Shaykh Ahmadou Bamba ranks with such apostles of peaceful militancy as Mahatma Gandhi, Abdul Ghaffar Khan, and Martin Luther King Jr. His adventures begin in the villages of Senegal in West Africa before he is thrust into the dense, treacherous, dark jungles of the French Congo and the pristine Sahara Desert in Mauritania.
The French who had control of much of West Africa, caught up with Bamba in the summer of 1895. Bamba seemed to know what was to happen to him for, the night before his arrest, he gathered his disciples together. The majority fervently pronounced that they were willing to launch a violent resistance and to die rather than allow the French to take Shaykh Ahmadou Bamba away. Bamba’s reaction was to state that in a war there are never any victors.
Thirty-three years of exile, imprisonment and house arrest only fortified his spirit, as affirmed by his moving ubiquitous poetic expressions. His writings are seen as living texts that make them forever current. He petitioned God to ensure that the verse he composed “be an eternal source of happiness for whomever would apply its knowledge . . . and that it would lead the sincere aspirant to spiritual vision, and to unveiling of profound secrets.”
This story of the role of African ‘natives’ and Sufi Masters in peace building breathes a fresh spiritual and intellectual air into the history of Islam in Africa in general and Senegal in particular.
Kimball’s presentation of colonial resistance and non-violent social change is compelling and timely. This is an unprecedented account, through oral and written histories, into the life and times of a great poet and peacemaker. It is a book of universal import with a message of truth, peace, and the power of nonviolence.
“Michelle Kimball is to be congratulated in making the life and thought of Shaykh Ahmadou Bamba, the great Senegalese Sufi master of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, accessible to the English-speaking world. His spiritual life as well as peaceful combat against colonialism have much to teach contemporary Muslims. Her work also reveals the very important but often forgotten truth that classical and traditional Sufism did not belong only to what Westerners call the Middle Ages but continued into recent times and is still alive as a living tradition.”
Seyyed Hossein Nasr
University Professor of Islamic Studies,
The George Washington University
“Careful yet compelling, this biography of West Africa’s great spiritual luminary is required reading for all who seek a devout alternative to modern fundamentalism and intolerance.”
Abdal Hakim Murad
Dean, Cambridge Muslim College
“Shaykh Ahmadou Bamba ranks with such apostles of peaceful militancy as Mahatma Gandhi, Abdul Ghaffar Khan, and Martin Luther King Jr. Kimball’s presentation of this Sufi shaykh’s espousal of non-violent social change is compelling and timely. Quoting frequently from Ahmadou Bamba’s own writings, Kimball weaves a narrative of anti-colonial resistance and social transformation. That such an activist voice could emerge from the din of colonial alienation is a testament to the enduring strength of the principle of peace in Islam.”
Professor Eric Ross, PhD
School of Humanities & Social Sciences,
Al Akhawayn University, Morocco
“Michelle Kimball is to be congratulated for authoring this admirable book. I have benefited from reading this book, which has greatly helped me to know better about this Muslim Peacemaker who, however, is rather little known outside the African continent. It is my sincere hope that this book will be appreciated by many readers from different continents and different cultural backgrounds given the universal import of his message of truth, peace, and nonviolence.”
Osman Bakar, PhD
Distinguished Professor of Islamic Civilisation and Contemporary Issues,
SOASCIS, Universiti Brunei Darussalam