Sheikh Hassan Cisse fondly called as Imam Hassan was the preeminent spokesman of the Tariqa Tijaniyya in recent times. He was an accomplished Islamic scholar, emerging from a long and vibrant legacy of Islamic learning in West Africa. The grandson and spiritual heir of Sheikh Ibrahima Niasse, he was designated by Sheikh Ibrahima as the Imam of Jama’at Nasr al-Ilm (“Community of Helping Knowledge”), the followers of Sheikh Ibrahima who are historically the largest single Muslim movement in the twentieth-century West Africa.
Sheikh Hassan was a consummate scholar and spiritual guide. He received a complete training in the traditional Islamic sciences: the Qur’an and its exegesis (tafsir), Prophetic traditions (hadith) and history (seerah), jurisprudence and its sources (fiqh and usul), literature (adab), poetry, grammar and Sufism (tasawwuf). After memorising the Qur’an at a young age in Mauritania, he was educated mostly in Senegal under the personal supervision of Sheikh Ibrahima Niasse, who had gathered in Kaolack, Senegal, some of the most renowned scholars from Senegal, Mauritania, Nigeria, and beyond. These included Sheikh Hassan’s own father, Sidi Ali Cisse, and his mother, Fatima Zahra Niasse. The Cisse lineage, originally Mandingo speakers, is one of the most ancient scholarly groups in West Africa, tracing its conversion to Islam back 1000 years to Kumbe Saleh, one of the great cities of West Africa’s proud history. In many places in West Africa, “Cisse” used to be simply synonymous with “scholar.”
Sheikh Hassan’s own scholarly reputation earned him the respect of Muslim ‘ulama around the world. For example, Sheikh Yasin al-Fadani (d. 1990), the Indonesian musnid of the Hijaz, sent him a personal diploma (ijaza) transmitting some 700 diplomas Sheikh Yasin had collected from prominent scholars throughout the Islamic world. Similarly, the great hadith scholar of Medina, Sheikh Ahmad Muhammad Abd al-Jawwad, presented him with an ijaza after being instructed to do so in a visionary encounter with Prophet Muhammad. Sheikh Hassan Cisse himself possessed more than 600 ijazas from Muslim scholars all around the world, the most cherished of which remains that from his grandfather, Sheikh Ibrahima Niasse.
Although Sheikh Hassan was only thirty at the time of his grandfather’s passing, Sheikh Ibrahim was said to show him special favour from the time of his birth in 1945. In Sheikh Ibrahim’s last will and testament, he recommended his own children to his closest disciple and lifelong companion, Sidi Ali Cisse, and said that they should “be with him as they are with me now.” The will mentions Sheikh Hassan by name as the community’s Imam after his father. Sheikh Hassan was the last to see Sheikh Ibrahim alive.
Besides the “traditional” sciences, Sheikh Hassan also attained high merit in later academic education, completing a B.A. in Islamic Studies and Arabic Literature from Ain Shams University (Cairo, Egypt) and an M.A. in English from the University of London. Near completion of his PhD in Islamic Studies at Northwestern University (Chicago, Illinois), his father passed, and Sheikh Hassan was obliged to return to Senegal to assume the imamate in Kaolack. Sheikh Hassan is fluent in Arabic, English, French, Hausa and his native Wolof language.
Sheikh Hassan Cisse continued the work of his grandfather, introducing Islam to thousands and unifying diverse cultures under the banner of Islam. The Sheikh positively affected the lives of many in societies rife with ethnic and religious tensions, such as Nigeria, Mauritania, South Africa and the United States. Sheikh Hassan first came to America in 1976, and since worked tirelessly to promote good-will and positive exchange between Americans and the international Muslim community, emphasizing the essential spirituality and etiquette (Sufism) of Islam to promote individual betterment and real brotherhood. These efforts bore fruit through the founding of the African American Islamic Institute, a UN recognized non-governmental organization (NGO) which promotes education, health care, women’s rights, and international exchange and dialogue between America and West Africa.
Sheikh Hassan’s social efforts were recognized by several international organisations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA), the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and Rotary International. He frequently participated in the United Nations annual conference for the world-wide NGO community. He participated in annual United Nations conferences for NGOs and was a frequently invited guest speaker at Unicef and other UN-sponsored events. His role as an eminent Islamic scholar committed to the real needs of humanity also occasioned his election as President of the recently formed Network of African Islamic Organisations for Population and Development. His credentials as an Islamic scholar made him a frequently invited teacher in places such as Nigeria, Mauritania, Morocco, Ghana, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, South Africa, France, Germany, England, the United States and beyond. The famous Azhar University in Egypt honoured the Sheikh with an award of “highest distinction” for his activities as a world-renowned Muslim scholar.
Culled from www.tijani.org]]>