Dyula - Religion and Expressive Culture



Religious Beliefs. The Dyula have always been Muslim. In the past, however, the tun tigiw were not expected to conform rigorously to the same standards of Islamic practice as the mory. Instead, the tun tigiw, as members of low, participated in animal sacrifices to spirits. They might drink alcoholic beverages and observe prescribed prayer and fasting only irregularly. By about 1950, such practices were perceived as lax, as compared to other Muslim communities. The initiation societies were abolished, and a single standard of proper Muslim behavior was applied to everyone. As Muslims, the Dyula worship Allah and acknowledge the existence of angels and devils. They also acknowledge the existence of jinn, which may be Muslim or pagan and are potentially dangerous; prankish little kongo denniw ("bush children"); and spirits that were associated with specific initiation societies.

Religious Practitioners. Those older men learned in Arabic and Islamic theology and law were known as karamogow and were authorities in Islamic matters. Formerly, there also existed lo tigiw, elders in charge of initiation societies.

Ceremonies. Various ceremonies mark the Islamic lunar calendar year, particularly Donba, the Prophet's birthday; Tabaski, marking the season of pilgrimage and the sacrifice of Isaac; and Sunkalo, the annual fast of the month of Ramadan. Increasingly, Islamic literati decry the festivities associated with these periods, although to little avail. Weddings and funerals of important elders are also occasions for elaborate festivities.

Arts. Weaving of elaborately patterned cloths, as well as the embroidery of intricate arabesque designs on clothing, are the most highly developed Dyula art forms. The Dyula sometimes use elaborately sculpted objects—masks, loom pulleys—produced by specialists of neighboring ethnic groups.

Medicine. The Dyula resort to various herbal remedies ( fla ; lit., "leaves"), as well as to written magic formulas in Arabic. Nowadays the Dyula are quite willing to seek Western medical treatment when it is available and affordable.

Death and Afterlife. Most Dyula believe in the reality of witchcraft, of nefarious magic written in Arabic, of the deadly power of initiation-society spirits controlled by their senior members, and of dangerous local spirits, all of which may cause illness or death. These dangers are now considered remote, however, and they do not preoccupy most Dyula as they did, it would seem, in the past. As Muslims, the Dyula affirm the existence of heaven and hell in the afterlife, as a reward or punishment for behavior on earth.

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