Baye Niasse was born in Tayba Niassene, Senegal, in 1900. His real name is Ibrahim Niasse (long form) Sheikh al-Islam Mawlana Ibrahim Niasse. He was a Sufi Muslim mystic and gnostic. He is the ninth son of Sheikh al-Hajj Abdullahi Niasse. Thereafter, its motion will become the largest religious movement in Africa, with over a hundred million followers according to Christopher Gray (The Rise of the Niassene Tijania).
The city of Kaolack has become, thanks to his father al-Hajj Abdullahi Niasse (also a Khalifa of Sheikh Ahmad al-Tijani (RA) a hub for Tijanis from all over Africa, but especially in America. Mawlid an-Nabi is celebrated there, during which the birth of the Prophet of Islam is retold, and when the city receives millions of pilgrims from all countries and all backgrounds.
Baye Niasse made his religious training from Tayba and Niassene Kossy Mbiteyene, localities in the region of Nioro of Rip Saloum. At the age of 20 years, Baye wrote his first book, “Ruh al-Adab”.
In the aftermath that followed the death of his father, he remained under the authority of the caliph of the family, named Sheikh Muhammad Khalifa. He was his protector, his friend and respected his administration of providing Qur’anic teaching/Tafsir. It was he who wrote many religious songs, or Qasidas.
Sheikh al-Islam Ibrahim Niasse made his first pilgrimage to Mecca in 1937. He founded ‘Medina Baye’ in the image of Médinatoul Rasul of Mecca, and established villages named ‘Sham’ and many other holy villages in the Saloum.
Baye Niasse was soon known throughout Senegal and the sub-region, not only by the diversity of the knowledge dispensed but especially his involvement in anything to do with Africans. He was a confirmed Pan-Africanist, and visited many cities in Africa to spread the Tariqa Tijaniyya.
Baye Niasse also went outside the continent, particularly in France, England, Belgium, Indonesia, Russia, China, Arabia, India and Pakistan to preach. He was notably the first black African to lead the prayer in the prestigious al-Azhar mosque in Egypt, where he established a deep friendship with Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, and was honored by the title ‘Sheikh al Islam’.
Baye founded the Franco-Arab school named Al-Hajj Abdullahi Niasse and gave the land on which are built an elementary school bearing his name and the health clinic in Medina Baye. Each year, he devoted himself to agriculture during the rainy season and highly recommended the work and the pursuit of knowledge.
He died in London July 26, 1975 at age 75 and was buried in the precincts of the mosque of Medina Baye (Kaolack) which he himself erected. He left a legacy both in the social and spiritual realms.
Baye Niasse has many followers throughout the world of all nationalities numbering in the millions.
Baye Niasse wrote a religious poem, or Qasida of 2972 verses in honor of Muhammad, entitled “Taysir al-Wusul Ila Hadrat ar-Rasul”.
In the introduction to this eulogy of Muhammad, printed for the first time in Ibadan, Nigeria, Baye Niasse describes his lineage:
son of Abdallah
son of Sayyid Muhammad
son of Mademba
son of Bakary
son of Muhammad al-Amin
son of Samba
son of Rida
son of Shamsu Dine Massina
son of Ahmad
son of Abiboullah
son of Baba
son of Ibrahim
son of As-Siddiq
son of Ibn Nafi’
son of Qays
son of ‘Aqil
son of Amr.
The origin of his Senegalese lineage comes from the marriage of Rida (migrant Arabic) and a woman Djolof Djéli Niasse, which they all inherited the name Niasse.
His literary work
He made a total of 75 works that in most have been translated into several languages, including:
Ruh al-Adab, written at the age of 21 years
Nujum al-Huda, eulogy of Muhammad.
Tanbih al-Azkiyya, panegyric on Ahmad Tijani.
Raf’a al-Malam, invitation to pray with hands on chest.
Kashif al-Ilbas, details of the earlier Sufi works and explanation of the Fayda Tijaniyya.
Diwan as-Sitt, a collection of six diwans of praise to Muhammad, Ahmad al-Tijani, its muqaddams, advice and mystical jewels for Sufi disciples.
Jami’ al-Jawami’, a collection of poems like the Diwan as-Sitt, in praise of Muhammad, Ahmad Tijani, tips and puzzles for Sufi disciples.
Rihlat al-Konakri, poem about his journey through the sub-region in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria to propagate Islam and Tariqa.
Jawahir ar-Rasa’il, letters, responses to letters, explanations of some verses, hadiths and meanings of Sufi litanies.
Sirru Akbar (“Greatest Secret”) one of the most esoteric books by Baye Niasse. It remains unpublished.
Sayr al-Qalb, the last poem written by Baye Niasse.