Islam in Mozambique

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Islam in Mozambique is the religion of approximately 45% 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[edit]

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[4] 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[edit]

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[edit]

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.[5]

Prominent Mozambican Muslims[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Muçulmanos festejaram "IDE UL FITR" no país" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 2018-12-12.
  2. ^ a b c Bonate, Liazzat J. K. Bonate (Spring 2007). "Islam and Chiefship in Northern Mozambique" (PDF). ISIM Review. 19 (1): 56–57. Retrieved 2014-06-10.
  3. ^ "Sofala - MSN Encarta". Archived from the original on 2009-11-01.
  4. ^ Wikisource Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Sofala" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 25 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 344.
  5. ^ Martin, Richard C. (2004). Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World. Macmillan Reference USA. ISBN 978-0028656038.


  • Bonate, Liazzat J. K., “Divergent Patterns of Islamic Education in Northern Mozambique: Qur’anic Schools of Angoche.” In Robert Launay, ed., Islamic Education in Africa: Writing Boards and Blackboards. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2016, 95-118.
  • Bonate, Liazzat J. K., “Islam and Literacy in Northern Mozambique: Historical Records on the Secular Uses of the Arabic Script.” Islamic Africa, Vol. 7, 2016, 60-80.
  • Bonate, Liazzat J. K. “The Advent and Schisms of Sufi Orders in Mozambique, 1896–1964”. Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations, Vol. 26, No. 4, 2015, 483-501.
  • Bonate, Liazzat J. K., “Muslim Memories of the Liberation War in Cabo Delgado.” Kronos: Southern African Histories, Vol. 39, November 2013, 230-256.
  • Bonate, Liazzat J. K. ,“Islam in Northern Mozambique: A Historical Overview.” History Compass, 8/7, 2010, 573-593.
  • Bonate, Liazzat J. K. “Muslims of Northern Mozambique and the Liberation Movements”. Social Dynamics, Vol. 35, No 2, September, 2009, 280-294.
  • Bonate, Liazzat J. K., “L’Agence des musulmans d’Afrique. Les transformations de l’islam à Pemba au Mozambique”. Afrique Contemporaine, No. 231, 2009, 63-80.
  • Bonate, Liazzat J. K., “Muslim Religious Leadership in Post-Colonial Mozambique.” South African Historical Journal, No 60 (4), 2008, 637-654.
  • Bonate, Liazzat J. K., “Governance of Islam in Colonial Mozambique.” In V. Bader, A. Moors and M. Maussen, eds., Colonial and Post-Colonial Governance of Islam. Amsterdam University Press, 2011, 29-48.
  • Bonate, Liazzat J. K., “Between Da’wa and Development: Three Transnational Islamic Nongovernmental Organizations in Mozambique, 1980–2010”. Newsletter of the Africa Research Initiative, Second Edition –March 2015, Centre for Strategic Intelligence Research, National Intelligence University, Washington DC, pp. 7-11.
  • Bonate, Liazzat J. K. “Traditions and Traditions: Islam and Chiefship in Northern Mozambique, ca. 1850-1974.” (PhD Dissertation, University of Cape Town, 2007)
  • Bonate, Liazzat J. K. « Matriliny, Islam and Gender in Northern Mozambique », Journal of Religion in Africa, vol.36, no.2, pp. 2006, pp. 139–166
  • Bonate, Liazzat J. K. "Dispute over Islamic funeral rites in Mozambique. A Demolidora dos Prazeres by Shaykh Aminuddin Mohamad », LFM. Social sciences & missions, no.17, Dec.2005, pp. 41–59
  • Lorenzo, Macagno, Outros muçulmanos : Islão e narrativas coloniais, Lisbon (Portugal) : Imprensa de Ciências Sociais, 2006
  • Eric Morier-Genoud, « L’islam au Mozambique après l’indépendance. Histoire d’une montée en puissance », L’Afrique Politique 2002, Paris: Karthala, 2002, pp. 123–146
  • Eric Morier-Genoud, « The 1996 ‘Muslim holiday’ affair. Religious competition and state mediation in contemporary Mozambique », Journal of Southern African Studies, Oxford, vol.26, n°3, Sept. 2000, pp.409–427.
  • Eric Morier-Genoud, “A Prospect of Secularization? Muslims and Political Power in Mozambique Today”, Journal for Islamic Studies (Cape Town), no. 27, 2007, pp. 233–266
  • Eric Morier-Genoud, “Demain la sécularisation? Les musulmans et le pouvoir au Mozambique aujourd’hui”, in R. Otayek & B. Soares (ed.), Etat et société en Afrique. De l'islamisme à l'islam mondain? (Paris: Karthala, 2009), pp. 353–383

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