Medina Baay (written in French as “Médina Baye”) is a center of Islamic learning and Sufi practice on the outskirts of Kaolack, Senegal established in 1930 by Shaykh ᵓIbrāhīm Ñas (1900-1975), a leader of the Tijānī Sufi order who has millions of followers worldwide. Ñas is known to Senegalese disciples as “Baay” (“Father,” written “Baye” in French). The Medina Baay Research Association (originally called the Medina Baay Historical and Social Research Committee) conducts and presents research on the history and current dimensions of Shaykh ᵓIbrāhīm's disciples worldwide. The Association began its research in 2004, founded by anthropologist Joseph Hill and residents of Medina Baay, and since then its members have conducted research sporadically.
Our research consists of several activities:
- Conducting interviews with religious leaders, teachers, and active participants in the religious community, in Medina Baay as well as around the world
- Collecting and digitizing documents, mostly in Arabic, pertaining to the community
- Attending, recording, and transcribing gatherings
- Making the resources we collect available both through our web site and through publication elsewhere
The Association's History and Activities
Joseph Hill founded the Association (then called a "Committee") in August, 2004 while conducting research in Medina Baay for his doctoral dissertation in anthropology at Yale University. He had spoken with a number of young people in Medina Baay who were interested in collaborating in the research, and after consulting with religious leaders in Medina Baay, he called a meeting and trained the young people in conducting, recording, and transcribing interviews; writing in the Wolof language; and using computers to create and organize their data. Association members have conducted research in dozens of towns and villages in Senegal and in Mauritania, Gambia, Nigeria, and a number of other countries.
The Association's research has continued on a sporadic basis since then, both during Joseph Hill's visits to Senegal in 2005 and 2009 and between times as Association members have continued to conduct and transcribe interviews. Most of the members have gone on to college and have had less time for research activities, but we continue to use whatever resources and time we have for research.While Joseph Hill continues to steer the project, Association members determine to a large extent what activities they will engage in and what questions they will ask.
We consider the Association's activities to be crucial to preserving the history and understanding the spread of the Fayḍah, or the movement of religious knowledge surrounding Shaykh ᵓIbrāhīm. We have interviewed a number of elders and have collected oral histories that will not be available for much longer. We have located people in Medina Baay and elsewhere who have extensive personal libraries and who have been willing to make their libraries available through scanning them and putting them on line. We have surveyed and interviewed dozens of muqaddams, or representatives of the movement in various places throughout Senegal and the world, piecing together the networks that form this global movement.
Current Status of the On-line Archives
When Joseph Hill moved to Cairo in 2008 to teach at the American University in Cairo, he lost the server on which the Association's electronic archive had been kept, and he is now working to get the archive back online. Thank you for your patience as we reconstruct the site and attempt to make it more useful for those interested in studying this important movement.
When the archive goes back on line, we hope to make available information from hundreds of interviews and speeches in meetings; thousands of photographs; many hours of recordings of meetings and religious chants; and a small amount of video that we have collected. We will also synthesize some of these raw materials into reports on various people, events, and organizations that make up this movement. A sister site, http://keemtaan.net, will make available Joseph Hill's research in progress, most of which is based on the Association's collective research.