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History of Riyadha Mosque

Riyadha Mosque

A BRIEF HISTORY OF RIYADHA MOSQUE
Riyadha Mosque is not among the oldest mosques of Lamu. It construction started in the year 1892 C.E. The fact that it has played a major role in the dissemination of knowledge and propagation of Islam has made it a landmark historical institute in the whole of East Africa.

Habib Swaleh and Al-Habib Abubakar Al-Hussein (Mwenye Manswab) had a very cordial and spiritual affiliation such that the latter bequeathed his farmland popularly known as “Dari ya Mtanga” (Castle of the soil) to the former, to build an academic centre.

In 1889 C.E and with the help of his friends, Habib Swaleh built a temporary wooden structure which was used as place for teaching his students and prayers. Initially, the centre was not a mosque. At that time, Habib Swaleh was the Imam of Sheik Bilad Mosque situated in, the Langoni area, in the southern ends of Lamu town.

One day a visitor from Hadhramout by the name Ahmad Batweyh visited the centre and intended to perform “itikaf” thinking it was a mosque. To his surprise, he was informed the place was not a mosque. Although disappointed he prayed that one day the centre will become a very famous mosque as he was very impressed with the academic activities taking place there.
Upon his arrival in Hadhramout, Ahmad Batweyh informed his people what he saw at Habib Swaleh’s centre. The Hadhramis were very impressed and immediately sent a group of five teachers to Lamu in order to help Habib Swaleh , among them were: Sheikh Omar Salmin Bagufa, Ahmad Aqida, Salmin Bajabar, Basaidah, Ridhwan.

Within a few years the centre had expanded in stature and the importance of converting it into a mosque was realized. By this time, a world renowned Islamic scholar Sheikh Abdallah Bakathir had also created contacts between Habib Swaleh and the Great Hadhrami Sufi Scholar Al-Habib Ali bin Muhammad Al-Habshy. Later on, Al-Habib Ali Al-Habshy would become a spiritual mentor and very close friend of Habib Swaleh even though the two never met.


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As the activities of the mosque increased, Al-Habib Ali Al-Habshi sent his student Sheikh Jamil Salim Bakabe with his famous poetic book “simt Durar” on the life of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) to Lamu to teach Habib Swaleh’s students. Consequently, the book became so famous in Lamu and was read every thursday night. A grand annual celebration of the birth of the Prophet (s.a.w) was initiated at the Riyadha mosque upon its completion and the “Simt Durar” became even more popular all over East Africa.

In 1901 C.E the mosque was again expanded but retained its initial design and form. It was until 1947 C.E that the son of Habib Swaleh, Sayyid Aidarus, again expanded the mosque and built the famous Green Dome and the Ribat Area attached to the main mosque particularly for studies and other religious functions.

Later on Habib Swaleh’s great grandson, Shariff Muhammad Bahsan, planned to build a separate building for academic purposes in the precincts of the Riyadha mosque. Although he had laid the foundations of the building, when the Academy known as Mahaad Thaqafah Isalmi officially opened its doors in 1981 C.E he had passed on a year earlier.

The Riyadha Mosque was renovated again ni 2008 C.E under the blessings of Al-Habib Hussein bin Sayyid Ahmad Badawy whereby the original interior mosque was expanded thus bringing about the necessity of shifting the Mihrab from its original position. The original Mihrab has been maintained for historical purposes.

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