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Monday, October 2, 2023

Serigne Abdul Ahad Mbacke (1914-1989)


At his birth in 1914 in Diourbel, Sheikh Abdul Ahad, who would become the third caliph of Mouridiyya, Sheikh Ahmadu Bamba, his father, in the presence of his closest disciples stated: “Pray for him so that Allah may grant him long life, for, I have high expectations in him”. He quickly mastered the holy Qur’an under the supervision of his uncle Serigne Amsatu Jahateh and demonstrated a deep understanding of (Qur’an, hadith, and religious sciences).

We remembered him as a multi-dimensional and humble man in gestures, authentic in his dressing style, and very jovial in his courteousness and helpfulness towards others. Speeches delivered in his tenure are still relevant in context of their truthfulness and guidance for the community. It was well-known that, nobody, either be it the highest authority, or his closest relative, could get his protection, if he or she was wrong. He said in one of his memorable speeches that a Muslim should remain steadfast with the truth at all time. Twenty five years after his passing, Baye Lahad, as he was respectfully called by the Mourids, remains still popular and a charismatic figure, as expected by his illustrious father and master.


Path to the caliphate

Sheikh Ahmadu Bamba teaches his disciples to exclusively worship Allah, the One, and to practice their faith in conformity with the Sunnah. Mastering the sacred scriptures (Qur’an, hadiths, religious sciences, etc…) is obviously an essential prerequisite according to the sheikh, who in the same token considered making an honest living through work as a sanctifying dogma.

As a farmer, Shaykh Abdul Ahad displayed outstanding agro-business management skills and demonstrated a handling of farming tools skillfully. He consistently exceeded his production goals in his farms of Touba Belel, Bokk Barga, Kadd Balooji, and Mbara Dieng and was awarded top farmer in the country for several years.

He was also a businessman who never collected interest, or any practices prohibited by Islamic law. His entrepreneurship spirit led him to venture in transportation and logistics. Such eagerness to be a hands-on-manager, indicates, his obvious willingness to generate lawful sources of income, in accordance with the Islamic tenets.


Highlights of Abdul Ahad’s caliphate

On his advent to the caliphate on August 6, 1968, Sheikh Abdul Ahad, unknown to most disciples set his leadership tone. He declared to his contemporaries, he would be their witness, in this life and in the hereafter, provided they remain steadfastly rooted to the pillars of Islam, the truth, and committed to the service of Sheikh Ahmadu Bamba; subsequently he was not the advocate of wrong-doers, partisans of deceit, or any other.


Moreover Baye Lahad is the caliph who sent away “public lecturers” called “diwaan kat”. These merchants of illusion made a living exploiting popular credulity with their pernicious speeches gleaming easy access to paradise upon making act of allegiance to Serigne Touba by forcing the generosity of the common disciple (talibe). Obviously, Sheikh Abdul Ahad could not allow the spreading of such trickery, moreover very prejudicial to the image of Mouridiyya and the community itself.

Sheikh Abdul Ahad, like his predecessor, was an educator. He reinforced the importance of knowledge seeking, and throughout his leadership, many Qur’anic schools or madrassa dedicated to Islamic education and research were built across the country. He stressed numerous times in his sermons that one could not understand the message of Allah through Prophet Muhammad unless educated and reminded daily of the unicity of Allah.

Sheikh Abdul Ahad is reckoned as a patriot deeply rooted in his Senegalese and African value systems. He proclaimed with pride his African heritage and broke free from the widely spread idea that Islam is associated with Arabisation. He pointed out the universality of Islam, regardless of race, wealth or social rank and reaffirmed that an African Muslim should not feel inferior to an Arab Muslim, nor a white should be seen as superior. His dressing style, commonly called Baye Lahad is tailored to our traditional African Muslim patterns very different from the Arab style.  Mourids are today proud to wear a “Baye Lahad’ costume that reflects one aspect of the Mourid identity.

Sheikh Abdul Ahad left a legacy of a builder. Under his leadership Touba grew from a rural village to a modern city. He initiated many projects such as:

The building of highways and roads

The renovation and expansion of the great mosque

The increase in water supply

The construction of new cemeteries

The construction of the first Islamic University

The construction of the first library for researchers

The increase in power supply to satisfy increasing demand

As we can see, Sheikh Abdul Ahad was a multi-faceted person evidenced by his achievements before during his caliphate.


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