Zaghawa, Arabized in Sudan

Map Source:  Bethany World Prayer Center
People Name: Zaghawa, Arabized
Country: Sudan
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 160,000
World Population: 160,000
Primary Language: Arabic, Sudanese Spoken
Primary Religion: Islam
Christian Adherents: 0.00 %
Evangelicals: 0.00 %
Scripture: New Testament
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Kanuri-Saharan
Affinity Bloc: Sub-Saharan Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

From an ecological standpoint, there are places that are a blending of two communities which we call an ecotone. For example, a desert gradually morphs into a chaparral community when the land becomes less dry so different plant life emerges. Likewise, there are places in North Africa that are predominantly Arab, and further south, the culture and the people are sub-Saharan African, but blended with that of the Arabs. Sudan is an excellent example of this. There are many sub-Saharan tribes in Sudan that we describe as "Arabized." They look like sub-Saharan Africans and retain a certain degree of their original culture, yet they began adopting the traditions and practices associated with Arabic Islamic culture.
The process of Arabization accelerated when Sudanese Arabs filled the power vacuum left by the Egyptians and the British colonialists at the time of independent in 1956. Arab Muslims achieved greater influence through conquest and an Arabic language-based education system. The Arabized tribes of Sudan include the Zaghawa, a populous and powerful people.
Since the independence of Sudan, Chad and Niger, the governments have greatly reduced the power of Zaghawa chiefs who rivaled their power. One of the ways to do this is by diluting their culture with that of the dominant Arabs. Also, Islam has weakened their traditional clan system.

What Are Their Lives Like?

These are trying times for the Zaghawa people. They are concerned about their economic welfare, their political independence, and their national heritage in Sudan. Arabized or not, their economy is based on animal husbandry, farming, gathering, and trading. They raise and sell cattle, sheep, camels, and other animals. They consume the milk of cattle, sheep and camels either hot or cold, sour or fresh, pure or mixed with water or tea, as a porridge mixed with millet, or as butter. They might drink the milk of a donkey as a remedy for coughing. They use animal skins to make clothing and leather items, and they eat the meat. Arabized Zaghawa grow tubers (starchy root vegetables) and millet in their fields and vegetables such as onions, tomatoes and okra in small gardens surrounding the homes. The women are responsible for cultivating these small vegetable gardens. They also gather wild grasses, seeds, berries, and other fruits. Small groups of women set out for journeys that last about a month, taking with them all that is necessary for their gathering expedition. They sleep under shelters built from branches and bundles of grass. After the gathering is complete, they store the various grains in earthen jars. In addition to the products gathered by the women, the Zaghawa may also gather honey, certain leaves, and locusts for food.
Many Zaghawa are merchants, traveling southward and eastward to find food supplements and manufactured goods that they lack in their own region. They trade cattle, sheep, wild grasses, and the gum of the Acacia Senegal tree for sugar, tea, oil, blankets, dried dates, soap, and aspirin.
Some of the Zaghawa work as blacksmiths, as these craftsmen are collectively called. Their craft involves making metal tools, weapons, jewelry. These skilled artisans also make pottery and carve wooden stools and musical instruments. A few of the blacksmiths also tan hides, make various leather items, weave cotton and hunt. Among the Zaghawa, blacksmiths are considered to be the lowest caste.
Most Zaghawa villages contain mosques for prayer. There is also a "men's tree," where the men gather to discuss the affairs of the village. Inside the villages you might see girls grinding grain and making porridge while the boys help with the herds or the harvest. From the time a child is very young he is taught the way of life that his caste will offer them.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Since the introduction of Islam to their region in the 1600s, most Zaghawa have gradually converted to Islam. Those who are more Arabized are even more dedicated to Islam. However, some continue to practice their ethnic religion. They have a strong belief in the "evil eye." This is a curse caused by an intent gaze of an envious person. To avoid such curses, they cover babies' faces in public, wear magic charms, and construct their houses in a certain fashion.

What Are Their Needs?

There are often outbreaks of violence in Sudan, and the women and children are usually victims of human trafficking, rape, and murder. They need the Lord's protection!

Prayer Points

Pray for the Lord to provide for the physical and spiritual needs of the Arabized Zaghawa people in Sudan.
Pray for workers, filled with the love of the Holy Spirit, to go to the Arabized Zaghawa people.
Pray for the Arabized Zaghawa people to crave pure spiritual milk and find it in the Word of God.
Pray for a Holy Spirit directed movement to Christ among the Arabized Zaghawa people.

Text Source:   Joshua Project