Sheikh’s Passion Puts Smiles on Millions of Malawian Muslims

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There are people who live in a dream world, and there are people who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other, so goes the popular saying.

Have you ever had a dream that would not only put a smile on your face but on the faces of other millions of people as well even though you don’t know them? What about doing something good for your community regardless of who gets the credit at the end of the day?

Meet Sheikh Muhammad Abdul-Hamid Silika – the Muslim character you will rarely meet these days in the Malawian Muslim community . This is a person who has practically taught the entire nation the true definition of patience and perseverance after he solely translated a Holy Qur’an into the Yao language.

It has been a long-awaited dream of many Muslims in Malawi to have a Holy Quran translated into Yao language but finally this dream came to reality on December 31, 2016 when the translated Qur’an was finally launched in Mangochi.

The project took Sheikh Silika, a University of Madina graduate, ten solid years and six months of which, the ten years was for the actual translation and the six months was for a review exercise.

About fifteen sheikhs were involved in the six-month review exercise which was sponsored by Dr Uladi Mussa.

In an interview with Malawi Muslims Official Website, Sheikh Silika said he was happy that his dream has finally come true.

“I am more than happy today that the Qur’an is finally here,” he said.

Sheikh Muhammad Silika

The Genesis

In an interview with Malawi Muslims Official Website’s Omar Nkachelenga last year, Sheikh Silika said the translation exercise has not been an easy exercise.

“I faced several challenges along the way such as lack of sponsors for publication. When approached for assistance, some would-be sponsors told me 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 me bitterly throw in the towel and accept that my work will probably never see the light of the day. So, I opted for audio recordings which I have been doing on Radio Islam,” he told our reporter, Nkachelenga.

However, despite the audio recordings Sheikh Silika still had faith in Allah that Muslims in Malawi would see the Qur’an in print version and finally, Dr Uladi Mussa came to the rescue. Dr Mussa sponsored the reviewing exercise with 15 million Malawi Kwacha.

After the sheikhs finished the reviewing exercise, the worry now was on getting the sponsor for printing the Quran. However, in early 2016, the National Chairman of the Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) Sheikh Idrissa Muhammad identified a donor, Dubai Charity Association from United Arab Emirates that offered to sponsor the printing of the Qur’an.

For a start, Dubai Charity has so far printed 20,000 copies which are now already in circulation following the launch.

“The Qur’an is sold at MK1, 500 [$2] each . This money will be channeled to Majilis Ulama account for further translation of other Islamic literature,” announced the MAM Chairman during the official launch.

Sheikh Idrissa also thanked Sheikh Muhammad Silika and the review team for their selfless efforts, Dr Uladi Muassa for sponsoring the review exercise and Dubai Charity for printing the Qur’an.

According to the 2010 Demographic and Health Survey by the National Statistical Office (NSO), 72 percent of the Muslim population in Malawi is of a Yao tribe.

The Need

“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,” Malawi Muslims Website’s Nkachelenga reports.

This is why Sheikh Silika revealed that the translated Qur’an consisted of other types of Yao language spoken in neighbouring countries like Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe and other parts of Tanzania.

“I am a Malawian but I was born in Tanzania. I also stayed in Mozambique for years. In all these countries, I saw that the Yao spoken is different. So, when making the translation, I put this into consideration so that they too, should benefit. Therefore, to make it easy for everyone, the Qur’an has a special page which has definitions of some words which other Yaos from either of the countries might find difficult to understand,” he said.

The Translation cost

People have talked much about 15 million kwacha which was spent on the six-months of the review exercise, but what about the ten years of translation?

Said Sheikh Silika, “It’s very hard for me to say how much I have spent on this exercise. This is because I was using my personal stuff so it was difficult to keep records for ten years. The project was based on passion and my willingness to give back to the Muslim community. What I wanted was to finally see the Qur’an translated and printed which has happened. This is what makes happier than what I have spent.”