Baluchi - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. The Baluchi today are Sunni Muslims but, according to many of the traditional ballads of the Baluchi, they have in the past claimed to be followers of Caliph Ali and thus were once Shia Muslims. Prior to the coming of Islam, the Baluchi were probably followers of Zoroaster, and traces of earlier, non-Islamic beliefs are still retained in Current religious observance. In any case, and unlike the situation found in much of the Muslim world, religious belief and practice are considered to be a private affair—there is no Baluchi concept of a "religious state." Secular authority is quite distinct from the spiritual authority vested in religious leaders. It appears that their religious orientation (Sunni versus Shia) has something of a political component to it: when Iran was aligned with the Sunni sect of Islam, the Baluchi professed for Shia; whereas, when Iran embraced Shia, the Baluchi promptly realigned themselves as Sunni.

Religious Practitioners. Religious instruction and observance are led by the local mullah.

Arts. Although the Baluchi are largely an illiterate people and their language was until quite recently unwritten, they have a long tradition of poetic composition, and poets and professional minstrels have been held in high esteem. Their oral literature consists of epic poetry, ballads of war and Romance, religious compositions, and folktales. Much composition is given over to genealogical recitals as well. This poetic creativity traditionally had a practical as well as aesthetic aspect—professional minstrels long held the responsibility of carrying information from one to another of the scattered Baluchi settlements, and during the time of the First Baluchi Confederacy these traveling singers provided an important means by which the individual leaders of each tribe within the confederacy could be linked to the central leadership. The earliest securely dated Baluchi poem still known today dates to the late twelfth century, although the tradition of such compositions is no doubt of much greater antiquity.

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