Two months after his death,which proved to be the detrimental in the lives of Mourides across the world ,The AFRican writer Skye Holly takes a closer look at the life and legacy of Seringne Saliou Mbacke. His legacy will forever live in the lives of those who believed in his truths worldwide:
Living in an age where icons are not only sought after but created,one is left to wonder what life is like without them only when confronted with their loss. What becomes of a group when a beloved leader is either removed from power or passes away? In February, Cuban Communist leader Fidel Castro announced his plans of retirement and that he would not fulfill another presidential term after 49 years in power. This week, eleven year-old Shajani Shakya from Nepal announced her retirement as the Kumari or "living goddess" of her community, as she was seen as the reincarnation of a worshiped deity. Closer to the Diaspora, a look at the life of Serigne Saliou Mbacke, leader of the Mourides in Senegal, raises the same questions in terms of his cultural and religious influence. Different from the cases of Castro and Shakya are that the profundity of his impact will be measured not only in the details of his life, but in the legacy of his death.
The Mourides are one of the most powerful sects of Islam. This brotherhood was founded by Mbackes father, Ahmadou Bamba Mackbe, in 1883. The brotherhood follows a strict and particular interpretation of the Koran and its members are known throughout Senegal for their wealth, based largely on agricultural investments. While Senegal itself happens to be a secular nation, Touba, which is east of Dakar, could not be more different. It is called the "state within a state" and is seen of as most holy. Even visitors are prohibited from smoking, drinking, and dancing. Serigne Saliou Mbacke has maintained this separate and holy atmosphere while still ushering in a sense of modernity. The principle of Pray as if you will die tomorrow and work as if you will live forever, as heralded by his father, never left throughout his leadership.
He is revered for turning a rural Touba into a place that not only maintains tradition but boasts a large university and contemporary mosque, fully equipped with loudspeakers that call area worshipers to prayer.
Although this caliph was not a politically outspoken individual, he did have the respect of those in the political arena. President Abdoulaye (who was spiritually advised by Mbacke) called for a three day national period of mourning upon Mbacke's death this past December. Mbacke was known as the leader who promoted education as well. Because the Mourides has the fastest growing group of Islamic followers across Africa, the United States and Europe, Serigne Saliou Mbacke had become legendary as a pop culture icon.
His image fills the homes of millions in Senegal. Hundreds of thousands of mourners flogged to Touba's Grand Mosque to pay their final respects. Hosts of radio stations across the region interrupted their scheduled programming to break the news of his death. In the middle of a concert, the popular music star Cheikh Lo stopped the show before a stunned audience.
Cuba has immediately replaced Castro with Fidel's brother Raul, and Nepal is on a pageant-esque search for the next goddess.
The first grandson of the Mourides' founder, Caliph Ahmadou Bamba Mbacke, is Mouhmadou Lamine Bara Mbacke. He will be the new leader of this Sufi Islamic brotherhood. And while there is a replacement physically, it is left to wonder how quickly the last living son of Ahmadou Bamba Mbacke, Serigne Saliou Mbacke will be replaced in the hearts and minds of Mourides around the world.