In Senegal, where Islam is the religion of almost 95% of the population, Sufism exists immensely in the country. You can perceive that even during the first day in this country. Wherever you go in the streets, you see the pictures of the Marabous (leaders of Sufism), and most of the shops here are named after these leaders. In general, we can find in this country at least four “Tariqas” - Murid, Tijen, Khadr, and Laine, which refers to the way or the school of Sufism that each person follows. Each Tariqa has its own rituals that are slightly different from the other, has its holy place where the Sheikh and/ or the Founder is buried, and has its day during the year when its followers perform a pilgrimage-like trip to its site.
Most of the village follows the Khadr Tariqa which was founded by Abd-el-Kader Jelani who was an Iranian living in Iraq. Being a member of this Tariqa means that there are more rituals that you should do than other ones. One of them is called Dayra which is a meeting or a session being held by the young girls and boys each Thursday night to sing religious songs about the prophet and the leader of the Tariqa. In my room, the family hangs the pictures of their Marabou and his sons.
Each one in the village talks about the legend of their Marabous. A person in my site told me that his Marabou wrote during his life more than one and half ton of books. Another person talked about how the French plane couldn’t bombard the residence of their Marabous or even fly above it. I listen and pretend to agree sometimes, because doubting that, as I have before, gets me into intense debates.
The Marabous have a big influence on their followers to the extent that one Marabou can gather hundreds of thousands of people in one call. During the colonization, the Marabous played an important role to make people revolt again France and fight against the French afterwards. However, France succeeded to make some of them work with it and even convinced the Senegalese to fight with France during the WWII.
Politically, we may say that no politician can become the president of the country if they don’t have the support of the big Marabous in the country. As long as the political leaders are aware of this fact, they always try to use the religious leaders in order to reach their political interests. And here we can notice the contradiction on how the secular politicians, who refuse the interference of religion with politics, rush during the elections to get the help from the religious leader.
However, no one can deny the benefits of this Islamic way on the Senegalese. Today, Senegal is one of the peaceful countries in West Africa. Senegal is a country where we have Muslims and Christians living together, we never hear of clashes due to these differences. In addition, Senegalese come from different ethnicities, and each ethnicity has its own language and background, but that doesn’t threaten their stability either.
As you read above Sufism in Senegal has its own specialty. Aside from a few bad practices from some “religious leaders”, this phenomenon has benefited the people here. At least people can feel that they have a reference which they trust and follow. Moreover, Sufism helps to assure the stability and peace of the country.