Islam in Mozambique

Islam in Mozambique is the religion of approximately 17.9% of the total population.[1] The vast majority of Mozambican Muslims are Sunni belonging to Shafi school of jurisprudence, although some Ismaili Shiite Muslims are also registered. The Muslims consists primarily of indigenous Mozambicans, citizens of South Asian (Indian and Pakistani) descent, and a very small number of North African and Middle Eastern immigrants.

Pre-colonial history

Mozambique has long historic ties with the Muslim world. Initially by way of Sufi merchants, mostly from Yemen, and centuries after through a more organized system of coastal trading cities, more heavily influenced by the Ibadi Muslims from Oman along the shores of Eastern Africa.

The arrival of the Arab trade in Mozambique dates to the fourth Hijri century when Muslims established small emirates on the coast of East Africa. Links between Islam and the chiefly clans in Mozambique have existed since the eighth century, when Islam made inroads into the northern Mozambican coast and became associated with the Shirazi ruling elites.[2]

Since the founding of the Kilwa Sultanate in the 10th CE century by Ali ibn al-Hassan Shirazi, Islam had become a major religion in the region. The former port city of Sofala, which became famous for its trade in ivory, timber, slaves, gold (by way of Great Zimbabwe) and Iron with the Islamic Middle East and India, was one of the most important trading centers on the Mozambique coast.[3] Sofala and much of the rest of coastal Mozambique was part of the Kilwa Sultanate from Arab arrival (believed to be the 12th century) until the Portuguese conquest in 1505.

During the subsequent period of the Omani Al Bu Said dynasty, Muslim merchants expanded their trading zones south along the coast. It is believed that nearly all of the cities' inhabitants were Muslim before the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century.

Colonial history

Islam faced serious challenges in Mozambique during the colonial era. During the Estado Novo period (1926–1974), Roman Catholicism became the dominant religion following a formal alliance (Concordat) between the Church and the government. Only with the start of the War of Liberation did the state lower its opposition to Islam and try to coopt the religion, in order to avoid an alliance between Muslims and the dissident liberation movement.

Modern Mozambique

A mosque in Mozambique

Since the end of the socialist period (1989 onwards), Muslims have been able to proselytise freely and build new mosques. Muslims have also made their way into the parliament. Several South African, Kuwaiti and other Muslim agencies are active in Mozambique, with one important one being the African Muslim Agency. An Islamic University has been set up in Nampula, with a branch in Inhambane. Mozambique is also an active member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Rather than relying on the culturally loaded notions of a "chief" of régulo, the FRELIMO government has preferred to use the term "traditional authorities" to indicate a group of chiefs and their entourage of subordinate chiefs and healers. Realizing the social importance of this group, FRELIMO gradually reinstated "traditional authority."[2]

While the Muslim leadership in northern Mozambique seems to have recovered the "traditional" side of their authority and power with legal reforms, they are still largely associated with chiefship and African culture rather than Islam. Because of this they are barely able to access benefits or gain socio-political influence through Islamic platforms or organizations. This situation has been the source of their continual frustration and resistance to the alleged racial and cultural discrimination perpetrated by FRELIMO allied with southern Wahhabis, Afro-Indians, and Indians.[2]

Whereas Sudan, for instance, has made sharia the law of the land, Mozambique has made attempts to recognize both traditional and religious marriages.[4]

Prominent Mozambican Muslims

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Bonate, Liazzat J. K. Bonate (Spring 2007). "Islam and Chiefship in Northern Mozambique" (PDF). ISIM Review, issue 1, volume 19, p. 56-57. Retrieved 2014-06-10.
  2. "Sofala - MSN Encarta". Archived from the original on 2009-10-31.
  3. Martin, Richard C. (2004). Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World. Macmillan Reference USA. ISBN 978-0028656038.


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