As long as the local Dyula community and the local Muslim community were one and the same, celebrations of Muslim calendar holidays such as the donba festivities in Kadioha could bear a plural symbolic weight, simultaneously expressing the allegiance of the entire community to Islam and the internal division of this community into its salient components: male and female, elder and junior, slave and free, members of one kin group or another. By the early 1950s, this was certainly no longer the case in Korhogo, which attracted a sizable community of Muslim immigrants, many from outside Côte d'Ivoire, and where a growing number of Senufo
were converting to Islam. Of course, such Muslims observed the same Muslim calendar holidays, but they did not, by and large, participate in the festivities that marked these occasions for the Dyula. As a result, such celebrations could no longer symbolize a Muslim identity per se. Rather, they were typical of the Dyula, but "Dyula" and "Muslim" were no longer synonymous in a local context. In a real sense, the festivities ceased to be religious and became part of the local folklore, like Mardi Gras in certain Catholic communities.
There is, indeed, a decided ambivalence concerning this whole domain of ritual. In an ethnically plural Muslim community, these celebrations seem to distinguish Dyula Muslims from other Muslims, rather than, as in the past, Dyula Muslims from Senufo unbelievers. As folklore, as the self-conscious expression of custom, of tradition, of one's own "roots" as opposed to the roots of one's neighbors, they are more frankly and flagrantly particularistic than ever. The question is no longer whether they are part of Islam, but whether it is proper for Muslims to participate in them. These were the very grounds for abolishing the lo societies among the Dyula tun tigi , as well as, somewhat later, excision ceremonies for adolescent girls; such practices, it was argued, were "pagan" and not Muslim. While there were, of course, additional extra-religious motives for abolishing initiation and excision ceremonies, the principle that they were religiously improper was upheld and vindicated. Singing, drumming, and dancing, particularly on occasions such as donba or during the month of Ramadan, have been called into question for similar reasons. The scholars of Koko are quasiunanimous in voicing their disapproval. Muslim holidays, they argue, are serious occasions, and such frivolities only distract participants from true religious concerns. Such objections are, for the most part, unchallenged and ignored. The scholars, while they have failed to persuade many people to cease the festivities, have indeed convinced them that the singing and dancing have nothing to do with religion.
Perhaps the most paradoxical outcome of this process of the "folklorization" of formerly religious ritual has been the
resurgence in recent years of lo masquerading. When I was first in the field, in 1973, I concluded that such masquerading had almost completely ceased. Exceptions were negligible, as when Dyula youths in Kadioha borrowed the costumes of their Senufo neighbors to run around the village at the end of Ramadan, playing the role of bogeymen to smaller children and clowns for adults. In 1984, on my return to the field, I began hearing reports of much more elaborate masquerading activity. At first, I assumed—much to my chagrin as an ethnographer—that such activity had escaped my attention a decade before. The truth turned out to be more surprising. During the preceding decade, there had been a revival of lo masquerading in certain Dyula communities. This revival involved a collaboration between two generations, the old men and the adolescent youths. The old men were the last generation to have been initiated, and, as such, some were nostalgic about the lo societies. The middle-aged men, the generation that followed, consisted precisely of those who had revolted against initiation, and who were responsible for the demise of the lo societies. The fascination of adolescents seems, at first sight, to be evidence of a pendulum swing of opinion, generation by generation. Yet the reality is more complex. Lo masquerading represents something entirely different for adolescents and for their elders. The adolescents have never really experienced the lo societies in operation, even at a distance. On the other hand, the masquerades of the poro societies of their Senufo neighbors are quite spectacular. Such masquerading, rather than the whole process of initiation, fascinates the adolescents. The lo masks have been revived, but not the lo societies. In many respects, lo masquerading, like the dancing during Ramadan and donba , has lost its religious content and become "folklore." What was, for a whole generation in revolt against initiation, a symbol of unacceptable "paganism" has become, for a new generation, a symbol rather of "tradition," of local pride. Not surprisingly, attitudes toward this kind of masquerading are highly ambivalent. There is no question, for example, of reviving masks in Koko; those communities where masquerading
has resumed are all villages or small towns. Dyula in Koko sometimes comment superciliously that their cousins in the bush are somewhat backward in religious instruction, and that if they only knew better, they would abandon masquerading. Clearly, such behavior, even more than dancing during Ramadan, is not quite proper for good Muslims. On the other hand, Dyula in Koko are not only in constant contact with groups and individuals involved in lo masquerading, but they regularly attend events where such masquerading takes place. Not even the scholars publicly condemn the masquerading.
One way or the other, neither the Muslim holiday festivities nor lo masquerading symbolize the religious identity of participants any longer. No one is obliged to participate; they are largely, if not purely, for enjoyment. They are neither Muslim nor pagan, but rather Dyula, and often typical of a specific local community or even a single clan ward. They remain ritual expressions of particularism, but they have been desacralized. Such expressions are no longer legitimated by the religious idiom; on the contrary, from a religious point of view, their propriety can be called into question, particularly as they distinguish the Dyula from their Muslim, rather than from their "pagan," neighbors.
It follows that the primary ritual symbols of religious identity must now be symbols the Dyula share with these new Muslim, non-Dyula neighbors. These are, of course, the ritual expressions of Muslim universalism, of the umma , the global Muslim community, the symbols that once, locally at least, typified the mory rather than all Muslims per se. The most compelling symbol of this universal Muslim identity is prayer (seri ), the regular performance of the five daily prayers. The symbolic equivalence of prayer and Islam is embodied in ordinary conversation. One does not generally ask about a stranger, "Is he a Muslim?" ("Silama lo wa?"), but rather, simply, "Does he pray?" ("A be seri ke wa?"). Prayer is by no means the only such symbol: abstaining from alcoholic beverages and from the worship of "fetishes" (jo ) through blood sacrifices, as well as fasting during the month
of Ramadan, have a similar function. Still, of all these symbols, prayer is far and away the dominant one. This is because prayer is a positive and public action, which can readily be observed. One can observe someone drinking alcohol; one cannot literally observe someone abstaining. The importance of visible signs of compliance explains why Dyula spit so frequently in public during the daytime at Ramadan. The rationale is that a person who swallows his own saliva is breaking the fast, and while one cannot observe someone fasting, one can observe him spitting. Spittle is in this way turned into a tangible (sometimes all too tangible) sign of the refusal to eat or drink during the daytime.
Prayer, then, is the visible sign of the proper observance of the code of the sunna , and thus of true inclusion in the umma , the abstract community of believers. But the sunna itself is a complex code, embodied in texts written in Arabic, a foreign language, accessible only to scholars, whose interpretation is indeed subject to scholarly dispute over legal subtleties. Unfortunately, it holds true in Islam that ignorance of the law is no excuse. For the ordinary believer, partly if at all literate in Arabic, this possibility of ignorance can lead to a sort of existential dilemma. In principle, good faith is not enough; one must constantly strive to know as precisely as possible the details of the code one is morally bound to follow, details that are not accessible firsthand but only through the medium of scholars (karamogos ) who can translate them into the vernacular. This anxiety extends to the very domain of prayer itself. Prayers are not all equal. Particular prayers may be more or less efficacious, depending in the first instance on the time and circumstances in which they are performed. More important, prayers may be valid or invalid; a lapse, even involuntary, in ritual detail may "spoil" a prayer. These preoccupations are reflected in the sermons that have relatively recently become an integral part of Dyula funeral ritual. Scholars frequently stress the importance of prayer in general, but equally the necessity of praying correctly: the correct pronunciation of prayers in Arabic, the correct techniques for performing ablutions, indeed what may or may
not render the water used for ablutions (seri ji ) ritually impure. Nor may one conclude that these details reflect the concerns of scholars as opposed to their (often captive) audiences. Bilingual manuals in Arabic and French, replete with illustrations, explaining the details of prayer and ablutions and transcribing Arabic prayers more or less phonetically into French, are readily available in the marketplace and are eagerly studied by those pious Dyula whose literacy in French surpasses their knowledge of Arabic.
At first glance, it might seem that the Dyula have neatly compartmentalized ritual into two mutually exclusive domains: "religion," characterized by a preoccupation with universalistic ritual, notably prayer; and "tradition" (or, as the Dyula would call it, lantan , "custom"), the exuberant celebration of particularism through singing and dancing on calendar holidays. However, this compartmentalization breaks down during the life-crisis rituals associated with birth, marriage, and death, where it is not always so easy to separate "custom" from "religion." Of course, life crises are marked, not by isolated rituals, but by whole sequences of ritual events, some of which are unambiguously "customary," others unambiguously "religious." Thus the singing and dancing that accompany births and weddings, but also the funerals of elders, are clearly in the "customary" domain. On the other hand, Islamic law prescribes quite specific burial procedures for Muslims, and their public observance obviously falls within the religious domain. Still, aside from such obviously "customary" or "religious" ritual manifestations, all life crises involve the elaborate public distribution of prestations of various kinds, often on more than one occasion. The gatherings where these prestations are distributed are inevitably formal, and their sobriety contrasts with the exuberance of the singing and dancing, which are often going on at the same time. More important, one essential category of prestations involved on these occasions—indeed the central category involved in funeral ceremonies—is labeled saraka , derived from the Arabic term sadaqa. For example, as part of the fortieth-day ceremonies at a funeral, saraka is distributed
to the close kin of the deceased, particularly those not directly involved in the distribution of prestations (e.g., widows); the members of the senior generation of the deceased's kabila , in strict order of seniority; Islamic scholars present during the ceremony, in order that they may afterward recite blessings (duau ) for the deceased; representatives of all the other kabilas in the officiating makafu ; representatives of all the other makafus (if not kabilas ) in the village or Dyula quarter; representatives of all other villages or quarters present at the ceremony. The number of groups represented is often surprisingly large, if only because persons invited in their individual capacities as friends, kinsmen, or affines of the deceased or of members of the deceased's entourage are nevertheless treated as "representatives" of one social group or another for the purposes of the ceremony. In addition, various categories of joking partners of the deceased will snatch the portions destined to them, in ritualized mock theft: senanku , members of patronymic groups who joke with one another; "grandchildren," classificatory and real; and (in the case of a horon , a free individual) worossos , slaves "born in the compound," as opposed to purchased or captured slaves.
It is significant that all segments of the village or Dyula quarter must be represented. In this way, the very identity of the local community as a whole, in terms of its component parts—makafus and kabilas— is not only given symbolic expression but is in a fuller sense legitimated. Paradoxically, the moral unity of the community is expressed precisely in terms of the distinctions between different categories of members: members of different kabilas , of different generations, of free or slave descent. At the same time, the ritual concretely acknowledges the individual network of ties—of kinship and affinity, but also of friendship, clientship, and so on—linking the deceased and members of his immediate entourage to other individuals in the same kabila , to members of other kabilas in the same village or quarter, and finally to members of other local communities. A rigorous protocol governs the order in which prestations are publicly presented, as well as the relative amount distributed. In most
instances, these are token prestations: small change, a plate of cooked food, or (in town, where time and fuel are increasingly valuable) a handful of grain; however, given the large number of groups and individuals entitled to a share, the total amount distributed is never negligible. These prestations, while they are not, strictly speaking, a religious obligation, are nevertheless construed as a religious act, a gift of charity. Not only does the giver thus accumulate merit, but the ostensible purpose of the whole ritual is to obtain the blessings of the entire community, so that God may grant a long and happy life to a newborn infant, harmony and children to a marriage, or that He take mercy on the soul of the deceased in the afterlife. For these reasons, the ostentatious distribution of prestations constitutes an essential part of what is perceived locally as a "Muslim" wedding or funeral.
These distributions of saraka during life crises, like the festivities during calendar holidays, define individual participants in terms of their salient attributes: gender, generation, age, free or slave status, membership of specific kin groups and villages. Formerly, both kinds of ritual were unambiguously perceived as "Muslim" and served to mark a Muslim identity locally. Now, however, their "Muslimness" is perceived somewhat differently. Singing and dancing on calendar holidays are "Muslim" only because of the time when they take place. The occasion is intrinsically Muslim, the activities are not. By way of contrast, the occasions on which saraka is publicly distributed—births, weddings, and deaths—are not intrinsically Muslim. Rather, it is because certain of the prestations are defined as saraka that the ritual assumes a specifically Muslim character. To give saraka is a religious act, an act of piety, but, equally crucially, it is not an obligatory act, from a strictly religious point of view. Only Muslims give saraka (at least during life-crisis rituals), but one can, in principle, be Muslim without being obliged to give saraka on any particular occasion.
In short, the attitude toward ritual to which the majority of Dyula in Koko subscribe, an attitude that might be labeled
"neotraditionalist," admits of two tiers of religious ritual. The first, universalistic tier is typified by prayer. It is prayer, along with the observance of the sunna , which prayer expresses, that distinguishes Muslims from unbelievers, both locally and globally. The Dyula are Muslims because they are part of the umma , and not simply, as in the past, because they are Dyula. However, a second, particularistic tier, exemplified during life-crisis rituals, legitimates the identities of individual Dyula as members of local communities, and, as such, of kabilas , of generations, and so on, in religious terms. Islam still legitimates the local community, both as a whole and in terms of its salient internal distinctions. But the local community is now conceived as only a part, rather than as a microcosm, of the umma , the global community of believers.