make up 90% of the Gambian population. Most are Sunni
though there are some people who belong to the Shiite,
Ahmadiyya & Bahai faiths in
Banjul & the Kombo region.
Islam & Everyday Gambian Society:
The religion has a very visible effect on Gambian life but it has not
completely eradicated traditional beliefs in the majority of its
believers. Most Gambians still either
engage in wearing the Juju (Terre), praying at sacred crocodile pools,
ancestor worship, animism, etc.
This also includes some
well. Central to almost every village is the mosque (Juma)
or its smaller version the Jaka.
It is from these places of worship
that the call to prayer is made with Friday
being the Muslim Sabbath. The Islamic Courts dispense
justice in relation to the areas allowed it by the
Government and apply Malikite tenets.
Gambian Religious Practices:
will often see people praying
(called Juli) either in places of
worship (Juma) or out in the open after their ablutions. This is just one of
the five pillars
of Islam that Gambians observe. The other four are a belief in Allah as the one god &
recognition of the prophet Mohammed (pbuh) as
his messenger. The third is to make a
Hajj to Mecca at
least once in your lifetime,
the fourth is giving to charity (Sarahh) and the fifth is to fast (Werr i Korr) during the holy month of
Ramadan. Islam means
surrender or submission to the will of God.
Polygamy is also practiced as it
is not uncommon,
particularly up-country, to find a man with up to 4 wives (Jabarr, wife). This is seen by many locals as a
mark of prestige and status in the local community that they live in.
This practice of keeping 4 wives however, is becoming less common among the
middle classes in the Kombos (west coast) and it may be more common to
see a man with 2 wives instead. The other aspects of a Gambian's
religious life you should be aware of is that they must not drink alcohol (Sangarra) as it was
originally forbidden because it interfered with
prayer or eat pork as it is considered
Leaders of the religious society and interpreters and
teachers of religious law acquired a role analogous to
European Medieval clerics. The cleric was primarily a
lettered man, a scribe. But the French term given to
Moslem clerics, Marabout, has a special meaning
through its identification with the cult of saints, a
cult which is a particularly important feature of Sufi
(or mystical) Islam. In this case it means a saintly
man who has certain charismatic qualities (such as
Amadou Bamba) which enable him to attract large
numbers of followers to his teachings. As we use the
term Marabout today, he is a person who stands apart
from the laity because of the fact that he has
received sufficient training in the Koran and other
Islamic matters to be recognized as a religious
leader. Note that the same term Marabout, which
translates as Serigne in Wolof and Thierno (or Ceerno)
in Pulaar, also refers to traditional healers and herbalists.
Devout persons acquire this training most often by
assuming the role of a disciple ("Taloube") of another
recognized Marabout from whom he receives years of
training and guidance, rather than by formal study at
a school of theology. The Marabout performs specific
religious functions, leads prayers, teaches the young,
and presides over ceremonies and feasts.
Each mosque, whether in a small neighbourhood or for a
whole city, has an official who leads the prayers and
is known as an "Imam". Each smaller mosque has its
Imam appointed by the community and he usually holds
that position for life. The "tablet school" is where
the lesser marabouts or clerics called "Ustaas" teach
children to recite the Koran, verses of which are
written on wooden planks. This is the first religious
instruction of the child, at about 4 or 5 years of
Gambian Religious Holidays & Festivals:
Month of Ramadan
is observed each year by Muslim people.
Koriteh (or Eid-il-Fitr)
The prayer day of Koriteh
immediately follows the end of Ramadan fasting in
feast is marked with the slaughtering of sheep
throughout the country.
Visiting a Mosque
If you want to
visit one do go along with a Gambian friend and only do so during non-prayer times. Before entering you must take
your shoes off. Women should cover all parts of their
bodies, especially their heads, except the feet, hands and face.
Female Circumcision (FGM)
per cent of Gambian women have been circumcised.
History of Islam in Senegambia
the 11th century Futa Toro, in Senegal, converted to
the Islam. more...