Lilongwe, Rabi Al Thani 27/June 4 (IINA)
Malawi is situated within the Central and Southern African regions, and is bordered by Tanzania to the north, northeast, and southwest while Zambia lies to the west<artdelim>, which means that Malawi is a landlocked country.
Malawi was one of Britain's colonial possessions for 73 years, and was then known as Nyasaland, until it became independent in 1964 and then resumed its ancient name of Malawi. Its first ruler after independence was Dr. Kamuzu Banda, but in the 1994 elections a Muslim, Bakili Mulunzi, was elected president.
Malawi has a total population of 9.9 million, with Muslims constituting between 33 and 38 percent, though the country's National Statistical Office (NSO) put the figure at only 13 percent, a figure hotly disputed by the Muslims themselves, who say that this is one way to show to the world that the Muslims in Malawi are far outnumbered by the non-Muslims. The majority of Malawi's Muslims live in the southern region of the country.
Islam came to Malawi well before the advent of Christianity, which came only in 1859 when Dr. David Livingstone, the famous British explorer-missionary, whose visit to Malawi was immediately followed by the arrival from Britain of several other Christian missionary organizations, such as the Universities Mission to Central Africa (UMCA), and others. But Malawi had come into contact with Islam for over 400 years, through Arab and Muslim seafaring merchants.
But true Islamic awakening in Malawi started in the 1970s, when more and more Muslim students who had left Malawi and gone to study abroad, in countries such as Kenya and Sudan, came back and started to enlighten more and more of their people on Islam. Then came Islamic organizations from outside the country, such as the Kuwait-based African Muslim Agency (AMA). As a result, more and more schools and other Islamic institutions began to be built. These include the Blantyre Islamic Mission, the Zomba Islamic Center, the Mangochi Islamic Center, the Salima Islamic Center, the Nkhota Kota Islamic Center, and the Mulanje Islamic Center.
Then the Muslims started to send their children abroad to obtain further Islamic education, to such institutions as the Madina Islamic University in Saudi Arabia. The Azhar in Egypt, the International Islamic University in Khartoum, Sudan, and the International Islamic University in Malaysia, among others. But such education did not prepare them for jobs back home that
needed technical or other type of secular education.
AMA also became involved in the construction of mosques, and by 1989 the country's total number of mosques was 600, some of them built on modern Islamic architectural designs.
However, on the socio-economic front the Muslims of Malawi have not fared well, in that many of them are poor, and are mostly hampered by lack of modern education, and therefore cannot be employed in lucrative jobs, be it in the private or the public sectors.
On the political front also they have not been an effective voice, in that out of 193 Members of Parliament, there are only 22 Muslims, and only two have been appointed to the Cabinet, notwithstanding the fact that it is headed by a Muslim President.
As pointed out, the Muslims in Malawi have lagged behind in education, and even now out of the 3,459 primary schools in the country, the Muslims have only 40 that they can claim to be their own, and only 12 secondary schools. That is why the Christian missionaries are taking advantage of the situation, and luring them to their faith by presenting them with educational opportunities, plus health, relief food, and other social facilities.
Among the foreign-based Muslim organizations that are active in Malawi is the Saudi-based World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), which has been active in many fronts, including the establishment of media channels for the Muslims of Malawi. In 1998 WAMY, in collaboration with the Muslim Youth Association (MYA) of Malawi established the Muslim Media Council of Malawi (MUMCOM).
The various Islamic Centers that have been established in the country also serve as educational centers. The students go to them for secular education in the mornings, and for Islamic Studies in the afternoon.
Those who do well go for further studies to such countries as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, or Pakistan, where they get undergraduate degrees in the Islamic Shari'ah, Da'awa, and the Arabic language, among other qualifications.
Lilongwe, Rabi Al Thani 27/June 4 (IINA)