Research on the state and governance in Senegal emphasizes the political role of Muslim orders (brotherhoods). These orders, and especially the Muridiyya, are at the center of the so-called “Senegalese social contract,” which, according to many observers, is the reason for the remarkable political stability of the postcolonial state. This contract, which has been thoroughly discussed by scholars, functions as a system for the exchange of services in which the state and the Sufi orders, even though apparently situated in different sociopolitical spaces, collaborate in preserving peace and stability. Along with other scholars, I have criticized the notion of “social contract,” especially the underlying assumption that shaykhs have total control over disciples, who are prepared to follow the path laid out by their spiritual guides without concern for their own interests. In this article, I explore the impact that the momentous political change in the year 2000 had on the relations between temporal and spiritual power in Senegal. I suggest that President Wade’s attempt to turn the Muridiyya into a political base is best understood as an experiment in caesaropapism and his failure portends a return to the apparent political neutrality and behind-the- scenes political transactions that have marked the history of the relations between the state and Sufi orders.


Les recherches centrees sur l’Etat et la gouvernance au Senegal soulignent le role politique joue par les ordres musulmans (confreries). Ces derniers- et particulierement la Mouridyya-se trouvent au coeur du denomme ≪ contrat social senegalais ≫ qui, selon de nombreux observateurs, est la pierre angulaire de la remarquable stabilite politique de cet etat postcolonial. Objet d’abondantes discussions entre specialistes, ce contrat fonctionne comme un systeme d’echange de services dans lequel l’Etat et les ordres soufis oeuvrent communement a la preservation de la paix et de la stabilite en depit de leur appartenance a des espaces sociopolitiques differents. De concert avec d’autres chercheurs, j’ai critique cette notion de ≪ contrat social ≫, en particulier l’hypothese sous-jacente selon laquelle les cheikhs exercent un controle total sur les disciples, qui seraient prets a suivre le chemin trace par leurs guides spirituels sans se preoccuper de leurs propres interets. J’emets l’hypothese que la tentative du President Wade de faire de la Mouridyya une base politique est avant tout une experience de nature cesaropapiste et que son echec laisse presager un retour a l’apparente neutralite politique et aux transactions politiques secretes qui ont marque l’histoire des relations entre l’Etat et les ordres soufis.

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