History of the Al-Zawiyah


The following information was extracted from the book "Pages from Cape Muslim History " by Professor Y.da Costa and Doctor A. Davids

The Al-Zawiyah Mosque lies on the lower reaches of Table Mountain in Cape Town, on the border between the suburbs of Walmer Estate and Zonnebloem (the old District Six). The founder of this Mosque, and also for many years its imam , was Shaykh Muhammad Salih Hendricks , one of the rare Islamic scholars in South Africa.

His story began in 1871 , about 37 years after the emancipation of the slaves, when he was born to Abdullah Hendricks ( also known as Imam Haji Hiji ) and his wife A’isha in the village of Swellendam.

In 1888 , at the age of sixteen years , Muhammad Salih left Swellendam to study in Mecca.The Tasawwuf tradition , which was later to be suppressed by the Wahhabi movement , was dominant in the city. This tradition was to leave an indelible impression on the religious philosophy and practice of Muhammad Salih. There is little doubt that his tutors in Mecca were steeped in this tradition , and that they passed on its teachings to the young student.

These tutors included , amongst others , Sayyid Sulayman Shattah , Shaykh Umar ba Junayd , and Mufti al-Shafi-iyyah Sa’id ibn Muhammad Bab-Sayl.

In 1902 , when he had completed about fifteen years of study , Muhammad Salih left Mecca to come home. En Route he called at the island of Zanzibar where he stayed for about a year , acting as a tempory judge in religious affairs and reorganising the island's Maulud al-Nabi celebrations.

Shaykh Muhammad Salih arrived home in 1903.He started teaching religious sciences soon after he arrived in Cape Town. It was in the Palm Tree Mosque that he launched an attack against the deculturisation of Muslim women when he stated that they should cover their aurahs and wear hijab. Large numbers of women heeded his call and covered up. This attempt to restore the Islamic propriety of women met with unexpected derision and contempt , but the women stood firm and slowly reaffirmed their dignity as Muslim women , despite the prevailing antogonism. This was a major victory for Islam in which the dominant culture was ( and still is ) colonialist and Christian.

In 1919 he took the first steps towards building of what was later to become known as the Al-Zawiyah Mosque.The word Zawiyah has a number of meanings. On the one hand , it means a corner of a small house or mosque used for poor Muslims and students , while in certain special cases it can be a retreat for members of a tasawwuf order ( as in North Africa for example ).

There can be little doubt that Shaykh Muhammad Salih , who was a member of the Alawiyah Tariqah , used his classes to spread the teachings and practices of tasawwuf. Maulud al-Nabi became , and still is a major event in the yearly activities of the Al - Zawiyah Mosque.

Shaykh Muhammad Salih also acquainted his students with certain well-known tasawwuf liturgical practices such as the Ratib al-Haddad , the Ratib al-Attas , Nasr wa al Falah , the Duriyyah , the Qadiriyah and Yasin with the seven mubins.

Shaykh Muhammad Salih died in the year 1945.

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