Baye Fall and Reflections

Trip Start Jan 14, 2014
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19
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Trip End Mar 16, 2014


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Flag of Senegal  ,
Friday, March 14, 2014

   In 1895, the French colonizers in Senegal reached a level of insecurity that provoked them to action. They summoned all the kings and spiritual leaders of the region to submit to France as the highest power in the land. Amadou Bamba Mbacke refused, for only the Mighty One could give such an order. When his arrest warrant was delivered, he prepared for exile even though his followers offered to fight to the death. He told his followers he would be back, and that, if the French knew the blessing they were bestowing upon him, they would not bother making their show of power.
   More than 20 years and two exiles later, the French administrator in charge of spying on Amadou Bamba Mbacke (now known as Serin Touba) would write to his superiors:

“THIS CHEIKH AHMADOU BAMBA IS GIFTED WITH SOME INNATE POWER WHO’S ORIGIN THE HUMAN MIND CANNOT UNDERSTAND SO AS TO EXPLAIN HIS BEFRIENDING CAPACITY.  THE WAY PEOPLE GIVE UP THEMSELVES TO HIM IS EXTRAORDINARY, AND THEIR LOVE OF THE CHEIKH IS UNCONDITIONAL.  HE SEEMS TO HAVE SOME DIVINE LIGHT AND SECRET SIMILAR TO WHAT WE READ IN THE STORIES OF THE GREAT PROPHETS AND THEIR PEOPLE.  BUT THIS ONE (CHEIKH AHMADOU BAMBA) DIFFERS FROM THEM BY HIS PURITY OF HEART, HIS GENEROSITY AND HIS WISHING GOOD TO FRIENDS AND ENEMIES ALIKE.  THESE ARE QUALITIES HIS PREDECESSORS WOULD HAVE ENVIED HIM, WHATEVER THE VIRTUOUSNESS, THEIR PIETY OR PRESTIGE WAS.  THE MOST UNJUST AND IGNORANT PEOPLE OF HUMAN REALITIES ARE THOSE WHO ACCUSED HIM ON FALSE GROUNDS, ALLEGING THAT HE WAS INTERESTED IN TEMPORAL POWER.  I AM SURE THAT THE PROPHETS AND SAINTS WHO WAGED HOLY WAR DID IT WITHOUT HAVING HALF THE FORCES THAT HE HAS GOT.” - ANTOINE J. HENRY LASSELVES, 1919

   Thus Serin Touba founded the Holy City of Touba and the Mouride Brotherhood of Sufi Islam. Before his death, he would receive apologies and honors from the French.
   One of his closest disciples, Cheik Ibrahima Fall, who was in charge of the manual labor in Diourbel and Touba, would further catalyze the Mouride movement. Fall would institute the culture of work among Mourides with his concept of Dieuf Dieul ("You reap what you sow"). Thus, the Baye Fall were born, a sect of the Mouride brotherhood who substitute hard labor and dedication to their marabout (teacher) for the usual Muslim pieties like prayer and fasting.
   And here we are, my family and I, living with Baye Fall. They are easily recognized by their colorful handmade clothes and their dreadlocks, often decorated with beads and jewelry. They wear large handmade necklaces and bracelets, and always carry a likeness of one or more of their spiritual masters. They live "dieuf dieul" and "dimbal ak yirmande," "reap what you sow" and "help and compassion." Even enemies are invited to reason out differences, creating unity and strength without fighting. Their one hand signal (see the photo of Adama in this entry or of Mbacke in the Dakar entry) means, "God is One." (They will tell you that this hand signal approximates the Arabic spelling of "Allahu," (الله), but I see the three as representing the Trinity and the circle representing the One, or wholeness. ["Three is one," Allah (all law), wearing the triple crown. See:ሥላሴ = "selassie" = trinity.])
   Similarities to Rastafari are evident, but the Baye Fall do not entertain these similarities (even though they love reggae). To them it is just coincidence that on both sides of the Atlantic, people with the same bloodlines subscribe to spiritual practice to defeat enemies, including subscription to nature, good works and consumption of cannabis. They do not want to hear about any king or emperor, for we are all equal under God (even though age and life accomplishment create a social hierarchy seen Africa-wide). If King Selassie was great, he could only be as great as Serin Touba - a mystic and teacher, no more. (In fact, knowledge about Haile Selassie and Ethiopia are severely lacking in this part of the world, despite the correlation of time periods of Serin Touba, Cheikh Fall and the Emperor.)
   Perhaps, the ones who stayed in Africa view the ones who were carried over as tainted. They are tainted with Euorpean culture and mentality, so as to explain their acceptance of Christianity (seen as a European invention [like modern Judaism] to most Muslim Africans. Here, I won't get in to all the complexities of the origins of Christianity or those of what is African and what is Islam other than to say that, in my mind, religions are the bandwagons that follow rebellions that naturally sprung when spirit and politics became separated.), and their predisposition for defense and aggression toward enemies (i.e. burning fire upon enemies). They have been fighting for survival for so long. Some of them see King Selassie as having won the victory, physically in Ethiopia, mentally and spiritually through his teachings and actions.
   But the ones that never left their mother..., they lack aggression. They value peace. Their only enemies are within - greed, hatred, deceit.... Serin Touba showed them how to rid themselves of these vices, and, at the same time, to love work and good deeds. He and his people show daily that when spiritual purpose comes first, peace and prosperity are naturally conceived. 
   I am ever grateful to have been able to make this journey. I am ever grateful to have been introduced to Cheikh Fall and Serin Touba in 2002, by Djibril Fall (Jamie) on a Peace Walk to NYC on the one year anniversary of 9/11. I am ever grateful to be able to incorporate help and compassion into my daily life. Life is too short for grudges and hatred. Yet the day is long, so let's greet each other with the utmost joy in our hearts, let's work hard, enjoy our tea/coffee and spliff, and give thanks to God, who's ways no one can know or judge.
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