Subject: talib jihadist cleric as cavalry raider
Culture: Tukulor, Fulani
Setting: Umarian Empire, western Sudan 19thc
* Vandervort 1998 p75
"In 1853 ... the Tukulors launched a great jihad under the leadership of al-Hajj Umar Tal (1794-1864), one of the foremost religious and political leaders of pre-colonial West Africa. His career illustrates once again the powerful integrative impact of religion upon resistance movements in Africa, but, and this point needs to be emphasized, it also bears witness to religion's equally strong potential for disruption. Like Abd el-Kader, Umar was born into a family of prominent Muslim clerics. Like his Algerian near-contemporary, he had made a pilgrimage to Mecca from which he returned an acknowledged holy man with a large following. While on his pilgrimage, Umar, who had joined the Tijaniyya order as a young man, was named khalifa of the order (literally, deputy to its founder) in the Western Sudan. He appears to have returned from Mecca determined to carry out a crusade for religious reform, dismayed by the gap between the Islamic ideal he had observed in Mecca and the 'disenchanting reality of mixed [impure] Islam in the Western Sudan.'
"In the 1840s he began to gather around him a band of disciples, or talaba in Arabic (talibés in French), at Dinguiray, a fortified town which also served as a religious hostel, on the borders of Futa Jallon to the south of his native Futa Toro. It was here, among his talaba, that Umar began to build an army whose major purpose would be to carry out a jihad against the animist Bambara peoples to the east, rulers of the kingdoms of Kaarta and Segu. Modern writers who have portrayed the Umarian jihad primarily as a movement of resistance to the French would appear to be mistaken. It was one of the unfortunate aspects of Umar's career that his wars against the Bambara coincided with the decision by the French to project their influence into the interior of Senegal."
* Austen 2010 p61-62
"Al Hajj Umar Tal, the conqueror of both Segu and Masina, is unique among the jihad leaders of West Africa in his linking of virtually all the local traditions of holy war and his close ties to North Africa and the Middle East. Umar was born in the mid-1790s to a Tukulor clerical family in Futa Toro, an eighteenth-century jihadist state tied to the Shurbubba uprising of a century earlier. By Umar's time, Futa Toro's Islamic energies had waned, and it came under the political domination of Kaarta, an offshoot of the 'pagan' Segu Empire. In the mid-1820s, he set off on a hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca, making him the only regional jihadist to earn the title 'Al Hajj.' On his way back to his homeland, he spent extensive periods of time with the rulers of already established clerical states in the Central and Western Sudan, including Hamdullahi, the Masina capital. Umar's final place as guest cleric was Futa Jallon, a small-scale eighteenth century jihadist state in the GuinEe highlands where he had earlier studied.
"In Futa Jallon, Umar first began to build up a large body of committed and well-armed followers, mostly Fulani and Tukulor from his home region of Futa Toro. Understandably, such a presence disturbed the Futa Jallon rulers, and Umar was encouraged to move into the small neighboring Mande (and thus 'pagan') state of Tamba. When in turn the Tamba chief sent forces to disarm the clerical community, Umar not only felt politically justified in defending himself but also told a Moroccan biographer that 'God Most High instructed me after the evening prayer. ... In a great cry He said to me [three times] 'You are authorized to wage jihad in the name of Allah.'' "The year was 1852, and Umar's forces not only defeated Tamba but went on to take Kaarta in 1855, Segu in 1861, and Masina in 1862. This last war between two jihadist states was costly in a number of ways. Amadu Lobo's successors counterattacked, killing Umar in 1864. "At its high point, Umar's empire extended over a wider area than even Segu had achieved. However, the new state was more proficient in warfare than in peacetime administration. After Umar's death, his sons and nephews disputed the succession and in effect established three separate capitals at Segu, Bandiagara (Masina), and Nioro (the old Kaarta center). When French colonial forces began their advance into the Middle Niger in the late 1880s, they picked off these towns in successive order, thus ending Islamic rule in this frontier of the Sahara."
* Vandervort 1998 p76
"Umar's jihad army had as its elite corps his close disciples, the talaba, who, in the great tradition of warfare in the Western and Central Sudan, served as mounted shock troops. These cavalrymen were frequently full members of the Tijani brotherhood and, as students of Umar, could boast some education, even if it was of a doctrinaire religious kind."
* Vandervort 1998 p76
"The Tukulor army was reasonably well equipped with modern weapons. Generous monetary donations by the faithful, together with the early capture of the gold mines of the Bambuk region, made possible large purchases of muskets, powder and ball and some rifles and ammunition from English and French traders."