Tag Archives: Muslim

Wedding Shower at the Kumasi Central Mosque

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to attend a Muslim wedding ceremony in the zongo surrounding the Kumasi Central Mosque. The ceremony involves the bride reciting verses from the Quran with the guidance of a Mallam (religious teacher). During the recitation, guests and family members offer gifts of cash to the bride. The groom was not present as he was undergoing the same ceremony at his home. It was wonderful to see the entire community organize the wedding together. The bride was flanked by classmates from her madrasah who diligently wiped away every bead of sweat or tear on her face. Not far from where the ceremony was held, elder women of the community cooked wakye (pronounce wah-chey), a local dish of rice and beans to serve to wedding guests.

Watch the video for a snippet of the event.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fApYkwZkZg

A Christian and a Muslim walk into a bar…: religious harmony in Ghana from a Muslim perspective

[pullquote]“The Qur’an commands us to live next to them, to be kind to them, to do justice to them.  We eat their food and marry their children.  They attend our ceremonies and we attend theirs.  Our children go to Christian schools.”[/pullquote]

In Ghana, there’s no questioning that religion plays a big role in things – it informs political decisions, defines cultural practices, and sets societal standards.  From billboards to taxis, religion is everywhere.  One of my preferred pastimes during the long trek to and from work is to see what kind of religious names cabdrivers have named their cars; so far, some of the best ones include Holy Spirit Makes Me Fast, God’s Chariot, and my personal favourite, Jesus Power.

It is thought that about 68 per cent of Ghanaians are Christians, and at least 25 per cent are Muslims, with higher concentrations of Muslims in the north.  Before we came, I was concerned with how this might affect traveling throughout the country; would Lin be hassled down south because she was a Muslim, and would my Christianity be accepted up north?  I had been keeping up to date with the happenings in Nigeria, the country most often compared to Ghana, where tensions between Muslim rebels and the Christian government have reached deadly levels in the past months.

Then I got to Ghana, and all of my fears were alleviated.  If there were ever a model for peaceful coexistence in a country, I found it in Ghana.  In Canada, conflict between Christianity and Islam, two religions with an uneasy history, is avoided mostly by exactly that: avoidance.  Muslims go to mosque, Christians go to church, and they generally don’t associate too much outside of a professional context.  There isn’t dialogue, there’s no framework in place to encourage religious harmony; religious tolerance is all that’s expected.

Not so in Ghana.  Here, Muslims and Christians live side by side, often in the same compounds, sharing meals, laughs, and as it turns out, family.

“In Ghana here, since we have been born our fathers have lived peacefully with the Christians,” says Alhaji Mohammed Abdul Wahab, Deputy Iman of the Ashanti Region.  “The Qur’an commands us to live next to them, to be kind to them, to do justice to them.  We eat their food and marry their children.  They attend our ceremonies and we attend theirs.  Our children go to Christian schools.”

When I press him about what the Qur’an says about sharing the Muslim faith, something that the Bible is very adamant about for Christianity, Abdul Wahab quotes me a verse from the holy text he has been studying for most of his life.

“There is no compulsory religion,” he says.  “I won’t force you to come on the right path.  It is open, and if you see it, you will come.”

It’s a startlingly refreshing perspective on such a historically volatile issue, one that has been the cause of many global conflicts for centuries.  I decide to poach the elephant in the room, and mention the Crusades, Israel and Palestine, 9/11, threats of Qur’an burnings in Florida, bringing it all home by pointing out the religious blood feud currently taking place a couple of countries over.

Abdul Wahab sighs.

“It’s not a religious conflict,” he says, contradicting everything and anything I’ve ever known about Christian-Muslim tensions.  “If you go down to the roots, you will find other reasons – tribal, ethnic, political.  People just want to mask things with religion, to hide behind it.”

“What is going on in the world, it worries us.  We don’t know what it will bring tomorrow.  But here in Ghana, we will continue to do as God commands.  We will continue to live in brotherhood.”

Imam Abdul Wahab says he considers Christian Ghanaians to be his brothers and sisters. The world could learn a few things.

Islamic Schools in Ghana – Educating a minority

Students in the pre-school class at Madrasatulil Muhammad sit on plastic woven mats on the floor while reciting verses from the Quran.

There is no clear consensus on the exact number of Muslims in Ghana; according to official government census, Muslims make up approximately 15.9 percent of the population. The Coalition of Muslim Organizations and the CIA World Factbook, however, say the more accurate figure is 30 percent.

Whatever the exact number may be, Muslims are undoubtedly a minority in Ghana. The building that doubles as a mosque and an Islamic school where my friend Fuad Muhammad teaches plainly illustrates that fact.

Madrasatulil Muhammad is one of the many madrasahs or Islamic schools in the Muslim-dominated Akrom Zongo in Kumasi. They are commonly known as makaranta which means ‘school’ in Hausa, the native language of Muslims in Ghana.

When I visited the school, there was some renovation construction going on. Thanks to the school’s generous benefactor – a Muslim Ghanaian businessman who lives in the US – the ground floor of the building which acts as the community mosque is now being installed with glass windows.

The classrooms above the mosque, however, remain windowless. Lessons begin right after dawn at the makaranta and it took a while for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. Whatever light that came through the doors at either end of the room was swallowed up by the bare cement walls and floor.

Seated on rows of wooden benches, students craned their necks and waved impatiently at those blocking their view of the blackboard. There are no desks; students simply put their books on their laps or the vacant spaces on the bench next to them. Students in the pre-school class are gathered at the ground level of the building. They sat on rows of woven plastic mats on the floor reciting verses from the Quran.

Students writing their exam at the Madrasatulil Muhammad in Akrom Zongo, Kumasi.

Despite the bare amenities, students at Madrasatulil Muhammad show up every weekend for their lessons in the Arabic language, Islamic history and Quranic studies. They are also given sex education since it is a taboo subject that is rarely discussed between parents and their children the conservative Muslim society.

Muhammad said that the school collects 70 peswas (roughly equivalent to 45 cents Canadian) from each student per day. The money is used to pay for some of the teachers’ transportation costs. The rest, like Muhammad, work on a volunteer basis. According to Muhammad, he doesn’t mind not being paid for his work because it is an extension of his duties as a Muslim towards his community.