Introduction of the orthodox and specialists, where the

Introduction    Five times a day the muslims broadcast, “There is no god but Allah,” yet this phrase is also used to ward off evil spirits. Filipino Muslims perform rituals to appease the rice spirits in order to gather an abundant harvest. (phil parshall 1983, bridges to islam, 73) In Iraq, Muslims travel to Kerbala to honour patron saints related to the prophet Muhammad. (george w braswell, jr – Islam: its Prophet 1996, 76, 94) In Malaysia, perforated coconut shells are hung over the door to prevent demons or vampires from entering the house through the doorway (Malay superstition and beliefs, 26)    Stories like these are the common traits of “popular” or “folk” Islam, which is defined as “a mixture of pristine Islam with ancient religious traditions and practices of ordinary people.” (william j saal, reaching muslims for christ, 52) Today, as many as 70 percent of all Muslims in the world follow practices similar to those that Zwemer catalogue in the early twentieth century. (phil parshall, bridges to islam, 16) And then there’s Malaysia. where a recent story of a bomoh, otherwise known as a witch doctor, who stirred up quite a lot of fuss during the missing MH370 incident that is still vivid in the memories of many Malaysians. ( What is folk religion and how does it apply in Malaysia, and what are the implications of it for mission in Malaysia? That is the question to be answered in this paper.What is folk religion?    And though here we’re supposed to be focusing on folk Islam in Malaysia, it is beneficial to start off with folk religion in general first. Folk religion is the “religious beliefs and practices of the common people.” (Understanding folk religion, paul g hiebert, 1999) And for comparision, Paul Hiebert compares formal and folk Islam to suburbia and inner city, just like how Clifford Geertz compares culture to a city. Here folk Islam is like an inner city – a confusion of beliefs and practices without logical consistency, and truth is not rationally proved – it is taken to be self evident. On the other hand, formal Islam is like a suburb, home of the orthodox and specialists, where the truth is carefully laid out in formal propositions and debated by experts. Large institutions dot the area, with schools training the future generation, mosques where the faithful gather at set times and governments that maintain order. And though the suburbs is ordered and peaceful, the inner city offers fun and actions, so residents of the suburbs often go there. And by contrast, the inner city, home of the common folks, venture out to the suburbs only for specific purposes. (emmaus road 46)Formal Islam deals with the universal issues such as the ideas of origin, destiny and the meaning of life, and it does so through written texts of revelation. Overtime, though there are commentaries written to make the original record meaningful in new situations, these commentaries never supersedes the original revelation – it continues as normative. Folk Islam however deals with the issues of immediate everyday life such as disease, flood, barrenness, drought, war and accidents. And it does this through beliefs in myths, folklore, proverbs, or even books of magic or astrological charts. In the end, folk Islam is informally organised, localised and closely linked to places or persons possessing power. (bill musk 199-200) The focus of folk Islam is simply the pragmatic aspects of life and how to deal with it.And to deal with all those, power becomes the focus in folk Islam. Magic books are sometimes passed from generation to generation, and trance dances serve as hadr, a means to bring God down to the worshipper. (musk 296) There are also spontaneous crisis rites that involves appeasing the powers that have caused a problem such as illness, drought, famine or flood. (hiebert understanding folk religion, 316-318) Many of the phenomena which Christians associate with charismatic gifts – healings, visions, and miracles of different kinds – can be found in folk Islam as well, as Chapman notes. (cross and crescent 131) With that in mind, the paper will look into the power emphases in folk Islam and also of folk Islam in Malaysia.Powers in Folk Islam    “The felt need for power is so great among folk Muslims that their entire world view is seen through the spectacles of power,” Woodberry says. (the relevance of power, 318) And there are different powers, some of it are living beings like jinn, iblis, and angels, or impersonal forces like blessings and curses. (emmaus road 48)    Though once the jinn is once referred to as Iblis or al-Shaytan in the Quran (sura 18:48), they are generally regarded as a separate species of spirit, created of fire (sura 55:14), of a genus somewhere between angels and men. Jinns, though theoretically neutral, often times they are conceived of as being bad. (musk 58) In Malay traditions, there exists incantations which invoked jinns, such as one which was invoked in a prayer on the flowers intended as gifts to the girl loved by the man. It is said that after the ritual, “the white jinn will then undertake to execute this charm by visiting the person adored and the jinn would tug at his or her feet while he or she is asleep.” (malay 12-13) We can thus see that the Malays are no exception to the belief in jinns.    Other powers in folk Islam includes impersonal forces, such as baraka (blessing). It is seen as ‘good’. The sources of baraka can come from all kinds of sources, such as holy men and their graves. The Quran itself is full of baraka. Little children, seen as innocent, may also possess baraka. Bride and bridegroom are possessors of baraka. Baraka can also be gained or lost, the former being by biological means such as inheritance, spitting on someone or sharing a meal with someone and also through positive actions such as fulfilling the din of formal faith. Baraka can also be taken away without the holder’s consent or through other ways such as contamination or the breaking of taboos. (musk 262-63)    In opposition, there are also negative forces, such as bahadi (evil influence). Whenever a person loses all his spirit or strength and finally falls ill because of something which gave him a fright or shock, it is believed to be the effect of a bahadi. For example, if a person falls sick from the shock of seeing a dead body, especially a murdered person, he or she is said to be affected by the bahadi of the dead body. (malay 59)    Amongst the Sufi leaders, there are the pirs, who serve as spiritual guide and are believed to have miraculous powers. Parshall describes their role and position as mediators between God and men, “the pir becomes a little god. In one sense, the pir is the present substitute for the departed Prophet Muhammad.” (bridges to, 54, 57)Because of that, it is not surprising that the burial places of pirs are often considered to be sacred shrines.     Similarly, in the


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