The first challenge any one attempting to take up the subject of Ahmad Bamba will face is how to decide what to focus on and what to leave out. Unless the purpose is to write a complete encyclopedia, it will be difficult to determine which aspect of the Great Man’s life is more interesting or more important to write about. There are indeed many different ways to tell the story of Sheikh Ahmad Bamba.
Ahmadou Bamba, very early in his life, showed numerous signs of very premature, and exceptional, intellectual abilities, and a unique capacity to attract people to his side, retain them and exert an influence them. The positive and massive response of the Senegalese people to his call gradually brought him into a clash with the local religious establishment, and he soon attracted the notice of the French colonial authorities who had just finished extending their control over West Africa at the cost of many bloody wars all over the continent, and after a very long and very strong local resistance in Senegal, Ahmadou Bamba’s own country. There was a growing fear that Mohammad Bamba was planning to disrupt the social or political order, or both. He started to suffer, on a daily basis, personal harassments and direct provocations from many different directions. Local authorities feared or felt jealous of, his growing popularity, colonial authorities started to worry, and began to keep more suspicious eye on him and to watch him more closely. At some point, the French governor summoned him to St. Louis, then the capital of SENEGAL for questioning about his ideas and plans. After many such summons, the governor concluded that Ahmadou Bamba was too much of a potential troublemaker to be left alone anyway, and he decided that he should leave the country. He was sent to Gabon where he lived for seven years in virtual seclusion, before being allowed back to Senegal for a brief period of time. He was deported again to Mauritania, a neighboring country, then brought back again, was forced to live in restricted areas where “no more than 40 persons were allowed around him at any time.” Finally he was placed under house arrest in the city of Diourbel for the rest of his life. He passed away in 1927 and his family was allowed to bury him in Touba, a small village he founded and which is now the second largest city in SENEGAL, and which was recently identified by the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements, as one of the fastest growing cities in the world. Ahmadou Bamba was a man with unusual leadership abilities and charisma. At a time when almost all attempts to resist the colonial penetration of Africa had failed , there was little hope, little ambition or courage left for anyone to mount any meaningful resistance effort, let alone Ahmad Bamba who was not from a traditional ruling family. That he would be able to single handedly unify almost the whole country around his ideas and principles would have seemed an impossible task to undertake and achieve in the eyes of many of his contemporaries.