Medina Baay (spelled “Médina Baye” in French), a neighborhood on the northeast edge of the city of Kawlax in Senegal, is the headquarters of the “’Ibrāhīmiyyah” branch of the Tijāniyyah Ṣūfī order and was founded by ’Ibrāhīm Ñas, usually called “Baay Ñas” in Wolof (“Baye Niass” or “Ibrahima Niass” in French). In Arabic, “Medina Baay” literally means "The City of Baay," but it also draws a parallel between Baay Ñas’s (spelled “Baye Niass” in French) refuge here in 1930 and that of Muḥammad in the Arabian city of al-Madīnah al-Munawwarah.
Baay Ñas (Baye Niass) and Medina Baay, Kawlax
Shaykh ᵓIbrāhīm (Baay) Ñas (c. 1900–1975) was an Islamic leader of the Tijāniyy Ṣūfī order with a large and devoted following throughout West Africa, especially Senegambia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Niger, and Ghana, and whose community of disciples continues to grow throughout the world.
Since Baay Ñas founded Medina Baay in 1930, it has become an international hub for the millions who have become his disciples. One of the first things he did when arriving in Medina Baay was to found an Arabic school, which has since become one of the most prominent schools in Senegal, drawing students from all over West Africa. This school is now called the Institut Islamique El Hadji Abdoulaye Niass (or Ma`had ’Islāmiyy al-Ḥājj `Abd Allāh Nyās), named after his father, and has been relocated to the nearby neighborhood of Saam, also founded by Baay Ñas. Religious education remains the main activity of Medina Baay, with dozens of both formal and informal schools.
See the Timeline for a historical outline of Baay Ñas and Medina Baay.
Committee members and their activities
The Committee’s research has focused on the history and community of disciples of Baay Ñas throughout Senegambia and, to a lesser extent so far, other parts of the world. Interviews have concerned especially the organization and foundation of local religious associations (daayiras), education in informal Islamic schools (daara and majlis), and the spread of the movement through the action of its representatives (muqaddams) and rank-and-file disciples (taalibes).
In addition to myself (Joseph Hill), the Research Committee is composed of the following members, all either from or residing in Medina Baay (names are written phonetically in Wolof): Wolof specialist Aadi Faal; Qur’ān and Arabic teacher Ndaara Sekk; journalist and historian Séydinaa Baabakar Caam (Haraka); Qur’ān teachers Allaaji Caam and Baay Sàmb; agronomist Aamadu Njaay; So.Na.C.O.S employee Baay Sekk; French teacher Ndey Xadi Bittéy; students Sheex Baay Caam, Baay Laay Ñaŋ, Alliw Sekk, Abdu Salaam Caam, and Aas Bittéy; and independent researcher Mamadu Lasxar Ba. More on committee members can be found here
Committee members presented potential interviewees and other interested people with introduction sheets written in Arabic, French, and English. They conducted interviews primarily in Wolof, then transcribed or summarized them in Wolof, Arabic, or French, depending on their educational backgrounds. Some reports mix literal Wolof transcription with French, Arabic, or English to present the non-literal information. In addition to interviews, committee members attended a number of religious events and wrote reports on the speeches given and on how he events unfolded. They also conducted hundreds of surveys on informal religious schools (daara, majlis) and local religious associations (daayira). So far, less than half of the interviews and only a few of the school surveys have been entered into this site, although we hope to make all the information available before long.
In addition to interviews and events, this project involved collecting thousands of documents, which I have not yet put into database form. These documents include predominantly historical documents photographed from the archives of Ḥarakatu ‧n-Nujūmi ‧l-’Islāmiyyah maintained by Haraka Caam. (To view some of these documents, see Archives of Haraka and Com.I.R.R.H.I.N. .) Additionally, I collected photocopies of several thousand other documents from private collections, many of them provided by Hasan Muhammad Siise, a well-known collector and dealer of books and manuscripts in Kawlax. These documents were primarily theological in nature.
Committee members traveled throughout Senegambia and even other countries, trying to get a picture of the variety of local communities adhering to Baay Ñas, their histories and the relationships between them. See Geography of the Study for a map and a list of some of the locations we did research in.
This association grew out of Joseph Hill’s dissertation research, which was funded by Fulbright-Hays, Social Science Research Council, Yale Program in Agrarian Studies, Yale Center for International and Area Studies, the Yale Department of Anthropology, and the Yale Graduate School.