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RELIGION IN SENEGAL
It should be noted that in Senegal today, especially in urban areas where many families have both Moslem and Christian members, there is a mixing of the two traditions, most notable at holiday time. Senegal's population is approximately 94% Moslem, so naturally this religion has a significant role in the society. The remaining 6% is composed of Christian (mostly Catholic) or those who adhere to their traditional religious practices (so-called "animism"). These figures are deceiving, however, if religion is thought of to be a clear-cut and exclusive adherence to one or the other faith. A syncretism or blending of traditional religions with those introduced by foreigners give a unique aspect to religion in Senegalese society.
Leaders of the religious society and interpreters and teachers of religious law acquired a role analogous to European Medieval clerics. The cleric was primarily a lettered man, a scribe. But the French term given to Moslem clerics 'Marabouts'; has a special meaning through its identification with the cult of saints, a cult which is a particularly important feature of Sufi (or mystical) Islam. In this case it means a saintly man who has certain charismatic qualities (such as Amadou Bamba) which enable him to attract large numbers of followers to his teachings. As we use the term marabout today, he is a person who stands apart from the laity because of the fact that he has received sufficient training in the Koran and other Islamic matters to be recognized as a religious leader. Note that the same term marabout, which translates as serigne in Wolof and Thierno (or Ceerno) in Pulaar, also refers to healers and herbalists. Devout persons acquire this training most often by assuming the role of a disciple ("Talibe") of another recognized marabout from whom he receives years of training and guidance, rather than by formal study at a school of theology. The marabout performs specific religious functions, leads prayers, teaches the young, and presides over ceremonies and feasts.
Each mosque, whether in a small neighborhood or for a whole city, has an official who leads the prayers and is known as an "imam". At the Grande Mosquée of Dakar, by tradition the "imam" is always a Lebou. Each smaller mosque has its imam appointed by the community and he usually holds that position for life. The "tablet school" is where the lesser marabouts or clerics called "Ustaas" teach children to recite the Koran, verses of which are written on wooden planks. This is the first religious instruction of the child, at about 4 or 5 years of age. Flocks of children roaming the streets of Dakar begging, tin pots in hand, are supposed to be talibés or students of tablet schools. There is currently a lot of debate over this former koranic school system which some believe has been corrupted into child labour/exploitation practice.
SPECIAL ASPECTS OF ISLAM IN SENEGAL
The majority of Senegalese Moslems belong to one of four Sufi "brotherhoods" or orders (confréries in French, tarixa in Wolof): The Mourides, the Tidjanes, the Khadirs, and the Layènes. As elsewhere in the world, one belongs to a particular religious group primarily because one's father or religious initiator was a member, although Mouridism seems at the moment to have a special appeal to young people.
KHADIR - Founded in Baghdad and very widespread in the Muslim world, this order historically in Senegal was limited to peoples of the Senegal River valley until it spread in the l9th and 20th centuries to the Casamance and Upper Gambia, where more than half of the Mandinkas belong to this brotherhood. Its teachings emphasize Islamic (including legal) learning. Its Senegalese Khalifa (head) lives in the holy town of Ndiassane, near Thiès. Another important branch is based in Mimzat, in Mauritania.
TIDJANE - A Toucouleur militant, El Hadji Omar Tall, brought this teaching to Senegal from Morocco in the 19th century. In the early 20th century, many as yet unconverted Wolof also adopted this teaching through the efforts of El Hadji Malick Sy after Tall's death. He established his headquarters at Tivaouane. It began as a form of cultural resistance against the French, especially in the trading centers and towns along the railroad line. Today there are several branches to this brotherhood, including the late Saidou Nourou Tall's following in Dakar, the Niassène in the Kaolack region who run a boarding school whose students include some African-Americans, and the Tienaba-Tienaba in the Thiès region.
MOURIDE - Amadou Bamba M'Backé, who founded this brotherhood as an offshoot of the Khadirya, is revered as a saint by his followers. He established his center at Touba where there stands today the largest mosque in Senegal, indeed it is probably the largest in sub-saharan Africa. In the late 19th century Cheikh Amadou Bamba clashed repeatedly with the French whose influence he opposed and who, in turn, were uncertain of his intentions. Thus he was exiled to Gabon for seven years, but this only enhanced his aura. His teachings emphasized hard physical work and unquestioning devotion to the marabout, as well as the standard religious observances of Islam. One particularly devout follower of Bamba was Ibra Fall, descendent of a family of "ceddo" (crown slaves and warriors). Frustrated in his knight role by the French-instigated breakup of the traditional Wolof hierarchy, Fall attracted followers to Mouridism who believed that work was a form of prayer. These "Baye Fall" formed the backbone of the peanut cultivation efforts promoted by the French and today continue in this role. They are exempt from the fasting, prayer and other exigencies of Islam and distinguish themselves by their patchwork type clothing, long dreadlocks, multiple "grisgris" (amulets) and large wooden clubs. Urban youths affecting the appearance of Baye Fall, as well as real Baye Fall displaced by the drought-related urban migration, may be seen on the streets of Dakar chanting and begging. They form a minor, but colorful faction of the Mouride brotherhood.
Hier is ook nog een Nederlandse site over Amadou Bamba en Ibrahim Fall.