Religiosity on the rise in post-revolution Tunisia
By Monia Ghanmi for Magharebia in Tunis – 03/08/12
Tunisia has witnessed a surge of religiosity within society following the liberation of mosques and the support of religious freedom.
According to a recent opinion poll by Sigma Conseil and daily newspaper Al Maghreb, 87 per cent of Tunisians were interested in religion.
The poll also revealed the adherence of a large number of Tunisians to religious rites in accordance with the Maliki Sunni school of law. Nearly two-thirds of Tunisians perform the five daily prayers regularly, half at home and the other half in mosques.
The poll also found that two-thirds of Tunisians fast the entire month of Ramadan, as well as on some other religious occasions. Only 10 per cent of
Tunisians said they rarely fast or do so for only a few days during Ramadan. The number of Tunisians performing the Umrah (minor pilgrimage) also increased after the revolution, according to the religious affairs ministry.
The poll concluded that the importance of religion in Tunisian life varies according to age groups. It is higher for those who are over 55 years of age and lower for those less than thirty-years-old. The poll revealed also that women were more religious than men.
The month of Ramadan represents one of the most important events exemplifying the spread of religiosity across Tunisia. Worshiping increases during this month and mosques experience throngs of people, especially on Fridays and during the Taraweeh prayers.
Sami Akrout, a youth enthusiastic to perform his religious duties, said: "I have prayed regularly since I was almost four years old and I did notice that there is a strong resurgence of religiosity, especially among young people."
Ali Ibn Amor is another young student keen to perform his religious rites, despite the time constraints and the temptations of youth.
"Religious duties are my priority in life before everything else. This practice guides me to work hard and well, to be tolerant and to maintain high morals," he said.
The number of women praying in mosques has also increased, despite the many burdens borne by each one of them during the holy month. Some make sure to accompany their husbands while others accompany their friends.
"We know that the prayers of Taraweeh are not obligatory, yet their performance is rewarded by God," commented Aisha Bouraoui, a woman in her forties. "I make sure during this month not to miss a single one of these prostrations." She added that most women in her neighbourhood go to mosques to pray.
Salwa Jabnoun began praying Taraweeh in the mosque three years ago. "I have discovered that being present for Taraweeh prayers in a mosque gives the power of faith and a great sense of happiness and peace of mind which reflect positively on behaviour," Jabnoun said.
But for some Tunisians, religious practices are tied to important holidays. Alaeddine Yahiaoui said that he only practices his faith truthfully during Ramadan.
"I know that fasting in Ramadan is one of the most important acts of worship that gives the believer God's reward. It is also an opportunity to accustom oneself to staying away from sin and from illicit acts," Yahiaoui added.
In spite of the many manifestations of religiosity in society after the revolution, some perceive this to be superficial.
"Unfortunately, religion has become a form and not behaviour," Raouf Hamaid said. "In appearance, there is an increase in the number of religious people and attendees of mosques. In reality however, there is a decline in ethics and good behaviour."
Subscribe to our newsletter and get Magharebia's latest articles delivered to your inbox.