The Disciples of the Greater Jihad
Project info

The Greater Jihad is not war by force of arms, but the fight against the inner demons. Whoever conquers his inner enemies will also succeed against his worldly enemies. This is what the Senegalese Sufi-Cheikh Amadou Bamba Mbacke (1853 - 1928) taught his numerous followers, when tribal leaders called for the raising of arms against the French. Even today, many Senegalese are fervent supporters of Bamba\\\'s pacifist teachings. The West African country has never experienced an attack in the age of international terror - in contrast to its neighbouring countries. What makes Senegal special is that Islam in this country is regarded as particularly tolerant and that 95 percent of Muslims belong to a Sufi brotherhood, more than in any Muslim population in the world.\\r\\n\\r\\nThe Sufis are mystics and less concerned about the dogmas than about unity with God. The believers are obliged to submit to the spiritual guidance of a clergyman, called Marabout in Senegal, and to pay a part of their income for it. Although Senegal has a secular government since its independence in 1960, the highest marabouts rank among the most influental and richest men in the country. They preach tolerance and peace and pass a part of their wealth on to the needy or to build mosques. Critics argue that Senegal is one of the least developed countries in the world because of the stong political influence of the marabouts. And there is also talk of the exploitation of the faithful and of the mafia-like business practices of some Sufi Brotherhoods. Nevertheless, most Senegalese are very proud of their religious culture. This photo essay emphasizes on the social interaction between the members of the Senegalese Sufi Brotherhoods and on the influence of their spiritual leaders on the daily life of Senegalese people. It reflects how the Marabouts manage to preserve their wealth, power, and influence by promoting themselves as guardians of a liberal and tolerant Islam instead of relying on dogmatic doctrin, oppressive authority or extremism.