Malawi Muslims, Yao speakers to be specific, have every reason to smile as they will soon have a Yao translated Quran at their fingertips. This has been recently disclosed by Sheikh Idrissa Muhammad Chairman of the Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM).
Confirming this pleasing development Sheikh Faruq Chibaya, MAM Project Manager, said the consignment of the Holy Book is expected to be in the country in a week’s time. He was quick to add that the container, which consists of some assorted items besides the Yao translated Quran, has 900 cartons of the Holy Book valued at over 3.2 million Kwacha.
The Yao translated version of the Quran is the brain child of Sheikh Muhammad Silika a University of Madina graduate. The translation project took him eleven solid years (2004 to 2015) – ten years for the actual translation and a year for reviewing exercise with some fellow sheikhs.
Selected samples of the Yao translated Quran have been airing on Radio Islam for some time now. Listening to the samples one could appreciate Sheikh Muhammad Silika’s mastery of the Yao language and that the translation has been long overdue.
According to Sheikh Silika the translation exercise has not been rosy. He has faced several challenges along the way, chief among them being lack of sponsors for publication of his work. When approached for assistance, some would-be sponsors told him point blank that the idea of having a Yao translated Quran was a nonstarter since Chichewa translated version of the Quran was already in circulation. This made him bitterly throw in the towel and accept that his work will probably never see the light of the day. Hence the resort to the method of airing it on radio as mentioned earlier on.
However, in 2015 the translator was made to believe that everything is possible and that more especially when things look the darkest the sun is just ahead. This was when Dr Uladi Mussa, out of the blue, came forth and offered to bankroll the reviewing exercise of the Yao translated Quran in millions of Kwachas.
After the reviewing exercise things seemed to have hit a snag again as far as finding the sponsor for printing the Quran was concerned. However, to put icing on the cake, a ready sponsor was identified – early 2016 – in the United Arab Emirates by the Chairman of the Muslim Association of Malawi, Sheikh Idrissa Muhammad. The sponsor was no other than Dubai Charity Association who welcomed the idea and bypassed all the red tape to have the Quran printed in record time.
The Yao translated version of the Quran, once in circulation, will put to rest the long standing irony of not having the translation of the Holy book in Yao the “official” language of Muslims in Malawi. 72 percent of the Muslim population in Malawi is ethnic Yao according the 2010 Demographic and Health Survey by the National Statistical Office (NSO).
The need for a Yao translated version of the Quran in Malawi cannot be overemphasized. The Yao people are spread over three countries Malawi, northern Mozambique, and in Ruvuma Region and Mtwara Region of Tanzania. They are also found in small minorities (migrants) in Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Random survey shows that there is growing thirst for a Yao translated Quran among the Yaos of these countries.
Perhaps the question that lingers in the mind of readers of this article is: once the consignment of the Yao translated Quran has been offloaded and kept safely at MAM offices, how will the distribution exercise be? Will it be free distribution? Or selling at nominal price? For sure, that is subject for another day.