Where the Wolof live in SenegalThe Wolof are an ethnic group found in Senegal, The Gambia, and Mauritania.
In Senegal, the Wolof form an ethnic plurality where about 43.3% of the population are Wolofs.
In The Gambia, about 16% of the population are Wolof. Here, they are a minority, where the Mandinka are the plurality with 42% of the population, yet Wolof language and culture have a disproportionate influence because of their prevalence in Banjul, The Gambia's capital, where a majority of the population is Wolof.
In Mauritania, about 8% of the population are Wolof. They live largely in the southern coastal region of the country.
                            A painting of Wolof man wearing traditional "Baobao" robe

  Wolof people live in the 'Savanna zone' of northwest Senegal. They can be found from the Senegal river in the north to the Gambia river in the south (indicated by the green areas on the map). They are the largest people/group of Senegal, and make up 43.5% of the total population of Senegal and number about 3 million.
In rural areas the Wolof are mainly farmers.
                                 Wolof Woman from Senegal with pipe. Postcard photo - François-Edmond Fortier 

The Wolof language is a West Atlantic language of the Niger-Congo family. It is an important language as it is used as the language of trade even outside the main Wolof areas. About 30% of the population speak Wolof as their first language and about 80% understand it.


                                       Woman of the Wolof people and her child (Senegal). Ca. 1888.

The Wolof first entered Senegal from the north east in about the 11th Century coming to the lower Senegal Valley. They are said to be composed of an amalgam of Mandingo, Sereer and Fula. Cheikh Anta Diop believes that they came from the Nile valley and that the Wolof were part of the formation of the ancient Egyptian civilisation. From the 13th to the 15th centuries, Wolof kings conquered and ruled a large area called the Djolof. Towards the end of the 16th century this broke up into the chiefdoms of Walo, Baol, Cayor, Sine and Saloum. 

            Wolof tribe man, Cheikh Anta Diop, the great African historian/scholar

These in turn where destroyed by the French in the 19th century, the last Wolof King, Lat Dior, being defeated in battle and killed in 1886. Since the times of the Wolof Kingdoms until recent times the Wolof lived in highly stratified societies based primarily on blood relationships. There were three highly separated castes: freemen (gor or jambur); those of slave descent (jaam); and artisans (ñeeño). Intermarriage rarely took place between the castes. The Wolof have always had closer contacts with the European powers than the other people groups in Senegal and were also largely behind the slave trade between the 15th and 19th centuries.

Wolof Queen Ndeté-Yalla, Senegal, showing her robes and bead jewelry, 1850s; based on a drawing made from life by a Senegalese Catholic priest. For details, see, Image Reference Boilat03.

 The French built factories along the Senegal River to exploit the gum-producing area and to trade in slaves. Wolof chiefs also traded slaves thus giving them a source of revenue and power. In 1815, the slave trade became illegal, although slaves were still being traded late in the 19th Century. This had important ramifications for the power of the chiefs and the process of Islamization.
At this time families headed by marabouts (i.e. elders who considered themselves as Muslim clerics) were immigrating from the east. The chiefs often valued the marabouts for their prayers and amulets, books and rosaries, and magic powers. In return the marabouts were given land and allowed to start villages. The marabouts slowly detached themselves from court life and became the leaders of the commoners living in the countryside.
Wolof Kingdoms 18th CAt this time the court was characterized by 'a dissipated style of living'. Overindulgence, extravagance, drunkenness, and immorality were rampant and were basically stimulated by the soldiers. By contrast the marabouts lived lives regulated by the Koran, less extravagant, reserved and disciplined which also led to improved economic conditions. The soldiers of the court tended to oppress and mistreat the people but left the marabouts alone for fear of their magic. 'Mistreated people' also began to go to the marabout villages as a refuge thus increasing the marabouts' following.

From the 17th Century onwards the influence of the marabouts had increased so much, that they revolted against the court army. The chiefs were weakened by their loss of control over trade and revenues after the decline of the slave trade and because more and more of the wealth from the trade in peanuts went to the marabouts. This brought them money and therefore guns which together with the development of the peanut trade contributed to the success of the marabout revolution (jihad).
Colonial policy in Senegal and Gambia was directed to establishing peace so trade could develop. Irrespective of whether governors chose the side of the marabouts or chiefs the influence of the marabouts grew and Islam spread more rapidly and thoroughly. Thus today nearly 99.9% of Wolof people are Muslim.

Characteristics and Importance of the Wolof

The Wolof people are a very dark skinned, tall, proud, regal-looking people. They tend to be lazy about learning other languages, and have a domineering and contemptuous attitude toward their neighbours. and are very ethnocentric. Open sensuality is part of their lifestyle.

  Gambian Wolof woman doing her gig

The Wolof have been more affected by the West than other Senegalese groups. However, they have the most highly developed sense of national identity of any of the Senegalese. Through the years, they have played a major role in the import-export trade as middlemen and primary producers of the main cash crop, peanuts. They tend to be a major element of the civil service and play an important part in political parties. In fact Wolofs hold a disproportionate share of cabinet posts and seats in the National Assembly. They are highly urbanized and they are the main element in the major cities of Senegal (Dakar, St.Louis, Thies, Kaolack). In the urban areas they may be found in businesses such as fabrics, dressmaking, dyeing, jewellery making, and elaborate hair-dressing.

                        Mauritanian Wolof fishermen

During the course of their history the Wolof have absorbed many traits from other cultures thus share a variety of cultural characteristics with their neighbours. Language is one such element. Despite this the Wolof have remained a distinct ethnic group which is very appealing to people of other groups. In fact those in close contact with them, particularly in the towns, tend to adopt Wolof traits and claim themselves to be Wolof even when the link is somewhat tenuous. One particularly important characteristic of the Wolof is their capacity to influence the ways of others, adapt to changing situations yet remain a distinct culture. They are admired by other groups due to their initiative and ability to adapt. Both the Serer and the Lebu have undergone 'Wolofization'.

                           Wolof people


The Wolof Style of Islam

Islam is an inseparable part of Wolof culture. However Wolof society is considerably freer than most Muslim societies. For instance women are free to appear in public. One important feature of Wolof Islam is that it tends to be centred around membership of one of the three main brotherhoods. About 30% of Wolofs belong to the Mourides, about 60% belong to the Tijaniyas, and about 10% belong to the Qadiriyas. During the Colonial period the brotherhoods were the main means by which the Sufi form of Islam was spread. Since independence Islam has become the primary force in Senegalese society due to the brotherhoods' ability to adapt to changing social conditions, the spread of Koranic primary schools, and Senegal's growing ties with the Islamic world.

                                                        Prayer in a sand

Pre-Islamic beliefs survive only to a small extent among the Wolof and are found mainly in isolated rural areas. When Islamic beliefs were adopted, procedures at naming ceremonies, circumcision, marriage, divorce, and burial started to follow Islamic patterns. However it has been noted that the Islam of the Wolof is strongly mixed with spiritism. Numerous taboos operate in Wolof society. For example, a pregnant women may not work in the fields or it is believed the harvest will be less; a knife is placed beside the head of a newborn baby until it is seven days old to protect it from evil spirits. Marabouts (Muslim clerics) practise white magic, for a price. Their practices include writing special Koranic texts on paper and then placing them in small leather pouches or washing the ink from these texts with water, and preserving it in bottles or sprinkling it over the body.
Senegal election wade marabout 2012 3 21
         Senegalese Wolof marabout Chiekh Bethio Thioune surrounded by supporters as he endorses former
          Senegalese Wolof president Abdoulaye Wade.

Animistic beliefs

Wolof society gives the impression of revolving around Islam, and Islam does in fact hold a central place in Wolof society. However it is practiced at two levels. The visible level is "orthodox" Islam with its ritual prayers, fasts and festivals. But at the heart of their beliefs and practices is "folk" Islam, a syncretistic mix of Sufi Islam and African traditional religion. 

                            Wolof traditionalist/animist      
Many of the pre-existing animistic practices have been given Islamic dress. That is to say, they are performed by Muslims, and the names of Allah and Muhammad invoked. It is in folk Islam where people deal with the important issues of life: health and sickness, the fear of evil spirits, witches and black magic, advancement in life. Amulets and charms are worn to protect the wearer from all sorts of maledictions. Wives will seek to prevent their husbands from marrying a second wife by seeking someone with magical powers. People will try to get ahead of their competitors through black magic, all the while giving the appearance of being their best friends. Sacrifices are made to the family spirits, family totems are respected and ceremonies for the exorcism of spirits have changed little from pre-Islamic days. 

The new born baby is protected from evil spirits by placing a knife, a branch from the echallon tree and charms beside its head. And it is from the pre-existing beliefs that many of their still strongly held superstitions arose, such as the taboos on a woman, pregnant for the first time, working in a field or going fishing with a man; the knife carried by women in their period of mourning after the death of their husbands to chase evil spirits away; taking Monday as the day of rest as this is the day that the spirits of the earth rest; or taboos on cutting the fingernails of a baby which is being breast fed for fear that it will become a thief.

Social Organization


            Youssou Ndour, A wolof and great African musician from Sebegal

The Wolof basically have a stratified social system made up of three main castes - freeborn, those of slave descent, and artisan which includes smiths, leatherworkers and musicians. This system is somewhat modified in the towns.

          Wolof tribe man Ousmane Sembene with his trademark pipe, Great African Film-maker

It has been observed that the freeborn caste tend to maintain a favoured position by holding on to their former status and by applying the Islamic rules more strictly than those of slave descent or artisans. Slave-descendants no longer work for the descendants of their former masters but the freeborn still have material advantages due to their position. However today materially the slave-descendants should be able to gain a position comparable to that of the freeborn. Similarly village heads were almost always of freeborn status and always in villages of mixed castes. Intermarriage between castes is not common.
Abdoulaye Wade and Akon - 2010 World Festival Of Black Arts And Cultures NYC Press Conference
  Two famous Wolofs: Former Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade and international musician Akon

The freeborn consider themselves more religious than slave-descents since more of them go on the pilgrimage to Mecca. However the costs for slave-descendants are much higher as they must compensate their former masters during their absence. People who return from the pilgrimage gain the title of El Hadji (men) or Adjouratou (women) and also gain much prestige. Since slave-descendants and artisans cannot occupy positions of authority or prestige in mixed communities these groups tend to hold on to tribal religion and the ceremonies and activities related to the age-set system more than the freeborn. Slave-descendants and artisans also receive gifts from the freeborn in return for carrying out ritual services for them.

                       Aminata Sow Fall, the famous Senegalese African writer

Indicators of wealth

Kinee Diouf Senegalese Wolof international model

In Saloum indicators of wealth included: Firstly, the number of wives. The Wolof in this area had from 1 to 4 wives, only the wealthy could have more than one wife; Second, the possession of durable luxury goods, including metallic beds, bicycles, motorcycles, sewing machines and modern sporting-guns. Also only rich farmers tend to own mud brick houses and it is mainly the rich who manage to gain the title of El Hadji.

          Wolof woman

Wolof ceremonial traditions
Ceremonies such as weddings, funerals, and baptisms, while not unique, have traditional elements distinctive to the Wolof. Many aspects of these traditional ceremonies have merged and been modified through the 20th century.
Some Wolof proverbs canbe checked here:

1. “Maa mën” : defal ñu gis. (2)
“I can do it”; (then) do it so we can see.
“Actions speak louder than words.”
2. Àkk àkkum gaynde, song songum bukki. (6)
Charge with the spirit of a lion but attack like a hyena.
Enthusiasm before action, composure at the moment of action.
3. Def ca ba ngay man. (12)
Do it while you can.
“Strike while the iron’s hot.”
“Opportunity knocks but once.”
“Seize the day.”
“Time and tide wait for no man.”
4. Fa ñuy tëgge ab xàndoor, deesu fa ñaani njël ; fa ñu koy bey lañu koy ñaane. (11,12)
Where they make hilaires (an African tool for removing weeds from a field) they do
not pray for dawn; it is those who are weeding who pray for it.
It is in the place where a good idea is put into practice that its value becomes visible, not in
the place where the idea was spoken.
5. Jabar, doonte ne yeena jéllooy sàkket, ab xer damm. (2,3)
(In the matter of a) wife, even if you only have a wall of reeds between you, a post
can break.
Even if a marriage seems easy to organise, the future bridegroom will always have to do
more and spend more than he anticipates.
Tanor owns a large garage and his business is going well. One day, one of his cousins is
promoted to head of an important public service. Tanor expects that his cousin will give
him the contract to maintain the service vehicles. Some time later he learns that the
contract has been given to another mechanic. Tanor makes known his resentment to one of
his friends who says to him that he had been too confident and that he should have gone to
see his cousin right after his promotion, and quotes this proverb.
6. Maa la men deesu ko wax, dees koy jëf. (11,12)
“I am better than you” is not something which is said; it is shown by action.
“Actions speak louder than words.”
It is not words which count but action.
7. Nit la mu jëf la du la mu wax. (15)
A man is measured by what he does, not what he says.
“Actions speak louder than words.”
8. Soo jiwul, doo góob. (20)
If you do not sow, you will not reap.
“Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
“The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully
satisfied.” (Proverbs 13:4 NIV)

9. Wax yomb na, wànte def yombul. (13,20)
Talk is easy, but doing is not.
“Actions speak louder than words.”
“It is easier said than done.”
10. Jëm ci làmb di bàkku, jóge cay bàkkoo ko gën. (11,12)
Dem sa làmb ja di bàkku jóge fa di bàkkoo ko gën. (7,14)
It is better to boast coming from the wrestling match, than to boast on the way to
the match.
“Actions speak louder than words.”
Glory comes from the results of action, not from talk.
“The king of Israel answered, "Tell him: ‘One who puts on his armour should not
boast like one who takes it off.’"” (1 Kings 20:11 NIV)
11. Pëndub tànk a gën pënduw taat. (2,6,8)
Tànk yu pënd a gën taat yu pënd. (14)
Dust on the feet is better than dust on the behind (from sitting).
Action is better than sitting doing nothing.

 Magatte Wade, Wolof and a Senegalese international enterpreneur/CEO/founder of
 Adina World Beat Beverages, a San Francisco

12. Boroom làmmiñ du réer. (20)
Someone with a tongue will not get lost.
One should always ask when one doesn't know.
“Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.”
(Proverbs 19:20 NIV)
13. Tere, tere, mu të, bàyyil mu gis. (2,6,7,14,15)
Prohibit, prohibit, he refuses to listen, leave him to see.
If someone refuses to listen to advice, leave him to discover the consequences himself.
“Blessed is the man who always fears the LORD, but he who hardens his heart
falls into trouble.” (Proverbs 28:14 NIV)
14. Ku la ne “sangul”, sab taar la bëgg. (2,8,19)
Ku la ne “sangul”, sab taar a tax. (11,12)
Whoever tells you to go and bathe wants you to be beautiful.
The person who gives you good advice is your friend and has your best interests at heart,
even if it is hard to hear.
“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” (Proverbs
27:6 NIV)
15. Déggal ndigal i ñett, bàyyil ndigal i ñett. (1)
Follow the advice of three people, and ignore the advice of three (others).
A saying of Kotche BARMA. When he said this he was advising people to follow the
advice of one's father, one's mother and one's eldest son, and to resist the advice of one's
wife, one's slave and one's griot. The first three are motivated by the interests of the man,
whereas the latter are motivated by self interest and are only interested in his belongings.

                                     Wolof girl from The Gambia


                 Wolof woman dancing 

One searches in vain to find the usual forms of art that first come to the Western mind such as painting, wood carvings or masks. Rather the Wolof express their artistic instincts in the embroidery that adorns their clothing, in the hairdos that they spend so many hours creating, and in their jewellery. They express themselves in song and dance, in poetry and story telling. Speech itself becomes an art form well served by a rich language filled with proverbs.

                               The Tama of the Wolof

 Drums, especially the Wolof talking drum (tama) can be found everywhere and are heard at every major event. The xalam or Wolof lute is harder to find but still plays a part in Wolof celebrations as the traditional story-tellers or griots travel around seeking their livelihood.

                    Wolof man African man playing the xalam


  • Bravmann, R.A. 'A Fragment of Paradise' The Muslim World, Vol.78 Jan 1988
  • Gellar, S. Senegal An African Nation Between Islam and the West (Westview Press: Colorado 1982)
  • Molla, C.F. 'Some Aspects of Islam in Africa South of the Sahara' Int. Rev. Miss., Vol. 56 1967
  • Ray, BAfrican Religions, Symbol, Ritual, and Community (Prentice Hall Inc.: New Jersey, 1976)
  • Venema, L.B. The Wolof of Saloum: Social Structure and Rural Development Centre for Agricultural Publishing and Documentation. Agricultural Research Report 871. Wageningen. 1978.
  • Peace is Everything David Maranz International Museum of Cultures Dallas 1993
  • La Philosophie morale des Wolof Assane Sylla IFAN 1994
  • La Famille Wolof Abdoulaye-Bara Diop Karthala 1985
  • La Société Wolof Abdoulaye-Bara Diop Karthala 1981
  • The Wolof of Saloum Social Structure & Rural Development LB Venema Centre for Agricultural Publishing & Documentation Agricultural 1978
  •       Wolof woman wearing a traditional blue dress, Banjul, the Gambia

The  communities  which  foreran  the  brotherhoods  grew  up in  the  early years  of Islam  and were  based  in  Islamic  mysticism,  or  Sufism.  The  members of  the  small  Sufi  communities  in  the early  period lived  an  ordered  life  in  which individual  moral  and  physical  discipline,  as  well  as  mystical  theology  and  ritual, were  emphasized.  These  orders  had  only limited  appeal to  the  few  men  willing to  give  up their  worldly  possessions  and  live  an  ascetic  life  to  achieve  a  state of  union  with  God.  Later,  however,  the  organizational  basis  of  these  communities  changed, the  stress  on individual  moral  and  physical  discipline  declined, and  the  Muslim  orders  took  on the  form  which  attracted  followers throughout the  Far  and  Near  East  and  North  Africa. By the  end  of  the  eleventh century the informal  communities  of  ascetics  were  being  converted  into  organized  brother- hoods  whose  members,  living  together in  regulated  communities,  adhered  to  a body  of 
spiritual rites. 
                                        Islamic Wolof men

 The  change in  emphasis from  individual self-discipline to  mystical  theology,  which  is  of  particular  importance to  this study, came  in the  late  twelfth  and early thirteenth  centuries  and  is  often  associated  with  Ibn al-Arabi  of  Murcia  (d.  1240  A.D.),  whose  esoteric  mystical  interpretation  of Islam  pointed the  way for  the  development  of  the  later  brotherhoods  in  which  the mass  of  brothers  could satisfy their  religious  duties  by  devotion  and  obedience to  a handful  of  mystically  adept leaders.  In addition  the  brotherhoods  in  the later  period softened  the  strict  rules  of  orthodox  Islam,  stressing the  state  of a  man's  heart  rather  than  his  actual  behavior,  and  popularizing  Muslim  traditions  to  make  them  understandable at  the  lowest  level.  Local  practices  and beliefs  alien  to  Islam  were  tolerated  as long  as they  did  not  contradict  the desired  union  with  Allah  which  all  true  brothers  wished  to  achieve.
Although these  factors  vulgarized  and  distorted  Islamic teachings, they  also  made  Islam  appealing to simple  men.  The  mass  of  members  of  the orders  apparently  often forgot the teachings  of  the  Qu'ran  and  of Muhammad; ignorant  of  the  major  doctrintes  of Islam,  they concentrated  on  obedience  to their  leaders.  This  attitude  was  made  possible  largely  because  of  the  emphasis of  later  Sufism,  which  stressed  the  ability  of the  brotherhood  leader  to  act  as intermediary  between  Allah  and man.  Whereas  early  Sufism  had emphasized individual  effort,  it  was  later  believed  that  most  men  could  not  achieve  union with  the  Divine  by themselves.  Concurrent  with  the  shift  in  emphasis  pre- Islamic  beliefs  in  magic  were  mingled  with  Islam.  Belief  grew in legends  about the  miracles  performed  by  early  mystics and the  magical  ability  of  current leaders who  had  received  divine  grace  or  baraka  from  Allah.  The  leaders  were revered  as  saints,  and their  tombs  became  the  centers  of  pilgrimages  because of the  miracles  which  might  occur  there.  Montet,  a  French  writer,  reports that  in  Morocco  in  the  nineteenth century such  leaders  were  believed  to  have innumerable  powers:  they  could,  for  example, lift large loads  alone,  repel bullets,  or  go for long  periods  without  food  and water;  they could  be  ubiquitous, become  invisible,  or  be instantly  transported to  far-off  places;  or they could walk  on water  or  dry  up  an  ocean;  and they  were  capable  of  keeping  away evil spirits,  healing the  sick,  and  resurrecting the  dead.  Montet  concludes  from his  observations  in Morocco  that  Sufism  had  degenerated into  anthropolatry: 
"Living  or  dead,  the  saints,  however  illiterate they  may  be  .  .  .  are  adored."

The  leaders  of  the  brotherhoods  were  called shaykhs,  or  in  North  and West  Africa, Marabouts.  Marabout  is  a  French  term  coming from  the  Arabic word  for  fortified camp  or  monastery  and  is  used  for  a Muslim  holy  man, whether  or  not  he  is  connected  with  the  brotherhoods. According to  the Not surprisingly, this  devotion  of  the  brotherhood  members  to  their leaders  was  practically  demonstrated through  material  contributions.  An  offering,  or  ziara,  which  was sometimes  quite  large,  as  well  as  the  member's dime,  or  tenth  of  his  crops,  were  paid to  the  brotherhoods.  Land  around  the center  of  the  brotherhood  was  worked  by the  members 
(usually  lay  affiliates  and full  brothers together),  and the  men  made  payments  (habus  or  wakaf)  to  the brotherhood  for  the  use  of  this  land.  The  leaders  also  received  other types of  contributions including  payments for  initiation  and  labor  corv&es  since  adepts of  an  order  were  morally  obliged to  sow  and  harvest  for  their  leader.  Through these  and  similar  contributions  the  brotherhoods,  and more specifically the leaders,  had large  material  resources.  Indeed,  the  periodic  payments  and  labor corvees  were  not  all  that  a  Marabout  could  demand.  As  Depont  and  Coppolani said,  everything a man  had  could  be  taken  by the  leaders:  "the  goods  of  their 
followers  are  their  property, their  horses  are  their  mounts  and their  huts  .  .  . are  accessible  to  these  venerable  parasites."

Because  of the frequent  contributions  of  money  by the  members  and the absolute  control  exercised  by the leaders,  the  brotherhoods  appeared to  many French  observers  as  states  within  the  French  colonial  state.  Indeed  the  French commentators  had  to  recognize that  the  members'  blind  obedience  to  the  leaders and their loyalty to  the  brotherhood  as  a whole  were  the major  sources  of political strength  of  the  Muslim  orders.  With the  brotherhoods tightly  unified  behind them,  the  leaders  could speak  with  great  authority.  Consequently, the tariqas often  wielded  enormous  political  power in  North  Africa  and  elsewhere.  As  one nineteenth-century  writer  aptly  commented: "Never  has  autocracy shown  itself  with  more  prominent  and  decided appearance;  never  either  has  the  dogma  of  obedience  been  proposed and  accepted in  more  formal  or  absolute  terms.  It is  therefore permissible to  affirm  that  in  this  double  principle  of  authority  on  one side  and  personal  abnegation  and  passive  obedience  on the  other,  resides  the  principal factor  of  the extraordinary  power  of  the  Muslim religious  orders. "

The  Advent  of  the  Brotherhoods  in  West  Africa 

Thus,  the tight  organization  of  the  Muslim  brotherhoods  and the  unquestioned  authority  of  the  leaders  made  the  brotherhoods  particularly suited  as vehicles  of  social  and political  reform  when they  began to  attract  converts  among the  Wolof  at  the  end  of  the  nineteenth century.  Before this,  although  they  had been  in  contact  with  Muslims  for  many  centuries,  the  Wolof  had  not  felt  the  full impact  of  the  orders.  Soon  after  their  appearance  in  the  Middle  East  the  brotherhoods  had  spread  to  North  Africa,  where  in  the  twelfth  century  they  stimulated the  powerful  Almohad (al-muwahhidun)  movement  with  its  strong  appeal  to  the mass  of  Berbers.  Shortly  thereafter  the  North  African  brotherhoods  began  to filter  into  West  Africa,  where  their  introduction  coincided  with  and  reinforced the  general  Islamization  of  the  area  immediately  to  the  south  of the  Sahara. 
Alphonse  Gouilly,  a twentieth-century  French  administrator  and scholar, has  divided  the  Islamization  process  into  five  periods  which  help  to  place  the advent  of  the  brotherhoods  in  their  proper  context.  The  first  period,  which Gouilly  calls  the  Berber  phase,  was  in  the  eleventh  century,  when  the  Almoravids  (al-murabitun)  conquered  the  hitherto  pagan  kingdom  of  Ghana  in  the western  Sudan.  The  second,  or  Mandingo,  phase  took  place  during  the  fifteenth century,  when  converted  Negro  Africans,  using  Islamization  as  a  weapon  of their  states,  began  to  convert  other  Africans.  In the  sixteenth  century  came the  Sonrai  period  when,  owing  particularly  to  the  kingdoms  on the  eastern Niger,  Islam  spread  rapidly  in  the  Niger  area.  During  the  Peul  phase  in  the eighteenth  and  nineteenth  centuries  the  Tukulors  in  the  Futa  Toro  (Senegal), the  Futa  Djalon  (Guinea),  and the  Hausa  regions  (Northern  Nigeria)  conducted holy wars  to  spread  their  version  of  Islam  to  neighboring  pagan  and Muslim tribes.  The  last  phase  came  at  the  end  of  the  nineteenth  century  when  various Islamic  states  fought  to  spread  their  authority,  using  the  cover  of Islam  as  a justification. Although  missionaries  and traders  belonging  to  the  orders had  entered  West  Africa  long  before,  Sufi  brotherhoods  were  particulary  important  in  the  fourth  and fifth  periods.

The  brotherhood  which  apparently  first  appeared  in  West  Africa  was  the Qadriyya  tariqa.  Founded  by  the  sharif21  Si Muhammad  Abd  al-Qadar  al-Djilani (1079-1166),  originally  from  Baghdad,  the  order  spread  over  the  Middle  East  and North  Africa  at  an  early  date.  It soon  divided  into  myriad  branches,  some  re- taining  only  the  most  tenuous  connections  with  the  motherhouse  in  the  Middle East.  The  Qadiri  order  was  introduced  into  the  Sahel  region  in  the  fifteenth  century  by  Muhammad  Abd al-Karim  al-Maghrib.  But it  was  Al-Mukhtar  ibn  Ahmad (1729-1811),  the  son  of  one  of  al-Maghrib's  disciples  of  the  Arab  Kunta tribe, who  founded  a  center  for  the  order  north  of  Timbuktu  which  became  the  base  for the  order  in  West  Africa. 

The  second important  brotherhood  to  come  from  North  to  West  Africa was  the  Tijaniyya  order  founded  by  a  Qadiri  named  Sharif23  Ahmad  ibn Muhammad  al-Tijani  (1735-1815).  At the  age  of twenty-one  he  traveled  from  Ain  Mahdi (Morocco) to  Mecca.  After  his  return  to  North  Africa  he  had  a  revelation  from the  Prophet  (c.  1781)  and,  as  a  result,  founded  the  Tijani  brotherhood.  Sometime thereafter  al-Tijani sent  a missionary from  the  Ida Ou Ali  ethnic  group,  Muhammad  al-Hafiz  ibn  al-Mukhtar  ibn  Habib  al-Baddi,  to  Mauritania.  There,  he  converted the  Ida Ou Ali,  who  then  had  considerable  influence  in  the  proselytization of  the surrounding  area,  including  portions  of  Senegal.

Following  al-Tijani's  death,  his spiritual successors  quarreled,  causing a  division  of  the  order  into  two  motherhouses,  one  at  Fez  and  one  at  Ain  Mahdi. Most  of  the important  Tijaniyya branches  in  West  Africa  are  affiliated  with  the former  center.  Intensive  missionary  activity  was  conducted  in  West  Africa  in association  with  various  commercial  undertakings.  The  most important conversion  in  this  period  was  that  of  Umar  Tall (1794/7-1864),  a  member  of  the Tukulor ethnic  group in  the  Futa  Toro.  While  in  Mecca,  where  he  arrived  in 1828,  he  met  one  of  al-Tijani's  close companions,  who  named  him  Moqaddim of  the  order  in  West  Africa.  Umar  Tall  then  returned  to  West  Africa,  going first  to  the  area  presently called  Northern  Nigeria,  where  he  remained  until 1838.  He then  went  to  Massina  and the  Futa  Djalon,  and  did  not  return  to  his home territory  until  1846,  by  which  time  he  claimed  the  rank  of  khalif  in  the Tijani  order  and had  gathered  an  army  of  volunteers.  In  1851-1852  he  launched a holy  war  and  conquered  a large  part  of the  Sudan touching  on  Senegal in  the Futa  Toro region.  When Al-Hajj  Umar  died in  1864,  much  of  the large  area he  had  converted  reverted  to  its  old religious traditions.  The  Futa  Toro,  however,  because  it  was  peopled  by  a  majority  of  Tukulor,  remained  almost solidly Tijani.  Furthermore,  the  Islamization  movement  was  continued  by  Umar  Tall's disciples,  who  conducted  various  smaller  holy  wars,  some  of  which  were  of major  importance in the  conversion  of  the  Wolof.

Equally  important  among the  Wolof  was  the  Murid  brotherhood,  which was  founded  in  1866  by  a Wolof  Marabout  of  Tukulor  ancestry  of  the  M'Bake family,  Muhammad  Ibn Muhammad  ibn  Habib  Allah  (1850-1927),  called  Ahmad Bamba.  In approximately  1880  Ahmad  Bamba was  initiated  into  the  Qadiri tariqa  by  Shaykh  Hajj  Kamara,  and  later,  judging this insufficient,  he  traveled to  Mauritania  to  be  initiated  by  Shaykh  Sidia,  the  head  of  a  major  Qadiri  branch derived  from  the  Kunta  center.  He joined  Lat  Dyor's  entourage,  and,  by  1886, when  Dyor was  killed,  Bamba  had gained  a reputation for learning  and  piety. In that  same  year  he  received  a  revelation  of  his  mission  to  found  his  own  order, which  he  based  in  Touba (in  Diourbel).  

From  the  outset  the  French  authorities  feared  Ahmad  Bamba, who they believed  hoped to  re-establish  a Wolof  state  under  his  own  control.  He  had  attracted  followers  of  Lat  Dyor,  Al-Bur  Ndyaye,  Maba,  and many  others  identified with  opposition to  the  colonialists.  Rumors  circulated  about  his  anti-government statements  and  occasionally  about  the large scale  collection  of  arms and  volunteers  by  his  followers.  Bamba  lived  his  life  under  close  surveillance  by the French  and was  exiled  in  1895  and  again in  1897.

The  Reasons  for  the  Wolof  Conversion 

A partial  answer  to  the  second  question  raised  in  this  paper,  concerning the  factors  in  the  Senegalese situation  which  made  the  brotherhoods  particularly attractive  to  the  Wolof,  is  that  the  Wolof,  already imbued  with  Islamic  ideas, were  particularly  receptive  to  an  intensive  Islamization  effort  by  the  brother- hoods.  But more  fundamental  reasons  can  be  found  from  an  examination  of traditional  Wolof  society  at  this  time. 

   SENEGAL: Woloff Marabout, or Priest from, old print, 1890

The  nineteenth  century  was  a period  of  confusion  and  insecurity  for  the Wolof,  who  sought  first  to  express  their  opposition  to  the  colonial  authorities both  as  individuals  and  as  a group,  by  adherence  to  the  brotherhoods.  Their organizational  strength  and the  authority  of  their  leaders  made  the  brotherhoods particularly  suitable  organizations  for  political  protest,  providing  the members with  strong  protection  against  injury  or  punishment  in  a fight  against  any  hated group  and promising  them  Paradise  if  they  died  fighting  for  the  brotherhood. Religious  sects  or  "revitalization  movements"  have  played  such  roles  at  various times  in  Africa:  The  Christian Harris  movement  in  the  Ivory  Coast  was,  for example,  such  a  group;  and  Suret-Canale  states  that the  development  of  new religious  groups  is  a  response  to  "the  sharpening  through  the  effects  of  colonialism,  of  the  internal  contradictions  of  African society."  Respected  authorities on North  African  Islam,  such  as  Depont  and  Coppolani,  complained  that  the orders  there  were  recruiting  many  discontented  elements  of  society  and were becoming  major  centers  of  resistance. Of the  brotherhoods  in  Senegal which  resisted  the  colonialists,  some  of the  most  powerful  were branches  of the  Tijaniyya led  by  Umar  Tall  and his  disciples  and Ahmad  Bamba's  Murid order,  which  became  a  symbol  of  resistance  shortly  after  it  founding  in  1866. It is  hard  to  know  whether  or  not  Bamba  deliberately  attempted  to  opposed  the French;  indeed,  it  is  quite probable,  as  Suret-Canale  has  suggested,  that  the Murids  did  not  have  "a  revolutionary  character  principally  and  directly  turned against  the  colonial  domination," but  that  they  were  led  to  express  protests against  colonial  oppression  only  to  the  extent  that  the  colonial  regime  oppressed them.  It makes  little  difference  in this  context  what  Ahmad  Bamba's  actual intentions  were,  for  the  results  were  similar  whether  or  not  he  wished  to  fight the  French.  His  reputation  among  the  Africans,  as  well  as  among  the  French, was  that  of  opposing  the  colonialists;  the  discontented  flocked  to  him  as  they  had to  the  brotherhoods  in  North  Africa,  and,  although  their  first  strong  following came  principally  from  the  Wolof,  the  Murids  later  drew  from  other  ethnic groups  as  well. 
   Former Senegalese preisdent Abdoulaye Wade (a Wolof) consulting a marabout

A second  factor  in  the  Senegalese  situation  which  pushed  the  Wolof toward  the  brotherhoods  was  the  Muslim  orders'  initial  stance  as  vehicles of  social  reform.  There  were  conflicts  among  the  social  classes  or  sectors within  the  Wolof  as  there  were  within  other  ethnic  groups  in  Senegal.  Although this  attraction  is  the  most  nebulous  to speculate  upon  because  of the  extreme difficulty  of  knowing  exactly  which  social  sectors  within  the  ethnic  groups  were opposed  or allied,  it  is  a  vital  consideration,  for  friction  among  various  parts of the  population  was  an important  element  in  Senegalese  politics.  A disruption of  the  balance  between  sectors  could  and  did  in  many cases  lead  to  the  emergence  of  certain  sectors'  interests  in  a  new  group  which  would  be  a stronger champion  of  its  interests  than  the  individual  sector  had  been.  The  brotherhoods thus  provided  a  chance  for  the  dissatisfied  sectors  of the  Senegalese  population 
to  seek  to  better  their  position.  This  was  true  not  only  among the  Wolof,  but also  among the  Tukulor  and  other  tribes  in  the  area.  Thus  Suret-Canale,  as well  as  the  Senegalese scholar  Chiekh  Tidjane  Sy  and  others,  believes  that  Al Hajj  Umar's  Tijani  branch  expressed  "the  need  for  liberation  of  former  captives,  of  women,  of  youth,  against the tyranny  of  traditional  'feudal' or  familial cadres."  In the early twentieth century the  nearby  French  Soudan  provides another  example  of  such  a group  when  the  Rimaybe  and the  Bella,  former captives  of  the  Peul  and the  Tuareg  respectively,  sought  a  change in  their  situation through  joining the  Hamalliyya,  a Tijani sub-group.  People  of  low  social  caste, unsatisfied  chiefs,  and Marabouts  all  tried  to  find  the solution  to  their  problems in this  brotherhood.  Thus,  in  his  explanation  of  one  of the  major  Hamallist uprisings in  1930,  a  French  commandant  notes  that  the  major  Hamallist Marabout  in  his  region  was  recruiting former  captives  who,  upon  joining the Muslim  order,  broke  completely  with  their  former  masters  and  even  tried to  kill  them.
In Wolof territory in  the  end  of the  nineteenth  century the  Islamic  holy wars  led  by the  successors  of  Al  Hajj  Umar,  such  as  Maba,  expressed the desires  of large  groups  of the  population for  an improvement in  their  position relative  to  other  groups.  Vincent  Monteil,  a  noted  French  scholar,  suggests in fact  that  the  Muslim  leaders  sided  with  the  Wolof  peasants  against the  warriors  and the  nobles  in  a  class  war  over  frictions  that  had  built  up between  the two  groups  over centuries,  as  the  nobles  and warriors  pillaged the  peasants  at will.  Thus,  jihad  leaders,  in carrying  out  their  holy  missions,  were  also  acting as  heads  of  a  class  revolution.

Monteil's  view  is  not  difficult  to support,  as  many  early  European writers  describe  widespread  pillaging  by  kings  and  nobles.  There  is  additional proof in  local  traditions,  such  as  the  tale  of  the  revolt  in  the  Djolof  kingdom in which the Mauritanians and Marabouts sided with the people against the ruling classes,  although these  eventually reasserted  their  authority. French colonial  authorities  also  tended to interpret the Muslim wars  among the Wolof as  class  wars.  Robert Arnaud wrote in 1912: "In Wolof country formerly the intrusion of Islam  constituted a veritable social  revolution and was in reality  an opposition of the proletarian caste  to the aristocracy,  a class  struggle; the cultivators  had very strong sentiments  of repulsion  against the warriors  who exploited them. Thanks to Islam they formed a bloc  against the aristocracy  which had remained fetichist,  the crowd against its  oppressors.  The warriors did not conceal the dislike they felt  for the Marabouts."
 However,  to explain the Muslim holy wars  simply  as social  revolutions is  probably not sufficient. Even accepting that there was  a widespread  and fixed enmity between the Wolof peasants  and nobles,  it appears that not only, or even mainly, the peasants  sought to improve their social  position by joining the brotherhoods.  All dissatisfied  sectors  of the Wolof turned to the Muslim orders,  including the nobles who had lost  their power through the French invasion. 

A glance  at the Murid movement shows some  of the  complexities  of the situation.  Ahmad Bamba,as the French administrator Paul Marty points out, was surrounded by warriors  and nobles who had been involved in the last struggles  against the French,  although the mass  of his  followers  came from the rural population which was  composed  of former  slaves  or poor freemen. This  combination indicates  that the nobles saw in the Murid movement an opportunity to regaintheir  authority,  whereas the former  slaves,  Marty suggests, saw in the Muridiyya a new form of security to replace the old,  tightly controlled  system to which they had been accustomed  --  a security  which was no more than a new 
type of slavery  under the descendants  of their former  rulers. Marty may have overlooked the fact that many peasants  must have turned to the Murids because  the brotherhood seemed  to provide an escape from  control by their former  rulers,  but his  analysis  does  illustrate  the point made here that the motivations  of the men who became Murids were  varied  and complex; that the desire  for social  reforms  was  certainly  a major factor  stimulating the Wolof to join the brotherhoods,  but that one cannot therefore  interpret  the success  of the brotherhoods among the Wolof as  being solely,  or  even primarily, due to the desire  of the lower  classes  to assert  themselves  against the nobles. 

It would also  be a mistake  to ignore the important social  implications of the Muridiyya (and other brotherhoods) since  the new lords,  the Marabouts, were  drawn from  a wider section  of the population than the old ruling class,  at least  in the early  years.  There was  in the early  years,  moreover,  a degree  of social  mobility  in the brotherhoods which the old tribal system  lacked.  Land ownership and political  power in general  were  now divided between the aristocrats,  who became Marabouts,  and the old maraboutic families,  some  of which had been poor and without power before  the nineteenth century.  In addition a peasant disciple,  if he worked hard and obeyed his Marabout,  could hope to be elevated  to the position  of a lesser  Marabout, an advance in status  not normally possible  in the secular  tribal  system.  Nonetheless,  the nobility together with the maraboutic families  provided the bulk of the Marabouts,  especially the important ones,  and the mass  of peasants  and low caste  artisans  remained subjected as they had been under the tribal  system.

Whatever the nature of the social  reforms  which the Muslim brotherhoods espoused  in the middle and late  nineteenth century,  the "sclerosis" which Suret-Canale mentions soon set  in.  The momentum for  change was lost  and the maraboutic leadership  became  closely  associated  with the colonial regime  and the old aristocracy.  This  had occurred  in the Umarian Tijani brotherhood in Senegal before  the Murids rose  to importance, and by the early  1900's  it was true  of the latter  brotherhood as well.  Colonial authorities began to remark  on these  alliances  which became  increasingly  evident.  A political  report  of 1904 states: "It is  therefore  necessary  for us to observe  with care  the alliance which tends  to  be  formed  between  the  aristocracy   .  and the  Marabouts. The Marabouts enrich themselves  by their  (alms)  collections,  the aristocracy  .  .  .  to  the  contrary,  which  only  drew  its  fortune  from its  arbitrary  power and its  attacks which are  no longer  permitted, grows  poorer from day to day.  The descendants  of the old families, therefore,  give  to the rich  "sikh" [Marabout] their  daughter or their relative  in exchange for  a large  dowry." 

The  1915  political  report  comments  on the  Marabouts' increasing  collaboration with  the  colonialists: "And  it  is  precisely  because  these  religious  chiefs  profit from  these situations  that they  have  an interest  in  being  with  us  and  in  that  case they  would  be  our support.  Their  interests are  in  effect  linked  with ours  and the  more  we  develop the  acquisitive  faculty  of  the indigene by the  creation  of  new  needs,  the  more  we  augment the  wealth  of  the brotherhoods through the  followers  and  of  which  the  sum  is  higher than  the  taxes  paid to  the  administration.  It  is  for  this  reason  that in  this  period  of  crisis  [the  first  world  war]  we  have  nothing to  fear from  the  maraboutic  influence.

Most  of  the  Muslim  orders  in  Senegal,  then,  had  become  part  of  the  "Establishment"  by the early twentieth  century.  After  this  period  only the  Hamalliyya, which  developed in  the early twentieth century,  was  identified  with  social  reforms,  but  it  did  not  have  much  influence  in  Senegal  and,  like  the  other  orders, lost  most  of  its  reforming  character  once  it  had  become  established.  

Closely  connected  with  the  whole  question  of  the  reformist  character of  the  Muslim brotherhoods  at  their  foundation  is  the  attraction  which  these groups  had  as  substitutes  or  reinforcements  for  tribal society.  This  is  the third,  and perhaps the  most important,  reason  for  the  conversion  of  the Wolof  to  Islam  in  the  end  of the  nineteenth century.  The  phenomenon involved 
is  not  at  all  unique to  Senegal  or  to  Africa.  It is readily  observable  that,  when the  equilibrium  of  a group is  disturbed,  the  members  of  that  group tend  to compensate  by  actions foreign to  their  normal  pattern  of living  and  often join substitute  groups  which  promise to  restore  the  lost balance. Another  example  of  this  behavior  seems  to  be  that  described  by  David  Apter  among the Fon  of  Dahomey.

The  Wolof  had  a  highly  developed  state system,  and their  social  structure  was tightly connected  to  their religious  beliefs  and  customs. The  arrival and  entrenchment  of  the  colonialists destroyed these living  patterns  and  introduced new  elements  which  challenged  old  values  and  habits.  In order  to  conquer  the area,  the  French  had  to  break  the  power  of  the  Wolof  kings  and  nobles.  The Wolof  kingdoms  were  broken  into  smaller  units:  those  who  resisted  were beaten in  war;  those  who  did  not,  or  who  eventually  made  peace,  found  themselves  dependent  on the  colonial  system  for  their  authority,  as  their  former  sources  of power  were  destroyed  and their  lines  of  revenue  abolished.46  Thus  the  Wolof were  forced  to  look  for  a means  of  replacing  their  old  way  of  life. 
Your Experience Magazine
A major factor  in  the  disintegration  of  Wolof  society  for  which  the  French were  responsible  was  the  introduction  of  peanuts  as  a  commercial  crop  into  the traditional  agricultural  system.  Wolof  family  living  patterns  were  closely  tied to  agriculture.  Land  was  owned  by  the  family  as  a whole  and  could  not  be  sold. It was  the  duty  of  the  chief  of  the  family  to  distribute  some  of  the  land  among  the members  of  his  family,  who  would  work  the  major  part  of  their  time  in  the  common  field.  The  cultivation  of  a  commercial  crop  of  peanuts  changed  this  system altogether.  Farmers  now  had  the  strong  incentive  of  money  and the  new  goods it  could  buy  to  cultivate  the  small  private  plots  which  had  hitherto  been  an  unimportant  addendum  to  their  principal  work  in  the  common  field.  However, many  farmers  apparently  continued  to  show token  recognition  to  the  position  of the  heads  of  their  families  through  annual  gifts  in  money  or  kind.  One  administrator  wrote: The personal  goods,  formerly  of negligible  quantity now surpass  in importance the collective  family goods.  Thus,  by the force  of things, a disaggregation  of family solidarity  [occurs]  which has shown its consequences  in all  domains. "

The disintegrative  force  of the introduction of peanuts into the agricultural  system was beginning to be felt  in Senegal by the end of the nineteenth century.  Peanuts had been grown in Senegal for  a long time  --  the sixteenth-century  traveler Andre Alvarez  de Almada had noted them during his  visit48  --  and the French had begun to foster  their growth long before the mid-nineteenth  century,  but it was  around this  date that they began to encourage their  cultivation in earnest in an attempt to make Senegal a profitable  colony.  After  1850 peanuts were being produced for export in significant  amounts,  and by the end of the century peanut growers  were  moving from the center  of production at Cayor to other regions  to look for new fields  and thus to extend the impact of peanuts .

The undermining of the powers  of the chiefs  and the introduction of commercial  agriculture  by the French are  only two of the many factors  contributing to the breakdown of the Wolof living patterns.  In addition,  the mere presence  of the colonialists  with their  apparently superior  way of life  raised questions  about old ways of doing things,  and the establishment  of French forts and trading centers  drew increasing  numbers  of people into French service  as clerks,  soldiers,  domestics,  etc.,  thus adding a new dimension to the economic and social  options open to the Wolof.  Furthermore,  population movements to the north of the Senegal as well  as  increased  contact through trade and war with the Futa Toro peoples  are  additional kinds of influences  which may have contributed to the insecurity  of the Wolof in the nineteenth century,  leading them to turn to the brotherhoods for  reinforcement. 

The brotherhoods,  despite  their tight hierarchical  organization,  had a long history  in the Muslim world of a flexibility  characterized  by their habit of accepting the customs  of the people among whom they found themselves,  imposing only their  political  authority and a few major Islamic  prescriptions.  Thus it was not difficult for the tariqas to adjust themselves  to the Wolof situation,  acting as 
a replacement  for the old framework of political  and social  authority and providing a structure  in which the Wolof could find a defined role  to play.  As  elsewhere  in Africa,  where,  as Marcel Cardaire points  out,  Islam succeeded  because  of the isolation  of pagan tribesmen  who,  finding their  old system  crumbling, turned away to find a new one, the Muslim orders  were  able to help the Wolof adapt to changes in Senegal. 

The  Political  Significance  of  the  Wolof  Conversion 

While  in  general the  Wolof  as  members  of  brotherhoods  followed  their old  ways,  despite the  overlay  of  Muslim  customs  and sayings, their  political leadership  was  definitely  modified  by the  new  affiliation.  They  now  turned  to the  Marabouts  when they  wanted  anything  done,  and the  former  nobles  and  kings, as they  were  absorbed  into  the  ruling structure  of  the  Muslim  orders,  found  as Marabouts  an  even  greater  authority than  their  pagan  counterparts  had  had. The  Marabouts  combined  the feudal-type  authority  over  land  of  the  nobles  with a much  greater  authority,  based  on religion  as  well  as  force,  over  the  lives  of their subjects. In different  brotherhoods  the  position  of  the  leaders  was,  not surprisingly,  different.  Of the  branches  of  several  orders  which  the  Wolof joined, the  Murid  order  had  a noticeably  more  powerful  leadership  because  of the  emphasis  which  Ahmad  Bamba  had  placed  on the  virtues  of  working 
for  one's leader  and  of  complete  discipline.  The Murids'  first loyalty  was  to  their  brotherhood  personified  by its  Marabouts,  whose every command  had  a  considerable degree  of  authority.  While  the  stress  on  discipline  was  less  in  other  orders, all  of  the leaders  of  the  brotherhoods  among the  Wolof  had  considerable  political power. 

It seems  clear  that  the  answer  to  the  third  question  raised  in  the  beginning  of  this  paper  has been largely  answered.  The  Wolof  conversion  in  the  end of  the  nineteenth  century  was politically  significant  because  the  political leaders of  the  ethnic  group  became  the  Marabouts.  How important  and unusual  this fact  was  for  the  development  of  Senegalese  politics  can  be  seen  by  comparing the  Wolof  with  their  neighbors the  Tukulor,  who  had  been  in  contact  with  Islam at  least  since  the  eleventh century. Thorough Islamization  of  this  group  did not  take  place  until  the  torodo (torodbe)  drove  out  the  pagan  Peul  Denyianke dynasty in  1776,  but  thereafter  the  Islamization  of  the  Tukulor  was  intensified, and  a  series  of  Muslim  chiefs  called  almanys ruled  until  the  end  of  the  nineteenth  century,  when  the  French  took  over  the  area.  Islam  was  thus  a factor of great  importance in Tukulor history  for many centuries,  and that ethnic group traditionally felt  it was the carrier  of Muslim civilization  and was superior to the pagan groups around it. Since the early  eighteenth century, the Tukulor, led by the torodo,  had launched holy wars  on their  neighbors.  By this  time  they were  in direct  contact with representatives  of Muslim brotherhoods.  Indeed, the Qadriyya orders,  led by members  of the Ida Ou Ali  and later  of the Kunta groups,  had many followers  among the Tukulor,  although with the coming of Umar Tall  the overwhelming majority of the group became  Tijani.  Interestingly enough, however,  the Tukulor Marabouts did not become  a major political force  in the Futa Toro as they did among the Wolof.  This fact  is  all the more striking when one considers  that the major branches  of the Sufi brotherhoods among the Wolof were  founded by Marabouts of Tukulor ancestry.  There were,  of course,  powerful Tukulor Marabouts on regional  and local  levels,  but most  of the nationally politically  important Marabouts who appeared in the early twentieth century had a largely  Wolof following  and did not live  in the Tukulor regions.  Why, then,  should the brotherhoods among the Tukulor,  who were  ex- posed to Islam longer than were the Wolof, be of significantly  less  political importance ? 

One reason  often put forward in Senegal by Tukulor and non-Tukulor alike is  that the Tukulor,  through their  long contact with Islam,  became  more closely  acquainted with the Qu'ran and the doctrines  of Islam than did the Wolof and,  being more  educated in the religion,  had less  need for the Marabouts to act as  intermediaries  between them and Allah.  Furthermore,  with a better knowledge of Islam,  they were  less  likely  to glorify  the powers  of their Mara- bouts.  Since the intellectual  gap between the Marabouts and their  disciples was smaller  among the Tukulor than among the Wolof, the Marabouts could therefore  gain less  authority. But this  interpretation  is  difficult to accept. Blind obedience and extreme  respect  for the Marabout could be found in many brotherhoods,  even among peoples  in North Africa with as  long an acquaintance with Islam  as the Tukulor.  Nor does the lack  of Qu'ranic education explain the exceptions  to  the  rule  who  are  Tukulor  and  have  Tukulor  followers. 
Le Traitant du Cayor (c.1910)
A more  satisfactory  answer  is  found  in  the  traditional  socio-economic structure  of  the  Futa Toro,  where  politics  and society in  general  were  directed by  important  clan  leaders,  a  clan  in  the  Futa  being  comprised  of  several  families,  although  not  all  of  one  family  necessarily  belongs  to  one  clan.  The leaders of  these  clans  headed important families  which  owned large  concessions  of  the land  in  the  nineteenth  century,  and  indeed  still  do,  despite land  reforms. While  the  social  structure  of  the  Tukulor  in  the  Futa  Toro  by  no  means  remained unchanged  throughout the  many centuries  since  the  introduction  of  Islam,  the changes  resulted  onlyin  an  accretion  of  custom.  Thus  the  fall  of the  Denyianke led  to  the  rule  of  the  Muslim  almamys  but  did  not  alter  the  economic  and political control  of  the  area  by  Tukulor  clan  leaders.  In fact,  the  almamys were  named by the  great  families, so  that  their  power stemmed  not  from  their  role  as Muslim  leaders  but from  their family  connections.  The  Marabouts  in  the  Futa,then,  never  had the  opportunity to  rise  to  power.  Even  Al  Hajj  Umar,  who united  many clans  for  a  short  time  in  a religious  war,  did  not  change the  Futa system.  This  continued  social,  economic,  and political  power  of the  clans among the  Tukulor  should  be compared to  the  decline  in  power  of  Wolof  traditional  rulers  in  the  nineteenth  century  when  the  political  and social system  of that  group  was  threatened  by contacts  with  the  French,  and Marabouts  and brotherhoods stepped in  to  reinforce  and  replace  a  disintegrating tribal system, thereby  becoming  politically  powerful  because they  replaced the  traditional kings  and nobles.  Thus, it  is  primarily in  the  differences  between  the  pre- Islamic  social  structure  of the  two  groups that  the  differences  in  their  response to  Islamization  lie,  resulting in  the  political  dominance  of Muslim  leaders among the  Wolof.

                     Circa 1950   Wolof woman (bare-chested) 

                   kinee diouf

                                 Wolof Woman

                                      Wolof man, Akon

Wolof woman

                                                  Kinee Diouf

My Wolof Teacher's Wife

                        Mauritanian Wolof fishermen