The Maba of Chad and Sudan
A cluster of 3 closely related groups in 2 countries.
There are more than 350,000 Maba in Chad and Sudan. They speak a Nilo-Saharan language that is also called Maba, or Mabang. Maba is closely related to the Masalit and Runga languages. Many of the Maba also speak Arabic as a secondary or trade language.
Long ago, the Maba overthrew the Tunjur dynasty in Wadai and formed the backbone of the Wadai Empire, which dominated eastern Chad in the 1800's. In modern Maba society, chiefs and members of royal clans still possess a high degree of prestige and power.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The Maba are primarily farmers who raise millet and wheat as their staple crops. Horses, cattle, goats, sheep, and chickens are raised for their milk, butter, wool, eggs, and meat. They are also used for trade in the markets, as well as for animal sacrifices.
Stock breeding is another important economic activity for the Maba, and markets are widespread places of trade. Although the women help the men work in the fields, the men alone are responsible for clearing the land and doing other heavy work. The men also tend to the animals, trade at the local markets, and make important family decisions. The women are responsible for milking the animals, brewing beer from millet, and preparing a daily millet-based porridge. They also keep up with the domestic duties such as caring for the children.
Some of the Maba live in large towns. There, they live in huts that are clustered tightly together. Many others live in compact rural villages. Their huts are grouped into compounds surrounded by grass mat fences. The huts are usually made of straw with high, peaked roofs and are reserved for sleeping and storing grain. Other community activities, such as dances or local assemblies, take place either in the courtyards or in the central square. The village mosque and a straw-roofed pavilion for the elders are also located in the central square.
The sultan's palace is situated in the capital town for the area, Abeche. The sultan serves as head of the state and rules and directs the people through governors, district chiefs, and various other officials. He is usually the son of a Maba woman called the "Queen Mother," who is the widow of the previous monarch. This woman has high status and great influence among the Maba.
Maba marriages generally take place between a man who is in his 20's and a woman who is in her late teens. Polygamy (the practice of having multiple wives) is permitted; however, it is limitedóby Islamic traditionóto no more than four wives. When a couple marries, they usually live with the bride's family for two years, after which time they move into their own newly built house. A man's first wife acts as the "chief" over any additional wives. Only the first wife lives with the husband in his house. The others live in their own separate huts.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Mysticism plays a big role in the Islamic way of life. Muslims seek the truths of divine life and knowledge through a personal experience with Allah. This is done through repentance, meditation, spiritual changes, and ritual prayers.
A Muslim, by the law of the Koran, must follow certain guidelines. For instance, marriages are strongly encouraged, children are to treat their mothers with tenderness, and chastity in women is considered to be of prime importance.
What Are Their Needs?
The Maba still need the Bible to be translated into their language. They also need Christian radio and television broadcasts to be aired in their region. They especially need prayer so that the subtle deceits of Islam will be transformed into the Truth of salvation through the cross of Christ.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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