SOME OBSERVATIONS Frederic Ntedika Mvumbi, O.P Nairobi (A seminar paper delivered at the 6th meeting of African-German Catholic Bishops, Volta Hotel, Akosombo, Ghana, October 10 -16, 2004) Statistics on Islam (1999) in some countries (from CIA world fact book, Washington, DC)1 Algeria 99%, Benin 15%, Burkina Faso 50%, Chad 50%, D.R Congo 7%, Ivory Coast 60%, Djibooti 94%, Egypt 86%, Ethiopia 47%, Ghana 30%, Kenya 7%, Libya 97%, Malawi 20%, Mali 90%, Mauritania 99%, Mozambique 20%, Niger 80%, Nigeria 47%, Senegal 92%, Somalia 98%, South Africa 2%, Sudan 70%, Tanzania 35%, Tunisia 98%, Uganda 16%

It is a happy and wholesome thought that this paper be titled: “Islam in Africa Today”. The reason for treating the title “Islam in Africa today” is that Islam, which Africa encountered yesterday, has substantially changed nowadays. Perhaps Islamic doctrine and practices remain the same but the approach of many Muslims has been more or less modified due to some influences “urbi et orbi”. The arrival or the foundation of numerous Islamic brotherhoods and organizations is both a blessing and a curse because some are more or less tolerant and some others have introduced more fundamentalist ideas. However, Islam remains known to some Africans and unknown to some others, attractive to some and scary to some others, maybe familiar to few and strange to many. The book of Emilio Platti “Islam...Etrange?” discloses the fact that Islam is still an enigma to many Africans.2 Islam has affected and continues to affect many Africans today that its study seems to be, for me, an inquiry into the very life of Africans. In other words, a review of Islam in Africa today, is the study of Africa itself. It is an analysis of African happiness and sadness, problems and solutions; it is the study of African soul. Due to this importance, the Church in Africa never overlooked the relationship between Christians and Muslims that this was one of the issues debated during the Synod “Ecclesia in Africa..” 3 Moreover, meetings, seminars and conferences on this issue have been held in our various dioceses. Most of our Dioceses have created commissions for Interreligious
1 2

Cf. www.nuradeen.com/currentIssues/IslamIn Africa.htm

Cfr. Emilio Platti, Islam...Etrange? Au-dela des apparences, au coeur de l’acte de l’Islam, acte de foi. (Paris: Les Editions du Cerf, 2000), p.7.

Cfr. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation “Ecclesia in Africa” of the Holy Father John Paul II. No. 65-66.


2 dialogue. Many Bishops and priests, while instructing the faithful in the love of God and neighbors, include references to Islamic doctrines in their Sunday homilies and sermons to make known to the faithful some rudiments about Islam.4 For many of our faithful, Churches and Chapels are also classrooms because they are the only places where they receive preachings as well as teachings. Mac Silvester says the preacher must relate his preaching to the lives of the faithful, to their everyday needs and problems; he must answer their questions.5 Again, detailed courses on Islam are taught in many of our Seminaries and Catholic Institutions. Do we need more initiatives in this field? Let me be begin by making four observations: first, whoever studies Islam as a religion exclusively will not understand the way of life laid down by Muhammad, for such a person ignores the religious, political and social context in which Islam was founded and spread in the world, in this case, in the North, West, East, South, Central of Africa and the Horn of Africa. This context continues to stimulate Muslims in Africa, perhaps more than yesterday. Often I speak of Islamdom instead of Islam. Second, Islam was a singlehanded enterprise at the very beginning but right after the death of Muhammad up-todate, Islam contains multiple expressions. Islam remains one maybe with the authority of the Qur’an but diverse due to what goes into it and what comes from it. This is the type of Islam that came to Africa. I prefer to talk about Islams in plural than Islam in singular. Third, those who write on Islam in Africa should consider the fact that Africa is one and multiple. That is the continent Islam meets. Geographically, culturally, politically and economically, the six African regions are distinct. Thus Islam in Africa, as elsewhere, is influenced not only by the specific characteristics of each region but also by the conditions it encounters. We should therefore expect to have different Islamic features in each part of Africa.6 Four, Religion as a partie integrante of our daily life, has always been one of those major expressions of Africans. Unfortunately, Religion, which should be a way of life, has become a tool of many individuals, groups and associations, especially these last two decades. Historically speaking, this situation was aggravated not only by the spread of Islam in Africa but also and above all by its revival from the beginning of the 19th century. This truth is confirmed in the history of Sudan, Chad, Ivory Coast and Nigeria where religion has not only become a divisive force and a decisive source of political legitimacy but also a tool for mass appeal and mobilization.7

Frederic Ntedika Mvumbi, Preaching with Islam in mind. Thomas Aquinas: a model. in Preaching in Contemporary Nigeria no.1(Ibadan: Dominican Institute, 2003), pp. 145154.

MacN Silvester, Gauging sermon effectiveness (Dubuque: The Priory Press, 1960), pp. 28-29 Lewis, I.M.(ed) Islam in Tropical Africa. (London: Indiana University Press, 1980), p. 173.
7 6


Iheanyi M. Enwerem, A dangerous Awakening. The Politicization of Religion in Nigeria (Ibadan: IFRA, 1995), p. 13.


This study is merely an attempt to analyze critically the life of Islam as we discover or meet it in Africa today. It only provides a comprehensive knowledge of few points. Thus new forms of Islam, causes and influence of fundamentalism in Africa will be underlined. In addition to these issues, we intend to examine the external influence of Islam in Africa; human rights and Islam in Africa and the major obstacles towards a fruitful dialogue between Christians and Muslims will be highlighted throughout. As a matter of fact, we need to know Islam and work with the Muslims for the growth of Africa as a whole.

2.Islamization or Arabization of Africa?
Islam and Arabic are two distinct words but many Africans do confuse them or take one for the other. This confusion is also carried over to the concepts Islamization and Arabization. Islamization was or is a gradual transmission of the Islamic religion as more and more conquered peoples embraced Islamic faith. Many Africans, from North to South and from West to East, accepted the religion founded or renewed by Muhammad. Thus, we can say that there are Islamized. However, Arabization was or is the transmission of not only Arabic language but some essentials of Arab culture. These two processes happened in North Africa where Islamization and Arabization took place jointly. North Africans embraced Arabic culture and as time went on they became Arabised; arab culture became ipso facto their identity. Though they are not Arabs but they have been Arabized. However, we notice that Arabization of North Africa slowed down during the last five decades because of the influence of Western civilization. Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia are the major countries which fall into this case. The two phenomena continued in the North of Sudan, and the Sudanese in the north consider themselves as part of the Arab world. As a matter of fact, Arabic is the mother tongue; and Islam is the faith in the north of Sudan. The South remained traditionalist and Christian because Islamization process was delayed, even banned, by the British policy (1898-1955); on the contrary, Christianity was encouraged. Unfortunately this British policy, in one way or the order, led to the foundation of a religious apartheid system, the source of the two Sudanese civil wars. There is no dialogue between the Arabo-Muslims in the North and the Traditionalists and Christians in the South. Islam spread slowly in the South but Arabization proceeded faster. Apart from this isolated Sudanese case, the whole Sub-Saharan Africa received more the religion than the arab culture; religion made exceptional inroads into African life. So we talk more about the Islamization of sub-Saharan Africa than about its Arabization. Nevertheless, Arabization is not entirely absent. The handicap of Arabization is remarkable in Southern Africa, probably because Asians did not directly bring by the Arabs but Islam; Southern Africa was greatly influenced by Europeans and Asians who settled even in the remotest areas. The first Muslims settlers came from India:
The Cape of Good Hope, which served the Dutch East India Company primarily as refreshment station for its fleets plying the Far East trade, simultaneously functioned as an effective place of exile for political leaders whom the Company had dethroned in its

Eastern possessions. Most of these political exiles were Muslims, accompanied by a following of coreligionists.8

Muslims in Southern Africa received more westernization than arabization, but Islam found its way and made some converts. A similar explanation could be given concerning Islam in West Africa, although with some variations. First, Islam in West Africa owed less to Arab conquests but much to Berbers’ trade activities. From 10th C., the Ancient Kingdoms of Ghana and Mali were not only Islamized but also have created centers of trade and learning; Tumbuktu was one of those prominent centers. The most significant jihad Professor Joseph Kenny speaks about, the one of Sokoto led by Uthman dan Fodio in the North of Nigeria (1804), was manly for the purification of Islamic faith. However, he reports some few conquests in West Africa for conversion (in 1680, a Torodbe Fulani Malik Si led an invasion of Bondu, the Fulani leader Alfa Ba conquered Futa Jalon in 1725, in the Masina region an Islamic State was set up by Ahmadu Lobbo in 1805, Al-hajj Umar began a jihad in 1852 and conquered Bambuk, Bornu and Khasso in 1857, Samori Ture led a jihad among the Malinke from 1870).9 Trans-Saharan trade -from the North to the West -was prominent. Some Arab traders did come in West Africa but their powerful Berber allies were more pronounced. As they revolted against Arabs in the North and adopted Kharijism (one of the early sects in Islam), they were forced to move out and created new fertile lands: West Africa.10 There was, therefore, a enthusiastic trans-Saharan trade.
Nomad Berbers, who occupied both ends of the Sahara, carried trade across the Sahara. By the ten century, Muslim traders from North Africa had their base in the commercial centers of Awdaghust and Tadmekka in the Southern Sahara...In the following centuries, with the progress of Islam, the boundaries between the Berber domains of the Sahara and Bilad al-Sudan , the land of the Black People) became blurred, and the southern termini of the Sahara trade had a Muslim population of Berbers and Sudanese.11

The trans-Saharan trade resulted in the settlement of Berber communities and these communities presented an image of Islam which appeared very much appealing and attractive to West Africans. Islam was presented as a very successful and all-embracing religion; the religion of equality. Though there were two Moroccan military invasions, it was not by the sword of the Arabs but rather the socializing of the Berbers that laid the groundwork of Islam in West Africa. This may be the reason why Islam in West Africa continued to spread even under the dominion of “Western powers”. The following countries fall into this category: Nehemia Levtzion & Randall L.Pouwels (ed), The History of Islam in Africa, (Ohio:Ohio University Press), p. 327.
9 8

Joseph Kenny, West Africa and Islam (Ghana: An AECAWA Publication, 200), p.54. Ibid., p.88. Nehemia Levtzion & Randall L.Pouwels (ed), op.cit., p. 63.

10 11

5 Benin, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Cost, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, SierraLeone, Togo... Secondly Islam in West Africa was Africanized at the early age; it accommodated or accepted some aspects of African Culture, which have become part of Islamic values today. Consequently, the major religious leaders became Africans. Islam in West Africa was already considered as an African religion. One of the factors that worked for massive conversion to Islam in this region is the reality of “ the religion of the King is the religion of the people”. Historically, West Africa had many organized Kingdoms many centuries earlier; therefore, once the King embraced Islamic faith, his subjects had no other choice than to become, nominally or practically, Muslims. Unlike West Africa, Islam in East Africa remained Indian but more Arab, for the Arab factor has been pronounced both for its penetration in the Coasts and its expansion right from the beginning.
The earliest and most detailed evidence so far discovered of an islamic presence in East Africa has been at Shanga in the Lamu Archipelago. Horton there excavated a mosque and a Muslim burials dated between 780 and 850 C.E...from slightly later, Archaeologists have found evidence of Muslim settlement of Pemba and Zanzibar.12

Early, Islam was so much adapted in the Coasts that it became the Coastal Africa Religion. Apart from the Kiswahili language, the “Stone town” in Zanzibar, for instance, has no African culture. Arab traders who came from Oman and Yemen settled in the Coasts first and then in interior as Landlords; the slaves they bought in order to work in their farms were merely their servants. All that Arabs had, including their religion, appeared very prestigious and aristocratic. Islam was not the religion of the non-Arabs. Especially with the arrival of the Omani People, the term Swahili implied lower status and even contempt. They maintained their close ties with their homeland...13In fact trade and not Islamization was their first goal. But few Africans did embrace Islam. Remember that East Africa is very close to the birthplace of Islam; it is somehow surprising that there are only 35% of Muslims in Tanzania and 7% in Kenya. There was no strong islamization in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Islam in East Africa, remains a foreign religion. Their religious leaders are mostly Arabs or Arab descendants. Central Africa is the new land of Muslim mission; but few got converted along with East Africa at the moment the Arab traders of the East Coast penetrated inlands14 in search of new products and slaves. Now, the majority of Muslims found in the D.R. of Congo, Congo-Brazzaville, Rwanda, Burundi, Central African republic are largely business-men and traders from West Africa. Africa today is more Islamized than Arabized. However, the process of Islamization in Africa today is more profound than yesterday, especially with the revival of new Islamic
12 13 14

Ibid., p. 252. Nehemia Levtzion & Randall L.Pouwels (ed), op.cit., p. 7 J. Spencer Triminghan, Islam in East Africa (Oxford:Clarendon Press, 1964), p. xii.

6 brotherhoods. Different origins of Islam mentioned above and the revival of separate brotherhoods determine nowadays the type of Islam found in Africa today. We should, therefore, expect the differences of Islam in the North, South, West and the East Africa. There are many Islams in Africa. Islamization in Africa, especially to today, is more a way of belonging to a Community than accepting a new message. This has been intensified nowadays with the hope created by the so called “Afro-Arab solidarity”. Muslims yearn for a new sociological situation: to belong not only the larger community but also to some organizations. Josef Stamer wrote:
A good number of African Countries joined the organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), even though some of them have a minority of Muslims (e.g Burkina Faso with 42 % or even Benin with only 16%). Others even became members of the Arab League, even though only a proportion of their populations were Arab-speaking (Mauritania, Sudan, Somalia).15

However, foreign organizations and associations have aroused local ones: many educated African Muslims (Lawyers, Lecturers and Students) who created countless local associations such as the Muslim Students’ Society, Soldiers of God, Da’wa, Islamic Trust of Nigeria; Fordsburg Muslim Youth Organization, Laudium Islamic Youth Awareness Movement; Muslim Youth Unity; Nur-ul-Islam Yield Youth Association; the Kauther Youth Circle; Saut-us-Shabaab. These corporations with new brotherhoods have brought about a new form of fundamentalism or stricter Islamization.

3.Islamic Reform
In the late 18th and early 19th cent., Africa, like the rest of the Muslim world, was swept by a wave of militant religious reformers. Egyptian theologians, namely Muhammad Abdul and Rashid Rida, were the initiators of the movement. Their theories were happily received and adopted by many Africans of all regions. For instance, the Fulani and the followers of Hajj Omar extended the house of Islam to many West African regions; Usman dan Fodio (1809) after he had founded the Sokoto caliphate launched a Jihad in his own region as well as in the South. Those reformist theories continue to inspire many educated African Muslims, especially those who have been formed in Egyptian and Maghrebian universities. These are the major founders of new sects and organizations. Today, the development of Muslim brotherhoods and the implementation of Shari‘a law are also the fruit of the reform movement. In some countries, like some Northern States of Nigeria, Islamic law was adopted as a unifying administrative structure, rather than the indigenous one or the Constitution of the country. Muslims in Africa accepted claims of several self-proclaimed Mahdis as reformers. In 20th century, Islam has gained many converts in Africa. With the arrival of oil wealth in Saudi, Iran, Libya, and other parts of the Muslim world, it became highly possible, for the cause of Islam in Africa, to support considerable projects in Africa. Thus schools and mosques are built, clinics are


P. Josef Stamer, Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa. (Espana: Editorial Verbo Divino, 1996), p. 56.

7 subsidized and scholarships to study abroad are offered.16 In 2000, for instance, I met 23 Nigerians, 12 Ghanaians, 18 Senegalese, 8 Cameroonians, 11 South Africans, 2 Malians, 4 Beninois, 6 Kenyans, 6 Congolese (R.D. Congo), 7 Congolese among them were two Ladies (Brazzaville), many Ivorians studying Islam in the greatest University of the Muslim world, Al-Azhar, in Cairo. Some, especially the Congolese and Cameroonians, still keep their Christian names. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya and Pakistan are the greatest benefactors of Islam in Africa. Islamic reform, which was initially theological, has extended its branches to almost all social sectors.

4.Major characteristics of Islam in Africa today
Apart from the common or general doctrinal and practical features that are observed in the entire Islamdom, Islam in Africa today has some distinctive representations. Josef Stamer wrote:
L’adaptabilite de l’Islam au realites et cultures Africains trouve sa meilleure illustration dans le fait que la mojorite des Africains Musulmans se rattachent, de pres ou de loin, a des reseaux religieux connus sous le nom de confreries. Le mot confrerie traduit bien adequatement le terme arabe “Tariqa” qui signifie voie ou chemin.17

The expansion and the importance of Tariqa (various ways in which Muslims worship Allah) in Africa do demonstrate that they could be taken as the major characteristics of Islam. Islam in Africa today becomes an African Islam; that is Islam in African way. Thanks to brotherhoods, African Muslims worship Allah in an African way. It is more or less obvious that each sub-region in African has its particular approach and way of living the faith. Hence their vision to certain common but sensitive issues such as the place of women in Islam vary from one region to another. In one way or the other, Islam has been adapted to African context in many aspects. And this adaption is the fruit of the fact that majority of African Muslims, though they belong to the Umma, also long to be a member of a smaller society or organization known as Tariqa (Brotherhood). Muslim Brotherhoods are very prominent and successful in Africa, especially in the North, West and East.

5.Why are Muslim Brotherhoods successful in Africa?
This is a question well shared by many scholars. Towards the end of 16th Century, Islamic universities which were very prominent during the Middle Ages, lost their reputation; Muslims were to find a substitute. Thus, some Muslims distinguished themselves in acquiring talents for organization and forcefulness in action combined with extraordinary charm, which attracted others that they became masters of Islamic teaching or education. These organizations turned into Brotherhoods. As a matter of fact, the whole Islamic education begins with the Qur’anic knowledge; and this was ipso facto, the beginning of the complete initiation to a particular brotherhood. Muslims, young and old alike, needed to be initiated. Cfr.J. S. Trimingham, Islam in West Africa (1959), Islam in East Africa (1964), Islam in the Sudan (1965), Islam in Ethiopia (1965).
17 16

P. Josef Stamer, L’Islam en Afrique au Sud du sahara. (Allemagne, 1995), p. 39.


The idea or even the reality of being initiated to a new society or organization is not new to Africans. The rite of Initiation in Africa is one of those ways through which somebody proceeds to a higher stage or adulthood and acquire new skills and knowledge for the future. This still takes place in many tribes, like the Masai in Kenya. It is also a time in which an adult or a master transmits his knowledge or his spirituality to the younger one. Therefore Africans who were familiar with the practice prolonged it after conversion to Islam. Again, the Muslim rite as it is celebrated in Sunni mosques, for instance, looks sober to Africans who enjoy everlasting celebrations, therefore not enjoyable. While the official Islam remains solemn, brotherhoods have different practices that meet the soul of Africans: There are a lot of singing, dancing, praying with gesticulations. Such practices come as a substitute to fill a vacuum created by traditional Islam. Finally, as in many hierarchical African societies, it was not strange or abnormal to have a very important person who will hold the spiritual, moral and even political power of a particular group. People or members of one given society are asked to visit the master or the leader whenever there are in need. In Islam, God’s power is hidden since Qur’anic verses have an esoteric or sacred meaning. The master or the founder of a brotherhood believes to have appropriated through the means known to him the key to the sacred meaning of a good number of verses. Consequently, these practices, which were considered as relevant, fascinated Africans, especially in the West and East. Mystics and guardians of esoteric knowledge were venerated because they held an extract power for the benefit of the whole community. Likewise the founders of brotherhoods or their representatives were respected and often visited.18 With all this multiplicity of masters, we arrive to a level of multiplicity of leaders, and indeed the multiplicity of perceptions in Islam in Africa. This situation hinders the possibility of having a successful dialogue between the Catholic Church, particularly, and Islam. No Muslim leader is accepted by the majority of Muslims; in other words, there is no Muslim in Africa and in the world who can speak officially, legally and authoritatively, in the name of the Umma, the entire Muslim community.19

6.From reform to Islamism or Fundamentalism in Africa
All Muslims are not fundamentalists; in fact, Islamists are a tiny minority but very strong and dangerous. There is an essential difference between Islam and Islamism. If Islam is the religion founded by Muhammad, Islamism is the fundamentalist way of
18 19

Ibid., pp. 40-42.

Frederic Ntedika Mvumbi, Shades of leadership in Islam in Chakana. Intercultural Forum of theology and philosophy (Frankfurt: Vrlag Fur InterKulturelle Kommunikation, vol.2, 2004), p. 105

9 understanding it. Perhaps the question is “Is Islam incompatible with modernity?” could help us comprehend the genesis and the development of Islamism in the world.

Islam is the religion founded by Muhammad. When Muhammad was asked what Islam is, he replied: Islam is to worship Allah, alone and none else, to perform Iqamat-as-salat, to pay the Zakat, and to observe Saum during the month of Ramadan.20 Hajj (pilgrimage) was not mentioned in this Hadith. However, Sahih Muslim reported: “Al-Islam implies that you testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, that you pray, pay zakat, fat Ramadan, and perform pilgrimage to the house”.21 These Hadiths explain the Qur’an 3:110; 42:15; 2:43 and others. As a religion, Islam has a creed and a law. Both internal and external aspects of Muslims are taken care of. Sometimes the external aspect is amazing. It is often said in the Middle East that any Westerner who really understands Islam will envy the lives of Muslims. Moreover, Muslims believe that Islam is a religion of success; it is a winner’s religion. The prophet Muhammad fled the city of Makka in A.D. 622. By 630, only eight years later, he was back in Mecca, now as ruler. The Muslims began as an obscure group in Arabia and within a century ruled a territory from Spain to India; and now many parts of Africa. According to many Muslims, Islam was on top in year 1000: health, wealth, literacy, culture, power, all were on top. These events prompted them to confirm the customary and assumed idea: to be a Muslim, is to be with God; therefore to be a winner. Unfortunately, the trauma of modern history that began 200 years ago involved failure. Failure seized all aspects of human life: Muslims are no longer on top. As the mufti of Jerusalem put it some months ago, “Before, we were masters of the world, and now we’re not even master of our own mosques.” Herein lies the great trauma. There have been three main responses to this trauma -three main efforts to make things right again: 1)Secularism, which means openly learning from the West and reducing Islam to the private sphere; 2)Reformism, which means appropriating from the West because the West really derives its strength by stealing from Muslims, therefore Muslims may take back from them, and 3)Islamism, which stresses on a return to traditional Islamic ways.

Surat-ul-yusufu says: “If not Him, you worship nothing but names which you have named, You and your Fathers, for which God has sent down no authority: The command

20 21

Sahih Bukhari on the Book of belief. Sahih Muslim on the the Book of faith.

10 is for none but God: He had commanded that you worship none but Him: the right religion, but most men understand not...(12:40) Authority belongs to God alone. This short Qur’anic phrase is the central point of Islamic doctrine but somehow, the origin of fundamentalism. In today’s Islam, this short phrase belongs to political Islam. It becomes the turning point of many ideologies. In other words, the legitimacy of any doctrine does not depend on democracy or a consensus or a constitution or a single person. Any legitimacy in a given society is solely based on God’s decrees. This is what could be called a fundamentalist view of Islam: it is Islamism.22 Islamism is an ideology or a collection of ideologies that demands man’s complete adherence to the sacred law of Islam and rejects any man’s contribution towards the building of the world, with some exceptions (such as access to military and medical technology). It is imbued with a deep antagonism towards non-Muslims and this view has a particular hostility towards the West. It amounts to an effort to turn Islam into an ideology. Islamism is an ideology within Islam that attempts to use the Shari‘a to its full extent, meaning that secular forms of governments and institutions are considered foreign to a true Muslim society. For the supporters of such ideology: Islam is the solution, God is our goal, Muhammad is our leader, the Qur’an is the constitution of the world, Shari‘a is the law of all. For them Islam should be applied as a complete code which provides for all areas of life, whether spiritual, intellectual, political, social or economical. According to my own assessment, Islamists or fundamentalists Muslims know more about new sciences and technology than their religion. Their followers are seriously deceived but they do not realize it. These are their common and principal motivations: a.Differences in the Umma Islamists are strongly concerned about social differences, between the rich and the poor in the Muslim communities. Concern for the poor is central in Islam and, therefore, zealous Muslims work for the abolishment of any kind of inequality. Islamists react towards the West for its reluctance to address poverty in the world. b.Cultural problems Islamists feel that they are losing their culture, that Western values with their social patterns, political structures, language and identity are replacing Islam considered as the highest civilization. For them, the West is dangerous to Islam.

c.The Golden Age All Muslims are aware of their past superiority of military and cultural force; hence, the reversed situation in the modern ages hurts their pride. As a reaction to this, many

Cfr. Emilio Platti, op. cit., p. 271-272.

11 countries tried to copy both the capitalist system, and others the socialist system but the result was ridiculous. Now they are working towards re-establishing a third alternative; the political system that once made their society grow from unknown tribes into world rulers in a few decades. They also believe that the coming Islamist society will be better than during the Golden Age. However, there is no Muslim source indicating that the Islam of the Golden Age was a strict and conservative one. All indications show that it was the liberal Islam that paved the ground for cultural, social and military achievements of those days. Hence, the Islamist idea of the Golden Age is a dramatic falsification of history. Muslims of the Golden Age were often pragmatic in the sense that they borrowed solutions from other cultures, both from the lands they conquered as well as neighbor states. d.Political alternative Islamists believe that laws and rules made by our politicians in our various countries have failed to build harmonious nations. Our economies are seriously degrading, insecurity persists, and morality is nowhere to be found. Here is an alternative: Islamic law must reign and take over. Islamism has been implemented as a real political alternative in modern times to cure the maladies of our nations. Thus Several countries have enforced Islamist politics or appealed governments to act accordingly: Sudan is in the forefront, some States in the North of Nigeria are fighting for the implementation of Shar‘a, Muslims in Kenya are demanding that the new constitution should be based on or inspired by Shari‘a. These few instances we refer to are not narrowed down to these countries, but spread to other African countries. There are not mere coughs or sneezes but a real African illness, a malady which affects majority of African Muslims. After all, the whole Africa suffer the consequences.

7.Human right and Islam in Africa
Let me believe that there is a responsible quest for human rights in all religions present in Africa since this has become one of the features of any given society or institution built on modern values; As a matter of fact, integral development and democracy focus on truth, righteousness and justice, freedom, reconciliation, and peace. There must also be a struggle for human rights among Muslims in Africa today. But when Islamism seems to be, presently, a new form of Islamization and that violent activities in the name of Allah are not addressed at all or not properly dealt with by the Muslim leaders, all the efforts done by few Muslims of good will remain futile. As far as Islam remains an unchanging legal system, Shari‘a as a divine law( in Muslim interpretation), I consider Islamism as a fight against human creativity, a battle against humanity, a denial of the basic human rights. Though we cannot disregard some good initiatives and little progress in family matters, women development, marital issues, Human rights considerations in Islam in Africa today are still as meager as a drop of water in a mighty ocean. For instance, the constitution of Sudan article 16 still considers Islam as the religion of the State while Muslims are 70%. Many States in the North of Nigeria attempt to implement Shari‘a as the legislation or the constitution of those areas -even in the whole county- while all the residents are not Muslims. The Muslims in Kenya recommended that the Qadi court inspire the new Constitution while there are only 7%. These few, very few examples, illustrate what is been organized not only in these countries displayed above but in many

12 others. Where is freedom of religions stated in sura two, verse 256, which says: “let there be no compulsion in religion...” Commenting on this verse, Yusuf Ali wrote: “Compulsion is incompatible with religion: because religion depends upon faith and will and these would be meaningless if induced by force”23 With this, could we talk about human rights in Islam in Africa today? Islam, a missionary religion like Christianity, must search for models of mission which respect and foster human dignity in all levels. We do not loose our hope.

8.Is Islam in Africa today influenced from outside?
Surely Islam in Africa is immensely influenced from outside; many events confirm this fact. Here is one well-known. We know, for instance, that the affiliations of the Governor of Zanfara State in the North of Nigeria with some prominent leaders in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are the framework of his initiantive.
“On Thursday, 28th October, 1999, At Ali Akilu Square in Gusau, the Capital of Zanfara State in Nigeria, about 10 am, Zanfara State Governor Ahmad Sani Yerima...rose up and declared the Islamic legal system operational. He said: it has become pertinent that we wake up from this sorry state of slumber and live up to our responsibility to the Almighty in order to avoid his curse.”24

Modupe Odoyoye reports the motivations of the protagonists of Shari‘a in Nigeria: Muslims have for a long time yearned for the freedom to exercise their full rights since the period they were invaded and colonized by the British...Some sources of livelihood, such as prostitution, stealing, gambling, are harmful to the society, they must be stopped...25 Most of these ideas originate from Arab world and Pakistan and then exported to Africa. Africans, in this case African Muslims embrace them and live with them. BBC, VOA, RFI and other world influential media will not talk about Wahabism in Saudi Arabia in order to preserve the interest of the West. But Wahabism is the most radical and fundamentalist Islam in the world. Many Muslims in Saudi often say that the whole Saudi is a mosque, therefore there is no space for a Church. The African supporters of such ideas go on destroying Churches and preventing the building of new ones.

Although Islam in Africa is highly influenced since it depends so much on Islam in arab World and Pakistan, it has incorporated some African features. For instance, the Qur’an has been translated in many African languages such as

Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an. English translation of the meanings and commentaries, note 300. Modupe Oduyoye, The Shari`a debate in Nigeria (Ibadan: sefer, 2000), p. 1. Ibid., pp. 7-9.

24 25

13 Hausa, Kiswahili, Wolof...; again, African views of God, the Universe and man challenge the traditional one; the place of women has been modified. In this respect, African Muslims have gone, somehow, ahead of the Arab Muslims in the transformation of the society. However, all these transformations are still marginal because substantial reforms in doctrines and social development like education, health, politics, are still initiated by outsiders. Some years back, the third Aga Khan, the leader of the Ismailis, declared that Islam in East Africa is underdeveloped.26 Now you can count more than five Aga Khan projects in East Africa. Just along Limuru road in Nairobi, we presently have two Aga Khan primary and secondary schools, an Aga Khan hospital. One of my students in Tangaza College-Nairobi reported that Muslim leaders in Congo called for help from Arab and Islamic countries to build Muslim schools across the country. 27 As a result of this, three mosques were built in Kinshasa, the capital of D.R Congo, during last 9 years.

9.Is Islam growing in Africa today?
Many times and in many areas, an alarm is raised that Islam is growing in Africa since Islamic phenomena such as mosques, arab attires and writings, Islamic bookshops, Islamic schools and universities, Islamic health centers and hospitals, are seen now everywhere. Certainly, Muslims leaders in Africa and elsewhere assert it and confirm it; that will be a source of rejoicing. Somehow, we can notice the establishment of big mosques in our cities and towns but some principles of sociology of religions tell us that big mosques are not always signs of Islamic growth. Sometimes the sizes of Mosques do not correspond to Muslim population. Besides, many Christian leaders will validate this idea though it is a cause of sadness. However, I will neither maintain nor reject such views but I know that, with modern facilities and easy travels of populations across the borders of countries, Muslims of various territories settle much easier nowadays in other places and establish communities; sometimes strong communities. Thus Muslims are now present where there were hardly acknowledged. This is not an evidence of growth.

10.Towards a fruitful Christian-Muslim dialogue in Africa
Here, I think about the dialogical nature of the human person; man is a dialogical individual whose life is marked by dialogue with God, with fellow humans or with the world.28od speaks and the human person listens and responds; the human
26 27 28

Cfr. Htt//www.ismaili.net/source/sultan.html Cfr. Htt//www.Islam in Congo

Peter Lobo, A brief Historical Background to Interfaith Dialogue in Sound the Gong. Conference on Interfaith Dialogue: 2001 Bangkok, Thailand. (Manilla: University Santo Tomas), 2002, p. 23.

14 person speaks and God listens and responds. One person speaks and another listens and responds and vice versa. Dialogue is no more than this respectful communication of two different subjects. Now we need a forum whereby African Christians will speak and African Muslims will listen and respond; African Muslims will speak and African Christians will listen and respond. Islam today is a crucial cultural, religious and political force throughout Africa counting more than one-third of the continent’s inhabitants among the faithful.29 The widespread of Islam in Africa today raises some vital questions that all Christians in Africa need to address. First of all, these observations presented by a Christian for Christians are essentially tools for a fruitful inter-religious dialogue. Dialogue between African Christians and African Muslims is possible but difficult because of some obstacles. These obstacles could be removed only when a common ground is created. Here is a question: How can Christians and Muslims in Africa know that they are first and foremost Africans and, therefore, incorporate the major African values namely solidarity and sharing in order to rebuild the African soul? Secondly, I know that the early Christians were not converted by the sword but by the truth of the matter and the moral life of the disciples. Here is the second question: How can the moral life of African Christians (Bishops, Priests, Politicians, traders) challenge Muslim ethics in such a way that the facts of truthfulness and sincerity are brought to light? Thirdly, the canonical sources of Christianity and Islam give meaning to our life only when they are understood and considered within a context. In many respects, the society in which Muhammad lived is profoundly different from ours. Here is the third question: When will Africans -Christians or Muslims-understand that it is highly Christian to love a Muslim and highly Islamic to love a Christian? Fourthly, I know that Christianity and Islam are essentially missionary religions; Christians and Muslims are sent to convert the whole world. Since it is often said that there is no compulsion in religion, when would Christian and Muslim missionaries avoid force of any kind and provocative propaganda in order to allow people to make their free choice? To my understanding, the fact that both Christianity and Islam are missionary religions perhaps the way our missions are now carried out- has become the most prominent obstacle for Christian-Muslim dialogue. The historical obstacles namely lack of self-critical assessment, superiority complex, disparity between those taking part in dialogue, unequal theological development, confusion between faith and reason, lack of a common language have been overtaken and seem to be apprehended. Christians in Africa today will properly address these questions if they are well informed about Islam in Africa but they need some guidelines. Almost the whole North Africa is Muslim; but there are more Muslims in West Africa. Muslim population in West Africa today is about 92 millions. Though

Cfr. Htt//wwwnuradeen.com/curentissues/islamin africa.htm

15 considerable efforts concerning interreligious dialogue have been made, West Africa still needs more initiatives. In the East and Southern Africa, there exist many old but strong Muslim communities; Muslims are in minority but the old communities could be a fertile land for Islamic revival. Indeed, Islam is really growing in this region; more objective knowledge of Islam is probably required in East and Southern Africa. As we said above, Central Africa is the new land of Muslim Missionaries. Thus pastors in this zone should emphasize more and more on the essence of Christianity; they should be summaries of the moral life of the city in order to equip the faithful with solid doctrine. Islam in Africa today is a reality, it is part of the history of Africa; it should neither be neglected nor ignored but studied in order to acquire an objective understanding, an avenue towards interreligious dialogue. Perhaps African soul needs a fourth way: African Traditional Religions is the first, Christianity is the second, Islam is the third, Interreligious Dialogue could be the fourth. This fourth way can best be described as living as God’s family in the world30, as an African family.


Cf. Edwin Robertson, Chiara (Manilla: New City Press, 1979), p. 142.