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Title: Layene  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Islam in Senegal, Lebou people, Religion in Senegal, Seydina Mouhammadou Limamou Laye, Yoff
Collection: French West Africa, Lebou People, Religion in Senegal, Sufi Orders, Sufism in Africa
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


The Layene Brotherhood is a religious sect of Sufi Islam based in Senegal and founded by Seydina Limamou Laye. It is notable for its unorthodox Muslim eschatology and belief in prophetic reincarnation, and for combining elements of Christianity and Islam.

The Layene are a missionary sect open to all members, but consisting mostly of the Lebou ethnicity who live in fishing communities on the Cap-Vert or Cape Verde peninsula north of Dakar, Senegal. The Layene brotherhood is the fourth largest of the Muslim brotherhoods of Senegal. Their spiritual leader is known as the Khalif, who also has broad authority over temporal matters in the Layene quarter of the town of Yoff, Senegal. Yoff is home to the Khalif, an elaborate mosque, the mausoleum of its founder, and several of his descendants. There is also a notable Layene mosque in Cambérèrene, Senegal.

Despite its name of "brotherhood [confrérie]," the Layene Brotherhood includes women. Top leadership is restricted to the male descendants of the founder, Seydina Limamou Laye.

The Layene Brotherhood was founded in 1884 by an uneducated Lebou fisherman who adopted the name Seydina Limamou Laye. He claimed to be the Mahdi, an Islamic messianic figure, and also the reincarnation of the prophet Muhammad. He claimed his son, Seydina Issa Rouhou Laye, was the second coming of Jesus.[1] He attracted a following among the Lebou that led to a routinized spiritual dynasty.[2][3]

Khalifs of the Layene Brotherhood:

1. Seydina Issa Rouhou Laye, 1909-1949

2. Seydina Mangione Laye, 1949-1971

3. Seydina Issa Laye II, 1971-1987

4. Mame Alassane Laye, 1987-2001

5. Cherif Abdoulaye Thiaw, 2001–present

Layene beliefs and practices include the normal five pillars of Islam, with some additional obligations imposed by Seydina Limamou Laye. For instance, prior to each of the five daily prayers, they wash not only their hands, but their forearms as well. In celebration of Jesus as one of their founding figures, they use the cross as one of their symbols, celebrate Christmas on December 25, and read from the Bible as well as the Quran. They hold a weekly ceremony called the chants religieuse that begins shortly before midnight on Saturday and continues until the dawn prayer on Sunday. The chants religieuse consist of energetic sermons, singing, and an Africanized version of the collective dancing that is a recurring feature of Sufism.

Most Layenes live in the Cap-Vert area around Dakar, but there is a Layene presence in most other areas of Senegal, and a few live in Italy, France, and the United States. In 1812 the political independence of the Lebou from the Kingdom of Cayor was recognized. Today the Layene are granted special autonomy in the constitution, laws and practices of Senegal. The present Khalif of the Layene (in 2002) is Cherif Abdoulaye Thiaw, the grandson of Seydina Limamou Laye.

External links

  • Official webpage of the Layene Brotherhood


  1. ^ Sylla, Assane. Not dated [after 1987]. Les Prophetes: Seydina Limamou le Mahdi et Seydina Issa Rouhou Lahi. Dakar: Imprimerie Saint-Paul.
  2. ^ Laborde, Cécile. 1995. La Confrérie Layenne et les Lébou du Sénégal: Islam et culture traditionnelle en Afrique. Université Montisquieu: Institut d’études politiques de Bordeaux.
  3. ^ Matthew Kearney. 2005. "The Societal Ideal and Religious Authority in the Layene Brotherhood." B.A. Thesis in Sociology, Haverford College.
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