Oct 3 2022
“Abdul Kamel” the first black clergyman of Cameroon
“Abdul Kamel”, the first black clergyman of Cameroon, says: “Before, if they gave me a lot of money, I would not be satisfied to wear the clothes of the clergy, but now I wear these clothes with pride.” He wishes for a day when the Shiites of Cameroon will have a separate cemetery for themselves.
He, who has visited Karbala once and the House of God once, describes the atmosphere of visiting the Razavi shrine differently and says that from the first time he went to the shrine and the love of Imam Reza (a.s) fell on his heart. Thirteen-fourteen years have passed, and during this time, he was regularly counting the moments to return to the spiritual capital of Iran, but he did not have the expense of returning to the spiritual capital of Iran.
He comes from Cameroon, from the neighborhood of Central Africa, like all Africans, he has a black face and masculine awe, but when he starts speaking, compassion and kindness fill his words and sit on your heart. His main language is French, but he also speaks Farsi fairly well.
He is 37 years old and now he is the imam of the Imam Hussain Mosque (a.s) and the vice president of the Ahl al-Bayt Institute (a.s) in Douala, the largest city in Cameroon and the economic capital of this country. Apart from him, there are two other native students in Douala, but their studies have not yet been completed. In this regard, he says: 15 Cameroonians are currently studying in Iran, four of them (two women and two men) are studying religious sciences in Mashhad, four in Isfahan and the rest in Qom.
* Tell us a little more about yourself
– I am Abdul Kamel Abbas from the country of Cameroon in Central Africa. I am 37 years old and have two children named Narges and Mehdi, both of them were born in Qom. At first, I was a Sunni-Maliki, but when I was in this environment, I became Shia.
* How did you come to Iran and choose the Shia religion?
“Haj Mohammad Salehpour” is the first person who became Shia in Cameroon. After becoming a Shia, he came to visit Imam Reza (a.s) and after that he went to visit Hazrat Masoumeh (s.a) in Qom and studied. The authorities provided three scholarships for Mohammad Salehpour to bring three people from Cameroon to study in Qom, but due to the negative propaganda of Wahhabis against Shiites in Cameroon, only two people were agreed to come, one was me and the other was a Shiite named “Abu Hossein”. , so we started studying in Iran in 2000. Of course, Abu Hossein could not continue and returned to Cameroon, but I stayed and continued my education.
* How did you become Shia?
In Cameroon, the number of Shiites was very small, we had little news about Shiites, and our sources of information were the books of Wahhabis against Shiites. When we came to Iran, after a while we went to a pilgrimage camp in Mashhad, at that time I did not know Imam Reza (peace be upon him), that is why some professors and African Shiites introduced him to me to some extent. When I went on a pilgrimage, I told them that If you are the Imam which they say, guide me! This was my prayer and I think one or two months later, when I returned from Mashhad, I became Shia.
* Did you come to Iran with your wife?
Yes, we came to Iran one year after our marriage, we lived in Qom for five years and our children were born here.
* When you got married, were your wife Shia?
* Did they not object to your marriage?
By the way, we had a lot of problems, because some Wahhabis argued that why should someone who is a disbeliever have a Muslim wife?!
* Does that mean they considered Shias to be infidels?!
Yes! Of course, my wife’s father did not pay attention to these words and told me that he had made his decision and therefore my wife became a Shia when we came to Iran.
* How long after?
I think it was less than a year. she herself went to “Fateme Al-Zahra” school in Qom and read some materials and became a Shia knowingly, without my insistence.
* What about your father in law, did he also become a Shia?
– During these five years that we were in Iran, he passed away, but some of their family members became Shia because of my wife. Even one year in the month of Sha’ban, we held a conference on Mahdism, and this became a basis for more understanding of the differences between Shia and Sunni and the discussion of Mahdism, and many young people became interested in the Shia religion.
* What did you do after returning to Cameroon?
In Iran, I realized that the Wahhabi ideas were wrong, so I became a Shia, I went to the Imam Khomeini school, and I studied philosophy and mysticism at the Hojjatiye school for three years, then I decided to return to Cameroon. Because of the lack of scholars and spiritual leaders in Cameroon, the situation was not progressing in favor of the Shiites, so I decided to take a step in promoting my religion. One of the best things I saw was the promotion of the Jafari religion and the existence of a Shia institution in which we even accept Christians, some of them have become Muslims, and this has been one of the ways of promoting religion with knowledge.
* How many people became Shia during this period? Do you have statistics?
Before this, the number was not quantitatively large, but now with our teaching, holding conferences, delivering sermons and Friday prayers, people are gradually getting to know Shia.
* So, for Shiites, Friday prayers are held separately in Douala?
Yes, a large crowd also participates, so that our mosque has a capacity of 400 people and almost the same number of men and women attend.
* How many percent of Cameroon are Shiites that you describe the presence of 400 Shiites in Friday prayers as too much?
Cameroon has about 22 million people and includes several different religions. Government statistics say that 45% of this population are Muslims, 50% are Christians and 5% are of other religions, but we who see, Cameroon’s Muslims closely are more than this, and I feel that this statistic is the opposite, that is, almost 55% are Muslims. Almost two percent of this population are Shiites, which was not even half a percent before the propaganda!
* They don’t bother you to promote Shiism?
– No, the government does not create a problem, but the Wahhabis – who are numerous and influential – speak ill of us to the government and call us terrorists! Every time the government inquires, it realizes that these claims are false. Unfortunately, the Wahhabis do everything to make Shiites appear as subversives. In any case, our work is going well, especially since the mosque plays an active role on Fridays.
What was the name of your mosque?
Ahl al-Bayt (a.s) mosque, which of course we built it in the name of Imam Hussain (a.s).
* With the help of which institution or who?
Shiites of Cameroon and the help of Jameat al-Mustafa.
* Does the mosque have additional services such as a library so that those who are interested can learn more about Shiism?
– Yes, as far as I remember, since six months ago, the collection has about 2,000 books, most of which are in French, because our dominant language in Douala is French. Of course, Cameroonians also know English.
* What are your main needs for advertising? Do you think this number of books meets the needs of the audience?
We need two things the most: we need a good school, and the children also need help to continue their studies at the university, because many of them cannot continue their studies at the university due to financial poverty, and this is the reason why they cannot have a responsibility in the country. We hope that this problem will be solved in the future.
* Having said that, the financial situation of the Shiites in Douala – the economic capital of Cameroon – is not very good…
Yes, Shiites are weaker than others, especially the youth who are not rich at all. Because of this, sometimes the work of preaching becomes difficult, of course, I always tell the youth that this is a test from God, one day the problems will be solved and I compare their situation with the people of Lebanon, who were also oppressed and poor before, and like servants with They were dealt with, but when they established a strong relationship with the religious authority, all their problems were solved. Therefore, I invite the Shiites to hope and I believe that despair leads to failure.
* With the exception of Eid al-Adha and Fitr, which are common between Shia and Sunni, do you also celebrate other holidays?
Yes, by the way, we invite the Sunnis with the exception of the Wahhabis, even the Sufists love us and participate in the ceremonies.
* Do you have something called a place of pilgrimage in Cameroon?
-No, but in the future, we want to have a special Shiite cemetery.
– Because Wahhabis have cemeteries that are even worse than others, unmarked and very dirty. Therefore, we decide to buy a place in the future with the help of others and have a suitable cemetery for Shiites.
* God willing. We wish you to achieve this as soon as possible.
Thank you I want to thank Jamaat al-Mustafa, good Iranians and all those who gave me the opportunity to be in Mashhad. After I became a Shia, I saw the world in a different way and I noticed this change inside and outside of me. Previously, even if they gave me a lot of money, I would not have been satisfied to wear clerical clothes, but now I wear these clothes with pride.
* So, in Cameroon, are you always in clerical clothes?
Yes, and I have no problem. Even non-Muslims and Christians respect this dress.
* Thank you for your time.
I also thank you, because “من لم یشکر المخلوق، لم یشکر الخالق”.