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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Leadership and Loyalties: The Imams of Nineteenth Century Colonial Cape Town, South Africa
Author:Jeppie, ShamilISNI
Periodical:Journal of Religion in Africa
Geographic term:South Africa
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Religion and Witchcraft
History and Exploration
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/1581453
Abstract:This paper examines the Imams of 19th-century Cape Town (South Africa). The Imams were founders of mosques and religious schools for Muslim children and acted as the undisputed spokesmen for the faithful. Many of them were of slave origin (the first Muslims were forcibly sent to the Cape from the Indonesian archipelago by the colonizing Dutch). The ranking of Imams was for a time determined by whether a man was a Hadji, but the position of Imam was also bestowed by father on son, and the appellation was sometimes simply adopted by a zealously ambitious prayer leader or teacher. Personal wealth must have been a significant factor in the rise to religious leadership. Quite a number of Imams generated a living through casual labour and informal employment, often in the areas of skilled craftwork or independent trade. The precepts of the Imams, with which they thought about their own world and with which they attempted to lead their people, were founded on a general knowledge of broad Islamic principles. But their particular local situation affected their 'ideology' in profound ways. Finally, the Imams 'used' ritual - marriages, births, deaths, the fasting period, Islamic festivals, were essential elements in the lives of Muslims - to reiterate and represent their authority in an ongoing way. Notes, ref.