The May Street Mosque probably in the early 50s.
The May Street Mosque probably in the early 50s.

Then & Now: May Street Mosque

By Frank Chemaly Time of article published Nov 10, 2020

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Durban - This picture of old Durban shows the May Street Mosque in the early 1950s or late 1940s and was sent to us by Ahmed Vayej.

It is one of the more historic of the more than 75 mosques in the greater Durban area and was for many years known as the city’s Little Masjid, an obvious comparison with the massive Grey Street Mosque in the city centre.

Established in 1920 on the corner of May and Fynn streets in Greyville, it is the only masjid in the Durban central district to be built by indentured labourers and their descendants.

The May Street Masjid today.

Plans for the mosque started at the turn of the 20th century when residents from Mitchell Road, First Avenue and May Street, which became known as Block AK, launched a school to provide Islamic education for their children. It was decided to acquire land at the corner of May and Fynn Streets in Greyville for the mosque.

The first trustees were: Deen Mahomed Fakir, a court interpreter whose parents were indentured labourers; Mehendeally (Mahomed Ally) Tajmoon, born of indentured parents, who was also a founding member of the Greyville Sporting Club, a trustee of Anjuman school, a founder member of the Muslim Burial Society; Noor Mahomed, who was also born of indentured parents; and Shaik Emamally, indentured number 27890, who arrived in 1882, aged 4.

The first imam of the masjid was Imam Musthan.

For many years the little masjid stood alone in the wilderness as hundreds of homes and other buildings in Block AK were demolished by the Department of Community Development through the Group Areas Act.

The masjid itself was being considered for demolition but according to Islamic tenets no masjid may be demolished or the land sold for any other purpose.

Thus the National Monument Council declared the masjid a national monument. The mosque continues to serve its community.

The masjid trustees were given permission by the Community Development Board to renovate the building and the project was completed in 1990 at a cost of more than R250 000.

This week’s picture taken by out photographer Shelley Kjonstad shows the Mosque 100 years later. The Musjid’s prayer area can hold over 500 worshippers on its three floors.

The Independent on Saturday

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