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Al-Tijani Yusuf Bashir (1912–1937) was a Sudanese poet who wrote in Arabic. He died from tuberculosis at the age of 25, and his work only became widely known after his death. Al-Tijani's poetry is generally classified as belonging to the Romantic tradition, although he had strong Neoclassical influences.



Al-Tijani was born in Omdurman into a prominent Sufi family. His father named him after Ahmad al-Tijani, the founder of the Tijaniyyah order. Al-Tijani was initially schooled at a local khalwa (religious school) that was run by his uncle, Shaykh Muhammad al-Kitayyabi, and then completed his education at Omdurman's al-Mahad al-Ilmi, a college of literature and forerunner of Omdurman Islamic University. He had a wide knowledge of both Classical and Modern Arabic literature, and also read some Arabic translations of Western literature. As a student, al-Tijani declared that Ahmed Shawqi's poetry was comparable to that in the Quran. This was considered tantamount to blasphemy, and led to his expulsion from al-Mahad. He later worked for a time for the Shell Petroleum Company as a petrol pump attendant and for a newspaper. During the early 1930s, he sought to continue his studies in Cairo but was prevented from leaving the country by British colonial authorities.[1] Al-Tijani died at the age of 25, having suffered from tuberculosis for several years.[2] He died in poverty, with a contemporary noting that he wore only cloth shoes, his clothing was generally torn and of poor quality, and that he could only afford a turban, not a skullcap.[3]


Al-Tijani's only published work is Ishrāqa ("Illumination"), a collection of his poetry.[4] It was first printed in 1946, after his death, and as of 2008 ten editions had been issued.[3] Al-Tijani's poetry has been described as having a "decidedly Romantic colour",[5] but not to the point of sentimentality.[6] One critic, ʻAbd Allah ʻAli Ibrahim, describes him as "exhibit[ing] prodigious loyalties to creativity, youth, and poverty".[3] His work includes persistent references to the natural world, especially water and light, which he frequently employs as metaphors or symbols.[7] Salma Jayyusi has suggested that his admiration of nature approaches pantheism, and attributes this and his frequent use of mystical language to his Sufi background.[8]

Al-Tijani's classical education meant he retained many of the Neoclassical features used by earlier writers, including archaic mannerisms and obsolete vocabulary. Jayyusi has suggested that this represents a "major defect" in his work, and "partly explains his relative obscurity in the Arab world".[9] Al-Tijani is frequently compared with Aboul-Qacem Echebbi, a Tunisian writer, due to their shared religious backgrounds and periods of ill health.[4] Additionally, Jayyusi likens his work to that of the Syrian writer Badawi al-Jabal, due to their shared embrace of mystical language and use of Sufi literary forms.[10]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Dictionary of African Biography. OUP USA. 2 February 2012. p. 21. ISBN 9780195382075.
  2. ^ a b c ʻAlī Ibrāhīm, ʻAbd Allāh (2008). Manichaean Delirium: Decolonizing the Judiciary and Islamic Renewal in the Sudan, 1898-1985. Brill. p. 87. ISBN 9004141103.
  3. ^ a b Starkey, Paul (2014). Modern Arabic Literature. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 0748696539.
  4. ^ Jayyusi, p. 456.
  5. ^ Jayyusi, p. 461.
  6. ^ Jayyusi, p. 459–460.
  7. ^ Jayyusi, p. 462.
  8. ^ Jayyusi, p. 457.
  9. ^ Jayyusi, p. 458.