"Peace! - a word from a Lord Most Merciful!" [Noble Quran 36:58]
Saturday, July 12, 2008
This is really an inspiring story - the story of an orphan teenage convert who
memorized the Quran in the midst of a civil war. Despite all the hardships, he
(together with his friends who are also converts) was determined to journey and
do 'hijra' in the way of Allah to seek knowledge, which is a form of jihad per
To Spread the Message of Peace
story of Umugwaneza Sulaiman, a contestant for the Dubai International Holy
Qur’an Award, is truly inspirational since he has risen from rubble to create a
Even though he is only 19, this young man from Rwanda has survived a life of
hardship. As a young child he survived the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. He still
has horrific memories of hiding in forests from militias that were killing
people. The rivers and roads they walked through were littered with bodies.
Later on he lost his father and had to lead a harsh life in one of the poorest
countries in the world.
Despite all his hardships, Sulaiman was determined to become a hafiz and was rewarded by becoming the first
Rwandan to take part in the Dubai International Holy Qur’an Award competition.
Sulaiman’s quest with the sacred book started when he converted to Islam at the
age of 11.
“Even though my family were Catholics I was never
interested in the church. The Azan from the mosque in my neighborhood
fascinated me and I started attending classes there,” he said.
When asked if he faced any resistance from his family, Sulaiman said that his
family had no issues with him becoming a Muslim, as Islam is a held in high
regard in Rwanda after the 1994 genocide. His whole family followed him a few
years later and converted to Islam.
Since the genocide, Rwandans have converted to Islam in huge numbers. Muslims
now make up 14 percent of the 8.2 million people in Africa’s mostly Catholic
nation, twice as many as before the killings began. The reason behind the
conversions lies in the fact that Rwandan Muslims did not take part in the
genocide and played a key role in the humanitarian efforts that followed.
Muslims have been honored by the national government for their roles in saving
the lives regardless of their faith. Many people attribute the recent spread of
Islam to these humanitarian acts.
It took years of dedicated work for Sulaiman to memorize the Qur’an. The lack
of qualified teachers in Rwanda made him make up his mind to travel to Kenya as
there are good Qur’anic schools there.
“I was 15 when my five friends and I decided to
travel to Kenya to seek knowledge. Two of my friends were converts like me,”
The six young men packed their bags and traveled to the Kenyan capital,
Nairobi, to find the school. They enrolled themselves in a free boarding
school, which accepts students from all over East Africa. There they studied
under the tutelage of Qur’an scholars. It took Sulaiman two years to memorize
the whole Qur’an.
Now back home in Rwanda, Sulaiman works as a part time Imam and Qur’an teacher
to supplement his income while studying at the only Islamic seminar in Kigali. “Masha Allah, there are so many Muslims now in my country.
We are working hard at teaching the Qur’an to the new generation of Muslim
children,” he said.
After finishing his education, Sulaiman hopes to get a scholarship to study
Islam. “We get Muslim scholars coming from Uganda
to spread the word of Islam in Rwanda. I hope that through my knowledge of
Islam I will be able to help spread peace in my country,” he said.
Prisoner Of Joy