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Shia Leading and Educational Institutions in Kenya

The Shiite Muslim leading institutions in Kenya are contribute to the development process in Kenya.

The leading Shiite developmental and educational organizations in Kenya are the following:

Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN)

The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is a group of private, non-denominational development agencies which founded and guided by Prince Karim Aga Khan IV. The group seeks to empower communities and individuals to improve living conditions and opportunities, in sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South Asia and the Middle East. The Network focuses on health, education, culture, rural development, institution-building, promotion of economic development and dedicated to improving living conditions and opportunities for the poor without regard to their faith, origin or gender. Its annual budget for not-for-profit endeavours exceeds US$500 million. The AKDN works in 30 countries around the world, and employs over 80 thousand paid staff, mostly in developing countries.

Among AKDN‟s agents is The Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) which is a private, not-for-profit international development agency, which was founded in 1967 by the Aga Khan. Similar to AKDN, AKF specializes in providing long-term solutions to problems of poverty, hunger, illiteracy and diseases in the poorest parts of South and Central Asia, Eastern and Western Africa and the Middle East.

In these regions, the needs of rural communities in mountainous, coastal and other resource-poor areas are given particular attention. The Foundation’s activities often reinforce the work of other sister agencies within AKDN. While these agencies are guided by different mandates pertaining to their respective fields of expertise: environment, culture, microfinance, health, education, architecture and rural development, their activities are often coordinated with one another in order to “multiply” the overall effect that the network has in any given place or community. AKF also collaborates with local, national and international partners in order to bring about sustainable improvements of life in the 19 countries in which it works. The Foundation’s head office is located in Geneva, Switzerland.

AKF provides a limited number of scholarships each year for postgraduate studies to outstanding students from developing countries that have no other means of financing their studies. Scholarships are awarded on a 50% grant: 50% loan basis through a competitive application process once a year in June or July. The Foundation gives priority to requests for Master’s level courses but is also has plans to consider applications for PhD programmes, when doctoral degrees are necessary for the career objectives of the student. Requests are also considered for travel and study awards for PhD students doing their research in Third World countries on topics judged to be of interest to the Aga Khan Development Network.

Many AKDN‟s institutions began as voluntary organizations but grew into strong institutions that opened their doors to all East Africans and went on to make important contributions to the development of the nation.

In Kenya, AKF had been active in since 1974, working in health, education, rural development, civil society enhancement and the environment. In 1996, the foundation‟s branches in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda merged under a common regional management and governance structure (Ojede, 2000:16).

The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) has also made key investments in Kenyan industry and infrastructure, including electricity generation, agriculture, media and tourism. AKFED, which has made bold but calculated investments in economic projects ranging from power generation to agri-businesses, operates some of Africa‟s most successful companies, including many listed on the Nairobi Stock Exchange besides providing employment to tens of thousands of Kenyans.

The Aga Khan University (AKU) has made huge expansions in its activities in health care and professional education of doctors, nurses and teachers. Aga Khan Education Services (AKES) provided 10,000 children with education. Aga Khan Hospital (AKH) serves over 460,000 patients every year in medical institutions throughout the region. The Aga Khan Academy in Mombasa is the first of an international network of schools dedicated to excellence in education. Click here to Visit its Website

Bilal Muslim Mission – Kenya

Bilal Muslim Mission – Kenya is religious Shiite charitable organization which works through development and service activities to raise the standard of living of the less fortunate people in rural areas of Kenya. The activities of the mission consist of sponsoring poor students in educational levels, running economic empowerment projects, health action camps, drought response programmes, development works besides conducting Shiite religious celebrations.

The foundation was established in 1964 when the federation of Khoja Shia Ithna Asheri Jamaats of Africa held its conference in December 1964, in Tanga, Tanzania, and passed a unanimous resolution undertaking to convey shiite Islamic teachings to the indigenous Africans in East Africa.

Shiite efforts to spread Shiism among indigenous Africans had been made long before that resolution. Those efforts, however, were by individuals on their own and not made in unison and organised manner. The resolution gave them an impetus to form organizations under the name of Bilal Muslim Mission which was established in both Tanzania and Kenya in honour of the companion Bilal, who was the first Muezzin of Islam. Later, Bilal Muslim Mission of Kenya registered as a religious charity organization on 11th November, 1971.

Bilal Muslim Mission organizes annual Muharram Majlis at their headquarters. The majlis is dedicated to the preservation and perpetuation of the memory of the „martyrs of Karbala‟. A series of lectures is organised to coincide with the mourning period, in which aspects of Shia political history is narrated by the speakers. Not all the guest speakers nor the audience are Shias. A number of Sunni scholars have also been invited to give the public lectures. The lectures are video-taped and disseminated for viewing by a much wider audience, and through this strategy, Shia history and political concerns are made more accessible to non-Shias. This has the double advantage of educating non-Shias about Shiism and on the basis of this, eventually minimising anti-Shia sentiments within the country (Bakari, 1985:66).

Bilal Muslim Mission operates in several areas and run many centres in Southern and western of Kenyan coastal province such as: Mtongwe, Burani, Moyeni, Bahakanda, Miamba, Kichakamkwaju, Shimoni, Samburu, Chengoni, Mackinon Road, Demwa and Mwasafu in addition to villages in Eastern Province like: Nzavoni, Kilungu and Masongaleni.

In addition to its supervision on the said centres, the mission offers scholarships for distinguished needy students and holds periodical seminars and workshops for Islamic Religious Education (IRE) teachers, Imams and youth groups in order to preach Shia Islam among them (Bute, 2013:67-77). Click here to Visit its Website


Burhani Foundation

Burhani Foundation is a charitable foundation based in India which is founded by former world spiritual leader of Shiite Dawoodi Bohora sect, Dr. Muhammad Burhanuddin Saheb, to promote environmental awareness, research and other developmental activities.

The philosophy which motivates and guides the foundation is based on the core message that the bounties of nature from the Almighty God are entrusted to man to enrich his life and these bounties are protected by the environment of the earth and the sky through which filter down the light and energy of the sun and the beauty and grace of the moon and the stars.

Similar to its works in India, Burhani foundation has established several development projects in Kenya for a long time where the second president of The Republic of Kenya, Daniel Troitich Arap Moi [1978-2002], was the patron of the foundation in 1980s. Some of 5.2 shillings of the foundation were earmarked for establishment of schools, clinics and various charitable works, although most of those who benefited from the foundation‟s activities were Dawoodi Bohora sect’s members (Ojede, 2000:18).

Rasul al-Akram Academy

Rasul Al Akram Academy is a boys‟ day and boarding school, offering an integrated curriculum that combines the Kenyan 8.4.4. System of education and Islamic Religious Sciences.

The school is located along Kuwinda Road off Langata Road in Nairobi, Kenya. It sits on a five acre piece of land and consists of the following facilities: Administrative block, tuition block, two science laboratories, a computer laboratory, hostel blocks, multi-purpose hall, library, kitchen, wood workshop, playgrounds, school farm and a Mosque.

Rasul Al Akram Academy was re-opened in 2004 as a non-profit making school, with the objective of providing the much needed education to students from low income families, while at the same time cultivating moral and religious values in them, targeting specifically the unprivileged Muslim community. The school is run by the trustees of the Muntazir Charitable Trust, an Islamic Charitable organization which are sponsored by Iranians.

Apart from what is taught in class, the academy has a programme of religious activities through which it cultivates the spiritual and moral values of the students. They include lectures, Recitation of supplications and acts of worship to mark important events on the Islamic calendar according to Shiite Ithna-Ashari sect‟s rituals and celebrations. The school employs a total of 18 teachers comprising of graduate and diploma holders with a vast teaching experience. Four of these teach the Islamic Sciences while the rest teach the secular subjects. Among the teachers, they have departmental heads for Mathematics, Sciences, Languages, Humanities, Technical subjects and Shiite Studies (Bute, 2013:78). Click here to Visit its Website

Jafferi Academy

Jaffery Academy is a Shiite academy which was founded in 1954 and run by Shiite Khoja Ithna-ashari‟s community in Mombasa. The school offers nursery to Secondary education levels for all communities in addition to an institute which provides different kinds of workshops and short vocational programmes. The Academy has a similar branch in Nairobi known as “Nairobi Jaffery Academy” which is a private co-educational school that endeavours to provide excellence in education designed to meet the needs of individual students within a stimulating learning environment. The Academy aims at educaing students from 2 to 18 years old, from their first steps in schooling through to A-Level. The curriculum of the branch is based on the British National Curriculum but takes into account the wealth of educational resources provided in Kenya, Africa and beyond (Bute, 2013: 65). Click here to Visit its Website

Amirul Muminin Centre

The centre is located at Matuga, Kwale; near Mombasa and was started in 1992 as Shiite centre which run by Imam Mahdi Foundation. It consists of three educational levels that focus on Ithna-Ashris Shiite studies as follow:

  1. Primary Level: Where the student learns the basic studies for Shia Islam in three months. The level targets those completed their secondary certificates before they advance to colleges and University.
  2. Preparatory Level: It lasts for two years. In this level, the student learns Sharia and religious studies according to Shiite interpretation.

     3. Secondary Level: It lasts for four years where the student learns Shiite Studies in depth so that he/she can teach or preach Shiite Islam among communities.

The centre has graduated more than 50 students and has managed to secure scholarships for 12 students for further Shiite studies in Syria, Lebanon and other Arab countries.

The first director of the centre was Sheikh Abdallah Nasir and run it from 1992 until 1994. He succeeded by the current director, Hassan Ali Mwaloba. Both Abdallah Nasir and Mwaloba have embraced Shia Islam after being Sunnis as the communities at Kenyan coastal areas (Bute, 2013:65-66).

Al-Safa Centre

The centre is situated at Lamu and was opened in 1969 as Sunni religious centre which run by Sharif Mzee Mwinyi but turned later to Shiite centre due to decision taken by the said Sharif who reconverted from Sunni Islam to Shiism Islam in response to religious and financial influence by some Shiite foreign preachers and scholars whom settled in Lamu. In 1993, the Sharif changed the existing Sunni curriculum of the centre to Shiite curriculum where the centre became a Shiite academy that teaches religious studies according to Shiite sect. Later on, the centre developed from just a religious centre to a primary integrated school that teaches the normal Kenyan primary curriculum in addition to Arabic and Shiite religious studies. The centre has graduated its first lot of primary students in 2012 and is planning to open a secondary school in the coming years. Financially, the centre is run by Ahlul-Bayt Foundation in Lamu, and has religious educational activities in Matondi, Malindi and collaboration with Imam Zainul-Abidiin Shiite School in Mombasa (Bute, 2013:64-65).

Ahlul-Bayt Centre

The centre is located at Kilifi County near Mombasa in Kenyan coastal area. It combines library that consists of Sunni and Shiite books in addition to administrational offices. It is run by Sheikh Abdallah Nasir, a prominent shia figure, who wrote and translated several books in Eglish and Kiswahil in support for Shiite theology and jurisprudence such as: The Hoy Quran; what Shia say, The Shiite perspective towards Sunnis and Mut‟a Ndoa Ya Halali which means: The Leisure marriage is legal (in Kiswahili) (Bute, 2013).

About Ali Teymoori

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