Màbba Jaxu Ba is the key figure in the history of Islam in southern Senegal during the latter half of the 19th century. Behind him, Muslims of various social and cultural groups united to fight the non-Islamic faction (which they called ceddo) and established a short-lived but revolutionary Islamic state that has cast a long shadow over all aspects of life in Saalum.
Family background and youth
Màbba’s father was a Deñanke from Fuuta Tooro who migrated to Badibu in Saalum after his faction was ousted by the Tooroɗbe.
In speaking of people’s relationships with tuur, spirits attached to a location to whom people used to sacrifice children, then goats, but now nothing, Venema (1978: 86) says:
It is told that formerly children were sacrificed to the snakes [embodiments of the tuur] in the well and many legends are known relating to these sacrifices. People of Sonkorong say that the last human was sacrificed by Saer Mati Ba, the son of the famous marabout MaBa, at the end of the 19th Century.
This claim sounds dubious. Seet Mati was likely unpopular and seen as a butcher in the area, but he was part of an Islamic movement to ban practices seen as pagan, of which human sacrifice would have been part. Venema also reports that the Ba clan (descendants of Màbba) in Ñooro still pay tribute to the spirits by having the drum in front of the mosque beaten with the arm-bones of Maat Jaxer, Màbba’s enemy and chief of Badibu (86).
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