Unless you’ve been living in a shed with no connection to the outside world, you’ll know that the World Cup kicks off later today in South Africa. With a sizeable Muslim population, The Akh wonders if this is a perfect opportunity for Muslims to show hospitality and answer the call of Dawah – presenting the beauty of Islam.
Now a diverse group of Muslims across South African World Cup host cities have come together to form an initiative which aims to ensure that visitors to the country who practice the Islamic faith feel at home; as well as to showcase the South African Muslim community to a general audience. The 2010 South African Muslims Campaign is an excellent initiative that will hopefully:
‘SA Muslims 2010’ will supplement the activities of local host cities at the various touch points, by arranging ‘meet and greet’ efforts, the presence of volunteers distributing appropriate paraphernalia and goodie bags, as well as the dissemination of thousands of copies of a ‘Muslim Services Guide,’ carrying information often sought by Muslim newcomers to a country, like prayer times, mosque locations and the availability of Halaal food outlets.
‘Nerve centres’ positioned in each of the main host cities, viz. Durban, Gauteng and the Western Cape, will serve as reference points for foreign and local visitors, showcasing Islam and Muslims in South Africa through various exhibitions, including NGO displays, pictorial anthologies and other cultural activities, whilst an SMS hotline – 0842010786 – and a soon-be-launched informative website – http://www.samuslims2010.net – will also feature strongly in the campaign.
Islam has featured prominently on the African continent centuries before crusading European colonialists set their sights on her riches.
Most people know of the infamous Robben Island as the prison facility where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated. Hundreds of years previously, it was leading Muslim leaders like Sheikh Abdurahman Matebe Shah who were imprisoned for resisting the Dutch East India Company.
On the 24th January 1667, the ship the Polsbroek left Batavia and arrived at the Cape on the 13th of May 1668, with three prisoners in chains. They were Malays from the West Coast of Sumatra, brought here after their defeat at the Castle of Soeroesang in 1667. One of them was incarcerated on Robben Island, while the other two were sent to the Company’s forest at Constantia.
Sheikh Abdurahman Matebe Shah, the last of the Malaccan Sultans, was one of the two. He was regarded as Orang Cayen, a title which means ‘man of power and influence’; and viewed as particularly dangerous to the interest of the Company.
The Malaccan Sultanate, from which the men came, was founded by the Sumatrian prince, Megat Iskander Shah during the fifteenth century. Megat Iskander Shah was a refugee prince who, after seeking protection from the Chinese, made contact with the Muslim Arab traders who were then appearing in South-East Asia. He adopted Islam, under which banner he embarked on an extensive military campaign in the Indonesian islands and established the first notable Malaysian Empire.
By the end of the fifteenth century, Malacca was not only the greatest military power in the Malaysian peninsula, but also the centre for trade and Islamic missionary activity. The areas in which the Malaccan Sultanate had established its influence, presented the strongest resistance to Portuguese imperialism. Despite this, the entire Malaccan empire was gradually captured, and by 1511 only the city Malacca and some strongholds in Sumatra remained. The arrival of the Dutch compounded the problems of the Sultanate.
This did not stop Malacca from encouraging rebellion in the areas captured by the Dutch. the Dutch attacked and subsequently captured the city in 1641. But Malaccan resistance continued. They still held the fortress at Soeroesang from which they launched sporadic attacks on the Dutch. During these attacks the bravery of the young Sultan, Sheikh Abdurahman Matebe Shah, was recognised by his followers, who saw him as a Saint, leading them in a Holy against the enemies of Islam.
In 1661, the Dutch decided to attack Soeroesang, but the capture of the fortress was effectively averted. Another attack followed in 1667, and after a fierce battle, Soeroesang fell. The Sultan, Sheikh Abdurahman Matebe Shah, and his two religious advisors, were captured. His execution would have made him a martyr, and thus an inspiration to his people to continue the war. The three were thus banished to the Cape becoming the first political exiles here.
Oral history related that Sheikh Abdurahman Matebe Shah soon befriended the slave population he met at Constantia, teaching them the religion of Islam. He died here in either 1682 or 1685, and was buried on the spot, near the river where he took his ablutions, meditated and said his prayers. His shrine is at the gateway to Klein Constantia. It was contained in a wooden shrine quaintly situated amongst the trees, adjacent to a stream of running water. Visiting the shrine was a unique experience. One felt as if one was in the living presence of history, standing in a sacred spot filled with a spiritualism. The place has a serene atmosphere, with the tranquility sweetly complemented by the running water and the chirping of birds. The cramped little shack, with its small window and grave inside, was a wonderful place.
According to popular opinion, The Moturu Kramat, a sacred site for Muslim pilgrimage on Robben Island, was built in 1969 to commemorate Sayed Abdurahman Moturu, the Prince of Madura.
Moturu, one of Cape Town’s first imams, was exiled to the island in the mid-1740s and died there in 1754.
Muslim political prisoners from then on and throughout the Apartheid regime would pay homage at the shrine before leaving the island.
This is laughable when one considers that, historically, the corpse supposed to be buried there was taken back to Madura in the Indonesion archipelago for burial. To add further insult to injury, the present shrine was constructed by the apartheid regime in 1969, two hundred and fifteen years after the death of Sayed Abdurahman Moturu, also known as Hadji Matarim, who is supposed to be buried there.
This was yet another elaborate ploy by the apartheid regime to keep the Muslims in spiritual serfdom.
If we were born a generation earlier, Nelson Mandela was labelled a terrorist. Mandela led numerous bombing raids on the South African government, and the charges he faced, and was convicted of, were for terrorism and sabotage, this is how the opponents of apartheid in South Africa were described by their government.
Not only that, Mandela was listed as a terrorist by both Reagan’s US & Thatcher’s UK, and his party, the African National Congress, or the ANC, was listed as a terrorist organisation.
If you’ve ever read Nelson Mandela’s autobiography “A Long Walk To Freedom”, then you’ll know that one of his close companions was Ismail Ayob, who spent twenty five years as a human rights lawyer acting for opponents of the apartheid regime. Ayob defended and represented many South African political prisoners. Ayob was among the few people, who was allowed to visit Nelson Mandela on Robben Island when he was imprisoned there.
How many of today’s terrorists in future will be remembered as ‘brave apartheid fighters,’ or ‘brave freedom fighters?’
Mandela is now welcomed the world over by kings and queens, prime ministers and presidents. He is also much loved by almost all of South Africa, and by most in the world.
Yet how was it that “great leaders” like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan designated him a ‘terrorist,’ and his party, a ‘terrorist organisation?’