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Faki, the Koran healer

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Published on Aug 15, 2012

Traditional medicine in Darfur, Sudan, is clearly linked with religion. The Islamic principles and, specifically, the Koran verses are always present in any ritual. The healers, called "Fakis" in Arabic, are well recognized by their respective communities and nearly everyone in Darfur has paid a visit to a "Faki" at some point in their lives.

This spiritual knowledge is passed on from generation to generation, although not anyone can do it: only those who are men and know, by heart, all the secrets the Koran contains.

Since immemorial time, a majority of the Darfur's communities have relied on this traditional healing for many purposes: protecting against threats, bringing luck, warding away evil spirits, curing diseases, and even giving love to those who seek it.

There are different forms of these traditional practices. This includes inhaling smoke, which is known as "Bakhra," eating medicinal plants or drinking ink known as "Mahia." This latter of which breing the most complicated. The ink must be made from gum arabic mixed with ashes and water and used to write phrases from the Koran on a wooden tablet. The "Faki" later washes the written phrases with water, pours it in a bowl and gives it to the customer to drink. The process is done in a spiritual ritual, where the healer separates himself from the rest of the world. It is a process which may even take a whole night.

But above all, the most common type one can see in Darfur is the "Hijab," which consists of a small leather pouch attached to a string. Inside the pouch is a folded piece of paper with written passages of the Koran. Almost all newborn babies in Darfur are given these amulets to protect them from evil. Many soldiers and rebel combatants carry these on them to protect them from an enemy attack. For this reason, "Fakis" never give amulets to people whom they don't know or are residing near by, as they may carry attacks against their families.

While not all Darfuris believe in the traditional healing practices of the fakis, and some Muslim communities believe the practice is inconsistent with Islam, for many Darfuris who seek faki remedies, their beliefs about the power of the services transcend their social status, their educational background and the cultural backlash of those who frown on the practice. For these Darfuris, it is simply a matter of hope—hope of the parents who want to bring some protection to their newborn child or hope that they can protect themselves from harm so they may continue to provide for their families.

© Albert González Farran, Rania Abdulrahman & Sharon Lukunka - UNAMID

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