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Tuan Guru, a Great Figure of Indonesian Remembrance in South Africa

20 March 2019

"This book launching event has a significant meaning not only for South Africa, but also for Indonesia. This book is a concrete manifestation of the strong historical relations between the two countries. I do hope that this book will further enrich people's recollection of the very important relations between Indonesia and South Africa," said Mr Salman Al Farisi, Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia in Pretoria when delivering his address at the launch of the book “From the Spice Islands to Cape Town: Life and Master's Period of Teachers " in Cape Town, South Africa on March 17, 2019.

Ambassador Salman Al Farisi attended the event by the invitation of the South African Waqf Institute, AWQAF SA. As the South African national waqf institution which has a mission to empower the people, this book is part of the Awqaf Project Leaders and Heritage project to honour South Africa’s past and present leaders.



Tuan Guru, the figure enshrined in this book is an Indonesian-born Ulema who preached Islam in South Africa. Tuan Guru was born in Tidore in 1712, and passed away in Cape Town in 1807 at the age of 95.

He arrived in Cape Town by a VOC ship, Zeepard, in 1780 when he was 68 years old. The Dutch sent him to Cape Town to avoid his interaction with the British, the arch enemy of the Dutch during the era of colonialism.

In his exile, Tuan Guru founded the first madrasa in South Africa in 1793, and soon after, built the first mosque in South Africa, the "Ul-Awwal Mosque". Tuan Guru who was the Hafiz Quran, rewrote the Qur'an from his memorization during his imprisonment in Robben Island. This great scholar also wrote another work "Ma'rifat wal Iman wal Islam" (Knowledge of Faith and Religion), a 613 page book, which became a reference to study Islam in Cape Town.

Tuan Guru has been appreciated as a great figure in South Africa. Not only him, the Muslim settlers have become part of the South African national struggle during the miserable period of colonialism. The names opposed to the colonialist such as Tuan Guru, Syekh Yusuf, Hadjie Matarim, and others have become a symbol of the people struggle against the Dutch and British.

The writer Shafiq Morton is a seasoned photo journalist, editor, and radio/TV presenter who has years of experience and won various awards. His previous writings covered topics such as the anti-apartheid campaign, the release of Nelson Mandela, and the 1994 South African general election. In 2008, Morton won the Vodacom National Award in the category of community media and regional awards in 2010. Previous writers' works are among others “Notebooks from Mecca and Medina (travel Saudi Arabia)”, “Surfing Behind the Wall”, “My Palestinian Journey”, and “Grace for All”.

The Indonesian Embassy in Pretoria and the Indonesian Consulate General in Cape Town fully supported the launch event of the book "From the Spice Islands to Cape Town: The Life and Period of Master's Teachers". This event is one in a series of activities to commemorate 25-years of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Indonesia and South Africa throughout 2019.

Embassy of Indonesia in Pretoria




February/March 2020








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