Sufi Islam, particularly practiced by brotherhoods in Senegal, is often put forward to explain the stability of this West African country, to the point of being considered by some observers as a solution to the outbreak of violence in the world.
“There is no Islamic school of thought that can be equated with Islam itself: it can only be a contribution. It is Islam that is a religion of peace. The prophet was advocating using self-defense ‘and’ Sufism appeared well after this” the Imam of the Point E Mosque in Dakar said.
Imam Kanté, a graduate in Environment and Solidarity Economy from the Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar believes in the power of education to change perceptions.
“We must promote education and tolerance to counter the various forms of violence shaking the world today", he argued.
“Everything is good in Islam: the verses, the hadiths, production by ulemas of all generations that can teach an Islam of peace, tolerance, civilization and that brings its contribution for the betterment of humanity” he added.
Stressing the fact that there are people who go to extremes in all strands of the religion, the author of the book ‘Islam, Science and Society, the writings of an African Imam,’ maintained that he is not about opposing Sufism or Wahhabism.
“It is necessary to understand what the specificity of each strand is, the conditions of its emergence, but also what basically is its core doctrine and the types of perversions some have turned to” the imam added.
For Imam Kante, Sufism shares the same aspirations as those championed by the pioneer of Wahhabism, Abdul Wahhab.
The latter, like the Sufi strand, preached against sinful desires by way of prayer, fasting and the invocation of God, as instructed by the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh).
Beyond Senegal, most notably Morocco, the spiritual and peaceful dimension of Sufism refers to an Islam of peace and openness, through other doctrines, such as Malekism.
However, “which was not always the case in history, since ‘maraboutism’ was also an Islam armed with resistance, even war,” according to Professor Pierre Vermeren teaching at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne.
On the other hand, the historian stressed that this evolution is unquestionable, especially in educated circles and notables looking for an Islam that represents them, that meets their spiritual expectations and devotion, contrary to the warring image of the religion which appeals to Salafist movements, especially jihadists.
He added that still Sufism does not always mean peace and prayer.
There are also Sufis who are “brothers” in arms and use this discreet spirituality to hunt for followers.