Islam, traditional beliefs and ritual practices among the Zaghawa of Sudan
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This thesis is about the traditional beliefs and the process of Islamization among the Zaghawa. It examines Islam as understood and practised by the Zaghawa society rather than the "universal model" of Islam or Islam as it is supposed to be. Chapter one is concerned with the 'basic' cosmology, system of belief and objects of sanctity among the Zaghawa. The Zaghawa gave the names of their ha mandas (sacred mountains) to their territorial divisions and their newly appointed chiefs in the past slaughtered a pregnant camel on top of their clans' ha mandas in order to legitimise their leadership and power. Chapter two explains how the harsh environmental conditions of Dar Zaghawa and the lack of security in the past caused many uncertainties and led the Zaghawa to consult various divinatory techniques to arrive at the hidden knowledge and the hazards that might lie ahead. The various divinatory techniques practised by the Zaghawa are also examined in detail in this chapter in addition to various forms of afflictions caused by supernatural powers and their traditional healing devices. Chapter three is devoted-to the introduction of Islam into the Zaghawa society. It shows how the point at which Islam met the Zaghawa at first was such that it appeared less alien to them, a fact which made it easy for them to accept the new religion. This chapter furthermore examines the impact of Islam upon cosmology, system of belief, objects of sanctity, divination, affliction and healing. It also explains why Islamization brought about the sex division of religion and how the concept of religious purity and pollution introduced by Islam has been interpreted by the fakis to justify the discrimination against the mai . Chapter four describes the Islamic ritual practices, notably the five pillars of Islam and the ritual practices related to the life cycle, agricultural activities, purification and reconciliation on the occasion of adultery and manslaughter. The main purpose of this chapter is to discern how these general Islamic rituals have been influenced by the particular setting of the Zaghawa environment. Chapter five discusses and evaluates the effect of formal education, the establishment of the new Sudanese state and formal peace keeping institutions, the improvement of communications and medical services and the deterioration of environmental conditions in Dar Zaghawa in facilitating religious change. The chapter goes on to explain how the socioeconomic crises and political upheavals in Dar Zaghawa in the sixties on the one hand and the complicity of the national political parties with the Zaghawa chiefs on the other anguished the commoners and led many of them to join the Muslim Brotherhood and the Jamaa Ansar al--Sunna al--Mohamediva and demand the return to the pristine Islam and the application of the Islamic shari'a law. It furthermore explains why the religious reformers, though they succeeded in persuading the Zaghawa to accept the religious changes in some aspects of their lives, failed to do so in many other aspects, notably the gender relations and the discrimination against the mai. The concluding chapter critically assesss and evaluates the existing literature on conversion to Islam in Africa. The syncretism and the marginalization models, though important, do not go far enough to explain why the Zaghawa continued to perform their pre--Islamic rituals even when their belief changed. It suggests Fernandez's model, which differentiates between the social consensus and cultural consensus, as particularly useful for deeper analyses of the impact of Islam upon the Zaghawa society.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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