Sheikh Ahmed Nsambu: the first Ugandan (Muslim) to learn and fluently speak Arabic, Nubian and Swahili

By Haji Nsereko Mutumba

His father was Sadala Kyabi Musoke of Lugave clan from Bwetamiiza in Butambala and his mother was Amina Kusigalawo Nantongo of Monkey clan (a sister to Silimu Semindi the father to the late Sheikh Obeid Lutale).
He was first taught by Muwalimu Jamba of Kibuli and his father Sadala Kyabi. He was later taught by several other Sheikhs who included Sheikh Muhammad Banula.He was the first Ugandan (Muslim) to learn and fluently speak the following three languages at the same time; Arabic, Nubian and Swahili.

Because of his ability to speak three languages, Sheikh Ahmed was appointed by Prince Nuhu Mbogo as the guide and translator to visitors who used come from foreign countries like Egypt and other Arab countries. He later became the Muwalimu of Bwetamiiza in Musaale Sub County, Butambalala County.

He later shifted to Lubugo where he set up a Madarasa and taught many Sheikhs. After some time, the number of students grew and the teaching space became small.

He decided to migrate with 70 of his students to Ssingo where he settled on his father’s land of about 350 acres at Kabaseke. He developed this land by building a Mosque and a Muslim School in which he continued teaching Sheikhs. He later moved from Kabaseke to Nateete where he continued his work of propagating Islam.

Sheikh Nsambu was one of the first Sheikhs to advocate for and pray Juma Njereere (Juma [FridayPrayers] without Zuhur prayers).He was appointed the Deputy to Haji Sheikh Ssekimwanyi who was the leader of the Bukoto Nateete Juma sect (Muslims who prayed Juma Njereere) by a committee chaired by Haji Sheikh Ssekimwanyi himself.
After the death of Sheikh Sekimwanyi, Sheikh Ahmed Nsambu became his successor.

After a short period, Sheikh Nsambu convinced Sheikh Swaibu Semakula and his group of Juma and Zukuli based at Kibuli. As a result, Sheikh Swaibu Semakula together with many of his followers reconciled and started praying Juma Njereere. They later teamed up with Prince Badru Kakungulu who also started praying Juma Njereere.
It was around this time that representatives of the two groups sat at Kibuli and agreed on a power sharing deal in which Sheikh Swaibu Semakula became the Mufti and Shk. Nsambu took the position of Sheikh Islam.

His decision to team up with Prince Kakungulu and Kibuli Juma and Zukuli group angered many of his followers of Bukoto Nateete and decided to replace him with Sheikh Zaid Mugenyiasooka as their leader of Bukoto Nateete. They branded Sheikh Nsambu a traitor and created a song known as “Sheikh Nsambu Atalamagga” meaning Shk. Nsambu was inconsistent.

Among the many contributions he made to Islam included taking Muslim students to Egypt and Madina plus teaching many Sheikhs. Among the sheikhs he taught were; Sheikh Obedi Lutale (father to Sheikh Abdul Obedi Kamulegeya), Sheikh Naswir Mutyaba (his son), Sheikh Kaabi Kinene (his son), Shk. Semwogerere Isa of Nakawa, Shk. Idi Mpiima of Nateete, Shk. Sowed of Maya, Shk. Sulaimani Katende of Kibibi (known as Imam wa ba’Imam), Sheikh Ibrahim Tamusuza of Ssimba Butambala and many others.
Sheikh Nsambu taught and preached Islam both here in Uganda and outside Uganda. He initiated a very good relationship between Ugandan Muslims and their counterparts in Mombasa, Zanzibar and Kenya. As a result, his elder son; Shk. Naswiri Mutyaba was able to marry a Swahili Woman from Mombasa.

Apart from Serving both Prince Nuhu Mbogo and later Prince Badru Kakungulu, Shk. Nsambu was a close friend to Prince Badru Kakungulu which prompted Prince Kakungulu to give him one of his Sisters Princess Nalinya Rukia Baliraala for marriage.

Sheikh Ahmed Nsambu died in 1984 and was buried at one of the historical Mosques of Nateete built in 1865. This is the place where 65 Arabs were martyred during the religious wars under King Kalema’s reign.

Basing on the above, we are talking about a Sheikh who was a nationalist, a Sheikh who sought unity of Muslims at all costs, a Pan Africanist whose horizon goes beyond Uganda as far as Islamic propagation is concerned, someone who valued both secular and Islamic education for his children and for all Ugandans. We are witnessing a wonderful linguist who traversed Africa in seeking and sharing knowledge thereby fulfilling the Prophet Muhammad (SAW’s) Hadith seek knowledge even if it is in China.

Sheikh Ahmed Nsambu sacrificed his position of leadership in Bukoto Nateete for the sake of Muslim unity. He detested disunity, he persevered all kinds of black mail and character assassination for the sake of Islam.

Indeed this Sheikh is a Uganda Muslim hero though unsung. May Allah reward him for his good deeds.

Haji Nsereko Mutumba
Public Relations Officer
Uganda Muslim Supreme Council
Tel: 0701409504 or 0772409504
Email: pro_umsc@yahoo.com

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