“Mandingos are Dirty; They take Bath in Tea Kettles”

As told by Mohammed Dukuly

The Mandingo ethnic group is one of the 16 or 17 ethnic groups in Liberia. Most Mandingos in Liberia are Muslims. In fact in Liberia, many see Islam as a Mandingo religion and sometimes do not make the distinction between the religion Islam and the ethnic group Mandingo. In some quarters, the direct translation for a mosque is translated is “Mandingo people church.” As part of an Islamic ritual, Muslims perform what is called Ablution, which is the cleaning and purification of the body before prayers or Salat.  A Muslim has five obligations or what is referred to as the five pillars of Islam. One of those pillars is to pray five times a day. And before each prayer, Muslims perform ablution for the purpose of purifying or cleansing the body. This means that a typical Muslim will perform ablution at least five times each day. Below are the steps involved in ablution gathered from the website Islamic City.

Ablution before Prayer

Ablution before Prayer

  1. Wash the hands up to the wrists, three times.
  2. Rinse out the mouth with water, three times, preferably with a brush whenever it is possible.
  3. Cleanse the nostrils of the nose by sniffing water into them, three times.
  4. Wash the whole face three times with both hands, if possible, from the top of the forehead to the bottom of the chin and from ear to ear.
  5. Wash the right arm three times up to the far end of the elbow, and then do the same with the left arm.
  6. Wipe the whole head or any part of it with a wet hand, once.
  7. Wipe the inner sides of the ears with the forefingers and their outer sides with the thumbs. This should be done with wet fingers.
  8. Wash the two feet up to the ankles, three times, beginning with the right foot.

Normally in Liberia, a Muslim performing ablution will use water in a tea kettle. Some Liberians mistake such Islamic ritual of ablution for a bath and therefore assume Mandingos (whom are normally the only Muslims they see) take baths in tea kettles. Hence the stereotype that Mandingos are dirty because they don’t take bath but only use water pour from a tea kettle to wash their hands and feet came about as a result. END


3 thoughts on ““Mandingos are Dirty; They take Bath in Tea Kettles”

  1. The information provided here is quite accurate but one does not have to take ablution for each of the five daily prayer provided he or she does not fart, deficate, or urinate. Farting, defecation, or urination are the only reasons one has to take ablution. So in between prayer, if you have not done any of the above, you don’t have to make ablution. You can use toilet tissues to clean yourself but that’s not sufficient. After using tissues, you must use water to purify yourself. In Liberia where we don’t have modern toilet with comode and sinks, people use kettle in the bathroom to clean themselves in case of urine or defecation. Then after that they will come out of the toilet and sit outside the complete the ablution.

    • Thank you Mr. Konneh for your input and clarification. when Mohammed Dukuky told me the story, he did not specifically say that ablution was required for every prayer. It was probably based on my own assumption since those things normally happen during the course of the day between prayers. Thanks again for the correction and clarification.

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