Cape Malays…

and their Heritage

Archive for December, 2009

The Assimilation: Muslim Prisoners (1700 – 1790)

Posted by tahirfarrath on December 2, 2009

(History of Muslims in South Africa)

1700 – Number and origin of slaves at the Cape

The Dutch East India Company brought slaves, political exiles and convicts from Indonesia and India, including Bengal and the Malabar coast. These Easterners, who had a long tradition of Islam behind them, were responsible for the introduction, establishment and spread of Islam at the Cape of Good Hope.

Dr A J Boeseken in a list extracted from transactions pertaining to slaves compiled from documents in the Deeds Office at the Cape for the period 1658 to 1700 shows the following:

This list indicates that over fifty percent [50%] of the total slaves were brought to the Cape from India.

1713 – Outbreak of smallpox epidemic

In 1713 a smallpox epidemic broke out at the Cape of Good Hope and killed 200 of the 570 convicts. The rest of the convicts were subsequently given freedom. Muslims who died of smallpox were denied Islamic burial rights with the accompanying ritual ablutions. The regulations also ensured that Muslim smallpox victims were to be buried in coffins.

1743 – Emergence of De Vryezwarten and their role in spread of Islam

More convicts were brought to the Cape in 1743 to serve as a cheap labour in the construction of a new break-water for the Company. Some of theseconvicts returned to Indonesia but the majority remained in the Colony on completion of their sentences, and formed the nucleus of what became known as De Vyezwarten or the Free Black Community. This Free Black Community soon became a threat to the economic security of the poor White colonists.

The Vryezwarten were controlled by civic restrictions such as landownership rights, and had to render services to the municipality gratutiously. Despite these controls, they became skilful artisans and craftsmen, and fairly prosperous at that.

De Vryezwarten’s role in establishing Islam at the Cape was observed by George Foster in 1770 in his book, A Voyage Round the World, [London, 1977]: he observed that a few slaves were meeting weekly in the house of a “ free Mohammodan in order to read, or rather chant, several prayers (Gaddad/Arwag) and chapters of the Qur’an”.

(In preparation and for the lack of Atar, women would also begin the day of Mawluudun Nabiy by cutting and scenting orange leaves [rampies] in special Islamic attire while reciting the Solawaat to mark the Prophet’s birthday. This ritual known as ‘rampie-sny’ appears to be unique to the Cape Muslims as observed and described by the Swedish traveler Carl Peter Thunberg in 1772. There is no other significance to this act but to smell nice for the occasion. The men would gather for Maghrib and thereafter listen to the Riwaayaat and talks on the birth of the Prophet of Islaam.)

The period between 1770 and 1800 proved extremely fertile for the spread of Islam in the Cape Colony. There were at this time, in the Colony, many freed convicts and ex-slaves who were well-schooled in Islam, and were only too eager to convert other slaves to Islam. They were assisted by the prevailing attitude of White settlers who argued that a Muslim slave, being of sober habits, made a better domestic servant.

The total registered population at the Cape in 1775 was 12 000; approximately one-half of this population constituted slaves. This became a matter for concern for the Dutch authorities who then legislated to control the slave numbers at the Cape. Among the placaaten [statutes] which were issued was one which prohibited the sale of baptised Christian slaves. The colonists, who feared the loss of their slaves, should they become Christians, indirectly encouraged the spread of Islam among the convicts and slaves; so, by 1800 the benches in the Groote Kerk [Church] of Cape Town which were traditionally reserved for use by slaves, had become virtually empty.

1744 – Arrival of Tuan Sa‘id [Sayyid] and Hadjie ? [Hajil Matarim

Sa‘id Alowie [Sayyid ‘Alawi], popularly known asTuan [meaning: sir/master] Sa‘id, of Mocca in Yemen, Arabia, arrived at the Cape in 1744 withHadjie Matarim. “Mohammedaan.sche Priesters”[“Mohammedan priests” – Muslim ‘ulama’] banished to the Cape by the Dutch were to be kept in chains for the rest of their lives. They were incarcerated on Robben Island. Hadjie Matarim died in 1755 and lies buried in a tomb on the island. The karamat [tomb] stands at the far corner of Robben Island. It is a simple square building built from local `leiklip’ [clay-stones] with a green dome and four miniature domes at the corners. Tuan Sa‘id served a prison sentence of eleven years. On his release from Robben Island he settled at the Cape. Tuan Sa‘id is known for his active da’wah [missionary] work amongst the slaves in the Slave Lodge. Oral traditions attribute tremendous mystical powers to him: he is said to have entered the locked and guarded Slave Lodge with the Qu’ran under his right arm, without being seen by the guards. History records that Tuan Sa‘id became a policeman at the Cape and so had access to the Slave Lodge. He is generally regarded as the first official imam of the Cape Muslims. He was buried at the Tana Baru cemetery in Cape Town.

1750 – Estimated Muslim and Muslim slave populations at the Cape

The estimated Muslim and Muslim slave populations at the Cape between 1750 and 1830 was:

Total number of slaves was 5191 of which 1307 (25.18%) were Muslim.

– 1770 Tuan Nuruman banished to the Cape

Paay Schaapie popularly known as Tuan Nuruman was banished to the Cape from Batavia in 1770. He was a manumitted slave and resided in the Slave Lodge in Cape Town. Tuan Nuruman acquired the reputation as a spiritual advisor to slaves and Free Blacks. He was also known for the power of his “azeemats” (ta’wiz, talisman] and his spiritual services were widely sought after. It was this reputation which brought Paay Schaapie into conflict with the Cape authorities. In 1786 he assisted a group of runaway slaves by giving them an azeemat for protection. These slaves were unfortunately recaptured and Paay Schaapie was considered dangerous enough to be put away on Robben Island by the Cape authorities.

On his release from Robben Island, Tuan Nuruman again became involved in the affairs of the Cape Muslim community, officiating at all religious functions and soon became the official imam.

During the rule of the Batavian Republic at the Cape, Tuan Nuruman befriended the Governor of the Cape, General Janssen, and as a token of this friendship, the Governor gave him a piece of land in Tana Baru as a burial ground for him and his family. It was about this time that Tuan Nuruman dug a small well, on his piece of land in Tana Baru, which became a drinking well for animals grazing in the area. Remains of this well can still be seen in Tana Baru. Tuan Nuruman lies buried in Tana Baru, and, in accordance with his request,‘ no wall was ever to be erected on his grave’.

1780 – Arrival and stay of Tuan Guru at the Cape

Imam ‘Abdullah ibn Kadi [Qadri] Abdus Salaam, known as Tuan Guru, the son of a qadi, born in 1712, was a Prince from Tidore in the Ternate Islands [of Indonesia]. He traces his geneology to the Sultan of Morocco and his ancestry to that of the holy Prophet Muhammad [salla Allahu‘alayhi wa sallam]. He was brought to the Cape on April 06, 1780 as a “state prisoner” along with Callie Abdol Rauf, Badroedin [Badr al-DinJ and Noro Iman [Nur al-Iman]; they were incarcarated on Robben Island. Their registration in the “Bandieten Rollen” for 1780 reveals that they conspired politically with the English in the East against the Dutch.

While imprisoned on Robben Island, Imam ‘Abdullah [Tuan Guru], being a hafiz al-Qur‘an,wrote several copies of the holy Qur’dn from memory. He also authored Ma‘rifatul Islami wa‘1Imani, a work on Islamic jurisprudence, which also deals with `ilm al-kalam [Asharite principles of theology] which he completed in 1781. The manuscripts on Islamic jurisprudence, in the Malayu tongue and in Arabic, became the primary reference work of the Cape Muslims during the 19th century, and is at present in the possession of his descendants in Cape Town. His hand written copy of the holy Qu‘ran has been preserved and is presently in the possession of one of his descendants, Sheikh Cassiem Abduraouf of Cape Town. Later, when printed copies of the holyQu‘ran were imported, it was found that Tuan Guru‘s hand-written copy contained very few errors.

On his release from Robben Island in 1793, he went to live in Dorp Street, Cape Town. Here he met and married the free woman, Kaija van de Kaap , with whose family he took up residence. From this marriage he had two sons: Abdol Rakiep andAbdol Rauf , both of whom came to play an important role in Cape Muslim society, and both lie buried adjacent to their father, Tuan Guru, at Tana Baru Imam `Abdullah’s first concern on being released from prison was the establishment of amadrasah [religious school] at the Cape. He also agitated for a masjid site and relaxation of the hard official attitude of the Cape authorities towards Islam. Such a madrasah was soon established and operated from a warehouse attached to the home ofCoridon of Ceylon in Dorp Street. This was the first madrasah to be established in this country and proved extremely popular among the slaves and the Free Black community. It played an important role in converting many slaves to Islam. It was also at this madrasah that the literary teaching of Arabic-Afrikaans emerged. It was through his work at themadrasah that he gained the appellation Tuan Guru, meaning mister teacher.

At this religious school students were taught precepts from the holy Qu‘ran and to read and write the Arabic language. It was from this madrasah that prominent imams such as Abdol Bazier, Abdol Barrie, Achmat [Ahmad] van Bengalen, Imam Hadjie and others received their Islamic education. The presence of such a strong Muslim educational institution became a cause for concern to the Cape authorities. This concern was clearly seen when the British Governor of the Cape, the Earl of Caledon, declared that “he was convinced that if the slaves were left in a state of ignorance, they would fall prey to the zeal of the Mohammedan priests, who were conduct ing a school in Cape Town that was attended by 375 slave children”.

When the Cape was overtaken by the British for the first time in 1795, the British Governor, General Craig, was more favourably disposed towards the Muslims and granted them permission to build amasjid. Tuan Guru wasted no time, he converted the warehouse, attached to Coridon’s house and used as a madrasah, into a masjid which is known as Auwal Masjid, the first masjid to be established in South Africa.

Imam ‘Abdullah was a pioneer among the Cape’ulama’ [Islamic scholar], he being the first qadi to settle at the Cape of Good Hope.

1780 – Achmat [Ahmad] Van Bengalen brought to the 1843 Cape

Achmat van Bengalen [Ahmad of Bengal] was brought to the Cape from Chinsura, one of the upper provinces of Bengal, during the 1780s. He was said to be the son of Roosje and `Abdur Rahman.

He married Saartjie van de Kaap, daughter of Coridon of Ceylon and Trijn van de Kaap. On Tuan Guru’s release from prison in 1793, Achmat became his trusted friend and student. It was on Achmat’s insistence that Coridon of Ceylon made the warehouse of his home available as the firstmadrasah in this country. Tuan Guru, on his death-bed, appointed Achmat as his spiritual successor and assistant iman of the Auwal Masjid, though he was yet a slave.

By 1825 the madrasah under Achmat van Bengalen prospered and the student number had increased to 491. Achmat, as qadi, in his evidence to the Colebrooke and Bigge Commission [instituted to investigate the conditions and treatment of people of colour in the Cape Colony] did not confine himself to the regulations governing slaves, marriages and masajid. He used this official platform to complain about the privileges of the fiscal officers to “break into our boxes in search of stolen goods, from the general impression existing with the police authorities of our dishonesty”.

It was also Achmat’s effort which secured the land granted by the authorities to Frans van Bengalenat Tana Baru as a burial site in 1805. In 1830 Achmat wrote a memorandum demanding that the burial ground be registered in the name of the Muslims of Cape Town.Achmat was sensitive to the social and political conditions of his people. As aqadi, he complained to the authorities about the unjust treatment of his people. Achmat van Bengalen, who was largely influenced by Tuan Guru, laid down strict rules with regard to slaves. He said: “No Mahometan can or ought to sell a Mahometan as a slave. If he buys a slave from a Christian and that slave becomes a Mahometan, he is entitled to sit down as an equal in the family, and cannot be sold afterwards. He is allowed to earn the means of redeeming his freedom if he chooses, or remain connected with the family of the original owner”.

For the first 25 years Achmat served the Cape Muslims as a teacher and a qadi and thereafter, as an imam as well, until his death on October 09, 1843 at the age of 95.

1780 – Jan van Boughies or Imam Asnun brought as slave

Jan van Boughies was brought to the Cape as a slave during the latter part of the 18th century. He was an educated man, proficient in both Arabic and Buganese. Jan was born in 1734 in the southern part of Celebes, known as Boughies.

At the Cape he was purchased by a free Muslim woman, Salia van Macassar, who married him according to Muslim rites. Jan, now a free man, became established tradesman: a candle-maker.

When Tuan Guru settled at the Cape, Jan joined his madrasah as an Arabic teacher. He was also active in the establishment of the Auwal Masjid. A very ambitious man, he hoped to succeed Tuan Guru asqadi and imam of the Auwal Masjid. When he did not succeed in this, he left the congrega tion and together with Frans van Bengalen purchased a property in Long Street, Cape Town. On Tuan Guru’s death, Jan and Frans converted the upper storey of the house into a prayer room and appointed Abdolgamiet [`Abd al-Hamid] as theimam. It became Jan’s property in 1811 and he became the imam in 1820. The Palm Tree Masjid is today situated on this property.

On Salia’s death, Jan, who was then over 60, inherited her fortune. He married Samida van de Kaap aged 15. Thereafter, he utilised his money to purchase slaves, convert them and set them free. The records show that between 1800 and 1820 he had set free a considerable number of slaves. Jan died at the age of 112 on November 12, 1846. He lies buried in Tana Baru where his grave has been obliterated but his memory is cherished as the founder of the “Jan van Boughies Masjid” or the Palm Tree Masjid.

The estimated Muslim and Muslim slave populations at the Cape between 1780 and 1790 was:

Total number of slaves was 6217 of which 2460 (39.57%) were Muslim.


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The Assimilation: Human Capital or Chattel!!!

Posted by tahirfarrath on December 1, 2009

Being a Slave

The economy of the Cape Colony depended to a large extent on slave labour. The position of the Dutch Reform Church on slavery was deliberately kept vague to prevent alienating influential slave owners. Therefore, having a cheap and subservient labour force fitted into the plans of the VOC. The Cape burghers did not take responsibility for the existence of slavery. For them, the VOC took the decision to introduce slavery.

However, slaves were given new names at the Cape. Some slaves received a new name every time they were resold. Some names described the slave’s personality or appearance and many of these names were demeaning and sometimes insulting. Other slaves received names of the month. Many people today still have surnames such as January, February, September or October. Names from the classical period (Greek and Roman history) were also common and such as Cupido, Titus, Scipio and Hannibal. Names from the Old Testament were also used, such as Moses and Solomon. Other people’s slave ancestry cannot be seen in their names. For example, the Bassons are descendents of Angela of Bengal, the Snymans are descendents of Antony of Bengale and the Claasens are descendents of Claas of Malabar. Some slaves were allowed to keep their given, indigenous names. This practice was common among the VOC-owned slaves who lived in the Slave Lodge, but rare amongst slaves in private ownership. Only a small group of slaves received names similar to those of free men and women such as Antony, Maria and Anna.

Slave owners decided how much and what they may eat, where they slept, the clothes they wore. On most farms, slaves slept in kitchens, attics and barns, or out-of-doors when the weather was warm. Only a very few larger farms had special sleeping quarters for slaves. Clothing was used to distinguish slaves from free people and slave men were not allowed to wear shoes. Slaves were also not allowed to wear hats until they passed an exam to prove that they could speak Dutch. Some slave men undermined this rule by wearing handkerchiefs and turbans as an expression of an alternate culture. Helpless slave parents suffered even more as they had to witness their children being abused by their owners. Slaves were not allowed to get married. Life partners could therefore be separated at the whim of the owner. The children of slaves could also be sold separately from their parents.

The Slave Lodge

The Slave Lodge (at Adderley Street), “a shameless fortress…of human misery”, housed the slaves who belonged to the Dutch East India Company (VOC). These slaves worked for the VOC and were never sold. The Slave Lodge was wet, dark and dirty as a subterranean stream flowed under it. The bedding stayed wet in winter and that the slaves never had time to properly wash and clean their belongings. Food was inadequate. Statistics show that the death rate was higher during winter than in summer. The stench was unbearable in the Lodge and was especially bad in the vicinity of the eight toilets next to the quarters of the mentally ill.

VOC allowed the Lodge to be used as a brothel and some of these relationships led to marriage. The hospital in the eastern wing of the Slave Lodge treated slaves and Khoi women who suffered from venereal diseases. Since 1671, several placaaten (regulations), were issued that forbid sexual relationships between slave women and men of European descent. The growing number of mulatto children (slaves of partial European descent) indicates that these placaaten were not adhered to. Women were also even forced by their male partners to sleep with the visitors for the going rate of a 3-inch piece of tobacco. However, the VOC never took steps to prevent the visits from free men to slave women in the Lodge.

This Lodge also housed petty convicts, the mentally ill and political exiles. The lowest rank slaves in the Slave Lodge, were the Fiscal’s and executioner’s assistants or kaffers and only the convicts had a lower status. Mulatto slaves were treated differently. It is estimated that between 7000 and 9000 slaves lived in the Slave Lodge over a period of 132 years. They received instruction in the Christian religion and all children were baptised whether the parents of the child were Christian or not. At school, they were taught how to be good slaves, and in 1666, all the slaves in the Slave Lodge were baptised.

Otto Mentzel wrote in 1785 that slaves received new clothing once a year. He described their clothing as follows: “… each male slave wears a doublet and trousers made of coarse white woollen cloth with black streaks and lined with a cotton cloth called ‘sailcloth’. The doublet is adorned with 12 brass buttons. These outfits were made by the garrison tailors. The female slaves wear imported smocks from Batavia. It is made up of six yards of coarse cotton cloth.” Some slaves sold their clothes to earn money. However, the British later turned the lodge into offices.

The slave lodge today

Life of a slave

Some slave men took Khoekhoe partners. That also meant that their children would not be regarded as slaves. In 1752, the government allowed farmers to indenture these children until they were 25 years old. This meant that these children, called Bastaard Hottentots, spend the best part of their lives in similar conditions as slaves. Thus, many South Africans of all races are descendents of slaves.

The people living in the Cape Colony were very conscious of class differences. The VOC officials looked down on the burghers, the indigenous peoples and slaves. The rich burghers looked down on the poor burghers and other free people who did not own property such as soldiers, sailors and knechts. Free white people, rich and poor, looked down on the indigenous peoples and the slaves. Differences were also made according to class and race when it came to justice. People of colour and slaves received heavier sentences for the same crimes burghers. In many societies slaves had no status before the law. That meant, amongst other things, that if an owner murdered his/her slave, it was not regarded as a crime.

Most people did not defend slavery on the basis of racism or the inferiority of the enslaved people. They accepted slavery as normal practice. It was only towards the later part of the 18th century and especially the 19th century that some people started to think that it was wrong to enslave people. According to some burghers, they were given the right to own slaves and such rights, whether good or bad, cannot just be taken away. They also argued that it would cost them a lot of money, if slaves were to be freed. In 1834, slavery was outlawed by the British government at the Cape. However, people who were already enslaved and their newborn children still remained slaves and could still be sold. In addition, the government also wanted to give slave owners time to adapt. Slaves therefore had to work for another four years as apprentices for their former owners. This meant that they had to continue to work for their former owners without pay.

The emancipation of slaves worsened the farmers financial problems. They used slaves as collatoral to obtain finance and were facing bankruptcy when slaves were set free. The owners received some compensation for their slaves, but the slaves received nothing to help them to start a new life. Being freed did not mean having the same opportunities as the former owners. The Masters and Servants Ordinance in 1842 favoured the employer rather than the workers. Desertion, neglect, insubordination and the use of insulting language by workers were criminal offences. Slavery was outlawed in the French Empire in 1848 and the Dutch Empire in 1863. In some Caribbean and American societies, slavery was abolished as late as 1870 in Cuba, 1873 in Puerto Rico and 1888 in Brazil. Learning about slavery past helps us to become aware of people who are still suffering in similar circumstances today.

Eventually, there were more slaves than settlers and the Malays constituted around 10% of the slave population.

Javanese was likely to have been used extensively in the early days of Dutch rule in Southern Africa when large numbers of “Malay” slaves were transported to the Cape of Good Hope. However, the “Cape Malay” descendents have over time lost their ancestral languages to Afrikaans and English.

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The Assimilation: Enslavement (1652 – 1699)

Posted by tahirfarrath on December 1, 2009

(History of Muslims in South Africa)

1652 – J S Mayson, describing the Islamic life in the 19th century Cape Town, in The Malays of Cape Town, writes: “In 1652 a few Malays of Batavia were brought by the Dutch into the Residency, and subsequent Settlement of the Cape of Good Hope…” It is possible that these “Malays of Batavia” were the first Muslims to come to this country.

1653 – 2 March, The first slave, Abraham, a stowaway from Batavia, is given to Van Riebeeck. He works for the Company until sent back to Batavia three years later.

1654 – Four “Asiatics” had been sentenced by the High Court of Justice in Batavia to banishment and hard labour for life. Their crime: preaching insurrection in Batavia against Dutch rule. Three of them were sent in the Haaselt to Mauritius and one was brought to the Cape of Good Hope. This political prisoner was probably among the the first recorded Muslim to land on South African soil, two years after the White settlement in the country.

1658 – The first recorded arrival of Muslims were known as the Mardyckers (the word “implies” freedom as opposed to the reissued Placaat of 1642 in 1657). They were brought from Amboyna in the southern Mollucca Islands for the protection of the colony and for serving as a labour force. The 1642 Placaat issued by Van Diemen and reissued by Governor Maetsuyckers in 1657 in anticipation of the arrival of Muslims in the Cape that stated:

“No one shall trouble the Amboinese about their religion or annoy them; so long as they do not practise in public or venture to propagate it amongst Christians and heathens. Offenders to be punished with death, but should there be amongst them those who had been drawn to God to become Christians, they were not to be prevented from joining Christian churches”

(Quoted in Achmat Davids, Mosques of the BoKaap, The South African Institute of Arabic and Islamic Research [Cape Town] 1980, p87 from Aspeling, E, The Cape Malays by a Cape Colonist, W A Richards & Son, 1883.)

Historically, it is certain that the Dutch East India Company decided to use the Cape as a penal settlement for political prisoners. Slaves, political exiles and convicts were brought to the Cape from the Malay archipelago (especially the Celebes and Java and later Macassar and the Indian archipelago, such as Bengal, Coromandel and the Malabar Coast).

Slavery is often associated with the introduction of Islam to the Cape. In spite of the Western Cape having a very large Muslim community, not all Cape Muslims are descendents of slaves. However, Islam was regarded as the religion of resistance that was brought to the Cape by Muslim political exiles and slaves from the East Indies.

Over 50% of the slaves came from India. People from India were taken to the Cape and sold into slavery – soon after Jan van Riebeeck set up a Dutch settlement at the Cape of Good Hope in 1652 – to do domestic work for the settlers, as well as the dirty and hard work on the farms.

The Dutch were mainly traders, and though they were not slave raiders, they exchanged firearms and brandy for slaves and encouraged slavery at the Cape (Van Rensberg, n.d.). Since the Burghers were not allowed to trade slaves in their own country of origin, the slave trade to the Cape was controlled by the VOC. However, Laurens Real, the Governor-General in the East Indies from 1615-1619, introduced slave labour into the nutmeg plantations on Amboina in the East Indies. His successor, Jan Pieterzoon Coen (1619-1623 and 1627-1629) introduced slave labour in the rest of VOC settlements in the East Indies. Therefore, when Jan van Riebeeck established a settlement in the Cape in 1652, slavery was already regarded as an accepted way of obtaining labour.

The definition of slavery was not clear-cut. Many forms of slave labour existed in the past and many forms of labour were called unfree or bonded labour and not everyone agreed that all bonded labour should be called slavery. Thus, the VOC send out slavers to buy slaves and bring them to the Cape Colony. These slave expeditions went mainly to Mozambique and Madagascar. The form of slavery used in the Cape Colony and the Americas is called chattel slavery. Chattel slaves were obtained in the lands of their birth and taken against their will to different places where they were sold again.

The Dutch takes Human cargo

The first slaves at the Cape also arrived on 28 March 1658 on board the Amersfoort. This group was captured by the Dutch from a Portuguese slaver that was on its way to Brazil. Of the 250 slaves that were captured, only 170 survived the journey to the Cape. Most of the slaves on board the Amersfoort were originally captured by the Portuguese in present-day Angola. The second group also came from West Africa. On 6 May 1658, 228 slaves from Ghana arrived at the Cape on board the Hassalt. These two groups were the only slaves who came from West Africa.

Displacement of Indigenous People to the Southern most Tip of Africa (and Ceylon).

Human cargo of slaves who were snatched away from their families and lands, and survived the treacherous sea voyage, would have greeted their destination with relief after that ordeal. They may have also feared the unknown with uncertainty on what would become of them. This must have pressed hard on their hearts and spirits. Now banished from their familiar environment and being subjected to harsh treatment, sold, transported many times and then placed at the mercy of some strange person as their property.

1667 – Arrival of political exiles [Orang Cayen].

This year saw the arrival of more Muslim political exiles banished by the Dutch to the Cape. The Polsbroek left Batavia and arrived on the 13th of May 1668 with three prisoners. They were from the West Coast of Sumatra after their defeat at the Castle of Soeroesang. One was incarcerated on Robben Island and Sheikh Abdurahman Matebe Shah was one of two who were sent to the Company’s forest at Constantia. The Malaccan Sulatanate from where they came was by established by Megat Iskander Shah, a Sumatrian prince. These political exiles or Orang Cayen were Muslim men of wealth and influence who were banished to the Cape from their homeland in the East because the Dutch feared them as a threat to their political and economic hegemony. The first political exiles were the rulers of Sumatra. They were Sheikh Abdurahman Matahe Sha and Sheikh Mahmood. (Both were buried in Constantia.) From the very outset the Cape authorities accommodated the exiles away from Cape Town as they feared the exiles would escape. A tomb for these political exiles has been erected on “Islam Hill” in Constantia in the Cape. (Shaykh Yusuf of Macassar is the best known of the Orang Cayen.)

1681 – Officially Cape designated place of political exiles.

From 1681 onwards the Cape of Good Hope became an official place of confinement for Eastern political prisoners of rank of the Dutch East India Company. Macassarian princes arrived at the Cape and were sentenced for opposing Dutch rule. They were housed in stables at the Castle of Good Hope. As former heads of state in the Indonesian archipelago, they, however, exerted very little direct influence in the establishment and development of Islam at the Cape. Thus, the role of the political exiles in the establishment of Islam has been greatly overplayed at this time.

1694 – Arrival of Shaykh Yusuf.

Shaykh Yusuf [‘Abidin Tadia Tjoessoep] was born in 1626 of noble birth in Goa in the East Indies. He fought alongside and supported Sultan Ajung of Bantam, Goa, in his war against the Dutch. Twice Shaykh Yusuf escaped from Dutch custody in the East, but was finally persuaded in 1694 to surrender on the promise of a pardon. The Dutch did not fulfil their promise and Shaykh Yusuf was banished, along with his family and followers, to the Castle in Batavia from where he was transferred, under armed guard, to the Castle in Colombo, Ceylon [now Sri Lanka]. Fearing Shaykh Yusuf’s influence in Ceylon the Dutch exiled him to the Cape of Good Hope ten years after his initial surrender. The Shaykh arrived on board `De Voetboog’ on April 02, 1694 along with his retinue of 49 which included his two wives [Carecontoe and Carepane], two slave girls [Mu’minah and Na’imah], 12 children, 12 imams [religious leaders] and several friends with their families. He was royally welcomed by Governor Simon van der Stel at the Cape. They were housed on a farm in Zandvleit, near the mouth of the Eerste River in the Cape, far from Cape Town, on June 14, 1694. The Company’s attempt to isolate Shaykh Yusuf at Zandvleit did not succeed. On the contrary, Zandvleit turned out to be the rallying point for `fugitive’ slaves and other exiles from (he East. It was here that the first cohesive Muslim community in South Africa was established. Since many of the Shaykh’s followers hailed from Makassar, the district around Zandvleit is still known today as Macassar.

1697 – Arrival of the Rajah of Tambora [Abdul Basi Sultania].

Another political exile to be brought to the Cape was the Abdul Basi Sultania, the Rajah of Tambora. Tambora was originally part of the Majaphit Kingdom of Java. The Rajah arrived at the Cape in chains, being sentenced for actively opposing the Dutch East India Company in his native country. On his arrival at the Cape, he was housed in a stable at the Castle in Cape Town, but upon Shaykh Yusuf’s intervention, the Cape authorities moved the Rajah to Vergelegen in the district of Stellenbosch to live in isolation and away from other political exiles. Robert Shell 7 maintains that the Voortrekker leader, Piet Retief, was a descendant of the Rajah of Tambora.

1697 – First hand-written Qur’an at the Cape.

The Rajah of Tambora, while living in isolation with his family at Vergelegen, wrote from memory the holy Qur’an which was given as a gift to the Governor, Simon van der Stel. This Qur’an, the first written in the Cape Colony, probably never passed out of Vergelegen.

1699 – Death of Sheikh Yusuf

Shaykh Yusuf died on May 23, 1699 at the age of 73. Shortly after his death, the Rajah of Goa petitioned the Dutch Governor-General and the Council at Batavia to transfer Shaykh Yusuf’s widows, children, friends and servants back to Batavia. Thus in 1704 after much petitioning the Company allowed solely the Shaykh’s widows and daughters to return to Batavia on two ships: De Liefde and De Spiegel. As far as Shaykh Yusuf’s sons and grandsons were concerned, only those below the age of five/six were permitted to go back. The Company resolved to keep Shaykh Yusuf’s friends and servants and had them evaluated. They were forced to work for the Company until their term of service was deemed as adequate recompen­sation for what it had cost the Company to maintain the Shaykh and his retinue at Zandvleit. One of Shaykh Yusuf’s daughters, Zytia Sara Marouff, who had married the exiled King of Tambora at the Cape, remained behind, and two of the Shaykh’s followers requested the Cape authorities for permission to stay at the Cape. The tomb of Shaykh Yusuf is situated at Zandvleit, Faure, in the Cape. It was rebuilt [as it stands today] by Haji Sullaiman Shah Mohammed, a Muslim philanthropist of Cape Town, in 1927.

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The Assimilation: Acculturation (1500 – 1652)

Posted by tahirfarrath on December 1, 2009

How it all began…

1485 – Câo puts ashore the Cape Cross, north of present-day Walvis Bay.

1488 – Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias arrived in Mossel Bay and made contact with the Khoisan. He erected a cross, and called the bay Aguada de São Brás, as they landed on the festival day of Saint Blaise. The harbour and surrounding area was renamed Mosselbaai (Bay of Mussels) in 1601 by Dutch navigator Paulus van Caerden.

1503 – Antonio de Saldanha, leading a Portuguese squadron, enters Table Bay (called Aguada da Saldanha until 1601) owing to a navigational error. They are the first Europeans to climb Table Mountain, which they name Taboa do Cabo (the Table Cape) on account of its shape. The King of Portugal, John II, renamed the area from the Cape of Storms to Cabo da Boa Esperança or Cape of Good Hope as it led to the riches of India.

1510 – On his way back to Portugal the Viceroy of Portuguese India, Francisco d’ Almeida, is killed in a skirmish with Khoi-Khoi, probably due to a misunderstanding arising from a barter between the Khoi-Khoi and the Portuguese at the mouth of the Salt River in Table Bay. Thereafter, Portuguese traders tend to bypass the Cape itself, relying on Robben Island for fresh meat and water.

1554 – The Portuguese ship São Bento was wrecked north of the Great Fish River on its return from the East. Manuel de Mesquita Perestrelo, Portuguese navigator and cartographer is one of 64 survivors of the crew of 473 who reaches Delagoa Bay on foot, and one of 23 to be ultimately rescued.

1575 – Portuguese mariner and cartographer Manuel de Mesquita Perestrelo explores the south and south-east coast of South Africa on a voyage for this purpose. He gives the first detailed description and draws a map of the coast.

1580 – An English admiral, Francis Drake, rounds the Cape on his voyage round the world in his quest to reach India for the English Crown. He describes the Cape in the following words: ‘This Cape is a most stately thing, and the fairest Cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth.’

1592 – The English navigator, James Lancaster, barters sheep in the Bay of Saldaha (called Table Bay after 1601) from the Khoi-Khoi. He describes the sheep as very large, with good mutton, bearing no wool but hair, and with very large tails.

1595 – Four ships under Cornelis de Houtman reach São Bras. This is the first contact of the Dutch with the coast of Southern Africa.

1601 – Joris van Spilbergen, leading a Dutch fleet, casts anchor in the Bay of Saldaha (Aguada da Saldanha) and names it Table Bay after Table Mountain, while the original name is transferred to the present Saldanha Bay

1615 – Sir Thomas Roe attempts to land some deported British criminals at the Cape, but those who are not drowned or killed by Khoi-Khoi are soon removed from the Cape and the scheme is abandoned. (SESA, v. 2, p. 507)

1631 – The English take Autshumao (also Autshumato), chief of the Goringhaikonas Khoi-Khoi, to Batavia. He is known to the English as ‘Harry’ and later to the Dutch as ‘Herry’. He is later returned to the Cape. He also acts as the resident agent or postmaster for passing ships.

The Dutch East India Company saw the need to establish a mid-station between Europe and the East at the southern most tip of Africa.

The Dromedaris arrives

In 1652, the first Europeans sent to settle in South Africa were the Dutch seafarer Jan van Riebeeck and his crew, who arrived with their three ships in Table Bay. The local inhabitants in the Cape at that time were the Khoisan people.

Van Riebeeck’s specific instructions were not to colonise the Cape (or so it seemed) but to build a fort, to erect a flagpole for signalling to passing ships, and to build pilot boats to escort them safely into the bay.

However, on December 31, 1687 a band of Huguenots set sail from France to the colony at the Cape of Good Hope after leaving their country at the revocation of the Edict of Nantes of granting religious freedom. A commissioner was sent out from the Cape Colony in 1685 to attract more settlers. Since they shared a similar religion to the Dutch colonists, they were quickly absorbed into the Afrikaner population. Many of these settlers chose as their home an area called Franschhoek, Afrikaans for “French corner”. The French Huguenots ceased by the middle of the 18th century to maintain a distinct identity, and the knowledge of French disappeared. Many families are now mostly Afrikaans speaking, but examples of their more common names are Blignaut, Cronje (Cronier), de Klerk (Le Clercq), Visagie (Visage), de Villiers, du Plessis, du Toit, Fourie, Fouche, Giliomee (Guilliaume), Hugo, Joubert, Labuschagne (la Buscagne), Lange, le Roux, Lombard, Malan, Malherbe, Marais, Nel, Pienaar, Roux[2], Terreblanche, Taljard, Theron and Viljoen (Villion), etc.

The Thirty Years’ War (1618- 1648) left many of the German states in a poor economic condition. Consequently many Germans, including ex-soldiers, were drawn to the west by the wealth of the Netherlands. At least one German, Jacob Cloete, came to the Cape with Jan van Riebeeck. According to Hoge in Personalia of the Germans at the Cape, there were about 15 000 who arrived during the period of Dutch administration at the Cape, although not all of them stayed here. The early German immigrants were mainly soldiers in the service of the Dutch East India Company or VOC, but some took their discharge in as early as 1657 and became free-burghers. German blood soon mixed with French and Dutch blood and the German language too soon made way for Dutch, which played a major role in the development of Afrikaans.

In 1840 the South-West African London Missionary Society transferred all of its activities to the Rhenish Missionary Society who began founding churches throughout what would become Namibia in 1990. On 16 November 1882 a merchant from Bremen, Franz Adolf Eduard Lüderitz, requested protection for a station that he planned to build in South-West Africa. Land was purchased land from a native chief and established a city at Angra Pequena which was renamed Lüderitz. On 24 April 1884, the area was placed under the protection of Imperial Germany to deter British encroachment. During 1908 conflict, between 25,000 and 100,000 Herero, more than 10,000 Nama and 1,749 Germans died in the conflict. In 1902, the colony had 200,000 inhabitants, though only 2,595 were German. By 1914, more German settlers arrived and the region already had around 80,000 Herero, 60,000 Ovambo, and 10,000 Nama, who were disparagingly referred to as Hottentots. After the World War i, the area came under the control of Britain, and then was made part of the South African League of Nations.

A trickle of Italians began settling in South Africa from as early as 1689. It was only from 1861, though, that they starting flooding into the country, as refugees from the Italian War of Independence.

After the Byzantine–Ottoman Wars, which resulted in the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the Ottoman Empire’s conquest of Greek lands, many Greeks fled Constantinople and found refuge in Italy. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Hellenes, Greek immigrants, reached the Southern shores of what now constitutes the Republic of South Africa.

There were Jews among the directors of the Dutch East India Company, which for 150 years administered the colony at the Cape of Good Hope. After 1820, a small number of Jews settled among and identified with the rural white Afrikaans-speaking population; these persons became known as Boerejode (Boer Jews). A measure of intermarriage also occurred and was generally accepted. The first congregation in South Africa, known as the Gardens Shul, was founded in Cape Town in November 1841, but the Jews faced substantial anti-Semitism because the revised Grondwet of 1894 still debarred Jews and Catholics from military posts and other government positions. The South African gold rush began after 1886, attracting many Jews fleeing Russian. Per capita, South African Jews were later reputedly the financially supportive Zionists abroad, yet Jews were also involved in the anti-apartheid movement, with Harry Schwarz and Helen Suzman being the most notable.

The largest single event of Portuguese settlement occurred when two of the former Portuguese colonies (Angola and Mozambique) became independent in 1975. While most Portuguese from the two Portuguese-speaking African countries went to Portugal and the rest to Brazil, some entered South Africa.

Rhodesia was governed by a predominantly white minority government until 1979. The state was named after Cecil John Rhodes, whose British South Africa Company acquired the land in the nineteenth century. In the ten years after independence, around 60% of the white population of Zimbabwe emigrated. Most emigrated to South Africa.

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