They came chanting, “Takbir, Allah Akbar” and attacked anyone who dared to stop their mission.
As they approached Old Kampala mosque, the headquarters of Uganda Muslim Supreme Council, no stone was left unturned. It is here they declared Jihad – the Islamic holy war, according, Hajj Muzamir Luswaata, 65, as he recalls incidents of the March 22, 1991 during the Tabliq attack.
It was a Friday mid-afternoon, a group of young Muslim men stormed UMSC at the Agha Khan Mosque on Namirembe Road.
Their mission was to forcefully remove the elected Mufti whom they branded a “moving dead”, who deserved not to lead a Muslim community.
Sheikh Ibrahim Saad Luwemba was then the Mufti, following an election that resulted from a protracted deliberation between the two warring factions, spearheaded by Sheikh Obedi Kamulegeya and Kassim Mulumba.
Sheikh Mulumba’s group on the other hand fronted and paid allegiance to Sheikh Rajab Kakooza as their lawful Mufti, who, before the Supreme Court installed Sheikh Luwemba, was acting on interim basis having been installed by Sheikh Kamulegeya.
Events before the attack
However, before the events, the Uganda Muslim fraternity since the 1880s, had had their internal wrangles that have gone on for more than 180 year to date. The woes, however, were based on the fact that each group struggled for leadership and recognition.
It is in 1979 that a new phenomenon emerged in the Uganda Muslim fraternity.
A new group of young educated Muslims was formed and their mission was to restore the true Islamic doctrines that were “erased” by the old guard.
According to Hajj Nsereko Mutumba, the spokesman of the UMSC, the group was led by Sheikh Kizito Zziwa and was dubbed the Salaf group – which means, those who follow the right path of Prophet Muhammad’s true Sunnah (practice).
The Salaf were a group of youthful men who observed certain practices, including putting on bout-cut trousers, wear, maintaining beards and had banned certain traditional practices they believed were unlawful in Islam and had been concocted by the Sheikhs of long ago and incorporated into Islam.
The activities included fortune telling or sorcery (Okuba ekitabo), “Okwaabya Olumbe” or funeral rites and celebrating the Mawlid to mention but a few.
Hajj Nsereko notes “When the young Muslims, many of who had travelled and studied in Saudi Arabia, came back to Uganda, they came back with a lot of vigour and sought fight many of these practices,” says Mr Nsereko.
Hajj Nsereko says the old Sheikhs could not permit the young ones to speak at Muslim public congregations such as on Idd days and during Friday sermons.
Hajji Luswaata recalls that this forced the young Muslims to devise means on how they would counteract the spread of what they called Bidi’a (invented Islamic practices).
“We then started what used to call the Open Universities and the young Muslims movements,” narrates Luswaata, who was an active member in these groups.
He says the open universities played a strong role in teaching young Muslims what the old men termed as a new religion.
“As leadership fracas continued to a climax, on both sides of Sheikh Mulumba and Obedi Kamulegeya and then Sheikh Kakooza and Sheikh Luwemba, in 1970s to 1980 respectively, the young Muslims concentrated on sinking and extending their teachings to different parts of Kampala,” the father of seven, adds.
However, Luswaata shares, in 1981 our leaders felt they cannot achieve their motives without capturing leadership from the old guard.
According to Hajj Nsereko, between 1981 and 1982, the Salaf group, which he actively participated in all their planning activities, had gained the approval of the young Muslims majority and had a big following.
“We started conducting Da’wah in open places. And that is when even people like Sheikh Mustafa Bahiga converted to Islam,” he recalls.
Hajj, however, prefers to say that these newly converted Muslims were just “reverting into Islam.”
Others notable personalities that converted into Islam were Sheikh Jamil Mukulu, who before he converted on May 17, 1984 was called Mr Alirabaki Kyagulanyi, a church catechist and a born of Muntooke Parish in Bugerere.
Because of their mode and style of practicing Islam, old Muslim men branded them the Tabliqs, which is an Arabic word for – the religious crusaders.
This term, however, according to Ashraf Muvawala, a research at the UMSC was locally termed as Abatabuliki [Tabliqs] in 1985.
Other notable figures during the active period of the Tabliq movements, were Hajj Imam Kasozi, currently the leader of the Uganda Youth Muslims Association (UMYA), Hon Hussein Kyanjo the Makindye West MP and many of the Sheikhs who have been shot in the recent months.
During the turmoil that brought President Museveni into power, Sheikh Zziwa Kizito fled the country and left the leadership of the Salaf group turned Tabliq sect under Sheikh Yunus Kamoga.
However Hajj Nsereko says, today the newly converted Muslims tend to study Islam and practice.
“Thus was the case with Jamil Mukulu. He studied Islam and immersed himself with the religion doctrines to an extent that he even started passing Fatwas [Islamic decrees],” the 60 year old recounts.
The NRM government intervened to restore sanity on both camps.
The camps of the Luwemba were now based at a big store on William Street (the store then became the current Masjid Noor) and at Nakasero, and the Kakooza group based at Old Kampala but attached to Kibuli Mosque.
The group, however, was being accused of imposing itself at Old Kampala and conniving with police to force the Kakooza group out of William Street to a small old Kabalaza Mosque on Rubaga road.
Uganda World Muslim League struggled to mediate between the two factions until an election was organised in 1987 and Sheikh Luwemba won it. Though, the Kakooza group did not agree with the results, leading to the group refusing relinquish power to Sheikh Luwemba.
Sheikh Luwemba petitioned the High Court that ruled in the favour of Sheikh Kakooza and the matter was appealed in Supreme Court, which ruled in favour of Sheikh Luwemba and issued a directive that Sheikh Kakooza vacates the office with immediate effect.
We traced the origin of Islam in Uganda and how tension started among the Muslim community.
The attack on UMSC and the foundation of the ADF
How the Allied Democratic Forces came into place and recruited members