Seventeen years have already elapsed
since the 26th of July 1975, the date of the disappearance of Al Hajj Ibrahim Niasse. It was like yesterday. Even
if eyes have stopped shedding tears, the hearts of millions of followers continue to mourn the loss of the one whom should
be considered to have caused one of the greatest peaks of contemporary Islam.
His friends in the Arab world loved
to call him Sidi Ibrahim Niasse. Does he merit all of the devotion that his students avowed to him? Definitely yes, because
Holy men such as he who have gathered so much “baraka” (blessing) during their spiritual course in life are very
rare. He initiated programs in the areas of theological knowledge, pedagogical culture, tactical method of organization, and
philanthropic education with an immeasurable amount of physical obligation and brightness, which did not take away from his
Contrary to former ideas, which
have only presented Islamic Holy men as humbly dressed and effaced, the Shaykh knew how to reconcile the Truth,
the Right, and the Lovable. He also knew what to do with the trilogy that his master
Shaykh Ahmad Tijani loved so much to teach. In this anniversary of 1992, we have the opportunity to speak about the work of
the Shaykh which has helped the expansion of Islam, and which has been conducted to the four comers of the globe making him
a considerable Ambassador of Senegal. This is a fact that has enhanced brotherhood and religious work, and has brought honor
to all of the people of our land and to the African continent.
The themes dedicated in this Seventeenth
Anniversary will amply illustrate the amount of work achieved in 75 years by Baye Niasse. They will concern the three
principal focal points of his mission: his eccentric science of Islamic initiation, which helped to bring relief
from the previous chronic 30 years; his political expansion of Islam throughout the whole world (Africa, Asia, and America);
and the effectiveness of his methods of education and his growing scholarly institutions.
The Initiative Science
His method of Initiative Science is
a Way that leads more directly to Divine knowledge. This is an initiative science that uses “Zikr” (incantation
of Allah’s Names, Highly Exalted is He) as the ultimate way by which believers honor the Creator. Did not Allah (swt)
tell us to know Him..... ,for if we don’t know Him then how do we worship Him? It is nearly impossible
to believe and have any amount of faith in Allah (swt), without at first deeply implanting in oneself exact knowledge of His
Existence. If it is true that faith is a greenhouse plant that must regularly be maintained, it is also obvious that it should
before everything else, be solidly implanted.
Since understanding and spiritual
growth depends on the master, and masters are sometimes for themselves, it is important to note that the aimed objectives,
the methods used, and the facility to access their teachings indicate their spiritual degree and flow from the depths of their
understanding of the sciences. Therefore we will first speak about the origin of the sciences of the Shaykh Al Islam Al Hajj
Ibrahim Niasse. To speak about the work of the master amounts to speaking about the master himself and his compassion. The
history of Baye Niasse (Baye, the title of ‘Father’ given to him early in life by the Senegalese) began before
his birth. His venerable mother had a dream one night in which she saw the moon come down from the sky and disappear into
her body. She spoke about it to her husband Al Hajj Abdullahi Niasse, the father of the future Shaykh, who in turn advised
her to keep the secret. Some months after that, on the 17th of October 1900 the baby was born. Several great Saints
of the time revealed their insights of the life of young Ibrahim while others predicted that he would be charged with a Saintly
Mission. Of those visionaries, we cite the example of Walad ul Hajj. Walad ul Hajj left Mauritania, his homeland, conducted
by a Divine light and in search of the ‘Qutbu Zamani’, the selected master of the time. According to Islamic spiritual
science (Tasawwuf), in each time or age, the secret of Divine knowledge is confided to a single master, (Qutub
or Ghauth) who will be its ultimate guardian. He will also be the light of his generation.
Walad ul Hajj, after having an unsuccessful
search throughout Mauritania, arrived in Dakar, Senegal. But there also he found nothing. The Divine light continued to conduct
him on to Kaolack. After visiting many families, he was finally lead to the house of Al Hajj Abdullahi Niasse. There he at
last detected the prodigal child who was still very young. The Holy man returned to Mauritania but would return regularly
to contact Al Hajj Ibrahim Niasse.
One day the Holy man sent his elder
son to Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse with a message saying: “I bequeath to you all my secrets from the top to the bottom. You
have inherited the virtues of Shaykh Ahmad Tijani. By your splendor you have illuminated all those whom have claimed the Fayda
(flood) before you. Your advent will convince them that primarily they have only been preparing for your appearance.
You will no doubt arouse unequaled jealousy and hostility because you are at the top of Tijaniyya.”
During the Shaykh’s youth, he
displayed a remarkable memory and intellectual capacity, by memorizing the entire Holy Qur’an by the age of ten. This
consists of learning and reciting all 114 Sura’s (chapters) of the Holy Book in the presence of scholars. At the age
of 21, and a year after the disappearance of his venerable father, his first book “Ruh ul Adab”, “The Spirit
of Good Morals” was published.
During the first 20 to 30 years of
his life young Sidi Ibrahim was a rising shining star. His work was nearly perfect and it reached a very high peak. It was
thus in 1929, at a prime age of his life, that he was announced as the “Qutbu Zamani” (the spiritual axis, or
chief Saint of the current period). His ideas and works spread like a trail of powder and covered all of the corners of the
country. Followers came to him from all parts of the nation. That was the Appearance, a source (flood) of spiritual knowledge,
which sprang up and poured out all over.
During this time,
his first (brotherhood) disciples were initiated and received the secret of divine knowledge. His commentaries were good and
extensive while the part of silence was also respected. To give one a reference to his thoughts, the Shaykh surrounded himself
with the works of his predecessors and published a very important and popular book explaining all of the veils about the Fayda
of Shaykh Ahmad Tijani, the founder of the Tijaniyya Tariqa. The Fayda constitutes the fundamental work of the initiative
science of Al Hajj Ibrahim Niasse.
The book, entitled “Kashful Albas An Faydati Khatimi Abi-l-Abas”,
treats in its first part the truth of Sufism and the secret names of Allah. Several pages have been
devoted to the importance of “Zikr”. The two modes of “Upliftment” in the
tariqa Tijaniyya that contain the Mystic Way of “Spiritual Education” have been well spoken of. From 1930 to 1975,
the year of his disappearance, the authenticity of Al Hajj Ibrahim Niasse’ religious though and teaching has never lost
its power. The source of his teachings has never dried up. The flame of his order of religious brotherhood still burns constantly
because its teachings have been well maintained by his Muqaddams. The effects of the appearance of Al hajj Ibrahim Niasse
and his teaching methods spread not only throughout Senegal, but across its boundaries as well. An untiring Pioneer and a
hardworking man tolerating difficult test and long journeys, he was always between two airplanes carrying the message of truth.
Pioneer of African Integration
Islam is a religion for all people and all nations. Its target being everyone on this planet, without distinction.
Its field of action is all countries of the world. During the time of the Prophet (pbuh) as well as after his disappearance,
Islam has experienced a continuous expansion.
Conveying the Divine message became therefore
a Mission. Baye Niasse understood this Mission which came to him as a profession of faith. He frequently said that, “Senegal
has adapted to Islam and is well served in the fields of religious information and Qur`anic teaching.
Many ‘Madrasas’ (schools) are here and many Holy men live amongst them. Our duty now is to carry the light to
the people still living in the darkness”.
The Gambia, being the nearest country to Senegal,
was the first to be visited. Presently, the ‘Talibehs’ (students) of Shaykh Ibrahim constitute most of the fringes
of the Muslim community in that country, as well as Mali, Upper-Volta (now called ‘Burkina Fasso’), Niger, Sierra-Leone,
Ghana, and Nigeria. One may have the impression that it is in the last mentioned country, Nigeria, that the mission of Shaykh
was most accomplished. Nearly every time he came to Lagos thousands of people ecstatically received him and gave him the greatest
amount of respect. This religious zest and spirit still persist in that country.
According to statistics, the Nigerian students of the brotherhood (Tariqa) of the Senegalese religious leader are estimated
as being dozens of millions. The former Nigerian head of state General Yakubu Gowon on an official trip to Senegal in 1972,
in paying respect to Al Hajj Ibrahim Niasse, announced that almost half of the Nigerian population during the seventies were
Also, during a conference on Tijani
Sufism held at Fez, Morocco in 1985 which was attended by delegates from seventeen Islamic countries, the Nigerian representative said that the conference was mandated by
35 million Muslims who were all followers of Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse. There is also the estimation of Mr. Histell, an Englishman
and a professor based in London, who estimated the number of Shaykh Al Islam’s followers in the religious brotherhood
to be about 60 million. But the forging ahead of the great master did not stop at this point. The Maghrib (Western world)
and the Mashriq (Eastern world) also were on the display board. Shaykh Ibrahim also became recognized and respected by great
and very famous Islamic dignitaries of the Arab world. He received honors from Morocco, Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Emirates, and others.
The Asian continent had also not been
neglected. Asia has always been very important for the propagation of the religion of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). In this respect
Al Hajj Ibrahim Niasse should also receive merit
journey to China and stay for several months teaching and administering to Muslims, and Muslim students of his brotherhood.
According to statements of his closest family members, the Chinese adherents also numbered in the millions.
The United States of America was the latest country to receive
his teaching and his methods, from his grandson Shaykh Hassan `Aliyyu Cisse, who
has also brought many Americans into Islam and into the brotherhood (of Tijaniyya).
All of this
has been said to call to mind his teaching methods and programs, and in memory of Al Hajj Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse (the Qutub
of his time) who appeared at an hour when the problem of integration of the African people needed attention most. Does not
he merit the title of the Great Pioneer of the African Integration?
Let us remember
that Sidi Ibrahim Niasse had received many decorations in Senegal as well as in other countries. He participated in many Islamic
conferences throughout the world. He never had objections to leaving home to answer a call from the Muslim world.
He was a
founder member of the Islamic Research Academy of the Al Azhar University in Egypt,
of the World Islamic League, and of the first Organization of Islamic Conference (whose seat was in Pakistan and at which
he accepted the functions of the vice-president). Also, he was a member of the Supreme Council For Islamic Affairs in Cairo,
Egypt; and of the Association of the Islamic Universities Union whose seat was at Fez, Morocco. He was the Guest of Honor
at the first congress of the Organization of Islamic Conference ‘O.I.C.’) held in Rabat, Morocco in 1969. He was
given an Honorary Degree from the Libyan Islamic University.
been a mission which has not left any areas untouched and which utilized all of the energy of the great master who disappeared
leaving to his spiritual heirs a very precious legacy: prestigious teaching, a course well designed, and well structured and
organized educational institutions.
of Several Thousands of Pupils
The last theme of this 17th Anniversary concerns the teaching of scholars, and youth’s education.
The importance that the Shaykh Al Islam attached to these subjects can still be seen by a visitor who sets foot for the first
time in Medina Baye-Kaolack, Senegal, home of the Holy man. The religious learning, by the teaching of the Holy Qur`an and
by the respect of his disciplines, is written in golden letters. The Shaykh established several schools. Each of them with
programs and methods designed according to the subjects to be taught. He was a very thorough educator and innovator in the
field of instruction.
of Islam knew very well how to adapt the traditional methods of teaching to the new demands of the modern world. He thus took
advantage of the available modern instruments and structures to create and improve teaching methods. He made many trips to
Islamic countries in order to establish relationships with responsible persons in Institutes, Universities, and High Schools.
For the Shaykh, two perspectives were already drawn: building a real center for teaching; and for young students whom
would be able to continue their studies in foreign countries. This is how he created The Institute of Al Hajj Abdullahi Niasse,
inaugurated in 1970 at Kaolack, Senegal. Its new structure had to replace his traditional schools and adapt to the manner
of the necessities of the time. This was done by gathering from Islamic countries, Certified Scholars with diplomas, and integrating
them into its governmental organ, thereby aiding in the expansion of Islam.
Al Hajj Ibrahim
Niasse became of real importance to the younger generation. He knew how to take advantage of technological progress for them,
without diminishing his faith in God or being at the mercy of the unbelievers.
The Institute of Al Hajj Abdullahi Niasse
was recognized by the Senegalese government in 1975 and by the governments of many African and Arab countries. Because of
the concern of offering the advantages of this scholarly structure to people and followers in distant places, it was decided
to establish additional schools, either dependent or annexed. It was because of this that many of the Institute’s scholars
were placed in specific villages of Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra-Leone, and The Gambia,
of Al Haji Abdullahi Niasse with its annexes has at this time been calculated to have more than 10,000 pupils at its various
levels. (Until this April 1998 it was principled by an elder son of Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse, Shaykh Muhammad Nasir Niasse, who has just passed.)
about Shaykh Ibrahim’s work means to recall 75 years of achievements, (He Lived 75 years, wrote 75 books, and fathered
75 children.) He was a master who sacrificed most, if not all of his energy in the service of Islam.
years have elapsed without any need for change in the teachings of the Shaykh, either in education or structure, which he
left to his heirs. Al Hajj Abdullahi Niasse, his eldest son (and Mayor of Medina-Baye) has been able to maintain vivaciously
the flame that shines, in Medina Baye, and has been aided tremendously by his brother Shaykh Muhammad Nasir Niasse, Shaykh
`Aliyyu Cisse, his son Chief Imam Shaykh Hassan Cisse, and other scholarly friends and relatives. To our present day many
more sincere Muslims have the possibility of receiving the initiative science.
This article, A Man Apart, and The Eternal Islam, were published in Newsletters of The African American Islamic
Institute, in 1998, but the newsletters were not distributed. You may contact us by e:mail for copies. Insha-llah.