Around 18th century, Islamic activities in Malawi were confined at Masjid (Mosques) level by respective Muslim Scholars (Shaikhs) of the time. Such a scenario made Islamic work unrecognizable and not publicized at national level required for growth.
Muslims in Malawi have been victims of social amenities for many years. Major of all, Muslims were denied to access education. In March 1947, a realization came that Muslims were being denied access to secular education from schools run by Christians. This prompted Muslims to organize themselves and formed an Islamic organ called Central Body of Muslim Community, whose primary objective was to initiate secular education programs for Muslims.
Progressively, the established body ensured that Muslim children access secular education as well as Islamic Religious education in school and Masjids in their respective communities. The body established own schools in notable high Muslim population areas of Mangochi, Machinga, Balaka and Zomba.
Mid-way 1970’s Central Body of Muslim Community changed its name to Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM). The association was then registered as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) to be a spokesperson of Muslims in Malawi. It ensured that besides promoting secular and religious education, tolerance and social justice just to mention some is observed by Muslims in the country.
The Muslim entity, of the Muslim Association of Malawi, since, its inception has been led by different leaders. Chronologically, it has been led by Sheikh Rajab Kareem from Chiradzulu district, Lali Lubani from Blantyre, Mr. Mussa Gama from Zomba, Sheikh Hussein Mwarabu from Balaka, Sheikh Omar Wochi from Mangochi, Yusuf Kanyamula from Ntchisi and currently led by Sheikh Idrissah Muhammad from Mangochi district.
The Muslim Association of Malawi, a Youth Committee in the year 1977 was formed to spearhead the association’s activities. The Youth Committee carried its duties with guidance of the association.
The Youth Committee’s first chairman was Mr. Patrick Chilungo, followed by Alhaj Shaibu Itimu and thereafter Mr. Abdul Malik Ndaila Onani.
Lawe (Right) one of the deligates who traveled to Botswana in 1978
In 1978, the Youth Committee received an invitation to attend the first Southern Africa Islamic Conference in Botswana. The Malawi’s delegation was comprised of Brother Ibrahim Panjwan, Sheikh Khalid Ibrahim, Sheikh Twaha Katalama, Sheikh Rajab Karim and Alhaj Twaibu Lawe who is the current MAM acting secretary general.
At the conference it was noted that black delegates from South Africa, Botwana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and other countries introduced themselves as originally come from Malawi. This created excitement among the delegates from Arab countries and wished to visit Malawi and see for themselves some Islamic activities and programs taking place in Malawi.
In 1978, Dr Ahmed Totonji from Saud Arabia visited Malawi to appraise himself on Islamic activities/projects taking place in the country. He was taken to Mangochi and other areas where Muslims were in majority. He was impressed to note that Muslims were committed to Islamic activities despite lacking resources which could enable to undertake major Islamic programs.
In 1981the 3rd Southern Africa Islamic Youth Conference was organized in Malawi which was attended by high powered delegations from Saudi Arabia. After the conference, the delegation was taken around the country to appraise them on Islamic situation in the country.
Having noted that Muslims lacked financial resources to initiate credible Islamic activities and programs in the fields of education, health, propagation and income generating activities, they made financial support to the youth committee. The donation was used to establish Blantyre Islamic Mission (BIM), Bilali clinic in Chiradzulu, Chiwaula Islamic Centre in Mangochi, Ntaja Community Day Secondary school and Acquisition of Quran House plot together with three shops on it.
In the same year, a resource mobilization trip was organized to visit Kuwait. The delegation comprised Alhaj Shaibu Ali Itimu, Brother Muhammad Kulesi and Alhaj Twaibu Lawe.
In March 1982, Maulana Nadwi arrived from Zambia upon request made to Rabita to send a Scholar to teach in Malawi to curb the expenses incurred by sending students overseas for higher education. Upon arrival, he was appointed as a Principal for BIM.
In June 1982, Sheikh Saad Attalib arrived and he was attached to Dowa programs. Dowa work expanded due to his efforts. Later on, he was involved in Islamic projects, and he constructed Masjids, some schools and acquired MAM office block in Lilongwe. He carried the above Islamic activities up to 1988 when he faced deportation.
In 1986, the Youth Committee was dissolved under the chairmanship of Brother Abdul Malik Ndaila Onani.
Sheikh Muhammad (Left) with a donor aid representative from Kuwait
Then let’s look at the reign of current MAM chairman Sheikh Idrissa Muhammad. Sheikh Muhammad was elected chairman of MAM in 2011. According to the research done by Malawi Muslims Official Website has revealed that before Sheikh Muhammad coming to power, for about 20 years, foreign donor aid stopped coming to MAM.
It was the period which other Islamic Organizations both foreign and local were actively engaged in Islamic projects directly without channeling their projects though MAM like constructions of schools, Islamic centres, Masjids, provisional of relief items just to mention but a few.
Having taken the leadership, Sheikh Muhammad made resource mobilization visits to Gulf States, appealing for resumption of the lacked donor aid. The exercise to him about three years before he was trusted by the donors. Having gained confidence in him, Kuwait, Dubai, Qatar and Saudi Arabia resumed aid to MAM.
Some of the projects undertaken are Masjid constructions which have been constructed in Lirangwe, Nampate village in Machinga plus an Islamic centre, Chiradzulu, Lizulu in Ntcheu, Lilongwe, Chilipa village in Liwonde, Makanjira in Mangochi, Blantyre, Zomba and Thyolo.
MAM has also done something on education, like rehabilitation of Zomba High School, Chowe primary school in Mangochi and Namwera primary school in Mangochi.
Muslim Association of Malawi under the leadership of Sheikh Idrissa Muhammad has been distributing the food relief items (maize) in different districts and some of them are, Chikwawa, Kasungu, Nkhotakota, Nchinji, Dowa and Makanjira in Mangochi.
In part of social welfare MAM distributed ten wheelchairs (Tricycles) to persons with disability which was conducted at MAM Headquarters at the function presided over by Sheikh Idrissa Muhammad.
Boreholes were drilled in many areas to provide portable water to the communities in order to curb contraction of water borne diseases.
As one way of incoming generating project, with the assistance from a Kuwait donor, MAM carries out goat farming at Gada farm at Chadzunda in Blantyre.
The interprise is providing to be viable and it needs sustenance. Apart from the goat farming, MAM is also rearing chicken/poultry farmingwhich is also done at the same Gada farm. The proceeds from such activity enable MAM to acquire a two ton vehicle. This is the first time MAM has acquired a vehicle from own run projects.
On the future plans MAM is having under the leadership of Sheikh Idrissa Muhammad once given the second chance to lead Muslims in the country, It wishes to improve its image like working relationship with local and foreign Islamic organizations.
MAM wants to work with the government of the day inorder to benefit from the government development agenda.
On construction projects, MAM is planning to establish Islamic university. Constructing secondary schools in many areas to improve Muslim student’s intake into the senior schools.
It is also planning to construct primary schools in areas with high Muslim population to supplement government and missionary owned schools that do not give full cognizance of Islamic requirements like Hijab dressing.
Mam also wants to source donation to construct a full fledge hospital which will provide Islamic environment and also sourcing a donor to construct a multi-story buildings in Blantyre and Lilongwe for income generation to support MAM projects and activities