The Jaaliyin of Sudan
The Jaaliyin claim to be direct descendants of the prophet Mohammed, the founder of the Islamic faith. It seems more likely, however, that their original ancestors are the Nubians and that the Jaaliyin gradually adopted the Arab culture.
This group of two million people live in small villages and cities along the banks of the Nile River. The area is very hot and dry, with an average yearly rainfall of about three inches. In the summer, which lasts from April through November, daytime temperatures can reach as high as 120 or 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Jaaliyin are easily recognized by their facial scars, many of which are in the form of a T or H. The scars are a sign of tribal pride and are even more common on the women than on the men, for they are considered a sign of beauty. The Jaaliyin are a very close tribe and quickly identify with each other, coming to another’s aid in the event of trouble or during times of celebration.
Some Jaaliyin still farm and raise livestock along the banks of the Nile River, but today they more commonly consist of the bulk of the Sudanese urban population, forming a large part of the merchant class. Although many have moved to cities, such as the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, they still maintain their tribal identity and solidarity. In some cities they live in quarters inhabited solely by Jaaliyin, and they oppose marriages to people outside their tribe. Famous for maintaining ties with their homeland, they keep in contact with their original home and return for frequent visits, especially for marriages, funerals and Muslim festivals.
The Jaaliyin men regularly practice polygyny, although, as declared by Muslim law, they never have more than four wives at one time. The man has complete authority over his wife (or wives) and children, and he arranges and controls the marriages of his sons and daughters.
Their Beliefs and Needs
Like so many other Sudanese people groups, the Jaaliyin follow the Islamic faith, and are generally very committed Sunni Muslims. Only a small percentage of the Jaaliyin have been exposed to the Gospel in a positive way. This has mainly been accomplished through penetrations by Sudanese believers into the Jaaliyin areas. Churches comprised of Southern Sudanese members and evangelistic outreaches led by national Christian groups have helped reach the Jaaliyin. They are a people who are critical in reaching the whole of Sudan, for they are the pulse of the cities and a key stone in breaking through the Islamic grip that holds the nation of Sudan.