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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:'A Faith for Ourselves': Slavery, Sufism, and Conversion to Islam at the Cape
Author:Mason, John E.
Periodical:South African Historical Journal
Geographic terms:South Africa
The Cape
Subjects:Islamic history
religious conversion
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Religion and Witchcraft
History and Exploration
Labor and Employment
External link:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02582470208671416
Abstract:After growing slowly during the 17th and 18th centuries, the Muslim community of Cape Town, South Africa, numbered less than 1,000 in 1800. But it grew to 3,000 by 1820 and 6,400 by 1840, at which point Muslims accounted for about half the city's coloured population and a third of its total. Contemporary and 19th-century accounts of Islamic conversion at the Cape suggest that the motives for conversion were secular rather than sacred. Most converts were slaves. Slaves inhabited a social, political and cultural netherworld, they were outsiders, devoid of rights and subject to exploitation, degradation and violent domination. When they converted to Islam, they were 'socially born again', they became legitimate members of Muslim society. Secular considerations such as these were certainly part of what brought converts to Islam, but, as demonstrated in the present paper, which reviews the historiography of Islam at the Cape, conversion had as much to do with the sacred as with the profane. Evidence for this includes a rite from within the Islamic mystical tradition of Sufism, the 'ratiep', a discipline of the body, mind and spirit which enabled adepts to transcend the mundane world of the flesh and directly experience an alternative, superior, spiritual reality. Notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]