Saturday 11 March 2023

Islam in Namibia

Namibia or the Republic of Namibia, is a country in Southern Africa with an overwhelming Christian population of about 2.5 million (2020 estimate). The Muslims form part a tiny fraction of the total Namibian population, officially about 70,000 or a little more. Islam is not very new to this part of the world. It was only in 18th century that Muslims found inroad to this largely barren and deserted land. The initial Muslims were mainly from India when they were brought to lands what presently constitute Namibia by the British and Dutch colonists.

It was the port city of Luderitz where the Muslim traders of Indian traders and merchants settled in the late 1800s. These early Muslims built the first mosque in Namibia, which still stands today and serves as a hub of the Muslim community in Luderitz.  And it was from here that Islam started to spread to other parts of Namibia, particularly the capital city of Windhoek. Now there are several mosques and Islamic organizations in Windhoek. There is also a significant number of Muslims in the northern part of the country, particularly in the regions of Oshana and Ohangwena.

The Muslim community started to expand with lot of diversity as Muslims with various ethnicities of Indian, Pakistani, Arabs, and Africans origins. The Muslims are generally located in the urban areas. The majority of Muslims following the Hanafi school of thought. Apart from the original non-Namibian Muslims, there have been many local Namibians who have reverted to Islam. 
The first indigenous female Namibian is believed to have embraced Islam in the 1940s, while the first indigenous male is believed to have embraced Islam in 1979. 
However, due to very late presence of Muslims in this part of the world, Islam is still struggling to become a meaningful minority. Interestingly, Islam combined with Judaism, Buddhism, and the Baháʼí Faith, account for less than 1% of the population of Namibia.

As per one survey, Namibians are fairly open-minded towards Islam, however, due to the lack of cultural presence of Islam in Namibia, many people do not quite know much about Islam. In an interview, Dr. Armas Abdul Malik Shikongo, the Head of the Windhoek Islamic Centre based in Windhoek West. reveals his experience of reversion to Islam and said: 
Some Namibians do not even know that Muslims are a different religious community and separate from Christianity, for example referring to a place of worship in Islam as a 'Muslim or Islamic Church', which is quite inaccurate, since Islam is a separate religion, not a part of Christianity, though there are a number of similarities between the two Abrahamic faiths, just like Judaism. It seems more like many Namibians are [ignorant] about Islam, yet curious, as they tend to look at Muslims as resembling people described in the Bible, especially in terms of some behaviors such as their dress code, dietary habits and religious practices. [3]
There are about seven mosques in the capital city, Quba Mosque is one of the big ones as shown under
The Quba masjid draws many Muslims to it, especially on Friday congregational prayer.

The Quba masjid, which also the part of Windhoek Islamic Center, is the first masjid in the country. It has rightly been named as Quba, as the first ever masjid that was established in the early days of Islam in the city of the Medinah was named Quba by Prophet Muhammad. As of May 2009, there were twelve mosques in the country, six in Windhoek, two in Katima Mulilo, one in Walvis Bay, and three in the north of the country in the former Ovamboland.

Despite small Muslim population, the Adhan (call to prayer) has become a familiar sound and even non-Muslims know that Muslims are being called for their prayer.  The Imam of the masjid claims: "Despite Muslims being like apples hanging in a tree crowded with pears, but Islam has made a major impact here and our numbers are growing." [4]

The dominating Muslim tribe is that of Nama. Why mainly Muslims are from this tribe. Imam Ali tells the story of Jacobs Salmaan Dhameer, the country’s incumbent Electoral Commissioner. “Jacobs attended an Islamic Conference in Maseru (Lesotho) in 1980 and converted to Islam. He is the country’s first black Muslim,” he recalls. “When he returned from the conference he spread the word to his own people, the Nama. That is why many of them are practicing Muslims.”

While the going is great for the Namibian Muslims, they face major challenges. Muslim voices are hardly heard while Christians have airtime on state radio, television and columns in newspapers. The resistance to Islam is not because of terrorism. Neither is it a tale of fundamentalism. Car bombs and jihad, the holy Muslim war, belong to a different theatre in the world thousands of kilometers from Windhoek and other Namibian towns. Here is a story of the attraction some Namibians experience when it comes to Islam, a religion taking hold in a basically overwhelmingly Christian country. [6]

Although there is no representation of Muslims in the state affairs, the matters related to Muslims are generally taken care of by the Namibia Islamic Judicial Council is based on Ondobe in the Ohangwena Region. NIHA (Namibia Islamic Halaal Association) is Namibia's oldest and most well-known Halaal Certifying body, recognized by the Halaal Certification body in South Africa and in many Islamic states. NIHA was established in 2001 and before known as the Namibia Halaal Slaughterers Association. It certifies food outlets in the country. [1]

I could not get a video on life of Muslims in Namibia and their customs and traditions to celebrate Islamic festivals. But got hold of a short video clip on extending Dawah (Invitation to Islam) to villagers in Namibia:
Disclaimer: The data for this post has been collected from the references given below. If anyone differs with the material contained in this post, one may consult the references and their authors.  If someone has more material about the subject, he/she is most welcome to share in the comments box to make the post all encompassing.

To know more about life of Muslims in other non-Muslim countries, please visit our Reference Page: Islam and Life of Muslims in Non Muslim Countries

You may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Quran.
Photo | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6
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