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The first gallery of Passport to Paradise explains the exhibition to follow. Visitors are introduced to the basic ideas and practices of Islam, Sufi mysticism, and the history of Islam in Africa and Senegal, more specifically. Through atmospheric photographs taken in Senegal and works by Mouride artists, visitors will visualize Muslim history, prayer, places of worship, devotional purification, the giving of alms, instruction in the holy Qur’an (Koran) and other sacred texts, Ramadan and other Islamic festivities, and pilgrimage to Mecca.

Islam was introduced to what is now Senegal as early as the eleventh century, but it was not until the nineteenth century that it became widespread. Now the great majority of Senegalese are Muslims, while smaller numbers are Christians or followers of African religions. Islam is a religion of reading, writing, and recitation. Like Muslim children the world over, young Mourides memorize the Qur’an as they learn to write in Arabic script. A love for disciplined teaching and a yearning for sacred knowledge will continue throughout their lives. Most African Muslims follow the paths of Sufi mysticism, and Mourides are no exception. Sufism is based upon revelation of God’s secret signs hidden in every thing, place, circumstance, and relationship. Numerology and other Sufi devices are also instrumental—that is, they protect, heal, and promote welfare.

Like all Muslims, Mourides acknowledge the Old Testament and elements of the New as foundations of their faith, and certain Biblical stories are shared, repeated, or elaborated upon in the holy Qur’an. Mouride artists portray Old Testament stories in wall murals, glass paintings, and other media. Noah’s ark surviving the Great Flood is one theme often seen, the parable of the Prophet Abraham’s (Ibrahim) near sacrifice of his son, Ishmael (Isma’il), another. Both recall the need for Mourides to be prepared to sacrifice what is most dear, if they are to lead a truly pious life. Although the Prophet Mohammed is never depicted in Mouride art, al-Buraq is. Al-Buraq is the winged horse with a woman’s head upon which the Prophet ascended to the Seventh Heaven, where he was brought into the presence of God.



--------------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