Islam throughout the World: Djibouti

Photo 76457595 © Roland And Elena Obermeier |

Djibouti is a state in East Africa, on the coast of the Gulf of Aden and the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait separating it from the Arabian Peninsula in the Yemen region by a narrow strip of water 30 kilometers wide. Having crossed this strait on a simple boat, a medieval traveler could end up in Mecca in two weeks’ journey. It is not surprising that after the emergence of the Caliphate, the Arabs quickly spread their influence over this region and subjugated the local nomadic Kushite tribes. Since the 7th century CE, the Djibouti region had become part of the Muslim ummah.

The modern Republic of Djibouti is a Muslim country with the widest variety of currents and madhhabs of Islam. Islam in Djibouti is, of course, the state religion, however, despite the fact that this is enshrined in Article 1 of the Constitution of the country, Article 11 says that believers of all denominations are equal before the law and can freely practice their religion. This provides the opportunity for such religious diversity. Most Djibutians profess the Sunni variety of the Shafi’i madhhab, but in addition to them, there are communities of both the Hanbalist, Hanafi, and Maliki madhhab in the country, as well as communities of the Pakistani movements of Deobandi and Barelvi, the Sufi tariqahs of Naqshbandiya, Chishti, Urwaniya, Shadhiliya, Uwaysiya, Tijaniyya, Qadiriyya, Suhrawardiya, Muridiya, as well as a Bektash community. In addition to the Sunnis, communities of 12 different branches of the Shiites and 5 directions of the Kharijites operate in Djibouti, as well as 12 other Muslim sects. Muslims are also not prohibited from converting to other religions (although rejection of Islam is generally perceived negatively by friends and family in a country where 97% of the population is Muslim)

Djibouti’s neighbours are Muslim Somalia to the south and Christian Ethiopia and Eritrea to the west. The state received its name in 1977, when it became independent. The state was named for the capital, the city of Djibouti, and that, in turn, for the name of the coral cape on which the city is located. In the 16th century CE, the territory of Djibouti was captured by the Portuguese, then recaptured by the Arabs and eventually became the possession of France under the name of French Somalia at the end of the 19th century CE. Throughout the history of Djibouti, the indigenous population of the Kushite Afar tribe remained nomadic, and all the administrative and political positions in the country were occupied by Arabs.

Djibouti currently has a Sharia court for civil cases. Criminal cases are considered in accordance with the norms of secular law. Muslim affairs are managed by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Culture and Waqfs (property transferred to the maintenance of Muslim institutions), which is headed by Moumin Hassan Barreh.

The Muslims of Djibouti are distinguished by moderation and tolerance, while strictly following the laws and regulations of Islam.