Lezgins - Religion and Expressive Culture

The Lezgins are primarily Sunni Muslims of the Shaft school. Given the strong Azerbaijani influence on them, however, there is a sizable Shiite minority among the Lezgins. In addition to mainstream Islamic traditions, there are many surviving pre-Islamic traditions. Many Lezgins preserve the names of pagan deities that have become synonymous with Allah. There are also many local pilgrimage sites that predate Islam. During the spring, several ancient spring rituals are also commonly practiced (e.g., young people jumping over bonfires). Bones of animals are thought to have magical and healing powers. Many pre-Islamic planting, harvest, and other rituals related to the cycles of animal husbandry are still practiced. Sufism has thrived among the Lezgins as a mystical underground movement within the Sunni superstructure. It has served as an alternative to the centralized authority of both the Islamic clergy and the Soviet government. Sufi orders provided group solidarity and protection from the Soviet system. Members provide mutual assistance in finding employment, housing, and positions in schools; help arrange marriages and pay the kalïm; maintain burial societies; and alleviate local disputes.

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