Islam in Burundi

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A mosque in Bujumbura, pictured in 2009

Islam is a minority religion in Burundi where approximately 90 percent of the national population are followers of Christianity. Between 2–5 percent of the population identifies as Muslim, according to a 2010 estimate by the United States Department of State.[1] The same year, the Pew Research Centre estimated that there were 230,000 Muslims in Burundi, equivalent to 2.8 percent of Burundi's 8.4 million inhabitants.[2]



Islam first arrived in Burundi from the East African coast as part of the Arab slave trade in the late 19th century.[3] The Arabs were prevented from entering the Kingdom of Burundi by a successful campaign of resistance led by mwami (king) Mwezi IV Gisabo.[3] However, they did establish settlements at Ujiji and Uvira close to the country's current borders.[3] The number of Muslims in Burundi increased under German colonial rule (1894–1916) and the German administration favoured the use of Kiswahili, spoken mostly by the Muslim population. By the outbreak of World War I, the capital Usumbura (now Bujumbura) was a majority Muslim city.[3] The religion declined under Belgian colonial rule (1916–62) as a result of the spread of Christianity (especially Catholicism) and urbanisation which brought non-Muslim Burundians into the cities.[3]


Today the Muslim population is strongly urbanised and focused in the cities of Bujumbura, especially in the communes (districts) of Buyenzi and Bwiza, as well as the towns of Gitega, Rumonge, Nyanza, Muyinga, and Makamba. The great majority are Sunni while a small minority are Shia and Ibadi.[1][3] Most are Swahili speakers although they may speak other national languages.[3] Native Burundian Muslims belong to both of the country's major ethnic groups (Hutu and Tutsi) and largely avoided becoming involved in the Burundian genocides and other inter-ethnic violence since independence.[3] However, a significant proportion of the community are recent immigrants to the country from West Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Middle East, and Pakistan.[3]

The Republic of Burundi is officially secular but several Muslim festivals, including Eid ul-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, are celebrated as national holidays alongside Christian observances.[1] Despite being only a small proportion of the national population, Muslims are represented in senior positions in Burundian politics and society, especially since the end of the Burundian Civil War.[4]

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Burundi". International Religious Freedom Report 2010. United States Department of State. 17 November 2010. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  2. ^ "Religions in Burundi". Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project. Pew Research Centres. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Luffin 1999, p. 29.
  4. ^ "Despite small numbers, Burundi Muslims still influential". World Bulletin. 26 May 2015. Retrieved 15 November 2016.


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to Islam in Burundi at Wikimedia Commons