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Shaykh Ahmadu Bamba’s Return from exile

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November 11th is a well celebrated date around the world, but for the followers of Shaykh Ahmadu Bamba (1853-1927) the founder of the Muridiyya Sufi order in Senegal, it has lots of meaning and is of great importance in the historical pages of the then growing Muridiyya organization. We can say it is the turning point in the relationships between Shaykh Ahmadu Bamba and the French colonial power occupying Senegal.

When in September 5th, 1895 the private council in huis-clos wrongfully sentenced the Shaykh and decided to send him in exile to the rainforest of Gabon, where no human being could survive alone, all murid followers were ready to take a stand and defend their alienable right to worship and live free in their homeland. But Shaykh Ahmadu Bamba, the apostle of non-violence, the peaceful prisoner of the merciless French colonial administration, refrain them, from giving the occupier any pretext to spill more blood and soil the land, in these comforting words ` If my enemies knew all the rewards and benefits God has promised me at the end of this exile and beyond, they would not have taken the decision. ``. That was how thousands of furious and resolved murid disciples were consoled by their spiritual leader who was just a firm believer, cognizant that he was one fulfilling part of the spiritual destiny God has chosen for his people.  

The exile to Gabon was part of the concocted master plan by the French colonial administration to annihilate the ever growing young Muridiyya organization, hindering their agenda of cultural assimilation and economic exploitation. Such plan could only work after taking away the leader for good from his people, family and land; which should also accelerate their pacification of these none law abiding murid followers. In so succeeding they would kill two birds with one stone. Such strategy did not work out the way they thought it would, for God`s has other indefectible plans, very different from the French administration plans.

The long years in exile of the Shaykh did not diminish or kill the morale of his followers who grew larger in number and remained stronger and undivided in sufferings, humiliation, beatings from family members (who remain faithful to French administrators) or inhuman treatment, isolations, and even imprisonment from colonial forces. They were denied any form of privilege other citizens were enjoying within their own community. The firm resolve of this small murid community, and the belief that the Shaykh will be back, triumphant, as he promised some of his close disciples, kept them more than alive through these harsh years during their spiritual master’s exile. 

After seven long years of isolation, Shaykh Ahmadu Bamba returned to his native land of Senegal, on November 11th 1905. After saluting triumphantly the welcoming crowd of euphoric murid disciples, he solemnly declared he has forgotten all his foes for all the mistreatments he has undergone before, during and after the exile.

This long exile episode very well documented by the French administration who claimed he was released upon its leniency, remains one of the most`` mysterious `` chapters in the life of the Shaykh and of the history of Muridiyya as of today. For most of these colonial reports regarding his so called belligerent activities and movements, his sojourn in Gabon, kept under seal and archived at the National Archives (IFAN) in Dakar, Senegal, remained untouched for at least 100 years. When these documents were released to the public, most documents relating his exile to Gabon were nowhere to be found. Lots of mysteries surround his days in Gabon and one is relying solely on the Shaykh`s own writings to phantom good part of this chapter of his life in exile.    




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