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From the Spice Islands to Cape Town : The Life and Times of Tuan Guru.

The book forms part of the Awqaf’s Leaders and Legacies Project to honour our past & present leaders.   Muslims have been part of the struggle for human rights and  freedom since their banishment to Robben Island and other parts of the Cape  in the early 17th century. We recall the revered names of political prisoners  Tuan Guru, Shaykh Yusuf, Hadjie Matarim and others (May Allah be pleased with them) who made the ultimate sacrifice against Dutch and British colonizers and slave masters.

Nationwide book launches

Alhamdulillah, Awqaf SA in collaboration with our supporting organisations hosted books launches in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.


For for information contact: Hasanain Abdullah 079 507 1196

About Tuan Guru

Tuan Guru, which means “Master Teacher”, is the popular name of a hero of Cape Islam. His full name is Imam ‘Abdullah ibn Qadi ‘Abd al-Salam, which means that he was the son of a religious judge, Qadi ‘Abd al-Salam.
Qadi ‘Abd al-Salam hailed from the royal house of Tidore, which was one of the famous Spice Islands in Indonesia. The spice for which Tidore was famous was the clove. Tuan Guru’s mother was Boki, or Princess, Nuriniyah. Tuan Guru had five brothers and two sisters.

Tuan Guru was born in Tidore in 1712. He died in Cape Town in 1807 aged 95 years. He arrived at the Cape on the Dutch East India Company sailing ship, the Zeepard, in 1780 when he was 68 years old. He was sent to Robben Island. The Dutch sent him to the Cape because they were afraid he would make friends with the English, a Dutch enemy.

Tuan Guru was a religious teacher who cared for the slave community. He established our first madrasah (or school) in 1793, and shortly after that, the first mosque in South Africa.
Tuan Guru, who was imprisoned on Robben Island twice, was a Hafiz ul-Qur’an and wrote out the Holy Book there from memory.
He also wrote another work called the “Ma’rifat wal Iman wal Islam” (the Knowledge of Faith and Deen) a book of 613 pages, from which he taught the Muslims of Cape Town about Islam.

Tuan Guru’s mosque and madrasah were established in Dorp Street in the Bo Kaap on the property of Saartjie van de Kaap, daughter of Coridon of Ceylon, who was one of the first black land owners in the Bo-Kaap.

The mosque is called “Masjid ul-Awwal” (the First Mosque), and is still standing today, though it has been rebuilt several times over the last 200 years. Many tourists, and important world leaders such as Nelson Mandela, have enjoyed visiting this historical mosque.

It is from Cirebon that Tuan Guru’s grandfather, Habib ‘Umar Rahmat al-Faruq, travelled to the Moluccan chain in 1646 to spread Islam. He settled on the island of Tidore, becoming a member of the Sultan’s royal household.

Tuan Guru, or Imam ‘Abdullah bin Qadi ‘Abd al-Salam, was born in 1712. As a member of the royal family, Tuan Guru soon became the focus of the Dutch East India Company, who fearful of rebellion, detained him in Batavia, and finally exiled him to the Cape in 1780.

Using newly discovered sources, and by tracing his life back to the Moluccas – something never done before – Shafiq Morton has woven a refreshingly new narrative of one of Cape Town’s most celebrated historical figures.

Not only did Tuan Guru write the Qur’an from memory whilst imprisoned on Robben Island, but he also penned a 613-page textbook of Islamic belief, prayers and advice, which was used to teach Muslims at the Cape for over 100 years. He established South Africa’s first madrasah in 1793, and later on, its first mosque in Dorp Street, Cape Town.

“From the Spice Islands to Cape Town: the Life and Times of Tuan Guru” book will be available for sale on the day of the launch for R140.  We will be accepting cash and card payments.

Avoid disappointment and pre-order your copy of “From the Spice Islands to Cape Town: the Life and Times of Tuan Guru”.

Stockist of the book

Cape Town

Timbuktu Books Address: 19 Golf Course Rd, Sybrand Park, Cape Town Tel: 021 697 0517


Awqaf SA JHB Address: 112 Barry Hertzog Ave, Greenside Tel: 011 486 0726


Bietul Hikmah Address:

Contact person: Zahira
Tel: 031 207 3871
Web link: http://bit.ly/2CHxOfs

About the author – Shafiq Morton

SHAFIQ MORTON is an award-winning Cape Town-based photo-journalist, editor, surfer and radio-TV presenter with decades’ experience. 
He has covered South African stories such as the anti-apartheid campaign, the release of Nelson Mandela, the 1994 elections and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He has been on assignment in places such as Palestine, Libya, Somalia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Namibia and Niger.
In 2008 he won the National Vodacom Award in the community media section and the regional award in 2010. 
He is the author of four books, Notebooks from Makkah and Madinah (a Saudi Arabian travelogue), Surfing behind the Wall, My Palestinian Journey and Imtiaz Sooliman and the Gift of the Givers, A Mercy to All and From the Spice Islands to Cape Town: the Life and Times of Tuan Guru.


Web Article:


Radio Interviews


Press Clippings

Featured in the Cape Argus – 12 March 2019

Featured in the Cape Times – 18 March 2019

Photo highlights


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