To mark Heritage Day, the Bo-Kaap community unveiled a plaque at the Auwal masjid in Dorp Street to honour Sara Van de Kaap, known as the mother of Waqf in South Africa. Sara Van De Kaap made the land available for the establishment of the Auwal mosque in 1794 – the first mosque in South Africa. The event – attended by members of the ulema, politicians, civil society and activists – honoured a host of women from Bo Kaap, who has played an instrumental role in the development of the community.
On September 26, 1794, a Vryezwarten [Free Black Muslim], Coridon of Ceylon by name, purchased two properties in Dorp Street, Cape Town. Coridon was the first Muslim to own properties in Cape Town. On his death, his wife, Trijn van de Kaap, inherited the properties, as he had willed. In 1809 Trijn sold the properties to her daughter, Sara van die Kaap. In this regard, Sara, a remarkable woman, made land available for the building of a masjid which was first constructed in 1794 with additions in 1807. A structural change – the construction of a mihrab [niche] indicating the direction of the qiblah – was made in order to convert the warehouse into a masjid. This masjid was established during the era of slavery and established its roots in a climate of social and political prejudice.
According to Achmat van Bengalen, the construction of the Auwal Masjid was made possible through General Craig who, for the first time, permitted Muslims to pray in public in the Cape Colony. The Auwal Masjid, situated in Dorp Street, Cape Town, became the first to be established and is still functioning as the noble founders had intended. It became a centre of Muslim communal activity, regulating and patterning their social and religious life.
MJC president Shaykh Irafaan Abrahams delivered a message to the Bokaap community, saying the Auwal Masjid is a reminder to us of the sacrifice and vision of Sarah van de Kaap as well as the sacrifices of the strong women in our community.
“The heritage of Muslims in South Africa will forever be attached to the Awal Masjid and the Awal Masjid will forever be attached to the legacy of Sarah van de Kaap,” said Shaykh Abrahams.
The Heritage Day program was also blessed by 94 year-old Bo Kaap resident, Aunty Abdiya Da Costa who read one of her poems to the community. Mikaeel Collier representing Awqaf SA, announced that following in the footsteps of Sarah van de Kaap, Aunty Abdiya also approached them to have her property, only a few doors away from the Auwal Masjid, declared a waqf, or endowment for the development of Islam. The programme acknowledged and honoured the female madrassa teachers of the Bo Kaap and the brave and dedicated women who occupy the frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic.