Interviewed by Annie Stopford and Eugene Ulman
The West African nation of Senegal holds a unique position in the global picture of contemporary Sufism. In a nation with a population of almost 13 million people, 94% of the people identify themselves as Muslim and, of those, 95% are affiliated with one of the four major Sufi orders in the country.
Sufi leaders wield enormous influence in all aspects of Senegalese religious, economic and social life. The complex and often controversial role they play in mediating between the government and their own disciples is often viewed as the source of Senegal’s relative political stability. In this interview Seydou Diop, a former Senegalese diplomat, shares his own personal insights and experiences in these matters.
Mr. Diop retired from the diplomatic corps in 2004 and is today a Shaikh of the Nimatullahi Order in Dakar. The interview begins with some discussion of Mr. Diop’s religious and family background, and ranges over many fascinating subjects, including the differing responses of Sufi leaders to French colonialism, the influence of Sufi leaders on Senegalese politics, Sufism and the role of women, and his personal experience on the Nimatullahi path.
(Photo © Thomas J. Haslam, www.evolvinghumanities.org)