Prayer Profile
The Tausug of Malaysia

[IMAGE] A number of different peoples, known as the Moros or South Philippine Muslims, can be found on the islands of the Sulu Archipelago. Of these, the Tausug are, by far, the most dominant. The name Tausug means "people of the sea current." They probably came from northwestern Mindanao and arrived in the Sulu Archipelago as a result of Chinese trade. The Sultanate of Sulu was formed in the mid-fifteenth century. In 1762, the Sultan gave the British the Sabah Peninsula as a gift of gratitude for their help in freeing him from Spanish captivity.

Today, the largely Muslim people groups of the region are seeking to re-establish their identity, and governments are still arguing over sovereignty. A number of different peoples, known as the Moros or South Philippine Muslims, can be found on the islands of the Sulu Archipelago. Of these, the Tausug are, by far, the most dominant.

While the majority of Tausug reside on Jolo Island, 153,000 live in Sabah, West Malaysia. Although these Tausug enjoy significant freedom as Muslims, their cousins in the Philippines are locked into a bitter battle with the Filipino government.

What are their lives like?
The Tausug make a living primarily from fishing and small-scale farming. While some farmers still use the "slash and burn" method, most of the others raise rice in non-irrigated fields. The major cash crops are coconuts, coffee, and fruit. In addition, chickens, ducks, and cattle are raised for meat. Fishing is done from motorized boats in offshore waters, using nets, hook and line, and bamboo traps.

Most Malaysian Tausug live in small coastal communities. The smallest territorial unit is the household cluster. The next largest unit is the lungan (hamlet, or small settlement), which often includes related family members. Still larger is the kauman (community), which has a common name and a single headman. The Tausug lack a strong sense of community; thus, the unity of the kauman depends on such factors as the degree of intermarriage, the authority of the headman, and attendance at a common mosque.

The typical Tausug dwelling is a rectangular room with timber and bamboo walls. It has a thatched roof and sits on stilts six to eight feet above ground. The house is surrounded by a series of raised porches leading to a separate kitchen. Usually, a stockade is built around it for protection.

The ideal marriage among the Tausug is still one arranged by the parents. However, many of the young people today select their own mates. First and second cousins are favored as spouses. As children grow, they may study the Koran with a private tutor. When they are ready to recite, a public ceremony is held. A son is circumcised in his early teens, and it has been reported that daughters are also circumcised when they are six or seven. Girls help their mothers with household duties, and boys help their fathers with farming or fishing.

What are their beliefs?
It is not known when Islam was first introduced to the Tausug, but it may have occurred as early as the tenth century A.D. as a result of trade with Muslim Arabs. The Tausug have remained Muslim ever since that time, and have shown a great determination to fight for their independence. The Moro National Liberation Front is in continual conflict with the Filipino military.

The Tausug are Sunni Muslims of the Shafiite branch. However, like many Asian Muslims, they have retained a number of their pre-Islamic beliefs and customs. Their world is full of "environmental spirits" that may cause either good fortune or sickness. Their concept of life after death is a mixture of Islamic and ethnic beliefs. They believe that a person has four souls that supposedly leave the body at the time of death. They believe that the body of the deceased goes to hell, where his length of punishment is determined by his misconduct when living. However, they also believe that eventually all Tausug will reach heaven.

What are their needs?
The long-standing conflict over independence has left deep hurts and bitterness among the Tausug. Loving Christian workers are needed to minister healing to their wounds from the past. At this time, few Christian resources are available in the Tausug language. Bible translators and Christian media personnel are needed to provide tools for evangelizing these precious people.

Prayer Points

  • Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to the missions agency that is targeting the Tausug of Malaysia.
  • Ask the Lord to raise up qualified linguists to complete the translation of the Bible into Tausug. Jesus film will be made available to the Tausug.
  • Pray that God will supernaturally reveal Himself to the Tausug.
  • Pray that God will strengthen, protect, and embolden the Tausug believers.
  • Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Tausug bound.
  • Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
  • Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among the Tausug by the year 2000.

See also the following related groups:
of Indonesia, the Bajau and Joloano Sulu;
of Malaysia, the Bisaya, Northern Sinama, and Southern Sama;
of the Philippines, the Bajau, Bajau Kagayan, Central Sama, Kalagan, Magindanaw, Northern Sinama, Pangutaran Sama, Southern Sama, Tausug, and Yakan.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Tausug
  • Country: Malaysia
  • Their language: Tausug (Sulu)
  • Population: (1990) 136,300
    (1995) 153,500
    (2000) 169,900
  • Largest religion: Muslim (Shafiite) 99.5%
  • Christian: <1%
  • Church members: 767
  • Scriptures in their own language: Portions
  • Jesus Film in their own language: None
  • Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
  • Mission agencies working among this people: 1
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 26,900 (18%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 8,400 (6%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 18,500 (12%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 126,600 (82%)
  • Country: Malaysia
  • Population: (1990) 17,891,500
    (1995) 20,139,900
    (2000) 22,298,700
  • Major peoples in size order: Malay 33.2%
    Han Chinese (Hokkien) 8.7%
    Tamil 7.2%
    Han Chinese (Hakka) 7.1%
  • Major religions: Muslim 50.5%
    Chinese Folk-religionist 24.3%
    Christian 8.9%
  • Number of denominations: 41

© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center

This profile may be copied and distributed without obtaining permission
as long as it is not altered, bound, published
or used for profit purposes.

[Home] [Calendar] [Country List]