Ni ti wumpu

“I hear the bad news”

My Chief died and hours later he was buried. It was all held at his home (the body of a Chief is buried inside his home) and by the time I arrived, it is as if I was late. Women were chanting part of the call to prayer: “La ilaha illallah” {Often translated to: There is no god except Allah}. Chiefs and elders from neighboring communities were already there. While his grave was being dug by immediate male family members, women cooked, sang and danced in the courtyard and the rest of the men sat patiently outside.

The mood was melancholy even though there was singing, dancing and drumming. It was subdued and beautiful. The body was then brought outside of the house and courtyard for the Salaat-ul Janaazah, or funeral prayer. This is a prayer every Muslim, young or old, man or woman, receives. However, only men participate in this prayer and with the body and Imam, they all face east as they would in their daily prayers. Elders then inspected the grave to ensure it had been dug properly and the body placed inside. The men gathered close around with the women surrounding them. Together they performed the burial adua

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Performing the burial adua

which did not involve facing east, bowing or prostrating. There had to have been at least 200 people in the Chief’s courtyard.

The men cleared out to allow the women to finish preparing the meal. This is done for people who, upon having heard the news and came straight away were unable to eat. Women took turns stirring the sa’abu, a local northern Ghanaian dish made of corn. A sheep had been slaughtered earlier and was served with this meal. As it is Ramadan, I do not know if anyone broke their fast and I saw no one openly eating.

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Preparing sa’abu

I was informed by one of the Chief’s nephews that in Macondo, no traditional ceremonies are observed and there are no taboos. The only non-Muslim tradition they perform is the singing and dancing which is part of their tribal custom. I might add that it is not a traditional Mamprusi song and dance as the people of Macondo come from further north and it is still remembered.

The community’s elders gathered outside and decided to hold the funeral adua in seven days. This will be a jovial celebration as the Chief was old and his many grandchildren will dance. The elders then passed out kola nuts to the other elders and chiefs of all the communities that came. All was done by eleven this morning.

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Macondo’s elders surrounded by neighboring community elders and chiefs

The final funeral rights will be performed at the end of the harvest season and before the new chief is selected and officially appointed by the Mamprusi King.

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Distributing food and people greeting and expressing their condolences.

N.B.: My community practices Failah / Tijani’a Islam. All that is described above is from my observation and asking my community members questions and may not be the same practice in other branches of Islam. Also note that burial and funeral customs are varied within Ghana and the above may be specific to my community alone.

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