Originally published By
Khalid Abubaker in www.onislam.net
Though Islam was the first divine religion to be introduced to Malawians, inaccessibility to education and anti-Muslim discrimination have largely affected the growth of the divine faith the southern African nation. “Over the years, after Christian Missionaries introduced schools across the country, Malawian Muslims went through undue pressure,” Dr. Imran Shareef, one of Malawi’s renowned Muslim Scholars, told OnIslam.net.
“They were not allowed to enroll in these institutions unless they renounced their beliefs and converted to Christianity.
“Those who were at pains to renounce Islam opted to stay at home. While those who were desperate for education had no choice, but convert to Christianity. This development affected Islam in Malawi for so many years,” Dr. Shareef said.
“Besides that, the leaning facilities didn’t meet the requirements befitting Islamic beliefs. This prevented Muslims from accessing education in these institutions,” he added.
Introduced in the 1880s, Islam came to the Southern African nation with Arab traders who spread across the African continent.
A few years later, Malawi was declared a British protectorate in 1892.
This declaration created a leeway for British Missionaries to come to Malawi to spread Christianity, as the British government worked to colonize the country.
“The missionaries in their desperation to kill Islam denied Muslims educational and employment opportunities. They were discriminated against on the basis of faith. Therefore, for the sake of livelihood, a lot of Muslims converted to Islam,” Dr. Shareef said.
“While those who didn’t convert to Christianity went through a painful experience, they were treated with ridicule and contempt as backward and uneducated. All these worked against the growth of Islam in Malawi.”
“It’s for this reason that most Malawians were not willing to embrace Islam. They were afraid of being discriminated against on the basis of their religion. Being a Muslim was enough reason for one to suffer economically”
Islam is the second largest religion in Malawi after Christianity.
Muslims account for 12 percent of the country's 14 million population. But Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) puts the number at 36 percent according to the census it conducted a few years ago.
In an attempt to reverse the Christianization trend, there has been a proliferation of local and international Islamic organizations which have invested massively in education pursuits.
“The emergence of the organizations has helped to boost the image of Islam and Muslims in Malawi,” Shareef told OnIslam.net.
“Muslims are now able to access education easily without any obstacles. There are schools all over for Muslims only with conducive learning facilities,” he added.
According to the scholar, lately, Malawi has produced Muslim intellectuals who are said to be very instrumental in accelerating the growth of Islam in the country and at the same time, contributing to the social-economic development of the country in equal measure with Christians.
“These efforts have paid dividends. Muslims nowadays are competing with their Christian counterparts, because they have the necessary education. Faith is no longer an obstacle to access any opportunities in this country,” he said.
Islamic Zakaat Fund (IZF) in Malawi has also provided scholarships over the past years to help needy Muslims access education both locally and internationally.
“We have been giving scholarships to children from needy Muslim communities to enable them attain at least basic education,” Muhammad Osman, 1ZF National Director told Onlslam.net.
“Under our auspices, we have also to send Muslim children to universities outside the country for tertiary education. This initiative has transformed the Muslim community in Malawi.
“We have managed to create an enlightened Muslim society in Malawi,” Osman added.
This initiative has enabled the country’s underprivileged Muslims to attain basic and higher education.
“Muslims are no longer feeling ashamed. They are now able to walk tall and feel proud of their faith. Islam has become a source of honor and pride and not ridicule”, said Shareef.