ChiRemba is culture, not religion: Part One…tracing similarities between Remba and Muslims

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sch 0035. Rev. Hans Astrup preaching at a Sunday morning service at Tabor. Sch 0035 "Pastor Hans Astrup holder gudstjeneste". ("Rev Hans Astrup holding a Sunday Service"). Rev Ylvisaker standing up against the wall. The place is called Tabor. Picture in book: "Unkulunkulu in Zululand" by Andrew Burgess, 1934

CHIREMBA is a culture based on covenants between the Remba people’s ancestors and Mwari (God).
It is not a religion one can abandon or convert to, but a genealogical entity determined by one’s ancestry.
I remember in secondary school, that the school curriculum had it that Remba culture was an African traditional religion. However, it was noted that the Shemitic nature of their culture made them a peculiar group among Africans but was in no way mistakable with Judaism, Christianity or Islam.
Though Remba people may now have tribal members associated with various religious beliefs like the above stated, these are recent developments that were not defining Remba traits in the past.
In this article, we shall look at the religions now associated with the Remba, namely Christianity, Islam and Judaism, and how they entered the Remba community.
We will also carefully consider how these religions threaten orthodox Remba culture and identity.
Christianity came via colonisation and the Remba were initially demonised for refusing to abandon their culture.
They were refused entry in mission schools by the Lutheran Church till as recent as 1959.
From that time, many became Lutheran, particularly Remba wives and children, thereafter they began joining other Christian sects.
Earlier, in the 1600s, when the Portuguese were trying to colonise Zimbabwe, the vaMwenye priests and advisors of the Mutapa Court at Great Zimbabwe warned the king that he should not accept conversion to Catholicism.
These vaMwenye were Remba people, not contemporary Arabs (non-blacks).
They said it would anger Mwari and cause famine and suffering. The Mutapa King took heed and Goncalo da Silveira was killed as a result.
At this juncture, it is important to note that the vaMwenye were called ‘Moors’ and ‘Muhammadans’ by the Portuguese.
This was because they wore and traded cloth besides their Shemitic culture and tribal names.
Islam began making a significant impact among the Remba in the 1980s when Muslims noticed and declared that there were many similarities between Remba culture and Islam.
This was probably because the ancestors of the Remba lived in Sena, between the harbours of Tarim and Sayhut in Yemen (formerly Saba) for a long time before entering Africa.
Besides this, the dietary laws, initiation rites, greetings, tribal names and so on of the Remba have always been Shemitic.
For example, the restriction on monotheism, blood, carrion, pork and mice.
Many Rembas became Muslims as a result.
It was in this period that the kafia was either introduced or reintroduced to the Remba.
Arabic names, besides the ancestral ones like Sadiki (Saddiq), Hadji (Hajj), Seremani (Solomon) and Davadava (David), started to emerge among Remba initiates; for example Rahim, Salim and Rahman.
Muslims started sponsoring Remba events.
Mosques were built in Remba communities and so on.
Though a religion, Islam has the most common similarities to Remba culture because it is not Westernised and remained Eastern oriented in terms of ideology.
This is unlike Christianity which is based on Paul’s teachings to gentiles and thus ignores Hebrew culture and covenants such as male circumcision, dietary laws and sacred festivals like the Passover.
They also have polytheistic doctrines like the trinity and use symbols that are idolatrous such as the cross, crucifix, rosary and so on.
The most telling signs that the Remba ancestors were not Muslims by religion is that they have no strict restriction on alcohol, but like the biblical Hebrews and traditional Africans, the Remba demand the making of wine on sacred festivals. Islam also does not appeal to one’s ethnicity, but beliefs.
However, the fact that Islam dictates an Abrahamic lifestyle, it penetrates into the culture of the people who follow it, thus resulting in the similarities found between Remba people and Muslims.
This feat can be seen even among Christian sects or individuals who follow the culture and covenants of the biblical Hebrews. When a person refuses mice, pork, blood, carrion or meat not slaughtered on the neck by a sharp blade, one is unknowingly exhibiting typical Remba traits.
The reason Hebrew law and culture is not imposed on Christians or required of them to follow is as follows:
Modern Christianity is based on Catholicism, which was based on the teachings of Paul the apostle to gentile groups like Greeks and Romans.
The culture of the Hebrew people, therefore, didn’t apply to non-Israelites and this was a cause of conflict between liberal Paul and conservative Peter.
Peter would have endorsed Islam for he saw it improper for one to follow in the footsteps of Christ and ignore his dietary laws, sacred feasts and covenants which are Abrahamic.
Instead, the Christian church based its doctrine and feasts, among others, on notions brought up by men in conferences like Nicaea, thus, leaving a big gap between the culture of the Hebrews and the new religion they were forming and naming after Christ.
Attempts to return to a more authentic understanding of Christ’s nature and to return to a calendar based on that of the Hebrews were annulled by conferences like Nicaea.
The Arians were Egyptian blacks who argued that Christ was a complete servant of God but not God himself.
They were voted out of favour and this breach of truth by the Roman-led Christians very much inspired the existence of Islam, which was a successful return to an Abrahamic faith and lifestyle.
Since Constantine’s reforms and the Nicaea Conference, the Sabbath was moved from the seventh to the first day of the week, namely Sunday (the Roman day of the sun).
Passover ceased to be observed and was replaced by Easter (originally the worship of Ishta, the goddess of fertility).
The Old Testament has been called obsolete and the New Testament is considered scripture.
Saturnalia, the winter solstice Roman holiday, determined the date and festive nature of Christmas and so on.
Because most Christian groups are ignorant of Hebrew culture, they cannot see the similarities between the Remba and the biblical Hebrews.
The Venda, Xhosa, Shangani and other groups recognise the ancient Remba priesthood and many of them adopted Remba traits, such as male initiation, long ago.
They also credit the Remba as being the introducers of circumcision in southern Africa.
Both Christianity and Islam comprise people of many races and nationalities.
Not so are the Remba who are exclusively black and whose ancestors must have come from Sena in southern Arabia.
Partaking of these religions must in no way affect one’s tribal identity and culture.
If they do, it is better to forgo the religion in question and uphold the culture and heritage Remba ancestors have tried so hard to conserve.
The same applies to non-Remba groups who face the threat of losing their culture and roots to foreign religions.

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