The Saint of Lamu (Swahili)

Mwana Hadie is believed to have lived around the 16th century in Lamu. She was renowned as ‘The Saint of Lamu,’ owing to her unwavering commitment to her religious beliefs. 

Mwana Hadie, a fierce spirit, became a champion for the rights of women and children. Through the power of education, she sought to empower them, using both Arabic and Kiswahili languages to impart knowledge. Women from all walks of life were drawn to Mwana Hadie’s humble abode, where they eagerly gathered at her feet. They listened intently as she spoke, teaching them about the beauty of Islam and the importance of women’s involvement in society. 

Mwana Hadie firmly believed that true Islam did not include the marginalisation of women. She fearlessly preached this message far and wide. Her sincerity and warmth endeared her not only to the women but also to the men of her time. They respected her wisdom and sought her guidance in matters of faith. 

Mwana Hadie had a profound impact on the community, and her influence extended beyond the town of Lamu. She assembled a group of educated women, forming a collective of female scholars who ventured to the nearby City States of Siyu, Faza, and Pate. These devoted women journeyed from house to house, sharing knowledge and empowering their fellow sisters.

Mwana Hadie’s reputation spread like wildfire, and her name became familiar in all those regions. She was a beacon of light, illuminating the path of enlightenment for those around her. 

When Mwana Hadie eventually departed from this world, her final resting place became a sacred site in Lamu, nestled in the Waungwana wa Yumbe Location (Moit).

People flocked to her tomb, bringing their prayers and desires, seeking solace and guidance. This act was known as “kuweka nadhiri.” When their prayers were answered, they felt compelled to honour Mwana Hadie’s memory. Lanterns were lit around her tomb, casting a gentle glow, while acts of charity were performed in her name.

The tomb itself held a mystical charm. Five majestic pillars adorned its structure, standing tall and proud. One in each corner and a fifth pillar at its heart. 

However, the tomb’s entrance had been sealed off about four decades ago due to a mischievous madman who had taken up residence, causing disturbances in the night. Some intriguingly speculated that Mwana Hadie’s tomb possessed a Portuguese influence, drawing inspiration from its unique architectural style.

And so, the legacy of Mwana Hadie Famau, ‘The Saint of Lamu,’ lives on. Her teachings, her compassion, and her unwavering dedication to empowering women and children continue to inspire generations. The tale of this extraordinary woman reminds us that even in the face of adversity, a single individual can ignite a flame of change that reverberates throughout time.

Bonus information

At the coastline of Lamu, there is the mangrove forest (Rhizophora mangle) also known as Blue Forest and its local name is “mikoko”. They grow in intertidal zones along tropical and subtropical coastlines. Mangroves have been used to make doors, furniture, dhows, boats and roofs which have lasted for about 300 yrs.

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