ArticlePDF Available

THE MAKING, PRESERVATION AND STUDY OF SOUTH AFRICAN AJAMI MSS AND TEXTS

Authors:
Sudanic Africa, 12, 2001, 1-14
THE MAKING, PRESERVATION AND STUDY
OF SOUTH AFRICAN AJAMI MSS AND TEXTS
MUHAMMED HARON
Introduction
South Africa has for geo-political reasons generally been
regarded as a strategic half-way station between Europe and
Asia. However, South Africa also became a half-way station
where diverse cultures met and gave rise to a fairly rich and
dynamic cultural basin for the indigenous and immigrants
over the centuries. It moreover provided a platform for the use
of various languages as well as for the emergence of the
Afrikaans language. In addition to this, offspring of slave
immigrants from the east creatively employed the Arabic
script to preserve their religious tradition and heritage. Indeed,
it is this innovative spirit which led to the production of a fair
number of unique South African ajami1 manuscripts and
texts; some of which are extant, others have been ruined
because measures were not taken by their owners and
possessors to look after them, and many others disappeared
because their value and importance was overlooked.
These extant manuscripts and texts need to be preserved
because they act as clear proof regarding the production of
(religious) knowledge in South Africa particularly at the Cape
during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Preserving them will also help to provide answers to
questions pertaining to the religio-cultural development of the
1The term ajami has been used to denote a ‘foreign’ manuscript. It is
a term which has also been elsewhere in the Muslim world to refer
to mss found in Arabic script in a language other than Arabic.
2MUHAMMED HARON
community. And they will also highlight and provide
additional information with regard to the development of the
Afrikaans language. There is a desperate need for scholars
from Africa, Southwest Asia and Southeast Asia to put their
minds together in a joint effort to uncover the rich South
Africa heritage and, at the same time, shed more light on the
flexibility of the Arabic script and language.
This article will address the current status of the South
African ajami mss and texts. In the process of doing that, the
contributions of three prominent scholars in this regard will be
assessed. Thereafter we will look closer at the chronological
order, authors, and themes. And in order to reflect upon the
relevance in preserving and studying all the extant material, a
case study of one or two of the manuscripts will be
undertaken.
Scholarly contributions: An assessment
Although not many scholars have researched the evolution of
the early Muslim community in South Africa, the works of,
amongst others, Rochlin, Jefferies, Du Plessies and Shell have
given invaluable input in this regard.2 However, when
assessing the South African ajami mss and texts, it will be
helpful to refer to the writings of, at least, three important
twentieth-century scholars. The three names that come to
mind when looking at this area, are Adriaanus van Selms,
Hans Kähler and Achmat Davids. These three scholars have,
as will be seen, made very useful studies of some of the mss,
in published articles and books.
But before their contributions are assessed, it is necessary
to take a detour and raise some important theoretical
questions. For example, ‘How important are manuscripts?’
and ‘In what way can scholarship effectively contribute
2All these scholars’ contributions have been listed in Haron,
Muslims in South Africa: An Annotated Bibliography, Cape Town:
South African Library 1997.
SOUTH AFRICAN AJAMI MSS 3
towards the production of knowledge?’ Manuscripts are
important because they contain ideas of scholars who have
seriously pondered over their subject matter but did not have
the opportunity of making them readily available to students
or readers. They are important in that they lock away aspects
of the past which can shed light on the present and future.
And because of this it is important to scrutinize their
authenticity, their relevance, and their content to assess in
which way they might shed new light on a subject matter. In
fact, George Saliba convincingly argues that Arabic
manuscripts played a crucial role in Renaissance science
when he wrote on the ‘Rethinking of Modern Science: Arabic
manuscripts in European libraries’.3 His argument may be
applicable to the South African context with regards to the
evolution of Afrikaans as a language, although the
manuscripts here are not scientific but religious manuscripts.
Bearing this in mind, let us move to the scholars whose
contributions brought about radical changes to the perceptions
communities had of Afrikaans in particular and literature in
general.
Van Selms: The pioneering academic
Adriaanus van Selms, a Dutch scholar, settled in South Africa
in the late 1940s, and went to lecture in Semitic Studies at
both the Universities of Pretoria and of South Africa. As a
semitist he was in a unique position make a study of the South
African ajami mss. The first of these few valuable studies
appeared in 1951 when he published Arabic Afrikaans
Studies I: ’n Tweetalige Kategismus in Amsterdam; this study
concentrated on Shaykh Ahmed Behardien’s Kitb al-taw˛ıd.
Thereafter, in 1953, he wrote an article entitled ‘Die oudste
boek in Afrikaans: Isjmoeni se “Betroubare Woord”’ which
appeared in Hertzog Annale II van die SA Akademie (no. 3),
3This was a lecture published by the Center of Arabic Studies at
Georgetown University. It appeared as part of the Occasional Paper
series 1999 (36 pp).
4MUHAMMED HARON
and he identifies in the same journal in 1956 ‘’n Arabiese
Grammatika in Afrikaans’. The former article identified al-
Qawl al-matın as the oldest text written in the Arabic script
and also in the Afrikaans language, and the latter focused on
Shaykh Isma’il Hanief’s two-volume work on Arabic
Grammar in Afrikaans. However, by 1979—almost two
decades after he supervised Mia Brandel-Syrier’s thesis which
focused on Abu Bakr Effendi’s Bayn al-Dın (and which
was subsequently turned into a book)—he did a transcription
and translation of Abu Bakr Effendi’s work entitled Abu Bakr
se ‘uiteensetting van die Godsdiens’: ’n Arabies Afrikaaans
teks in die jaar 1890; this was also published in Amsterdam.
This particular study of his led Ponelis to review Van Selms’
work. In addition to these works, Van Selms also penned
academic material which concentrated on issues relevant to
Semitic studies.
Hans Kähler: The diligent researcher
In the 1960s and early 1970s the German scholar Hans
Kähler was actively researching the contribution of South
Africa’s Cape Malay community. However, in order to do a
successful effort he was forced to scrutinize the ajami literary
movement which came to be known as the Arabic-Afrikaans
literary movement or Die Maleier-Afrikaans Taalbeweging.4
In 1960 he wrote ‘Ein rezentes Werk der arabisch-afrikaanse
Literature der Kap-Malaien’ in Afrika und ˜bersee (xliv), and
in 1961, ‘Studien zur Arabisch-Afrikaanse Literatur’ in Der
Islam (xxxvi). The first scrutinizes Shaykh Ahmed
Behardien’s ‘Thur after Jumu‘a issue’, and the second studies
the literature prepared by Abu Bakr Effendi and Shaykh
Ahmed Behardien respectively. In 1971 he published in
Berlin the valuable work entitled: Studien µber die Kultur, die
4Muller penned an article with this title because he felt that it was
more appropriate and meaningful since the Malays engineered the
use of the Arabic script. See his article in Tydskrif vir Volkskunde
en Volkstaal, xviii, 1, 6, January 1962.
SOUTH AFRICAN AJAMI MSS 5
Sprache und die arabisch-afrikaanse Literatur der Kap-
Malaien.5 This monograph provides insights into the history
of the Cape Malays, their practices and interpretations of
Islam and the books which they used and the extant Arabic-
Afrikaans manuscripts which were circulating amongst them.
He also covered their literature which covered religious topics
which appeared in the Latin script. By 1976 he published an
article ‘Die Literatur der Kap-Malaien’ in Handbuch der
Orientalistik (iii, 1); the article listed manuscripts such as Sayr
al-slikın which were brought from Mecca by some pilgrims.
Achmat Davids: The guru of ‘Islamic studies’ research
Davids6 has been researching Muslim culture at the Cape
since the late 1960s, a time when Van Selms and Kähler had
already been making their academic contributions. At that
point in time he was busy as a social worker committed to
serving the community. After much research he produced the
famous work entitled The Mosques of the Bo-Kaap in 1980.
In this work he refers to the Arabic-Afrikaans Literature but
does not provide any detailed study of it, he only refers to the
texts of Van Selms. This was followed by A History of the
Tana Baru which reflected more on religio-cultural issues.
However, in 1988 Dr Weiss raised a critical question
pertaining to the authenticity of al-Qawl al-matın, and Davids
decided to respond to it in 1989. Both articles appeared in the
5 Berlin: Reimer 1971.
6Read the obituary by Robert C.-H. Shell and Shamiel Jeppie in the
1999 issue of the University of Western Cape Institute of Historical
Research’s journal Kronos: A Journal of Cape History as well as
that of Jeppie in the 1998/9 issue of the University of Cape Town
Centre for Contemporary Islam Journal for Islamic Studies. In
addition to these, a special issue of Boorhanul Islam Magazine
(xxxiii, 4, November 1998) was devoted to Achmat Davids’
invaluable contribution. Haron also compiled a list of his writings;
this list appeared in the 1998/9 issue of Journal for Islamic
Studies.
6MUHAMMED HARON
then Rand Afrikaans University-based Journal for Islamic
Studies.
It was in 1987 that he began to publish a series of articles
pertaining to this topic. His article entitled ‘Arabic-Afrikaans:
A view of the written Afrikaans of the Cape Muslims during
the 19th and early 20th centuries’ appeared in the South
African Journal of Linguistics (v, 1); this was followed in the
same year by ‘The role of Afrikaans in the history of the Cape
Muslim Community’ which appeared in H. du Plessis’s
Afrikaans en Taalpolitiek. It was, moreover, in 1990 that he
contributed his seminal article entitled ‘Words in the Cape
slaves’ Mode: A socio-historical linguistic study’, this
appeared in the South African Journal of Linguistics (viii, 1).
This article formed part of his larger 1991 master’s thesis at
the University of Natal, The Afrikaans of the Cape Muslim
from 1815-1915: A Socio-Linguistic Study. In the same year
he also made a fine study in ‘Abu Bakr Effendi: His creation
of Afrikaans letter in Arabic Script’ in South African Journal
of Linguistics (ix, 1). The following year he penned ‘Some
Lexical Aspects of Cape Muslims Afrikaans’ in Lexicos (ii),
and this was followed in 1993 by ‘The early Afrikaans
publications and MSS in the Arabic Script’, which was part
of a compilation of articles in honour of Frank Bradlow edited
by P. Wiestra and B.Warner. In 1994 he continued to expand
on the development of Afrikaans by publishing ‘The
contribution of the slaves to the genesis of Afrikaans’ and
‘Afrikaans die product van akkulturasie’, these appeared as
chapters in Taal en Identiteit and Afrikaans en Nederlands
edited by Olivier and A. Coetzee respectively, and in 1996
his ‘“Laying the lie of the Boer” language: an alternative view
of Afrikaans’ appeared in the German edited Matatu:
Zeitschrift fµr afrikanische Kultur und Gesellschaft.
SOUTH AFRICAN AJAMI MSS 7
Ajami mss and texts: Intellectual knowledge in the making
From the above-mentioned scholars’ contributions it is quite
evident that there are many mss and texts which are still
extant and are circulating in the community. Kähler’s study
listed much of this material; however, Davids’ research
revealed that there were more than the list provided by
Kähler. In spite of the efforts of these scholars to list them,
there is as yet no list of the mss and texts. No concerted effort
was made to collect, collate, and catalogue them; the main
reason for this is that the community at large is oblivious of
the importance of preserving these mss and texts. Therefore, it
is not surprising to find them hidden away in cupboards of
individuals without the proper care being taken to preserve
them. Since this is still the problem, an effort should be
undertaken to preserve them and thereafter scholars need to
get together and study them.7
Before giving a brief chronological overview of the
emergence of the literature under discussion, the genre has to
be defined. In other parts of the world, this genre of literature
came to be known as ajami texts. However, in South Africa
the term ‘Arabic-Afrikaans’ was coined by scholars such as
Van Selms because the Arabic script was used to convey
religious texts in the Afrikaans language; a language which
was at one stage described as creolised Dutch, from its parent
language. Be that as it may, the term has been popularised by
7This researcher made an effort in this regard by writing ‘Towards a
Catalogue of Islamic Manuscripts in South Africa with special
reference to Melayu Mss at the Cape’. This appeared in Wan Ali
(ed.), Traditional Malay Writing, Kuala Lumpur: National Library
of Malaysia 1997, 243-63 [Chapter 10]. Subsequent to this
publication, the National Library of Malaysia sent out one of their
cataloguers, namely Hajji Munazzah, to catalogue the Maleyu mss
at the Cape; this appeared in her compilation Katalog Manuskrip
Melayu di Afrika Selatan, Kuala Lumpur: Perpustakan Negara
Malaysia, Series no. 16, 1998 (91 pp). Also cf. Haron’s review in
Manuscripta Orientalia, vi, 3, September 2000, 71-2.
8MUHAMMED HARON
the current crop of scholars to such a degree that it would be
difficult to replace it with the term ajami.
Arabic-Afrikaans literature: A brief chronological survey8
Arabic-Afrikaans literature refers to the use of Cape Dutch in
the Arabic script, which has become the written language
medium employed by the religiously educated Muslim
leadership and at Muslim religious schools in Cape Town
since the 1830s. The 74 extant Arabic-Afrikaans texts were
written between 1856 and 1957. Hidyat al-Islm is said to
be the first text prepared in Arabic-Afrikaans in 1845. An
extant manuscript, Tu˛fat al-fiawmm, which deals with the
basic Islamic creed, was written by Imam Abdul-Kahhar ibn
Abdul-Malik in 1868. However, from 1845 onwards a
number of such texts in ms and lithographic form are extant.
The most well-known text to have been prepared in the
1860s, later published in 1877 in Constantinople, is the Bayn
al-dın. It deals specifically with the Islamic creed and other
related juristic issues pertaining to the ˘anafı school of law.
In 1890 Imam ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abderouf produced Die
Boek van Tougeed, and in 1894 Hisham Ni’matullah Effendi
prepared Sirj al-i∂˛, which is a simple text on Islamic
practices from the ˘anafı perspective, as well as Hdh fiilm
al-˛l li’l-ßibyn which emphasises the elementary aspects of
the ritual prayer and the annual tax. In the same year Imam
Abdur-Raqib ibn Abdul-Kahhar published an Afrikaans
version of Safınat al-najt written by Salim ibn Samir Al-
Hadrami. The latter also printed lithographically his Kitb al-
Riy∂ al-badıfia fı ußül al-din wa-bafi∂ furüfi al-Sharıfia in
1899; it deals with aspects of the Islamic creed, and issues
pertaining to the ritual prayers and similar. This was followed
in 1900 by the translation by Shaykh Abdur-Rahman ibn
Muhammad Al-‘Iraqi—who wrote about 10 Arabic-
Afrikaans texts between 1898 and 1913—of Shaykh Nurud-
8Achmat Davids also has an entry on the same subject which will
appear in one of the later volumes of EI (2).
SOUTH AFRICAN AJAMI MSS 9
Din’s Tu˛fat al-a†fl, which is a simplified presentation of the
pronunciation of the Arabic alphabet. In 1907 Imam ‘Abdur-
Rahman ibn Qasim Gamieldien prepared Tartıb al-ßalt and
Kitb mu†lafia li-tadrıs talmıdh madrasat ˘abıbiyya; the
latter focuses upon moral behaviour and the former on the
ritual prayer. In 1909 Shaykh ‘Abdullah Taha Gamieldien
translated Mas√il Abı Layth al-Samarqandı,9 a tenth-century
Mturıdı text on creed. And in 1910 Shaykh al-fiIraqi wrote
Kitb fiilm al-far√i∂ which deals with inheritance, marriage
and the pilgrimage. Kitb al-qawl al-matın umür al-dın10
attributed to Shaykh A˛mad al-Ushmünı was translated by
Imam Abu Bakr ibn Abdullah ‘Abdur-Rauf. In 1928 Shaykh
Isma’il Hanief, who has prepared more than 18 texts in the
Arabic-Afrikaans format, translated and published al-
Muqaddima al-˘a∂ramiyyah written by Shaykh fiAbd Allh
b. al-Shaykh fiAbd al-Ra˛mn B Fa∂l al-˘a∂ramı in Cairo; it
deals with ablution and other Islamic rituals. He also
translated Mawlüd al-Barzanjı, a Sufi liturgy, in 1939.
The authors and the subject-matter
According to Kähler (Studien µber Kultur, 189), there are
about 20 individuals—some of them trained theologians—
who wrote these religious texts. From amongst the list in
Kähler’s work, the names of Abdul Kahhar ibn Hajji Abdul
Malik (early nineteenth century), Abd ur-Rahman ibn
Muhammad Al-Iraqi (late twentieth century), Abu Bakr
Effendi (late twentieth century), Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn
9Cf. this researcher’s study of this text, ‘The Cape Town-Samarqand
Connection—a study of a tenth century theological text’ which
was delivered at the 1997 International Congress of the
Association North African and Asian Studies conference in
Budapest; the paper will appear in one of the forthcoming Arabic
Studies in Budapest volumes.
10 Cf. Van Selms’ article which deals with the authenticity of the text,
and thereafter read the articles of Weiss (Journal for Islamic
Studies, 1988) and Davids (idem, 1989, cf. above) respectively
which question its authenticity.
10 MUHAMMED HARON
Baha ud-Din (mid-twentieth century), and Ismail ibn
Muhammad Hanif (mid-twentieth century) loom large.
Although the names of the latter two still circulate in the
contemporary Muslim community, Abu Bakr Effendi’s name
stands out above them all for his unique contribution (see later
‘case study’). Two of the authors, Effendi and Al-Iraqi, were
trained theologians who hailed from the Middle East. Since
attention will later be given to Effendi, a brief word about Al-
Iraqi will be in order. Al-Iraqi, as his agnomen suggests,
comes from Iraq and he settled in South Africa towards the
late nineteenth century. After his arrival he became involved
with community affairs to such an extent that he prepared a
few religious texts for the community; among them is a
commentary of chapter Yüsuf in the Qur√n. This particular
commentary was the subject of Kotze’s postgraduate
linguistic research in 1980.
Qur√nic commentary was thus the subject matter of a
few of the extant Cape mss. However, most of the themes
focussed on the articles of faith and the principles of Islam,
and the favourite topic was the concept of taw˛ıd. Apart from
these, there have been interesting texts such as the Arabic
grammar which was written by Shaykh Isma’il Hanif (d.
1958) (cf. Van Selms, ‘Die oudste boek’). This shaykh was
trained at al-Azhar University in Cairo and wrote more than
20 texts in Arabic-Afrikaans; one of these was printed in
Cairo.11
11 An interesting phenomena has been the printing of some of these
writings in either Egypt or India. As mentioned, some of Hanif’s
works were printed in Cairo whilst other authors such as Kahhar
preferred Bombay. Theologians in Gauteng also seemed to have
preferred their connections in India to print some of their writings;
a ten-volume work, for example, was published in India.
SOUTH AFRICAN AJAMI MSS 11
Abu Bakr Effendi’s contribution: a case study12
Since mention has been made of the fact that Hanif’s work
was printed in Cairo, it should come as no surprise to learn
that Abu Bakr Effendi’s Bayn al-dın was printed in Istanbul
in 1877. Its publication there can be attributed to the fact that
there was no printing press able to do the task at the Cape.
This forced Effendi to have it done at the expense of the
Ottoman Turkish government; the authority that had been
instrumental for his journey to the Cape at the request of the
British crown in the 1850s.
Abu Bakr Effendi is being used as a case study to reflect
to what extent his contribution has enjoyed the attention of
contemporary scholars with an interest in the area. His Bayn
al-dın has been the focus of a few research projects because
of the contents which appeared in Arabic-Afrikaans, and the
fact that he was an adherent of the ˘anfı school as opposed
to the Shfifiı school to which all other Muslims there
belonged at that time. And since this was a sensitive religious
issue it sparked off rigorous religious debates and concern that
it would lead to further splits within the growing Muslim
community. When a few copies of the text were circulated at
the Cape to be used as a religious textbook, the Shfifiıs
objected, and this led to a conflict which continued into the
mid-twentieth century.13
12 Cf. Eric Germain’s excellent article ‘L’Afrique du Sud dans la
politique panislamique de l’Empire ottomon’, Turcica: Revue
d’études Turques: Peuples, Langues, Cultures, État, xxi, 1999,
109-48. See pages 115-22 which specifically refers to Shaykh Abu
Bakr Effendi.
13 At the turn of the century three questions were posed by a Muslim
residing in Johannesburg to the Shaykh al-Azhar, Shaykh
Mu˛ammad fiAbduh; he thus gave his opinion which featured in a
document referred to as the ‘Transvaal Fatwa’ (cf. Voll 1995); from
amongst the three was a question whether a Shfifiı could pray
behind a ˘anfı in the ritual prayer. It could be that Ismail Kemal
Bey was also commenting upon this fatw in his article ‘The
Transvaal question from the Musalman point of view’; this
appeared in The Forthnightly Review, cix, January 1901, 147-73.
12 MUHAMMED HARON
The text was important to socio-linguists who needed to
have some idea as to its historical position, and in which it
contributed to the development of the Afrikaans language.
Their interest was heightened because it was written by a
Turk of Kurdish origin whose mother tongue was Turkish
(and probably Kurdish) and not Dutch; they thus raised the
questions as to how he managed, in a short period of time, to
master the language and prepare a very useful religious text
for the Cape Muslims.
Thus no scholar fails to mention his name and his
important work. However, the first study of his work was
done by Mia Brandel-Syrier. She published a translation into
English and brief commentary in 1960.14 Her translation
assisted in understanding the text and its contribution to South
African literature as a whole and Islamic literature in
particular. Professor Adriaanus van Selms wrote the foreword
to the book. However, van Selms produced his Afrikaans
translation and transliteration of the work only in 1979!
Almost 20 years after Brandel-Syrier’s contribution; it may
moreover be assumed that the text was probably in draft form
for a number of years before Van Selms could have it
published, and that he was directly involved in the
supervision of Brandel-Syrier’s work which was written for a
postgraduate degree.
Subsequent to Brandel-Syrier’s publication Kähler made
a brief study of the text15 which was, in turn, followed by
Muller’s positive comments in 1962 regarding the Malay-
Afrikaans linguistic movement. By 1971 Kähler published his
findings on Cape Malay culture in his book, in which he
devoted a few pages to Abu Bakr Effendi’s work; Kähler
listed it as the first of its kind amongst this genre of literature.
14 The religious duties of Islam as taught and explained by Abu Bakr
Effendi. A translation from the original Arabic and Afrikaans, ed.
with an introduction and notes by Mia Brandel-Syrier, Leiden: E.
J. Brill 1960.
15 Kähler, Studien.
SOUTH AFRICAN AJAMI MSS 13
Ten years after this, Ponelis chose to look at the vocalization
and diphtong structure in the Arabic-Afrikaans language in
Abu Bakr Effendi’s work.16 And in 1983 Kotze attempted to
do a related study. About ten years after these contributions
Achmat Davids produced his fine study on the Cape
Muslims’ contribution to the development of Afrikaans. A
spin-off of his detailed study of Arabic-Afrikaans (which was
for his Master’s degree at the University of Natal), he wrote
an exciting article on the use of the letter ‘e’ by Abu Bakr
Effendi in his work; this article shed new light on the latter’s
unique contribution. Perhaps it needs to be pointed out that
while there are a number of extant texts, an urgent effort has
to be made to study these from various angles and this can
only be done if Arab linguists with their counterparts in
Africa can work in these neglected areas.
Closing remarks
The current status of mss and lithographic texts is such that
there is an immediate need to collect, collate and catalogue
them; an effort has been made, at least, to catalogue some of
them by this researcher and a cataloguer attached to the
National Library of Malaysia. However, these attempts are
small and need the support of other scholars.
It is indeed in this area where scholars from Africa,
Southwest and Southeast Asia can co-operate so that this
intellectual and cultural heritage does not disappear or is lost.
While much has been written about Arabic-Afrikaans mss,
little or nothing has been mentioned about the Arabic mss that
are still circulating among some individuals; here mention
may be made of one lengthy ms on Islamic jurisprudence and
theology which belongs to the Gamieldien collection. This
particular beautifully handwritten ms has to be scrutinized,
studied and eventually edited by comparing it to other extant
16 Ponelis, op. cit (1981).
14 MUHAMMED HARON
texts from where it originated; in fact, many such studies have
to be undertaken to help record the rich heritage of not only
the South African Muslims but South African society at large.
If this should take place it will also shed light on the
transmission of knowledge from Southwest Asia to Southeast
Asia to South Africa. Indeed a study of these intellectual
contacts has to be made; however, it can only be done if there
is closer co-operation of some sort among scholars from the
Afro-Asian and European continents.
... These ajami texts are mostly still in private hands, the belongings of descendants of the authors. SeeHaron (2001) on this topic. ...
Article
The idea of archive crucially informs my thesis on images of Islam in South African media and culture. In repositories of authoritative texts the thesis tracked the dynamics that render Islam visible in South Africa. I examined official and parallel archives, finding images of Islam in overlooked and insignificant places such as cookbooks, jokes and stories and, through them, explored interior and resistant meanings. In the thesis I analysed novels, paintings, plays and poetry, and examined the patterns and emphases in the visual repositories on Islam in the South African National Library and the catalogue of the Museum Africa in Johannesburg. I looked also at what is lacking from such archives, conducting what Martin Hall called an ‘archaeology of absences’. I pointed to the existence of alternative archives of Islam in South Africa generated through forms of self-organization such as mosques that developed parallel and in opposition to official colonial institutions. Beyond documents, I accessed through interviews more evanescent occurrences such as jokes, visiting customs and burial rituals. Through interviews as well as analyses of recipe books I explored practices surrounding food. I offered these different ways of speaking about Islam not as the ‘true story’ but to show what lies beyond the view of Islam as picturesque and exotic.
Chapter
The dawn of serious translation under British colonial control began with the commencement of missionary activity. Translation was stimulated by an evangelical and civilising ideology and resulted in prolific translation into various Bantu languages. Translation effected inter-societal coupling in an attempt to ensure successful message mediation. Power dynamics were somewhat ambivalent. Although Western elitism was evident, translation also resulted in the empowerment of local peoples and the inadvertent promotion of African nationalism. Contact between Islamic societies and the Cape Malay community via religious translation from Arabic into Malay-Afrikaans represented a much smaller trend focused on supporting Muslim solidarity. In addition to these two trends, one exceptional case of scientifically inspired translation, the philological translations of Wilhelm Bleek and his associates, is discussed.
Chapter
This chapter seeks to make visible what has long been overlooked: the existence of centuries old local forms of literacy written in non-European languages and housed in archives throughout Africa. Rich bodies of documents written in Arabic, Ajami (African languages written with enriched forms of the Arabic script), and other locally invented writing systems, Ngom shows, have existed in pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial Africa for centuries, and digital technology has enabled their recuperation and dissemination.
Chapter
South Africa’s literary history is divided across both language and race. A survey of the country’s publishing history provides a lens for examining these diverse literatures in an integrated way, by focusing on the production context, the circulation, and the readership. The key threads in South Africa’s publishing history can be traced to influences operating outside publishing: the influence of colonial governance, followed by the nationalist government and its apartheid system, and then the post-apartheid influence of transformation. All these factors reveal ongoing attempts by the government of the day to regulate and control publishing and the circulation of information. However, publishing history requires further study to better understand how publishing has evolved in South Africa, and how that permitted or prevented authors from circulating their work to readers.
Article
Full-text available
Ebûbekir Efendî ‘alimekî kurd ê sedsala XIXem e. Di dewra Sultanê Osmanî Ebdulezîz de (1830-1876) weke ‘alimekî mezin û murşîd ji bo misilmanên Afrîqaya Başur di sala 1862an de hatîye şandin. Di sala 1880an de li wê derê wefat dike. Di vê gotarê de em li ser jîyan, têkoşîn û xebatên Ebûbekir Efendî disekinin û bersiva van pirsan didin. Ji Şeqlewayê çima bi malbatî hatine Erziromê? Li Erziromê çi kar dikir in? Piştre çima diçe Stenbolê û çawa hatîye bijartin ji bo şandina Efrîkaya Başûr? Herwiha ev xebat cara yekem e ku li ser Ebûbekir Efendî, bi kurdîya kurmancî hatîye amadekirin. Bi tirkî gelek xebat li ser wî hatine kirin. Romanek hatîye nivîsîn, sempozyûmek hatîye lidarxistin. Mixabin ji ber koçberkirina Ebûbekir Efendî ya ji Şeqlawayê ber bi Erziromê ve, piranîya çavkanîyên tirkan wî wek tirk destnişan kirine. Ev gotar, bersiva vê çewtîyêye jî.
Article
This article focuses on the digital preservation of African sources written in Mandinka ʿAjamī, i.e., the enriched form of the Arabic script used to write the Mandinka language for centuries. ʿAjamī writing has been utilized to document intellectual traditions, histories, belief systems, and cultures of non‐Arab Muslims around the world. ʿAjamī texts have played critical roles in the spread of Islam in Africa and continue to be used for both religious and nonreligious writings. However, African ʿAjamī texts such as those of the Mandinka people of Casamance in southern Senegal are not well known beyond local communities. ʿAjamī texts in Mandinka and other Mande languages are among the least documented. Only a few Mande ʿAjamī texts are available to scholars. Thanks to the British Library's Endangered Archives Programme (EAP), Africa's rich written heritage in ʿAjamī and other scripts previously unavailable to academics is being preserved and made universally accessible.
Article
Full-text available
South Africa’s Cape Muslim religious leaders creatively contributed towards the formation of Afrikaans linguistics, an issue that the South African academia seemed to have ignored and overlooked. By the beginning of the 20th century, the literary output of these religious leaders developed to form a unique genre of literature; a genre that is popularly referred to as “Arabic-Afrikaans” within the South African linguistic circles. Achmat Davids (1939–98), who may be regarded as the doyen of “Cape Islamic Studies,” was among a handful of scholars who devoted much of his time to study carefully this type of literature. As a consequence of his labour, he produced one of the most significant contemporary works in South African linguistics. This review essay reflects upon the importance of Davids’ path-breaking and invaluable study, which was recently co-edited by Hein Willemse and Suleman E. Dangor.
Thesis
Full-text available
Word processed copy. Thesis (Ph.D. (English Language and Literature))--University of Cape Town, 2004. Includes bibliographical references.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.