For Sufis, dhikr—the practice of invoking the Name of God—pervades the fabric of everyday life. For Taalibe Baay (disciples of Ibrahim Niasse) living in Senegal, dhikr takes on particular significance in relation to the experience of tarbiya, an intense spiritual initiation aimed at achieving a vision of God. If tarbiya is the door to the spiritual path, some Taalibe Baay say, then dhikr is a tool by which disciples can continue to progress along this path, purifying themselves internally and reaffirming their connection to God each time they perform these prayers. But for some Senegalese Taalibe Baay women, dhikr seems to function not only as this kind of spiritual tool, but also as a practice for stabilizing one’s emotional and mental well-being. In this sense, it becomes less of a mandated religious practice and more of a personal need. The internal changes that such a continual practice inspires in individuals is palpable; they begin to radiate a selfless, unconditionally kind energy. In this way, the internal betterment that individuals experience as a result of performing dhikr has a ripple effect on the entire daaira, or Taalibe Baay community. Because of the purifying effects of dhikr on an individual level, the daaira becomes a community in which working for the sake of others’ comfort—especially as a woman—is expected. This work, in turn, can be understood as a form of worshipping God. By drawing on the experiences articulated by the Taalibe Baay women I interviewed, in conjunction with existing literature on dhikr, daairas, the Sufi spiritual path, the inner and outer life, and the role of women in the Niassen tariqa, I intend to make comparisons between these firsthand accounts and the scholarly discourse, framing my research in terms of the question, How do Senegalese Taalibe Baay women engage with the practice of dhikr? Ultimately, I aim to honestly present the experiences a handful of Senegalese Taalibe Baay women shared with me, focusing on the ways in which they drew connections between their individual devotional practice of dhikr and their community lives.
African Languages and Societies | African Studies | History of Religion | Islamic Studies | Practical Theology | Religion | Social and Cultural Anthropology
Marsh, Natalie, "The Practice of Dhikr Among Senegalese Taalibe Baay Women: Individual Devotion, Communal Well-Being" (2019). Independent Study Project (ISP) Collection. 3140.