Real Talk with Khaled Ajmain, “Shaykh Ahmad Tijani and the Tijaniyya Sufi Order”

In this episode, I interview Profesor Zachary Wright, Imam Talut Dawood and Sidi Ibrahim Dimson.

New Books in Islamic Studies, “Realizing Islam by Zachary Wright”

Realizing Islam: The Tijaniyya in North Africa and the Eighteenth-Century Muslim World (The University of North Carolina Press 2020) by Zachary Valentine Wright (Associate Professor in Residence in History and Religious Studies at Northwestern University in Qatar) maps the intellectual history of the largest Sufi order in West and North Africa, the Tijaniyya. Using diverse primary and archival sources, Wright locates the life, teachings, and legacies of Ahmad al-Tijani (d. 1815) within broader 18th century Islamic scholarly milieu of jurisprudence and theology and reformist and revivalist discourses, as well as the social and political climate of European colonialism and Ottoman control…

Discussion with Seyda Rokhaya Ibrahima Niass

Cheikha Rokhaya Ibrahima Niass is part of leadership of the Tijaniyya Sufi Order, a prominent woman leader who has advocated for women’s equality throughout her life. Invited to participate in the Carter Center Human Rights Forum in Atlanta in February 2015, she met with Katherine Marshall, along with three of her sons and a daughter-in-law. Cheikha Niass followed the conversation closely and interjected remarks at various occasions, but in general her sons, Babacar Niang and two others, and her daughter-in-law carried most of the conversation. The discussion was in French. This account of the discussion focuses on her education and current activities. The views of the Niassene branch on family planning were a central element of the exchange. The international organization of the order was a further topic.

As a female religious leader you play a special role in Senegal. Can you describe your background, work, and current role?

She is the aunt of the current khalifa of the Niassenes. She is a grande dame, an intellectual, and an educator, who has written books in Arabic, and is the supporter and educator of many girls and boys. She has many people under her authority (contrôle). She provides moral support to her disciples, but she also provides much direct financial support, from her own pocket…

Joseph Hill, “Wrapping Authority”

Joseph Hill’s new book Wrapping Authority: Women Islamic Leaders in a Sufi Movement in Dakar, Senegal (University of Toronto Press, 2018), is an ethnographic study of women Sufi leaders in the Taalibe Baay or Fayda branch of the Tijaniyya. Hill provides life stories of various fascinating and powerful female muqaddamas (or Sufi leaders) in Dakar and explores how they navigate the complexity of their gendered authority in religious, familial, and public domains. The book examines the ambiguity of female religious leadership and its manifestation through piety and performance, be it through cooking, motherhood, and/or the use of a female voice. Hill frames these pious actions through the semiotic acts of “wrapping” (as opposed to “veiling”), as it provides a more expansive analytical framework for his project. The book will be of interest to those who work on gender and women in Islam, as well as those who engage contemporary Sufism, West African Islam, and anthropology of Islam.

Zachary Wright, “Sufism and Islamic Scholarship in the 18th Century”

On ACMCU’s Building Bridges Podcast, we present a conversation on Muslim-Christian relations and highlight experts in the field and the work that they do. On this episode, we feature Dr. Zachary Wright, Associate Professor in residence at Northwestern University in Qatar. Dr. Wright spoke at ACMCU in the fall of 2019 on Sufism and Islamic Scholarship in the 18th Century.

Oludamini Ogunnaike, “Poetry in Praise of Prophetic Perfection”

Around the world Muslims praise the Prophet Muhammad through the recitation of lyrical poetry. In West Africa, Arabic praise poetry has a rich history informed by local literary, spiritual, and ritual elements. Oludamini Ogunnaike, assistant professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia, explores this abundant heritage in Poetry in Praise of Prophetic Perfection: A Study of West African Arabic Madih Poetry and its Precedents (Islamic Texts Society, 2020). In this social setting praise poetry draws from traditional Islamic materials but also employs patterns and concepts from West Africa sources and practices. Ogunnaike translates numerous poems and contextualizes them within a deep intellectual well of Sufi thought. He also places these poems within the realm of lived religious practice and presents them as part of everyday contemporary life in West Africa.

Oludamini Ogunnaike, “Singing the Prophet’s Praise”

Reading and writing poems in praise of the prophet Mohammad is no simple matter in West Africa. Their composition was a vehicle for intellectual debate, just as their recitation was a means of spiritual transformation for the listener. In this episode, we speak to Dr. Oludamini Ogunnaike, the author of a recent book about praise or “madih” poetry in West Africa, and we listen to recordings of several recitations. Madih poetry is widely recited by Muslims in West Africa; we learn of several major authors from the 18th century to now, including Sheikh Ibrahim Niasse and Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba.