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Muslims Trace Historic Paths of Martyrs in Uganda :: Uganda Radionetwork

Muslims Trace Historic Paths of Martyrs in Uganda

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Hajji Abas Mulubya Ssekyanzi, the Secretary General of the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council-UMSC flagged off the group from the UMSC headquarters on Saturday.
10 Jun 2024 07:22
A foundation stone laid at Nateete mosque in memory of the first converts

Audio 4

A group of over 50 Muslims have traced the footprints of the Muslim martyrs. Hajji Abas Mulubya Ssekyanzi, the Secretary General of the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council-UMSC flagged off the group from the UMSC headquarters on Saturday.  

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The group started from the Mulungu landing site, where the first Arab traders led by Ahmed Bin Ibrahim docked in 1844. These Arabs initially came to trade and later practiced their Islamic faith in the current-day Nateete, as stated by Hajji Suleiman Musana, the coordinator of the trail.  

Ashiraf Zziwa Muvawala, the spokesperson of the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council, explained that later, King Ssuuna II wrote to the Sultan of Zanzibar asking for teachers of the Islamic faith to be sent to his kingdom. When they arrived in Buganda through Mulungu, they camped at Nateete, a trading center, and began teaching their faith there. 

They collaborated well with King Ssuuna, gifting him a Quran, mirrors, beads, and other items. Despite embracing the Islamic faith, King Ssuuna did not convert to Islam during his reign. Yahaya Ssekyeru, the head of the Nkima clan, accepted Islam and offered his land in Nateete to construct the second mosque in Buganda for the natives to practice and learn Islam.  

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During this time, natives learned Kiswahili, Arabic, and Islamic practices like circumcision and prayer, leading to the spread of Islam in Buganda from Nateete. However, during the religious wars in Buganda between Christians and Muslims, over 500 Muslims, including Arabs, Swahili, and natives, were killed and buried in a mass grave in 1875 at the same place where a mosque was later built.

From Nateete, the team went to Kasubi, where the first mosque in Buganda was built. Matovu Ramsey Hakim, head teacher of Kasubi Modern Islamic Nursery and Primary School, told Muslims that when King Muteesa I took over the throne in 1856 after his father Ssuuna's passing, more Arabs came to Buganda to teach Islam and trade.   

They approached him with gifts, and King Muteesa I fell in love with the Islamic faith, making Buganda an Islamic kingdom. He explained that Mutesa’s administration incorporated Islamic practices, and the dress code in the Buganda parliament (Lukiiko) reflected Islamic influences. King Muteesa I also decreed that all natives fast during Ramadan during his reign at Nakabotongo, currently Nakawa, where he had his palace.  

Due to an outbreak of diseases, King Muteesa I moved to Lubaga and then to Kasubi, where he set up his palace and built the first mosque in Buganda with two prayer directions (Kibura). This unique structure was a result of the belief that facing the true direction of prayer would cause worshippers to have their backs on the king's residence, which was taboo.

Later, Islamic teachers from Egypt corrected this.  Unfortunately, some historical structures were not preserved. At Kasubi, Muslims were shown a handwritten Quran gifted to King Muteesa I, a kettle he used for ablution, and other items donated by the Arabs. 

Later, King Muteesa I was approached by a group of Islamic teachers from Egypt who resisted some of his orders, leading to a conflict. This resulted in the killing of several Muslims in Buganda. King Muteesa I also faced pressure from missionaries, putting him in a dilemma about religious affiliations, ultimately leading him to remain neutral.

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When King Muteesa I's reign ended, King Mwanga ascended to the throne on October 18, 1884. He was intolerant of any religion, leading to the killing of many Christian and Muslim martyrs at Namugongo who rebelled against him.

He was eventually fought by both Catholics and Anglicans, went into exile in the Seychelles Islands, and was coerced into the Anglican Church through forced baptism, receiving the name Daniel. Religious wars continued in Buganda, and Muslims took refuge at Kijungute.   

King Kiwewa briefly took over the throne, followed by King Kalema, who was the first Buganda king to be circumcised according to Islamic teachings, against the norms of the Buganda Kingdom. Despite the belief that a Buganda king should not shed blood while on the throne, Kalema accepted circumcision to fulfill Islamic norms and values. 

After two years, he was overthrown by his brother Mwanga, who returned from exile and found refuge in Kijungute, as narrated by Prince Simbwa Kimera Lukanga, a descendant of Kalema.  

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