Haj ?Umar Al-Tal, Al-(1797–1864)

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HAJ ˓UMAR AL-TAL, AL-(1797–1864)

The last revolutionary in the jihad tradition of Western Sudan, Shaykh ˓Umar al-Tal was born in Futa Toto, in the Senegambia region, where he received his religious training. While in Mecca for pilgrimage in 1826 he was appointed the caliph of the Tijaniya brotherhood in the Western Sudan. He lived in Mecca and Cairo, and eventually settled at the court of the Sokoto Caliphate. After almost a decade away from home he decided, in the late 1830s, to return to the Senegambia region. He settled first in Dingirai, a town on the frontiers of the Futa Jalon imamate. There he began to preach and build his own following. For the next decade, his focused primarily on writing and teaching. He used his authority to challenge the leaders of the locally powerful Qadiriya Sufi order.

In his efforts to forge a large Muslim state, ˓Umar declared a jihad around 1852 or 1853, when he began to widen his military operations north toward the upper Senegal River through non-Muslim, Malinke-dominated areas. By then he had acquired firearms and was proving to be a formidable force in the region. By the mid-1850s he had established the Tukolor Muslim empire, with his capital at Nioro. His activities in the Senegambia eventually led to a confrontation with the French, who were seeking to establish absolute control over the region. ˓Umar's military operations further east in the Muslim state of Massina were largely successful, until he was killed in 1864 during a counterattack. His successors divided up the empire and continued to challenge the French over the next couple of decades.

See alsoAfrica, Islam in ; Caliphate ; ˓Ibadat .


Robinson, David. The Holy War of Umar Tal: The Western Sudan in the Mid-Nineteenth Century. Oxford, U.K.: Clarendon Press, 1985.

Abdin Chande