Samal Moro - Religion and Expressive Culture



Religious Beliefs. Islam, the religion of submission to God, is the main unifying factor for many groups in the southern Philippines. Of the four schools of the Sunni branch of Islam, the Muslims of Southeast Asia belong to the Shafi school, in which equal weight is given to the authority of the Quran and of the Hadith.


Religious Practitioners . The pakil (priestly) class is composed of imams, hatibs, and bilars, who are ranked according to knowledge of the Quran, experience, and seniority. Traditionally appointed by the agama, these officials are now appointed by the mayor. Their ranking is usually evident during major religious ceremonies; otherwise each may substitute for the others in delivering sermons, leading chants, and performing critical rituals. Attendance at Friday worship (Jumaat) in the mosque is virtually all male. If women do go, they sit in the back, behind the men. Other practitioners include curers and diviners. Sorcerers are widely believed to exist. The Muslim jinn are locally known as saitans (evil spirits), to which the typical Samal makes daily reference in connection with illness, misfortune, failure, and unhappiness. Invocation of Tuhan (God) is comparatively rare and is made in the more abstract assessment of the human condition. Sometimes bogey men with supernatural qualities are imagined.


Ceremonies. The Muslim calendar has twelve months of thirty days each. Important feasts and festivals include the New Year (Muharram) celebration; Maulud en-nabi, the Prophet Mohammed's birthday; Ramadan; Hari Raya Puasa, at the close of the fasting month; the Feast of Sacrifice surrounding the hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), locally known as "Hari Raya Hadji"; and the Festival of Mohammed's Night Journey.


Arts. Carved designs are found in the more traditional homes and on burial markers, boats, and machete handles. Brass gongs, drums, and xylophones are typical instruments used in festivities, as well as battery-run radios and phonographs. Dance troupes visit villages, although at long intervals. Competitive sports among school districts (usually interisland) provide great entertainment, as do traveling movies.

Medicine. Spirit possession, spirit loss, and sorcery ( kulam ) are often blamed for lingering illness. Curers usually diagnose and prescribe relief alongside a Western medical agent. Sickly children are attended by the pakil, who performs renaming and weighing ( pagtimbang ) rituals as remedies.


Death and Afterlife. Funeral rites are held immediately after a death, and before sundown the body is buried. The soul ( aluwa ) of a good person is believed to go to heaven, via Mecca; a bad soul goes to hell. The bad soul is feared as a potential ghost and requires the ritual of forgiveness ( kipalat ) conducted on its behalf by the living relatives.


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