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Muslim Enclaves of the Cape: Strand

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With the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, Heritage Month bears even more significance as people embrace and celebrate what was inherited or bequeathed to us by our forefathers.

For 81-year-old, renowned historian Ebrahim Rhode, the best memories all include frolicking along the Strand.

“I was born right in the CBD of the Strand, opposite the Nural Anwar masjid and that is where I grew up. Unfortunately like many other parts of the country, we were forcefully removed from that area through the Group Areas Act and we moved to a nearby township which we called ‘Lost World’ at that time,” he told VOC News at his home in Strand.

“My most memorable moments of my youth is those I spent at the sea, offloading fish from the boats and engaging in frivolous banter with the fishermen. It was a simpler time,” smiled Rhode nostalgically.

Rhode explained the history of Muslims and how they were targeted by missionaries in the 1800s.

“Many Muslims in Cape Town they lived in abject poverty, so they moved to the rural areas as we see have communities in Paarl, Stellenbosch, Worcester and the Strand and that period coincide with the drive by the missionaries to bring every heathen into the fold of Christianity,” said Rhode.

A triumphant Rhode detailed the first documentation of a mosque in the Strand is dated in archives as far back as the 1830s. Javanese people married into the Khoi.

“There’s a record in the Dutch reform church archives where this minister came to recoup at a holiday hut at the Strand in 1830, and he says ‘Here along the beach we see the huts of the Mohammed people’, So out of there records we see proof out of their records that there was a Muslim community at the Strand but by then they had been there for almost eight years,” explained Rhode.

From his research, Rhode found that imams were covertly marrying couples during the slave period.

“They took a census in 1825 which is three years after the formation of the settlement. I call it an enclave of Islam, and the survey indicated that there were 27 people staying near the beach. It was then called Mostert Bay which was the original name of the Strand. Of those 27 people living there, 19 were male and eight were females and of the 19, 14 were from the island of Java and the females were all Khoi. They made them Muslim and they married them,” smiled Rhode.

Ebrahim’s wife Amina Rhode, 73-years-old, got choked up explaining the Muslim identity her parents instilled in her despite being surrounded by a myriad of different faiths.

“There were very few Muslim families surrounding us in Macassar, so much so, I can count them on my one hand, but my parents were my role models because they instilled in us values, implanted strong moral values that insured we retained our Muslim identity,” croaked Rhode.

Amina believes it is the duty of parents to ensure their Muslim heritage is with upheld.

“The onus lies on the mother and the father to ensure you raise children you are going to be proud of. For my mother the emphasis was on family ties. Every Sunday she would visit a different family member and she told us to always honour an invitation,” smiled a teary Rhode.

VOC


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