||household kills an animal, or has a share in killing one.
This account is aimed to do no more than give some idea of the ceremonies to
readers who happen not to know the rituals of Islam. There is far more detail
which might be described.
For the first time within memory, villagers from Sakaltutan went to Mecca in
the autumn of 1949. It only became possible for Turks to do so in 1948, since
before that the government had refused permission and foreign exchange. The
return of the three Haci to Sakaltutan was the occasion of much rejoicing and
hospitality in the village. Those who went were the richest of the villagers,
Haci Ali (DT1), Haci Ahmet (SA 2) and Haci Mehmet (T1).
the villagers not only perform correctly the ceremonies of Islam, they know a
good deal about the theology, the lore and the traditions of their religion. On
one occasion I mentioned the hadith, and was at once given a dull and correct
account of the orthodox explanation of it. They knew details of the rules of
Islamic inheritance, and the coming of Jesus, and about the day of Judgement,
the four holy books of Islam, and other such religious matters.
||In the villages, the imam is seldom known as ¸¸imam, he is referred to as
¸¸hoca, teacher. Before the introduction of government schools, he was
responsible not only for leading the ritual life of the village, but also for
teaching the children.
||The school was attached to the Mosque, and learning to read meant, primarily,
learning to read the Koran. The word for to read, ¸¸okumak, means not only
to read written characters, it also means to recite the Koran on any occasion
when such recitation is necessary. The recitations during namaz, the call to
prayer, the performing of Koranic spells, the ritual recitations at weddings and
funerals are all okumak, quite apart from whether the person reciting is
reading from a book from a book or not. Since there is no other word for
reading, this leads on occasion to confusion. The idea of reading for
amusement, and not from religious motives, aroused surprise, even a little
||The imam though no longer the village schoolmaster is still the source of
religious instruction. The imam in office when i first went to Sakaltutan was
not a good one. He endeavoured to conceal his ignorance of the Koran and of
Islam in general behind a facade of bluster and pomposity, but he was no liked,
and was often neglectful of his duties. He used to go off to Gn village, where
his wife and his father lived, far more often than the villagers thought he
should. Yet even he during the winter months ran for a short period a
religious school for the village children who were not attending the state
school. They would be taught a such lessons how to do namaz, passages from
the Koran in Arabic for recitation and the elementary principles of the
The imam also instructs the adults. This first imam used to read out on
Fridays a passage form a book, in Turkish, of explanation and exhortation.
More important, the imam goes every day in winter to different oda to talk
with the group sitting there. He will often on such occasion answer questions
or tell stories of a religious character. Even when he is not present the
conversation of ten turns on religion, and the older members, or those with a
reputation for religious learning, will expound doctrine or relate stories. A
great deal of the wide spread knowledge of Islam, and also some of the
misapprehensions which one comes across stem form these spontaneous
The imams themselves are not as a rule men of much education.
||None of them can understand the Arabic which they so assiduously learn to
recite. Before the Republican revolution, there were schools for these village
imams, presumably attached to or part of the ¸¸medreseler, the theological
collages which Ataturk abolished. These schools have recently reopened, no
longer, of course, attached to the medrese, and a number of village boys are
sent to them to learn to be imams. They are not taught to understand Arabic,
but they are, of course, instructed in the meaning of the rituals and recitations,
and in the basic doctrines of Islam. The more successful of these boys may
become imams in the town Mosques. In the old days, this seems to have been
one of the main routes, if not the only one, for the villager into town society.
Both in their official capacity as imams, and through direct contact with their
||kinsmen and neighbours these trained boys are a source of religious knowledge
in the villages.
||Besides them, any person of education visiting the village may be questioned on
religious subjects. Twice during my stay, the village was visited by an imam of
higher status. One of these lived in S1 village, and had held some official
position in a Mosque in Kayseri. He was regarded with very great reverence
in the villages. On the occasion of his visit, to consult me about his sons
malaria, he conducted the Friday ceremony, and delivered two long harangues,
one before the service, and one after reading form the Koran. He covered the
five pillars of Islam, went through the whole gamut of moral duties to
neighbours and kin, the greatness of the Prophet, the punishments of sinners,
and the need for piety and regularity in ritual observance. The other visiting
imam who took the Friday service did much the same, but at less length and
with a less impressive manner.
Such an august and reverend visitor, even though he came only from the next
village, was an obvious person to question on religious matters. But the
villagers tend to identify education and religious learning, and quite often
political party chiefs, or government officials were questioned or at least
brought into discussion of religious matters.
||Recently the village children have learnt the new latin script, and now there are
on sale cheap little books, setting out phonetically in the new script the accepted
pronunciation of the religious formulae, together with the Arabic, and a
translation into modern Turkish. These little books also contain a simple
statement o f the main principles of Islam. I have several times seen children
in the village studying one of them.
||Most of these sources of instruction in religious matters are not open to the
women. They never take part in masculine discussions, never attend the
Mosque on Fridays, (1)
and, of course they are not allowed to meet educated
visitors to the village. Small girls do attend the lessons on religious matters
given by the village imam, but for the most part girls and women learn from
each other and perhaps to a certain extent from their close male kinsmen.
Among the women there is no discussion of religious topics, no telling of
religious stories, no knowledge of anything but the essential ritual, and the bar
minimum of doctrine. In fact, the religion of the women is a separate subject.
||I shall say something about it below.
||In spite of the keen interest of the men in their religion, and the extent of
knowledge about it, both doctrinal ignorance and practical neglect of
religious duties are common enough. It is possible that I overestimated the
amount of discussion of religious matters in the mens odalar, because the
discussion which I heard were automatically aroused by, or at least adjusted
to, my presence; nevertheless, it is significant that I was more often
questioned about Christianity than about English social institutions and
There was a certain amount of discrepancy between account of religious
matters which I was given at different times by different people, e.g., about
the end of the world in some versions, Jesus is to come and rule on earth
for forty days, in others, Moses. The most surprising doctrinal ignorance
concerns the Night of Power, the twenty-seventh night of Ramazan.
||No one in the village mentioned it to me, and when I asked about it no one
seemed interested, and there were even statements that it is the last, not the
twenty-seventh night of the month. It must be remembered that the level of
knowledge to which I referred in the last paragraph does not apply to all,
but only to a few of the more learned villages.
The extent to which the acknowledges religious duties are performed can
best be discussed in terms of the three principle sets of specifically religious
injunctions which effect daily life, rules of hygiene, the performing of
namaz, and the keeping of the fast of Ramazan.
The ritual washing which immediately precedes any religious observance is
not a part of hygiene in my present sense, because it is only done on
specifically religious occasions and may be counted as part of the ritual of
namaz. The other ritual ablutions, though failure to perform them debars
one from religious observance of any kind, are rather conditions of a state
in which one should always if possible keep oneself. Thus, in spite of the
prudish attitude which prevents ready investigation, it seems to be the case
that every child is immediately on taught to perform the appropriate ritual
ablution (tahrat) immediately on defecation, and similarly both sexes after
any sexual activity, including menstruation for a woman or emission for a
man, carry out an over all ablution (gusül) at the earliest opportunity.
||Ritual ablution is not the only form of hygiene which Islam requires. Nails
should be kept short, and the elderly men even shave their heads, saying it is
a religious duty. In these matters the rules are on the whole fairly strictly
kept, but systematic observation of the extent of and the reasons for lapses is
The performance of namaz and the attendance at he Mosque are, on the
other hand, public actions which are readily observable. Attendance at the
Friday ceremony varies greatly with the seasons, so equally does the
regularity of namaz. The villagers say that to do namaz with day to day
A sin. Either a man should do it regularly five times a day, making up with
extra ones if he missed one, or else he should not do it at all. In practice,
this means that if a man is too busy, and misses one or two consecutive
prayer times, he will give up all together for a while. A man who is not
doing regular namaz will go to the Mosque of Friday at mid-day, but will
leave after the reading form the Koran, and the two special namaz which are
done under the leadership of the imam. The company then should do a
further ten namaz on their own, and it is these which people not doing
regular namaz omit. One can thus easily notice who is and who is not doing
It is equally simple to observe who is and who is not keeping the fast during
Ramazan. Those shoe are not keeping it can be seen eating, drinking or
smoking although the villagers accuse each other, more or less jokingly, of
secret eating and drinking, I found people quite ready to admit when they
were not keeping the fast. In fact it would be very difficult to do much
surreptitious eating, and in any case, the motive for keeping the fast is fear
of God rather than of public disapproval.
It was not possible to gather statistics of performance in these rituals, but my
impressions have been carefully tested, and I think are fairly accurate.
Among the men, piety is single. Knowledge of lore and doctrine, and
practice o f namaz and fasting vary together. It is rare to find a man
meticulous about he performance of his ritual duties and ignorant of the
theoretical side of his religion. The practice of namaz and attendance at
Mosque vary seasonally. Also, piety usually increases with age, and is more
marked among the richer families of higher status.
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