Despite experiencing the hottest days while the Northern Hemisphere is freezing, Zambia, a South African country, attracts tourists with its lush nature, rich safari opportunities, and the Victoria Falls that pour into the Zambezi River. But what is the situation of Islam and Muslims in Zambia? Let’s answer this in five questions. Enjoy reading!
What is the Muslim Population in Zambia?
With Christianity being the official religion in Zambia, the exact Muslim population is not clear due to the last census being conducted in 2014 and its unreliability. It is estimated to be much higher than the official figure of 59,000. While this number represents less than one percent, Muslims claim that their population is between 3% and 5%. Besides the native Muslims, a significant part of the Muslim community is made up of people from India, Pakistan, the Middle East, and other African countries.
When Did Islam First Appear in Zambia?
Islam entered Zambia in the 14th century through the emirates established by Arab merchants along the East African coasts. Merchants who settled in neighboring countries such as Malawi, Tanzania, and Mozambique introduced Islam to Zambia when they moved to the country over time. The real influx of Muslims to the country started during the colonial period. The majority of these Muslims were Indian laborers brought to the territory known as Northern Rhodesia at that time by the British.
Which Are the Most Famous Mosques in Zambia?
The number of mosques in the country is increasing every year, and the cleanliness and maintenance of these mosques are remarkable. Mosques that set an example for the entire ummah, with their immaculate towels, soaps, and fragrant carpets in the ablution areas, are filled with loving and supportive congregations during both obligatory and Friday prayers. Some mosques have madrasahs and Islamic schools providing primary and secondary education. While some mosques allow the call to prayer (adhan) to be recited inside the mosque, in most mosques, the adhan is recited outside. Jaame Masjid, located in the capital, Lusaka, is the largest mosque in the city. Chipata Central Mosque in the Chipata province, neighboring the Muslim country Malawi, attracts attention with its unique architecture.
Seeing a mosque and a Hindu temple side by side in the capital, Lusaka, is a sign of peaceful coexistence between the Hindu and Muslim communities in the area, which originated from India.
Which Organizations and Muslim Figures Stand Out in Zambia?
As Zambia is a predominantly Christian country, there are fewer Islamic activities compared to other countries. Due to the government’s reluctance to endorse major events and gatherings, Muslims mostly strive to introduce themselves and make their voices heard through charity work and interfaith dialogue activities. The International Educational and Research Academy (IERA), an international da’wah organization, exerts its utmost efforts to invite people to Islam in nearly every city, especially in the capital, Lusaka. The organization notes that the number of Zambians converting to Islam is increasing day by day. Muslim Sisters United International is a small but effective organization where Muslim women are active.
Although the majority of Muslims in the country are of Indian origin, imams and educators from the local population have a broader impact. Sheikh Sıddık Kaputula, serving at the Bulangillio Islamic Center in Kitwe, is one of the valuable scholars who emerged from the local community. While it is quite common for Christian clerics to give sermons in public places, especially on buses, the idea of a Muslim doing the same was inconceivable. However, Sheikh Sıddık Kaputula became the first Muslim to give sermons to passengers on a bus. Although he faced negative reactions from priests and the public initially, he won hearts with his beautiful manners and sincerity, even gaining respect from the priests. You can find his beautiful videos on social media. Sheikh Taha Chiwala, who passed away in January of last year, guided and introduced Islam to many Muslims, mainly among the local population, in the Makeni region. We frequently hear that imams are loved by the people and are closely involved with their congregations’ troubles throughout the country.
What Challenges Do Zambian Muslims Face?
The Zambian people treat Muslims with great tolerance. The generous and charitable nature of the wealthy and active Muslim population is well known. Zambian Muslims, who are free from the problem of Islamophobia experienced worldwide, establish primary and secondary Islamic schools to educate conscientious Muslim youth. Thanks to meticulously inspected halal certificates, the number of restaurants offering halal food and products in halal-certified markets is increasing day by day.
Of course, the Muslim community has made patient efforts for many years to build Islamic schools, madrasahs, and mosques in the country. Therefore, they are cautious and avoid large-scale activities due to concerns about possible restrictions and the loss of existing rights.
Due to security concerns related to the law, official procedures do not accept photographs with veiled women. (Similarly, wigs, hats, and other accessories are also rejected.)
Although there is complete freedom of dress and worship in regions where the majority of Muslims live, difficulties are reported in fulfilling practices such as wearing the headscarf and performing prayers, depending on the region, schools, and individuals.
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