The Layene Brotherhood is a religious sect of Sufi Muslims based in Senegal and founded by Seydina Limamou Laye. It is notable for its belief that their leader is the Mahdi (who they believe is the reincarnation of Muhammad).
The Layene is a religious sect open to all Muslim but consists 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 third 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 of 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. The top religious leadership is restricted to the male descendants of the founder, Seydina Limamou Laye.
The Layene Brotherhood was founded in 1884 by Seydina Limamou Laye who was an uneducated man from the Lebou ethnic group, and a fisherman . He claimed to be the Mahdi, an Islamic messianic figure, who is the reincarnation of the prophet Muhammad. He claimed his son, Seydina Issa Rouhou Laye, was the second coming of Jesus. He attracted a following among the Lebou and the Walo-Walo that led to a routinized spiritual dynasty.
Khalifs of the Layene Brotherhood:
1. Seydina Issa Rouhou Laye, 1909-1949
2. Seydina Mandione Laye, 1949-1971
3. Seydina Issa Laye II, 1971-1987
4. Mame Alassane Laye, 1987-2001
5. Cherif Abdoulaye Thiaw,Laye 2001–present
Layene beliefs and practices include the normal five pillars of Islam, with some additional obligations recommended by Seydina Limamou Laye. For instance, prior to each of the five daily prayers, they wash not only their feet but up to their knees as well. In celebration of Jesus as one of their pre-eminent figures,they organize religious activities on his birthday Christmas on December 25, and quote from the Bible sometimes as well as from the Quran. They hold a weekly ceremony called the chants religieux that begins shortly before midnight on Saturday and continues until the dawn prayer on Sunday. The chants religieux consist of energetic sermons and loud zikr (songs praising Allah and Muhammad).
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 Laye, the grandson of Seydina Limamou Laye.