Kramat of Tuan Guru
Of the Auliyah buried at the Tana Baru, Iman Abdullah ibn Abdus Salaam (Tuan Guru), is the best known. He was a prince from Tidore in the Trimate islands, who traced his ancestry to the Sultante of Morocco.
His ‘crime’ is not clearly known, though it would appear from the records of Robben Isalnds, that he and other, Islam. That he and others, namely Callie Abdul Rauf, Noro Imam and Badroedien, were involved in a conspiracy with the English against the Dutch. They were captured by the Dutch and brought to the Cape as State prisoners on 6 April 1780 and incarcerated on Robben Island where Collie Abdul Rauf and Badroedien died.
While imprisoned on Robben Island, Imam Abdullah wrote a book on Islamic Jurispudence and several copies of the Holy Quran from memory. His hand written works on Islamic Jurispudence, became the man reference work of the Cape Muslims in the 19th century.
On his release from Robben Island in 1792, after twelve years of imprisonment, Tuan Guru went to reside in Dorp Street, then the main residential area of the Muslims in Cape Town.
It was while he was staying in Dorp Street that he saw the need for the establishment of a Muslims school or madrasah. Thus in 1793, the Dorp Street Madrasah was established. Tuan Guru’s first concern was to teach his students, mainly Free Blacks and Eastern slave children, to read and write Arabic. Hence he was nicknamed ‘Tuan Guru’ meaning ‘Mister Teachers!’.
His second major concern seemed to have been acquiring a venue at which to perform Juma’ah. His application for a mosque site was refused. Nonetheless, Imam Abdullah led the Cape Muslims in an open-air Juma’ah in the disused quarry in Chiappini Street. In 1795 he established the first Masjid in South Africa at the Dorp Street Madresa premises. He did all this while the practice of Islam in the Cape was a criminal offense until 1804.
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In Dorp Street, Cape Town is situated the first masjid ever built in the Cape, in the year 1794. The masjid, previously a house owned by a free Muslim slave, Coridon van Ceylon, is famously known as “the Owal Masjid”, i.e. the first Masjid.
This place of worship and center of gaining Islamic knowledge became very necessary as the number of Muslims at the Cape were rapidly increasing. By the year 1825, 491 Free Black and Muslim slaves attended Madrassah there. The first Imaam who served at the masjid was Imaam Abdullah Abdus Salaam, commonly known as Tuan Guru, who was born in the Trinate Islands in the year 1712. He was captured by the Dutch for conspiring with the English and then banished to the Cape. Here he served as a prisoner on Robben Island until the year 1780. During his incarceration on the island, he wrote a book on Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh) based on the Shaafi’ee Math-hab, as well as several copies of the Holy Quraan from memory. One such copy is still to be seen preserved in a glass case in the Owal Masjid.