08 April, 2011

Masjid: Mosques of Eastern Africa II

Uganda, which has about 36% or so Muslims, is one of three Eastern African counties which is a member of the Organisation of Islamic Conference. Uganda too, has the largest and most advanced Islamic university in Eastern Africa. And unlike the other countries, Islam came to Uganda in the mid 19th Century from Sudan in the north and also from the east through the coast and inland networks of the East African coastal trade. As for the other Eastern African countries: in Malawi, Muslims make up about 36% of the population; in Zambia, it is hard to get a good estimate of the number of Muslims there, but estimates put them at about 10% ; same goes for Zimbabwe, where it is estimated that about 10% of its population are Muslims; in Burundi, Muslims make up about 10% of its population. And Rwanda, where about 15% of the population are Muslims - here is a country that has seen so much suffering and misery in the last few years, and yet it is recovering so well; it is a country too, that is so welcoming to Islam, that, in the last 15 years, more Rwandans per-capita have converted to it than in any other Eastern African country; this fast rise in the population of Muslims is the result of what happened during the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 when in less than three months, hundreds of thousands of mainly Tutsis, were slaughtered in the most brutal and horrific of ways. In all these Eastern African countries, there are many mosques. Some Mosques in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe:

Malawi is a beautiful country. Dotted in many parts of this small country, in villages and towns are many mosques; some, small and some large. Some old like the above and some new, like below.
The larger mosques are in a few large cities like Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Salima.
To be in any part of Malawi, there is a mosque not far away.
Even here, even in some remote places of the country, can be found the Hadharem from Hadhramout. Mainly traders. Some, even from Mukalla. Amazing.
There aren't many Hadharem in Zambia. And there aren't many Muslims here. Yet, of late, Islam is growing very fast here. And many mosques have been or are being constructed in many parts of the country. Today, unlike a few years ago when being a Muslim here was sort of odd, Islam is a part of Zambia.
Magical Rwanda: a country of mountains and many lakes. And a country whose many people are now turning to Islam and mosques for peace and guidance. Recently, Muslims here launched their own website promoting Islam. In Rwanda too, especially in Kigali the main city, there are some Hadharem. Today, Kigali is one of the cleanest, safest, and fastest growing cities in Africa. 
Green Masjid Al Fat'eh, Rwanda
During the horrific Rwandan genocide when hundreds of thousands of mainly Tutsis were slaughtered, many Rwandans took refuge with Muslims or in mosques. In 2004, ten years after the genocide, it was estimated that the country had about a million followers, or about 15 percent of the population. Which would represent a doubling of their numbers in the10 years from 1994 to 2004.
Masjid Al Fat'eh, Nyamirambo, Kigali
One of the most known suburbs in Kigali is Nyamirambo. In Rwanda and here in Kigali, the Muslim community is small but this suburb is overwhelmingly Muslim. Nyamirambo, the oldest part of Kigali, is where the oldest mosque in Kigali - Masjid Al Fatah - is located; Nyamirambo, the poorest part of the city, reportedly did not experience the horrific genocide, and was considered a safe haven by those fleeing the slaughter.
Burundi: a country similar to Rwanda in many ways. There are a few Hadharem here. And here too, Islam is growing fast. And there are many mosques, mainly in towns like Bujumbura.
Zimbabwe, with all its many problems, is seeing a rise in the number of Muslims. Harare has a few beautiful mosques. Many more mosques are being built in other parts of the country.
Uganda: here is country that I know so much of and have spent some of the happiest moments of my childhood in. Here is a country that is so beautiful that whoever visits it can't help but be awed by its abundant wildlife; and lush, green fields, mountains, valleys, rivers and lakes
Here is a country that has one of the most vibrant Muslim communities in Africa. Especially around Kampala where most of Uganda's Muslim population live.
Kampala is a city of hills and valleys. On top of one of these hills, is one of the largest, oldest and most popular mosques in the country: the Kibuli Mosque. The land on this hill once belonged to a Muslim royal member of the Baganda, who donated it for the building of the mosque. 
Gaddafi Mosque, Kampala
On Old Kampala Hill, in the 1970s, through funding from Saudi Arabia, construction started on the largest mosque in Uganda. Due to wars, misuse of the funds, it was never completed. Over 20 years later, the Libyan Leader: Muammar Al'Qaddafi decided to fund the project and complete the mosque. The building was started from scratch; and nothing was spared to make it the most outstanding and most magnificent building in Kampala. It is reportedly the biggest mosque in Africa.
Gaddafi Mosque
It was opened in March, 2008 and is said that the mosque's men's praying wing, can accommodate over 5,000 people, the gallery 1,100, while the terrace seats another 3,500; it has too, a spacious women's prayer wing. The entire mosque can seat 15,000 people. It has a state-of-the-art library with thousands of books; a  modern conference center and an underground parking place for hundreds of cars. The Libyan government has been footing its maintenance costs.
Qaddafi Mosque, Kampala
Muslims first came to Africa during the Prophet's time when they fled persecution in Makkah, to Ethiopia. A short time after that, Muslim emissaries and preachers arrived on the East African coast in places like Lamu and Kilwa. From the 8th Century onwards, with time: Omani rulers, Hadhrami merchants and Persians spread Islam even more along the East African coast; and inland. Today: millions of East Africans are Muslims. And wherever you go in Eastern Africa, you will find a mosque.

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