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Religious Studies

The Concept Of Sin In Igbo Land, A Case Study Of Dikenafai




This project work is about the concept of sin in Igboland which centers on the people of Dikenafai. This study explored how the people of  Dikenafai and the Christians sees sin. The type of sin, sources of sin, consequences and remedies of sin and some questions about sin were raised; can man live without sin? Are sins equal? Is abstain from sin morally right?. The phenomenological method was adopted on the cultural significance on the concept of sin and historical approach was used. The research found it imperative to employ the use of primary and secondary sources which have to do with oral interviews, documented works, published and unpublished books on the research. Lucas L. M. Sem’s theory of punishment and Christus Victor theory if atonement was adopted for the study. It was discovered that the people of Dikenafai saw sin as an act against the gods and the land, which can cause huge set back to the community. The researcher also discovered the possible ways the people use to avert sin and also purge it away from the land. The study recommends, that some of the African practice in African religion that abhors sins should be brought back. irrespective of the religion and some traditional ways of purification should be brought back for the land be cleansed.


Sin is one of the terms that lacks a particular meaning. It has different meaning or translation in Igboland, it is an alienation from God which can destroy one’s image.

According to Augustine of Hippo (354-430CE p.50) sin is “a word, deed, or desire in opposition to the eternal law of God.”

In Dikenafai sin is not separated from the religion of the people. That is any sin committed by an individual affects both social and religious life of the people. In order words, it has both social and religious dimension and also it affects the individual who committed the sin.

In Dikenafai, for example the amount of punishment melted or given to an individual for stealing is not the same given to someone who commits adultery. In Dikenafai when one steals yam, goat and is caught the item which was stolen is been hung on the individual’s neck and the individual is being dragged round the community. But if caught in the act of adultery the culprits are stripped naked with palm front hung on their necks and ashes poured on their bodies, taken to the King’s palace then to the market square.

Stealing or adultery are considered as grievous sin against the land and the gods of the land, so the culprit are taken to the shrine for cleansings in order for them to able to socialize with other members of the community again.


This research work titled “concept of sin in Igbo land case study of Dikenafia, is a research work carried out in order to educate the reader about the various consequences of sin in Dikenafai.

In Dikenafai, consequences and punishments are determined by the type of sin committed by the individual.

For example, in Dikenfai when one is caught stealing, the item which was stolen is been hung around the person’s neck and taken round the community. But in the case of adultery, the culprits are stripped naked, ashes are poured on them, and they are taken to the king’s palace then to the market square where the chief priest come to take them for cleansing.

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When a sin is committed and the culprit is not cleansed he/she will he excommunicated from the rest of the people in the community. The individual cannot buy or sell to any one, nor will he attend any social functions or fetch water from the same stream with the people of the community.

The idea of sin (Njo) entails certain prohibitions (Nso). An examination of this term to the real meaning of sin in Igbo land

The word (Nso) written and pronounced in the same way, has two different but correlated meaning. In its negative sense, it means what must be avoided or that which is prohibited. On the other hand, it simply means “abhorence/prohibition”

However, this two senses cannot be altogether divorced from each other, the two senses of the word appears to be correlated because every holy thing spirit. Priest shrines and so on are surrounded by a set of prohibitions. It would appear therefore, that prohibition creates or preserve the status of holiness (Nso) while the breach of prohibitions (Nso) results in pollution to unholiness. Nso is therefore sacred prohibition. “No are prohibitions and it is a general belief of the Igbos that when a person commits pollution, he offends the higher powers (on whom he depends) Pollution (abomination or aru) severe the relationship between the higher powers (God, other minor divinities), ancestors and individuals.


Sin is a transient act until it is obtained, the sinner is said to be guilty of the sins committed. He is deprived of the brightness of the soul and deserves punishment.

The sinner is deprived of the sanctifying grace, that is if he dies in the state of sin So a sinner has to make effort to be redeemed from the harms of sin through reconciliation, confession. prayers and sacrifices. This is the teaching of Christianity.

In Igbo culture, the effects of sin are easily known as evil therefore the offender must pay for it, either with his life or through an escape goat or in cash.

Remain, ‘good’ out of the lowest type of service fear, “he could avoid evil because is a big offence entails fat sacrifice for the victim which would altogether cripple him and eliminate from the earth.


The purpose of the study on “The concept of sin in Igbo land: a case study of Dikenafai” is to explore and understand the cultural, religious, and societal understanding of sin within the Igbo community, with a particular focus on the Dikenafai. The study aims to investigate how the concept of sin is perceived, interpreted, and practiced in this specific geographical and cultural context.

Key objectives of the study include:

  1. Cultural Exploration: To delve into the traditional beliefs, customs, and rituals of the Igbo people, especially those related to the concept of sin in Dikenafai. This would involve understanding how the community defines sinful acts and their impact on individuals and the community as a whole.
  2. Religious Perspectives: To examine the role of religion, particularly indigenous Igbo belief systems and Christianity, in shaping the understanding of sin in Dikenafai. The study may explore how religious practices and teachings influence moral codes and the consequences of sinful behavior.
  3. Social Implications: To analyze how the concept of sin affects interpersonal relationships, community dynamics, and decision-making processes within Dikenafai. This could involve studying how the fear of sin or the pursuit of righteousness impacts the social fabric of the village.
  4. Historical Context: To provide a historical overview of the evolution of the concept of sin within the Igbo culture, tracing its roots to traditional beliefs and how it has been influenced by the introduction of Christianity and other external factors.
  5. Comparative Analysis: To compare the understanding of sin in Dikenafai with other Igbo communities or neighboring cultural groups. This could shed light on variations in interpretations and practices of sin within the broader region.
  6. Contemporary Relevance: To examine how modernization, globalization, and other social changes have impacted the perception and handling of sin in Dikenafai, and whether there have been shifts in attitudes or traditional practices.
  7. Recommendations: Based on the findings, to propose recommendations or suggestions that may help preserve and promote positive aspects of the concept of sin in Dikenafai, while addressing any harmful or outdated practices.
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Conclusively, the purpose of this research is to contribute to the academic understanding of the Igbo culture and its beliefs regarding sin, as well as to provide insights that may be useful for cultural preservation, intercultural dialogue, and promoting a better understanding of diverse value systems.


This research work made use of two methods, the methods of data collection (primary and secondary sources) and the methods of data interpretation and application (historical, phenomenological).

Under data collection we used primary and secondary sources.

Primary Source: This has to do with the first hand information or data collected directly from the people about the work (oral interview).

Secondary Sources: This has to do with information gotten from textbooks, journals, internet and magazines.

Under data interpretation and application we have Historical and Phenomenological

Historical: This work made use of historical sources because it has to do with history of  Dikenafai and the history of Igbo’s on the concept of sin. This method involves researching and analyzing historical documents, records, and texts related to the history of  Dikenafai and the history of Igbo’s. This method allows for a deeper understanding of the factors that have shaped attitudes, beliefs, and practices regarding the concept of sin over time.

Phenomenological: This work made use of phenomenological source because it deals with the interaction of humans.


The scope was primary restricted to attitude of the people of  Dikenafai towards sin, how it affects them negatively this work encounters a lot of provlems from respondents. It took a lot of time to convience some of the essence of the study. Some were very skeptical to answer some of the questions as it also falls on Igbo land as its case, people’s notion about sin.

Also the study focus on Dikenafai, the study is limited to investigation the concept of sin in Dikenafai.

Against divine law, each culture has its own interpretation of what it means to commit a sin. While sins are generally considered actions any thought, words or act considered immoral, shameful or alienating might be termed “sinful”.

Also sin is term used to describe either an action that is prohibited in religious ethics or law. Sin is any action or inactions that goes against what is expected from human kind by the creator and mars the relationship with God.


This project work will help create awareness on the concept of sin and it’s consequences, sin has really eaten deep into the root of Dikenafai so with the help of this work the reader will learn

These effects vary according to the nature of the sin. The Igbos know fully well that there is no smoke without fire, therefore have their own ways of finding out the cause(s) of evils and of seeking a remedy,

The fortune teller then prescribes for him ways of escape from the evil inclination of those capricious and indignant spirits. This is a way of escaping from the evil effects of sin.

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In the olden days, babies that are born twins are not killed, because killing itself is a kin but they are put in an earthen ware pot and left in the bush to die. That is why the meaning of the effects of sin can only be of the cosmic order.

The effects of being in a state of sin are the most feared aspect of sin in Igbo land Hence fear is the driving force and failure to win the favour of sacrifice would make life unbearable” socially, if the crime is known by the culprit he is cut off from social communication, he is excommunicated from the market and if he dies he is not to be given full burial rites.

For the sin of complaint a wife may have to offer a sacrifice to the ancestors and family spirits, if she complains that her husband starves her, the older relatives hears and determine the veracity or otherwise of the allegation. If it is found to be false she has to offer a sacrifice for the remission of her sin.

She has to withdraws her accusations and pleads the priest (the “okpala or oldest man in the family and possibly the family spirits to forgive her)

Sin in Igbo context is very infectious; an offender will spread his pollution or effects to other people, animals or things which come in contact with him. Even the closest victims: for instance in the case of suicide by hanging, the relatives of the individual involved are believed to be defiled if they touch his body. His body is removed by a priest or Dibia/Medicine man and carried to an evil forest (Ajo Ofia) where he is buried. Unless the purification rites are preformed at the suicider’s compound and the area where he hung himself remains in a state of defilement. That is why it is a big crime to hide any sin in Igbo land. The defaulter feels uncomfortable for the sin he has committed, so he goes to the shrine to be cleansed then after the purification: he feels that the ancestors and good spirits are behind him to help him. He gets a renewal of courage and faces life with renewed strong feeling of excitement and lessened pessimism. The culprit who has atoned for his abomination feels forgiven, cleansed and free.

During the prayers for the cleansing of the effects of sin, the spirits are asked to remove evil men. Most prayers conclude with a petition for harmony and mutual love in the community. Example “let the kite perch and the eagle perch, which ever that says that the other will not perch let it’s wings break off” (ka egbe na ugo bere nke na-asi na onye nke ozo agaghi ebe ka nku ya kwapu). With these prayers, a person who is in charge of the shrines is to be careful of his actions because if he uses his authority to intimidate people the gods may be annoyed with him thereby letting evils to befall him. This is also applicable to other individuals, a person could about the damages sin can cause and it is left for him to decide to go ahead and commit sins or This project work will help to find out the religious and cultural beliefs and other factors that may delay the progress of the reality of this project.

Pages:  60

Category: Project

Format:  Word & PDF               

Chapters: 1-5                                          

Source: Imsuinfo

Material contains Table of Content, Abstract and References.


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