Sheikh Ahmad Tijani b. Sayyidi Ali Cisse (or Cheikh Tidiane Cisse) holds the Imamate of the Grand Mosque in Medina-Baye, Senegal. As Imam of the spiritual heart for the followers of Sheikh Ibrahim Niasse (RA), Sheikh Tijani Cisse represents some one-hundred million Muslims around the world. He succeeds to the position after a lifetime of personal instruction and companionship with some of the twentieth century’s most eminent Tijani scholars: Sheikh Ibrahim Niasse (d. 1975), Sheikh Sayyidi ‘Ali Cisse (d. 1982), and Sheikh Hassan b. ‘Ali Cisse (d. 2008). Sheikh Tijani Cisse is a renowned scholar, a consummate gnostic, a spiritual trainer endowed with startling insight into the aspirant’s condition, a committed humanitarian, and a Sufi ascetic whose heart never leaves the presence of the Real but whose existence in the world follows the movement of time. He is the reviver of the Muhammadan Sunnah, the khalifa of Sheikh Ahmad Tijani al-Hasani, the bearer of the Tijani Flood in this generation and the paradigmatic servant of Allah (‘Abd-Allah) of the time. May Allah be pleased with him and be pleased with us on account of him.
Sheikh Tijani Cisse (b. 1955) is the second son of Sheikh Ibrahim’s most beloved student, Sheikh ‘Ali Cisse (RA), and his first daughter, Fatima Zahra Niasse (RA). After memorizing Qur’an in Medina-Baye, Sheikh Tijani himself became a Qur’an teacher in Medina Baye while continuing his Islamic studies. In his late teens, he devoted himself full-time to personalized instruction (majalis al-ilm), first under his father, Sheikh Ali (1971-1972); and then under his grandfather, Sheikh Ibrahim (1973). He was the last to be personally instructed by Sheikh Ibrahim in the classical texts, focusing mostly on Arabic literature and poetry. He would later receive the highest of licenses from his father, Sheikh ‘Ali Cisse, who told him: “Whatever Sheikh Ibrahim gave me, I am giving you.”
After completing his early education in Senegal, he traveled to Egypt where he lived with Sheikh Hassan Cisse (RA) during his elder brother’s last year of study in Cairo. Like his brother, Sheikh Tijani excelled in his formal studies in Egypt; the result, he says, of the rigor of the informal instruction given him in Senegal. He graduated first in his class in the Azhar preparatory school, receiving his diploma in Arabic language in 1974. He received his Baccalaureate in 1977 in Arabic Language, graduating fourth in his class. By 1981, he had distinguished himself at the University of Azhar with a degree in the faculty of Usul al-Din (theology), department of Hadith (Prophetic Traditions).
After finishing his studies in Egypt, he traveled extensively throughout Africa, the Middle East and America attending conferences, participating in religious debates, and calling people to Islam. He took time to edit and publish several important works, including Sheikh Ibrahim’s Kashif al-Ilbas and a collection of Sheikh Ibrahim’s writings, which he named Sa’adat al-Anam. He also aided the publication of a comprehensive collection of Sheikh Ibrahim’s supplications, Kanz al-Masun. One Azhar scholar reportedly told him that his work identifying hadith citations in the 2001 publication of Kashif al-Ilbas would have been enough to complete a doctorate at Azhar University. In the introduction to Sheikh Tijani’s reprinting of the Kashif, Sheikh Hassan Cisse wrote: “I thank my dear brother, the master, the Sheikh Tijani ‘Ali Cisse, who spent of his efforts for the success of this pious work and much appreciated endeavor…”
The high scholarship of Sheikh Tijani Cisse was recognized by the Senegalese government in 2001, when he was appointed Senegal’s General Commissioner for the Hajj. In 2006, he was again recognized by Senegalese President Aboulaye Wade and appointed a Senegalese “Special Missions Ambassador”, a position he holds until the present time. He has also received Senegal’s distinguished award, the Ordre de Merite (1993). His country’s high esteem for his scholarship was revealed most recently by a personal visit of President Abdoulaye Wade to the Shaykh’s home in Medina-Baye (2008).
Sheikh Tijani Cisse was the closest confidant and traveling companion of his brother, Sheikh Hassan Cisse. Many of the illustrious representatives at his inauguration recalled how whoever was speaking with Sheikh Hassan Cisse when Sheikh Tijani came into the room – even if it was a government minister – he would have to go out in order to leave the two of them alone if they had something to discuss. Many of the miraculous occurrences during Sheikh Hassan’s travels were shared by his brother, Sheikh Tijani. For example, when a great scholar in Medina (Saudi Arabia) gave Sheikh Hassan an ijaza to teach select hadith by command of the Prophet in a visionary encounter, Sheikh Tijani received from him the same ijaza. The extent of his intimacy with Sheikh Hassan is proven by Sheikh Hassan’s calling his younger brother to his bedside to be the last person with him before he passed.
Their noble mother, Sayyida Fatima Zahra Niasse, revealed that some people of insight in Nigeria repeatedly used to tell her that since Sheikh Ibrahim, like the Prophet Muhammad, had a father named ‘Abd Allah, a son-in-law and closest companion named ‘Ali, a daughter named Fatima, a grandson named Hassan, her second son Sheikh Tijani was in reality a “Husayn” similar to the Prophet’s second beloved grandson.
Sheikh Tijani Cisse’s installation as Imam was unanimously agreed upon by the leading representatives of the legacy of Sheikh Ibrahim Niasse. His August 15, 2008 inauguration was attended by delegations from Nigeria, Mauritania, Ghana, South Africa and America; and by Sheikh Ibrahim’s most eminent sons: Sheikh Ahmad Dame Ibrahim Niasse (current Khalifa of Sheikh Ibrahim’s family), Sheikh Ahmad Tijani Niasse, Sheikh Muhammad Ma’mun Niasse (public representative of the Sheikh Ibrahim’s family), Sheikh Muhammad Mahi Niasse, Sheikh Muhammad Maki Niasse and Sheikh Muhammad al-Amin Niasse (also known as Baba Lamine). Other significant figures to confirm his appointment included Ibrahim Diop (former travelling companion and secretary of Sheikh Ibrahim), Sheikh Muhammad al-Hafiz al-Nahwi (Mauritania), al-Hajj b. Muhammad al-Mishry (Mauritania), Sheikh Tahir al-Bauchi (Nigeria), Sheikh Muhammad al-Mahi Cisse (younger brother to Sheikh Tijani Cisse and director of the Islamic school founded by Sheikh Hassan) and Jere Cisse (traveling companion and secretary of Sheikh Hassan Cisse). The occasion of his installation as Imam also marked Sheikh Tijani’s assumption of the presidency of the African American Islamic Institute, the UN-recognized humanitarian organization founded by Sheikh Hassan for the sake of health care, education and cross-cultural communication.
Sheikh Ibrahim’s will designated leadership of Medina-Baye’s Grand Mosque to his closest disciple Sheikh ‘Ali Cisse, to be passed next to his eldest son Sheikh Hassan, and after “to whomever Allah wills.” The unanimous validation of Sheikh Tijani Cisse as the community’s new Imam proved him to be he “whom Allah wills” according to the will of Sheikh Ibrahim Niasse. May Allah prolong his life, and allow his himma, his lofty aspiration, to lift the hearts of those in need.]]>