Fighting the Greater Jihad — 2007

Amadu Bamba and the Founding of the Muridiyya of Senegal, 1853–1913

By Cheikh Anta Babou

“In contrast to the conventional emphases on the political and economic dimensions of the order after its rise to prominence, Babou stresses the early years and Bamba’s contributions to the ‘greater jihad’ of non-violent religious effort.”

International Journal of African Historical Studies

“This book provides an inside perspective that contextualizes the rise of Bamba and is an important source for all interested in the history of this important Sufi order in Senegal.”

Religious Studies Review

“Babou’s study is particularly rewarding for its treatment of the founder’s life and ideas, set against the background of the Mbakke family’s history. The focus on education and tarbiyya offers an interpretation of the social action of the Murid order that is grounded in Sufi thought.”

American Historical Review

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In Senegal, the Muridiyya, a large Islamic Sufi order, is the single most influential religious organization, including among its numbers the nation’s president. Yet little is known of this sect in the West. Drawn from a wide variety of archival, oral, and iconographic sources in Arabic, French, and Wolof, Fighting the Greater Jihad offers an astute analysis of the founding and development of the order and a biographical study of its founder, Cheikh Amadu Bamba Mbacke.

Cheikh Anta Babou explores the forging of Murid identity and pedagogy around the person and initiative of Amadu Bamba as well as the continuing reconstruction of this identity by more recent followers. He makes a compelling case for reexamining the history of Muslim institutions in Africa and elsewhere in order to appreciate believers’ motivation and initiatives, especially religious culture and education, beyond the narrow confines of political collaboration and resistance. Fighting the Greater Jihad also reveals how religious power is built at the intersection of genealogy, knowledge, and spiritual force, and how this power in turn affected colonial policy.

Fighting the Greater Jihad will dramatically alter the perspective from which anthropologists, historians, and political scientists study Muslim mystical orders.


Cheikh Anta Babou is an assistant professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania. His work has appeared in African Affairs, Journal of Religion in Africa, and the Journal of African History.

Cover of 'Fighting the Greater Jihad'

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