Blended Beliefs

The Fulbe are Muslims, following the teachings of the Qur’an, Islam’s “holy book”. They believe that there is only one God and Mohammed is his prophet. There are some Fulbe who say that they are descendants of Ishmael like the Arabs, while others say they are descended from one of the tribes of Israel. Other stories on the origin of the Fulbe claim Egypt, Ethiopia, or Europe as their birth place. Be that as it may, they see Abraham as a father and a prophet along with Noah, Moses, David, and Jesus. For many Fulbe, Mohammed was the last and greatest of the prophets.

Religious Celebrations

There are many religious events in the Fulbe’s lunar calendar. First and foremost of the celebrations is the fasting month of Ramadan (Suumayee) in which the Fulbe fast from dawn to dusk for the entire month. Each day, when the fasting is over, there is a big meal and common prayer.

The 27th day of Suumayee is supposedly the time when the Qur’an came down from heaven. Much power and blessing is supposed to be associated with this night. Many Fulbe men will gather at the mosque for a night of prayer and of chanting the Qur’an. It seems that there is much spiritual/demonic activity this night.

The second celebration is Julde Jombente which is the ninth and tenth days of the month of Jombente, the first month of the lunar year. Some believe that this is the day that Moses gained the upper hand on pharaoh. Many Fulbe will fast these days. Others refer to it as a New Year’s celebration. They will gather at water sources to celebrate and gain blessing by washing in the first water of the new year.

The third big event of the Fulbe year is Donkin which commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son. An animal, usually a goat or sheep, is sacrificed and eaten on this day. There are practices associated with the sacrifice that are not well understood. Some Fulbe will expect everyone to put a hand on the sacrifice as the throat is cut and others will wash the feet, mouth, nose and ears in a manner similar to the actions performed before prayer. Donkin is also linked to the pilgrimmage to Mecca.

Lastly, many Fulbe celebrate Mawludu, a day they believe to be the birthday of Mohammed. While it is not an official Muslim holiday, it is still widely observed.

Miracles and Magic

The Fulbe believe very strongly in miracles, but fear them because they can be either good or bad. The mosque in Mamou is believed to be a miracle because it was supposedly built by an uneducated man who had never built anything.

There is a strong belief in magic and the spirit world. It is believed that the magicians can turn paper into money or make things disappear. They are also believed to talk to spirits in order to gain understanding and to trap witches, who are believed to fly and to eat people.

Many people also visit karamokos, religious teachers who also deal in spiritual power. These men make amulets for a variety of purposes. Some are said to ward off diseases or ease pain. Others are said to help a baby’s teeth come in. Karamokos may also be called upon to make charms or curses, perhaps for success in business or marriage, or maybe to harm a rival so as to advance one’s own cause.

From our persepective, the religion of the Fulbe Fouta is a blended belief of both formal Islam and deference to the spirit world. One might be able to debate whether it is or more Islamic and mixed with animistic practices or more animistic with a strong surface of Islam. It may be that for women the religion is predominantly animism and for the men it is predominantly Islam.