Cape Malays…

and their Heritage

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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