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An insightful and emotional reunion at Tuan Guru symposium

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By Yaseen Kippie

Imam Abdullah bin Qadi Abdus Salam, affectionately known as Tuan Guru, described by his 5th generation descendent Shaykh Luqman Rakiep as ‘an immortal soul’, was a pioneer of Islam in the public life of Muslims in the Cape Colony during the 18th century.

But if it were not for the strenous undertaking of research and travel done by his fourth generation descendent, the late al-Haj Nurel Erefaan Rakiep, knowledge of Tuan Guru would not have come to the forefront.

A symposium on the life, legacy and family reconnection of Tuan Guru saw a culmination of his efforts take centre stage.

It also saw the Sultan of Tidore, Jo Sultan Husain Abubakar Shah, and a direct descendent of the eldest son of Tuan Guru from Indonesia, Sekretaris Imam Muhammad Amin Farouk, set foot in Cape Town for the first time in over 200 years.

Sekretaris Amin Farouk and Sultan Hussain Abubakar Shah of Tidore (courtesy Shafiq Morton)

The eldest son of the Rakiep family, Shaykh Nur Ridwan, opened proceedings by talking about the grand contribution made by his father, al-Haj Nurel Erefaan Rakiep.

He was the first to make the journey back to the island of Tidore in 1993, where he was welcomed as royalty and as a long lost son. The village welcomed him and sang for him, and the eldest woman of the village washed his feet. Symbolically, he recited the same dua recited by Tuan Guru when he arrived at the Cape of Good Hope in 1780.

“Tuan Guru described the Cape as ‘darul la’n’ (an accursed place) and as ‘makan al-husn’ (a land of sorrow) and described himself as ‘al-madhlum’ (oppressed). With these thoughts and trying circumstances, Tuan Guru appealed and beseeched Allah to open upon them the doors of righteousness, of sustenance, of blessings, of honour, of wellbeing, of peace, and for Allah to protect them and their belief in the Oneness of Allah,” Shaykh Nur Ridwan said.

The Sultan of Tidore mandated himself to speak to the President of Indonesia to make Tuan Guru a national hero of Indonesia, due to the “inspiring work by both al-Haj Nurel Erefaan and his children. You have inspired us all.”

Sekrataris Imam Muhammad Amin Farouk spoke of the lineage of Tuan Guru, mentioning that Tuan Guru is a descendent of the Sultanate family of Cheribon which originated from one of wali songo, the nine Saints of Indonesia.

The Sekrataris was moved to tears when visiting the Kramat of Tuan Guru.

Imam Muhammad Amin Farouk Reunited with his ancestor Tuan Guru. (Courtesy Shafiq Morton)

Archivist and Historian Ebrahim Salie discussed the perception of Muslims at the Cape around the time of Tuan Guru. He espoused that the Muslims of the Cape at the time of Tuan Guru did not suffer ‘a social death’, but they were guided by the Imam’s works and as written by a Christian missionary, “Many who were hitherto without religion, on being freemen,…range themselves either under the banner of Christ or of Mahomet.”

The symposium is the beginning of a revival of the contribution of many historians focusing on Cape Muslim history.

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