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Islam in South Africa

Islam in South Africa



Grey Street Mosque 1900
Grey Street Mosque 1900


Although history has recorded that the first influences of Islam was brought into Southern Africa overland by the Southern migration of Africans through the influences of Arab traders, the current Muslims arrived in two waves by sea from foreign lands in the main. The first wave of Muslims arrived as slaves of the then dominant Dutch power from the Colonies of Java and Malaysia in 1652 CE (1062 AH).

The second wave of Muslims were brought to South Africa by the British Colonial powers from India in 1860 CE (1276 AH). The British who settled in the Eastern Coast of South Africa in the early 1800's, had conquered the Dutch in the Cape and defeated the mighty Zulu nation, soon recognised the fertile coastal land as ideal grounds for the growing of sugar cane.

 17th Century History


1658 CE (1068 AH) - Jan Van Riebeeck responsible for the stay of the Mardykers

1667 CE (1077 AH) - the ship Polsbroek arrives with three Sumatran political prisoners . They were Orang Cayen of the Malay-Indonesian Sultanates. Sayyid Mahmud and Sheik Abdurahman Matebe Shah

1694 CE (1105 AH) - the ship Voetboog arrives with the 68 year old Sheik Yusuf of Makasar. He was confined with 12 scholars, 2 wives, 2 slaves, 12 children and :14 followers to a farm called "Zandvliet" in False Bay, now called Macassar

1743 CE (1155 AH) - Vryezwarten (Free Blacks) came to construct a breakwater in Table Bay

1744 CE (1156 AH) - Tuan Sayyid `Alawi and Sayyid Abdurahman Matarah were exiled from Mocca Yemen to the Cape. They were imprisoned in Robben Island. Sayyid died whilst in prison, and Tuan was eventually released

1770 CE (1183 AH) - Confirmation of Muslim community by the British traveler George Foster "a few slaves" regularly met in the home of a "free Mahommadan to read, or rather chant, several prayers and chapters of the Qur'an"

1780 CE (1193 AH) - Imam Sayyid `Abdullah ibn Qadi Abdus Salam (known locally as "Tuan Guru" or "Master Teacher") a Tidore prince from Tuan Guru was exiled to the Cape and transfered immediately to Robben Island . Tuan was released in 1793 CE (1207 AH)

1862 CE (1278 AH) - Arrival of Sheikh Abu Bakr Effendi sent to the Cape as a Qadi at the behest of the British

Islams growth in South Africa

"The numbers have gone up dramatically if you look at the census figures ... there is massive growth especially in the (black) townships," said Dr Shamil Jeppie, an expert on Islamic history in Africa at the University of Cape Town.

The indigenous Black South Africans had in general viewed Islam as a religion of the Indians, and Malays. The influx of African Muslims (see Muslim Refugees in South Africa )have brought with them an "Africanised Islam more in line with black South Africans'identities than the religion practiced by followers with closer links to Asia."

"In the townships people see the confidence they bring. The confidence of the African Muslim," Jeppie said. "There is going to be a different texture, (the balance of followers) is definitely going to change." [2]


Demographics of Muslims in South Africa

Currently, some 650,000 South Africans or less than 2 percent, are Muslim. They are mostly members of the country's Indian and Coloured (mixed-race) communities

In 1991 CE (1411 AH) there were an estimated 12,000 African Muslims in South Africa, now there are more than 75,000, a near 600% increase.[3] [4]

 Islamic Architecture in South Africa

The Grey Street Mosque is the largest mosque in the southern hemisphere and can accommodate approximately 4,000 worshippers.

HabibiaMosque Cape Town
Habibia Mosque

The land for the mosque was brought by Aboo Bakr Amod Jhaveri for the price of 150. Aboo Bakr was a Muslim Indian who arrived in Natal under ordinary immigration laws. There had existed a community of over 600 Indians in Natals prior to Aboo Bakr’s arrival

The Grey Street Mosque was established firstly as a Musallah or Jamaat-Khanna in 1881 CE (1298 AH). Between 1881 and 1884 it was known as the ‘Grey Street Mosque Trust’ and from 1916 onwards as the ‘Juma Masjid Trust’


The first minaret was built in the mosques first extension in 1903., and the second in 1905. The mosque was rebuilt entirely in 1943 (except for the minaret of 1903) [5]


The foundations for the Habibia Mosque were laid in 1905 by Moulana Abdul Latief. Abdul Latief was an imaam at the Islamic center on the Umgeni River Natal. He was sent to establish a mosque in Cape Town and to bring the Malay and Muslim community together.

The Mosque has been extended to include a

  • juniorMadressa and
  • The Islamia Primary school


See for more mosques in South Africa


Famous South African Muslims

[Muslim Organisations in South Africa

Non Governmental Organisations

Jamiatal Ulama 

Islamic Propogation Centre, Durban

Muslim Youth Movement 

[Muslim Media in South Africa


Muslim Views, national monthly published in Cape Town

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