Pilgrimage Through Poetry: Sung Journeys Within the Murid Spiritual Diaspora

in Islamic Africa
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This study examines the role of musical tradition in unifying the spiritual itineraries of a globalized religious community. Within the Muridiyya, an important Senegalese Sufi order, the singing of Arabic poetry written by Shaykh Ahmadu Bamba is a fundamental rite of sacred journeys, the most notable of which is the annual pilgrimage to the holy city of Touba. At the heart of this pilgrimage is the story of Bamba’s departure on exile, a foundational story powerfully evoked in the singing of the shaykh’s poetry. For Murids in diasporic communities distant from Senegal, the singing of sacred poetry can become a compelling substitute for ritual travel to Touba. Through sung poetry, believers in the widespread Murid diaspora can fulfill a sonic pilgrimage, an acoustic homecoming, a metaphysical return to their beloved spiritual home.

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