Every year, Muslims in the country observe the Ijtima, which is an annual gathering for them. JAMES CHIMPWEYA talked to chairman of the Blantyre Islamic Jamaat Imran Fattani to find out the significance of the occasion.
What the term Ijtima mean?
Ijtima means gathering of people from various mosques, districts and regions to pray, supplicate and devote themselves before God (Allah). During this time, people pray, eat and sleep together, whether rich or poor. This is the uniqueness of Ijtima. This is also a unique platform where people of different backgrounds come together and give Dawah in obedience to God. They also teach one another how to pray.
What is the background to Ijtima?
In Malawi, Ijtima dates back to the 1980s, to be specific in 1987. It was organised by the Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) in Limbe. Since then, we have been having Ijtima and we adopted it as an annual event. Blantyre Muslim Jamaat held their Ijtima in Lunzu last Saturday. We had this forum in readiness for the main event organised by MAM from September 7-9 this year in Blantyre.
What is the significance of Ijtima for Muslims?
The significance of Ijtima is the coming together of different people regardless of their political affiliations and status. The aim is for all Muslims in the country to come together and pray. This is a unique moment for us because we bury our ideologies and this is a rare opportunity for Muslim leaders from various Jamaats and mosques to come together and encourage one another.
Apart from prayers, we also have time to discuss various issues pertaining to our religion such as development and leadership.
How does an Ijtima differ from a pilgrimage?
Ijtima is optional while the pilgrimage is mandatory for a Muslim. A pilgrimage is a holy journey where people from different countries around the global come together and purify themselves by stoning Kaabar. In Mecca, [Saud Arabia], people also sleep, eat and pray together to show unity and oneness to the creator that although we might differ in colour, race we are one by same creator.