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"The duty of a river." (profile of Sheik Hassan Cisse) (Editor's Message)

Usually I use this space to offer ideas and lessons on issues and concerns that I feel are relevant to our people. But this time, in celebration of our annual African World History issue, I would like to offer a brief portrait of an important African man who I believe, though unknown to most African Americans, is a key figure in the leadership development of African people around the world.

When I first met Sheik Hassan Cisse this past summer in Senegal, West Africa I was indelibly struck by his graciousness, his meekness and deep sincerity, his dynamic wisdom and broad knowledge, and his fatherly concern for all within his growing sphere of influence. Little did I know then of the enormous impact he is having on the positive development of our people.

Sheik Hassan, at age 47, is the leader of the Tijaniyya Movement, one of the largest and most influential Islamic Brotherhoods on the African continent. Based in Senegal, the Tijaniyyas now number more than 60 million throughout Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and in the United States.

The history of the Tijaniyya dates back to 1738 at Adlemaat, Algeria. It spread throughout north and west Africa, with the leadership being passed on to those scholars of the highest moral character. In the early 1900s, this leadership tradition came to rest eventually with Sheik Ibrahim Niasse, a world-respected scholar, the grandfather of Sheik Hassan. In an interview Sheik Hassan said, "The colonialists were in Senegal and all over Africa. The British and the French would never leave any flower of Islam to rise to be strong in that area. The colonialists tried their best, but Allah helped Sheik Ibrahim. And before he passed, he was able to have more than 60 million followers."

Having been passed the mantle of leadership from his grandfather, Sheik Hassan is the Chief Imam of the central mosque in Medina-Kaolack and head of the African and American Institute of Islam with U.S. headquarters in New York and branches in Michigan, Alabama, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Washington, DC, Illinois, Georgia, and California.

Sheik Hassan has studied in various countries, including at the prestigious Al-Ahazar University in Cairo, Egypt, the world's oldest university. He has a BA in Islamic and Arabic Literature, a Master's of Philosophy, and Diploma Certificates in French and English languages. He was doing his research work for his PhD when his father, Sheik Ali Cisse, died and he was called home to accept the leadership that is influencing minds and hearts worldwide.

Whenever he and his ever-present entourage step out into the dusty roads of Kaolack to walk to the mosque for prayers, he is besieged by the people, from children to elders, who want to just touch his hand and experience his smile. Sheik Hassan's concern is always encouraging brothers and sisters to do good works, to spiritual cleanliness, to success, to excellence.

I witnessed his steady stream of visitors from all over Africa and other parts of the world, young and old, men and women, who came to exchange greetings of peace with him, to shake his hand, to offer prayers with him, to gain his counsel on affairs both mundane and spiritual. In fact, one Kenyan sister, who lives in Sweden, traveled all the way to Medina-Kaolack, Sheik Hassan's homebase, to take the shahada (declaration of faith) in his presence.

Sheik Hassan writes that his great grandfather once told Sheik Ibrahim, "The duty of a river is to be full, and if the neighboring cows do not come to water, then the cows far away will."
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Author:Kazi-Ferrouillet, K.
Publication:The Black Collegian
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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