Sheikh Ibra Fall an Icon of Senegambian Sufism – by Kemo Bojang

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Sheikh Ibrahima Fall (1855–1930) was a disciple of Sheikh Aamadu Bàmba Mbàkke, founder of the Mouride Brotherhood movement in West Africa. Well known in the Mouride Brotherhood, Ibrahima Fall established the influential Baye Fall movement.

Ibrahima Fall was born around 1855 in a northern village, Ndiaby Fall, Cayor. His original tyeddo name was Yapsa Khanth Fall. Aamadu Bàmba Mbàkke later gave him the name Ibrahima Fall. He was a son of Amadou Rokhaya Fall and Seynabou Ndiaye. Ibrahima Fall comes from an aristocratic Wolof family from Cayor. A scholar confirms that Fall came out of an animistic influenced Muslim traditional society, but believes Fall’s family was prosperous and formerly powerful in Cayor. Other sources confirm that Fall’s grandfather, Damel Dethialaw, was a ruler of the Cayor kingdom. At an early age, he learned the Qur’an in a neighbouring village, Ndiaré. Fall achieved major Arabic sciences such as theology, fiqh, tafsir, grammar and rhetoric. Savishinsky (1994) tells us that Ibrahima Fall had “reputation for ferocity and extraordinary strength” (p. 212). Another scholar claims that Fall was viewed as a troubled man who seldom went with his peers and often remained alone in the bush. However, all agree that the turning point of his life was Fall’s search for Shaikh Aamadu Bàmba Mbàkke.

One major study of Ibrahima Fall reports that two versions exist of his search for Shaikh Aamadu Bàmba. In the first version, Fall is rich merchant who travelled in Cayor, Jolof and Saloum. But after meeting Aamadu Bàmba Mbàkke in Mbacké Bari, Fall gave up business to become Bamba’s disciple.

In the second version, which is more commonly believed in Senegal and The Gambia , Ibrahima Fall in 1882 went on looking to Aamadu Bàmba Mbàkke. Scholars state that Ibrahima Fall knew that his destiny dictated him to search for him. Without any knowledge of him, Ibrahima Fall went on looking for the best Muslim teachers. Ibrahima Fall tested Serigne Massamba Syll and after Serigne Adama Gueye. Adama Gueye conducted Ibrahima Fall through mystic ways to Aamadu Bàmba Mbàkke in 1883.

The encounter between Ibrahima Fall and Aamadu Bàmba Mbàkke defined the beginning of Mouridism.[2] Savishinsky claims “ (Ibra Faal) performed his obeisance to Ahmadu Bamba in crown-slave style disrobing and falling forward to the ground.” Serigne Bassirou (1995) narrates the famous speech that Ibrahima Fall and Ahmadou Bamba exchanged:

Ibrahima Fall: “If I found only your gravestone, be aware that the force of my intention would satisfy my objective”

Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba: “If I found only the stars and the sky that Muhammad watched at, I’m sure that I could attain my objective with my strong love of the prophet … Know that from this life, I’ll neither protect you from sun nor provide you material goods. I accept you if you follow God recommendations”.

In this way, the contract started between Fall and Aamadu Bàmba Mbàkke. Ibrahima Fall became his 40th disciple. From this moment, Fall followed the Ndiguel “orders” of the Shaikh until Fall’s death.

On 21 September 1895, the French exiled Aamadu Bàmba to Gabon because of his defiance against colonialism and assimilation. Aamadu Bàmba ordered Ibrahima Fall to work for Sherif Hassan. He did so until 1901, when Sherif Hassan died. In this interval (1895–1901), Fall kept sending money (in Wolof “Adiya”) to the Shaikh until his return in 1902. On 11 November 1902, Aamadu Bàmba Mbàkke returned to Senegal and awarded Ibrahima Fall the degree of Sheikh.
In June 1912, the French kept Aamadu Bàmba under house arrest in Ndjarèem, Diourbel.[7] Consequently, Sheikh Ibrahima Fall followed him to Diourbel. In Diourbel, Fall created a famous district, Keur Sheikh. In Keur Sheikh, the Baye Fall movement consolidated and expanded very quickly. Many tyeddos became his disciples. In 1925, the French banned construction of the Touba Mosque. Sheikh Ibrahima Fall enclosed the area of the mosque with timbers Fall carried from Ndjarèem to Touba.

In 1927, at the death of Aamadu Bàmba Mbàkke, Sheikh Ibrahima Fall performed among the first obeisance to the Shaikh’s son, Serigne Moustapha Mbacké. Sheikh Ibrahima Fall participated in the difficult creation of the railroads between Diourbel and Touba. Sheikh Ibrahima Fall died 9 June 1930 after helping the succession of Aamadu Bàmba. He lies in Touba.

Composed by: Kemo Bojang

Reference : Savishinsky, J. N. (1994) The Bayed Fall of Senegambia: Muslim Rastas in the Promised Land? Africa: Journal International African Institute, 64, 211-219

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