350 Years of Islam in South Africa: Part 7

In the Name of Almighty Allah Most Gracious Most Merciful

1892 Establishment of Quwatul Islam Masjid

The Quwatul Islam Masjid in Loop Street, Cape Town, was the first Masjid

to be established by the "Indian Muslims of the Hanafi Mad'hab and was the

9th Masjid to be built in the Mother City. The property was acquired by a

trust on March 14th, 1892. This Masjid was initially established to serve the

need of the "Indian" Muslims. The new settlers, however, became completely

absorbed in the mainstream community of Bo-Kaap. Thus the Masjid came to

serve the entire Bo-Kaap residency.

This Masjid is important in the history of Cape Muslims as it shows the cohesive

power of Islam to draw different cultural groups, even against their wishes, into a

common brotherhood. The first Imaam of the Masjid was Mogamed Talabodien

[Muhammad Tala al-Din] from 1892 to 1922. He was a scholar of renown Islamic Law

being his specialty. His counsel was greatly appreciated by the Muslims.

He died in 1922 and was succeeded by his son, Achmat Taliep who stood down in

favour of Maulvi Hussein Din who came from India in 1932. In 1935 Imaam Achmat

Taliep became Imaam again until until 1940 when Maulana Mujiebo Rahman [Mujib

al-Rahman], an Al-Ahzar graduate arrived. The Maulana was a dedicated da'i and

authored several books on Islam. He started a monthly publication, Al-Muathin,

which was probably the first Islamic newspaper in South Africa. He died in 1956.

Imaam Abdul Latief, son of Imaam Achmat, succeeded the Maulana and took over

the affairs of the Masjid until 1971. Sheikh Magamad [Muhammad] Abbas Jassiem

was then appointed Imaam. He served the community until 1985 when he was

"unceremoniously dismissed from office for being a suspected Ahmadi sympathiser".

Imaam Masoom Ebrahim was appointed as Imaam in 1989 after the two sons of

Imaam Abdul Latief of Habibia Masjid served as joint Imaams.

The Quwatul Islam Masjid stands as a memory of a bygone era after the notorious

Group Areas Act forced the community to remote areas and left the worshippers

especially during Maghrib, Esha and Fajr Salawat.

1883 Arrival of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

A litigation, involving Forty Thousand Pounds Sterling between the firms of Dada

Abdulla and Company, merchants and shipping agents in Durban, and Tayob Hajee

Khan Mahomed and Company of Pretoria, saw the arrival of Mohandas Karamchand

Gandhi [d 1948] in Durban. Gandhi, who came from Gujrat and speaking Gujarati as

well as Kutchi, "had been hired by the Porbundar branch of Dada Abdulla's firm to

assist their team of lawyers as an interpreter and adviser.

1894 Founding of the Natal Indian Congress

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, while in Durban, was aware of the existence of the

Indian Committee Durban, and also of the total abhorrence of the Indians by the

White racist community. Seeing the discriminatory situation, Gandhi decided to form

a strong political body to fight all forms of injustices of the South African

Government. This body was named the Natal Indian Congress [NIC], the

membership of which was dominated by well known and established Muslim

businessmen : 85% were merchants and 12% were from white-collar occupations.

1895 Shah Ghulam Muhammad Habibi or

1910 Soofie Sahed [Rahimahu Allah]

Shah Ghulam Muhammad Habibi [or Mahomed Ebrahim Soofie], popularly known

as Soofie Saheb, was born in 1850 in Kalyan, a small town near Bombay, India. He

was the son of Ibrahim Siddiq, a qadi and Imaam of a Masjid in Kalyan. His father

died in 1872 when Shah Ghulam Muhammad was 22 years old. He succeeded his

father as Imaam and teacher and continued to serve the community for the next 20

years. In 1879 Soofie Saheb [aged 29] married Bibi Zainab Qadi [d 1950, Durban], of

which union they were blessed with nine children: three daughters and six sons. In

1890 he married he [40] also married Hanifa Bibi [d 1966, Durban] who conceived one

child: a son. Soofie Saheb brought both his wives and all his children to South Africa.

In 1892 he travelled to Arabia with his mother in order to perform Hajj. While visiting

Al-Madinah, his mystic tendencies began to manifest. On completing the Hajj, he

returned to Kalyan but was not content in continuing his work in his hometown on

account of his interest in Tasawwuf [Sufism]. He left for Baghdad where he visited

the tomb of the great Wali'Allah, saint Syed 'Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani [R.A.].

Here he met Shah Ghulam Mustafa Effendi, a prominent member of the Qadiri

Order, who accepted him as his Murid [disciple]. It was his Murshid [mentor] who

gave him the name Soofie. About six months later, the Murshid advised his Murid to

go to Hyderabad, India, where he met the Chisti Sufi, Habib Al Shah, whose disciple

he became and stayed at the Khanqah [Sufi quarters] for several months.

In 1895 Habib Ali Shah instructed Soofie Saheb [aged 45] to set sail for South Africa.

He arrived in Durban and found temporary shelter in the Grey Street Masjid. Seeing

the very poor conditions of the Muslims in the religious sphere and disgusted with

their indifference to Tasawwuf, Soofie Saheb returned to Hyderabad after staying in

Durban for a few months. The Department of Internal Affairs "Copy of Ship's List of

Indian Immigrant records regarding Soofie Saheb show:

Serial Number 276

Colonial Number 10539

Date of Arrival 17th March, 1896

Name of Ship S.S. Umzinto X1

Place of Registration Ghazipur

Date of Registration 20th January, 1896

Number in Register 23

Name Mahomed

Father's Name Ebrahim Soofie

Age 36 years

Sex Male

In the Certificate of Identity issued by the Immigration Department of the Union of

South Africa, Certificate Number 21953, Soofie Saheb's signature in Urdu reads:

Mahomed Ebrahim Soofie Saheb. His Murshid, Habib Ali Shah, was disappointed on

seeing Soofie Saheb in Hyderabad, and this time told him categorically to settle in


Soofie Saheb returned to Durban with his brother-in-law Abd al-Latif, and his son

Abd al-Aziz. They settled, on their arrival, at Riverside in Durban where they

founded a small Masjid and a Khanqah. In 1900 it became evident to Soofie Saheb

[aged 50] that many Muslims wished to become his Murids; thus he sought the

permission of his Murshid for Khilafat [spiritual successorship]. He left for India and

on receiving the Khilafat from his Murshid he returned to Durban to continue his

work. Soofie Saheb made one more trip to India in 1904 upon the death of Habib Ali

Shah and returned the following year.

Soofie Saheb died in Durban in 1910 at the age of 60. He is buried at the Darghah

[tomb] in Riverside, Durban. His mother Rabiah who died in 1913 lies buried beside

him. In 1978 the Darghah and Masjid were declared a National Monument. The

Soofie Saheb Masjid-Darghah complex began a renovations [1958] which was

completed in 1988. costing more than One Hundred Thousand Rands. The well-kept

family cemetery is at the back of the Mazar.

1899 Nurul Muhammadia Islam Masjid, Cape Town

The Nurul Muhammadia Islam Masjid in Vos Street, Cape Town, was constructed in

1899. This was the tenth Masjid to be built in Cape Town. The very first Imaam of this

Masjid was Ebrahim Salie from 1899 to 1928.

1899 Land for Zanzibari Muslims at Kings Rest

Seven Muslim merchants from Durban formed the Mohammedan Trust Kings Rest.

The Deed of Transfer No. 337/1899 shows that the land was officially transferred on

March 22, 1899. Soon, thereafter, a small wood and iron Masjid was constructed on

this site where the Zanzibari community had settled. A Madrasah and a cemetery

were also provided by the Trust to the Zanzibaris.

The first known Imaam of the Zanzibari Masjid was Mustapha Osman who came

from the Comoros Islands to Durban in the late 1880's. In 1916 the Juma Masjid Trust,

Durban, took control of the land, property and total maintenance of the Zanzabari

settlement. At present, only the Masjid remains on the Zanzibari settlement in Kings

Rest. The entire Zanzabari community was uprooted from their homes by the

infamous and satanic Group Areas Act which was at all times enforced ruthlessly by

the racist South African Government who required the land for white residences.

The Zanzibaris were then forced to settle in Chatsworth, Durban which was

proclaimed for residence of the Indian community.

The Kings Rest Masjid was abandoned for fourteen long years as the doors were

shut by the Group Areas and the building began to decay. All that remained at the

first Zanzibari settlement was the cemetery where the Muslims went to offer their

Duah's for the deceased. The Masjid and the cemetery remains under the control of

the Juma Masjid Trust [Grey Street Masjid] who pay all the rates and taxes for the


In 1973 Haji Eghsaan Aysen [d 1992], a tailor by profession, visited the King's Rest

Cemetery on the auspicious day of Eid and was greatly disturbed on seeing the

condition of the place and on seeing how badly the Masjid had been neglected. With

the assistance of some friends, Haji Aysen renovated the Masjid fully with carpets,

Wudhu facilities and toilets etc. and served as a dedicated and sincere Imaam of the

Kings Rest Masjid until his death.

1903 South African Moslem Association

The South African Muslim Association was founded in Cape Town in 1903 with

Hisham Neamatollah [Ni'matullah] Effendi as Chairman and Imaam Abdurahman

Kassiem Gamildien as Secretary. The Association was formed 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. At the Association's inaugural meeting Effendi

commented about fellows Muslims:

"We shall have much opposition from many of the Muslims, who as a section, will

not understand what progress is. Their policy is to live and die by the same custom

and principles to which they have been born and brought up."

By the time the first quarterly meeting of the Association was held some 150

members had joined the organization. Disagreement seemed to have prevailed in the

Association: The President sought to involve the broad Muslim community, while the

Vice-President held a narrow sectarian view.

The South African Muslim Association was short-lived and made little impact on the

Cape Muslims as it did not enjoy the support of the Muslim 'clergy', a precondition

for any Muslim organization which hoped for a reasonable degree of survival in

Cape Town.


Abdul Hamid Lachporia



(1) "The Mosques of Bo-Kaap"

A social history of Islam at the Cape 1980

by Achmat Davids

Director of Social Services

Muslim Assembly (Cape).

(2) "History of Muslims in South Africa"

A Chronology 1993.

by Ebrahim Mahomed Mahida

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