Black Muslims : Muslim Saints of Africa


Well-Known Member
Aug 17, 2010
Al-Hajj Malik Sy

By Zakariya Wright
The prodigious scholar and righteous saint al-Hajj Malik Sy (1855-1922) was one of the key figures for the renewal of Islam and spread of the Tariqa Tijaniyya in Senegal in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Along with contemporaries Ahmadu Bamba and al-Hajj Abdoulaye Niasse, al-Hajj Malik played an important role in preserving and adapting the transmission of the traditional Islamic sciences in Senegal in the aftermath of French conquest. His followers are today found mostly in northern Senegal, although important communities exist from the Gambia to the Futa region of southern Mauritania.
Al-Hajj Malik was born in Gaya, in northern Senegal, of mixed Fulani and Wolof ancestry. His father was Ousmane Sy, but his most significant early teacher seems to have been his maternal uncle Mayoro Wale, from whom he took the Tijani wird at the age of eighteen. Mayoro was himself an accomplished Tijani scholar, having received initiation at the hands of Shaykh Mawlud Fal and later from al-Hajj Umar al-Futi Tal. After memorizing the Qur’an and completing his early education, al-Hajj Malik traveled throughout Senegal studying with some of the most prominent scholars of his time. He spent a short time studying in Trarza, Mauritania, where he renewed his Tariqa affiliation under Muhammad Ali who was closely associated with the legacy of Muhammad al-Hafiz al-Shinqiti and the influential Idaw Ali shurafa’ of Mauritania.
He accomplished the Hajj in 1889, passing en route to Mecca through Marseille, Alexandria and Jeddah. Upon his return, he opened schools in Saint Louis, Dakar and in Marné before settling permanently in Tivaouane in 1902. There his zawiya attained great renown as one of the premier centers of Islamic scholarship in the Senegambia. Al-Hajj Malik trained an elite cadre of Islamic intellectuals in the entirety of the Islamic sciences, before sending them throughout Senegal to teach others.
Al-Hajj Malik maintained active relations with the important branches of the Tijaniyya of his day, including the Tijani scholars of Fes and those of Ain Maadi, Algeria; both of which he remained in correspondence through letters. He also married his daughter Khadia to Saidou Nourou Tal, the grandson of al-Hajj Umar Tal and whom the French had named the “Grand Marabout” of West Africa. His relations with al-Hajj Abdoulaye Niasse were particularly close. Al-Hajj Abdoulaye visited al-Hajj Malik in Tivaouane when returning from one of his trips from Fes, and it was through him that al-Hajj Malik received the coveted ijaza mutlaqa from Shaykh Ahmad Sukayrij of Marakesh.
Many of his poems in praise of the Prophet have attained great renown and are still recited by his followers, especially during the Mawlid season. Some twenty of his Arabic works were published, most of them in Tunis. Aside from poetry, his writings included treatises on theology, law, Sufism and biography of the Prophet Muhammad.
Since the death of al-Hajj Malik, the Tivaouane zawiya has been headed by Abu Bakr Sy (d. 1957), Abd al-Aziz Sy (1957-1997) and Mansour Sy who is the present leader of the Sy family. Shaykh Mansour is usually represented by his official spokesman, Abd al-Aziz Sy. The most prominent representative of the Sy family in America is Shaykh Ahmad Sy, a grandson of al-Hajj Malik who currently lives in Maryland.


Well-Known Member
Aug 17, 2010
Al-Hajj Umar al-Futi Tal

By Zakariya Wright
Shaykh al-Hajj Umar b. Sa’id al-Futi al-Turi (1796-1864), commonly known as Hajj Umar Tal, was perhaps the most famous of all Tijani figures in the nineteenth century. He was an accomplished scholar, author and social activist. He combined the greater holy war (jihad al-akbar) against the ego-self (nafs) with the lesser war of arms (jihad al-asghar) in the hope of establishing a Muslim empire of justice and peace in West Africa. His magnum opus, the Kitab rimah hizb al-rahim ‘ala nuhur hizb al-rajim (”The book of the lances of the league of (Allah) the Merciful against the necks of the league of (Satan) the accursed”), is considered a “veritable compendium” and one of the most important works of the nineteenth century anywhere in the Muslim world (Hunwick, 1992). The work is normally printed with the major work of the Tijaniyya, the Jawahir al-Ma’ani. The “Umarian” state al-Hajj Umar had forged by 1860, although short-lived, was one of the largest ever seen in West Africa. His legacy of resistance to French colonial conquest has inspired West Africans from all walks of life to the present time.
Mosque in Helwar
Al-Hajj Umar was born in Helwar, Futa Toro, in present-day northern Senegal. He hailed from the noble Fulani, a people who had become renowned for their Islamic scholarship throughout West Africa by the seventeenth century. His father Cerno Saidu (Arabic, Sa’id) studied at the famous Islamic university of Pir Sanikhor in Senegal. Saidu lived the life of a simple farmer, devoting himself to studies and worship rather than participate in the Fulani jihad of Abd al-Qadir Kane in 1776. A touching story is related in an oral tradition collected by Madina Ly-Tall (1991) of al-Hajj Umar’s respect for his father. Once Umar’s beloved son, Muhammad Makki, told his father in jest, “My father was better than yours.”
Al-Hajj Umar said, “What you say demands proof.”
“My proof is that Shaykh Umar is my father,” said Muhammad Makki. “And he is the most knowledgeable among both black and white; he went to Mecca; he engaged in jihad; and he is the khalifa of the Tijaniyya. These are my proofs: your father did not have any of this.”
Umar responded, “It is my turn to present my proofs. My father was named Cerno Saidu, he taught all sorts of sciences to his disciples. He had a field in Barol Talbe. To go there he veiled his face to not envy the fields of others. When he came to his field, he put himself to work farming, all the while reciting the Qur’an. At the time of prayer, he prayed. He used to go hunting, and my mother would prepare dinner with what he brought home. This is what he would eat. He had (sons) Elimaan Ibrahima, who is a saint; Tapsiru Autumani, who is a saint; Alfa Ahmadu, who is a saint; Cerno Bubakar, who is a saint; Alfa Usman, who is a saint; El Hadj Aliu, who is a saint; and me. We must wait to see if your father will have such sons. And the son is only the reflection of his father’s character.”
Al-Hajj Umar then added, “Do not forget that your father has killed people, has devastated fields, has dethroned kings. He will have to make an accounting before Allah for these things. As for me, my father has not done any of this, he was a simple farmer. There are my proofs” (Ly-Tall, interview with Tapsiru Ahmadu Abdul Niangan, 1981).
Soxna Adama Aise, the mother of al-Hajj Umar, likewise had a great reputation for piety. She was a niece of the famous Qadiri scholar and jihadist Sulayman Bal. It is related that a torrential downpour occasioned the birth of Umar, threatening to drench mother and child since the roof of the house was being repaired. While everybody else in the family became soaking wet, Soxna Adama and her son remained dry. Once some dignitaries of Masina (Mali), impressed with the scholarly piety of al-Hajj Umar, queried him about his family, asking him if such attributes were common among his father’s people. He replied that many in his country (Futa Toro) were of a similar spiritual stature to his father, but that “a woman comparable to my mother, I have not left in my country and I assure you there is neither such a woman in yours” (Ly-Tall, 1991).
Al-Hajj Umar was a precocious student of the Islamic sciences, memorizing the Qur’an with his father at a young age. He was next trained to be a Qur’an school master by his elder brother Alfa Ahmadu, until he began traveling in search of knowledge. By this time, it is said he had developed a keen interest in books and poetry detailing the life and character of the Prophet Muhammad. He would later say:

Allah, from His bounty, endowed me with the love for His Prophet. (From an early age) I was confounded with love for him, a love permeating my interior and exterior; something which I both hid and manifested in my soul, my flesh, my blood, my bones, my veins, my skin, my tongue, my hair, my limbs, and every single part making up my being. And I praise Him on account of this. (Safinat al-Saada; cited in Ly-Tall, 1991).​
Umar studied under many of the renowned teachers in Futa Toro of his day, such as Cerno Lamin Saxo, Amar Saydi, Yero Buso and Horefonde. He excelled in the study of jurisprudence (fiqh), and even after his establishment as a Sufi shaykh, scholars used to visit him in Dingiray to discuss with him points of jurisprudence. His studies in Futa inevitably led him to the famous school of Pir Sanikhor, where his teacher, Serin Demba Fal, observed in him exceptional scholastic ability. His first stay outside of Futa in search of knowledge was in the Mauritanian town of Tagant, where he would have been exposed to the Tijaniyya (although it is not believed he took the Tariqa at this time). On his return from Mauritania, he was already known as a learned teacher of the Islamic sciences. During a second visit to Mauritania, or perhaps during a visit to Futa Jallon (present-day Guinea), Umar was initiated into the Tariqa Tijaniyya by Abd al-Karim al-Naqil, a student of Mawlud Fal. The two became close companions, and traveled together to Futa Jallon where Umar spent years in the company of Abd al-Karim, leaning from him the remembrances of the order and some secrets such as the prayer hizb al-sayf.
Soon after the death of Abd al-Karim, Umar set off with his family to accomplish the pilgrimage to Mecca. He arrived in 1827 and soon became acquainted with the prominent student of Shaykh Ahmad Tijani, Sidi Muhammad al-Ghali. Al-Hajj Umar became Sidi al-Ghali’s closest disciple, and al-Ghali gave him full investiture in the Tariqa following a vision of Shaykh Ahmad Tijani in the Prophet’s mosque in Medina, where Shaykh Tijani told al-Ghali, “I have given Shaykh Umar ibn Sa’id all that he needs in this Tariqa in the way of litanies and secrets. You have only to inform him of the details.” Sidi al-Ghali thus gave Hajj Umar the status of khalifa in the Tariqa. Where Hajj Umar describes the degree of the muqaddam (propagator) as someone commissioned by the Shaykh to “teach the obligatory remembrances as well as some of the remembrances peculiar to the elite,” he describes the position of khalifa as the manifestation of the Shaykh (Tijani) himself:

He is a representative of the Shaykh without restriction. The muqaddams and their students are therefore included among the subjects of the khalifa. Obedience to the khalifa is incumbent upon them … Someone who is taught by the khalifa is on equal footing with someone who is taught by any other, because of the degree of deputyship (Rimah Hizb al-Rahim).​
Before leaving the company of Sidi al-Ghali in 1830, al-Ghali confirmed his status as khalifa for West Africa and told him to “clean the lands of the stench of paganism.” While in the Middle East, al-Hajj Umar also visited Jerusalem, Syria and Egypt, where his reputation for piety and learning were recognized. It is said he led the prayer in the Dome of the Rock (Jerusalem), cured the son of a sultan from madness in Syria, and astonished scholars in Cairo by his vast erudition (Ly-Tall, 1991; Ba, 1990).
Al-Hajj Umar returned from the Middle East by way of Sokoto (which he had also visited on the way to the Hijaz), arriving in 1831-2. He was accorded a grand reception by Sultan Muhammad Bello, the son of Shehu Usman dan Fodio. There is no evidence that Sultan Bello actually took the Tariqa Tijaniyya, but it is undeniable the two were the best of friends. Bello gave Shaykh Umar his daughter Maryam in marriage, and Umar accompanied Bello on various military campaigns. Bello relied on the Shaykh for guidance through his istikhara (prayer for guidance) and to pray for rain in times of draught. Hajj Umar had great respect for Muhammad Bello and the Usmani tradition. In the Rimah, Umar speaks of the Sultan Bello as “the equitable imam, the scholar who puts his knowledge into practice, the excellent saint, the commander of the faithful, Muhammad Bello.” Musa Kamara cites a letter from Sultan Bello to the inhabitants of Futa Toro on behalf of Shaykh Umar likewise attesting to his love for the Shaykh: “We consider his departure (from Sokoto) like a death that infiltrates our blood, as we are losing a great friend” (Kamara, 1975).
In his Rimah, Shaykh Umar recorded an incident of some significance in unraveling the connection between the Sultan and the Shaykh. Some have of course claimed the Bello was in fact initiated into the Tijaniyya by Umar, but neither Bello nor Umar provide evidence of this. Nonetheless, the following passage from the Rimah demonstrates Bello’s profound respect for the Tijaniyya. Shaykh Umar cites here a dream Bello had on the 14th of Rabi al-Awal in the year 1251 A.H. which he had recorded and given to the Shaykh in writing:

I saw in the state of sleep … that the Hidden Pole (al-Qutb al-Maktum), the Sealed Isthmus (al-barzakh al-mukhtum), the Seal of the Saints, Shaykh al-Tijani (may Allah be pleased with him and us on his account), had come to our land and rallied the people to him. When I reached him, I found in his presence the fortunate and successful Sayyid ‘Umar b. Sa’id as his lieutenant. The Shaykh was telling him, “The people of this country will not derive benefit from any (new) knowledge in addition to their (present) knowledge.” I (Bello) said to the Shaykh, after greeting him with the salutation of peace, “You should know that I am one of those who love you, and this only for the sake of Allah Most High, out of Divine command, not for any worldly cause or reason, praise be to Allah. I have noticed the mention of the Seal of Saints among the discourses of the elite.” He said, “You knew or saw his remembrance in the origins (lawaqih) of the lights.” Then I said, “I have heard from our Shaykh (Usman dan Fodio) that he met with you (Shaykh Tijani) next to his house in Degel … I want your assurance that as I am seeing you here now, I will see you in Paradise,” and I repeated these words three times with all my spiritual zeal (himma) … Then he sent me in search of some radish seed powder for some medicine, so I went in search of it, then I recovered consciousness.​
Al-Hajj Umar relates then that when Sultan Bello came to tell him of the dream, he filled a large vessel with radish seed, brought it to him, and said, “Take what your Shaykh instructed me to bring him, for you are his khalifa and his representative (na’ib).”
Shaykh Umar left Sokoto following the death of Sultan Bello (1837), but it is likely he was delayed on account of the failing health of his wife Maryam (d. 1838). In any case, there is record of him cooperating with the new Sultan, ‘Atiq, and marrying another wife from Sokoto, this time a daughter (Aisha) of Cerno Muhammad Nema, a judge (qadi) appointed by Shehu Usman. It seems Shaykh Umar considered both of his wives from Sokoto to be saints (Ly-Tall, 1991), and he relates some of their visionary experiences in the Rimah.
After traveling widely throughout West Africa - such as Masina (Mali), Sine-Saloum (Senegambia) and Futa Toro, Shaykh Umar settled in Futa Jallon, eventually founding the town of Dingiray. In Futa Jallon, Shaykh Umar spent ten years teaching his growing numbers of disciples. He was especially renowned for his teaching of jurisprudence, hadith and, of course, Sufism. Many of the region’s oppressed and downtrodden found refuge in his settlement, as did scholars from all over West Africa. Resenting his growing influence, the non-Muslim leaders in the area attacked his settlement in 1851. Nearly a year later, Shaykh Umar received official permission for the jihad from the Prophet Muhammad and Shaykh Ahmad Tijani in a visionary encounter. The jihad was first exclusively directed against the non-Muslim Bambara, whom al-Hajj Umar accused of grave injustices, enslaving Muslims and threatening the practice of Islam.
When he conquered the Bambara city of Segu in 1961, he found evidence of an alliance against him between the Bambara kingdom and the Muslim state of Masina. His resultant jihad against Masina, whose capital Hamdullahi he captured in 1864, touched off a virulent polemic between the supporters of al-Hajj Umar and the supporters of Masina, the latter which included the scholars of Timbuktu (Mahibou and Triaud, 1983). By 1854, Shaykh Umar’s mobilization of Futa Toro led to direct conflict with advancing French commercial and military hegemony. Besieged on two fronts, Shaykh Umar died in battle in 1864 near Hamdulillahi. His empire was held together by his son Ahmad until being dismantled by the French some twenty years after the Shaykh’s death.
The literature on Shaykh Umar remains mostly preoccupied with his political and social revolution in West Africa. This is understandable, given the widespread impact of his political activities. But his scholarly legacy has far outlasted any temporary political role he endured. His descendent Seydou Nourou Tall became a key Muslim and Tijani figure in twentieth century West Africa and was appointed as a supreme religious leader of West Africa by the French. Later Tijani scholars in West Africa, such as Al-Hajj Abdoulaye Niasse and al-Hajj Malik Sy, both had important initiations into the Tijaniyya through students of al-Hajj Umar. Shaykh Umar’s book, the Rimah, remains one of the mostly widely read books of the Tijaniyya order.
Works cited
-Shaykh Umar b. Sa’id, Rimah hizb al-Rahim ‘ala nuhur hizb al-rajim.
-Madina Ly-Tall, Un Islam Militant en Afrique de l’Ouest au XIXe Siècle: La Tijaniyya de Saiku Umar Futiyu contre les Pouvoirs traditionnels et la Puissance coloniale (Paris, 1991).
-Ahmadu Hampate Ba, “Sheik Ahmadu and Masina,” and Mohammadon Alion Tyam, “The Life of al-Hajj Umar,” in Colins (ed.), Western African History: Texts and Readings (New York, 1990).
-Cheikh Moussa Kamara, La Vie d’El Hadji Omar (translated from Arabic by Amar Samb, Dakar, 1975).


Well-Known Member
Aug 17, 2010
Al-Hajj Abdoulaye bin Mamadou Niasse
By Zakariya Wright
Al-Hajj Abdoulaye (1845-1922) was one of the greatest scholars of the Senegambia region in the early twentieth century. One time Jihadist and subsequent farmer, he was the first to obtain the unlimited authorization (ijaza mutlaqa) in the Tijaniyya in the Senegambia and was famous for his teachings on a wide range of Islamic sciences. The French commandant in Nioro, Senegal, observed in 1898: “Abdoulaye is the leader of all the marabouts of Rip and of Saloum, and is superior to all of them – consequently, he enjoys a great authority over the masses” (Klein, p. 224).
Mamadou Niasse, the father of al-Hajj Abdoulaye, was also a marabout, or Islamic scholar, who immigrated to the Saloum region from Djoloff and founded his own village of Niacene in 1865. This was at the time of the religious wars of al-Hajj Umar Futi, carried out in the Saloum region by another Tijani, Ma Ba Diakhou. Abdoulaye would later participate in the war as an advisor to Saer Maty, the son of Ma Ba who assumed leadership of the movement after his father was assassinated by French intrigue. He soon dissociated himself from the jihad however, and devoted himself exclusively to teaching and farming. Like his father, he also founded his own village, Taiba Niacene. But the memory of his participation in the jihads, along with his growing local influence, was too much for the new French-appointed rulers in the region. In 1900, he and 200 of his disciples were forced to flee to Gambia by the French-appointed governor, even as three villages belonging to his followers, including Taiba Niacene and the central mosque and extensive library therein, were burned to the ground. Abdoulaye only returned to the Saloum region in 1910, when he installed himself finally in Kaolack, probably only after the intervention of his friend, al-Hajj Malik Sy, with the French authorities.
Al-Hajj Abdoulaye made several journeys abroad. He accomplished the pilgrimage to Mecca as early as 1890. Other travels brought him to Fes, Cairo and, according to Paul Marty, even Marseille, France. He is said to have been given an ijaza by al-Azhar University during his stay in Egypt. In Fes, he was given an original manuscript of the Jawahir al-Ma’ani in the handwriting of Sidi Ali Harazim, which had been in the possession of Shaykh Ahmad Tijani himself for more than ten years. He also met with Shaykh Ahmad Tijani in a waking vision and obtained some of the Shaykh’s prayer beads from the head muqaddam of the Fes zawiya, Sidi al-’Arabi bin Muhibb. Besides the ijaza mutlaqa, he also came to Fes praying Allah that one of his children would become the ghawth al-zaman. Before he left the Tijani zawiya in Fes, he saw a vision of his young son Ibrahim in the courtyard and knew all his prayers had been answered.
First initiated into the Tijaniyya through the silsila of al-Hajj Umar Futi at the hand of Shaykh Mamadou Diallo in 1875, al-Hajj Abdoulaye became connected with some of the most eminent Tijani scholars of his time. In Morocco, it was the renowned Shaykh Ahmad Sukayrij who gave al-Hajj Abdoulaye the ijaza mutlaqa. Shaykh Sukayrij would later mention al-Hajj Abdoulaye in one of his poems. Al-Hajj Abdoulaye also also remained on excellent terms with Sharif Ahmad bin Saih of Ain Maadi, Algeria (who visited him in Gambia and Senegal in 1909 and 1913), and Muhammad Ould Cheikh of the influential Mauritanian Idaw Ali tribe.
He also remained in close correspondence with al-Hajj Malik Sy. When he first met Shaykh Sukayrij to request the ijaza mutlaqa, the Moroccan Qadi informed him of a letter he had already received from al-Hajj Malik requesting the same. Shaykh Sukayrij told al-Hajj Abdoulaye to tell his friend and countryman to come to Fes in person the same way he had done. Al-Hajj Abdoulaye responded that whatever he himself was deserving of, his peer al-Hajj Malik was also deserving of the same. As a result of this intervention and their long-time friendship, al-Hajj Malik requested al-Hajj Abdoulaye to stay with him in Tivaouane on his return from Fes. Marty in fact reports that he stayed in Tivaouane for several years. During al-Hajj Abdoulaye’s time in Tivaouane, according to Shaykh Hassan Cisse, al-Hajj Malik would direct all requests for initiation into the Tijaniyya to his distinguished guest.
Al-Hajj Abdoulaye had many children who continued his scholarly mission. Aside from Shaykh al-Islam Ibrahim Niasse, his first son Muhammad Khalifa Niasse was also a prolific author and scholar who traveled widely. Among other things, Muhammad wrote a remarkable defense of the Tijaniyya which has been translated into French by Ousmane Kane in Triaud and Robinson (eds.), La Tijaniyya (Paris, 2000). But it was one of his younger sons, Shaykh Ibrahim, who became the greatest testament to al-Hajj Abdoulaye’s scholarly legacy.
Sources: Martin Klein, Islam and Imperialism in Senegal (Stanford, 1968); Paul Marty, L’Islam en Mauritanie et au Senegal (Paris, 1915); interviews with Shaykh Hassan Cisse.
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Aug 17, 2010
Shaykh Muhammad al-Hafiz al-Misri

By Shaykh Fakhruddin Owaisi
Our master, the shaykh, the gnostic of God, the Sayyid, Muhammad al-Hafiz al-Misri al-Tijani, was one of the greatest scholars of Prophetic traditions (hadith) of Egypt in the twentieth century, as well as a renowned Friend of Allah.
Al-Sayyid Muhammad al-Hafiz bin `Abdul Latif bin Salim was born in the district of Munufiyya in Egypt in the year 1315 (c. 1897) to a family connected to the noble Ahlul Bayt (household of the Prophet). After studying the religious sciences in Cairo, Shaykh al-Hafiz traveled abroad to Syria, Tunisia, Sudan, Algeria and Morocco in the pursuit of sacred knowledge. During these blessed journeys, he gained precious diplomas (ijazahs) from some of the greatest scholars of the time from the East and the West of the Islamic world, such as Shaykh Badruddin al-Hasani of Syria, Sharif `Abdul Hayy al-Kattani and Sidi Ahmad Sukayrij of Morocco, Shaykh Alfa Hashim of Medina and Shaykh `Abdul Baqi al-Ansari of Mecca.
After his period of learning, Sayyidina Muhammad al-Hafiz totally dedicated himself to the teaching of Hadith. He taught the entire multi-volume Sahih al-Bukhari more than 40 times in Egypt, and many other books of Hadith as well. It is said that he used to know them by heart. It is narrated that when he went to Fez, Morocco, to visit the blessed tomb of Shaykh Ahmad Tijani, he was asked by the shaykhs in Fez to teach them Imam al-Nawawi’s famous “Forty Hadith” collection, which he did from memory.
He authored many great works on Hadith, Qur’anic exegesis (tafsir), history and Sufism (tasawwuf), and made tahqiq (verification) of many original gems in the field of Hadith, which were part of his private library which also has one of the best collections of manuscripts in Egypt. For this he had copied and collected manuscripts from the most ancient libraries in Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem, Damascus, Cairo, Fez, Tunis, Sudan and other centers of Islamic learning that he had visited. Shaykh Dr.`Abdul Halim Mahmud, the Rector of al-Azhar, wrote in Sidi al-Hafiz’s obituary, “the Imam al-muhaddithin (leading hadith scholar) has died.”
Shaykh al-Hafiz also took part in the Jihad against the English in Egypt in the early 1900’s, and even Imam Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, used to seek his advice. In 1951, he began editing a magazine dedicated to promulgating traditional Islam, called Tariq al-Haqq (”The Path of Truth”), which was widely read throughout Egypt. He also debated and defeated the Orientalists in Cairo during his time. His renown as a scholar even reached Western literary circles, and his important biography of al-Hajj Umar Futi Tal was translated into French by the Canadian scholar Fernand Dumond in 1983.
Exceeding all of this by way of distinction, however, was the fact Shaykh Muhammad al-Hafiz used to meet Sayyidina Muhammad Rasulullah in a state of wakefulness. This was clear indication of his high spiritual station (maqam) in sainthood (wilaya).
He was originally involved in the honorable Khalwati, Naqshbandi, and Shadhili tariqahs, then left all of them to take the Way of Shaykh Ahmad Tijani at the hand of the Mauritanian Shaykh, Sidi Ahmad al-`Alawi al-Shinqiti.
Numerous people from all walks of life took the Tijani Spiritual Path from Shaykh al-Hafiz and attained great spiritual heights. He was as famous as a Spiritual Master par excellence as he was a hadith scholar of the age, a combination extremely rare in modern times. His Tijani Zawiyah in Cairo was and remains a great center of spiritual refreshment for those who live in or visit Cairo. His books on tasawwuf and tariqa are considered gems of spiritual knowledge.
Our late teacher, Sayyid Muhammad bin `Alawi al-Maliki of Mecca, was a very keen student of Shaykh Muhammad al-Hafiz in Hadith and tasawwuf when he was studying at the Azhar. He would fondly remember the “blessed gatherings” of Shaykh al-Hafiz, and always referring to him as “a great Wali of Allah”, and would often mention some of his miracles (karamat). In fact, the Sayyid always mentioned him in the forefront of the list of his teachers in all his ijazahs.
Shaykh Muhammad al-Hafiz was in close correspondence with most of the leading Tijani authorities of his time, including Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse. Shaykh Ibrahim had the occasion to visit the zawiya of Shaykh al-Hafiz during an official state visit to Egypt in 1961. In the presence of the Tijani notables of Egypt, Shaykh Ibrahim referred to Shaykh al-Hafiz as “a man who is without doubt an inheritor (khalifa) of the Shaykh Sidi Ahmad Tijani, whose description matches that of the Shaykh as I myself know him to be.” In other words, whoever has seen the face of Shaykh al-Hafiz has seen the face of Sidi Ahmad al-Tijani; a rare compliment since the Prophet himself assured Shaykh Ahmad Tijani that whoever saw the Shaykh’s face would die in a state of good faith.
Shaykh al-Hafiz al-Tijani passed away in 1398 (1978) in Cairo. He was succeeded by his learned son Shaykh Ahmad Muhammad al-Hafiz, who authored a detailed biography of his father. Among those who were blessed to achieve spiritual education at the hands of Shaykh Muhammad al-Hafiz was the Italian Shaykh Abd al-Samad Paolo, who has translated and commented several important Sufi works (amongst them the Kitab al-ta‘arruf of Kalabadhi and the Mahasin al-majalis of Ibn al-‘Arif)into Italian.
Shaykh Muhammad al-Hafiz was indeed a giant of the twentieth century. May Allah be pleased with him, and may we benefit from his example, steeped as he was in both the Sacred Law (Shari’a) and the Divine realities (Haqiqa), as a paradigm of true Muslim scholarship continuing into modern times.

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