- Muslims Beyond the Arab World: The Odyssey of 'Ajamī and the Murīdiyya by Fallou Ngom
Researchers have written extensively on Islam and Sufī orders in Senegal, and within this plethora of writings on the subject, those on the Murīds dominate the research. However, Fallou Ngom's book Muslims Beyond the Arab World: The Odyssey of 'Ajamī amd the Murīdiyya approaches the Murīdiyya from a different point of view. In particular, he discusses internal sources of the Murīd Sufī order from an emics perspective, using hagiographic texts produced by Murīd scholars. Ngom argues that previous studies of the Murīds omit pertinent ideological, theological, and pedagogical aspects (151); they do not include the thoughts and writings of the founding Saint Ahmadu Bamba (1853–1927) in particular, or of Murīd scholars in general. Furthermore, Ngom notes that Murīd studies must be included in the tradition of Sufī studies and not limited to studies of Wolof traditions and culture (68).
Ngom bases his research on evidence from participatory observations in the Murīd and non-Murīd cities of Senegal in 2011 and 2014, where he attended religious ceremonies. He also conducted interviews with Murīds living in Senegal and the United States along with employing video and audio data. As a socio-anthropologist, he does not intend to re-write the history of the Murīdiyya but rather attempts to integrate hagiographic works as a serious source to consider in studying and analyzing the Murīdiyya. The author tirelessly goes back and forth between pre-existing historiography and hagiographic work unknown by researchers. He supports his arguments with a descriptive methodology interspersed with chronological facts, combining all in a more analytical framework. Ngom does not seem to doubt the credibility of the texts produced by the Murīds about themselves, even if the dating system of their works may cause problems for the historian (267n136). For the author, no research is perfect or complete; it only reflects the point of view of its author. With this consideration, Ngom breaks with the Weberian tradition of axiological neutrality and the distinction in social sciences between subjectivity and objectivity, to finally give voice to Murīd writers. His goal is to reflect Murīd episteme, to allow it to be finally comprehended by a larger audience, including academics. [End Page E45]
Ngom structures his thesis by engaging three important themes in Sufī/Murīd studies: One, theodicy and forms of narration; two, Murīd literary production and theory of 'Ajamīzation; and finally, tolerance, non-violence, and ethnic diversity. Ngom uses two forms of narration: first, a master narrative that describes the great Islamic, mystical, or intra-worldly deeds and sayings related to the life of Bamba, and second, the micro-narrative which allows us to account for the practical experiences of Murīd actors. These two forms of stories are related by prolific Murīd writers such as Sëriñ Mor Kayre, Samba Jaara Mbaay, Sëriñ Mbay Jaxate, and Musaa Ka. In their works, these writers emphasize that Bamba is above all the synthesis of all the saints, and then the synthesis of the Abrahamic saints such as Moses, Daniel, and Jesus (50, 137). Allah created the Prophet Muhammad on Covenant Day, Yawm al-Lastu (Qur'ān, Surah 7:172) while Adam and Eve were between water and clay. Their master Bamba was created on the same day, and after that, Allah created the Murīds and sealed the link between the master and the disciples (23, 172). According to Ngom, this master narrative is at the heart of the Murīd movement of having a credible shaykh to whom the disciples have pledged allegiance since Al-Lastu. According to Bamba's hagiographers, the Murīdiyya began the Day of Al-Lastu, yet not with the French presence in Senegal (47) or with what sociologists describe as a Weberian patron-client relationship.