Shaykh Tijani Cisse

Shaykh Ahmad Tijani b. Sayyidi Ali Cisse (or Cheikh Tidiane Cisse) holds the Imamate of the Grand Mosque in Medina-Baye, Senegal. He succeeds to the position after a lifetime of personal instruction and companionship with some of the twentieth century’s most eminent Tijani scholars: Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse (d. 1975), Sayyidi ‘Ali Cisse (d. 1982), and Shaykh Hassan b. ‘Ali Cisse (d. 2008).

Shaykh Tijani Cisse (b. 1955) is the second son of Shaykh Ibrahim’s most beloved student, Shaykh ‘Ali Cisse (RA), and his first daughter, Fatima Zahra Niasse (RA). After memorizing Qur’an in Medina-Baye, Shaykh Tijani himself became a Qur’an teacher in Medina Baye while continuing his Islamic studies. In his late teens, he devoted himself full-time to personalized instruction (majalis al-ilm), first under his father, Shaykh Ali (1971-1972); and then under his grandfather, Shaykh Ibrahim (1973). He was the last to be personally instructed by Shaykh Ibrahim in the classical texts, focusing mostly on Arabic literature and poetry. He would later receive the highest of licenses from his father, Shaykh ‘Ali Cisse, who told him: “Whatever Shaykh Ibrahim gave me, I am giving you.”

After completing his early education in Senegal, he traveled to Egypt where he lived with Shaykh Hassan Cisse (RA) during his elder brother’s last year of study in Cairo. Like his brother, Shaykh Tijani excelled in his formal studies in Egypt; the result, he says, of the rigor of the informal instruction given him in Senegal. He graduated first in his class in the Azhar preparatory school, receiving his diploma in Arabic language in 1974. He received his Baccalaureate in 1977 in Arabic Language, graduating fourth in his class. By 1981, he had distinguished himself at the University of Azhar with a degree in the faculty of Usul al-Din (theology), department of Hadith (Prophetic Traditions).

After finishing his studies in Egypt, he traveled extensively throughout Africa, the Middle East and America attending conferences, participating in religious debates, and calling people to Islam. He took time to edit and publish several important works, including Shaykh Ibrahim’s Kashif al-Ilbas and a collection of Shaykh Ibrahim’s writings, which he named Sa’adat al-Anam. He also aided the publication of a comprehensive collection of Shaykh Ibrahim’s supplications, Kanz al-Masun. One Azhar scholar reportedly told him that his work identifying hadith citations in the 2001 publication of Kashif al-Ilbas would have been enough to complete a doctorate at Azhar University. In the introduction to Shaykh Tijani’s reprinting of the Kashif, Shaykh Hassan Cisse wrote: “I thank my dear brother, the master, the Shaykh Tijani ‘Ali Cisse, who spent of his efforts for the success of this pious work and much appreciated endeavor…”

Shaykh Tijani Cisse was recognized by the Senegalese government in 2001, when he was appointed Senegal’s General Commissioner for the Hajj. In 2006, he was appointed a Senegalese “Special Missions Ambassador.” He has also received Senegal’s “Ordre de Merite” (1993).

Shaykh Tijani Cisse was the closest confidant and traveling companion of his brother, Shaykh Hassan Cisse. At Shaykh Tijani’s inauguration, it was recalled how whoever was speaking with Shaykh Hassan Cisse when Shaykh Tijani came into the room – even if it was a government minister – would have to go out in order to leave the two of them alone if they had something to discuss. Many of the miraculous occurrences during Shaykh Hassan’s travels were shared by his brother, Shaykh Tijani. For example, when a great scholar in Medina (Saudi Arabia) gave Shaykh Hassan an ijaza to teach select hadith by command of the Prophet in a visionary encounter, Shaykh Tijani received from him the same ijaza. The extent of his intimacy with Shaykh Hassan is proven by Shaykh Hassan’s calling his younger brother to his bedside to be the last person with him before he passed.

Their noble mother, Sayyida Fatima Zahra Niasse, revealed that some people of insight in Nigeria repeatedly used to tell her that since Shaykh Ibrahim, like the Prophet Muhammad, had a father named ‘Abd Allah, a son-in-law and closest companion named ‘Ali, a daughter named Fatima, a grandson named Hassan, her second son Shaykh Tijani was in reality a “Husayn” similar to the Prophet’s second beloved grandson.

Shaykh Ibrahim’s will designated leadership of Medina-Baye’s Grand Mosque to his closest disciple Shaykh ‘Ali Cisse, to be passed next to his eldest son Shaykh Hassan, and after “to whomever Allah wills.” According to testimony at his investiture as Imam, the unanimous validation of Shaykh Tijani Cisse as the community’s new Imam proved him to be he “whom Allah wills” according to the will of Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse.

by Zakariya Wright