Worship through Service

After a grueling “set plus” ride, we arrived tired, sweaty and hungry at Mbacke Kadior. An Eco community in the Senegalese desert. Lucky for us, they were about to eat lunch and invited us to join. Many trays of “Thiaboudienne” kept appearing, placed on the mats and people gathered around in circles around the trays. We were invited to join the head circle, not quite realizing, yet, what an honor it was. After eating, a friendly American came by, welcomed us and gave us a quick rundown about the community. She’s an anthropologist who’s done her research on indigenous communities in Senegal. Score! The perfect person to talk to! We just arrived at a “Baye Fall” community!
Following a religious edict, Serigne Babacar and Soxna Aisha (pronounced Sokhna) moved with their family and followers to this arid land 8 years ago to transform it into a living space. They were successful in doing so at the nearby village of Ndem so they were chosen for this seemingly impossible task. It’s truly amazing what was accomplished in 8 short years. A beautiful Oasis with gardens, birds, animals, even fish, is thriving and expanding. The couple, their children and their families are highly educated and business savvy. Soxna Aisha, the matriarch of the community, is French and her children got their higher education in Europe. She met Serigne Babacar while he was studying in France and moved to Senegal. They have an NGO that cooperates with several international institutions. With foreign donations, they dug a couple of wells for water which enabled the community to exist. They are constantly innovating and evolving. In addition to traditional crafts, they make “Eco coal” made entirely of peanut shells. There’s a constant influx of foreigners who come to study their model, live with them for a while, exchange expertise and some find their true calling and settle there. It’s a religious community after all.
Baye Falls are Sufis who worship through service: serving others, serving their community, serving Nature. They believe in hard work, perseverance, discipline and giving your heart and services to the people. They don’t practice Islam the traditional way; praying, fasting…etc. Their practice is to be of service 24/7, that’s the goal. Because of this, they’re judged negatively by mainstream religious leaders who don’t consider them real Muslims.
In order to be a Baye Fall, one has to pledge allegiance to a “Mouride” (religious guide). In this case, it’s Serigne Babacar, who’s the ultimate decision maker on all matters concerning the community. He’s grooming his sons to be his successors but it’s not automatic. The successor needs to prove his worthiness.
The community structure is perfect for efficient execution of tasks and speedy accomplishments: free, eager and dedicated labor. One ultimate decision maker. Resources from the west et voila! From desert to paradise in record time. As Voltaire noted, “The best government is a benevolent dictatorship”!
Lucky for them, Serigne Babacar and Soxna Aisha are very loving, humble, sincere and truly crystalize the spirit of service. This reflects on the whole community. Everyone we met there was very welcoming, generous, open and took the Senegalese “Teranga” to a new level. In addition to sharing 3 delicious meals together everyday, I greatly enjoyed yoga and teaching Bellydance to the women.
They’re also doing a lot of outreach into the neighboring villages and are welcome and embraced by local authorities (a blessing many European Eco communities don’t enjoy). They educate women in permaculture, sewing, crafts, food processing… etc. Their high quality products are marketed locally and in Europe. Profits are shared with the women who made the products. Because of the arid nature of the area, most able men leave to work in Dakar or abroad. The women are left behind to care for the children and elderly without any education or tradable skills. The Baye Falls took it upon themselves to empower these women and make them more self reliant. It’s truly heartwarming and inspirational to see the enthusiasm in the women’s eyes. Their newly earned confidence, independence and cooperation, with each other and with Nature, reflects on the land, culture and all of life.
A great example of the basic rule: transformation starts with educating and empowering the girls!

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