The Very First Muslims

[Beyond Belief by S Hall & R Marsh, Pg 51/52]

Who were the first Muslims to grace South Africa? We know that Muslims came to the Cape 300 years ago. But there are some indications that they had come to SA earlier than that:

Rock paintings found in SA caves show the way of life lived by the early inhabitants of SA. All are accounted for except a few:

There are some paintings found in a rock shelter near Giant’s Castle in the Drakensberg Mountains in Natal. One of the paintings shows 3 horses carrying two riders. The riders have soft, cloth head gear, long sleeved shirts and wide, soft trousers in the Middle Eastern style. It was first supposed that these were British soldiers, but horses were only introduced after 1820 into Natal and the paintings were done before that. Could Arab Muslims have come to Natal from the territories they controlled in East Africa and Mozambique?

In Makgaberg in northern Transvaal paintings were found showing figures wearing striped robes bowing as in Salaah in one direction. All these could mean that Muslim Arab traders from East Africa were trading in northern Transvaal and the north coast of Natal.

Older people in an African tribe called Ingwasuma in Transvaal remember people who came in the past to trade. Their descriptions resemble Arab traders.

Were these the first Muslims in SA?

Footnote: Research has shown that the first Bantu kingdoms in Southern Africa like Mapungubwe in the eastern Transvaal had trade links with the Muslim empire in East Africa which ruled upto northern Mozambique (Sofala). Items from the east where found in Mapungubwe and the only way they could have gotten there was from the Muslim trading empire of the Indian Ocean. This lends credence to the theory that the first contact that South Africa had with Islam was before the arrival of Muslims at the Cape.

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