Ahmad Tijani Pendiri Tarekat Tijaniyah. Sidi Abu Abbas Ahmad al-Tijani was born in the Southwest Algerian oasis town of Ain Madi on the twelfth of Safar in the year 1150 (1737 C.E.). He was a descendent of the Prophet Muhammad through Fatima Zahra’s first son Hasan and later through Mawlay Idris, the celebrated founder of Morocco.
His father was Sidi Muhammad b. al-Mukhtar b. Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Salam, a prominent scholar whose family hailed from the Moroccan Abda tribe and whose grandfather had immigrated to Ain Madi fleeing a Portuguese invasion less than a century before Shaykh Tijani’s birth.
This same ancestor was perhaps one of the more renowned of the Tijani line prior to Shaykh Ahmad Tijani, and it is reported that he used to engage so much in spiritual retreat (khalwa) that he would have to walk to the five prayers in the mosque with his face covered, otherwise onlookers would fall so heedlessly in love with him that they would thereafter never be able to separate from him. Shaykh Tijani’s mother, Aisha, was the daughter of Muhammad b. Sanusi (no known relation to Muhammad al-Sanusi, the founder of the Sanusiyya), and was noted for her piety and generosity.
The young Shaykh Tijani continued in the scholarly tradition of his family and city, memorizing the Qur’an by the age seven before turning to the study of jurisprudence (fiqh and usul al-fiqh), Prophetic traditions (Hadith), explanation of the Qur’an (tafsir), Qur’anic recitation (tajwid), grammar (nahw) and literature (adab), among other branches of the traditional Islamic sciences.
According to the Jawahir, the Shaykh mastered all of these fields at a very young age, in part due to the force of his resolve but also because of the quality of his teachers. Among his first instructors were masters of their fields, such as Sidi Mabruk Ibn Ba’afiyya Midawi al-Tijani (not mentioned in the Jawahir as being a relation to Ahmad Tijani), with whom he studied the Mukhtasar of Sidi Khalil, the Risala and the Muqaddama of Ibn Rushd (Averoes) and the Kitab al-‘Ibada of al-Akhdari.