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Achmat Davids places the Cape Muslims on the South African linguistic map



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.
TYDSKRIF VIR LETTERKUNDE • 49 (1) • 2012 161
Review essay
Achmat Davids places the Cape
Muslims on the South African
linguistic map
Muhammed Haron
Muhammed Haron is an Associate
Professor in the Department of Theology
& Religious Studies, University of
Botswana and Associate Researcher in
the Department of Religion Studies,
University of Johannesburg.
Achmat Davids places the Cape Muslims
on the South African linguistic map
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. Keywords: Achmat Davids (1939–98), Afrikaans linguistics, Arabic-Afrikaans, Cape Muslims, South
African linguistics, South African social history.
The Afrikaans of the Cape Muslims.
Achmat Davids. Eds. Hein Willemse and Suleman E. Dangor. Pretoria: Protea, 2011. 318 pp.
ISBN 978-1-86919-236-5.
Introduction: Davids’ research output
Cape Muslims are deeply indebted to Achmat Davids (1939 – 98) for having excavated
several aspects of their rich social history (Jeppie). He wrote, for example, the fairly
insightful Mosques of the Bo-Kaap: A Social History of Islam at the Cape (1980); a work
that offered a detailed view of how the forbears of this Muslim community contributed
in making the upper portion of Cape Town—popularly referred to as the Bo-Kaap—
a vibrant and lively area. Apart from this important work, Davids also penned his
informative The History of the Tana Baru (1985) as well as a wide selection of some of his
salient writings that were inserted in Pages from Cape Muslim History (1994) that he co-
authored with Yusuf da Costa.
Davids’ plethora of articles, which were written between the mid 1970s and the
late 1990s, featured in a number of non-peer reviewed magazines such as Boorhaanul
Islam Newsletter (Cape Town) and Arabic Studies (University of Durban-Westville) and
many peer-reviewed journals such as Kronos: A History of the Cape (University of the
Western Cape), Journal for Islamic Studies (Rand Afrikaans University/University of
Cape Town) and Matatu: Journal of African Culture and Society (Amsterdam). In the
mentioned and other publications Davids demonstrated to what extent the Cape
Muslims left behind a thriving legacy, one that recorded their inputs to inter alia the
Cape’s delicious cuisine, the clothing sector and the extensive building industry.
From the long list of publications, Davids’ most significant research pieces focused
on the Cape Muslims’ linguistic tradition. This short essay is essentially a review of
Davids’ thesis that was edited by Hein Willemse (University of Pretoria) and Suleman
E. Dangor (University of KwaZulu-Natal). Let us, however, place Davids’ work on
Arabic-Afrikaans within a linguistic context so that we may have a broader view of
where his invaluable and impressive contribution fits into the socio-linguistic scheme
of South African studies.
Locating Arabic-Afrikaans in the linguistic context
By the time he successfully completed his MA thesis in 1991 at the University of Natal,
now the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) on Arabic-Afrikaans, a thesis that was
transformed by Willemse with the assistance of Dangor into this book under review,
Davids had written a few articles that dealt with this topic. These appeared in the
South African Journal of Linguistics and Lexikos: Journal of Lexicography (University of
Stellenbosch). And by then he built on the works of two prodigious scholars, namely
Adrianus van Selms (University of Pretoria) and Hans Kähler (Hamburg); both of
them had studied selected Arabic-Afrikaans texts in some detail. Van Selms authored,
among others, Arabies-Afrikaans Studies 1: ’n Tweetalige kategismus (1951) and Kähler
produced Studien über Kultur: Die Sprache und der Arabisch-Afrikaanse Literatur der Kap-
Malaien (1971). And it was exactly twenty years after Kähler ’s text that Davids finalized
his thesis on this important subject. Although there is little doubt that the two
mentioned scholars in addition to Pieter Muller, Ernst Frederick Kotze, Marius Valkhoff
and F. A. Ponelis churned out invaluable linguistic studies related to Arabic-Afrikaans,
it was Davids’ priceless research on Arabic-Afrikaans that changed the linguistic
debate and one that stirred scholars to revisit and reflect upon how the Afrikaans
language evolved and developed since the 18th century.
Besides narrating the general history of the Cape Muslims, Davids’ research turned
its attention to the way this community’s forebears constructed and linguistically
engineered the language that they employed in their homes and in the marketplace
during the 19th and (early) 20th centuries respectively. Even though this linguistic
story was already captured in the works of van Selms and others, it only seemed to
have dawned upon the Cape Muslim community after Davids’ important articles
appeared in the mentioned journals to what degree Muslims had had a visible hand
TYDSKRIF VIR LETTERKUNDE • 49 (1) • 2012 163
in the development of the Afrikaans language. Soon after this awakening in the 1990s,
the Afrikaans speaking community in general and the Cape Muslims in particular
came to gradually realise through Davids’ handsome research outputs the nature and
extent of this contribution.
Cape Muslims’ Afrikaans: Davids’ research project
But despite Davids’ significant linguistic intervention at a critical period in South
Africa’ socio-political history, a time when democratic changes were underway, it
was indeed sad to record that there was no one who followed in Davids’ footsteps to
further explore this area of linguistic studies; an area that may be viewed as a new
sub-discipline of the Afrikaans language. Very recently it was observed that scholars
such as Gerald Stell (University of Leuven) and Kees Versteeg (Catholic University of
Nijmegen) have shown an interest by exploring different dimensions of the field; a
development that Davids would have welcomed if he had still been around. What
was disheartening—to say the least—was that even though Davids’ thesis sparked
public interest at the time when he completed it, it remained out of the public eye for
two decades!
As far as we recall, Davids was urged to consider transforming the thesis into a
book but for some uncanny reason these early efforts came to naught. Another attempt
was made at the request of Willemse, who was a specialist in the Afrikaans language
and literature at the University of the Western Cape before shifting to the University
of Pretoria where he took up a professorial post in the Afrikaans department. Willemse,
who had a meeting with Davids shortly before his death during September 1998,
expressed the need to have the thesis edited and published. Whilst the idea was
accepted and endorsed by Davids, death overtook him. As a result, Willemse took it
upon himself from that moment onwards to see this project through. After an agreement
was struck with Kariema Davids-Jacobs (Davids’ former wife who is in charge of his
estate) and the authorities at UKZN, Willemse eagerly started to plan the editing
Since Willemse was not well versed with the reading of the Arabic script, he
called upon the expertise of Dangor, who was Professor of Islamic Studies at the
UKZN (until the end of 2010), to assist in this intimidating and daunting task. Both
Willemse and Dangor—like many other editors—had to take into account numerous
challenging issues prior to agreeing on the best process that would transform this
project into a published text. These they listed and briefly explained in their
“afterword.” In spite of the hurdles of translating, transliterating and a host of other
technical aspects that go along with the editorial process, the two editors succeeded
in producing a long over-due, well-argued and timely text. Prior to assessing the
editorial process, let us reflect upon edited text’s structure and contents.
The transformed text: its structure
To begin with, Willemse and Dangor—as the bona fide editors—generally remained
faithful to the format and structure of Davids’ original thesis. Davids divided his
thesis into six chapters with the introduction as the first chapter. In his opening
chapter Davids introduced the thesis by “Setting the scene and defining the concepts”
(15–32). Herein Davids explained the purpose of his research project and clarified
critical concepts and phrases such as “Arabic-Afrikaans,” and he also explained the
reasons for having described the formation of Arabic-Afrikaans as an ‘innovative
orthographic engineering’ process. Davids acknowledged that it was Adrianus van
Selms, the Professor of Semitics at the University of Pretoria, who coined the term
Once having explored the field in some detail, Davids agreed with van Selms’
descriptive label; a label that Davids regarded as all-encompassing and appropriate
one. In spite of this, there are others such as University of the Western Cape’s Prof
Yasien Mohamed who felt in his personal correspondence to us that this term is not
an apt one and that “Jawi-Afrikaans” should have been considered as an alternative
term. He seems to argue along the same lines as some Malaysian scholars do; they
termed this form of writing as Jawi-Melayu (Davids 58). Nevertheless, in spite of these
differences of opinion the van Selms coined term has generally been accepted and
has remained popular until this very day. The term essentially refers to those Afrikaans
manuscripts and lithographic texts that were written in the Arabic script by Cape
Muslim religious scholars between 1815 and 1915 (and beyond). And in the process of
preparing these manuscripts and texts, Davids cogently argued that they undertook
a process of what he termed “innovative orthographic engineering.” This involved
amongst others the way these religious scholars managed to create neologisms and
other linguistic forms.
Subsequent to satisfactorily clarifying these concepts, Davids discussed “The world
the Cape slaves made” in the second chapter (33–88). The chapter discoursed about
the emergence of the culture and the literary traditions of the Cape Muslim com-
munity. In this chapter he, inter alia, addressed the different ethnic identities as well
as their linguistic and literary traditions that contributed to the community’s emer-
gence. This fairly detailed and informative chapter laid the groundwork for the third
chapter which reflected on “the Afrikaans literature of the Cape Muslims: 1845–1915”
(89–150). Herein he listed the inventories of the manuscripts in the Arabic as well as
Roman script. Davids outlined the stages of this unique literary tradition and made
reference to the pre and post-Bayan al-Din scripts. And he also dwelled on the works
of specific religious figures such as Ghatieb Magmoed. The description and analyses
of the works of these scholars paved the way for Davids to deal with “Afrikaans
writing and spelling in Arabic script” in the fourth chapter (151–200). In this chapter
Davids revealed some fascinating aspects of the Cape Muslim religious leadership’s
TYDSKRIF VIR LETTERKUNDE • 49 (1) • 2012 165
creative spirit. They undertook what he termed the “innovative orthographic
engineering” process with regards to the Arabic script. Among others, Davids con-
versed about the Arabic-Afrikaans vocalic system, the formation of certain sounds
and the construction of Afrikaans diphthongs. On the whole, his arguments un-
derscored and demonstrated the innovative spirit that was prevalent among the
numerous religious personalities who prepared and penned their texts for their
prospective audience and subsequent generation of students.
The penultimate chapter turned its focus to “Writing Arabic and Arabic-Afrikaans
in the Roman script” (207–56). In the first section of this chapter Davids addressed the
problematic issue of transliteration that are encountered internationally. This system
was an interesting exercise because of the inherent difficulties when undertaking
this process. Davids pointed out the problems of employing the international system
such as the one that had been proposed and followed by the International Journal of
Middle Eastern Studies (IJMES), a well-respected North American peer reviewed journal.
Davids thus recommended or rather proposed a standard system that may be
applicable to the South African context. In order to show its effectiveness and appli-
cability he extracted sample pages from some of the famous manuscripts that had
circulated at the Cape and indulged in the transliterating exercise. Whilst this was a
very taxing task, Davids encountered a situation in which the exercise of transliterating
certain words was not that easy; he realised that it depended upon many factors; one
of these is the way the heterogeneous Cape Muslims pronounced and wrote certain
letters and words not encountered in the Afrikaans language and another is how
these should be rendered when transliterating them.
After having closely combed through Davids’ well set out and argued thesis, it
may be stated that he was extremely familiar with the various Arabic-Afrikaans
manuscripts and their respective authors. Apart from his familiarity, Davids also
managed to become acquainted with the science of linguistics before he examined
some of the manuscripts. Davids’ mastery comes to the fore in the manner he presented
his arguments and the way he challenged the views and arguments of those, namely
van Selms, Ponelis and Kähler, who had authoritatively written on the subject. Before
we pick three examples to show why Davids was in command of the area that he
tackled, brief mention should also be made of the fact that Davids also carelessly
slipped upped and erred. There were times when Davids incorrectly translated or
transliterated a title or a sentence without making sure that it conveyed the correct
meaning. In the one recurring example, the title of Imam Abdul Malik Kahaar’s text
was rendered as Tuhfat ul-Ahwam. If we ventured to translate this title, based of course
on the Davids’ transliteration, it would convey a different meaning, namely ‘a gift of
crowns [?].’ Unfortunately the editors seemed to have overlooked this and nor did
they offer a translation in a footnote on the particular page where it appeared for the
first time; they basically left the title as is (124–27). In any case, if the title had been
perfectly transliterated as it should have, namely Tuhfat ul-‘Awamm (A gift for the
[general] populace—refer to Hans Wehr’s Arabic-English Dictionary [641]), then it
would, to some degree, have reflected the text’s objective. At this point let us not
dwell too much on this specific shortcoming in Davids’ thesis/edited text but let us
return to highlighting the three examples that illustrates his critical assessment of
others who wrote on the subject. The first example is taken from chapter 3 in which
Davids critically questioned van Selms’, who had somewhat mastered the field and
had written numerous texts, incorrect identification of a particular Arabic-Afrikaans
manuscript. Davids argued that if van Selms had been acutely aware of the different
manuscripts’ contents and had been familiar with the writing of their authors, then
he (van Selms) would not have committed the errors in his transcription and assessment
(103). In the second example Davids critiqued van Selms for not having applied his
mind to the fact that vocalisms played a crucial role in the reading of Arabic by non-
Arab communities. Since this was the case van Selms’ phonetic transcriptions of the
specific manuscript were also faulty (158). And in the third example, he responded to
Ponelis’ study; the latter had erred when he misread the Arabic-Afrikaans lettering
symbols (214). Whilst Davids severely reacted to the unnecessary errors that these and
other scholars made, he was also generally kind towards them. Davids balanced his
assessment and was somewhat gracious towards them for having made important
linguistic inputs on the subject. On the whole, Davids’ text demonstrated the amount
of knowledge that he possessed and the confidence he exuded when he dealt with
this neglected linguistic area.
Davids concluded his text by offering his observations and comments in the final
chapter (257–63). And in the annexure the editors included M. C. J. van Rensburg’s
essay on the “study of Afrikaans over a period of 100 years (circa 1815–1915)” and their
“afterword.” Thereafter they inserted the bibliography of primary and secondary
works (304–11) and a useful register (312–18) of terms, titles and personalities that
appeared throughout the edited text. As a matter of information, the first few pages of
the text contained an acknowledgment (11–12) and a preface (13–14) by Davids’
supervisor, namely Theodorus du Plessis. And before going any further, let us commend
the editors for choosing Angas’ famous and oft-circulated painting, Malay School Boys
Learning to Read the Koran (1849), for the book’s cover. I. D. du Plessis also inserted a
print of this painting in his book The Cape Malays (1944). It is indeed a very appropriate
choice that captures what The Afrikaans of the Cape Muslims is all about.
The editing process: an intimidating task
As already mentioned in an early section, the editors pointed out in their “afterword”
(300–03) the reasons for editing Davids’ thesis; a work that was a pioneering effort and
in the informed opinion of the editors “a path-breaking study.” Since Davids’ research
TYDSKRIF VIR LETTERKUNDE • 49 (1) • 2012 167
output produced key findings, the editors felt the need to have it edited and circulated
to a wider reading audience. Despite the noble intentions to have had it edited soon
after Davids’ death, the main editor (i.e. Willemse) encountered numerous obstacles
along the way before the edited thesis eventually reached the Protea publishing
house. Since the editors advised in their “afterword” the researchers, who might
wish to query and corroborate certain editorial changes, to read the original manuscript
that is housed at UKZN’s Howard library this reviewer was among those who decided
to do that. Bearing this in mind, the issues raised in this section thus made constant
reference to both texts (i.e. the thesis and the edited text) where necessary.
When the editors embarked on the editing process they were faced by a variety of
issues; many of these issues were difficult to ignore when transforming an
unpublished manuscript such as a thesis into an edited published text such as a book.
One of the first important editorial interventions that the editors had to make was to
choose a referencing system that was “more reader-friendly and (one that) suits this
type of historiographical and linguistic text” (in Davids 302). Since they considered
the Harvard referencing system, the one that Davids used for the thesis, not appropriate
for this text, they selected the Chicago footnote (fn) style of reference; a referencing
system that they were fairly comfortable with and one that seems to be popular in
certain publishing sectors.
Having settled for a user-friendly referencing style, the editors then had to
confront a list of editorial matters such as structural amendments, grammatical
constructions and spelling conventions. Since these were among the short list of
editorial matters that occupied them in this demanding venture, they had to act
prudently and judiciously so as not to disturb the flow of Davids’ arguments or
change the intention of the sentence construction. When we closely compare the
two texts, it is obvious that the editors did not liberally use their position to make
arbitrary changes; what comes across quite clearly was that they made a concerted
effort “to keep the spirit and intention of the original manuscript” (300) and only
occasionally were forced to bring about amendments where the sentence
construction of Davids was clumsy.
Perhaps it would be best at this juncture for us to extract samples that illustrate
how they managed to deal with and overcome each of the challenges. But before
doing so, it should also be highlighted that as we browsed through the thesis and the
edited text, there were inaccuracies that Davids made and that were overlooked by
the editors, and there were mistakes that the editors made and that should have been
corrected. In the following section, we shall refer to the errors and rectify them. Let us
begin with the structural amendments that the editors faced from the outset.
One of the first issues that the editors grappled with was some of Davids’ awkward
formulation of sentences. As a consequence of the presence of these constructions in
different parts of the thesis, the editors made the necessary amendments and
adjustments without going against Davids’ intentions and thus retaining the original
meaning. Herewith find a few examples: (a) Compare chapter 1’s paragraphs on p. 19
of the edited text (hereafter ET) with those that appear on pp. 5 and 6 of the thesis
(hereafter T), and do the same with the paragraphs on p. 29 of ET with those that
appear on pp. 18–19 in T. In both cases, where the passage formed part of the body of
the text in T the editors took the liberty of inserting it as a footnote (ET 55 fn. 80). (b)
The editors transferred Davids’ long-winded sentence, “Except for the letters…” to a
footnote (ET 86 fn. 182), and (c) they rephrased the sentence that appeared in the first
paragraph (T 120; ET 121) instead of “Many of them, in terms of content, were pitched
at children, and therefore, deal with the basics of Islam,” they changed it to: “Many
were pitched at children and therefore dealt with the basics of Islam.” (d) They changed
the format by dispensing with the data that were in a table as was the case in T (162)
and weaved the information into the body of ET (155). And (e) they shifted a portion
of the text into a footnote; see and compare p. 169 in T with fn 29 p. 163 in ET.
The editors noted that Davids did not, at times, observe the grammatical rules as
expected; although there were not many, the editors amended the sentences
accordingly. For example, Davids wrote: “This could be attributed to the fact that
their reading audience could not read Arabic graphic script…” (T 10) and the editors
replaced the first ‘could’ with ‘can’ (ET 23). And in another example, Davids’ sentence
read: “… if the (letter) ra were silent …” instead of “… if the (letter) ra is silent …” (ET
162; T 168).
The issue of spelling was quite a challenging one for the editors. On the one hand,
they had to conform to a standard format and, on the other hand, they had to consider
the format that took into account three (and more) different languages. They stated in
their “afterword” that, “Where Davids’s spelling or translations were obviously
incorrect or the result of typographical errors, we have corrected them ‘silently ’. For
the fastidious Arabic reader several names may have been transliterated wrongly in
the original, e.g. ‘Abd al-Rahim is transliterated as Abdurahim […] In these cases we
have retained Davids’s rendition of these names but on their first occurrance (sic) we
have inserted the contemporary transliteration in square brackets” (Davids 2011: 301).
The editors mentioned that they harmonised the spelling where Davids followed
different spelling conventions.
We generally concur with the editors’ approach in dealing with the spelling
conventions that Davids adopted with regards to the names of the persons and places.
TYDSKRIF VIR LETTERKUNDE • 49 (1) • 2012 169
Perhaps we should provide two specific examples that illustrate the inherent problems
with the spelling conventions. Let us take the simple title “sheikh” as it appears in the
thesis and the edited text. Whilst the word has been accepted in English, the Oxford
dictionary recognizes another form of spelling and that is “shaikh;” even though it is
an uncommon and an unpopular form it has been approved by its compilers (Hornby
1086). Should we observe the rules of transliteration the correct spelling would be
“shaykh” and not “sheikh.”
The other example that we want to refer to is the title of Abu Bakr Effendi’s famous
Arabic-Afrikaans theological text. Davids presented the transliterated title as one
complete word, namely Bayanuddin (T 113–23), and the editors chose a slightly different
format by correctly presenting it as a phrase, namely Bayan al-Din (ET 115–21). Even
though both are generally acceptable ways of spelling or transliterating the title, the
proper method, if we follow the United Nations Romanization system that differs
slightly from IJMES, should be Bayan ud-Din (UNGEGN Working Group). In this
instance the definite article al is assimilated with the first consonant of the word Din
and it is not written separately according to the method followed by the editors and
not completely assimilated as in Davids’ example. Apart from observing these writing
conventions, we have to take into account how the individual is going to read the
phrase. An Afrikaans reader who is oblivious of the prevailing transliteration systems
might venture to transliterate it as follows: Bajaan Oedien. And related to this, we note
that Allie transliterated the title differently: Bayan-uddin. What all of this demonstrates
is that speakers, researchers and editors will always find this a major challenge.
From this we can deduce that since the editors were fully aware of the problems
associated with the spelling and the transliteration of names and titles, they tried to
look for the best option in resolving them within the context. Having cleared themselves
regarding this needling issue, let us make reference to one example here since more
samples of transliteration will come up later: Davids transliterated the title of a famous
East African poem as: Mawlid-Barzanzi; the editors rectified the spelling and wrote it
as: Maulid Barzanji (ET 38; T 29). That noted, let us make reference to a few simple
typographical mistakes that the editors corrected: ‘44 yrears’ (T 35; ET 46), ‘arqued’ (T
39), ‘excempted’ (ET 49), ‘almanac’ (ET 68 fn. 127; T 62), and ‘fiqa’ (ET 74; T 69); even
though they picked up these corrections, they seemed to have overlooked the incorrect
spelling of ‘aaarme’ (ET 229 line 2; T 255).
The question of translation like transliteration was a challenging issue. Here we shall
only give four examples: Davids translated the title: “A message on behaviour in
burial grounds” (T 90) instead of “A [Comprehensive] Treatise involving [correct
behaviour] when visiting graves” (ET 91, 93), “Guidance in accordance with the way
of the Wahhabis” (T 106) instead of “Guidance to the Correct Method according to the
- -
Wahhabis” (ET 108), and “Book of Knowledge of Inheritance” (T 138) instead of “Book
on the Knowledge of Religious Duties” (ET 136), and “A book on moral behaviour for
children (T 105) instead of “A Reading Book for the Pupils of the Habibiyya Madrasah”
(ET 107). In the last mentioned case, Davids not only incorrectly translated the title
but he also neglected to give the full title; the editors picked this up and rectified it.
As already indicated earlier, one of the most challenging issues that researchers and
particularly editors encounter in manuscripts such as this is the question of
transliteration. In this case, the editors were challenged by the system that Davids
conformed to in his thesis and the one that they queried and considered appropriate
(ET 300). Whilst Davids was acutely aware of available international systems that
assist one in the process of the transliteration of words from Arabic, Persian and Urdu
to the Roman script (T 14–17; ET 26–28), he did not strictly conform to the international
system. He devised a method that was close to conveying the exact sound of the letter
and words from Arabic-Afrikaans into the Roman script.
Let us refer to a select few examples: Davids transliterated (a) Muschat-al-Masabah (T
105) instead of Mishkat al-Masabih (ET 107), and (b) Jam-i-tool Oloma (T 101) instead of
Jami’at al-‘Ulama’ (ET 104). And in one instance (c) the editors stated that Davids
transliterated the title of one of Sheikh Ismail Ganief ’s work as Al Mukaddioatu Uadramia
(ET 49 fn. 61). After crosschecking it was observed that this was not the case. Davids,
in fact, transliterated it as Al Mukaddimatu Hadramia and they amended it slightly as
al-Muqaddimat al-Hadramiyyah (T 306; ET 136). And (d) Davids, who relied on Kähler,
was convinced that Imam Abdul Malik Kahaar’s text was transliterated as Tuhfatu’l-
ahwam (ET 126). The editors went along with this (ET 124–126) but altered the
transliteration slightly to Tuhfat ul-Ahwam. Upon closer inspection the transliteration
should be Tuhfat ul-‘Awamm (ET 248).
And there were examples that the editors should have rendered according to the
international convention but, for some reason, left them unaltered: Al-Shilmitani (T
122; ET 121) [or Al-Thilmisani in Register (ET 312)] should be Al-Tilmisani (T 75 ch. 2 fn.
144; ET 121 ch. 3 fn. 92), id ham (ET 163) should be id gham, shard’ (ET 240 fn.278 line 8)
should be shart, and moetakhiel (ET 94 line 15; ET 139 fn. 141) should be mustahil; the
latter was, however, reflected in footnote 22 on p. 94 in ET but not rectified on p. 139
by the editors. Since the issue of transliteration is inextricably tied to the Arabic scripted
texts, we wish to bring the reader’s attention to the problems the editors encountered
when they reproduced some of the lithographic texts and when attempts were made
to retype some of the examples in the Arabic script.
Arabic texts
The samples of lithographic material that the editors used for this publication were
TYDSKRIF VIR LETTERKUNDE • 49 (1) • 2012 171
regrettably unclear (ET 97–98). Besides having been let down on this front, they were
also let down by the software package that the publishers used. The letters of each of
the Arabic words and sentences, which were retyped to emphasize particular linguistic
conventions, appeared disconnected from the other and it gave the impression that
the text was poorly edited. The letters that appear separate are supposed to have been
connected to one another so as to formulate the complete word or phrase. Even
though this was not as a result of poor editing, it came across like that and there was
nothing the editors could do after it was published (ET 156, ET 179).
Unfortunately for the editors, they were further disappointed when the translation
of the Arabic-Afrikaans text of Abu Layth as-Samarqandi (i.e. Masa’il) did not appear
alongside it in Annexure 2 (ET 273–86); the short translation piece was mistakenly
slotted in under Annexure 3 (ET 290–92); a different annexure altogether!
Even Annexure 1, which supposed to contain extracts from Abu Bakr Effendi’s
Bayan al-Din, consisted of Kitab al-Zakat that was written by his son, Hisham Effendi
(ET 264–70) and the same goes for the translation that appears in that annexure (ET
In addition to the above, we came across a few other entries that the editors should
have crosschecked instead of having assumed that there were no data available or that
the information supplied by Davids was correct.
The editors were unable to identify the following entry: ‘Kuller, [no publication
particulars], 1960’ (ET 18 fn. 9). But after careful reflection, we were able to make a
connection between “Muller” and “Kuller;” the correct entry was “Muller,” in fact,
and not “Kuller.” The relevant bibliographical details were available in list provided
by Davids; they were: Muller, P. J. “Afrikaanse geskrifte in Arabiese karakters”, Quarterly
Bulletin of the South African Library 15, 1960 (T 315; ET 309). And speaking of identification,
it was noted that Davids referred to an unidentified scholar by the name of ‘Diringer
(ET 152; T 158); the editors were not able to provide any additional material on this
individual. The same argument goes for an unknown Shayg Gasabullah (transliterated
as: Sheikh Hisb Allâh) to whom Davids referred to in his study (ET 101 fn. 41; T 98). On
a related issue, the editors seemed to have been oblivious of the fact that Ebrahim
Davids whom Achmat Davids interviewed was none other than the author’s elder
brother; they thus did not mention it at all (ET 142 fn. 150; T 145).
Davids mistakenly thought that Rochlin’s published article appeared in 1959; the
date should be 1933 (ET 46 fn. 54). Since the editors did not double check, they repeated
Davids’ mistake in ET (36) as well as in the bibliographical list (ET 316).
P.B.U.H, which means “peace be upon him,” should have inserted next to the
word “Prophet” and not after the word “Islam,” as noted on p. 28 in the thesis and
edited text (ET 38).
The editors retained Davids’ use of the word “Malaysian” in their text. This is a
term that was only coined at the time of Malaysia’s independence and not before. In
our view the editors should have provided a brief comment of this term in a footnote
(T 46; ET 56–58).
For some reason, Davids used the word “sect” interchangeably with “school of
Ahli Sunni wal Jama’ah” (T 121); in this instance, the editors should have commented
and clarified the term in a footnote (ET 120) since the two terms are not the same in
We are of the opinion that the editors should have commented in a footnote on the
word “say-rie” (ET 137 para 3; T 139). The word as it stands is a corruption of the
Arabic word, which is pronounced as “sayyid”. It, which essentially means “a gentle-
man or a master,” is an honorific title given to someone who is a descendent of Prophet
Muhammad (Wehr 440).
Davids used the word “moola” (T 143; ET 140), also spelt as “mullah” or “moulvi”
or “mawlana”, as a title attributed to Hisham Effendi who was of Turkish descent.
Being an Urdu word, we found it intriguing that Davids employed this word, and
not commented upon by the editors. This word is, in fact, a title generally given to a
person who graduated from a Muslim theological seminary in South Asia. And it is a
title that is equivalent to the designation “Sheikh,” a person who graduated from a
Middle Eastern Muslim theological institution.
Now that we have covered a fair selection of issues that the editors addressed as
well as a few that they failed to notice, we want to offer thoughts on how this text
could have been further transformed and enriched. Our argument is based upon the
fact that since this is the only edited text of its kind on this subject the editors could
have used the opportunity to embellish and update the literature on the subject. In
other words, they could have added and footnoted material that became available
during the past two decades (i.e. from the time Davids completed his thesis in 1991
until 2010). In our view, if they had adopted this policy then Davids’ edited text
would have stood out as a unique, up-to-date volume on a sorely neglected topic in
South African linguistic studies.
Since we appear to be quite convinced about this, let us reflect on a random
selection of material that have been produced over the past two decades and that
could have been included in this edited text. Since Davids devoted part of his study
to Abu Bakr Effendi’s contribution, the editors could have drawn material from the
Centre for Islamic Studies at Rand Afrikaans University (RAU), which coincidently
underwent a name change and presently known as the University of Johannesburg
(UJ), where some interesting research projects were completed at the postgraduate
level and that could have been inserted in the footnotes as well as the bibliographical
list. Here N. Allie’s “The Impact of Bayan-uddin, the al-Riyad al-Badi’ah and the al-
Hadramiyah on the Cape Muslim Community” (1997), S. Argun’s “The Life and Contri-
TYDSKRIF VIR LETTERKUNDE • 49 (1) • 2012 173
bution of the Osmanli scholar, Abu Bakr Effendi: Towards Islamic Thought and Culture
in South Africa” (2000), and Serhat Orakçi’s “A Historical Analysis of the Emerging
Links Between the Ottoman Empire and South Africa between 1861–1923” (2007)
come to mind.
The editors could have included Y. da Costa and A. Davids’ jointly edited Pages
From Cape Muslim History (1994) and M.van Bruinessen’s “A Nineteenth-century
Kurdish scholar in South Africa;” (2000). And they could have added to these, M.
Sahin’s “Formation of Cape Colonial Community and the Ottoman Turkish Existence
in South Africa,” (2006) and Ahmet Uçar’s Unforgotten Legacy: Ottomans in South Africa
(2007). Whilst most of these texts made specific reference to the Ottoman Turk influence
at the Cape and touched upon Abu Bakr Effendi’s Bayan al-Din, we are convinced
that researchers would like to have seen these in the footnotes for they would have
shed further light on the late 19th century socio-linguistic and historic-theological
developments; and this Davids would have welcomed.
Since the death of Davids in 1998, a few articles were published that either added
new dimensions to what had been written up until then or complemented them. It
would, for example, have been useful to have footnoted Muhammed Haron’s
“Samarqand-Cape Town Connection: Revisiting a 10th Century Theological Text,”
(1999), Ebrahim Moosa’s “Arabic-Afrikaans” (2004), Muhammed Haron’s ‘The
Preservation and Study of South Africa Ajami Manuscripts” (2001/2002), Gerald Stell’s
From Kitaab Hollandsch to Kitaab-Afrikaans: The Evolution of a Non-white Literary Variety
[18561940] (2007), G. Stell, X. Luffin and M. Rakiep’s “Religious and secular Cape
Malay Afrikaans. Literary varieties used by Shaykh Hanif Edwards (1906–1958)” (2007)
and Suleman E. Dangor ’s “Arabic-Afrikaans Literature at the Cape” (2008). Even though
some of them might have repeated what Davids had already recorded, there are the
works such as the “Samarqand-Cape Town Connection: Revisiting a 10th Century
Theological Text” and From Kitaab Hollandsch to Kitaab-Afrikaans that have added
new insights to the Arabic-Afrikaans theological and linguistic debates respectively.
Towards a conclusion
When reflecting upon Davids’ significant thesis, there is ample evidence that he had
contributed in a substantial manner to both the theological and linguistic debates
respectively. This edited text as well as his earlier writings had made an input to the
understanding of the theological issues at the Cape and they prised open the intense
discussions about the Cape Muslims’ inputs to the development of the Afrikaans
language. Notwithstanding some of Davids’ mistakes and apart from the two editors’
oversights regarding a few minor errors that were mentioned in the previous section,
this edited text demonstrated that it was a meritorious research project that we are all
indebted to in more ways than one.
- -
We are indebted to Davids for not only making us conscious of the Cape Muslims’
contributions to Afrikaans but for bringing to our attention the legacy that our forebears
left behind; a legacy that we can all relate to and be proud of. The research project has
to some extent lay to rest some of the earlier problematic linguistic issues. And Davids,
like many other avid researchers, set a few guidelines for future researchers and this
clearly indicates Davids’ foresight and interest in this field.
With these remarks, we can say that the editors did a wonderful and marvellous
job in once again reminding us of Davids’ invaluable contribution to the South African
society in general and the linguistic community in particular. Whilst this is an edited
text that should be prescribed in all courses in linguistics and literature at Southern
African universities, it should also be of interest to social historians.
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Thought and Culture in South Africa.” MA thesis Rand Afrikaans U, 2000.
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There is limited peer-reviewed research investigating the incline amongst Muslim women who enter road running and athletic events. However, it is undoubtedly a trend perceived through international sportswear sales (Hwang & Kim, 2020), popular media articles (Hamilton, 2018), and visually noticeable by the increased frequency of Muslim women running in the streets of Cape Town. In addition, it is noteworthy that Nike and Adidas have launched ranges for Muslim women runners, confirming that Muslims have become a strategic growth market for well-established brands. However, the requirements for modest athletic sportswear that align with the prescribed hijab pose specific challenges for Muslim women, especially those who want to participate in long-distance road running. Physiological studies confirm that female competitors found modest athletic sportswear (MAS) cumbersome and uncomfortable (Davis & Bishop, 2013). Furthermore, the research underlined that MAS adversely affected an athlete's physical, physiological, and ergonomic experiences related to comfort or discomfort. Therefore, an opportunity exists to complement previous studies and further investigate how a user-centred design approach,supplemented by contemporary fashion technologies in South Africa, may enhance athletic comfort and MAS performance through a virtual design process. Consequently, in addition to its functional design objectives, this study will explore this trend through qualitative interviews with experts on the hijab and a qualitative focus group with women participating in road running. The primary research and design phase starts with interviews with an open and qualitative approach derived from a semi-structured interview schedule with two prominent women in Islam to establish the styling parameters for female Islamic clothing. Next, a focus group session engages athletes from running clubs in the Western Cape to understand their experiences with current products to establish elements for design improvement. Next, selecting suitable textiles through expert consultations and laboratory testing to present a scientifically tested range of sportswear for Muslim women. Finally, the data gathered provides insight into the development of three 3D prototypes: a long-sleeved top, a pair of pants, and a head covering.
Full-text available
Tuan Guru – the first official imam at the Cape – used Malayu as the medium of instruction in the Dorp Street madrasah (Muslim religious school) which he established at the end of the 18th century. This changed in the middle of the 19th century when Cape Dutch was adopted as the language of instruction. While the children were familiar with this language they could not read the Latin script since they were barred from attending the public schools. Cape Muslims could, however, read the Arabic script which they had to learn for liturgical purposes - though they could not speak Arabic. To overcome this conundrum, numerous scholars and teachers began to translate Arabic texts into Cape Dutch and then transcribing these in the Latin script. These “readers” came to serve as official textbooks in the madrasahs at the Cape. This article traces the development of this genre of literature which came to be known as Arabic-Afrikaans, comments on manuscripts that were identified by Adrianus van Selms, Achmat Davids and Hans Kähler and highlights the daunting challenge of transcribing Afrikaans phonetically in the Arabic script.
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This paper presents the socio-historical and linguistic context of Muslim Cape Dutch/Afrikaans literature, using the same texts as in Stell, Luffin, and Rakiep (2007). It then focuses on the areas of greatest diachronic variation in the phonology, lexicon, idiomaticity, morphology, and syntax of the Cape Malay texts. Finally, it places that variation into the perspective of how Cape Dutch/Afrikaans evolved as a language variety.
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In the context of the White and Christian-dominated Afrikaans language movements, followed by apartheid, little attention has been paid to an Afrikaans literary variety used among Muslim Cape Coloureds, a group often referred to as ‘Cape Malays’. Descending mainly from Asian slaves brought by the Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC, Dutch East India Company), and bearing the marks of cohabitation with non-Asian populations at the Cape, the Cape Malays at an early stage developed a distinct religious culture through their adherence to Islam, as well as a distinct Cape Dutch linguistic identity through their connections with the Dutch East Indies and the Islamic world. These cultural idiosyncrasies found expression in a local literature, religious and (more rarely) secular, using as a medium a variety of Cape Dutch/Afrikaans written either in the Arabic alphabet or in the Roman alphabet.
Arabic-Afrikaans Encyclopaedia of Islam
  • Ebrahim Moosa
Moosa, Ebrahim. " Arabic-Afrikaans. " Encyclopaedia of Islam. Leiden: Brill, 2004.
Arabies-Afrikaans Studies 1: 'n Tweetalige kategismus
  • Adrianus Van Selms
Van Selms, Adrianus. Arabies-Afrikaans Studies 1: 'n Tweetalige kategismus. Amsterdam: N.V. Noord Hollansche Uitgevers, 1951.
Unforgotten Legacy: Ottomans in South Africa. Ensenlar: ÇAMLICA
  • Ahmet Uçar
Uçar, Ahmet. Unforgotten Legacy: Ottomans in South Africa. Ensenlar: ÇAMLICA, 2007.