Failed Islamic States in Senegambia

David Robinson

Muslim communities have existed in the Senegambia and Mauritania regions for at least 1000 years. Some lived in isolation, while others were prominent at the courts of the kings. Occasionally something that might have resembled an Islamic state emerged - such as the one called Tekrur, set in Futa Toro or the middle valley of the Senegal River, about 1000 AD. Islam became the majority religious practice in Mauritania several hundred years ago, but probably not in Senegambia until the late 19th century. It spread mainly through two means: Sufi or mystical movements, usually in the form of orders or tariqa such as the Qadiriyya and the Tijaniyya, and reform movements which often took the form of "jihads of the sword."

In this gallery we feature the leaders of reform movements in the 19th century, after the founding of the Almamate of Futa Toro. They made a big impact on Senegalese societies in the mid-19th century, but their efforts to establish Islamic states had failed by the latter part of the century. That failure helped to usher in the more pragmatic and "maraboutic" practice of Islam which has been dominant to this day.

Browse the Image Collection
Images include artists' sketches of individuals and events published in "Le Monde Illustre" and the works of Eugene Mage and the French traveler J.B.L. Durand.
Examine an Ajami Praise Poem
English translation of verses from 'ajami poem of Mohammadou Aliou Tyam celebrating the triumph over and entry into the Bambara capital of Segu in 1861.
Learn about the Siege of Medine
Umar laid siege to the fort of Medine at the height of the dry season, in April 1857. Medine interfered with the recruitment campaigns he was preparing before attacking Segu.