The annual Muharram March through the streets of the Bo-Kaap is held to inaugurate the Islamic New Year. Photo: Armand Hough / African News Agency (ANA)
About 2 000 people paid tribute to the pioneers of the Islamic faith in South Africa by marching past all the Islamic historical sites in the Bo-Kaap yesterday.

Hosted by the Tana Baru Movement of the Tana Baru Trust, the march was themed “Paying Tribute to the Pioneers of Islam and their Countries of Origin”, and also marked the inauguration of the Islamic New Year, said Tana Baru Movement spokesperson Muhammad Groenewald.

He said the pioneers included Tuan Guru, Tuan Sayed Alawie, Sheikh Abubakr Effendi and Tuan Nuruman (Paay Schaapie), and the countries of origin were Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Yemen, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mozambique and Turkey.

The flags of those countries, as well as South Africa’s adorned the march, and a choral group under the leadership of Gafith Wafique Simon recited on the journey. 

Groenewald said the four pioneers had arrived in the Cape as political prisoners and slaves in the 17th century, but that their unflinching commitment to Islam had seen them overcome overwhelming odds to firmly plant the seeds of Islam at the Cape.

He said the Bo-Kaap was the cradle of Islam and a living showcase of the history, culture and institutions of the Muslim way of life.

“However, its 10 mosques are in grave danger of becoming white elephants within a generation if the current pace of gentrification is maintained. 

It behoves all Muslims, in the Bo-Kaap and elsewhere, to ensure this does not happen, by supporting such events that trigger a collective sense of pride and commitment in our culture and history,” he added.

A short talk was delivered on the significance of the Muharram March before it started from the Boorhaanol Centre, Pentz Street, and proceeded to the Tana Baru.

The route went past the oldest masjid in the country (Auwal Mosque), the Nurul Islam Mosque, the Bo-Kaap Museum, Mosque Shafie, proceeding to the first Muslim cemetery in the country (Tana Baru), where the pioneers of Islam are buried.