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African Islam in Tanzania

26 Jul

By Abdulaziz Y. Lodhi and David Westerlund (March 1997)

The historical background
Islamic denominations
Islam in society
New organizations and tendencies
Literature

Because of extensive missionary activities and development projects, Tanzania is one of the most well-known countries of Africa. The idealistic socialist politics of president Julius Nyerere during the 1960’s and 70’s attracted many Westerners. Tanzania had approximately 30.4 million inhabitants in mid 1995; about 1% were of non-African origin. Even if the population growth is high, the country is (like most countries in Africa ( sparsely populated. The population consists of a large number of ethnic groups. The great majority of these are speakers of Bantu languages. The largest ethnic group is the Sukuma, spread south of Lake Victoria. South of the Sukuma live the Nyamwezi who, culturally and linguistically, are closely related to their northern neighbours.

Tanganyika became independent in 1961 and three years later formed a union with Zanzibar called Tanzania. The official language of the Union is Swahili, a Bantu language with a large number of Arabic loan words. The traditional speakers of Swahili have also been influenced linguistically and culturally by Persians and Indians. The old colonial language English is still very important within trade, commerce and higher learning. It is difficult to estimate the total number of Moslems in the country. According to the 1967 population census, a third of the population was Moslem, a third Christian and most of the remaining third were followers of traditional religions. The reliability of the statistics has for good reason been questioned and there are no up-to-date statistics at hand. The question of the percentage of Moslems and Christians is a politically sensitive issue in Tanzania, as in many other African countries. The statistics provided by Christian and Moslem organizations are biased and notoriously unreliable. It is apparent that the number of Moslems and Christians has been increasing at a high rate during the past decades, but it is hard to determine which of the two religions has increased most rapidly. However, official church records at the end of 1996 had registered about 6.93 million Roman Catholics and 0.65 million Anglicans. No published figures for the other minor Christian denominations are easily available, as is the case also with Moslems whose proportion is persistently estimated at about one third of the population.

The historical background
The earliest concrete evidence of Moslem presence in East Africa is the foundation of a mosque in Shanga on Pate Island where gold, silver and copper coins dated AD 830 were found during an excavation in the 1980’s. The oldest intact building in East Africa is a functioning mosque at Kizimkazi in southern Zanzibar dated AD 1007. It appears that Islam was widespread in the Indian Ocean area by the 14th century. When Ibn Battuta from Maghreb visited the East African littoral in 1332 he reported that he felt at home because of Islam in the area. The coastal population was largely Moslem, and Arabic was the language of literature and trade. The whole of the Indian Ocean seemed to be a “Moslem sea”. Moslems controlled the trade and established coastal settlements in South East Asia, India and East Africa.

Islam was spread mainly through trade activities along the East African coast, not through conquest and territorial expansion as was partly the case in West Africa, but remained an urban littoral phenomenon for a long time. When the violent Portuguese intrusions in the coastal areas occurred in the 16th century, Islam was already well established there and almost all the ruling families had ties of kinship with Arabia, Persia, India and even South East Asia owing to their maritime contacts and political connections with the northern and eastern parts of the Indian Ocean. In the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th centuries the coastal Moslems managed to oust the Portuguese with the help of Omani Arabs. These Arabs gradually increased their political influence until the end of the 19th century when European conquerors arrived at the coast of East Africa.

During the time when the Omanis dominated the coast politically, the spread of Islam intensified also in the interior of East Africa. Trade contacts with peoples in the interior, especially the Nyamwezi, gained importance and places like Tabora in Nyamwezi territory and Ujiji at Lake Tanganyika became important entrep”ts in the ever-increasing trade in slaves and ivory. Many chiefs, even in parts of Uganda, converted to Islam and cooperated with the coastal Moslems. Trade served to spread not only Islam, but also the language and culture we call Swahili. Before the establishment of German East Africa in the 1880’s the influence of the Swahilis or coastal people was mainly limited to the areas along the caravan routes and around their destinations.

The great expansion of Islam in the interior of Tanganyika began during the German colonial era. After having conquered the coastal area the Germans started hiring Swahilis as civil servants thus creating a cadre of literate Swahilis who accompanied the Germans into the interior. These subordinate administrators, akida, and Moslem soldiers are an important part of the explanation of why Islam spread so much faster in the areas controlled by the Germans than in territories occupied by the British (Kenya and Uganda). The Germans established a government school system along the coast with Swahili as the language of instruction, in contrast to the missionary schools in the interior which used the vernaculars.

Even if many Moslems cooperated with the Germans, there were also large groups who were not benefitted by colonial rule and who were more or less openly oppositional. These groups were primarily found in the poorer sections of the rural population and were attracted to the activities of the Sufi orders. Several orders were active during and after the German era, the most important being the Qadiriyya and Shadhiliyya. Many Sufis played an important role in the Maji Maji uprising (1905-07) against the Germans. The name Maji Maji refers to powerful water (Sw. maji = water) which was thought to give protection against the German weapons. The traditional African ideas of Kinjikitile, the leader of the uprising, were to an extent intertwined with Sufi ideas. Even if our knowledge of Sufi expansion in German East Africa is very limited, the fact remains that Sufi influence was an important factor in the expansion of Islam.

After World War I, when the British took control over Tanganyika, the growth of Islam decreased somewhat. The British system of local government, Indirect Rule, favoured local chiefs rather than Moslems from the coast. Ever-increasing missionary activities as well as the establishment of Christian schools promoted the employment of Christians. Moslems were gradually alienated from the administration and the political scene. From the time around World War II the influence of reformist and anti-colonial movements increased, and during the 1950’s Pakistani Moslem preachers regularly visited eastern and southern Africa to promote Moslem renewal and to revive political consciousness among Moslems. This was a reaction to colonial oppression and the increased Christian influence in society. Moslems thus exerted great influence over the independence movements. When the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) was founded in Daressalaam in 1954, coastal Moslems played an important role. Even in spheres where Islam played a minor part Moslems could hold strategic positions in TANU. The Christian reactions to the independence movement were mixed; many local and Western church leaders discouraged their followers from joining the movement.

Islamic denominations
The great majority of the Moslems in Tanzania are Sunni. The majority of these follow the Shafi judiciary tradition, though the Sunni of Indo-Pakistani origin generally are Hanafi, and some of them are loosely organised into a Qadiriyya order introduced by ‘Bawa’ alias sheikh Ahmad-shah Qadiri Bukhari of Cutch, India, who has been regularly visiting East Africa since 1958. Small groups of Yemeni origin belong to the Maliki and Hanbali schools. The Shiite minority, mostly of Asian origin, are Imami, Ismaili and the Bohra/Wohra. The Moslems of Omani origin constitute a special case, most of them being Ibadiyya, which is a moderate branch of the Khariji movement. A small but active Ahmadiyya group is also present in the country. Some researchers claim that three fourths of Tanzania’s Moslems are Sufi. Even if it is impossible to get the exact figure, the fact remains that several researchers like J. S. Trimingham have failed to appreciate the importance of Sufism in these parts of Africa.

The variation of beliefs and religious practices among the Sufis is great. Not only in the interior but also along the coast Islam shows many local African characteristics. African practices and beliefs are often very obvious. In the interior it is often hard to distinguish the dividing line between Islam and the local religions. Prayers, the fasting month Ramadan and other principles of “official” Islam are seldom strictly adhered to. The knowledge of Arabic is very limited. Both religiously and culturally the Moslems of Tanzania have a very strong local African identity. What is known as African Islam is characteristic of these people and of Moslems in other parts of East Africa.

The Shiite Moslems of Asian origin constitute an exception. Many Shiites came to East Africa during the colonial era and many of them are rather well-to-do and live somewhat secluded. Especially the Ismaili followers of Aga Khan have concentrated on establishing schools, hospitals, libraries, building societies and guest houses as well as engaging in industrial development. Before the radicalization of socialist politics in Tanzania following the Arusha Declaration in 1967 large amounts were invested in Aga Khan Industrial Promotion Services and Ismaili Holding Companies. It is difficult to estimate the number of Shiites in Tanzania, but they constitute a small minority living mainly in the larger towns and cities. A large number have emigrated to North America and Western Europe during the last decades. As opposed to the Ismaili, the Imami have, through the Bilal Mission, been active among black Africans but with little success. Like the followers of Ahmadiyya, Imami and other Shiites have issued or distributed a considerable number of publications. Due to economic and other reasons most of the Sunnis have had difficulties in this respect.

Sufism is represented by several orders, but their work and organization remain largely unknown. The largest brotherhood in Tanzania is Qadiriyya which is divided into many independent branches. The origin of this order is connected to the Somali sheikh Uways bin Muhammed who, having been invited by the sultan, arrived in Zanzibar in the 1880’s. Shehu Awesu, as sheikh Uways is called in Swahili, payed several lengthy visits to Zanzibar and initiated many disciples into his order, who afterwards spread the order to the mainland as far as the Congo area.

One of the most renowned khalifs of the Uwaysiyya branch of Qadiriyya was sheikh Zahur bin Muhammed who lived in Tabora between 1894 and 1908 where he laid the foundation stone to the brotherhood by teaching newly converted Moslems the typical Sufi “chanting” feature which in Swahili is called dhikiri (Ar. dhikr = recitation). His successors then officially established the brotherhood in Tabora and started initiating new disciples. Further east in Bagamoyo north of Daressalaam, the Qadiriyya branch, which today is probably the biggest, started its activities in 1905. Under the leadership of khalif Yahya bin Abdallah, of slave origin and generally known as sheikh Ramiya, this brotherhood expanded in the area around Bagamoyo and Tanga and further north. In the west sheikh Ramiya’s influence was felt as far as Ujiji at Lake Tanganyika.

Shadiliyya, which came to East Africa from the Comoros, did not start expanding until the end of the German colonial period. It was chiefly through the efforts of khalif Husayn bin Mahmud from Kilwa that Shadiliyya spread throughout East Africa. He exerted great influence and Shadiliyya, unlike Qadiriyya, did not divide into different branches. The number of Shadiliyya disciples is, however, smaller than Qadiriyya. The only order founded in East Africa is Askariyya, established around 1930 in Daressalaam by sheikh Idris bin Saad. Like sheikh Husayn his first contacts were with Qadiriyya. Askariyya is represented in cities like Daressalaam, Morogoro in eastern Tanzania and further south in Songea among other places, but the number of members is presumably rather low. Its doctrines are kept secret to outsiders.

The fact that the position of the Sufi Moslem is not primarily based on book-learning but on personal piety has attracted masses to Sufism. In Tanzania there are numerous examples of sheikhs who voluntarily have chosen to live their lives in poverty and to partake in simple day-to-day activities of their disciples. They also take part in dhikiri-gatherings and the celebration of the birth of Muhammed (maulidi), which is particularly important to Sufi Moslems. The birth of Muhammed is celebrated as a national holiday in Tanzania, and maulidi is read even in Swahili. Another illustration of Sufi egalitarianism is that their leaders to a great extent have been black Africans as opposed to the erudite urban ulama, traditionally of Arab origin. Many Sufi sheikhs can be strikingly learned like the ulama and highly valued because of their erudition, but they first and foremost possess a divine quality called baraka. Through their charisma they can bring about wonders, heal the diseased and act as intermediary between God and humans.

One may claim that it was above all through Sufism that Islam was Africanized and “nationalized”. Its non-dogmatic standpoint and openness towards indigenous African beliefs and practices promoted local adaptation. In comparison with the more alien and bureaucratic Zanzibar sultanate the orders were able to establish more informal and local structures. Through the Sufi sheikhs was provided a “close center” as well as personal relationship with the leaders. The African character of the orders and their extensive organisation also furthered the growth of the nationalist movements. Many Sufi sheikhs became “natural” advocates in TANU, and after the fall of colonial rule in 1961 Sufi Moslems continued to a high degree to support the socialist policies in Tanzania.

Islam in society
Mainly on account of the leading role of the Catholic president Julius Nyerere several Western researchers have underestimated the importance of the Moslems in shaping the Tanzanian socialism in the 1960’s. Because of the Christians having better access to higher education they became overrepresented in the administration. But Moslems constituted a majority in TANU, called CCM (Chama cha Mapinduzi = The Revolutionary Party) after the 1977 merger with its sister party ASP (Afro-Shirazi Party) on Zanzibar. After the introduction of the one-party system, CCM was the major political factor in societal change. The socialism of Tanzania has many similarities with Islamic Socialism, and especially Nasserism influenced many Moslems in Tanzania.

The few Moslems who turned against the socialist politics were mostly of Asian origin. Some of the Moslem resistance was in the beginning channeled through the East African Muslim Welfare Society (EAMWS). It was founded in Mombasa in 1945 by the then Aga Khan with the aim of promoting Islam and raising the standard of living for the East African Moslems. Asian Shiites, especially Ismaili, dominated and financed the organisation, but Aga Khan recommended that all Moslems regard EAMWS as an organization with pan-Islamic ambitions. When its headquarters were moved from Mombasa to Daressalaam in 1961, the Nyamwezi chief and TANU opponent Abdallah Fundikira, regarded as Nyerere’s principal political rival in the 60’s, became the president of the organization. EAMWS concentrated on building schools and mosques, providing scholarships and spreading literature. There were also plans for founding an Islamic university in Zanzibar or Mombasa, but they were never realized. However, the Muslim Academy founded in Zanzibar in early 50s continued to exist as a training college for teachers of Arabic and Islamic education until it was closed down by the autonomous Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar in 1966. In regard to this it is interesting to note that Zanzibar has several times since January 1993 announced plans for a separate Islamic university and high schools connected to the University of Daressalaam; and since the middle of the 70s the Muslim Academy has been reopened, a new Muslim Secondary School has been built and Arabic has been adopted as the third official language of Zanzibar.

Because of the pan-Islamic tendencies and the capitalist oriented leadership of EAMWS, pro-TANU Moslems opposed it. The organization, it was claimed, constituted a threat to the ruling party. The antagonism culminated in 1968, when the organization was declared illegal in Tanzania. Other Moslem organizations were dissolved as well. Instead the pro-TANU Moslems, with several leading Qadiriyya sheikhs playing important roles, formed with the support of TANU the new national organization Baraza Kuu la Waislam wa Tanzania (Tanzania Muslim Council), BAKWATA, whose constitution was in large parts a copy of the TANU constitution. Because of the close connection to the ruling party and many leading Moslem politicians’ interference in BAKWATA’s activities, the role of the organization has been controversial. Its achievements have been limited due to poor finances. Criticism against BAKWATA increased during the 1980’s, when the opposition to the socialist politics of Tanzania grew and liberalization started.

Under internal Moslem pressure and international Islamic tendencies BAKWATA has lately become somewhat more profiled. The organization has arranged lectures on Islam in different parts of the country and in 1987 it called on the government to reinstall the system of Moslem courts that existed in colonial and post-colonial times. With the increased profile international Islamic contacts are on the rise. Some Arab countries have financed new mosques, schools, scholarships, dispensaries and provided teachers to the newly established schools.

The question of schools and Islamic education has for a long time been Tanzanian Moslems’ main issue. They had few equivalents to the mission schools whose activities not only spread Christianity but also led to a higher educational level among Christians. The decision by the TANU government to nationalize the schools in 1969 was therefore warmly welcomed by the Moslems. The Islamic schools which have been founded lately in a political climate more favorable to private initiatives, for example Kunduchi Islamic High School, seem to have an uneven standard but constitute an interesting development for the Moslems of Tanzania.

The proposal to reinstate separate Moslem courts is very controversial. Under the slogan “Don’t mix religion with politics!” the governments of Tanzania have endeavored to “privatize” Islam or marginalize the effects of Islamic law. An example of religious conflicts involving legal matters is the discussions about a government proposal to a new marriage law which was presented in 1967. The implementation of the law in 1971 was preceded by two years of intense discussions particularly regarding the position of sharia in the judicial system of the country were debated.

Before 1971 Moslems, as well as Christians and Hindus, followed their own marriage and divorce laws. Traditional judiciary systems of the different ethnic groups practising customary law were also in force. In addition, one could marry monogamously in a civil marriage. To counteract religious and ethnic exclusivism in favour of increased national consciousness, the government presented its aim in its 1969 White Book to create more uniformity in the sphere of family laws. The other important aim was to improve the position of the woman. One of the tangible proposals was that the minimum marital age for boys was to be eighteen and for girls fifteen. The fifteen-year limit for girls was presented with reference to UN recommendations. According to sharia puberty decides when a girl is marriageable.

The proposal that caused the most serious debate was the idea that a man who wanted to marry a second wife had to get permission from his first wife. The proposal that would forbid men to punish their wives corporally was also met with some resistance as well as the installation of an obligatory reconciliation agency for couples on the verge of divorce. If the agency failed to reconcile the parties concerned the husband in a Moslem marriage would legally be able to pronounce the divorce formula talaka (Ar. talaq).

Many Moslems who were taking part in the discussions opposed the idea of creating a more unified marriage law, especially where the proposed marriage law was in conflict with sharia. Since family laws are a central part of the Islamic law, any change which does not conform to them is particularly sensitive and controversial. Despite the criticism from the Moslems the government’s proposed law was passed in 1971 with only minor changes.

The proposals of BAKWATA in 1987 to reinstate separate Islamic courts is only one example which demonstrates that the question of the position of sharia in Tanzania is still a burning issue. In 1988 Sofia Kawawa, leader of the Tanzania Women’s Union, UWT, (Umoja wa Wanawake wa Tanzania, closely affiliated to CCM), came under fire after having publicly criticized Islamic rules that she felt were oppressive to women. According to Sofia Kawawa polygyny should be forbidden and women should have the same right of inheritance as men. Her statements caused protest and some riots. A group of young Moslems wrote an open letter which demanded that the secular regime refrain from interfering with religious matters. In Zanzibar two men died in the riots against the leader of the UWT. The Moslem president Ali Hassan Mwinyi, who a few years earlier had succeeded the Catholic Nyerere, hurried to explain that Kawawa had expressed her personal views and not the views of CCM or the government. Mwinyi saw no need to change the law, while Kawawa and other Moslem women continued to argue against certain Islamic laws. In some of her statements in 1990 Kawawa provocatively claimed that polygyny helped to spread AIDS.

In questions concerning for example polygyny, Moslem critics like Kawawa have gained some support from the Christian quarter. Christian criticism is, to some degree however, part of a wider propaganda campaign against Islam. It may be noted that many Christian men, especially outside the circles of leadership, actually have defended polygyny, albeit with reference to traditional African culture rather than to Christian belief. This was especially obvious during the parliamentary debates preceding the law changes in 1971. Many Christian men and women also support female circumcision which is practised rather widely, even by fourth or fifth generation Christians, and which is forbidden in law; but nobody talks about it. Female circumcision does not exist among Tanzanian Moslems other than those of Somali origin, and a mild form of it is secretly practised among the few Asian Shia Bohra.

The relationship between Moslems and Christians has by and large been harmonious in Tanzania. A certain tension has certainly existed under the surface, but it has seldom led to open conflict. In his valedictory address in 1985, Nyerere stressed the fact that the risk of religious conflict in Tanzania has been greater than ethnic strife. According to him large religious conflicts have been avoided not least because most Moslems have set national interests ahead of religious concerns. Lately however a tendency toward increasing conflict between Moslems and Christians has been discerned in Tanzania. One of the reasons for this is growing Christian fundamentalism. To many fundamentalist Christians Islam is considered the archenemy, particularly since Communism is no longer perceived as a threat.

New organizations and tendencies
New Islamic organizations have also added to the increased polarization between Christians and Moslems. Few of these organizations are officially registered. More rigid Islamic groups spreading propaganda for the surrection of an Islamic government in Tanzania are few and small, but less far-reaching signs of revitalization of Islam are evident. Zanzibar constitutes a special problem with its deeply rooted Islam and some Moslems who emphasize the importance of Islam want to see the Union dissolved. This is also desired by the Christian fundamentalists, particularly the unregistered Democratic Party led by the Rev. Mtikila.

One of the Islamic congregations which more or less openly has criticized the “official” BAKWATA is Warsha ya Waandishi wa Kiislam (Islamic Writers’ Workshop). Warsha was founded in 1975 as a unit within BAKWATA, its main concern being educational issues. The unit had many young and well-educated members, some of whom were Shiites. This radical group was supported by the BAKWATA secreterary general sheikh Muhammed Ali and demanded Islamic education alongside secular subjects in the Islamic secondary schools run by the organization. Moslems faithful to the regime argued that this went against the secular foundation of the state and after some conflict the Warsha group was excluded from BAKWATA in 1982 and its members were forbidden to work at BAKWATA institutions.

The young Warsha members have however continued striving for their goal. In their simple headquarters at Daressalaam’s Quba mosque, courses are arranged and literature is published. One of the Swahili publications, Uchumi Katika Uislamu (Economy In Islam), which deals with Islamic economy, has drawn attention due to its severe criticism of the Tanzanian socialist system Ujamaa, which they consider Communist. Most of the publications however deal with the so called Pillars of Islam, for example Sala with the horary prayer and Falsafa ya Funga ya Ramdhani with fasting during Ramadan. Warsha also tries to reform the old and mosque based Quranic schools where education is still largely based on memorizing parts of the Quran.

Another organization is Baraza la Uendelazaji Koran Tanzania (Tanzania Quranic Council), BALUKTA, whose 1987 constitution states that its main aim is promoting the reading of the Quran and spreading of Islam through financial and material support to Moslem schools. The organization is also making an effort to establish and run Islamic centers and institutes for Islamic higher education. Other constitutional aims within the educational field are among others publishing and conferences. Business projects like hotels and restaurants have also been announced. Holders of positions of trust are expected to have a sound knowledge of Islam. Compared to Warsha, characterized by its young members, BALUKTA seems somewhat old-fashioned. In April 1993 some BALUKTA members under the leadership of its president, sheikh Yahya Hussein, were involved in attacks against butcheries selling pork in Daressalaam. Three slaughterhouses were destroyed and some thirty people, including sheikh Hussein, were arrested. The background to this is that rearing and slaughtering of pigs have become common in religiously mixed areas and some Moslems have reacted vehemently.

The Daressalaam University Muslim Trusteeship is another organization striving to protect Moslem interests in higher education; it has produced statistics which point to the much publicised under-representation of Moslems at the universities and in the administration. (A parliamentary commission of inquiery has also come to a similar conclusion, followed by a report of the Roman Catholic Church of Tanzania in 1992 which confirms the political and educational imbalance between Christians and Moslems. A book in 1994 by Aboud Jumbe, a former president of Zanzibar, further describes the dominance of the Christians and the underprivileged position of the Moslems in the country.) The members of the Trusteeship try to promote a better understanding of Islam as a way of life. Another organization, Baraza Kuu la Jumuia na Taasisi za Kiislam (The Supreme Council of Islamic Organizations), founded in 1992, has a strikingly large number of university employees among its membership. This new council tries to take over the leading role of BAKWATA as a unified organization for all the Moslems of the country, and its activities are closely monitored by the government.

Islamic renewal in Tanzania has been supported by organizations abroad. The World Council of Mosques, with its headquarters in Jeddah, has opened an office in Daressalaam to facilitate its work in Tanzania. Some foreign organizations have supported minor domestic Islamic movements which aim to change the country into an Islamic state. The Iranian Revolution has inspired some Tanzanian Moslems, among others Khamis Muhammed, who is the editor of the new Islamic magazine Mizani. In a 1990 interview he said that the Islamic Revolution should be followed by all Moslems in the world. Khamis Muhammed has also been influenced by, and has written about, Wahhabism.

Embassies of some Islamic countries have in different ways tried to support the radicalization of the Moslem forces in Tanzania. Some Moslem heads of state have also supported the Moslem aspirations. Through the embassies, means have been provided for the building or renovation of several mosques, Moslem secondary schools, hospitals and clinics. Favorable loans have been given through these channels to Moslems engaged in commercial activities. But the activities of the embassies has caused divisions among Moslem groupings in the country.

In connection with a visit by the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury in 1993, president Mwinyi, adhering to the secular stance towards religious issues of his predecessor Nyerere, complained about some extremely religious individuals abusing freedom of speech to create chaos in the country. Archbishop Carey talked about the fundamentalist threat. Zanzibar’s becoming a member of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) was heavily criticized by Christian leaders, who argued that this contravened the secular constitution of Tanzania. The sharp criticism and the risk of a dissolution of the Union resulted in the Zanzibari government decision to leave OIC.

On some occasions, as in connection with the government crisis in Zanzibar in 1988 ( the year when the demonstrations against Sofia Kawawa took place ( Mwinyi and other representatives of the regime have pointed to Moslem groups in Zanzibar and in exile who, despite the great autonomy of the island state, are disputing the Union. One of the controversial groups is the Pemba based Bismillahi who want a referendum on the Union between Zanzibar and Mainland Tanzania. A visitor to Zanzibar soon realizes that Islam is not only a private matter, although the authorities nowadays are less concerned with for example public eating and drinking during Ramadan, which have become more common because of the influx of tourists and Westerners.

For many years organs critical of the regime, among others Warsha and the magazine Mizani, issued propaganda for a multi-party system. When Tanzania in 1992 introduced multi-partyism it was understood that all parties should have a national profile and that religion and ethnicity must not constitute the base for new parties. Especially Moslems were warned not to use the multi-party system for religious purposes. Besides the usually limited political demands, Moslem revival in Tanzania, as in other parts of Africa, has been noticeable in the growing number of mosque goers and that Islamic style clothing has become more popular. In the propaganda activities some Christian influences are descernible. Public Moslem sermons are being held in streets and squares. The practice of inviting foreign “revivalists”, spreading tracts and pamphlets, as well as putting stickers on vehicles and distributing cassettes and videos has become more common among Moslems.

Literature
A classical study of Islam in Tanzania and other parts of East Africa, although somewhat out-of-date, is J. S. Trimingham’s Islam in East Africa (Oxford 1964).

The historical development of Islam on the East African littoral is well described in R. L. Pouwel’s Horn and Crescent, Cultural Change and Traditional Islam in the East African Coast, 800(1900, Africa Studies Series 53 (Cambridge 1987).

An outline of the history of Islam in the coastal areas is to be found in some of the chapters of Lena Eile’s thesis Jando. The Rite of Circumcision and Initiation in East African Islam, Lund Studies in African and Asian Religions 5 (L”ber”d 1990).

The question of Arab influence in Zanzibar is treated in Abdulaziz Y. Lodhi’s article “The Arabs in Zanzibar (from the Sultanate to the People’s Republic”, Journal of Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs (JIMMA), 7:2 (1986), pp 404(418.

Sufism is shortly described in F. Constantin’s essay “Le saint et le prince. Sur les fondements de la dynamique confr‚rique en Afrique centrale”, pp 85(109 in Les voies de l’islam en Afrique orientale, ‚tudes r‚unies par F. Constantin (Paris 1987), and more thoroughly described in August Nimtz’s book Islam and Politics in East Africa. The Sufi Order in Tanzania (Minneapolis 1980). The main focus is on the political importance of the Qadiriyya order.

A broader account of the political importance of Islam and other religions is to be found in David Westerlund’s Ujamaa na Dini. A Study of Some Aspects of Society and Religion in Tanzania, 1961(1977, Stockholm Studies in Comparative Religion 18 (Stockholm 1980).

The political role of Islam is also described in Imtiyaz Yusuf’s newer thesis Islam and African Socialism. A Study of the Interactions between Islam and Ujamaa Socialism in Tanzania (Temple University 1990).

The status of Moslems at the beginning of this decade is well described by A. Y. Lodhi in his article “Muslims in Eastern Africa – their past and present”, Nordic Journal of African Studies (NJAS), 3:1 (1994), pp 88-99, and by Aboud Jumbe in his controversial book The Partner-ship: Tanganyika-Zanzibar Union – 30 Turbulent Years. (Amana Publishers 1994).

Sporce : http://www.islamfortoday.com/tanzania.htm

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