Most of the residents of Maguindanao classified themselves as Maguindanaon (64 percent), about 14 percent as Iranon; 5 percent, Teduray; and 17 percent, other ethnic groups.
Most Maguindanao follow standard Islamic beliefs and practices. Like any other Muslim tribe of the Bangsamoro, the Maguindanaon believes that the Qur’an, as believed by other Muslims, is the ultimate compilation of the words of Allah and is the source of all Islamic principles. Aside from the Quran, other Islamic sources of law include the Sunnah or Hadith (literally, "a way, a rule, a manner of acting") which recounts the deeds and sayings of Prophet Muhammad; and the Ijma and Iftinad, a revisable collection of the opinions of Islamic jurists. The Maguindanao believe in the six articles of the Islamic faith: (1) belief in the oneness of Allah; (2) belief in the angels of Allah; (3) belief in the books of Allah; (4) belief in all the prophets of Allah; (5) belief in the judgment day; and (6) belief that the power of good deeds comes from Allah alone (Maguindanao).
The Five Pillars of Islam are faith in one God and the four obligations of praying, almsgiving, fasting, and pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in one's lifetime. The concept of jihad or natural right to self-defense finds expression in the holy wars (the Jihad) of defense when Muslim land and religion are threatened. Warriors of jihad are guaranteed a place in sorga (heaven). The Muslims believe that the world divides into two spheres -- Dar-ar-Islam (Islamic Sphere) and Dar-ar-Harad (non-Islamic Sphere). The first subdivides into four territories: forbidden, namely Mecca and Medina; reserve, namely Iraq, Syria, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Egypt, Afghanistan, and other areas controlled by Muslims; canonical, where Muslims are allowed to practise their faith in a non-Islamic country like the Philippines; and irredentist, of which Muslims had control until they were forced out, e.g., Spain and Israel (Isidro 1976:46-52).
Although Islamic influence on the Maguindanao is supposedly deep, their religious culture has tended towards "folk-Islam", which has governed much of their ethics, politics and social behavior. Alongside the Islamic beliefs, indigenous religious systems survive. There is the belief in evil spirits and devotion to gentler ones. Belief in magic provides the Maguindanao with security in the face of immediate danger (Glang et al 1978:35-37). As early as the 17th century, the Englishman Thomas Forrest, noted that just as Islamic practices like circumcision are prevalent, indigenous practices like tiling and blackening one's teeth as acts of socio-religious devotion were still followed (Maguindanao).
The Maguindanao language is part of a subgroup of languages called the "Danao(plains) languages". The subgroup includes Maranao, spoken in the Lanao provinces; Ilanun (also Ilanum or Iranun), spoken by a group of sea-based people between Lanao and Maguindanao; and Maguindanao, mainly spoken in Maguindanao, Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat (McFarland 1983:96).
As Muslim lowlanders, the Maguindanao, possess a strong weaving and carving tradition (Casal et al 1981). As with all other Muslim groups, the Maguindanao are prohibited from representing animal or human forms in art. This led to the development of an abstract form of artistic representation in Maguindanao carvings and textiles. These designs are also carved on the weaponry and musical instruments of the Maguindanao.
For example the birdo (vine) motif usually embellishes the musical instrument called kudyapi, which may be shaped like a mythical animal resembling a crocodile (Darangen 1980:112-113).
Arms and weapons were also prominent in Maguindanao traditions. Maguindanao weaponry were virtually adapted by other tribes. They were not only used for war but were also used for religious purposes, sacrifices, traditions, and ceremonies.
A typical Maguindanao blade is the kampilan, usually handled with both hands, and used for cutting off heads or splitting the body from top to toe. The handle of the kampilan features the naga ("S"-shaped abstraction of a mythical serpent) in the form of a gaping mouth. The head above the mouth is usually adorned with reddish fibers, turning the handle into a manelike figure (Lane 1986:177).
Weaving was also an important part in Maguindanao culture as is with others. Known as Oulan, it is traditionally done on a very simple backstrap loom.
The Maguindanao malong (tube skirt) displays more commonly the ikat (literally, "to tie") design. Before weaving, the warp or weft or both yarns are secured with waxed threads. One common ikat design is the eight-pointed star, which is reminiscent of the "radiating-core" motif (Casal et al 1981:132-134).
Metalwork has been an important part in Maguindanao culture. It’s been widely involved in the production of brasswares, weapons, and others.
Silver inlaid lutuan (betel boxes), gadur (jarlike containers), and panalagudan (pot holders) epitomize Muslim brassware. Indicating wealth and status, these objects decorate the affluent Maguindanao home. The gadur come in pairs and are dignified objects with minaret-like tops (note the tower-like structure sprouting skywards as part of the enigmatic Taj Mahal). They are profuse with silver-inlaid scrolls and various geometric shapes. Betel boxes come in sets of four or at least have four compartments to accommodate the four betel chew: bunga (areta nut), buyo (fresh pepper leaves), apug (lime powder), and damp tobacco leaves. These brassware usually have either silver or white-metal inlay, and are ornamented with okir designs (Casal et al 1981:155).
Other metalcraft adorned with okir motifs are the sundang (sword), the gulok (knife), the panabas (long knife), the dilek (spear), the badung, the kris and the bongalambot, the hair clip worn by female royalty (Glang et al 1978:15).
Maguindanao pottery is made mainly through the "turn-modeling" technique, where a turntable, as well as a paddle, an anvil, and a broken rim, are used to mold and shape the pottery (Jose-De La Cruz 1982:8-9).
Maguindanao kadyun (pottery or earthenware) include the kuden (cooking pot for rice and viands), the lakub (vessel covers), the paso (tub for washing rice and vegetables), the buyon (drinking water jar), the kararo (small drinking water jar), the tampad (jar for storing water or salt), the baing (open front jar for parching coffee or grains), the simpi (a covered bibingka or rice cake baking pan), the dapuran (elongated, floored stove), the sinokuran (steamer pot), the binangka (a buyonlike jar but with decorated shoulder), the pamu-mulan (flower pot), the torsian (coffee pot), the ititi (tobacco jar), the tutugan (square ember holder), and the lagan (cooking spot for fish) (Scheans 1977:74-75).
Language, visual arts and crafts, and literary works are only a few of the many elements that comprise the Maguindanaon culture. These elements, however, are shared among other tribes in Muslim Mindanao. Other elements like marriage, weddings, and life cycles are intensified in other tribes— the Maranao as such. The Maguindanao also have common features of different ceremonies shared by other tribes within the Bangsamoro. In terms of language, however, confusions are inevitably created because of the strict resemblance. Faint distinctions is words and their uses must be noted so to fully identify their differences. Where the Danao tongue originate among the three tribes— the Maguindanao, Maranao, and Iranun— is still left unanswered.