Islam’s beautiful and detailed history in Africa was celebrated on Saturday at a historic event in Nkandla, which brought together thousands of Zulu Muslims from the rural parts of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Thousands of people were busses in from parts of the province to join in the cultural event, which saw Muslims gather to present Islam to the Zulu king and chiefs.Hundreds of members of the Mkhize family declare their belief in Islam to King Goodwill Zwelithini. Ambassadors of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar and other dignitaries were present.
The event commenced with the recital of the Quran as the audience praised Allah (swt) through thikr and salawaat. Zulaikha Mkhize, the mother of the ulamah in the Mkhize Household, delivered an inspirational speech on her journey to Islam.
Maulana Ebrahim Bham from the Jamiatul Ulama in Gauteng spoke about the Muslim contribution to Africa.
“Muslims have always been part and parcel of Africa. It is a fact that a substantial percent of the people in Africa are Muslims. It is a fact that Muslims have been at the forefront of growth and progress and when colonialism threatened Africa, it was Muslims and the indigenous people who fought against colonialism oppression. It was cooperation of the two that led to the most honourable and venerable civilisations that the world has ever seen – the Swahili civilization,” he said.Islam’s roots in Africa date back to the early 7th century, where followers of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) fled from the persecution of the ruling Quraysh tribe of Makkah. This event is regarded as the First Hijrah or the Migration to Abyssinia, which is present day Eritrea. The first group of emigrants, comprising eleven men and four women, was granted asylum in under Ashama ibn-Abjar, the ruler of the Ethiopian Kingdom of Aksum.
Bham made reference to the importance of the Swahili language, a language of the indigineous people of Africa. It has borrowed words from other languages such as Arabic probably as a result of the Swahili people using the Quran written in Arabic for spiritual guidance as Muslims.
“The word Swahili comes from the Arabic word ‘Sahil’. Sahil means ‘the coast’. The fusion of the two created a remarkable civilisation. When we look at the history, we hope that just like a just king gave refuge to Muslims, we hope once again a honourable king will give rise to a civilisation, like the Swahilis.The event was also attended by a delegation of ulema from the Muslim Judicial Council, including president Shaykh Irfaan Abrahams. Addressing the crowd on behalf of the MJC, Shaykh Ighsaan Taliep said he was overcome with emotion by the presence of Muslims from various African communities in KwaZulu Natal.
“For centuries, Islamic civilization harmonised indigenous forms of cultural expression with universal norms of its sacred law. It struck a balance between temporal beauty and ageless truth and fanned a brilliant peacock’s tail of unity in diversity from the heart of China to the shores of the Atlantic,” he began.“Allah (swt’s) brilliant words: ‘Oh human kind, we have created you from one sign pair of male and female. And we have made you into nations and tribes…in order that we can learn from one another and acknowledge one another and affirm each other. Indeed the most noble and the most honourable from among all of you are the most conscious of their Creator, Allah Almighty’.”
Taliep said Islamic jurisprudence over the 1400 years of its development have helped facilitate this “creative genius of unity in diversity”.
“The creation of Allah par excellence is this unity in diversity. In history, Islam has showed itself to be culturally friendly and in that regard had been likened to a crystal clear river… its waters like Islam are pure, sweet and life-giving but have no colour of its own. That water reflects the bed rock underneath it, which are the indigenous cultures of people over which those waters flow.”“And so in China, Islam looked Chinese. In Mali, Islam looked African. And so the sustained cultural relevance to distinct people’s diverse places and different times underlay Islam’s long success as a global civilisation. So with this event in Nkandla today, Islam in South Africa must more and more reflect the lay of our beautiful land and its African indigenous cultures. It cannot be overemphasised that that respect for the other’s culture is a supreme prophetic tradition of Muhammad (saw) and his Sunnah and in fulfilment of the Quranic exhortation.” VOC