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The Explorer Islamabad: Journal of Social Sciences
ISSN: 2411-0132(E), 2411-5487(P)
Vol-2, Issue (6): 144-148
www.theexplorerpak.org
ANTHROPOLOGICAL STUDY OF SPIRITUAL HEALING RITUALS FOR PHYSIOLOGICAL
ILLNESS IN VILLAGE BHOUN, CHAKWAL
Kianat Kausar
Department of Anthropology, PMAS-Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi
Correspondent Author:
Kianat kausar
PMAS-Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi
[email protected]
Abstract: Ritual is a type of critical juncture wherein some pair of opposing social or cultural forces comes
together. Anthropologists consider ritual as key to understanding human culture. Spiritual rituals facilitate healing
on physical, mental, and emotions. Rituals with their associated healers have long been central to religious studies
and anthropology. The paper focuses on these practices typically the indigenous shamanistic practices of that
particular area. The study was conducted in the vicinity of village bhoun, district Chakwal, Pakistan. The research
methodology was descriptive in nature. Methods used for data collection were participant observation, in-depth
interview and semi structure questionnaire. Interview guide and open ended as well as close ended questionnaire
were used as tools of research thorough 140 respondents. Women are more inclined toward the ritualistic healing
as they do not have exposure outside of the area and most of them were housewives. They meet only the females
of their own area discuss the problems and suggest the spiritual healers each other. Mostly performed rituals for
improved health are the use of amulets (Ta’wiz and black thread).
Key Words: Rituals, Shamanism, Physiological illness and Spiritual healing
INTRODUCTION
Ritual is systematically represented as a
“mechanistically discrete and paradigmatic
means of sociocultural integration, appropriation,
or transformation” (Bell 2009). Ritual is a
component of the various processes that are
deemed to constitute religion, society, or culture.
Ritual has been found to be “fundamental to the
dynamics of culture” (Bell 2009).
The repetitive, care-free nature of rituals can be
very healing as they provide an opportunity for
effortlessness, and even enable you to surrender
to a higher power or act. Many rituals are
practiced in order to attain spiritual
enlightenment and improved health. Some
specific ritualistic practices are used to attain
cure for any physiological or spiritual illness.
“Ritual healing is a broad term used to denote
diverse practices in order to heal variously
affected individuals in a culturally embedded,
idiosyncratic and ritualistic manner” (Vashist
2013).
Some of the common and famous practices
include prayer and meditation. The act of prayer
is religious in which the person seeks help from
supreme or super natural power and the village,
locale of my study is the district of chakwal and
inhabited by majority of Muslims. The some
common rituals of Muslims for healing and
improved health are Sadqa (charity) or reciting
holy book or some specific verse of Qur’an. Sadqa
is one of ritual plasticized for protection and
improved health. “Benevolence known in Islam as
sadqa is an integral component of Muslim
religiosity” (Bensaid, et al. 2013).
Muslims healers or shamans are very dominant
culturally and their influence on the villages is
more. The people of the village have strong faith
on the spirit existence and the belief that Jinn can
cause mental illness in humans through affliction
or possession is widely accepted among Muslims.
“People hold the belief that there are spiritual
being e.g. demons, they could possess human
being” (Jimoh 2014). As it is revealed clearly by
Qur’an that spirit indigenously term as jinn are
chain to the will of Allah and there is no power
exist against Qur’an. “Islam classifies spiritual
beings into angel (malaikah) and jinns”(Jawaid
144
The belief among Muslims, especially women,
that religious interventions can cure emotionally
disturbed people may deter them from accessing
health services, leading them to seek help from
relatives or religious leaders instead.“When the
medical system fails to do so, then the patient
begins to look towards spirituality for healing in
other ways” (Jawaid 2014). The present study
aims to further expand the knowledge regarding
beliefs on ritual healing and different methods of
ritual healings adopted by shamans.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
The research was conducted in district Chakwal,
village Bhoun by using both qualitative and
quantitative tools. Questionnaires, interviews,
secondary sources such as articles, books were
used for gathering information about the cultural
perceptionfor illness and spiritual healing rituals.
Sample of 140 respondents were chosen through
random sampling. The cross tabulation for
statistical analysis has been used for having
better results.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
The people of village bhoun have strong belief
system of ritualistic healing. As there are spiritual
healer in the locality and people visit them to
seek advice regarding illness and other problems.
There are two Alams in the area, people used to
visit mostly. One of them named Peer Agha who
is the decedent of peer Alam Shah and there is
shrine of the Peer Alam Shah who was peer
famous for the dam for the victim of mad animal
bite. The other one named Qamar Shah famous
for all kind of damssuch as evil spirit and evil eye
etc. Let discuss the cross tabulated data.
Cross tabulated data
Table.1:Gender wise Inclination towards
different types of rituals
Different types of Sex of respondents
rituals
Male Female Total
1.Wearing
ta’wiz 0
2
2
(amulets)
2.Drinking
ta’wiz 0
2
2
(amulets) submerged
in water
3.Others
14
105
119
4.Both 1,2
1
14
15
5.Nothing
0
2
2
Practice of ritual healing
2012). Therefore all Islamic exorcisms and psychic
healings have to include recitations and prayers
from the Qur’an.
When one talks to Islamic spiritual healers (also
called Amils, Babas, Peers and Hakims etc.) about
their paths to becoming a healer, many give long
descriptions of the initiation into their work, their
spiritual ancestry and their psychic connections
to the saints. “Terms such as shaman, medicine
man, diviner, witch doctor, medium, healer, and
others are often used” (Winkelman 1990).
Because the Islamic world is not a monolith but
made up by many different cultures and
variations of the core belief, the practices,
initiatic paths and life stories of these spiritual
healers and Amils vary widely from region to
region. However they belong to mostly the
famous families and having spiritual ancestry.
“Spirituality comes from within and outside the
self” (Baskin 2002).
Some of the people having normal life style have
some kind of permission locally termed as Izzan
(permission) from Peers or Amils and they can do
dam. Dam is an act of reading specific verses of
holy book for spiritual healing but also for
physiological diseases to the patient. Healers
prescribed different activity to the patient
sometimes e.g.to wear charm which is written by
healers. The holy words and verses are in the
form of numbers written on to the page and
folded up to wear or even to drink. “Lucky
charms, amulets, and talismans have been found
in virtually all civilizations throughout recorded
history” (Wiseman 2003).
For physiological diseases i.e. headache or for any
other kind of physiological pains, healers often
prefer act of Dam (reciting of holy verses) upon
patient. “Those who were assigned to the care of
people in the culture attended to both their
physical and spiritual needs” (Jawaid 2014). The
choice of healer and type of healing ritual depend
on the nature of the illness, the cost, and the
availability of the right healer. There is a number
of other treatment approaches including regular
performance of prayers, exorcism, physical
punishment, use of herbal remedies, drinking
water mixed with paper with written verses from
Quran on it and others.
The people also visit shamans or healer for
supernatural powers such as nazzar (the evil eye).
3. Practice of dam and wearing of black thread.
145
superstitions. “Many of these beliefs and
behaviors are still with us” (Wiseman 2003).
Table. 2: Different types of illness or problems
Different types of Do you wear black
illness
or thread?
problems
Yes No Total
For physiological 68
13
81
problems
For pregnancy
1
0
1
For children
5
2
7
For evil spirit
1
0
1
For animal bite
5
1
6
For spirituality
28
3
31
For black magic
1
0
1
N.A
0
12
12
Total
113 27
140
For which problem do you prefer
healing rituals?
The cross tabulation of data shows the gender
wise inclination towards the ritualistic healing.
The first ritual is the wearing of ta’wiz (amulets).
Ta’wiz is simply, a written du’a from the Qur’an
or ahadith (holy verses) in the form of numbers.
It is written on a piece of paper and is worn
around the neck. Sometime this piece of paper
submerged in water and people used to drink for
illness as one of my respondent told me that she
was taking ta’wiz for gallstone. “The personal
beliefs influence illness prevention, coping and
recovery” (Jawaid 2014).
The data shows that out of 140 respondents; only
14 (10%) males use other methods of ritualistic
healing that includes different methods e.g. act of
dam (reciting of holy verses) or having some
specific thread in the arm (the thread is a kind of
amulet but it does not contain any written verses
but just have the effects of holy verses on it) or
having specific diet or some precautions
prescribed by the baba (healer), in case of evil
spirit as one of my respondent told me about her
prescription that she is totally prohibited to visit
any marriage ceremony, to meet a bride or
groom and about her diet not to eat beef
because it made evil spirit mad, spiritual beings
“assumes various form” and “their existence has
prompted much folklore” (Jawaid 2015). while
there are 105 (75%) female respondents uses
these methods and only one (0.71%) male
respondent that prefer wearing and drinking of
submerged amulets which is very less as compare
to female respondents i.e. 14 (10%).
In my interviews as I have selected randomly my
respondents male were less in number but only
some of them used the spiritual healing rituals.
So this data suggest that female prefer healings
rituals more than males, and they believe so
much on these methods of cure. There are
multiple reasons behind it as females of bhoun
mostly remain in house for whole day. They do
not have exposure as most of them were
housewives. The common activity for them to
visit shrines and other peers (spiritual healer) out
of area so they can find a reason for outgoing.
Females use the prescribed rituals for themselves
and for their family also. Some of my respondents
that do not believe in spiritual healing (those are
very less) said that the beliefs on healers is
The above cross tabulated data shows different
types of problems. For these individuals prefer to
perform ritualistic healings and the other
question is about black thread. In this village,
black thread is very common and in all age
groups, mostly people wear it for physiological
problems i.e. pain in the arm or leg. The black
color signifies the belief that it contains spiritual
essence and has the strong effects of dam
(reciting of holy verses). This black thread locally
termed as ganth people used to wear in arms and
legs. Mostly youngsters prefer to wear to show
off signify the fashion trend but the old men and
women wear it for strong belief that it can cure
their sufferings. There is belief that once you got
relief from sufferings
you should remove it but you cannot through it.
The ganth has the power of some holy verses on
it. The healer who has izzan (permission) to do
dam can form the ganth. “Ritual healing has
wider connotations” (Vashist 2013).
The purpose of this thread is just like amulets
that it has the spiritual effects of holy verses but
it does not have any kind of paper in it. Out of
140 respondents 113 (80.71%) people wear black
thread and 27 (19.28) do not, while 68
respondents i.e. 48.57% wear black thread for
physiological pains, And only 13 (9.28%)
respondents use other methods of ritualistic
healings for physiological diseases i.e. headache
fever, gallstones and even for viral diseases.
There was my respondent whose baby was
suffering from the mumps, she visited a local
146
Options
Do you visit sacred
places
(Darbar)?
spiritual healer to cure the disease, 6 (4.2%)
respondents uses healings rituals for animal bite,
31 (22.1) respondents for spirituality and 7 (5%)
for children (for protection from diseases and evil
eye) and only one for pregnancy and for black
magic. Shamans transform into other types of
“magico-religious
healing
practitioners”
(Winkelman 1990).
So the data shows that people of village bhoun
prefer healings ritual mostly for physiological
problems i.e. 57.8%. Community members go to
their local spiritual healer to seek advice for
improved health. “Those who were assigned to
the care of people in the culture attended to both
their physical and spiritual needs” (Jawaid 2014).
There are only 12 (8.57) respondents that do not
believe in ritualistic healing.
Table.3: Visit of respondent to the sacred places
Sex of respondents
Male
Female
Total
Yes
11
115
126
No
4
10
14
The above cross tabulated data shows the results
that out of 140 respondents only 11 (7.85) male
respondents visits sacred places while 115 are
the female visit sacred places, locally termed as
“Darbar” (shrine). All sacred sites in all settings,
natural and man-made, act as foci of spiritual
belief and expression.
In bhoun there is one Darbar which is very
famous and people often visit it, named “Peer
Alam shah” and the descendants of peer Alam
shah is, baba Peer Agha lived near Darbar
(shrine) and famous for the dam of the victim of
mad animal bite.
CONCLUSION
The following study concluded that the people of
the bhoun have strong belief on the spiritual
healing rituals and do perform different spiritual
rituals such as wearing of Amulets (ta’wiz), black
thread (Ganth), to visit sacred places (Mazzar or
Darbar) and spiritual healer or shaman (Peer,
Baba or Alam) for physiological diseases e.g. for
fever, headache gallstones etc. Mostly females’
visit spiritual healers as they have a lot of free
time, most of them are house wives. It is also
concluded that female of bhoun are empower in
decision making for their family as they are free
to visit any place of their choice for treatment or
problems. They visit local healers as well as
outsiders.
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2002 Circles of Resistance: Spirituality
in Social Work Practice, Education and
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and Mohd Yakub Zulkifli Mohd Yusoff
2013 Ethico-Spiritual Dimensions of
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Bell, Catherine
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Oxford University Press, Inc. New York.
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2014 Impact of Religion/Spirituality on
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Jawaid, Mhmood.
2012 The Nature of the Jinns. An
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Publication Date: Jun-30 -2016
© 2016 “The Explorer Islamabad” Journal of Social Sciences-Pakistan
148