, for indeed, it manifests by the strength and power of God. Who would conceal it, does nothing but add to its manifestation. And who would push the people away from it and away from its owner, he will only have the people pushed away from him, and not from it. So look with the eye of your heart, you will see the truth of what I have said.
So these were the teachings of the Owner of the Fayda. He has indeed spread Islam and the Tariqa throughout the world in an unparalleled manner. The Tariqa has continued to spread around the world, thanks and praise belong to Allah, by means of his children, descendents and disciples, until it has reached America, Trinidad, Indonesia, Pakistan, Malaysia, Moscow and elsewhere. Today, the number of Tijanis in Nigeria alone exceeds forty million and the initiatory chain (silsila) for most of them passes through Sheikh Ibrahim, either directly or indirectly. The historian Amir Shakib Arsalan wrote about the nineteenth century, “Had the Tijani armies not been defeated by the end of the 19 century, the whole of Africa would have become part of a Tijani empire.” But despite this defeat, and despite its rejecters and enemies, the Tariqa has continued to spread, finding its way to every corner of the world. Indeed, through its Ahmadan, Muhammadan teachings, the Tariqa has penetrated the hearts of people from all races and nations. Long ago, the Owner of the Tijani Fayda, Sheikh Ibrahim Niass, said that his call would encompass the horizons and spread all over the earth. And he had predicted this at a time when his community was only a few people living in the village of Ko'si, a farm outside of Kaolack, Senegal. Thirty years after his passing, we witness today that the Tariqa has indeed reached every corner of the world, as he said it would, may Allah be pleased with him.