Senegalese Brotherhoods

Senegal is predominantly Muslim so it stands to reason that most of the HipHop artists from Senegal are Muslim as well. Senegalese Islam is often said to be from the Sufi tradition of Islam. However in my experience they seem a lot more orthodox in many ways (but not so in others) than mystic…for those not up on their theology, mysticism is more or less the “inner” teachings of any religion.

Senegalese Muslims are not one analogous group (although they may seem to be to an outsider). Muslims in Senegal divide themselves into “brotherhoods” each of which trace their lineage back to a specific founder. The most noticeable of these groups is the Baye Fall which is a sect of the Mouride brotherhood. Most Senegalese HipHoppers tend to belong to the Baye Fall sect or the larger Mouride brotherhood.

The Baye Fall are often confused with Rastafarians by tourists because of the many outward similarities, the biggest of which are the dreadlocks worn by many Baye Fall. Baye Fall are also more likely to drink and smoke marijuana than are other Muslims. Many Baye Fall themselves identify somewhat with the Rastafari movement. Reggae music is very popular and the pan-African colors; red, yellow & green of the Senegalese flag is also a natural fit with Baye Fall “Rastas”. To listen to some Baye Fall speak, especially on the island of Goree, you would think they were Jamaican. I have personally witnessed on a few occasions some Baye Fall deriding other Baye Fall for being too “Rasta”.

The major religion in Senegal pre-Islam was animism which is still evident to a degree throughout Senegalese culture and aspects of it are infused with their Islamic beliefs and traditions. Animism is not actually the name of a particular religion but a word to describe a type of belief system where the concept of souls or spirits dwell in things such as animals, plants and rocks. Although I don’t believe this is a common attitude, I have had a few Senegalese, mostly Baye Fall, confide in me that they really believe in animism and that it is the African’s true religion not Islam…again, I don’t know how widespread that idea is held as the Senegalese seem very adamant Muslim believers.

Below is a breakdown of the Muslim Brotherhoods of Senegal:


  • The Xaadir (Qādiriyya), the oldest, originally founded in Baghdad by the Sufi mystic Abdul Qādir al-Jilānī in the 12th Century, now pan-Islamic, spread to Senegal in the 18th Century.
  • The Tijaniyyah, the largest in membership, founded in Fez, Morocco by the Algerian born marabout Sīdī ‘Aḥmad at-Tijānī.
  • The Mourides, the richest and most active, founded by marabout Cheikh Amadou Bamba (1850-1927) of French West Africa, now Senegal.
  • The Layene are a smaller sect, centered at Yoff north of Dakar.
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    1. May 18, 2010 at 9:29 pm


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