Brief Information about Kigoma and Lake Tanganyika
Kigoma is a town and lake port in western Tanzania on the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika and close to the border with Burundi. It serves as the capital for the surrounding Kigoma Region. The historic trading town of Ujiji is 10 km south-east of Kigoma.
Lake Tanganyika is an African Great Lake. It is estimated to be the second largest freshwater lake in the world by volume, and the second deepest (more than 1436m), in both cases, after only Lake Baikal in Siberia; it is also the world’s longest freshwater lake (660 km) at somewhere between 9 and 13 million years old, it’s also one of the oldest contains about 17% of the world’s available surface freshwater supplies. The lake is divided among four countries – Tanzania, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, and Zambia, with Tanzania (46%) and DRC (40%) possessing the majority of the lake. The water flows into the Congo River system and ultimately into the Atlantic Ocean.
Kigoma Jamaat – came into existence in the year 1897 with a small number of families who initially settled in Ujiji in a small town about 10 Km south of Kigoma town at the time there were about 15 shops in Ujiji. Bandali Ismail Muraj was an active member who used to organize majlises and other ceremonies that were held at the house of Nasser Virjee – the earlier pioneers. Two elders of the community Mulla Mohamedali Moloo (popularly known as Mulla Kibondo) and Haji Ali Hashim who spoke Arabic fluently conducted religious ceremonies and were also leading congressional prayers.
The Mosque and Imambargha was built in the early 1900 and among the early arrivals in Ujiji were Kermalli Hansraj and Ladha Damji who arrived in Ujiji in 1903 at the time Jamaat was established.
It is reported that by 1912 there were 40 people in Ujiji and almost the same number in Kigoma. By 1917, about half of the population of Ujiji had moved to Kigoma as the business opportunities were much brighter in Kigoma. In about 1922 an Imambargha was built using iron sheets.
The Cemetery (Kabrastan) at Mnazi Moja in Busagara was acquired in 1925 and donated to the Jamaat by Abdulla Hema; the plot is divided equally between Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri and Ismaili Jamaat and is still in use.
With gradual increase in the numbers of our community members arriving in Kigoma, a building belonging to a Hindu businessman, Narandas Desai was purchased in 1930 for the amount of shillings three thousand (Shs:3,000/-), money donated by Ladha Damji and Ladhu Jaffer. The house was converted into a prayer room and a small shackle was erected at the backyard and a local Maalim was engaged for children to learn Qurán. A small room was also constructed to accommodate guests. Later on, Imambargha was built on the same plot, which still exists. Major renovations were made in 1973 funded by ex Kigoma members and several other donors.
Kigoma at that time consisted of fishermen villages at the shores of Lake Tanganyika; main stay of income for the villagers was from fishing and small manual farming. Our community settled in Kigoma and nearby villages of Mwandiga, Kasulu, Bukuba, Kibondo, Mahembe and Mukibo were mostly engaged in businesses as shop-keepers while a few were involved in the exports business with the neighboring countries and to other parts in Tanzania mainland, a good number of businessmen from our community thrived and became successful entrepreneurs.
The first President of Kigoma Jamaat was Alhaj Rehmtulla Allibhai Panju in 1935 and followed by others. The current President of the Jamaat is Alhaj Arif Mohamedrafiq Haji Jaffer and there are about 17 people in total, includes ladies, gents and children.
Between 1950 and 1970, the population of our Jamaat in Kigoma reached to about 400. In 1955 two buildings were built by our Jamaat through donations from various community members in East Africa. A Primary School was established in one of the buildings whose headmaster was Mr. Pagdiwalla and the Islamic Religion teacher was Mr. Umaáti from India, to facilitate for the community children education.
During the Ashra-e-Muharram, Zakirs, Zakiras and Nauha reciters from outside Kigoma were invited to recite majlises for the azadari of Imam Hussain (AS), and Niyaz was prepared and served in Imambargha for gents and ladies during the 12 days of Muharram. There are lessons to learn from our elders whose dedication, foresight and long vision has been towards the development in religious, economic and social services for the benefit of the community members.
The first Ashura procession (juloos) in Kigoma Jamaat was started by Br. Murtaza Ramazanali Jivraj (popularly known as Murtaza Karbala) in 1969, and is still being taken out each year by our Bilal brothers.
In early seventies, due to tough economic conditions and decline in civic and health services and similarly in education standards, our community members started moving out of Kigoma to Dar es Salaam and other towns in Tanzania, leaving behind a dwindling Jamaat.
Since 1970, the Ujiji Mosque is being fully utilized by Bilal Muslim Mission of Tanzania, where several Tabligh activities are held, including Friday prayers. In 1995, the family of Marhum Ramzanali Jivraj donated a plot adjacent to the Mosque and it was decided to construct a big Mosque on this plot to accommodate the growing number of local Shia population, the followers of the Madháb of Ahlulbayt (AS). The plot was donated for the Ithal-e-Thawab of late Ramzanali Jivraj, Maryambai Jivraj and marhumeens of his family.
With the financial help of the ex members of Kigoma Jamaat, the Mosque in Ujiji had recently undergone major renovation and extension to accommodate Madressah, Nursery School and an apartment for the Maalim, who is also a care-taker of the Mosque.
In the absence of a Resident Aalim in Kigoma, Sheikh Abdulwahid Albayit of Darul Huda is providing support in conducting some religious ceremonies in our Jamaat in Kigoma, he is being assisted by the Bilal Muslim Mission Sheikhs in Kigoma.
Africa Federation Chairman, Alhaj Anwarali Dharamsi led a delegation to Kigoma for an official visit to Kigoma Jamaat, he was accompanied by the Hon. Secretary, Aunali Khalfan and was joined by Alhaj Gulamabbas Khaku, Nominated Councillor of AFED from Mombasa. Several ex Kigoma members joined the AFED delegation on the visit to various development sites and Tabligh centres to witness the ongoing activities. The delegation spent 3 nights from 13th to 15th November 2015 in Kigoma. During this time several meetings and discussions were held with the Jamaat and officials of the Tabligh centres operating in the region.
In a joint meeting with Kigoma Jamaat Chairman and the ex Members of Kigoma Jamaat present during the visit, it was noticed that the Kigoma Mosque was not in good condition hence needed major works, it was decided that the Mosque be redeveloped. To this end, Br. Mohamed Damji and Br. Sheni Lalji volunteered to assist in the architectural design, drawings, permits and construction etc. the work is expected to begin by early next year and completed in one year. The ex Kigoma members pledged their financial contributions towards the project. Alhaj Anwarali Dharamsi on behalf of AFED and on behalf of his family also pledged financial support towards the Mosque project. The primary goal is to protect our heritage and history for the benefit of the coming generations. It was also proposed on the available facilities within the Mosque complex (Imambargha) be used for Madressah activities for 2/3 days a week to keep the place utilized. The Jamaat will liaise with Bilal Muslim Mission of Kigoma to work on the modalities and the management of the Madressah and its facilitation.
During the three days visit to Kigoma, several Institutions and Centres were visited and the delegation witnessed various developments and projects being undertaken by the institutions. Undoubtedly, there is vast opportunity for Tabligh in Kigoma region, and some good infrastructure is needed. Besides this, there are also several good business opportunities for people who wish to invest, particularly in service and export industries.
It was heartening to witness the ongoing drive to provide solar lights at some of the centres and also fresh water bore-hole with pump operated by solar power. In some centres there are washroom and toilet facilities while in other centres these are not available, the plan is to ensure all centres are brought up to a good standard. All new centres will have washrooms, toilets and solar power lighting and water pumps.
There are total 50 centres in Kigoma region of which 21 centres that include Madressahs are run by Bilal Muslim Mission of Tanzania and 29 centres are operated by Darul Huda and Ahlulbayt Islamic Centre. The scope of Tabligh work and other social services like education, primary healthcare etc. is huge.
On a visit to 16 Centres and 2 Mosques, AFED delegation were accompanied by the Chairman of Central Bilal Board, Br. Sheni Lalji, the Kigoma Branch Chairman of Bilal Muslim Mission of Tanzania, Sheikh Abdulwahid Abiyat and the Bilal Kigoma Branch Secretary, Sheikh Amri, who were joined in the visit by ex Kigoma members.
We would like to express our appreciation to the Chairman of Kigoma Jamaat, Alhaj Arif Jaffer for a warm hospitality and affable reception.
Our deepest appreciation and thanks go to Br. Mohsin (Sheni) Lalji for the warm welcome and hosting the delegation at Kigoma Hilltop Hotel. We are also thankful to him for organizing various visits to Tabligh centres in Kigoma town and villages, and for facilitating several meetings with the concerned people at the centres.
We convey our thanks to all the ex Kigoma members who accompanied us throughout and for being so helpful all the time during the visits.
We pray to Allah (SWT) by His infinite grace and mercy to grant these wonderful people with good health, long life and success in their endeavors. We pray to Allah (SWT) to shower His blessings with inspiration to continue with the noble work they do for His pleasure – Ameen.