The arrival of Islam in Zambia dates to the fourth Hijri century when Muslims established emirates on the coast of East Africa. During that period Muslim slave merchants extended their business to the interior regions reaching Zambia in the period of the Omani dynasty Al Bu Said. Arab slave traders entered Zambia from their trading bases on the coast of Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique. Over a period of hundreds of years more than four million slaves were stolen from Zambia and surrounding countries and exported from Swahili ports by Arab traders to India and Arabia.
Many Muslims entered Zambia during the colonial period, primarily came from the Indian subcontinent establishing themselves along the railways in the central part of the country from Livingstone to Lusaka.
Muslims account for less than 1% of the total population of 17 million. Although Zambia is officially a "Christian Nation" there is freedom of religion and Muslims generally are accepted in the society. The vast majority of Muslims in Zambia are Sunni. A small Ismaili Shia community is also present. There are about 500 people belonging to the Ahmadiyya sect in Islam.