|Biographical detail : ||Spiritual leader of Senegal
A leader of the Mouride Islamic brotherhood, the biggest and most powerful centre of religious and political influence in Senegal, Serigne Saliou Mbacke had followers in millions.
Among his achievements was the transformation of Touba, the holy city about 125 miles east of Dakar, from a rural outpost into a place that now has a population of more than one million. Touba has a 5,000-student university.
He was the last surviving son of Ahmadou Bamba Mbacke founder of the most powerful Sufi Islamic brotherhood in 1883. He established the city Touba in 1927. Ahmadou aided the mass conversion of the ethnic Wolof people from tribal African religion to Islam before founding the Mouride brotherhood. Bamba’s doctrine of hard work as a route to paradise and unique brand of moderate Sufi Islam helped forge his followers into a global network of small traders whose donations funded the building of Touba’s Grand Mosque with its lavish colonnades and loudspeakers that broadcast azan over a seven-mile radius.
Many Senegalese looked to the brotherhood for leadership in the fight against French colonialism. The French exiled Ahmadou Bamba from 1895 until 1902, and again to Mauritania from 1903 to 1907. He taught Jihad al-Akbar or ‘greater struggle’ against French fought not through weapons but through learning and fear of God.
Known as great travellers, the Mourides emigrated across the world but regularly return home during the “Big Magal” or pilgrimage to commemorate the departure in exile of Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba.
The brotherhood, over the years, has also become one of the most influential players in the Senegalese economy. The caliph owns a number of huge firms and farms employing hundreds of his followers.
Millions paid pilgrimage to the burial site of Serigne Saliou Mbacke in Touba. A three-day national period of mourning was declared by Senegal, with flags flown half-staff.