“The history of the Tabligh Jama‘at in The Gambia began with Karamoko Dukureh, who
went on pilgrimage to Mecca and afterwards studied in Saudi Arabia for about 20 years.” JENSON
Now this statement is very relevant. If Karamo Dukureh is a scholar in Islam and contemporary knowledge, why should his associate be regarded as ignorant?
Karamo Dukureh was a leading Tabligh member and also a man who understands the concepts of Dawatul Salafiya (puritanical interpretation of Islam). The Salafis don’t adheres to the methods of the Tablighs because they view preaching without strong religious qualifications as dangerous. To the Salafis, only scholars have the right to make pronouncements and preach in public arenas because, to confuse people over religious matters is a serious offence.
The Salafis maintain that, Islam is purely the oneness of Allah or nothing. You cannot venerate anything or anybody except God the almighty. You can hold knowledgeable men/women in high places, but you cannot seek any blessing whatsoever from them. You cannot seek blessing from graves, saints etc.
The concept of Ageeda becomes all the more important to Salafis than many other Muslim groups. To manifest a wrong Ageeda means, worshiping God without any knowledge or direction.
Karamo Dukureh, knew the Salafis basis of emphasising the seeking of knowledge and uncompromising over correct beliefs is something he internalised. However, he also show that, blending the high level of knowledge and the down to earth propagation methods of Tablighis is an important combination.
Salafis are criticise for being strict and inflexible whilst the Tablighs are flexible and patient with lax Muslims. Where Salafis will forge ahead with strong Muslims, Tablighs will follow weak Muslims, associate with them, talk to them and/or invite them, visit them etc until they can have an impact on the person they are targeting.
This is why mainly, Masalas have members across the spectrum of many societies including the Gambia.
Dukureh is From Gambisara (URR) A Sarahuleh By Tribe:
“After his studies, in the early 1980s Dukureh returned to his native village, Gambisara, a Serahuli village in eastern Gambia, and set out to make the villagers more aware of their religion by denouncing their traditional ways of worship and popular forms of piety. One of his students told me that Dukureh condemned especially maraboutage, arguing that instead of paying a marabout to make a charm, one should pray to God directly.” Jenson
Analysis: In fact, the Gambia is synonymous with Marabourism. Durukeh’s early attack was on those class of spiritualist. He found them annoying and denying the masses the path to real Islam. The Salafis concept of Ageeda manifested with Durukeh evoking the futility of using charms and amulets. No sound Muslims will use Charms.. it is counterproductive to the teachings of Islam.
“In his opinion marabouts were charlatans who exploit their clients. Furthermore, he preached against activities that took place during life-cycle rituals, where men and women mingle, sing, make music, dance, spend a lot of money and neglect prayer. Other than a few progressive men, the villagers, who feared that Dukureh wanted to introduce a ‘new religion’, and even called him a lunatic, did not agree with his reformist ideas.” Jenson
The Sukuta Imam’s rhetoric is repeated above by the Gambisara Villagers. Indeed there are cultures that, both Tablighs (Masalas) and Salafis will define as Un-Islamic.. (free mixing the recipe for sexual advances and impure thoughts was the key fears) certain cultural practices are inter-woven with boys and girls spending time together. In the old days, this was innocent socialising, however, now...
“When Dukureh’s sermons became increasingly opposed to the village elders’ traditions
he was prevented from preaching in the mosque.” (Jenson)
Dukureh was excommunicated by the key influential Marabouts. His life was threaten by the (Komsinbaros) personal servants of the main Kabilos (clans). The final option Karamo Dukureh chosed was exile to Bundungka Kunda Serrekunda.
The unmistakable Marakaz (centre) close to Nustrat High became his base. At the centre Dukureh established a school (madrasa), “where he instructed his students in Arabic, Islamic studies and some secular subjects. When the number of students increased in the mid-1990s the school was transferred to another neighbourhood in Serrekunda, where it still exists. This transfer was not only to do with lack of space, but also with a difference in perception between the madrasa teachers and the Tablighis in Markaz.” Jenson
It is important to highlight that Durukeh wasn’t just a Masala but also a Salafi. This is manifested by the insistence on having a school that teaches not just Islamic sciences but also secular knowledge. Whilst the typical Tabligh system is on-the-journey training across distant Mosque. Durukeh also rely on a Hadith, that state that “...even when one knows only one word from the Quran it is one’s religious duty to convey it.”
“When Dukureh died in 2000 Markaz no longer had a regular imam. Gambian preachers
who have long since been involved in the Jama‘at now led the Thursday night and Friday
prayers. A small council of ‘elders’ (shura) is in charge of Markaz. ‘Elder’ does not refer here to only age and generation, but rather to long-standing experience with missionary work.” Jenson
The Tablighs don’t emphasise much on age, they value long service in the cause than age, whilst the local traditions tend to place lot more claim to age. This is why, the Sukuta Imam refers to them as youngsters.
The Gambisara Controversy, the allege Sanna Sabally involvement:
A group of Dukureh’s followers, calling themselves Sunni Jama‘at, remained in the
village of Gambisara after their teacher’s exile. Like Dukureh, they insisted on praying with
their arms folded on the chest rather than, in the Maliki style of praying, with the arms besides the body, which is most common in West Africa. Since they were beaten by the villagers when they prayed with folded arms in the central mosque, in the early 1990s they decided to build their own mosque with donor money from a Senegalese reformist movement and a Kuwaiti sheikh. Most of the villagers believed it was improper to have two mosques in the same community and sought for state intervention.
Consequently, President Jammeh demolished the mosque and arrested four of Dukureh’s most prominent followers. Following their detention, the Supreme Islamic Council determined that people could pray any way they wanted, be it with folded arms, straight arms, or even with the arms on the back or head; but, still, Dukureh’s followers were reluctant to pray in the central mosque. Instead, they prayed in their homes and on Fridays in the mosques of neighbouring villages whose imams were more open to what they call ‘Sunni Islam’. This situation continues to this very day. (Jenson 2003-2006)
Jammeh’s dictatorship didn’t spare the followers of Dukureh...The Gambisara villagers went out of their way to invite the wrapt of Yahya Jammeh on the villagers. Whilst Sana Sabally blame both sides, Yaya went with the public sentiment.
The folding of the arm when praying is the strongest Islamic tradition. Imam Malick prayed with his hands down because he was beaten by the then Calipha's agents. His inability to fold his hands mean, he left them by his side. This became what the west African Malickites adopt. There was no need to split hair over that irrelevant practise.
May the soul of Karamo Dukureh rest in peace. His legacy continues with new leaders steering the Marakaz in the Gambia. The likes of Muhass Jallow, Kemo Kora, Badjie and many others from the Agric sector, education, and many other field of study.
Later I will discuss the areas Masalas require to address... youth over enthausiasm leading to misunderstanding the reasoning behind work, family and dawah.