Botswana is a small landlocked country in Southern Africa with Namibia (in the west and north) Zambia and Zimbabwe (in the north- east), and South Africa (in the east and South) as neighbours. Before independence it was called Bechuanaland. The country was declared a British protectorate in the late, 1880’s. It became independent in 1966, with a democratic constitution. Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has been ruling the country since independence. Botswana National Front is the main opposition party which occupies about one sixth of the seats in the parliament. Most of the people speak Setswana which is the national language, while English is the official medium used in Business and government affairs.
Total area of the country is approximately 585,000 sq. km. and the estimated population of the country is 1.5 million. The population of the main urban centres is (approximately) Gaborone (capital) 200,000, Francistown 125,000, Lobatse 90,000, Selebi-Phikwe 75,000 and Jwaneng 50,000.
The railway line from South Africa passes through Gaborone on its way to Zimbabwe. Most of the urban centres are connected by tar roads which go up to Namibian, Zambian, Zimbabwean and South African borders. The main airport is in Gaborone, while there are small airports in other urban centres. The nearest seaport is Durban, South Africa, which is about 750 kms from Gaborone.
Shia Ithna-Asheri Muslims in Botswana
The majority of the people in the country are Christians. There are a few oral and written resources regarding Muslims in Botswana which are inconsistent and of doubtful reliability. At present the estimated total number of Muslims in the country is around ten thousand who are either citizens or legally living in Botswana Majority is Sunnis. Early comers were Indian traders, who might have helped their relatives or friends to come to Botswana to earn a better living as compared with their own countries. Perhaps colonial powers or administrators helped Muslim traders to create a buffer with-in themselves and the natives which paved the way for Islam unintentionally.
The first Shia Ithna- Asheri Muslim Syed Mohammad Ahmad Naqvi arrived in Botswana on 13.11.19 71 with his wife Jamal Fatma and son Aijaz Basheer who was about three months old, at that time. Mr. Ahmad was appointed by the Botswana Government to work in the National Library Service. Mr. & Mrs. Ahmad both worked for the Botswana Government for thirteen and ten years respectively. Mrs. Ahmad left the government job towards the end of 1981 and started a Building Materials and Hardware supply business called Jamal Trading Company (Pty) Ltd. Two Shia Ithna- Asheri Muslims (Syed Shamim Akhtar and Syed Ali Zafeer) came from India to work for Jamal Trading Company during 1982-1983. Mr. Shabbir Ali Bengaliwala came from India in 1975 to work in the Ministry of Finance. Four Shia Ithna- Asheri Muslims qualified librarians were recruited by the Botswana Government. They also arrived in 1983 from UP. India. One of those Librarians Mr. Sultan Haider was working as a Senior Librarian in the Botswana National Library Service. Mr. Riaz Somji Arrived from Tanzania in the early 1980’s with his family and started his own Business. Mr. Hasnain Bhojani S/O Mr. Abdulrasul Bhojani came to Botswana during 1985-86. He is also in Business in Gaborone. Syed Fakhir Husain Sherazi came from Pakistan during 1986. He has his own Business.
There are more or less ten people in their own or family Business and around same number of persons is working for government or other organizations. The rest are either small children, old persons, housewives or school going children. A directory of the Shia Ithna- Asheri persons is being maintained at the P. MA. Centre which is up to date. At present there are about 150 Shia Ithna- Asheri Muslims of various age groups who live in Botswana. Most of them are living in Gaborone. The majority of the Shias in Botswana is Indian & Pakistani origin. There are 5 converters of African origin. They are from Malawi and Botswana.
Shia Religious and Cultural Centres in Botswana
It is felt that each urban centre must have a building for religious and cultural activities according to the present and future needs. A plan for five years should be drawn and growth must be reviewed annually or half- yearly.
Islam as such is a fairly new religion in the country. Generally people do not know who or what Shias are or what they believe in. Unfortunately nothing has been done about the propagation or Shiaism so far. All cultural and religious prayers and programmes are arranged by the community under the religious guidance of a resident Maulana in a house allocated by Mr. M Ahmad, the Founder & Chairman of the Panjetani Muslim Association of Botswana. The Chairman & Executive Committee members are always trying to encourage community members to participate actively in all socio-religious programmes at the PMA Centre. This is bringing us closer to each other.
The Panjetani Muslim Association of Botswana was registered under the societies Act of Botswana on 06.02.98. The constitution is quite extensive which may be used as a guide for the improvement of the over all condition of the followers of Ahlulbait (A. S.) in Botswana. This is the only Shia Ithna – Asheri organization in the country which looking after the interest of the community in Botswana.
Material and moral support is needed from the members and well wishes for the following activities which are placed in order of Preference.
A. Educational Activities
1. Muallim for Islamic Centres
Maulana Syed Rehan Sardar Naqvi arrived in Botswana on 15-5-99 with his wife and two small children. He took charge of all religious activities at Panjetani Muslim Association Centre. He left Botswana in 2004. At present Maulana Syed Raza Abbas Naqvi is conducting these activities as a resident Aalim.
2. Books, Lectures and Audio/Video Programmes
At present there are about 500 books in the PMA Library which is growing gradually. Moreover there are videos of Majalis in Urdu & English. Maulana Syed Rehan Sardar Naqvi started delivering general religious lectures in Urdu on birth and death anniversaries of Prophet and Imams in 1999 etc. Maulana Syed Raza Abbas Naqvi is doing the same now.
3. Nursery School
May be provide initially from the P. MA. Centre to impart basic religious education to the pre- school children.
4. Recreational Activities
To participate in social & sport activities a Cricket Team has been formed recently which is dominated by Shia Ithna- Asheri Youths in Gaborone.
5. Religious Education in the afternoon
Maulana is teaching Quran to children at home in the afternoon after coming out of morning schools. All Shia children are learning Quran and Deenyat in the afternoon.
6. Higher Education
As a matter of national Policy Botswana Government prefers to have citizens for each job in the country. Anybody interested in the Religious Studies after secondary school may be assessed and recommended for scholarship to study in an appropriate educational institute overseas. Efforts are being made to find a suitable person as soon as possible.
B. Charitable or Voluntary Services
P.M.A. is providing financial assistance to disabled persons from time to time. During winter season blankets and used clothing are supplied to the poor people by Mr. &Mrs. Ahmad from their own resources. Moreover it is hoped that P.M.A. will assist the needy persons in Botswana by providing the following services:
1. Water Facilities
Water Facilities for Old Men, Women and Children who have to walk miles away to fetch water for domestic use.
2. Medical Facilities
Medical Facilities to needy poor people with the help of volunteers and sympathizers, doctors, pharmacist and other financial supporters where free consultation and medicines may be provided.
3. Disaster Relief Services
Disaster Relief Services to the poor and needy people affected by natural or man made disasters.
C. P.M.A. Building
A plot for P.M.A. Centre has been acquired in Gaborone. The plan is also ready. Estimated cost of the building is US $ 1,000,000 (One Million US $) but we have no funds. The Botswana Government may re-possess the plot if we do not develop it soon. The plot has been cleared and the boundary wall has been erected and paid by M & Mrs. Ahmad from their own resources.
Syed Mohammad Ahmad Naqvi
Mr. Hasnain Bhojani
Syed Arbab Hasan Naqvi
Syed Naseemul Hasan Zaidi
Syed Sameer Ahmad Naqvi
Syed Suhail Abbas Zaidi
Syed Raza Abbas Naqvi
Plot 14397, Gabs. West Industrial Area, Gaborone, Botswana
P.O. Box 493, Gaborone, Botswana
Tel: (+267) 391-4659, Fax: (+267) 392-7639
Cell: (+267) 71333555 / 72100380
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