What distinguishes Folk Muslims from other Muslims?
What is God doing among Folk Muslims?
The term Folk Islam, or Popular Islam, refers to religious beliefs and practices that are distinct from the more orthodox Islamic beliefs and practices. Folk Islam is often seen as the way that most Muslims experience their faith. It is their “lived experience” of being Muslim. It is believed that some 75-85% of all Muslims operate with a Folk Muslim worldview.
Orthodox Islam is concerned with preparing for the afterlife, whereas Folk Islam is concerned with dealing with every day realities in the here and now. Folk Muslims live in a world of power: power people, power places, power objects, and power times.
Proper use or manipulation of these can ensure protection, ward off evil forces, and bring blessing. The goal of Folk Islamic practice is protection and success in this life. The goal of orthodox practice is to please Allah and be ready for the Day of Judgement.
Islam has always included significant strands of animism. Folk practices are full of rituals, objects, and people that have power to protect and give success or to harm one’s enemy. When a Muslim woman is unable to conceive and give birth to a boy, for example, she may purchase a magic charm, go to a saint’s tomb and leave an offering, and then visit a person with power (Marabout) seeking a blessing (baraka) that will enable her to give her husband a male child.
Folk Muslims use the Quran is as an object of power. Drinking water that contains ink from dissolved Quranic texts is said to bring healing. For Folk Muslims, praying during Ramadan is far more powerful than praying during the rest of the year.
Folk Muslims are often desperate for help. Their lives are dominated by fear, by curses, and by struggle. Folk practices respond to these everyday challenges
It is not uncommon that when the Gospel is brought into a Muslim region for the first time there are manifestations of power by folk practitioners in opposition to the Gospel and its messengers. When there is a demonstration of the power of God over the powers of darkness in response, many Muslims believe and follow the living God, who has demonstrated His authority over the powers that they have feared all of their lives.
When directed and anointed by the Holy Spirit, evangelists often proclaim the Gospel with much power. However, the power of those resistant to the Gospel is strong, and most are kept in bondage to fear and deception.
There is often intense spiritual warfare as Christians bring the Gospel to Muslims. Yet, God is at work replacing fear with love as Muslims trust in Christ and experience the freedom that only He can bring.