Friday, June 2, 2017

Historic prayers at Cape Town castle

The Cape Town Castle, built by the Dutch East India Company is surrounded by a moat fed by Table Mountain streams.
Photos Shafiq Morton



NOT all is bad in post-apartheid South Africa, reeling from the shady and reckless rule of a profligate President Jacob Zuma who has sold off the country to the Guptas, a group of Indian-born businessmen from Uttar Pradesh.

Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta arrived in South Africa from Saharanour, India, sent by Shiv Kumar, their businessman father, to explore business opportunities in the country – something which they have done to the point of state capture and ongoing controversy.

The corrupt shenanigans of the power elites aside, Cape Town Castle – built in 1658 – was the scene of historic Friday – or Jumu’ah – prayers at the end of May. They were incorporated into a cultural pre-Ramadan festival held inside its walls.

What is significant is that the Castle, a corporate structure built by the Dutch East India Company, was where slaves (many of whom were Muslim) were incarcerated, tortured and even torn apart at the wheel.  During World War I and II, the Castle was garrisoned by troops, as it was during the apartheid era.

In 1994, on the dawn of South Africa’s first democratic elections, a group of Muslims involved in the 300th anniversary of the arrival of Shaikh Yusuf of Makasar – an Indonesian exile sent to the Cape by the Company in 1694 – prayed the post sunset prayers on its lawns.

This was a hugely symbolic moment, marking the first time after 346 years that Muslims were free to practice their faith in a place that once typified the arrogance of imperial and apartheid grandeur.

To top it, the Friday prayers were led by Mufti Ebrahim Khalil al-Awadallah, the Islamic legal authority in Ramallah on the West Bank in Palestine. As a Palestinian, the occasion was not lost on him. In a broad-ranging address, in which he condemned extremism, he said that Palestinians – longing for freedom from Zionist apartheid – often looked to South Africa for inspiration.


The Castle entrance.

Cape Dutch gable inside the walls.

The historic prayer in  April 1994, led by Shaikh Yusuf da Costa.
Shaikh Abdul Karrim makes the call to prayer.
Mufti Ebrahim Khalil al-Awadallah in prayer.
Mufti Ebrahim Khalil al-Awadallah
A large crowd attended the Friday prayers.
Mufti al-Awadallah addresses the crowd.
Second left Shaikh Ebrahim Gabriels Muslim Judicial Council and Ebrahim Rasool, former Premier and SA ambassador in Washington.

Women listen to the sermon.