Whether we like it or not, we have to accept that the HIV/AIDS pandemic has indeed hit the whole Malawi nation and Muslims are not exceptional. Muslims are dying in silence with the few of them declaring their status. This is so because the so-called Muslims leaders at large are not doing enough in spreading awareness and sensitising the Muslim community about the dangerous of HIV/AIDS, what they know is just to preach about Zakaat and the dangers of Jahanaam.
Last year, Muslim Sisters Aids Network released a report where over 200 out of its 1000 members were living positively with HIV/AIDS and according to unconfirmed reports the number is increasing every day. When Malawi Muslim Official Website carried an article about the prevalence rate, some people started to accuse the organisation for communicating those figures to the public, saying ‘it is sensitive’. Sensitive with what? The accusers can better explain it. Or are we happy to see our own beautiful sisters and brothers, daughters and sons dying at a tender age?
Men are mostly to blame because some merely take pride in cohabiting with several women. Although Islam allowed polygamy, it is not an instruction that has to be taken for granted. Polygamy has its own rules that are clearly sanctioned in the Holy Quran.
Some morally corrupt men do marry three or four wives but you will still find them cohabiting with other women. When you ask them, they will tell you that women ‘amapanga makani komanso mwano’ (they do not listen to their husbands and so rude). Brothers and sisters, it is high time we do some stocktaking on our deeds.
To make matters worse, the youth who are the supposedly future leaders are in the same bandwagon of promiscuity. They do not care about their future and therefore catches the HIV virus at a tender age. Chances are that full blown AIDS will catch them up most probably as they finish their college education and will die without the community benefiting anything from them despite the fact that their parents spent a fortune in investing in their education.
The youth are so engrossed with the Western lifestyle so much so that they do not want to listen to advice nor seek guidance from Muslims leaders. They think that the Imams’ role is just limited only to leading prayers, solemnising marriages, and conducting burial services and so on. But is that all what we should expect from our Imams?
However, due to the lack of communication, our community has been caught up in an abyss of an HIV/AIDS infected generation, which unfortunately, is not even aware that they are infected since most of them shun blood testing centres. This means that they can not live positively in the absence of proper counselling and medication. Worse still, our leaders do not take time to sensitise people of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and other social problems engulfing our communities.
How many people can have courage and do like what sister Jamilla Rhoda Katambo of Zambia did?
The 58 years old Muslim woman who comes from a community with largest numbers of Muslims called Matero, in Lusaka, Zambia was tested HIV/AIDS positive in 2005 but she had the courage to tell her family though it was not an easy task, but at the end, it has saved her life, she is free and strong now.
“When I tested HIV positive in 2005 I was shocked. The problem that first came to my mind was, how do I tell my family? Then, how do I tell the wider community? In Muslim circles, women cannot speak about sexuality and condom use openly; this is regarded as taboo. After overcoming my anxieties, I disclosed my status first to my immediate family. But after seeing my fellow Muslims dying from HIV in denial and silence, I decided to share my status with the wider community,” sister Rhoda said in her article published on Peace X Peace website.
One thing which made my spinal code chilling is that this woman have been sidelined by the Muslim community in Zambia for being positive but she had a courage with the support of the Zambia Interfaith Networking Group on HIV/AIDS (ZINGO) and the Non Governmental Organization Coordinating Committee (NGOCC).
“Not everyone in the Muslim community has welcomed or received the declaration of my status favourably. In fact, some have openly called for my exclusion from all activities in my religious community. This has not discouraged me, though. I now believe that Allah has a purpose for me: to serve and save others. If you are not infected, you are affected, even in Muslim circles,” she continues.
One other thing I can applaud Zambia is that of unity. They are really united in as far as fighting this pandemic is concerned. Sister Jamilla is a member of Lusaka Muslim Women’s Organization (LUMUWO). The executive committee of the organisation has 10 members, all of them women and they have about 100 donors – while in Malawi, may be with the exception of a few organisations, have no traditional donors that they can be associated with.
It is high time that Muslim organiations in Malawi that deal with issues of HIV/AIDS should be united and move with a collective approach towards combating this pandemic; otherwise the Muslim community is bound to perish.
We do not have to wait for the death of our son, daughter, or cousin to start standing up and say ‘AIDS IS REAL LETS DO SOMETHING’? Let us change our mentality and focus all our energies towards eradicating this pandemic entirely from our Muslim community. Spiritually, Muslims should have been reading about the HIV/AIDS only on newspapers or just hearing them from the radio had everyone heeded the injunctions from the Holy Quran!
People should repent their actions, totally abstain from promiscuity and stick to their legally married partners. For those wayward people, they should go for an HIV test now and get counselling on how to start living positively should they be found with the virus. By that, I think we shall have an HIV/AIDS free Malawian Muslim community in the long run.