Zambia’s growing Islam
The Islamic faith is steadily growing in Zambia, with many new converts crediting the religion’s peaceful teachings for steering them away from vice and crime.
“Islam isn’t a complicated religion. Unlike other religions in Zambia, Islam is easy to master,” new convert Hanif Mumba told Anadolu Agency.
He asserted that many youths like himself had turned to Islam in hopes of attaining spiritual growth.
“In Islam, there aren’t complicated rituals; it’s based on discipline. Provided a person masters the art of pleasing Allah, he will then be happy,” Mumba said.
“I have come to learn that, in life, a person cannot do everything, because life is too short,” he noted.
“Islam teaches us to focus only on doing things that matter the most,” he added. “For me, the thing that matters most is doing the will of Allah every day of my life.”
Mumba is not alone.
Suzgo Zimba, president of the Islamic Supreme Council of Zambia, confirmed that many Zambians were embracing the Muslim faith.
As evidence, he cited the increasing number of prayer areas being converted into mosques for congregational Muslim Friday prayers.
Zimba told AA that, in order for a prayer area to be converted into a Friday prayer mosque, it must serve more than forty households.
In Zambia, a standard household has at least six family members, if not more. Therefore, only a mosque that can accommodate at least 240 people is allowed to host Friday prayers.
Chawama, a township in capital Lusaka, has six mosques that have been approved to host Friday prayers, meaning the area contains no less than 1,440 Muslims.
“We have many mosques in Zambia that have been turned into Friday prayer centers,” Zimba noted.
“We have at least four mosques in every urban township across the country that have been turned into Friday prayer centers,” the Muslim leader asserted.
“The situation is also the same in rural townships,” he added, calling the steadily rising numbers of Friday mosques an “unprecedented development.”
“In every district across the country, mosques are being constructed to enable people to gather for prayers,” said Zimba. “This shows the rate at which Islam is growing in Zambia.”
He went on to note that young people constituted the majority of the country’s new mosque-goers.
“In mosques founded in towns, you find more youths attending prayers than elderly people,” he explained. “This shows that the Muslim population in Zambia is composed largely of youths.”
According to the US State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2012, Muslims make up roughly 1 percent of Zambia’s total population of 13.1 million.
Other youths interviewed by AA from different mosques in Lusaka and surrounding areas said they had been attracted to Islam because it is a religion of “many virtues,” designed to instill discipline in its adherents.
Musa Phiri, a 23-year-old Muslim convert from Bread of Life, a Lusaka-based Christian denomination, says Islam teaches people to combat selfish desires and temptations.
This, he believes, can lead a person to become a role model in society.
Phiri, who attends Friday prayers at the LICEF Center in Lusaka, explains that, like many other religions, Islam prescribes certain dos and don’ts regarding dress, social norms, culture and diet.
“At times, these tenets and teachings can be difficult to adhere to, but once you are used to practicing them, you are assured of a good change for life,” he told AA. “This in itself is what we call discipline.”
According to Phiri, Islam instructs young people to be grateful for every aspect of life, encouraging them to pray and seek guidance whenever selfish desires arise.
“Since I became a Muslim, I have made it my business to tell friends about my newfound faith to encourage them to develop courage and foresight,” he asserted.
“I think this will help in shaping the future of their communities,” added Phiri, who was himself drawn to Islam through interaction with Muslim classmates at school.
Adams Musole, a new convert who attends Friday prayers at the Chaisa Mosque in Chawama, stressed that Islam discouraged followers from spending time in unhealthy environments.
His imam, he recalled, had recently advised him to steer clear of surroundings that might negatively affect his new faith.
“Following these directives, I have developed a healthy friendship – not only with my friends, but with the environment as well,” 25-year-old Musole told AA.
He added: “I can now proudly call myself a ‘moderate’ Muslim.”
Musole, who prior to his conversion to Islam had been a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, says that reading the holy Quran had influenced him to embrace Islam.
Aisha Lengwe, another recent convert, was raised and baptized in a Catholic family and bore the Christian name Catherine.
She was introduced to Islam by her friends, who frequently told stories about Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).
Even before her conversion, Lengwe says she had been overwhelmed by a sense of internal tranquility.
“When I first embraced Islam, I didn’t really think it was going to affect my life very much,” the 23-year-old told AA. “I was wrong.”
According to Lengwe, most of her family did not immediately approve of her decision, thinking her conversion to Islam was not a good idea.
“Some of my Christian friends felt I betrayed them when I joined Islam. As a result, they have isolated me,” she said.
“On days like this, I prefer staying home to read the Qur’an rather than going out with friends, because in the time I spend reading the holy Qur’an, I see the benefits of being a Muslim covert,” Lengwe added.
Although it took her months to explain her new faith to her family, Aisha is happy that she eventually patched things up with her father.
Unlike other converts who are afraid to practice Islamic rituals in front of non-Muslim relatives, Lengwe is free to live the life of a good Muslim anywhere.
She hopes her family will gradually become more receptive to her change of faith.
Hanif Mumba, 37, became a Muslim because he wanted to be part of a bigger family and contribute to its growth.
“Focusing on doing things that will not please Allah will earn a person everlasting fire,” he told AA.
“That’s why a person… should focus on doing good things that will please Allah,” he added. “And this is what I have been doing in my five years as a Muslim.”