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1737 (1150 AH)
Ain Madi, Algeria
Founder of the Tijaniyyah Tariqa
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Sidi Abu Abbas Ahmed al-Tijani is the founder of the Tijaniyya Tariqa, one of the largest Sufi orders in the world. Its adherents are mainly based in North and West Africa, with a presence also in Kerala, India.
He was born in the Southwest Algerian in the oasis town of Ain Madi on 12th Safar 1737 (1150 AH). He is a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ through Fatima Zahra’s first son Hasan and later through Mawlay Idris, the celebrated founder of Morocco. His father was Sidi Muhammad ibn al-Mukhtar ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Salam, a prominent scholar whose family came from the Abda tribe and whose grandfather had immigrated to Ain Madi fearing a Portuguese invasion less than a century before the birth of Shaykh Tijani.
By the age of 16, he was married but had lost both parents to plague. He studied the Quran, Maliki Fiqh and tasawwuf in his hometown before migrating to Fes in 1757. In Fes, he was initiated into three orders, namely the Qadiriyya, Nasiriyya and the order of Ahmed al-Habib ibn Muhammad. He returned to Algeria to teach in a village called al-Abiad where he spent 5 years.
In 1772, he started his journey to Makkah to carry out Hajj. On his journey, he was initiated into the Khalwati order and taught for a year in Tunis. He then left for Egypt where he spent time with Mahmud al-Kurdi of the Khalwati order in Cairo. He finally reached Makkah at the end of 1773 and performed the Hajj. On his travels, he met with Shaykh Mohammed ibn Abdel Karim al-Samman, a native of Medina and the founder of the Sammaniyya branch of the Khalwati order. The Shaykh told him that he would become a dominant qutb (pole) in the region. After leaving Madinah, Shaykh Tijani returned to Cairo where he taught the methodologies of the Khalwati order with the ijaza of Shaykh Mahmud al-Kurdi. He returned to Algeria thereafter, settling in Tlemcen for two years.
He then moved to the oasis town of Boussemghoun. Here Shaykh Tijani received a vision of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ who instructed him to initiate a new Tariqa. In 1782, the shaykh established the Tijanniyah order and a zawiya in the town. He spent about 15 years in Boussemghoun attracting many to the Tijanniyah way, before moving back to Fes in 1796.
Shaykh Tijani was well received by the Sultan of Morocco, Mawlay Sulayman, despite his apparent dislike for some of the tariqas. The shaykh was provided a house and was put on the sultan’s council. After initially worshipping in the mosque of Mawlay Idris and in his own home, he established a Tijani zawiya in Fes. He sent various disciples to different parts of North and West Africa to spread word of the Tijaniyya. The order soon became one of the largest and most influential tariqas in the Muslim world.
Shaykh Tijani passed away in Fes in 1815 and was buried in his zawiya where a mausoleum was erected. He is attributed to the popular prayer upon the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, Salat al-Fatih (the Prayer of the Opener) which was given to him by the Prophet ﷺ himself.