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Day 5, July 13: The Sylheti Cult

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Day 5, July 13: The Sylheti Cult

The Sylheti Cult
For Day 05, Saturday, July 13

Past and present magic in Bangladesh

There are two strong influences in the Islamic faith of the Sylhetis — one from the past and one from the present.

The past

Eight hundred years ago, a Muslim “saint” and his 360 followers came to Sylhet, the most important city in the region of the Sylhetis, which today stretches from northeast Bangladesh to the neighbouring region of India. The Muslim defeated the ruling Hindu king, reportedly by his magical powers. In the following centuries, Islam spread from Sylhet into the rest of the Bengal. It evolved into a strong cult connected to the grave of the Muslim and his followers, integrating different mystic and magic practices. It is a common Sylheti Muslim practice on Thursday evenings to seek the dead at their graves for aid.

The present

More recently, the influence of orthodox Islam has been growing strongly. Every Friday, the mosques are filled with praying men. The Sylhetis are among the most conservative Muslims in the whole region. Bangladesh has the world’s fourth largest Muslim population, and Islam plays a big role in politics, life and the culture of the people. Islam is the state religion but freedom of the right to practise other religions is part of the Constitution.

The great need

There are about 11 million Sylheti Muslims. About 7 million live in Bangladesh, about 2 million in India and the rest scattered around the world. Many Sylheti families have family members who live and work abroad. Families that can afford it send their children to the Western world, mainly to Great Britain. The poorer families send their children to work in the countries of the Arabian Peninsula. Despite all this, the majority of Sylhetis still live and die in abject poverty.

Prayer ideas:

* Pray that the Sylhetis will soon have their own Bible and the skills to read it. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17)

* Pray that the Sylheti will find freedom and help, not from the grave, but from Jesus, who conquered death. “Our Saviour, Christ Jesus … has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:10)

* Pray for Sylhetis living abroad, that they would meet Christians who can tell them about Jesus and pass His message to their families.



Further Reading