Cape Malays…

and their Heritage

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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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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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