Bedouin - Religion and Expressive Culture



Religious Beliefs. Although a few Bedouin societies in Jordan have remained Christian since the early Islamic period, the vast majority of Bedouin are Sunni Muslims. The Five Pillars of Islam are the declaration of faith, the five daily ritual prayers, almsgiving, fasting, and the pilgrimage to Mecca. Most Bedouin societies observe the fast of Ramadan, perform the obligatory prayers, and celebrate the two major Islamic holidays—ʿIid al-Fitr and ʿIid al-Adhha. Some groups endeavor to make the hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca) more than once in a lifetime, and individual piety is sometimes reflected in the number of pilgrimages an individual manages to undertake. The Bedouin societies throughout the region variously believe in the presence of spirits (jinn), some playful and others malevolent, that interfere in the life of humans. The "envious eye" is also very real to the Bedouin, and children are believed to be particularly vulnerable. For this reason, they often have protective amulets attached to their clothing or hung around their necks. Some Bedouin groups postulate the existence ogresses and of monstrous supernaturals ( ahl al-ard , "people of the earth"), who are sometimes met by lone travelers in the desert.

Religious Practitioners. There is no formal clergy in Islam and no center of "priests." Bedouin societies have no formal religious specialists. Bedouin groups traditionally arrange for religious specialists from adjacent settled regions to spend several months a year with them to teach the young to read the Quran. These specialists are often called "shuyukh" (sing. shaykh). Other rural or settled religious specialists that Bedouin seek out for curative and preventative measures are variously called kaatibiin (sing. katib ), shaatirin (sing. shatir ), and mutawwiʿiin (sing. mutawi ).

Ceremonies and Rituals. In addition to the religious observances discussed under "Religious Beliefs," Bedouin ceremonies and rituals include elaborate celebrations of weddings, ritual namings of newborn infants, and the circumcision of children (boys universally, girls frequently). Those Bedouin who are influenced by Sufism (Islamic mysticism)—for example, the Bedouin of southern Sinai and Libya—also celebrate the Prophet's birthday and carry out pilgrimages to the tombs of saints. Hospitality is extensively ritualized. Whenever an animal is slaughtered for a guest, men ritually sacrifice it in accordance with Islamic law. Guests are ritually incorporated into their hosts' households; in case of armed conflict, guests must be protected as if they were family members. Other rituals contribute to the definition of household membership and household space. For instance, a newborn child is made a household member through rites of seclusion and purification, which new mothers observe for between seven and forty days after childbirth.

Arts. Simple tattooing of the face (and in some cases the hand) is practiced. Drawing on sand is sometimes engaged in, particularly among children. Women weave sheep's wool—and occasionally goats' hair—into tent strips, rugs, blankets, saddlebags, and camel and horse trappings. Important artistic expression in design, color, and pattern is incorporated into these handicrafts. Most aesthetic expression, however, focuses on the recitation of poetry, some memorized and some composed for the occasion. Both men and women engage in contests of oral skills among their peer groups. Traditional musical instruments are mostly limited to the single-stringed instrument, various types of drums, and, in places, a type of recorder or wind instrument.

Medicine. Illness is attributed to a number of causes: imbalance of elements in the body and spirit possession, as well as germ invasion. Traditional preventative and curative measures include locally prepared herbal remedies, branding, the wearing of amulets, and the carrying of Quranic inscriptions. Western medical treatment is also sought out, particularly when traditional efforts fail.

Death and Afterlife. Islamic tradition dictates the practices associated with death. The body is buried as soon as possible and always within twenty-four hours. Among some Bedouin groups, an effort is made to bury the dead in one place (sometimes called the bilaad ), although often it is impossible to reach it within the strict time limit imposed by Islamic practices. Funeral rites are very simple, and graves tend to be either unmarked or undifferentiated.


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Christopher
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May 8, 2015 @ 11:11 am
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Selene
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Jeffry Gibbles
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H
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Nov 16, 2016 @ 4:16 pm
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Michaela
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Feb 17, 2018 @ 7:07 am
Hello,
I have close friends in Jordan and my friend's little daughter has died yesterday. I wonder what there are habits when such an unfortunate happens. How they do, what it's usual to hold ceremony after it, after funeral. When do they start to return to normal life again, so to speak etc.
Thank you for all the information I can get so I know how I can do myself and do nothing wrong and not risk to hurt them.

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