Cape Malays…

and their Heritage

Archive for January, 2010

The Reclamation: Divide and Rule

Posted by tahirfarrath on January 19, 2010

Until the latter part of the 19th century little interest was showed in the development of Africa. The European Powers had only a few coastal outposts at various places, but then by the end of the centuary, they showed so much interest in Africa (often referred to as the scramble) that only about 1/10th of the continent remained independent. Strangely, they were not eager (as they did in the Americas, Canada, Australia, New Zealand that spilled over into Hawaii, Western Samoa, etc.) to develop their possessions for fear of the financial burden underdeveloped areas might involve. However, governing was more easily maintained if factions continue to set against each other, as long as they do not unite against the ruler. It simply keeps factions busy while the European hold over them goes about their land-grabbing and exploitation business. For British India to rule in India they adopted divide and conquer tactics, which encouraged the growth of religious and ethnic sectarianism.

Egypt, which had previously been occupied by the forces of Napoleon I of France in 1798 but recovered in 1801 by a joint Ottoman-British force, was occupied in 1882 by British forces on the pretext of bringing order; though Egypt and Sudan remained as Ottoman provinces de jure until 1914, when the Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers of World War I. Britain officially annexed these two provinces and Cyprus as a response, which was rented to the British in 1878 in exchange for Britain’s favours at the Congress of Berlin. Other Ottoman provinces in North Africa were lost between 1830 and 1912, starting from Algeria (occupied by France in 1830), Tunisia (occupied by France in 1881) and Libya (occupied by Italy in 1912.)

(The Al-Saud ruler had accepted Ottoman suzerainty because it improved his political position. He, nevertheless, made concurrent overtures to the British to rid Arabia of Ottoman influence. Finally, in 1913, and without British assistance, Abd al-Aziz’s armies drove the Ottomans out of Al-Hufuf in eastern Arabia. However, he was compelled to reaffirm Ottoman sovereignty over all of his territory in 1914. Ironically, with the rise of Wahhabism in Arabia, the forces led by Abd al-Aziz was based on Wahhabi [neo-Salafi] Islam, thereby distinguishing themselves against mainstream Muslims, yet aligning themselves with the British.)

After Britain’s declaration of war against the Ottoman Empire in October 1914, the British sought an alliance with the House of Saud and provided Abd al Aziz with financial subsidies and small arms. As his part of the agreement, Abd al-Aziz promised to keep 4,000 men in the field against the House of Rashid, which was associated with the Ottomans.

It was neither Lawrence (of Arabia) nor the Army that conceived a campaign of internal insurgency against the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East, but rather the Arab Bureau of Britain’s Foreign Office. Supporting the breakaway-minded tribes would pay great dividends if a diversion of effort was needed to meet the challenge. In 1917, Lawrence arranged a joint action with the Arab irregulars and forces under Auda Abu Tayi (until then in the employ of the Ottomans) against the strategically located port city of Aqaba.

The Fall of the Ottoman Empire can be attributed to the failure of its economic structure. In many ways, the circumstances surrounding the Ottoman Empire’s fall closely paralleled those surrounding the Decline of the Roman Empire, particularly in terms of the ongoing tensions between the Empire’s different ethnic groups, and the various governments’ inability to deal with these tensions.

(In the twentieth century, World War I, ended control by the Ottomans, and Palestine came under British rule. To secure help from the Zionists, the British issued the Balfour Declaration in 1917, which endorsed Palestine as a national home for Jewish people all over the world.)

Ethnocentrism can be defined as making false assumptions about others’ ways based on the narrow experience of one’s own (superior) culture. Cultural relativism was in part a response to Western ethnocentrism. It has the view that no culture is superior to any other culture and sees nothing inherently wrong (and nothing inherently good) with any cultural expression. Ethically, whatever holds as “good” means that which is “socially approved” by the majority in a given culture. That any society would call another society “evil” is anathema to the relativist. Moreover, cultural relativists are generally opposed to missionary work, because religion penetrates hearts and changes lives and some cultural change and assumptions always follow. The real issue of relativism is, “At what point is one group justified in intervening in the behavior of another group?”

This also brings into question the various social class systems where people with a great deal of power are usually viewed as “the elites” within their own societies. The physical conditions of the workplace differ greatly between the Upper and Lower (the peasants) classes. While middle-class workers may “suffer alienating conditions” or “lack of job satisfaction”, blue-collar workers suffer alienating, often routine, work with obvious physical health hazards, injury, and even death. Class or caste distinction has direct consequences on lifestyle, which also affects how children are raised. These lifestyles could quite possibly affect educational attainment, and therefore, status attainment.

In British history, there were three types of classes. One is upper class which belongs from the families who are rich by birth and their families had enormous wealth and these people do not need much work hard to gain the status and wealth and prestige. The second one is the middle class these people earn their livelihoods by doing job and these people are creative mind and they work hard to get more money and status.

This middle class is then further divided into two sub segments one is upper-middle class and the second is lower-middle class. These people from the upper-middle class belong from the professions of high paid jobs like doctor, engineer, pilots and Architects. The people who belong from the lower-middle class are those, who are doing routine jobs like clerical and data entry. There were discrimination of classes in the British those who were from the rich class have their own schools, parks and restaurants while those people who belong from the poor class does not mingle with the people of upper class. (However, race and other large-scale groupings can also influence class standing.)

Have we been affected by the Divide and Rule agendas?

Institutionalised Discrimination leads to Internalised Oppression, especially when oppressed groups act discriminately toward their own group, or start to believe in negative stereotypes of themselves. They usually believe that they are less intelligent or inferior (academically and otherwise), showing jealousy and superior attitudes within their ranks, and where gossiping, verbal attacks, distancing, hypocrisy and betrayal become the root causes for remaining disunited.

Are we then at least able to agree to disagree?

Further to being ethnocentric, people who have lived in a number of countries do embrace multiple ethnicities, implicitly or explicity.  But among us, there is the problem of making Social Comparisions (i.e. I and you, them and us, look what I’ve got, the have nots, etc.). Whenever people wish to embrace them, they distance themselves, set up barriers, influence others to take sides in their biases, and work against those who wish to offer alternatives. With this sense of inequality, such people become their target with which to overcome their Tall Poppy Syndrome rather than finding resolutions.

Does Race Have Anything To Do With IQ?

(By Habib Siddiqui)

In his chapter on “Characteristics of Human Races,” Gobineau provided the traits of the black and yellow races as follows. Black: “The animal character … is stamped on the negro from the birth… mental faculties are dull or even nonexistent. .. He kills willingly for the sake of killing …” Yellow: “little physically energy and inclined to apathy… desires are feeble, will-power obstinate… tends to mediocrity in everything.. . He is practical, in the narrowest sense of the word… does not dream or theorize… invents little.” He described the white race as a superior type in beauty, intelligence and strength. Finally, he determined that all civilizations, e.g., Indian, Egyptian,Assyrian, Greek and Roman, were all created from one primary source – the white race.

Following Gobineau’s theory, it was all too natural for Europeans to believe that they were on a God-given mission to civilize others. Remember the colonial days when vast territories of Asia, Africa and Latin America were under white men’s rule? The failure of the non-Whites to resist European colonization and plunder of their territories automatically relegated them to a lower human status.

In the 19th century, thus, in addition to the rise of social Darwinism, anthropologists contributed to racism. The search for the “missing link” between apes and Homosapiens became a passionate pastime among the anthropologists and social Darwinists. They studied aborigines to see if they would fill the gap. Since anthropologists were Europeans and white, their race was put at the apex of hierarchy and the blacks at the bottom. The fact that both black and white human beings shared some common features with apes did not matter; apparently their thick lips, origin in Africa and black color reinforced the stereotype of association between apes and black people. Conveniently ignored were other signs, e.g., the apes have thin lips (it is the jaw that protrudes for apes), straight hair and ash-white skin (once the blackhair is removed) showing closer resemblance of apes to the white people.

Count Arthur de Gobineau (1816-82) was one such theorist who turned racism into a cultural and political issue, by saying that the deterioration of the modern age resulted from the mixing of superior and inferior races. He divided humanity into the black, yellow, and white races, and claimed that only the pure white, or Aryan, race was and could be truly noble. According to him, some societies remain in embryonic state, e.g., the pure blooded yellow and black races, which are unable to achieve the level of a civilized nation. He held to the belief that racial groups were physically, mentally and morally different and any attempt to civilize these embryonic groups would meet with failure.

Much later, during Hitler era we would see the worst form of application of Gobineau’s theory in Nazism where only Germans were considered superior to all other races. Truly, Nazi ideology cannot be separated from racism. Through this ideology, Nazis were able to “justify” their horrible actions by making the Jews seem less human.

In a recent article, “Rising Above I.Q.” (New York Times, June 7, 2009), Nicholas Kristof mentioned something that many of us knew for quite some time: there is no genetic or racial contribution to the black-white difference on I.Q. Drawing upon research findings from psychologist Professor Richard Nisbett’s book – “Intelligence and How to Get It”, he says that there also seems to be no genetic difference in intelligence between whites and Asians. It is education and the drive to succeed which are most important factors that translate into success. These findings must come as a shock to all those racists that believed too longin lies and myths spread by Gobineau and other Social Darwinists.

In his study on intelligence, Dr. Nisbett studied three groups of people in America – Jews, Chinese-Americans and West Indian (Caribbean) Blacks and found these groups to outperform others. For example, Jews have received about one-third of all Nobel Prizes in science received by Americans. One survey found that a quarter of Jewish adults in the United States have earned a graduate degree, compared with six percent of the population as a whole.

Asian-Americans (especially the Chinese-Americans), in general, have earned better grades than other students (much in contrast to Gobineau’s characterization that yellow race tends to mediocrity). West Indian blacks with roots in the Caribbean are one-third more likely to graduate from college than African-Americans as a whole, and their median household income is almost one-third higher. Nisbett says that the evidence is overwhelming that what is distinctive about these three groups is not innate advantage but rather a tendency to get the most out of the firepower they have. A common thread among these three groups may be an emphasis on diligence or education, perhaps linked in part to an immigrant drive.

As we know quite well, a country that has allowed immigration has always prospered better than those countries that did not. American success story owes it to its immigrant community who had energized the country through their hard work and drive to succeed. Even if the first generation immigrants were not all highly educated, they made sure that their children studied hard and worked harder than others to succeed. Immigrants are also a small minority and as such their smallness innumber in the society has put an extra burden to succeed in their adopted homes.

Jews always have been minorities in the countries they lived (outside the Zionist state). They have also known from their bitter experience that they could lose or be robbed of everything they possessed except their intellect, and as such, they have inculcated the importance of education within their own family. It is no-brainer that they are more educated and have been controlling top positions in both academic and corporate world.

When comparing the social status of most Black Americans with others, including those from the Caribbean islands, one usually forgets that most Black Americans come from broken families who don’t have father figures in their families; most children are raised by single mothers. Then for centuries they saw how they were discriminated and badly treated. None of these factors helped to encourage a young Afro-American to understand the wisdom behind education and hard work. If you factored in such information, it is not difficult to understand why they are behind West Indians whose success has been identified to be rooted in: the classic diligence and hard work associated with immigrants, and intact families.

Unfortunately, what the Nisbett study does not say is that success, like failure, has ripple effects in the society it originates. Thus, one’s success story in the community can encourage others to follow his/her footsteps to better their lives. And as long as there is no discrimination, such successes can boost the morale of others to succeed. But when a person is denied success in spite of all the right characteristics, such can adversely demoralize others that are close to that person. And the sad fact of our life is discrimination happens too often. I know many such examples where persons with less education, less skill, less experience, and less qualification have been chosen over more talented, educated, qualified, better candidates. Jews in the pre-Hitler era in Germany have been accused of such  discriminatory practices against Germans, monopolizing the entire system wherever they had been able to grab some important positions. They denied entry of Germans into many coveted positions.

Today, top positions in many important institutions, financial and otherwise, in the western world, esp. the USA, government/public and private sectors, are held by Jews. Such role models of success can have a tremendous positive impact to boost the latter generation of Jewish people to succeed. Thus, as a race, they are more prone to succeed, something that others can’t claim as much.

Based on years of analysis, some analysts have even accused that once the Jewish people had held those top level positions, they ensured that the  next in line would also come from their group (e.g., by forcing early retire mentor firing of a talented non-Jewish aspirant for the position). If such accusations are true, one can only ponder as to how long can such discriminatory practices be sustained! Have not these guys learned anything from their German experience?

Success can also have a caustic effect. Success of a community can translate into a belief that it is more deserving of those high positions than someone coming from outside its racial, ethnic group. It can instill a racist mentality. Thus, discrimination of others becomes part of success story of a particular group. I remember while working as a Director of a multi-billion dollar global company how often I was initiated by my boss and peers about the importance of perception in the business world, and how I should do succession planning in leadership so that someone perceived better suited for a job was preferred over a more qualified and talented person. I was literally told that so and so did not really fit the position compared to someone else who appeared more like them. Interestingly, my experience was at odds with their perceptions.

In spite of the reality that prejudice and discrimination are quite common in our world, and that education and hard work may not always translate into success, there is no denying that Professor Nisbett is right in that “Intelligence and academic achievement are very much under people’s control.” Let’s motivate our children and loved ones to excel in these two sectors without worrying too much about the outcome – the material success. Let the future take its own course while we take control of the present. That would hopeully be the beginning of our drive to regain our lost heritage. That will be enough for now.

Dr. Habib Siddiqui  is an anti-war activist. His essays appear in a number of websites and newspapers. He has written eight books (three of which can be found in the


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The Reclamation: British Re-invents Slavery

Posted by tahirfarrath on January 15, 2010

For the ex-slaves, and the Khoisan servants, the reality of freedom was very different from the promise. As a wage-based economy developed, they remained dispossessed and exploited, with little opportunity to escape their servile lot.

Increasingly, they were lumped together as the “coloured” people, a group which included the descendants of unions between indigenous and European peoples, and a substantial Muslim minority who became known as the “Cape Malays” (misleadingly, as they mostly came from the Indonesian archipelago).

The coloured people were discriminated against on account of their working-class status as well as their racial identity. Among the poor, especially in and around Cape Town, there continued to be a great deal of racial mixing and intermarriage throughout the 1800s.

In 1820, several thousand British settlers, who were swept up by a scheme to relieve Britain of its unemployed, were placed in the eastern Cape frontier zone as a buffer against the Xhosa chiefdoms.

Some became fierce warmongers who pressed for the military dispossession of the chiefdoms. They coveted Xhosa land and welcomed the prospect of war involving large-scale military expenditure by the imperial authorities. The Xhosa engaged in raiding as a means of asserting their prior claims to the land. Racial paranoia became integral to white frontier politics. The result was that frontier warfare became endemic through much of the 19th century, during which Xhosa war leaders such as Chief Maqoma became heroic figures to their people.

The Colony of Natal, situated to the south of the mighty Zulu State, developed along very different lines from the original colony of settlement, the Cape. The size of the black population left no room for the assimilationist vision of race domination embraced in the Cape.

However, Britain’s reconstruction regime set about creating a white-ruled dominion by uniting the former Boer republics (both by then British colonies) with Natal and the Cape.

Indentured Labour

Indentured labour was instrumental for avoiding labour shortages that might be suffered by farmers as a result of freed slaves returning to their societies of origin. Freed slaves could be indentured for five years after being freed and slave children and destitute children without custodians could also be indentured until they reach the age of 25 (twenty five). The rationale for indenturing children of slaves was that it would offset the cost incurred by farmers for raising them. The productive value of labour extracted from these children was not taken into consideration. As a result, the aim of indenturing slaves was to ease the transition from slave labour to free labour. That is, it was a substitute for slave labour.

One of the few recorded histories of an African in America from early court records is that of “Antonio the negro,” as he was named in the 1625 Virginia census. He was brought to the colony in 1621. At this time, English and Colonial law did not define racial slavery; the census calls him not a slave but a “servant.” Later, Antonio changed his name to Anthony Johnson. Negro John Punch (1640) was one of the early cases that made a racial distinction among indentured servants.

Over the first 50 years of the 18th century, the number of Africans brought to British colonies (in Northern America and the Carribeans, etc.) on British ships rose from 5,000 to 45,000 a year.

The Coolies

Between 1860 and 1911 some 140 000 Indians arrived in South Africa as indentured labourers. (Let alone, those in the Pacific, Fiji, Mauritius, Trinidad and even Malaysia, etc.) By 1904, African resources in South Africa still proved inadequate to get the mines working at pre-war levels, over 60 000 indentured Chinese were brought in.  The Cape Malays for some reason called the Indian Muslims “Babis”. The word Babi in Malay means pig or pork, and is unbecoming for a Muslim to speak about others in this way.

Qulii is a Hindu word for day-labourers (perphaps hired or bonded labour). In Chinese, it literally means “use of bitterly hard strength” or a term for contruction workers in Indonesia. There is a Gujarati tribe known as the Kulii and this word in Tamil means wages (possily cooly wages), but a servant in Urdu and Turkish. Its use was also applied to unskilled workmen, dock workers or porters and carriers as an ethnic nickname for people of Asian descent. The English used it to describe workers of low-status class (even though encouraging the use of cheap labour) and is today considered as a racial slur towards Asian people regardless of their professions or socio-economic standing.

In Ethiopia, however, the word is not seen as a slur for Arab workers. Strangely, West Indians of East Indian descent (a brown person) who calls themselves a coolie may often think highly of themselves, sometimes highly racist or culturist when it comes to discriminating against people. However, racism directed against Indians from their host countries fall under the rubric of Indophobia. After the 1968 Committee on “Africanization in Commerce and Industry”, Idi Amin used this propaganda to justify a campaign of “de-Indianization”. This eventually resulted in their expulsion within 90 days from Uganda and ethnic cleansing of Indian minority. But Cu li in Vietnamese now means a person who works a part-time job, mostly used as  slang by overseas Vietnamese students. Generally, the term still refers to a poor labourer or immigrant worker that will do any job for a small amount of pay.

For more meanings of the word Coolie, click on the following link:

The Kaffir or Kaffers

The word Kaffir was used in English, Dutch and, later, Afrikaans, from the 16th century to the early 20th century. It described all black people in the region, excluding of course the San and Khoi Khoi. During the 20th century, the word gradually took on negative connotations (including the Arabic word for unbeliever) when speaking about or to a people who survived the worst form of Racism and subjugation to the lowest pay as manual labourers. (Also, how many among the Couloureds, Malays, Indians and Chinese learnt this behaviour from the Whites and are still subjecting the indegineous people with such treatment?) The term is regarded by most as highly offensive (in the same way as “nigger” is in other countries). Use of the word has now been actionable in South African courts since at least 1976 under the offense of crimen injuria: “the unlawful, intentional and serious violation of the dignity of another”.

It is not clear whether the Portuguese name Cafrinha was derived from English “Kaffir” after the English took over Sri Lanka. The British colonists brought Kaffirs to fight against Ceylonese armies in “kaffir regiments”. Kaffirs are very similar to the African populations in Iraq, Iran and Kuwait, and known in Pakistan as Sheedis and India as Siddis. However, Sri Lanka Kaffirs were originally Muslims and these Kaffirs are proud to be Sri Lankans and do not consider it as a racist word.

Indentured servants

Indentured servitude was a method of increasing the number of colonists, especially in the British colonies. Commoners, most of whom were young men, with dreams of owning their land or striking it rich quick would essentially sell years of their freedom in exchange for passage to the colonies. (Among the convicts population of Ausralia were convicts as young as 10 years of age. Convicts, prisoners of war, vagrants and orphans were also forced under British programs to rid England of undesirables and to populate the labour-starved settlements. In many instances children were given in bondage for debts owed by the parents.)

Unlike slaves, an indentured servant was a labourer under contract to an employer for a fixed period of time, typically three to seven years, in exchange for their transportation, food, clothing, lodging and other necessities. Although similarities exist, indentured servitude was not the same as the apprenticeship system by which skilled trades were taught.

Like slaves, servants could be bought and sold, could not marry without the permission of their owner, were subject to physical punishment, and saw their obligation to labor enforced by the courts. But unlike slaves, servants could look forward to a release from bondage. If they survived their period of labour, servants would receive a payment known as “freedom dues” and become free members of society. Female indentured servants in particular might be raped and/or sexually abused by their masters.

Modern indentured servitude takes the form of illegal immigrants paying their passage by long work-hours in harsh conditions, often at subsistence pay rates to support themselves. Workers generally from India and Pakistan are forced to pay people for the promise of work in the Emirates. Once they enter the country their passports are taken from them and they are not told when they will get them back.

Servitude or Employee?

Indentured servant – “You are here to do whatever I tell you, when I tell you to do it!” Employee – “You are here to do the job we hired you to do, under the conditions set out when we hired you!” One is all amount total control, the other is about fulfilling a specific, pre-determined arrangement. These two very different ideas often get confused, which is one of the main reasons that people have so much trouble in some workplaces, Managers, Bosses, Supervisors, CEO’s, etc when they think that  Employees are seen as Indentured Servants. Everything has always been about one thing… how to make the most amount of money with the least amount of expenses. (Otherwise, you will loose out to the competition and battle to survive in the marketplace without cheap labour.)

Migrant Labour

Today, countries encourage immigration to fill the “skills gaps” and labour market shortages with most qualified migrants finding only low-paid jobs that are not filled by local labour. Some migrants will also willingly do “menial but essential jobs”, considering these as a means to “a better life” and the escape from conditions back home. Other legal and illegal migrants will then turn to and be abused in the disposable labour market as a way of surviving the dilemma.

At some stage, migrants will be blamed for rising crime, stealing jobs from the locals, cultural pollution, overloading school and social systems and not carrying their share of the tax burden as if they are second class citizens. Colonialism and forced colonial imperialism are now long lost and forgotten as migrants are the first to be made redundant over the locals.

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The Reclamation: Discovery of Key Cape Muslims

Posted by tahirfarrath on January 8, 2010

(History of Muslims in South Africa)

The Circle of Islam foretold…

Robben Island (?) – Sayed Abduraghman Motura was regarded as a very learned and religious man. He made wonder cures and was a comfort to his fellow prisoners. Legend indicated that he walked across the water to visit friends in Cape Town. Tuan Matarah died on Robben Island. His shrine was contructed by the Apartheid Prison authorities in 1960. (This is confusing because Hadjie Matarim died there in 1755.)

Bakoven (?) – There are numerous graves with at least four known graves in this area. The fourth grave is that of Sheikh Muhammad Zaid. It is claimed that he was a Sheikh of the Alawiah Tariqa who was banished to the Cape by the Dutch. There is also the grave of Sayed Jaffer that was discovered at the end of the nineteenth century.

Camps Bay (?) – The grave of Sheikh Ali (Sayed Bassier) is located here. Nothing is known of the history of Sheikh Ali.

Constantia (1667 ?) – Political prisoners of high standing were exiled to the Cape. Many were sent to work in Company’s forest in Constantia. Sheikh abdul Mutalib possibly lies buried here.

De Waal Drive (?) – Many graves are found on Devil’s Peak that have not been identified. Oral tradition claims that several pious people are buried on these slopes and one such grave is that of a mysterious Sheikh Abdul Kader. The location of the Sheikh’s grave was only known by a select few who kept it a secret. Those who related this also speculated that the Sheikh was the divine guide as referred to in African folklore.

Deer Park (?) – This forest would have provided a convenient hiding place for runaway slaves. There are at least five graves through the park at the foot of Table Mountain. Oral sources indicate that they are Sayed Abdul Haq al-Qadri, Sayed Jabaar, Sayed Haq al-Qadri, Sayed Muhammad and Sayed Mohammad Illahie. Sayed Abdul Haq’s shrine is situated in a mountain ravine. This all that is known of Sayed Abdul Haq.

Muizenberg (1687 ?) – Very little is known of Sayed Abdul Aziz. Could he have been a runaway slave of the Steenbergen mine? An oral narrative states that his grave was relocated after it was discovered on the Muizenberg beach.

Oudekraal (1715) – Sheikh Noorul Mubeen was banished to the Cape and escaped from Robben Island by unknown means. A legend claimed that he swam across the Atlantic Ocean and was discovered by slave fishermen who nursed him to health. Another version was that he walked across to the mainland. He is buried here but others believe it is one of his followers’ grave.

Signal Hill – Two of Shaykh Yusuf’s followers and his daughter elected to remain at the Cape. Oral reports state that Sheikh Mohamed Hasen Ghaibie Shah al-Qadri and Tuan Kaape-ti-low (Jawhi Tuan) are buried here. There are other known graves as well of Tuan Nur Ghiri Bawa (Tuan Galieb), Tuan Sayed Sulaiman and Tuan Sayed.

Simonstown (1779) – Although the precise identity of Tuan Ismail Dea Malela and his son Tuan Dea Koasa could never be verified, oral reports have unanimously declared that they are buried in Simonstown. A Kitab written in ancient Sumbawanese idientifies them as Imam Abdul Karriem bin Imam Jalil bin Imam Ismail of Sumbawa in Indonesia to the Dea royal family of Pemangong and Sultan Kaharuddin.

Vredehoek – The only Sayed Abdul Malik who is buried here arrived as a slave to the Cape from Batavia towards the end of the eighteenth century.  He married Ruska, a freeborn woman. He was listed as a Malay Doctor and Priest who administered spiritual medicine and was involved with Tuan Guru in the establishment of the Dorp Street Madrassah.

Mowbray (1909 ?) – Sayed Moegsien bin alawie al-Aidurus from Hadratul Mout near Eden, Yemen actively pursued his missionary calling and departed for Cape Town. Later, he married Khadija Kamrudien Parker and Sharifa was born. Two spiritual events of many miracles were attributed to him. Among his noble acts was the discovery and identification of the graves of Nuurul Mubeen and Sayed Jaffer. He lies buried at the Mowbray cemetery.

Observatory – Sheikh Abdurahmaan ibn Muhammad a-Iraqi was an emigrant to the Cape who came from Basra. He is accredited to scribing numerous volumes on the teachings of Islam in Arabic-Afrikaans. The Sheikh lies buried in the Observatory cemetery.

Athlone (1904) – The cementing of links between Muslims and consolidating the Muslim community from different backgrounds were among the accomplishments of Moulana Abdul Latief who was sent by his brother-in-law, Hazrat Goolam Muhammad Sufi (Sufi Saheb).  Sufi Saheb came to Cape Town and purchased land at Doornhoogte, and on his return to Durban, requested that the Moulana proceed to Cape Town (after having visited his aging father in India) to establish a Mosque and Islamic Centre.  He endured living in a wood and iron shack without running water and other necessities with the sole purpose of serving his spiritual mentor. A year later the foundation of the Habibya Mosque was laid. The Moulana died in 1917.

[Cape Mazaar (Kramat) Society]

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The Reclamation: Runaway Slaves-Ratiep

Posted by tahirfarrath on January 8, 2010

(History of Muslims in South Africa)

Almost from the start, slaves began to runaway, because of ill treatment, overwork and the natural desire to live as a free person. Runaways sometimes formed their own ‘colonies’ — two, which lasted the longest, were high on Simonsberg above Stellenbosch and at Cape Hangklip on the eastern rim of False Bay.

The ‘colonies’ grew gradually from a group of people who, intent on escaping, equipped themselves with plundered firearms or implements and stole a few cattle or sheep. Secure on the remote mountaintops, they grew crops and grazed their flocks and herds.

Eventually, a commando arrived on the scene, which brought an end to the settlements. Those who survived the onslaught were severely punished for running away.

One attempt at an uprising took place on a farm in Stellenbosch in 1690. Four slaves attacked a farmhouse, killed one burgher, wounded another and fled with stolen firearms. Burghers, soldiers and Khoikhoi auxiliaries were dispatched in pursuit and, in a gun-fight, three of the slaves were killed and the fourth wounded and taken prisoner. Interrogated, the prisoner said it had been their intention to murder a number of farmers and set fire to their fields, hoping this would attract other slaves to their side. Then they planned to seize some white women and make their way to Madagascar. But after their first attack they had panicked and taken to the hills.

The Ratiep Ritual

George Champion came to Africa to save souls. He heard and answered a call to leave his comfortable New England home and preach the good news in “the land of the ill-fated African.” But after a winter’s voyage across the Atlantic and three months ashore at the Cape of Good Hope, he had little to show for his efforts. His patience wearing thin, Champion went for stroll through Cape Town one evening in April 1835 and found himself “in the midst of the heathen!” In fact he had stumbled across a Muslim religious rite, and said:

“I directed my steps to a one-storey house whence it proceeded. It was a ceremony of some Mahometans…At times the noise would wax louder & louder, & the dancer (or priest) would become so furious in his gestures & features that I could easily imagine him a demon incarnate. This religion of the false prophet is increasing in Cape town [sic] the number of its votaries, in the opinion of all.(3)

Like many others, Champion tried to account for Islam’s success. The reasons, he thought, were practical, not spiritual. Most converts, he noted, were slaves.(7) Local whites–who considered “white” and “Christian” to be synonyms and believed that slaves, whose ancestry was Asian and African, were “an inferior class of beings”–adamantly opposed admitting slaves into Christian fellowship and refused them “the rites of a Christian [i.e., proper] burial.” In contrast Muslims–whom whites regarded as “black,” though many were free–welcomed slaves into the fold, treated them with kindness, and offered them the dignity of a proper funeral.(8) Class and colour prejudice, they said, prevented most whites from recruiting or accepting slave converts. The Muslim community embraced those whom Christians scorned. In sum, the motives for conversion were secular rather than sacred. Slavery was a “secular excommunication,”(13) often supported, as at the Cape, by religious exclusion.

Slaves may have been socially dead, but they desperately sought social life.(16) At the Cape, slaves and other oppressed people found life in Islam. Nearly all slaves dreamed of becoming once again “legitimate members of society,” of being “socially born again.”(15) Hence, they became legitimate members of Muslim society.

The very essence of slavery (and of the indentured status of Prize Negroes with no wages, harsh treatment, and minimal provisions) was the slave’s “total loss of control over his person and his personality.”(107) It was the slaves body that the owner bought and sold, the body that the owner put to work, the body that the owner flogged.

At one level the Ratiep ceremonies demonstrated the power of God to protect the believer from physical peril. The performance of the ratiep emerges as an act of resistance. This doubtless drew slaves and Prize Negroes (most often from Madagascar and the East African coast, who had been rescued from slave ships by the British Navy) to the rite (that is likely of Hindu origin).

Conversion and the Search for Meaning

The ceremonies of one of the oldest tariqa, the Rifa’iyyah, often involve dancing, the chanting of the dhikr, and, at the moment of ecstasy, falling “upon objects such as serpents or knives….”(103) These rituals have been associated with the Rifa’iyyah wherever it is found, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.(104) In the Indonesian archipelago, one of the most distinctive Rifa’iyyah rituals is known as the rapa’i; in Malaysia it is called the dubbus, from the Arabic word for an iron awl. During the rapa’i members of the tariqa pierce their bodies with swords, knives, and iron awls. The point of rite is to demonstrate the power of God, which allows “the adept to come out of the ceremony without his body showing any evidence of having been harmed.”(105). There are, of course, clear parallels between Rifa’iyyah rituals and the ratiep. They have been part of Islamic practice on the Indonesian islands from the time Islam first arrived in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. They were, that is, part of the religious world in which the exiled shaykhs of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Cape came to maturity. Yusuf da Costa writes that it is “highly probable” that the ratiep has its roots in the practices of sufi tariqa, though he ties it to the Alawiyyah, not the Rifa’iyyah.(106)

Whatever its provenance, in the early nineteenth century the ratiep was an important expression of Muslims’ faith. Slaves and slaveowners also contested the very nature of reality.

On another level of meaning, the ratiep proved the superiority of the sacred realm of Islam over the secular realm of slavery. The ratiep embodied and enacted an alternative worldview, an alternative reality that starkly contradicted the ideologies and practices of slavery, colonialism, and white supremacy. It allowed slave converts to demonstrate that the world of the spirit was a higher order of reality. It reinforced the message of the spiritual leaders; they explicitly taught slave and Prize Negro converts that though their bodies were enslaved, their souls were free.(109). The spirit moved the converts as well. It strengthened them, healed them, and taught them that though their owners can claim their bodies they cannot claim their souls.

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The Reclamation: Abolishment of Slavery-Carnivals (1834 – 1838)

Posted by tahirfarrath on January 1, 2010

(History of Muslims in South Africa)

1834 – Emancipation of slaves under the British

The end of this year signaled the end of slavery in the Cape Colony, by which time, Islam was a flourishing religion at Cape Town. It was not only the Whites who were slave owners. Most of de Vryezwarten [the Muslim Free Blacks] themselves owned slaves.

(The first slave to gain freedom, was Catharina Anthonis, who was born in Bengal, and liberated because Jan Woutersz from Middelburg wished to marry her in 1656. Soon after the wedding, Woutersz was promoted to the position of supervisor on Robben Island. This was not due to merit, but was rather a way of putting the couple out of sight, for he was later found ‘unsatisfactory’ and sent to Batavia. A few years later, Jan Stael from Amsterdam married Maria van Bengalen, a union found more acceptable as Maria could speak Dutch and had some knowledge of Christianity.)

The Slavery Abolition Bill 1833 was passed by the British House of Commons and by the House of Lords in August 1833 and came into force on 1 August 1834. On that date slavery was abolished throughout the vast British Empire, with a few exceptions, one being the Cape Colony, where it was delayed for four months until 1 December. The Act apprenticed slaves to their masters for a period of four years.

This enabled them to learn trades and afforded a transition period for the owners. A certain amount was granted as compensation for the owners, but it had to be collected personally in Britain and was in some cases barely enough to pay for the expenses. The abolition of slavery and the way in which it was enacted was one of the contributing factors leading to the Great Trek (starting in 1835) from the Cape Colony. Piet Retief, in his famous manifesto to the Grahamstown Journal, wrote: We complain of the severe losses, which we have been forced to sustain by the emancipation of our slaves, and the vexatious laws, which have been enacted respecting them. Though the abolition of slavery has been historically treated as the main cause of the Great Trek, there were other equally compelling reasons to leave the Cape Colony.

1840 – Cape Muslim population

By 1840 Islam had 6 435 adherents at Cape Town, one-third of the total population of the Colony. This constituted an increase of 4 268 Muslims within a period of twelve years.

About the Coon Carnivals and Malay choirs

It was customary for the slaves to be given a holiday on New Year’s Day, which they in turn transformed into a day of celebration, entertainment, feasting, visiting friends from house to house, wearing of fanciful attires, and revelling in music and dance.

This tradition of New Year celebration continued after the emancipation of the slaves to the accompaniment of street parades and bands.

Slaves celebrating the Abolishment of Slavery

Minstrels from America first visited the Cape in 1848, which was ten years after the British government had abolished slavery (but years before emancipation in America). In early American minstrel songs, “coon” was a reference to a raccoon. The American minstrels were white, but they blackened their faces with burnt cork to look like raccoons. The inverse of this behaviour became popular with the local former slave population who, being dark skinned, whitened their faces instead and wrote songs to mock their former masters.

By the end of the nineteenth century these singing groups and bands began to be associated with particular sports clubs and were usually costumed in special attires distinguished by peculiar emblems. Every year, they competed with one another in songs, in dances, in parades, and in the wearing of colourful outfits, as they marched through the streets and suburbs of Cape Town.

The minstrels are grouped into klopse (“clubs” in Cape Dutch, but more accurately translated as troupes in English). Participants are typically from Afrikaans-speaking working class “coloured” families who have preserved the custom since the mid-19th century.

(The English name for Klopse was the derogatory term “Coons” and many middle strata Coloured people [middle class, white-collar working class and aspirants] believed that Klopse were low-class, gangster types, making an ass of themselves, stereotyping and denigrating people of mixed ancestry. Some of these observations are far from the full story. Under slavery curfews and other forms of curtailment of movement meant, slaves had no freedom of the city. Alongside the Klopse tradition there also emerged the traditions of the Malay Choirs, Nagkore and the Christmas Choir Bands.)

The social and political pressures associated with the formal institutionalisation of apartheid led to the inclusion of songs in Afrikaans in the Coon Carnival repertoires from the 1940s. Other changes followed as dances disappeared and brass bands gradually replaced string bands.

In spite of every effort by the Apartheid government to suppress the carnival through the restrictions and forced removal of the Group Areas Act and other apartheid measures, its survival is indicative of the resilience of the coloured community and the permanence of their claim to “Freedom of the City” of Cape Town, which had always been contested.

Former President Nelson Mandela endorsed the minstrel event in 1986 and is now a patron of the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival Association.

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The Reclamation: Cape (1801 – 1833)

Posted by tahirfarrath on January 1, 2010

(History of Muslims in South Africa)

1804 – Attainment of freedom of worship under the Dutch – pending British invasion

As a result of the prolonged colonial war between 1775 – 1784 that broke out in North America, the 13 Colonies eventually received their independence from Britain.

By 1804, the number of the Vryezwarten or Free Blacks, majority of whom were Muslims, had reached such significant proportion that the Dutch rulers changed their policies in order to enlist their support, pending the British invasion of the Cape. They granted religious freedom to the Vryezwarten. Thus on July 25, 1804 the patience and perseverance of the Cape Muslims was rewarded when religious freedom was permitted for the first time at the Cape of Good Hope.

Prior to this, the Cape Muslims, in practising their religion, were severely restricted by the Statutes of India: a set of laws particularly aimed at restricting the religious practices of the Muslims of the Batavian Empire of which the Cape formed a part.

Commander de Mist published Ordinance 50,which declared equal legal protection to all religious societies. However, these religious societies were still required to obtain permission from the Cape Governor for the construction of places of worship.

General Janssens, also a commander at the Cape, enlisted the free Malays to serve as “soldiers” at the Cape while the British attack was imminent, and this in reality, necessitated change in social and political conditions. Thus, during 1804, two “Javaansche Artilleries” were instituted: one under the command of the Mohammedaansche Veld-Priester [Muslim lay-preacher], Frans van Bengalen, and the other under the command of a Frenchman. These artilleries were deployed at the Battle of Blauwberg in 1806, and the soldiers were well trained. Their gallantry in the Battle earned them great praise and the respect of their British adversaries. Commentators on the Battle of Blauwberg generally agree that the Cape Muslim Artillery would have won the day for General Janssens had he not retreated to the mainland. And so, when the British took over the Cape, they honoured and praised the Muslim Artillery for its bravery and courage in the Battle. Thus, General Baird, the British commander, as a special gesture to the Cape Muslims, confirmed General Janssens’ promise to the Vryez-wartens of a masjid site. Islam actually took root in the Western Cape after 1800 when prayer rooms, at five respective sites, were made available.

1805 – Land grant for Tana Baru: the first Muslim cemetery

The first piece of land for a Muslim cemetery -Tana Baru – was granted to Frans van Bengalenon October 02, 1805 by the Raad der Gemeente[local authority] as a burial ground for the Cape Muslims. This gesture by the Batavian Republic officials followed the granting of religious freedom in 1804, accompanied by the right to build a Masjid.The purpose of the Batavian Administration in granting these privileges to the Cape Muslims was to obtain their loyalty in the event of a British invasion of the Cape. Tana Baru, presently in disuse, consists of several cemetery sites adjoining each other, at the top-end of Longmarket Street in Cape Town. It is situated opposite the site where the Cape Muslims buried their dead for years before 1805. Another site, in close proximity to that of Frans van Bengalen was given “as a present” to Paay Schaapie [Tuan Nuruman] “for him and his family as a burial ground” by General Janssen who was the Batavian Commander at the Cape during 1803 and 1806.

More land was granted to the Cape Muslims by the British Governor at the Cape, Sir Thomas Napier, during the reign of Queen Victoria, in 1842. It was practice of the 19th centuryimams of the Cape to purchase properties, in trust, for their congregations for the purpose of eithermasajid sites or burial grounds. Thus extra land came to be subsequently adjoined to Tana Baru. The cemetery was officially closed on January 15, 1886 by Government decree: Section 63 to 65 of the Public Health Act of 1883.

Within its confines lie some of the earliest and most respected Muslim settlers of South Africa:Imam Abdullah ibn Kadi [Qadi] Abdus Salaam[Tuan Guru], Tuan Sa’id Aloewie [Sayyid `Alawi],Tuan Nuruman [Paay Schaapie], Abubakr Effendi and others, along with prominent Muslim women of the time, such as Saartjie van de Kaapand Saamiede van de Kaap . Despite its closure, the Tana Baru has always been regarded as the most hallowed of Muslim cemeteries in Cape Town.

1807 Death of Tuan Guru

Tuan Guru died at the ripe old age of 95 and lies buried in Tana Baru Cemetry on Signal Hill, Cape Town. He had exerted a considerable influence on the Cape Muslims, especially in the field of Islamic education. Seventeen years after his death in 1807, his madrasah had, according to the evidence of the Colebrooke and Bigge Commission of 1825, a total of 491 “Free Black and Slave Scholars”. Imam Achmat van Bengalen took charge of themadrasah after Tuan Guru’s death.

1807 – Establishment of Palm Tree Masjid:second in the country

After a dispute with regard to succession to the imamate of the Auwal Masjid, Frans van Bengalen and Jan van Boughies together parted from the Auwal Masjid. They purchased a property in Long Street, Cape Town, initiated their own congregation and opened a prayer room which later was converted into the Palm Tree Masjid, the second oldest in South Africa.

Imam Abdolgamiet [`Abd al-Hamid] served as the first imam of this masjid from 1807 to 1808, followed by Imam Asnoon [Jan van Boughies] [1808 18461, Imam Abdol Logies [1846-1851],Imam Mamat [Muhammad] van de Kaap [1851-1866], Imam Isma‘il [1866-1889], Imam Moliat [1889 -1894], Imam Mogamat [Muhammad] Joseph [1894-?], Imam Lalie Mogamat Salie , Sheikh Mogamat Geyer, Imam Isgaak [Ishaq] Eksteen [d 1955], Imam Abas [`Abbas] Kamalie[1955-?].

1808 – Appointment of Jan van Boughies as Imam of Palm Tree Masjid

Jan van Boughies, the most prominent of the slaves from Celebes to arrive at the Cape of Good Hope, had a remarkable administration as imam of the Palm Tree Masjid [also known as Jan van Boughies Masjid] during the first half of the 19th century. Jan, also known as Imam Asnoon, succeeded Imam Abdolgamiet [ `Abd al-Hamid] from 1808 to 1846. Jan, who had been manumitted by Salia van Macassar [a free Muslim woman], later married her. Jan died in 1846 at the age of 112, leaving behind his second wife, Sameda van de Kaap , who dedicated the property as a masjid in memory of her late husband and called it “De Kerk van Jan van Boughies” [The Masjid of Jan van Boughies].

1823 – Abdul Ghaliel granted a burial site

The slave, Abdul Ghaliel, served the Muslim community of Simonstown, Cape, as their imam. In 1823 a land grant was made in his favour to be used as a burial site by the Muslim community of Simonstown. Abdul Ghaliel was the first slave to be granted a piece of land in Simonstown.

1828 – Restrictions on Muslim life

Having attained freedom of worship, Muslims, however, faced social restrictions and political inequality which in turn became the greatest obstacles in the spread of Islam in the Colony. The South African Commercial Advertiser of December 27, 1828 states in its editorial:

“As to the public worship of Mohammedans, although it was tolerated, no Proclamation of Law, as far as we know, was issued in this Colony, by which it was sanctioned or recognised! Perfect toleration was, however, one of the few praiseworthy principles of the old system. Thus we have seen, that an industrious and peaceable class of inhabitants, whom an enlightened policy would have cherished and perfected, were up to July 3, 1828 treated with utmost harshness and ignominy. Their marriages were declared unlawful, their issues degraded. They were refused admission to the rights of Burgership. They could not hold landed property nor remain in the Colony, though born there, without special permission and ample security. They were placed under the arbitrary control of the Burger Senate and the Landdrost – compelled to perform public services gratuitously – punished at discretion with stripes and imprisonment – unable to leave their homes without a Pass – their houses entered and searched at the pleasure of the police. They were liable to arrest without a warrant – and yet they were taxed up to the lips, like the other Free inhabitants”

This is the probable reason why only 20 Cape Muslims of a total of 2 167 [of whom 1 268 were slaves] owned property in 1825.

The estimated Muslim and Muslim slave populations at the Cape between 1810 and 1830 was:

Total number of slaves was 8268 of which 4766 (57.64%) were Muslim.

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The Reclamation: Cape (1791 -1800)

Posted by tahirfarrath on January 1, 2010

(History of Muslims in South Africa)

Keeping the fires burning for the next generation…

1793 – First Madrasah and the unsuccessful application for a Masjid site under the Dutch

In 1793 Tuan Guru was released from Robben Island, having served a prison sentence of thirteen years. When he established his first Madrasah in 1793, the property, a warehouse, was rented byCoridon of Ceylon, the freed slave of Salie van de Kaap. He then made an application to the Cape authorities for a site in Cape Town for the construction of a Masjid but it was refused. An open-air Jumu `ah Saldh [Friday congregational prayers] was then held in a disused quarry in Chiappini Street in Cape Town. Tuan Guru, also known as Imaam Abdullah, led the Cape Muslims in the Solaah.

1794 – Awwal Masjid: the first in South Africa on inherited property

On September 26, 1794, a Vryezwarten [Free Black Muslim], Coridon of Ceylon by name, purchased two properties in Dorp Street, Cape Town. Coridon was the first Muslim to own properties in Cape Town. On his death, his wife, Trijn van de Kaap, inherited the properties, as he had willed. In 1809 Trijn sold the properties to her daughter, Saartjie van die Kaap. In this regard, Saartjie, a remarkable woman, made land available for the building of a Masjid which was first constructed in 1794 with additions in 1807. A structural change – the construction of a Mihraab [niche] indicating the direction of the Qiblah – was made in order to convert the warehouse into a masjid. This masjid was established during the era of slavery, and established its roots in a climate of social and political prejudice.

According to Achmat van Bengalen, the construction of the Awwal Masjid was made possible through General Craig who, for the first time, permitted Muslim to pray in public in the Cape Colony. The Auwal Masjid, situated in Dorp Street, Cape Town, became the first to be established and is still functioning as the noble founders had intended. It became a centre of Muslim communal activity, regulating and patterning their social and religious life.

The first imam of the Auwal Masjid was Tuan Guru[Imam Abdullah] from 1797 to 1800, followed byImam `Abdul `Alim [1800-18101, Imam Sourdeen [1810-1822], Imam Achmat van Bengalen [1822-1843], Imam Abdol Barrie[1843-1851 ], Imam Mochamat Achmat[Muhammad Ahmad] [1851-1872], Imam Saddik Achmat [Sadiq Ahmad] [1872-1878], Imam Gamja Mochamat Achmat [Hamza Muhammad Ahmad] [1878 1912], Imam Amienodien Gamja[Amin al-D7n Hamzah] [1936-1955], Imam Gasant Achmat Gamja [Hasan Ahmad Hamzah] [1955-1980]. The second site [adjacent to Auwal Masjid] is presently occupied by the family of the late imam of Auwal Masjid , Imam Gasant Achmat Gamja[Hasan Ahmad Hamzah] [d 1981], a descendant ofCorridon of Ceylon. Prior to the construction of the”Saartjie’s Masjid”, the construction of masajid[sing masjid] and open freedom of worship were strictly prohibited in the Cape. The only “Kerk”[Church] permitted in the Colony was that of the Dutch Reformed Church. It was only in 1936 that extensive renovations were made to the Auwat Masjid.

1795 – (When the British arrived, the VOC had supplied slaves to the colony to ensure its economic success. The British, however, were turning against the practice of slavery. William Wilberforce spoke with moral vigour against slavery and persuaded the influential William Pitt to support his cause and it was finally outlawed by act of parliament in 1806.)

1797 – Second unsuccessful application for a Masjid site under the Dutch

An application for another Masjid site was made towards the end of 1790s. John Barrow, writing about religion at the Cape in 1797, comments that the “Malay-Mohammedans not being able to obtain permission to build a Mosque, perform their public services in the stone quarries at the head of the town”. This initial place of public worship of the Cape Muslims is today a derelict piece of land situated just off Chiappini Street in Bo-Kaap, Cape Town.

Imaam Achmat van Bengalen in his evidence to the Bigge and Colebrooke Commission of 1825 said that although it had been the policy of the Dutch not to permit the construction of any masjid, General Janssens had earlier given authority for one at the Cape when Janssens had enlisted the Free Malays to serve as soldiers to fight against the British.

Imaam Achmat, however, was unable to tender proof of his assertion. He maintained that the papers given to him by Craig and Janssens were lost as a result of the privilege the fiscal authorities had of breaking and searching their homes and properties and harrassing them without warrant.

1799 – Visit of Mirza Abu Talib Khan

In 1799, Mirza Abu Talib Khan visited the Cape of Good Hope. He came from a feudal background in India and had contacts with the court of Awdah [Oudh]. He was of Persian lineage, hence the title `Mirza’. He recorded his impressions of travel in Europe during 1799-1803 in Masir-i Talibi fi Biladi Afranji, which is one of the first introductions to modern western civilization written by a Muslim. The Mirza states that while he was at the Cape, he “had met with many pious, good Mussalmans, several of whom possessed properties”.

The estimated Muslim and Muslim slave populations at the Cape in 1800 was:

Total number of slaves were 6730 of which 3037 (45.13%) were Muslim.

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