350 Years of Islam in South Africa: Part 8

In the Name of Almighty Allah Most Gracious Most Merciful

1904 Dr. Abdullah Abdurahman: Cape City Councillor

Dr. Abdullah Abdurahman, hailed from an esteemed Cape Town family. His

paternal grandfather, Abdul Jamalee, had been a slave who managed to purchase

his own freedom and thereafter that of his wife, Betsy. Jamalee was a thriving

greengrocer who by 1862 had an asset of over Five Thousand Pounds Sterling.

Abdul Jamalee sent his son, Abdurahman, to study abroad; he spent four years in

Makkah and subsequently a few years in Cairo at the famous Al-Azhar University.

Abdurahman in turn sent his son, Abdullah, to Scotland, to study medicine.

Abdullah attended the Marits Brothers College where he completed his secondary

education, after which he was admitted to the South African College [now the

University of Cape Town]. Soon thereafter Abdullah was admitted to Glasgow

University in Scotland where he took his medical degree [MBCM] in 1893. In

Scotland, Abdullah Abdurahman married Helen, daughter of John Cummings

James, a Solicitor of Glasgow.

Dr. Abdullah Abdurahman, with the backing of the Afrikaaner Bond, 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.

1904 Construction of the Minaret on Grey Street Masjid

In 1904, the first of two Minarets was constructed on the Grey Street Masjid,

Durban; two shops were built adjacent to the Masjid to provide income for its

maintenance. A second Minaret was added to the Masjid structure in 1905. These

Minarets were two of the highest structures in the City of Durban at that time, the

Grey Street Masjid became a landmark of Durban by the beginning of the 2oth


During the same year, several rooms, toilets and shower facilities were also added

at the rear of the Masjid for use by Musaffirs [travellers] to the city. Rooms were

also built for the Mu'adhin. All the dwellings had to be removed when the Juma

Masjid Girls School [Cathedral Road] was built by the Juma Masjid Trust adjacent to

the Masjid.

Ever since the establishment of the Grey Street Masjid, the entire administration and

affairs of the Masjid were in the hands of generous members of the "Memon"

community of Durban, especially the family of the late Aboobkr Amod [Jhavery].

The Masjid was well maintained and enlarged due to the needs of the increasing

Muslim population, for there were [1904] forty Indian Schools in Natal, ten of which

were privately run by the Muslim Community.

1906 Pretoria Mohammedan Congregation

The Pretoria Mohammedan Congregation [PMC] registered under Section 21 of the

Companies Act, 1973 was established in 1906. Land for a Masjid in Queen Street, in

the heart of the Capital City, was purchased in 1887. At first a small Masjid was

built, was renovated in 1928 and in 1984 the Masjid was totally renovated at a cost

of Ninety Two Thousand Rand. The Pretoria Mohammedan Congregation changed

its name to Pretoria Muslim Congregation on July 8th, 1981.

1906 Cape Muslim Population Census

The State census revealed that there were 22,575 Muslims in the Cape Colony. The

census referred to Muslims by the erroneous appelation of "Mohammedans."

1906 Hamidia Islamic Society

The Hamidia Islamic Society [HIS], a benevolent organisation, in Johannesburg was

established in July 1906. It was founded by Haji Ojer Ally who became its first

president. Hamidia Islamic Society was primarily a Muslim merchants organisation

following the passive resistance tactics of the Natal Indian Congress. Haji Ojer Ally,

married to a 'Cape Malay', had been involved in "Coloured" politics in the Cape in

the early 1890's, was a prime mover in organising mass meetings which were held

on Sundays, attended by several hundred people.

He was supported by Haji Habib [chairman, British Indian Association, Pretoria

Branch] and Maulana Syed Ahmed Mukhtar [Imaam of the 'Surti' Masjid,

Johannesburg]. The Society was opposed to all forms of injustices and racial laws of

the country, and was a most effective institution in the Transvaal for mobilising

merchants and workers. The Hamidia Islamic Society became the the backbone of

resistance movements during the early stage of the people's struggle in the country.

1909 South African Malay Association

Soon after the demise of the South African Moslem Association, Muhammad

Arshad Gamiet [d +1990] founded the South African Malay Association in 1909

with the aim of furthering educational and social advancement of the Muslims of

Cape Town . M.A. Gamiet, a teacher at a religious school since 1902, was aware of

the disadvantaged Muslim children in the field of education.

On April 5th, 1920, M.A.Gamiet, President of the Association, testified before the

Fremantle Education Commission, saying:

* that the Malays were also conducting their own schools and would welcome

financial assistance from the state.

* that besides being instructed in Arabic and English at religious schools, "it was the

desire of our people to have the children taught in Dutch as well."

It soon became evident to the Commission that Gamiet was not pleading for the

type of non-sectarian school that the School Board Act envisaged. Gamiet

emphasised that Muslim children and their education were to have a moral

orientation as well, and insisted on the Arabic language and Islamic instruction be

included in the school curriculum. Gamiet said that transmission of Islamic culture

and values would be the primary motivation for Muslims establishing and

maintaining their own schools. Gamiet's modest request to the Commission was the

appointment of a State-paid teacher of the Dutch language in Muslim schools.

M.A. Gamiet's appeal to the Fremantle Education Commission in 1910 seemed to

have realised in 1913 when:-

* formal recognition of a Mission School for Muslim children was granted to the

Rahmaniyeh Institute as Cape Provincial Administration Class B from January 1st,


* Arabic joined the official languages of English and Dutch as curricular


* State assistance was granted on condition comparable to those of the Christian

Mission Schools.

1910 Extension of trusteeship of Grey Street Masjid

The Supreme Court of Natal in 1910 ruled that the Trusteeship of the Grey Street

Masjid in Durban be extended to other Muslim groups, that is, groups other than

the "Memom" community. Thus today, the life long elected Trustees of the Masjid

representing their groups are as follows: four 'Memoms', two 'Surtees', one

'Cockney', one 'Colonial' born, etc.

1911 Establishment of Al-Jamia Masjid

Al-Jamia Masjid in Stegman Road, Claremont, Cape Town, was built in 1911. It has

flourished in spite of the close-knit Muslim community around it being forcefully

removed by the dreaded Group Areas Act in the 1960's. The Area surrounding Al-

Jamia Masjid was one one the first to be effected by the Group Areas Act and its

impact devastated the entire Muslim community.

With most of the houses, shops, schools and parks demolished, the Masjid today is

surrounded by up-market shopping centres, soul-less car parks and high-rise office

blocks. The early Muslims who were descendents of the Colony slaves first arrived

in the then rural areas of Claremont in the 1840's. The first Masjid built in the area

was the Claremont Main Road Masjid.

Haji Sullaiman Shahmahomed was instrumental in the renovation of Al-Jamia

Masjid in the 1920's. In 1956 Imaam Abdullah Haroon became Imaam of Al-Jamia

Masjid and he served the Masjid as well as the Muslim community until his "death"

in 1969.

1913 Establishment of Rahmaniyyeh Institute

The Rahmaniyyeh Institute was established in Cape Town, and provided a working

model for a Muslim Mission School. This, the first Muslim Mission School came into

existence almost 125 years after the first Masjid-School had opened its doors. It was

expected that those who were to teach at the Islam-oriented school should have the

ability to teach, not just professionally, but should also follow the Islamic code to

effect within the school a characteristic Islamic ethos.

Dr. Abdullah Abdurahman who played a prominent role in the Institute, appointed

Ahmad Gameedien [Jamil al-Din], the first male to qualify as a teacher at the

Zonnebloem College as principal of the School. Abdullah ibn Al-Hadj Taha

Gamieldien a prolific writer and also former student of the Zonnebloem College

and graduate of Al-Azhar University of Cairo, was entrusted with the task of

teaching Arabic at the School.

1914 Publication of the Indian Views

The Indian Views was founded by Mahomed Cassim Angalia [d 1952] in 1914 in

Durban. Angalia was opposed to Gandhi's passive resistance stance as a weapon of

struggle against oppressive and unjust government policy. He felt it was

provocative and counter-productive; instead he preferred direct negotiations and

first hand consultations. The Indian Views covered news and views of special

interest to the Muslim community in both the English and Gujarati languages.

In the 1920's the Ebrahim Jeewa family of Durban acquired the Views with Hajee

Ebrahim Amod Jeewa [d 1953, aged 58] as manager. In 1927 Moosa Ismail Meer

became its manager and in 1934 its proprietor as well. Under him the circulation of

the Indian Views increased tremendously, reaching all parts of southern Africa.

Moosa Ismail Meer, who edited the newspaper for 34 years, died in 1963 and was

succeeded by his eldest son Ismail Moosa Meer as editor. The Indian Views was last

published in 1972, serving the community for 56 years.

1917 Madressa Anjuman Islam Trust, Durban

The Madressa Anjuman Islam Trust was officially established in 1917 in Durban.

Earlier with the establishment of the Anjuman Islam Juma Masjid Trust [West Street

Masjid] in 1885 it had been an integral part of the Masjid Trust, and the first

Madrasah was established at 379 Pine Street, Durban. The building, now

considerably renovated, is used to this day to house an Islamic kindergarten school,

offices of the the Jamiatul Ulama Natal and Muslim Darul Yatama wal Masakeen.

The minutes of the Trust carefully written in Gujarati until 1936. In 1938, the first

generation of the founders of the Madrasah saw the need to teach secular subjects

alongside religious teachings. Among those who encouraged an integrated system

were A.I. Kajee, M.A.H. Moosa, A.S. Kathrada and others. But there was a small

opposition to this idea in the community. Until 1946 there existed no Government-

Aided Islamic Religious Schools under exclusive Muslim control.


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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