Let’s learn about the situation of Islam and the Muslim community in Zimbabwe, a Southern African country, which is also home to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Victoria Falls, in five questions.
How large is the Muslim population in Zimbabwe?
Zimbabwe, with a population of approximately 15 million, has a Muslim community of around 120,000. The majority of this population consists of immigrants from India and Pakistan, while a small portion includes local people, North Africans, and Middle Eastern Muslims.
When did Islam reach Zimbabwe?
Islam’s introduction to Zimbabwe began in the 1500s through Muslim Arab traders who conducted trade journeys to the continent. Marriages between Muslim Arabs and the Shona tribe, the largest ethnic group in the region that was part of the Mutapa Empire at that time, contributed to the gradual increase in the Muslim population. During the colonial period, numerous Muslim laborers were brought into the country from India.
Which are the most famous mosques in Zimbabwe?
Zimbabwe has more than 40 mosques, with 18 of them located in the capital city, Harare. Additionally, there is a Muslim Youth Center. The KweKwe Mosque, known for its unique architecture and green dome, is located in the Midlands region. The Al Abbas Mosque, which houses an Islamic Cultural Center, and the Ridgeview Mosque, the largest mosque in the country with a capacity of 2000 people, bring together Muslims from all walks of life in Harare.
What Islamic activities and important personalities are there in Zimbabwe?
Zimbabwe is a country where the number of institutions, foundations, and associations providing Islamic education and support has been increasing every year. The Turkish Diyanet Foundation coordinates various activities with other foundations. Thanks to these institutions that support and uplift the Muslim community and enlighten the local population about Islam, the Quran has been translated into numerous local languages.
One of Zimbabwe’s most recognized Muslim leaders is Ismail Musa Menk, who actively uses social media and has a popular YouTube channel. Also known as Sheikh Mufti Menk, this orator and scholar was born in Harare. His father, who migrated from Gujarat, India, to Zimbabwe, is also a respected scholar. Menk completed his memorization of the Quran at a young age and learned Arabic and Urdu.
He received his university education in Medina. In 2010, he was listed among the World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims, and his videos are followed not only by Muslims but also by non-Muslims.
Another prominent figure is Naima B. Robert, who was born to a Scottish father and a Zulu (a South African tribe) mother in England but grew up in Zimbabwe. After converting to Islam in her 20s, she dedicated herself to serving Islam and has written numerous books, including Islamic books for children and halal romance novels for young adults. Her books and occasional writing schools have inspired Muslim women, and she participates as a speaker in numerous seminars and conferences alongside other recognized Muslim personalities.
What challenges do Zimbabwean Muslims face?
Considering the issues faced in Africa and globally, Zimbabwean Muslims generally practice Islam more freely. Although there have been occasional problems due to tensions in other African countries and news perspectives from the West, the local population does not harbor significant biases against Muslims. As a result, Muslims can practice their religion peacefully, free from conflicts and attacks.
However, during the 37-year rule of dictator Robert Mugabe, who governed Zimbabwe, he blamed the Islamic religion as the cause of conflicts in many African countries and expressed happiness that Islam had little influence in his own country and Southern Africa. After Mugabe’s regime, the government continued on the same path, resulting in a similar attitude towards Muslims. Consequently, in some areas, the Muslim population prefers to live in a more secluded manner, being relatively less visible and less active in promoting and introducing Islam to the local population, fearing possible harsh measures from the authorities.
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