Cape Malays…

and their Heritage

Archive for February, 2010

Self-Empowerment: Cape Muslim Cemetery Riots (1875 – )

Posted by tahirfarrath on February 16, 2010

(History of Muslims in South Africa)

1875 – Muslim Population Statistics

The 1875 census reported:

13 930 Muslims [10 817 `Malay’] in the Colony; [8 948 Muslims in Cape Town]. ??

Distribution of Muslims at the Cape [1875]

Place: Total / Muslims

Cape Town: 17 004 / 6 772

Green Point: 796 / 61

Papendorp: 624 / 108

Rondebosch: 1 019 / 180

Newlands: 2 363 / 775

Wynberg: 1 308 / 310

Klassenbosch: 612 / 157

Simonstown: 1 002 / 292

Noordhcek: 432 / 57

1875- Abdol Burns and the cemetery dispute

Abdol Burns an educated man, a superb letter writer and taxi driver by profession, was a member of the Auwal Masjid in Cape Town. He was at the same time an astute `politician’ and negotiator and played an important role on behalf of the Cape Muslims in their dispute with the authorities on the cemetery issue from 1875 to 1886.

Burns was indefatigable in his efforts to right what he conceived to be an injustice inflicted upon the Cape Muslim community by the authorities when the Government policy was implemented to close the urban cemeteries – including Tana Baru – “for health reasons”.

As early as 1875 he had indicated to the authorities that to the Cape Muslims “their religion was superior to the law” and would resist Section 65 of the Public Health Act No 4 of 1883. He worked enthusiastically for ten long years in this regard to avoid open confrontation with the authorities. The promulgation of the Act left Abdol Burns no alternative but to organise protest meetings and solidify Muslim unity on this issue. This he achieved through the establishment of theMalay Cemetery Committee on which he served as the secretary, under the chairmanship of Imam Gamja [Hamzah] of the Auwal Masjid, and later under Imam Shahibo of the Jamia Masjid.

With the Cape Government implementing the Cemetery Bill, Friday, January 15, 1886 was set as the final day for burials in the municipal areas of Cape Town. Thereafter the dead were to be interred at the Maitland Cemetery which was administered by the Maitland Cemetery Board. There were no Muslim representatives on this Board – a fact which Abdol Burns came to criticise with great bitterness, pointing out that the Cape Muslims constituted one-third of the total population of Cape Town but had no representatives on this important Board.

On June 12, 1885 Abdol Burns chaired a historic protest meeting in the Council Chamber of the Town House which was attended by about 500 Muslims. The meeting appointed Imam Gamja, Imam Shahibo, Imam Abdol Kariem and others, with full powers to act on behalf of the Cape Muslims on the cemetery issue. This was a great event in the history of the Cape for it was the first time that a community group was allowed the privilege of using the Council Chamber of the Town House for a communal meeting.

When the Maitland Cemetery Board refused to grant Muslims any concess ions, Abdol Burns arranged an interview with the Colonial Secretary on November 13, 1885 to intervene on their behalf, requesting for an extension to the closing date of the cemeteries. This was also refused. On January 08, 1886 Muslims elected a delegation at the Auwal Masjid to see the Premier regarding the issue.

On the evening of January 15, 1886, the Cape Muslims were left without a burial ground, their existing cemeteries having been officially closed by a Government decree. On January 17, 1886 a child of a Muslim fisherman, Amaldien [`Amal al-Din]Rhode , died. More than three thousand Muslims walked to the Tana Baru cemetery and buried the child. The twelve policemen who were sent on duty to take down the names of the offenders were pelted with stones and were forced to flee. Cape Town had never experienced anything like this. A tense atmosphere, in anticipation of rioting, prevailed.

On January 20, 1886 the authorities stationed the Corps of Volunteers at Green Point. Ten Muslim leaders were arrested and charged with contravening Section 65 of the Public Health Act No 4 of 1886, and for causing a riot. The arrest did not curb the defiance of the Cape Muslims for they buried another Muslim at Tana Baru. On January 21, 1886 Abdol Burns was arrested, charged for throwing stones and striking a policeman. He was immediately released on bail. Burns approached the British commanding officer, General D’Ogley, stationed at the Cape to intervene on behalf of the Muslims but the request was refused. Burns was eventually found guilty and sentenced to two months’ imprisonment with hard labour and a fine of ten pounds sterling.

Meanwhile, the Muslims were still without a cemetery. The Malay Cemetery Committee , founded and excellently organised by Abdol Burns for ten years, was dissolved. A Muslim Cemetery Board with Hadjie Ozier Alie [Haji `Uzayr `AIi] as secretary was established, and purchased a burial ground at Observatory, from the authorities. Abdol Burns had previously refused this ground and it was probably because of this that he did not become a member of the Muslim Cemetery Board.


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Self-Empowerment: Swellendam (1871)

Posted by tahirfarrath on February 16, 2010

(History of Muslims in South Africa)

1871 – Shaykh Muhammad Salih Hendricks (founder of the Azawiya Masjid, Walmer Estate) was born to Abdullah Hendricks (also known as Imam Haji Hiji) and his wife A’isha in the village of Swellendam. At the age of sixteen, he left Swellendam in 1888 to study in Mecca (Da Costa & Davids, n.d.).

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Self-Empowerment: Transvaal (1870)

Posted by tahirfarrath on February 16, 2010

(History of Muslims in South Africa)

Oral reports indicate that the first Muslims to arrive in Transvaal were the Malays from the Cape in 1870 after travelling by ox-wagon from Kimberley. Paul Kruger gave them land to settle in Ferreirastown, which was known as the Malay Camp. The majority originated from the Cape and Port Elizabeth. The Kerk Street Masjid is built on same place where they had pitched a tent for performing their daily prayers. Living conditions became intolerable and they lived here until 1900 when they were forced to move on to Vredersdorp (renamed Pageview in 1942). A Langaar was eventually erected at Burgersdorp. The Imaams were Imam Tayyib Japie from the Cape and Hajji Baasi Rasdien from Port Elizabeth. President Kruger then gave a piece of land for a Masjid and Madrasah. A Muslim burial site was granted at the Braamsfontein cemetry. During this period, Albertskroon was also given to the Malays.

The Malay community of Gauteng include Coloured converts to Islam, many Indian Muslims who for political (or economical) reasons preferred to be classified as Malay and a large section of Mauritian Muslims. These Muslims because of their poverty and dark skins had to asociate with Malays after being marginalised by the “other” Muslims communities. Malays of Gauteng as a minority group are not only being marganalised by the Muslim Indians, but also loosing their particular religious culture. They are facing the  problem of maintaining their Shaafi’i traditions versus the Hanafiy majority. Although the Malays were the first Muslims in the Transvaal, they are constantly referred to third class Muslims by these “other” Muslims. Today, their committment, achievements and sacrifices to Islam have been denied in Gauteng for nearly a centuary. Futhermore, it remains a minority religious group within the Coured racial group under the Group Areas Act 41 of 1950 (M. Abduragiem Paulsen, 2003).

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Self-Empowerment: Kimberley (1870)

Posted by tahirfarrath on February 16, 2010

(History of Muslims in South Africa)

The Malays from the Cape arrived and established themselves on the Diamond Fields in the 1870s. By 1871, many of them were employed as diggers along the Vaal River. After the discovery of the dry diggings, a small group settled themselves on Dutoitspan, and by 1877, there were about 600 people residing in the Malay Camp. Later, the Shannon Street Mosque was built. Forced removals saw the demolition of schools, mosques and churches (Hunter, 2006). As mentioned, Achmat[Ahmad] Ata’ullah , the elder son of Effendi, settled in Kimberley, established the Ottoman School for Religious Studies in 1884.

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Self-Empowerment: District Six (1867 – )

Posted by tahirfarrath on February 12, 2010

(History of Muslims in South Africa)

With the Malay Quarters well established by 1760 along the slopes of Signal Hill, known as the Bo-Kaap, another area situated within sight of the docks was named in 1867 as the Sixth Municipal District of Cape Town. Originally established as a mixed community of freed slaves, merchants, artisans and labourers. On 11 February 1966, the government declared District Six a whites-only area under the Group Areas Act, with forced removals of residents starting in 1968. By 1982, more than 60,000 people had been relocated to the sandy, bleak Cape Flats township 25 kms away. (These low paid people now had less money to spend on their daily needs, and must get up earlier, stand in ques for their transport to the White areas, and of course, get home later from work.) Since the fall of apartheid in 1994, the African National Congress has recognized the older claims of former residents to the area, and pledged to support rebuilding. On 11 February 2004, exactly 38 years after the area was rezoned by the government, former president Nelson Mandela handed the keys to the first returning residents, Ebrahim Murat (87) and Dan Ndzabela (82).,_Cape_Town

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Self-Empowerment: Port Elizabeth (1866)

Posted by tahirfarrath on February 12, 2010

(History of Muslims in South Africa)

1866 – The Strand Street Masjid

The second Mosque built in P.E. was erected as consequence of a dispute between the two brothers, namely Abo Rafie and Abo Salie. The dispute eminated from the Grace Street Masjid, but the subsequent split in the Jamaa’ah that resulted in the construction of the Strand Street Mosque is unknown. (the Shaafi – Hanafi power struggle might be a possibility.) Moreover, there is conflicting evidence of the exact location of this Mosque. One source indicated that it was built between two building in a lane off Strand Street, while another state that it (was sandwiched between the two buildings and) faced Strand Street. It was previously a house (occupied by Abo Salie and his family) situated on a large piece of land and the front portion of the house was converted to include the Minaret. Abo Salie had three sons from his wife Attia, namely: Gasnoella, Abdul Wahab and Nieftagoedien. An article in the E.P. Herald dated 5 October 1852 read: “Abo Salie Nabie and his wife Rarteenjan donate their premises in Strand street, measuring 18’ wide X 37’ long (with a) 22’ front to other Muslims for a place of worship and residence for the Emaam”.

According to Lot A of Erf No. 2 granted to Thomas Winham on 1st October 1821 was transferred to Abo Salie on the 25th of November 1853, which was then transferred to abdol Wahab Salie on 23 February 1876. On the 25th of May/September 1899 it was transferred in trust to the Muslim Community. The architects were Messrs Molesworth & Pfeil, and Abo Salie and his two sons completed the Masjid on the 1st of June 1866. Over the main entrance to the Mosque was written “Auwal Masjied Wa Tiemoel Gajoe Wal Oemrata Lielah Hie”.

Although two separate persons, there is no certainty about the relationship between Abo Salie and Abo Salie Nabie. The life of this Mosque was shortlived and it had only one Emaam by the name of Abdul Wahab Salie. In 1859, both Abo Salie and his wife Attia died while on pilgramage in Mecca and Medina respectively. On the 15th of February 1860, the sale of the estate of Abo Salie and his wife Attia included the Union Hotel and several lots around the hotel and the Mosque. During December 1900, the Mosque and the Malay Priest’s residence were put up for sale. It appears that the Pier Street Mosque came into being since the sale (Abdul Gakien Abrahams, 1989?).

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Self-Empowerment: Cape Muslims Power Struggle (1866)

Posted by tahirfarrath on February 10, 2010

(History of Muslims in South Africa)

1866 – Disputes over succession and/or appointment of imams

Over the years the Cape Muslim `clerical’ order developed with the imams wielding appreciable power. The status of the imams, together with economic security and in many cases prosperity was due to the generous monetary donations and gifts by the congregation. Between 1866 and 1900, over twenty cases pertaining to masajid in the Cape peninsula were heard in the Supreme Court with regard to the positions of imams and their succession. (It’s a real pity to see that we must rely on non-Muslims to resolve our disputes. What still of the costs!) Practically every masjid at the Cape in the 19th century faced this problem.


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Self-Empowerment: Cape Malay Choir (1863 -)

Posted by tahirfarrath on February 10, 2010

(History of Muslims in South Africa)

Community singing has a strong tradition among Malay people and songs were sung for every occasion as seen at the abolishment of slavery. In July 1863, Governor Woodhouse of the Cape was informed that the Alibama was in Saldanha Bay, in hot pursuit of the enemy vessel, The Sea Bride. The Sea Bride was forced into Table Bay, curious onlookers who lined the shores of Table Bay, Greenpoint, Camps Bay, never saw a steamer and was overjoyed when the Alibama defeated the enemy vessel, The Sea Bride was forced into Table Bay and the victory tale became a folk song.

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Self-Empowerment: Effendi Influence (1862)

Posted by tahirfarrath on February 10, 2010

(History of Muslims in South Africa))

1862 – Abubakr Effendi: arrival and stay in Cape Town

Abubakr Effendi was the founder of the Hanafi school in this country. The effect of his teaching and influence on the culture of the Muslim community at the Cape was tremendous: the wearing of the fez by men and covering of head by Muslim women.

The coming of Abubakr Effendi to Cape Town was preceded by two factors: firstly, the continual conflict in the masajid with regard to succession of the imams [eg, the Palm Tree Masjid in 1860] and secondly, the request by Hadjie Medein for a spiritual guide. The Cape Parliament-arian, P E de Roubaix , approached for assistance the British Government who in turn requested the `Uthmanli [Turkish] Ambassador in London for a religious instructor to be sent to Cape Town. Thus in 1862Abubakr Effendi [then 27 years old] was sent to the Cape and his stay in this country was financed by the `Uthmanli [Turkish] Government. Abubakr Effendi was born in Khashnaw, Shehrizpur [Kurdistan], Turkey around 1835. He was of an aristocratic Quraysh family of Makkah settled in Kurdistan. His Islamic education began at amadrasah in Shehrizpur, continued in Islambol [Turk: City of Islam; contemporary Istanbul] and completed in Baghdad.

The Cape Muslim community was unaware of Abubakr Effendi until two days after his arrival in the Mother City. A reception committee, consisting of all the imams and Muslim dignitaries, went to meet him. Abubakr was well schooled in Islamic law and had a thorough working knowledge of all four schools of jurisprudence. In practice he adhered to the staunchly Hanafi code. This was to bring him in conflict with certain exclusivist Shafi’i Muslims of the Cape.

Immediately on his arrival, he set up a school for higher Islamic theology in Wale Street, Cape Town. The introduction of the Hanafi madhhab and its rulings made him a controversial person; for example, his evidence on the dispute regarding the succession of imams at the Palm Tree Masjid[1866] was given from a Hanafi point of view; again his evidence as chief witness in the Court with regard to Abdol Rakiep , imam of Nurul Islam Masjid, [ 1867] who had performed the Jumu `ah Salah whilst disregarding the Shafi`i rule regarding the presence of 40 worshippers, was given from a Hanafi aspect. In 1869 he had the first dispute with the Muslim community when he ruled that cray fish and snoek were haram.

Despite all this, many young Muslims studied under Abubakr Effendi, including two grandsons of Tuan Guru. He had a flare for languages and within a short space of time learnt the Afrikaans language. He was concerned about the lack of Islamic literature in the vernacular [Afrikaans]. His book,Bayanuddin [The Explanation of Religion] was completed in 1869 in Arabic-Afrikaans. This work is a treatise on Islam based on the Hanafi school of jurisprudence. Hand-written pages of the book were circulated in the Cape from around 1869. In 1877 it was printed by the Turkish Ministry of Education in Islambol [Constantinople, later: Istanbul], capital of the Ottoman Empire and ran into 354 pages. Thus it became the second publication in Arabic-Afrikaans in the country and was presented as a gift from the Ottoman Government to the Cape Muslim community. It is also claimed to be the third publication in the Afrikaans language.

Abubakr Effendi died at the young age of 45 on June 29, 1880 and was buried in Tana Baru. He left behind a wife and six children, two of whom played a prominent role in the community. Achmat[Ahmad] Ata’ullah , the elder son, settled in Kimberley, established the Ottoman School for Religious Studies in 1884. He vigorously supportedAbdol Burns in the cemetery dispute during 1885-86. In 1894 he contested for a seat in the Cape Parliament but the White South African Parliamentarians were determined in keeping him out.

Abubakr Effendi’s second son, Hisham N’imatullah ran a Muslim school in Port Elizabeth for a number of years. It was also under Abubakr Effendi’s influence that the first Muslim school for girls was established in Cape Town.

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Self-Empowerment: Paarl (1861)

Posted by tahirfarrath on February 10, 2010

(History of Muslims in South Africa)

1861 – Purchase of land for masjid in Paarl

Muslims came to Paarl [60 kilometers from Cape Town] over two centuries ago. They established a small community at Ou Tuin, the area surrounding the two masajid, stretching from the Western Banks of the Berg River to the foot of the Paarl Mountain.

A piece of land, originally purchased by Jakoef du Toit in 1861, was resold to “The Church Wardens, Malay Church, Paarl” for £25 Sterling, in whose favour transfer of the two erven was passed on November 08, 1887. The Muslim community began to consolidate after the emancipation of the slaves. The Breda Street Masjid was the first to be built in Paarl in 1888. Shortly thereafter, the Nurul Islamia Masjid was also built in the centre of the town. For almost a century these two masajid provided the nucleus round which the activities of the Muslims of Paarl revolved. At present these masajid lie in a somewhat abandoned state owing to the effect of the notorious Group Areas Act of the 1960s which caused the Muslim community to be scattered about the outlying areas of Paarl.

In 1917 a single rectangular hall was built on the second erf as a madrasah. In 1923 the building was renovated and used as a Government-Aided Mission School. A full-time Arabic teacher was employed whose salary was paid by the Cape Provincial Administration. His sponsorship by the Administration was terminated in 1931. Thereafter, part-time khaifas [religious teachers] were employed at the school by the community. The Muslim Mission School was closed when the community was affected [by being scattered] to outlying areas by the Group Areas Act. At the schools in the new residential areas no consideration was afforded for the provision Islamic education. Instead, Christian National Education, with a bias towards `Coloured’ schools was propagated and continues so to date.

In 1926 an imposing minaret, widely regarded as an architectural master piece, and extensive renovations to the main hall of the masjid were completed. Another masjid was built in Waterkant Street by a separate jama`dt.

However, in 1980 work began on the establishment of Mahdul Islamic Institute. A year later the first phase of the project was completed, at a cost of Rand 300 000. The centre includes a masjid, madrasah classrooms, kindergarten as well as facilities for community activities. Imam Rafiq Nackerdien was appointed as Imam of the Masjidin 1987, succeeding Shaikh Abdul Moutie Moerat who resigned, on account of ill health, after having served the Paarl Muslim community for 31 long years.
In 1982 the Paarl Muslim Jamaah opened the doors of its premises to pupils seeking after-school madrasah education with one full-time and three part-time religious instructors.

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