The first azzan – call to prayer – in Fjii was credited to Buddha Khan, one of the 92 Muslims who arrived from India with the first boatload of indentured laborers destined for the sugarcane farms of the then new British colony. After disembarking from the sailing ship “Leonidas” at Levuka, Khan gathered the Muslims among the 498 passengers and they thanked Allah for a safe passage.
78 days journey from Calcutta: They had been on the high seas for 75 days after leaving Calcutta on February 28 and now they had arrived in what would become their new home.
86 shiploads of indentured migrants: From 1879 to 1916 when the indenture – or girmit – system ended, some 86 voyages were made from India to Fiji. In all, Muslims made up about 14 percent of the girmit workforce.
Over 128 years since the first Muslims arrived, the Muslim population was estimated at over 70,000, or about 8 percent of the population, and various Islamic sects had also grown up. The majority of Fiji’s Muslim population (about 55,000) follow the Sunni school of Islam and there was also a strong following of Ahmadiyyas.