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  • Sufism and Jihad in Modern Senegal: The Murid Order
  • Cheikh Anta Babou
Sufism and Jihad in Modern Senegal: The Murid Order. By John Glover. Rochester, N.Y.: University of Rochester Press, 2007. 236 pp. $75.00 (cloth).

John Glover’s recent book, Sufism and Jihad in Modern Senegal, is a welcome addition to the growing scholarship on the Muridiyya that relies on Murid internal sources and thought to offer a fresh perspective that challenges the conventional interpretations mostly shaped by French colonial sources and social scientist analysis.1 Parting with established scholarly narratives that construed the Murid tariqa as a conservative if not backward social movement representing the responses of benighted Wolof farmers to French colonial conquest and rule, Glover portrays the order as a synthesis of modern trends from West Africa and Europe that ultimately congealed in the form of an indigenous modernity. Borrowing from Michel Foucault, Glover conceives of Murid modernity as an awareness of historical discontinuities and a consciousness of the meaning of historical changes.

The book comprises an introduction, six chapters, and a short concluding section. It also includes three maps, eleven figures, and six tables that illustrate the text throughout. Chapters 1 and 2 tread on mostly familiar grounds. Here Glover uses secondary sources in English and French to reconstruct the historical development of Islam in West Africa from the great medieval West African empires of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay to the onset of the Temps des Marabouts, charted by the experiences of Sheikh Saad Buh, Sheikh Sidiyya Baba, Elhaj Malick Sy, and Sheikh Amadu Bamba, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Glover adopted this longue durée approach, covering [End Page 164] several hundred years of history in sixty pages, to provide a “more comprehensive view of the historical forces that influenced the emergence of the Muridiyya” (p. 23) beyond the momentous changes ushered in by French colonization. However, threads of continuities and changes binding the Murid experience to the events discussed in these two chapters are not easily perceptible. A more modest ambition offering a thorough analysis of historical developments in the Senegalo-Mauritanian zone that had significant impact on the historical traditions and culture of the Mbacke family would have been more helpful, especially for the nonexpert reader.

Chapter 3 delves into Murid written and oral sources, particularly from Daaru Muhti, to draw a moral portrait of Maam Cerno, Amadu Bamba’s half brother and right hand man. Glover succeeds remarkably in harnessing disciples’ analytical categories and imageries to reveal the duality of Maam Cerno’s personality as a faithful disciple of his brother but also as a leader in his own right whose success is rooted in his own personal accomplishments. The symbolic, spiritual, and socioeconomic capital accumulated by Maam Cerno earned him the legitimacy to lay the foundations for the autonomy of his branch of the Muridiyya, especially after the death of Amadu Bamba.

Chapter 4 explores the founding and early development of the village of Daaru Muhti from 1912. Glover interpreted the founding of this village as an effort of the Murid community of Daaru Muhti to translate “Bamba’s reformist and Sufi ideology into their daily lives and actions . . .”(p. 109). The chapter documents the ecological, economic, and political challenges that faced the founder and his disciples, especially in the context of the Great War. It also reveals Maam Cerno’s talent as a leader and savvy diplomat adept in navigating the treacherous terrain of colonial politics in the protectorate dominated by ambitious African chiefs and authoritarian French officials. The founding of Daaru Muhti, though, was discussed in isolation to similar events happening at the same time elsewhere in the Murid heartland, giving the reader the misleading impression that what was happening there was unique. The year of the creation of this village marked the definite settlement of Amadu Bamba in Diourbel and the beginning of a process that led to the revival and founding of dozens of Murid villages in Bawol. Disciples involved in this process experienced similar hardships as those of Daaru Muhti and many, like the followers of Maam Cerno, infused their experience with religious meanings, some even invoking the metaphor...