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Cape Muslim History at a Glance

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1652 – Arrival of first Muslims to this country. Few Malays of Batavia brought to the Cape by the Dutch.

1654 - First Muslim political prisoner arrive at the Cape.

1658 - First Mardyckers (free Muslims) arrive at the Cape from an Indonesian Island called Amboyna.

1667 - Arrival of Orang Cayen, Muslim men of wealth and influence. First to arrive were the rulers of Sumatra, Sheikh Abdurahman Matebe Sha and Sheikh Mahmood. Both now lay buried at Constantia.


1681 - The Cape became the official place of confinement for Eastern political prisoners of rank who opposed Dutch rule. From 1681 a number of princes from Macassar arrived at the Cape and housed in the stables at the Castle of Good Hope.


1694 - Arrival of Shaykh Yusuf (`Abidin Tadia Tjoessoep) on board `De Voetboog' on April 02, 1694 along with his retinue of 49 and settled on a farm in Zandvleit (Faure) on June 14, 1694.

1697 - Arrival of the Rajah of Tambora [Abdul Basi Sultania]. 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. Here he wrote the holy Quran from memory which was given to Governor Simon van der Stel as a gift.

1699 - Sheikh Yusuf died on 23 May 1699 at the age of 73. He lies buried at Faure where his tomb, erected by Haji Sullimaiman Shahmohammed.



1700 - Number of slaves at the Cape amounted to 1,296 of which 50% came from India.

1713 - Smallpox epidemic broke out at the Cape and killed 200 of 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, instead they were buried in coffins as the regulation required.

1743 - Arrival of more convicts, many of who opted to remain at the Cape instead of returning to Indonesia after completing their sentences. They formed the nucleus of what became known as De Vryezwarten or the Free Black Community.

1744 - Arrival of Said Alowie popularly known as Tuan Said, of Mocca in Yemen, Arabia, together with Hadji Matarim.

1750-1830 - Muslim Population (table)

1770 - Arrival of Paay Schaapie, popularly known as Tuan Nuruman. General Janssen, Governor at the cape, as a token of his friendship, gave him a piece of land in Tana Baru as a burial ground for him and his family.

1780 - Arrival of Tuan Guru (Imam Abdullah Kadi Abdus Salaam) was brought to the Cape on April 6, 1780 as a "state prisoner" with Callie Abdol Rauf, Badroedin [Badr al-Din] and Noro Iman [Nur-al-Iman]; they were incarcerated on Robben Island. They conspired politically with the English in the East against the Dutch.


Imam Abdullah [Tuan Guru], being a Hafiz al-Qur'an and wrote several copies of the Most Glorious Qur'an from memory. He also authored Ma'rifatul Islami wa'l Imani, a work on Islamic jurisprudence, which deals with "Ilm al-Kalam" [Asharite principles of theology. His hand written copy of the Most Holy Qur'an has been preserved and is presently in the possession of one of his descendants.


In 1793 Tuan Guru was released from Robben Island. His first concern was to establish a Madrasah [religious school] at the Cape. He agitated for a Masjid site and relaxation of the repressive official attitude of the Cape authorities towards Islam. Such a Madrasah was soon established in Dorp Street. This was the very first Madrasah to be established in the country and proved extremely popular among the slaves and the Free Black community.

1780 - Achmat van Bengal arrived from Chinsura, one of the upper provinces of Bengal

1795 – Establishment of first Masjid in the country - Auwal Masjid at 38 Dorp Street.

1804 July 25th, religious freedom was permitted for the very first time at the Cape of Good Hope.

1805 - Land granted for the Tana Baru - The First Muslim Cemetery

1806 Establishment of Palm Tree Masjid, the second Masjid

1807 - Tuan Guru passed away in 1807.

1823 - Abdul Ghaliel granted a Burial site in Simonstown

1834 - Emancipation of Slaves

1844 - Establishment of Nurul Islam Masjid Third Masjid in South Africa

1850 - Establishment of the Jamia Masjid:

1854 – Establishment of the first Masjid in the suburbs of Cape Town – Claremont Main Road

1856 – Al-Qawl al-Matin: The first in Arabic-Afrikaans language publication.

1859 - Establishment of the Shafee Masjid, the fifth Masjid in Cape Town.

1861 - Paarl Masjid

1862 - Abubakr Effendi (aged 27) arrived at the Cape from Turkey. Adherent of the Hanafi Madh'hub.

1868 – Effendi’s book Bayanuddin [The Explanation of Religion] completed in Arabic-Afrikaans.

1875    Abdol Burns and the Cemetery dispute

1880 – Effendi died on 29th June at the age of 45 and buried at Tana Baru.

1881    Establishment of the Hanafee Masjid The Seventh Masjid in Cape Town.

1882 - Arrival of Haji Sullaiman Shahmahomed a wealthy educationalist and philanthropist, well-travelled and a writer from India. He was instrumental in the renovations of Shaykh Yusuf's tomb at Faure in 1927; the Park Road Masjid in Wynberg; and also Al Jamia Masjid in Claremont. He campaigned for a chair in Islamic Studies and Arabic at the University of Cape Town and placed a large sum of money in trust for this purpose. He died in 1927.

1884 Establishment of the Pilgrim Masjid, later named Masjied Boorhaanol Islam. This was the very first Masjid with a minaret in the Cape and the only masjid declared a national monument.

1886 - The Cemetery Riots
On Sunday January 17, 1886, two days after the Tana Baru Cemetery was officially closed when the Public Health Act No 4 of 1883 became statute, three thousand Cape Muslims, in defiance of the law, buried a Muslim child at Tana Baru. Rioting broke out thereafter resulting in law and order being disrupted in Cape Town for three days. The Cemetery Riots of 1886 probably constituted the most significant religio-political event in the 19th century history of the Cape Muslims.

1892 - Establishment of Quwatul Islam Masjid. In Loop Street, Cape Town.

1899 - Establishment of Nurul Muhammadia Islam Masjid in Vos Sreet, Cape Town

1903 – South African Moslem Association founded in Cape Town to work in the interest of the Moslem Community at the socio-economic level and was out to champion the cause of more schools for non-Whites. The Association was short-lived and made little impact on the Cape Muslims as it did not enjoy the support of the Muslim 'clergy'.

1904 - Dr. Abdullah Abdurahman - Cape City Councillor
Dr. Abdullah Abdurahman graduated from a University in Scotland where he took his medical degree [MBCM] in 1893. With the backing of the Afrikaaner Bond, he gained a seat on the Cape Town City Council, living and practicing medicine in District Six. He served as a Councillor till 1910. After the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910, Dr. Abdurahman served for twenty-five years as a member of the Cape Provincial Council, until his death in 1940. The African Political Organisation [APO] was established in Cape Town in 1912 with Abdurahman as chairman. He played a prominent role in the education and welfare of the community and was a key figure in the activities of the African Peoples Organisation.

1909 - South African Malay Association founded by, Muhammad Arshad Gamiet with the aim of furthering educational and social advancement of the Muslims of Cape Town .

1911 - Establishment of Al-Jamia Masjid, Stegman Road, Claremont

1913 - Establishment of Rahmaniyyeh Institute, the first Muslim Mission School in Cape Town.

1942 - Hospital Welfare Society established in Cape Town to supply Halal Meals, utensils and supervise cooks at most hospitals in the Cape Peninsula.

1945 - Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) established in the Cape. This was the second Ulema body to be formed in South Africa. Amongst the aims and objects of the Muslim Judicial Council are:To consolidate and strengthen the spirit of unity amongst the Ulema; and to strive and attain the spiritual, educational, intellectual, moral, social, cultural and economic aspirations of the Muslim community.

1952 – Entire Bo-Kaap declared a residential area for "Muslim Malays" in 1952 in terms of the Group Areas Act of 1950. In 1962 a section of the "Malay Quarter" was declared a national monument.

1954 - 1969 Imam Abdullah Haroon : In 1954 Abdullah Haroon was appointed the Imam at Al-Jamia Masjid in Claremont. In 1957 he joined the Muslim Judicial Council and was elected its chairman in 1959. In 1960 the Muslim News was founded and Imam Haroon became its first editor. Imam Abdullah Haroon worked for unity of all Muslim organisations with the aim of forging a common front with a united voice against the oppression of the White racists South African Government. He urged Muslims to perform regular Qunut Salah and to observe Nafl Saum (voluntary fasting) so that peace and prosperity would prevail throughout the country. This was during the time of the Sharpville Massacre and when the white racist government was expediting implementation of the notorious Group Areas Act.

At the Coloured Peoples Convention in 1961, Imam Haroon attended various mass meetings and spoke out on maintaining religious freedom and the practicing of Human Rights. Through the Imam's contacts in the African townships in Cape Town, and through Da'wah and commercial dealings, he came into contact with members of the Pan African Congress and actively participated in their protest meetings as a Muslim Imam.

In 1968 the Imam went to Makkah, met the Saudi Minister of Education and King Faysal at Riyadh. He addressed the Muslims of Saudi Arabia in Arabic on Saudi Television, focussing attention on the plight of Muslims as well as on the Black races of South Africa. From Riyadh he flew to Cairo, and at a Conference at which ANC and PAC delegates were present, the Imam outlined the role of Islam and social justice. The ANC delegates told the Imam that this was the first time they had learnt about Islam and its social values.

On his return to Cape Town, the notorious Security Branch of the South African Government trailed him, setting traps and finally arresting him on May 28, 1969. He was detained under Section 6 of Act 83 of 1967, referred to as the notorious Terrorism Act. The Imam was held incommunicado for 123 days without being given the opportunity of visits by his wife and children.

He "died" in the Cape Town prison on September 27th, 1969. Five and a half months after the Imam's brutal murder and under public and media pressure, the medical inquest revealed: Imam Abdullah Haron had 26 bruises ranging from 1 cm x 1 cm to as large as 10 cm x 8 cm. The seventh rib was broken. A haematoma [internal bleeding] 2.5 c.m. x 2.5 cm was found near the base of the spine. He had sustained at least 10 bruises from 7 to 10 days before his death - most on his right leg. At least 8 bruises had been sustained 1, 2 or 3 days before his death.

Over thirty thousand mourners Muslims and non-Muslims, attended the funeral service. It is regarded by many as the biggest funeral procession Cape Town has ever witnessed.

1959 - Tabligh Jama'at’s established in South Africa.

1960 - Hospital Welfare and Muslim Educational Movement formed after the members of the Muslim Educational Movement and the Hospital Welfare Society merged

1960 Publication of Muslim News., Southern Africa's only Muslim newspaper.

1961 - Call of Islam launched on 7th May as an umbrella body of different Muslim organisations with the aim of opposing the Group Areas Act. The organisation was founded by Imam Abdullah Haroon.

1975 - Islamic Council of South Africa (ICSA) established on 29th November

1976 - Jaame Investment Limited initiated by the Muslim Youth Movement of South Africa in 1976.

1977 - South African National Zakah Fund (SANZAF) established with the express aim of "conscientizing" the Muslim community towards the implementation of Zakat. Initiated by the Muslim Youth Movement of South Africa.

1981 - Islamic Da'wah Movement of South Africa
The Umlaas Marianhill Islamic Centre was established in 1978. In its humble beginning the Centre used an old house both as a Jama'at Khana and Madrasah. The Centre also provided at its clinic free medical service, social welfare service and maintained a small library to serve the community. In 1981 the Centre changed its name to Islamic Da'wah Movement of South Africa

1981    Islamic Medical Association of South Africa

When the dates and venue for the inaugural convention were announced and the reality of the existence of the Islamic Medical Association [IMA] became known there was a tremendous uproar and opposition from a wide sector of the medical fraternity, both Muslims and non-Muslims and other interested parties. This brought a nationwide publicity and hundreds of Muslim health workers from all over the country packed the first Convention of the IMA at the Medical School, University of Natal, Durban on March 14 -15, 1981. Many of the health workers were pleased with what they witnessed at the Convention and joined the IMA, doubling the membership of the organisation overnight.

1981    Qibla Mass Movement
Qibla, a mass Muslim movement, was launched in May 1981. Qibla was formed to propagate, implement and defend the right of people according to Islamic injunctions.

1981    Africa Muslim Agency
Africa Muslim Agency was established in 1981 in South Africa. It has its headquarters in Kuwait and operates in over 35 countries on the African continent, providing relief and assistance to refugees and victims of famine and drought. The agency is also involved in Da'wah work, building and renovating Masaajids and Madaris, providing water-wells in famine and drought stricken areas together with food clothing and medicine, etc.

1981    Muslim Development Foundation
In April 1981 the Islamic Council of South Africa, at its Annual Conference in Cape Town discussed various ways to consolidate socio-economic resources of the Muslim community and resolved that the Muslim Development Foundation be established. The aim of the MDF is to build through contributions a substantial fund. The capital was to be invested in profit-yielding enterprises needed for an all round development of the Muslim community in South Africa.

1984    Muslim Organisations reject the Tricameral Parliament
The White South African Government's racist plan for a revised Constitution received a great setback when leading Muslim organisations throughout South Africa rejected the Constitutional Proposals. Muslim organisations viewed the proposals with suspicion because Africans, who comprise the majority in the country, were excluded in the new scheme, and 'Indians' and 'Coloureds' were offered a token Parliamentary role.
If ever there was a milestone in recent Muslim history in South Africa, then it was the vociferous stand all major Muslim organisations took against the formation of the Tricameral Parliament.

1984    Habibiya Islamic College
One of the most encouraging events in our recent history is the creation of privately run Muslim-controlled primary and secondary schools. The Habibiya Islamic College was the first Muslim private school established in Rylands, Cape Town, in 1984. It proved an instant success, incorporating both boys and girls at the senior secondary level. The prime objective of the Habibiya Islamic College is to lay the foundation for an educational revival in both secular and religious education.

1984 Call of Islam
The Call of Islam was formed when the Muslim Judicial Council [MJC] stepped down as an affiliate to the United Democratic Front. Founders of the Call of Islam felt the need to be affiliated to the UDF and to voice their opinion as Muslims regarding the prevailing situation in South Africa. The Call of Islam was very active in 1984 and 1985 but in 1986 its activities were restricted by the Pretoria Government. The UDF and ANC have identified the Call of Islam as their allies in the Muslim community.


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