Cape Days: Islam in South Africa

In the 17th century the Dutch controlled East Indies and the Cape. Muslims were brought from Indonesia, etc. as slaves including those who waged Jihad in the Dutch colonies.

The 1st sizable group of Muslims were Mardyckers from Amboyna in 1658. The arrival in 1667 of 3 exiled sufi shaykhs, the Orang Cayen (men of power), marks the beginning of SA Muslim history. They attracted followers among slaves and blacks.
50 Muslims were brought in the ship Voetboog in 1694. Among them was Shaykh Yusuf al-Maqasari scholar, statesman and sufi whom Cape Muslims regard as the founder of their community. Exiled because of resistance to Dutch rule in Indonesia, Shaykh Yusuf’s group were the most visible Muslims. They established Islam and in the 1700s Islam became a prominent feature of the Cape.
Today there are 200,000 Muslims in the Western Cape and Muslims are 1% of SA’s population.
The prominence of early Muslims worried Christians since they attracted converts more rapidly. Muslims were 1,000 in 1800, grew to 3,000 by 1820 and 6,400 by 1840, and were a third of the population. Most converts were slaves. Whites believed slaves inferior and did not allow them into Christianity. Muslims welcomed them. Slaves found life in Islam. By 1790s, Muslims were holding Friday services at a quarry.

Tuan Guru, exile from Ternate Islands and learned scholar was released from jail in 1793. He set up the 1st madrasah in 1793 and the 1st Musjid between 1795 and 1804.
By 1824 there were 2 large Musjids, 5 smaller ones and 3 madressas, the largest with 491 children and adults.

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