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Amadu Bamba was a prodigious writer who left his followers "seven metric tons" of prayers, sermons, and poems, many of which are preserved in a library adjacent to the Great Mosque of Touba. The saint also consigned untold numbers of documents to the seas, for only an ocean could hold his infinite profundity. So prolific was he that it is said that when Bamba was alone in his chambers, his ten fingers turned into ten pens all writing at once. For Mouride so like all Sufis, letters, words, and the act of writing itself have mystical potency. Some Mouride marabouts (holy men) are diviners who help their patients by determining the nature of their problems, often through dreams informed by the saint. Then they write prayers and geomantic devices ("magic squares") in organic ink on boards or papers that can be washed or dissolved in such a way that the patient can drink or wash with the text. Through such communion with divinity, the person becomes the Word, and is healed. Other patients purchase prayer papers that are folded and wrapped in leather bundles or belts to be worn. Still others rent shirts or sleeping sheets on which the marabout has written such powerful prayers, devices, and invocations that by wearing or enveloping themselves in the Word, any problem can be avoided or solved.

Such practices reflect the manner in which Sufis seek fanaórelease from this world by effacing themselves into the Word of God. As the poet Rumi wrote, "I have prayed so long I have become prayer itself." A Mouride marabout said that fana is like when one drops sugar cubes into hot tea: the sugar disappears but can be perceived in the sweetness of the tea. While Mourides may aspire to fana, they can never achieve it as did Amadu Bamba. Indeed, Bamba is sometimes portrayed through calligrams like those to the right, in which the saintís face and body are written as prayers and sacred names. In a glass painting based upon Assane Dioneís portrait of the saint, Bambaís face is composed of the holy names Allah and Mohammed.


 
--------------Introduction : Rise of Islam : Life of a Saint : Mass Produced Imagery : Mouride Work Ethic
---Devotional Sanctum : Healing Prayers : Architecture : Apostles : Sainted Women : Global Networks : Pilgrimage