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A Visit To Kaolack, Senegal (2)



We then moved to the Madina Baay Mosque which is, as stated earlier, adjacent to the place where the Shaykhs are reposing in their individual tombs. The day was Friday 16th December 2011, and we intended to finish going around the masjid ahead of Jumu’ah service. A mosque attendant received us in front of one of the numerous entrances and gave us a guided tour inside the masjid. This place of worship is expansive, clean and well maintained. Everything works here. Pillars and well-illuminated chandeliers are reminiscent of those of the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, Saudi Arabia. There are two mimbars; the one used before the expansion of the mosque in 1958, and the other, now in use (brought from Morocco), mounted after the most recent extension of the masjid. This is exactly what we see, also, in Saudi Arabia in the Prophet’s Madinan Mosque where two mimbars stand erect; the old one and the one after the expansion of the Masjid an-Nabawy. This also strikes you as another parallel drawn between the original Madinah and this Madina.
Our guide took us to a special chamber which, according to him, Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse used as a place of solitude, a quiet place removed from activity and worshipers in the mosque, to meditate and perform supererogatory salaah- again reminiscent of the mehraab of the Prophet (SAW). In this isolated part of the Madina Baay Mosque are 6 designs on the right wall, if you face the qiblah, symbolising, according to our guide, the positions of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), and Shaykh Ahmad Tijani. The remaining four positions are for the four rightly guided caliphs: Abu Bakr, Umar, Usman and Ali (May Allah be pleased with them). We met a woman devotee rubbing her gyale (female headgear) on the walls, apparently, to receive the blessings of this hallowed chamber. But upon checking the veracity of this assertion with Sayyidah Rukayyah Ibrahim Niasse, this narrative was vehemently cast out as an apocryphal account. She said there are no positions consecrated for anybody in the masjid. It is only fair to concede that her account concerning any activity in the Madina Baay Mosque is more authentic than that of a mosque attendant. Or is it? But why were these marks made on the wall in the first place? Well, I’m still bound by the contents of my earlier caveat.

The walls of the Madina Baay Mosque are adorned with beautiful Qur’anic calligraphy which I have not seen anywhere. A separate round-shaped wall hung, held slightly below the roof by thin, strong pillars in the middle of the mosque, and in which Surah Yaseen was written in green (in large characters), while the whole of Surah al-Baqarah was inscribed in golden colour. This is no mean feat. The whole of the longest surah in the Glorious Qur’an to be written in such fashion; this is unprecedented!
We saw a group of old women sweeping the mosque. They are proud of what they are doing and were singing hymns of ‘laa ilaaha lillaah’ while they swept. This is a weekly tradition to these women who have volunteered their services every Friday in cleaning the mosque before Jumu’ah prayers.
A genuine mahogany demarcation marks the beginning of the female prayer section. Women here attend the five obligatory prayers, including Juma’ah, in large numbers. It is inconceivable that, during their ‘pilgrimages’ here, Nigerian scholars see provision for female worshippers made in Madina Baay Mosque, witness the comings and goings of women to the mosque without hindrance, but allow many mosques in Northern Nigeria to be built without female sections. Yes, the Prophet (SAW) permits women to pray in their houses if they want to, but he has also warned us not to hinder them in case they desire to offer their salaah in mosques as long as they are appropriately clothed for that. Until recently, when information against their position of keeping women out of the mosques became prevalent, the latter part of the Prophet’s instruction had been stifled by our ‘scholars’.
When breakfast was served, Shaykh Abdullatif Ayimbai Niasse, a nephew of Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse informed me that: ‘This day, Friday 16th December 2011, coincides with a day in which people used to bring a portion of their farm produce to Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse seeking for his ‘barakah’, blessings. The tradition has continued even after him; thus today the mosque will witness more worshipers due to the presence of farmers who have come from the outskirts of this city for the Shaykh’s blessings on what they have consecrated to him of their produce.’
Note that the farm produce, according to what Shaykh Abdullatif averred above, still gets the blessings of the late Shaykh. Such staunch faith is admirable, even if you do not agree with its content or context, you must concede that the adherents fiercely revere their leader and believe in his powers even in death.

On the accommodation of visitors in Madina Baay, Shaykh Abdullatif said: ‘There is a unique favour which Allah has bestowed to Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse in the area of hosting multitudes. Here, everybody is entitled to decent accommodation and feeding according to his status. Nobody goes hungry or sleeps in the streets. Somebody can choose to stay elsewhere or eat something else on their own accord, not because nothing was provided. If pilgrims go to hajj in Saudi Arabia they have to secure their accommodation, feeding and other logistics; they will not expect to go there and find everything provided without prior arrangement; but not here… You can set out for ‘ziyaarah’ to Madina Baay rest assured you will have a roof over your head and what to eat until you finish your devotions. Allah has not done this to any clime but Madina Baay, or to any mortal other than Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse!’
The readers can have their assessment on the above assertion, to support, agree or be averse to it. I have mine which my caveat will not allow me to share with you. But I can say that the illustrious family of Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse is a hospitable one. Forty per cent of the houses in Madina Baay are consigned to cater for visitors’ accommodation free of charge. Our group, for instance, consisted of 13 members, (a trifle number given the experience of our hosts in serving multitudinous visitors during the annual festival of Maulidin Nabiy celebrations, etc.). This (our group) was further divided into three sub-groups in terms of accommodation. Couples’ accommodation has ensuite rooms; that of people who came without spouses has shared conveniences. No one had cause to complain either about accommodation or of feeding. There was a succession of Senegalese cuisine all day round: before we finish breakfast, lunch was ready, and so on. I thought it is only the Arabs that have the tradition of entertaining guests with (whole) roasted calf or lamb; I was wrong – the hospitality of the progeny of Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse is equal to that of the Arabs; I am qualified to asses both due to my dealings with the Arabs in my area of business; the service I enjoy in Saudi Arabia is chargeable, while here, in Madina Baay, our hosts take pride in the selfless service they render to their guests as a family tradition. You could see joy in the faces of young boys and girls who serve the meals that they enjoy what they do, not because they have to; it is a family custom to house and feed visitors!