History. Culture. Islam

Louis Brenner
West African Sufi
The Religious Heritage and Spiritual Search of Cerno Bokar Saalif Taal

University of California Press
Berkeley & Los Angeles. 1984. 215 p.

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Of the numerous people who assisted and supported me in my research for this book, I should first like to thank Amadou Hampaté Bâ without whose cooperation and encouragement it could not have been written; I have discussed the extent of my debt to him in the introduction. Hardly any less important to me was the assistance of Almamy Malik Yattara of the Institut des Sciences Humaines, Bamako, who worked with me in Mali as research assistant, guide and interpreter (of both language and custom). During our first meeting together he counselled me that in order to pursue research in Mali one had above all to be patient. Almamy Malik followed his own advice; he never flinched from any task, or situation, be it the difficult conditions of travel or the long, enervating hours huddled together over a tape recorder transcribing Fulfulde interviews. He has become to me not only an invaluable colleague but also a cherished friend. Of the many other Malians who aided my research I should also like to mention Alpha Oumar Konaré, now Minister of Culture but, at the time of my initial arrival in Mali, Director of the Institut des Sciences Humaines; he did everything possible to facilitate my research. I should also like to thank all those who made themselves available for interview; Baba Thimbely (now deceased) and Dauda Maiga deserve special mention because of their extraordinary hospitality as well as their willing cooperation.
Field work in Mali was made possible by grants from two American foundations, for which I am grateful. The American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, funded my transportation to Mali for an exploratory field trip in early 1977; and the Social Science Research Council, New York, provided funds for six months field research which was conducted in three separate trips during 1977 and 1978. I should also like to thank Annette Courtenay-Mayers who helped me to transcribe interviews recorded in French, and Georgina Courtenay-Mayers who assisted in typing part of the manuscript. David Robinson, Humphrey Fisher and John Hunwick all read the draft manuscript and offered valuable comments and suggestions for its improvement. Indeed, these three colleagues have assisted me more than they might realize throughout my research and writing.
Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to my wife Nancy and to my sons Andrew and Jonathan for their support, and especially their tolerance, over the years that this book has been in preparation.


London, January 1983