Failed Islamic States in Senegambia

David Robinson

Warning to Muslims in Saint-Louis

Date: 1855
A letter written by al-hajj Umar in 1855 to the Muslim inhabitants, and particular the traders, living in Saint-Louis, the capital of French operations in the area located at the mouth of the Senegal River. The French were beginning to expand up the river and to threaten Umarian operations. Consequently Umar warns the Muslim merchants, who had worked closely with the French, not to associate with them, and questions their Muslim identity if they do.

Congratulations from Morocco

Date: October 21, 1860
Translation of an excerpt from the leader of the Moroccan Tijani order, al-Kansusi, upon hearing about Umar Tall's main victory over the Bambara of Segu in September 1860. This document, so important for the Umarian cause, is contained in several copies in the Umarian library, which was based in Segu until taken to Paris and the Bibliotheque Nationale in the 1890s by the French, who conquered the whole area and arranged it into French West Africa.

Accusations against Hamdullahi

Date: 1862
Translation of excerpts from an Arabic treatise written by Al-hajj Umar in 1861-2 to explain his indictment of the opposition of the Caliphate of Hamdullahi to his jihad, and to justify the attack which he launched in 1862.

Justification for the Struggle Against the Brothers

Date: 1870
A response by Al-Hajj Seydu An, an experienced Islamic scholar, to questions posed by Ahmad al-Kabir about justifications to put down the rebellion of his brothers Habib and Mokhtar. The document was written in 1869 or 1870, just before Ahmad left Segu to put down the rebellion.

Victory over the Bambara at Gemukura

Date: 1872
A description of Ahmad al-Kabir's campaign against the Bambara revolt, culminating in the victory of Gemukura in 1872, written by Ahmad's counselor Seydu Jeliya Ture. The document was probably written during the campaign, and not in Segu.

The Massacre at Pete, an Arabic letter

Date: December 20, 1874
A letter addressed by an important cleric and political figure writing in Saint-Louis, Senegal, to the leaders of the Umarian community in Segu, in 1874, and commenting on the terrible events at Pete the year before.

Verbal portrait of Umar

Date: 1887
Impressions gathered by Paul Soleillet in 1878 in Segu, where he was visiting the capital and court of Umar's son Ahmad al-Kabir. Soleillet's journal was edited and published by Gabriel Gravier in 1887.

Ahmad's Plea to the Sultan of Morocco

Date: May 31, 1893
English translation from the French of excerpts of a letter written by Ahmad al-Kabir to the Sultan of Morocco in May 1893, as the French are moving in to his last capital, Bandiagara, and he and his followers are preparing to flee to the east. Ahmad makes a last appeal to Morocco to intervene to save the Dar al-Islam of West Africa.

Critique of the Umarian Movement

Date Range: 1890-1899
This document, a poem written in Arabic characters but the Pulaar language, just like the document, Praise Poem of Umar Tall, takes a critical perspective on the Umarian jihad. The author is a griot or traditional, casted historian, is much shorter and puts the emphasis on the violence of warfare, on all sides, and ends up appealing to Umar to return "home," that is, to go back to Futa Toro. Included is a Pulaar transliteration and a French translation of the original.

Praise Poem of Umar Tall

Date Range: 1890-1899
This excerpt comes from the beginning of a long poem in praise of Umar Tall and his career as a Muslim pilgrim, scholar and especially a leader of jihad. The poem is a "qasida," an Arabic form of 1200 verses. In this case it is written in Arabic characters but in the Pulaar language spoken by the core of Umar's followers. It was written in the late 19th century by one follower, Mohammadou Aliou Tyam, who lived in the Umarian capital of Segu but returned to Futa Toro after the French conquest of Segu in 1890. His text was transcribed and translated into French by a French Pulaarophone, Henri Gaden, while Gaden was living in Saint-Louis, Senegal and serving in the French administration of Mauritania in the 1930s.

Struggle between Ahmad and Muntaga

Date Range: Late 19th Century
Translation from the French which in turn is a translation from an Arabic chronicle of the history of the area of Karta. The chronicle was written by Al-Hajj Umar Kaba Jakhite, an important Soninke leader and scholar living in Nioro. Much of the chronicle deals with the Umarian history of Karta, which is to say the late 19th century.

Triumph over Paganism at Segu

Date Range: 1860-1869
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. Tyam wrote Pulaar in Arabic characters. See document, Praise Poem of Umar Tall.