Introduction / History
Tamasheq is the more polite term for the Tuareg people, but the latter is so well-established that we will use that term instead. The Tuareg are a subgroup of the larger Berber group. The Berbers are the original peoples of North Africa who have been there for hundreds or even thousands of years. As a Berber subgroup, the Tuaregs stand out because of linguistic differences. For example, their unique alphabet uses "tifinagh" characters. They also differ from other Berbers because of their complex social organization. The Tuareg are divided into several main political groups or tribal units. You can often identify members of the Tuareg people by their blue clothes. They are also unique in that the men, not the women, wear veils. The Tuareg see it as shockingly indecent for a man's mouth to be seen by anyone to whom he owes formal respect. Therefore, he will always cover his face when in the presence of someone of higher social standing. Although the Tuareg homeland lies to the north of Nigeria, major droughts in 1972 and 1982 forced the nomads to travel southward in search of pastures for their herds. Thousands of Tuareg drifted to the cities, where they set up cowhide shelters and lean-to shanties on the fringes of town. Many never returned to their homeland. Today most of them are permanently settled either in Mali or Niger, but a smaller number of them are in Nigeria or France.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Tuaregs have a highly complex social structure. The main division is between the Ihaggaren (upper class nobility) and the Imrad (lower class servants). In the past, each of the noble tribes and their servants formed a political unit under a chief. The chief's authority was symbolized by a drum. The "drum chief" held supreme political and judicial authority in the group, regulating relations between the nobles and the servants. Tuareg marriages usually take place between couples within the same clan, or extended family unit. Marriages between cousins are preferred. A newlywed couple generally lives for about a year in the camp of the bride's parents, then they will move over to the husband's camp. The typical age for marriage is between 20 and 25 for women and almost 30 for men. Monogamy (one husband, one wife) is the rule, and divorce is very unusual and generally frowned upon. Marriage always requires the payment of a bride price. The size of the gift varies according to the beauty and social standing of the bride, as well as the wealth of the groom. A young man needs quite a few camels to pay the bride price. He must also accumulate a large enough flock to feed his family and still have extra to sell to provide for his household needs. Tuareg women are treated with respect. However, they are not allowed to hold political office or exercise authority outside their own tents. Unlike most other Muslim women, they are not required to wear veils. In direct contrast to Arab custom, Tuareg men wear veils called tidjelmousts; the women do not wear veils. The main function of the veil appears to be social, since the men often leave their faces uncovered while in the family camps or on journeys. However, to show respect, they always cover their mouths, noses, and foreheads while in the presence of foreigners or their in-laws. The most preferred veils are dyed indigo. Tuareg culture embraces many forms of art. They have a large collection of music, poetry, and songs that are often used during festivals, courtship, and various rituals. Metal, wood, and dyed and embroidered leather crafts are manufactured by skilled craftsmen. Women play single-chord violins called imzads, and men often play drums or wooden flutes. Parties are frequently held around campfires during the evenings, where both men and women sing.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Though Tuareg Tamajaq people in Nigeria are virtually all Sunni Muslim, they have a reputation among other Muslims for being lukewarm in their faith. They practice a passive form of Islam, infused with folk beliefs and magic. Most do not even celebrate the most important Muslim fast of Ramadan. It is very common for Tuaregs to wear protective charms or amulets. Many also believe in jinnis, which are-according to Muslim legend-spirits capable of assuming human or animal form and exercising supernatural influence over people. Marabouts (those of the "holy class") live among the Tuareg, some manage Islamic schools. This spiritually deprived people for whom Lord Jesus died and rose again depend upon good works to pay the penalty for their sins. They depend upon the spirit world for their daily needs because they regard Allah as too distant. They believe that Allah may determine their eternal salvation, but the spirits determine how well they live in their daily lives. Consequently, they must appease the spirits. They often use charms and amulets to help them deal with spiritual forces.
What Are Their Needs?
The greatest need of this people group is to hear and understand the infinite love of Almighty God who has paid the penalty of all their sins. They need to be set free from fear and domination of evil spirits that dominate their lives. Who will go to the Tuareg people in Nigeria?
Pray that mission organizations and churches will accept the challenge of adopting and reaching the Tuareg in Nigeria. Pray that gospel broadcasts will soon be produced in the Tawllemmet language. Ask Lord Jesus to send loving Christ follower to Nigeria to share the gospel with the Tuareg people. Pray for God to use the distress of terrorism to draw the Tuareg Tamajaq people in Nigeria into a relationship with his son. Pray for the Tuareg to put their faith in Christ, and for a strong Disciple Making Movement.
Scripture Prayers for the Tuareg, Tamajaq in Nigeria.