His writings are seen as living texts, with an immediacy that makes them forever current.
Bamba emerged during a period of colonial domination and societal destruction that is reminiscent of what we see in war-torn African and Middle Eastern nations today.
The French now had control of much of West Africa. They had also gained the authority to capture Bamba. Their advance continued and they caught up with him in Jolof in the summer of 1895. Bamba seemed to know what was to happen to him for, the night before his arrest, he gathered his disciples together. The majority fervently pronounced that they were willing to launch a violent resistance and to die rather than allow the French to take Shaykh Ahmadou Bamba away. Bamba’s reaction was to state that in a war there are never any victors.
A Muslim Peacemaker For Our Time:
Shaykh Ahmadou Bamba
Shaykh Ahmadou Bamba (d. 1927) stands in the ranks of other upholders of universal truths and of the great proponents of the power of nonviolence—with figures like Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi, and Abdul Ghafar Khan, amongst others—for the positive, endearing, and enduring effect he and his contemporaries had in helping to transform a society through peaceful means.
He petitioned God to ensure that the verse he composed “be an eternal source of happiness for whomever would apply its knowledge . . . and that it would lead the sincere aspirant to spiritual vision, and to unveiling of profound secrets.”
Whoever grapples with the poetry of saints,
Armed only with a grammar book and criticism,
Will be put to the test!
. . . For it is true that the understanding of a saint
Is more difficult to fathom than God Himself!
The understanding of Almighty God is manifest,
It is brilliant for those who observe,
While a saint is altogether secret!*
—Shaykh Ahmadou Bamba
These verses (1399, 1405–1407) are from Masalik al-Jinan [The Ways of Paradise], translated in Fernand Dumont, La Pensée religieuse de Ahmadou Bamba, fondateur du Mouridisme Senegalais